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Seven Productivity Myths Debunked

7 December 2012

From Lifehacker:

The end goal of “productivity” is to spend less time doing the things you have to do so you have more time for the things you want to do. Of course, if you follow every morsel of productivity advice out there, you probably spend more time moving papers and emails around than actually getting anything done. Need to simplify your routine? Let’s put an end to some common productivity tropes once and for all.

Myth #1: You Have to Get Up Early To Accomplish Anything

The myth that you can miraculously solve all your productivity problems by forcing yourself to be a morning person is a long-standing one. It all started when Biologist Christopher Randler published a study that pointed out early risers are indeed more productive. He subsequently defended the study in the Harvard Business Review. A lot of the “early riser = more productive” talk came from this, but in reality he only concludes that people who wake up earlier are in a more proactive mindset, and thus willing to tackle more throughout the day. His results can easily be accounted for by considering how most of us are socialized to believe that waking up early equates having a whole day to get a lot of things done.

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A 2011 study published in the journal Thinking & Reasoning points out what we should really remember: That the key to being productive and creative (which the study breaks into two different types of activity) is to work the hours that are best for you. If you’re an early bird (or someone forced into an early schedule because of your job), get your difficult and most troublesome tasks out of the way first thing, when you’re most productive. Then in the afternoon, when you start to wane, it’s time to throttle back and spend time brainstorming and being creative instead. The inverse applies to late risers or people who work best in the afternoon or evening. Put simply, you’ll have more time if you get up early or work late when no one’s around to distract you, but that doesn’t necessarily make you more productive.

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Myth #2: Power Through Your Slumps

Another popular productivity myth (that’s thankfully waned in recent years) is that the best way to get through a slump is to power through it. Put your nose to the grindstone and try and press through your creative or productive blocks and you’ll be okay—or so the myth goes. The truth is quite contrary: an old study (1972, in fact) published in theJournal of Personality and Social Psychology debunked this idea a long time ago, and asserted that your willpower is limited, so use it wisely.

To use an analogy, whipping a horse gets you less speed and distance every time you do it. Trying to push yourself forward gets diminishing returns after a certain point. Instead, you should switch gears and do something else, or take real breaks where you disengage completely and give yourself an opportunity to recharge.

Link to the rest at Lifehacker

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3 Comments to “Seven Productivity Myths Debunked”

  1. I’ve always thought that #2 was flat-out terrible advice. Just do something else for a little while; your story will thank you for it.

  2. These are great. I completely agree with each of them, especially the getting up early one.

    I’m more productive when I’ve had a nice long sleep, and wake up rested and refreshed.

    And then I work awhile.

    And then I take a nice long nap.

    I get so much done that way!

  3. Or for those writers like me, the only time to get work done is in the morning. My natural inclination is to be a night owl, but I cannot concentrate on writing at that point in the day; it’s energy for absorbing and being distracted, movies/tv/books. But maybe that just says that writing is not a particularly creative endeavor for me (IF creativity is supposed to not require a lot of mental lifting, which I’m not sure I believe anyway), but an analytical one.

    I have found that I generally get stuck when something is wrong, though, so leaving it alone until I figure out what is good advice for me.

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