There is a common myth in our society that is so part of the norm and accepted as truth that it barely ever gets challenged in mainstream media. It is the idea the more you work, the more you produce or the faster you work, the better. There is a whole range of myths around productivity that are so ingrained in our culture that we take them as absolute truths, when in reality all the research shows us more often than not the opposite is true. Here are some of the top accepted myths that people believe that the research tells us are not actually true at all.
The more hours you work the more productive you are
This is possibly the biggest myth of them all. The idea that if you pout in those extra 2 or 3 hours everyday means you will get more out for your business. The strange thing is for much of the 21st century the idea of working long hours was seen as expensive, bad practice and completely counter productive. Which in reality is far closer to what the research tells us. As human beings we have a finite capacity to work and focus. When that attention has maxed out we become extremely unproductive. In fact it impacts our entire working day. Knowing we have extra hours to complete work, it slips and often we leave it to times when we are much less focused and cognitively ready. This produces weaker work and over time much less productive habits. You want to be at your most productive? Stick with what has been show time and time again to be the optimum work week, 40 hours. We are not robots and it is important that your natural bodily rhythms and limits are respected.
Being busy is a sign of productivity
Again another extremely common idea is that someone who has a never ending to do list must be producing loads. The reality is when someone is busy it has almost no relationship to productivity. It is actually more of an indication that your output is probably all over the place and way below your highest quality. There is a cultural badge of honour to being busy. If you are busy you look important and like a highly productive member of the team. It is used for an excuse to not take time off. This inevitably leads to more stress, more tiredness and overall poorer performance. Busyness is a frame of mind that creates unproductive habits, not the other way around.
Multi tasking as an efficient and effective use of time
The idea that someone can do many things at once sounds appealing. If you can focus on 5 things and get them done that has to be faster right? Wrong. The reality is by splitting your already limited attention span across more than one task you are given many different bits of work minimal attention. Whereas if you focus on one task at a time it gets your full attention, you produce high quality work and you often complete more things faster. Multi tasking is a very bad habit in terms of productivity, focusing on one task is the way to go.
Slow decisions are bad and quick decisions are best.
Most people define good leaders as those who make quick and confident decisions. It is common in our business culture that quick choices are what is best in any given situation. However, the research does not bear this out. In Daniel Kahnmanns book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” he describes the inherent bias we have in our quick decisions. He demonstrates how these biases can lead us astray without us being aware until it is too late. By taking time to think through decisions you can overcome these biases and also come up with alternative options that you may never have considered in that immediate moment when a decision was sought after. Considering alternatives provides you with often much better long term decisions. One study showed that people who considered just one other alternative to their immediate ideas did six times better than those who did not. So, next time you need to make a decisions take a step back and think through your thinking.
Here are just some examples of accepted norms in our business culture. By understanding these you can make better decisions about you and your team’s productivity. Not ones based on what people ‘think’ to be true but on what actually is true, leading to much better outcomes for your business.