Productivity is a funny thing. And having worked with some of the greatest productivity minds around and written several productivity books, I’ve realized there are a few common lies we all too often believe about productivity. 

We all want to be more productive and to get more done. 

We all have different tasks that we want to accomplish as quickly as possible. 

So we search online and find productivity tips, tricks, and methodologies to help us do these things. 

But yet we often stay stuck. What gives?

The problem is we often believe several lies about productivity. 

Come along with me as we debunk each of these lies and dig deeper to find the truth. 

1. All time is created equal.

Nope. Not even close. Almost everything we do today hinges on mental energy and willpower. If you’re creating a piece of content, you need to have the right amount of mental energy that is required to complete the task at hand. 

If you are exhausted, it’s going to take more time than if you are energetic. I understand it’s a lot easier to look at a clock than it is to gauge mental energy, but time is only part of the equation. 

2. Similar tasks require the same amount of resources. 

It is easy to say that writing a blog post or an email requires the same amount of time or energy. But that’s simply not true. Not all work or tasks are created equal. 

In all honesty, many times items we identify as tasks are actually projects. Writing an email could easily become a project if some research is required. 

I’m not saying we shouldn’t keep track of tasks — we should — but if we are totally honest, the best we can do is estimate how much time and energy a task will take. And to do that it is best to have some form of data at hand or an online time tracker such as Toggl. 

3. This productivity approach worked for (insert popular person here), so it will work for me. 

This is likely the most common productivity lie that we all accept as truth. We each have unique strengths and weaknesses as well as different ways of working. While it is possible to learn from each other, hands-on experience is often the very best teacher. Don’t fall for this common myth as truth. 

4. I need to do more to be more productive. 

You’re filling your day with activities. In all honesty, when you tell yourself “I need to be more productive” you could really be saying to yourself “I am lazy.” Real personal productivity is about doing things that matter, not doing as much as possible. 

5. You need a to-do list. 

I’m sure some people might disagree with this, but I don’t think you need a to-do list. Yes, you need to know the next step, but the common, lengthy to-do lists actually make you less productive. 

I’m a fan of a project list. Those end. I’m also a fan of task lists for specific days. But let’s be honest… to-do lists never end and can actually stop you from being productive. 

6. Busy = Productive

Nope. Not even close. The truth is, being busy just means you’re busy. It doesn’t mean you are focused in your efforts or intentional in how you are working. It also can mean you are being reactive instead of proactive. Reactive productivity rarely leads to success. A great example of this is camping out in your email inbox. How easy is it to do that? I know many people treat their email inbox as their to-do list. It’s no wonder that those folks cannot ever seem to get ahead. As you send more emails, you get more emails back and your to-do list continues to grow. 

7. The work will be easier tomorrow.

This is really just a sneaky form of procrastination (and possibly perfectionism but I’ll talk about that more in a minute). Once you get in the habit of procrastinating, it can be really hard to break. Procrastination has the power to kill any positive momentum in your life. 

8. I can multitask well.

Multitasking can trick you into feeling like you’re a productivity superhero. After all, if you have the skills to simultaneously compile a budget, listen to a podcast, and catch up on your email, you must be running circles around your single-tasking co-workers, right?

Actually, multitasking can make you perform worse in whatever you’re doing. 

Studies show that when you try to focus on too many things at the same time, you’re less likely to be able to filter out irrelevant facts, switch between tasks effectively, and remember important information.

 9. A new app will solve my productivity issues.

Nope. There is no app that will give you more discipline or focus or better time management skills. You are the user, so you also control how you use the app (to an extent). I’ve seen it so many times with productivity coaching clients. When someone is an app-hopper, instead of doing the work and moving forward, they buy another new shiny app. Here’s the thing: there will always be new apps. There will always be new versions of apps. Now I’m not saying that some apps won’t make you more productive altogether, but until you figure out the real underlying problem, an app is not likely going to solve anything. If you are informed and focused, then an app might help — but it will still not solve all of your productivity problems. 

10. The messiest problem of all.

On many occasions, you might have a perfectionist attitude. However, perfectionism is sneaky. It can appear as a form of rationalization or even procrastination. You’ll say things like, “I just want to do a little bit more.” Once you really dig deeper you’ll see that the root problem is perfectionism. And let’s be honest, often perfectionism is worn like a badge of honor. We equate it with being a good worker or being diligent. Actually, it’s not. Perfectionism is simply unattainable and will strip away any sense of joy or accomplishment. If you receive a compliment and immediately shoot it down, you’re likely a perfectionist. 

The Takeaway

Don’t squash your gifts. Let them shine. And move past each of these lies so you can do what truly matters most to you. That’s the kind of productivity that really matters. 

Jim Woods, an author, freelance writer and writing coach who loves helping others share and tell better stories.
Jim Woods, an author, freelance writer and writing coach who loves helping others share and tell better stories.

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