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Latest insights and trends in Personal Analytics, Operational Intelligence, and Workplace Productivity.

Dec 04
Myths and Realities of Productivity


Dive into the world of productivity and you will stumble across a bottomless pool of professionals claiming they have the best advice on improving work performance. While conducting some research on productivity across the internet, I was astonished to see how many myths are still widely accepted as truths. Therefore, to put the record straight, I have gathered these myths and shown the light on their realities, based on data gathered from self-tracking users of OmniContext.

#1: Organization and Productivity
​​The Myth: In order to be productive, you must have a clean working environment. This myth falls in line as another example proving that working habit statistics mean nothing to the individual. Your peers will tell you that a professional working environment is clean, and therefore organized.  This is not necessarily organization. Many of the cleanest desks and offices might still cost you significant time in efficiency.

The Reality: An organized space is simply one in which the things you need the most are close at hand, the things you need often are easily found, and the things you need rarely are out of the way but easily retrieved when needed. That means that organization has to meet your needs, not some imposed notion of cleanliness.

#2 Productivity vs Working Time
The Myth: Productivity means working longer. This is something that is very difficult to convince people without showing direct numbers or statistics.  People believe that putting in 60 hour work weeks directly translates to more things getting down, the idea that more output = more productivity. What most don't realize is that this is a sliding scale and often results in less-than-quality work being produced.

The Reality: In order to be truly productive, you need to gauge your efficiency levels carefully. Some workers are able to remain productive for longer periods of time, while others are more efficient working in intervals. If you're not careful with the layout of your work, you may be overworking and even wasting energy and time.

#3 Working with procrastination
The Myth: Procrastination boosts efficiency: There are people like myself who thrive under some pressure of a fixed deadline. Whether it be at the end of the day or end of the month, if I know my time of judgment is coming, it allows me to hone in on my task and block out external distractions. As the deadline approaches, I feel my work intensity increase. I like to call this my adrenaline shot of productivity. However, recent studies by Hypersoft have shown that there is a delicate balance in this method of continually delaying tasks until the pressure builds.
The Reality: The majority of workers do not know how to recognize these small windows of opportunity where pressure equals positive output. As a result, many of us miss this window and become overstressed to the point where we are counterproductive. Furthermore, this often leads to less-than-quality work and creating even more stress that could have been avoidable. Too much stress is unhealthy for you and your business, often causing careless mistakes.

#4 Meetings
The Myth: Lots of meetings are productive – A majority of people believe that the more time spent in meetings, the better planning will get done and more structured projects will be.

The Reality: The more time spent in meetings, the less time is spent actually doing any work. Meetings should be short and focused so they can be effective.

#5 Early-risers and success
The Myth: You Must Wake-Up At 5am To Get Things Done.This thought that you can miraculously solve all your productivity problems by forcing yourself to be a morning person is a long-standing one. This is because many of today's leading business professionals identify themselves as early-risers.

The Reality: The key to being productive and creative is to work during the hours that are fitting to your working habits. If you're an early bird, get your difficult and most troublesome tasks out of the way first thing, when you're most productive. Then in the afternoon, when your boost of energy wears off, maybe consider spending more time in your head, thinking of ideas and putting your creative thoughts to work. The truth about this myth is that at 5am there are often less distractions and therefore is an easier time to accomplish tasks, but that doesn't necessarily translate into higher productivity.

#6: Internet Usage
The Myth: The Internet is wasting our time and causing us to be less productive.

The Reality: The Internet can serve as precious resource to those who know how to use it efficiently, and are able to maintain self-control and stay focused.

#7 Mobile Efficiency
The Myth: It is impossible to get work done away from the office. Many managers believe that if they can not monitor their employees visually and in person, the employees will not work.
The Reality: Working in different environments may have positive effects in creativity, can reduce "office stress", and lead to higher rates of output with quality work

#8 Multitasking
The Myth: Multitasking Is Necessary In Today's Workplace. Many feel obligated to be able to do a million tasks at the same time in order to be productive.

The Reality: In fact, A variety of resources over the years have shown research confirming that all of the distractions invading our lives are making it more and more difficult to stay efficient. Learn to develop the mental and physical discipline to have a singular focus on one thing until it is completed.

#9 Structure and Creativity
The Myth: Structure kills creativity. It is helpful to be creative in the workplace, but a complete lack of structure makes for an inefficient and often times lazy day. 
The Reality: Develop a complete creative brief that will allow for creative bursts, but guide you towards task completion.

#10 When to say 'Yes'
The Myth: Saying yes is best. Many times we are asked by our coworkers and friends to complete a seemingly small task. After saying 'yes' to a few of these small tasks, the time allotment builds and before you know it, you are putting off your tasks to focus on others' requests.
The Reality: Saying 'no' is an easy way to boost your productivity. Focus on your own work, and when you encounter some spare time, consider taking on the tasks of others.

#11 Resources and Output
The Myth: Adding resources increases output. We often believe that more resources will lead to less late nights and more project completions in a given time. This is a common misconception.
The Reality: More often than not, we just need to manage our resources more efficiently.

#12 Busywork
The Myth: Busy is the same as productive. Just because you attended two meeting yesterday doesn't mean you were productive!
The Reality: There are many activities that we can perform at work that keep us busy, but don't actually amount to anything. Shy away from these sinkholes and focus on the work that truly matters.

#13 Email Collaboration
The Myth: Email is the best way to collaborate. The average worker spends 28% of their week checking their email. Our inboxes turn into these pits where ideas are lost and communication is jumbled.
The Reality: Avoid email unless it is absolutely necessary, and even then, designate certain times for monitoring your inbox.

 Become more productive through self-tracking with OmniContext Personal Analytics


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