Productivity Myths vs Reality

Macgill Davis

Productivity has become a buzzword within the startup and productivity community. We get it. It's important to understand what makes you productive in your day-to-day life. It’s only natural to want to optimize your time and get as much done as you possibly can.

Productivity can be important for many different reasons, whether it's keeping an organization running or maximizing revenue from sales. If you struggle with productivity, sometimes you may feel like you're losing money because it’s likely the case. 

Surely by now, you’ve come across a lot of advice on productivity. Some of it may seem a little crazy, but others seem feasible. Which is which? Let’s take a look at some productivity myths and the reality behind them.! 

Myth: Copying Successful People’s Habits Is a Good Idea

How many of you have heard that Steve Jobs wakes up at 3:30a.m. every morning to start his day? Or that Jeff Bezos only runs on 4 hours of sleep to increase productivity? Probably many of you. Unfortunately, many of you have likely tried these methods to increase your productivity and have nothing to show for it but bags under your eyes. 

Why is this? Why don’t others’ routines work for you? Well, because they’re not meant for you! Studies have yet to prove that either Jeff or Steve have hit the mark with these tips. Often celebrities share “tips” that they don’t actually follow, or if they do, really only work for them. For now, stick to what works for you!

Reality: Find Your Own Habits that Work for You

Overtime, collect your own data about what works best for you! You’ll start to see trends and when you do, pay special attention to them and try to incorporate them into your daily life. 

Myth: Bigger Goals are Better

If you’ve been to Texas, you’ve undoubtedly heard the saying “bigger is better”. While Texans and your employer might believe this to be true, it’s not. Big goals often seem so overwhelming that people procrastinate getting started and become rushed as deadlines approach. 

Drowning in work

Reality: Big Goals are Often Too Overwhelming

Small goals are best! If there’s a big goal you know you need to achieve, break it down into smaller pieces and set timelines for each piece. This way, you won’t be so overwhelmed or experience large amounts of anxiety due to the massiveness of the goal. 

Myth: Rewarding Yourself with X Helps You Focus Better

Many people will reward themselves with x after spending x-amount of time being productive. This could look like after working for 1 hour, you reward yourself with a 10 minute social media break. While this works for a few people, this is a type of extrinsic motivation. Studies show that employees exert more effort into being productive when intrinsically motivated.

Reality: Focus on Intrinsic Motivation

The truth is, humans typically dive into their most meaningful and sustainable stores of productivity through intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation refers to all actions we take in which the motivation to act comes from within us — this is, aiming to do things because they are inherently satisfying (rather than acting because of external rewards). 

This means, you’ve got to feel a deeper purpose in your work. If you struggle with this, you may be in the wrong line of work. Don’t worry, we’re not saying that you have to find deep meaning in flipping burgers at your local fast-food joint. But, maybe you enjoy producing good food for people, providing good customer service, or just like seeing how many burgers you can produce in an hour. That is intrinsic motivation as well!

Myth: Uncompromising Routines Increase Productivity

How many times have you been told that if you just had a better routine you’d be more productive? Well, this has some truth to it. Too often however, this tip gets taken to an extreme, and people think they need to plan every second of the day in order to be productive. This isn’t the case at all! 

Reality: Strict Routines Create Anxiety

Strict routines where every second of the day is planned, often leads to increased anxiety. Why? Well with such a strict routine comes the likelihood of getting behind early in the day. If you’re already behind at 9am, you’ll be playing catch up the whole day and that is stressful. 

This almost always leads to less productivity throughout the day because if you’re already a few tasks behind, what’s the point in even trying? We know, it’s not the most logical! But, it is how most people tend to feel when behind so early on in their plans for the day. 

Myth: Starting Your Day Early Makes You More Productive

Surely, we’ve all heard the phrase “the early bird gets the worm”. While waking up early may be necessary if you run a farm, it’s not necessary for every-day work activities. Some people feel more productive in the morning while others just feel exhausted. Let’s take a look at what actually matters when it comes to when humans are most productive. 

Reality: Time of Day Isn’t as Important as is Time After You Wake Up

Here’s a cool fact! It doesn’t matter when you wake up! Studies have found that whether you wake up at 7a.m. or noon, humans generally only have about 10.5 hours from the time they wake up to be productive (don’t confuse that with 10 straight hours of productivity). What matters most, is that you start being productive fairly soon after you wake up, to maximize your productivity window. 

Myth: Get Busy Work Out of the Way First Thing in the Morning

It’s a common tip that you should get all the small, little, annoying tasks such as emails, slack messages, and filling out reports out of the way first thing in the morning. This can actually be really bad for productivity. Most people don’t enjoy these tasks and also don’t get a sense of fulfillment once they’ve done them. This makes it hard to want to keep going and work hard the rest of the day. 

Reality: Get Your Least Favorite or Biggest Task Out of the Way First

Instead, get your biggest task, or your least favorite task done first. This way, you will feel a sense of accomplishment that will motivate you to move forward with the day, working your hardest to be productive. 

Did some of these tips surprise you? We hope so! More than that though, we just hope these tips make it easier for you to be productive. If you or any of your friends are participating in these productivity myths, share this with them so they can get on the right track to becoming productive!