3 Popular Productivity Myths – Debunked!


In late 2013, Gallup produced a study that shocked the business world.

While many managers know that not a lot of productivity happens after 4pm on a Friday, everyone was surprised to learn the extent of the high levels of disengagement in the workplace that lead to low productivity.

Worldwide, The State of the Global Workplace report showed that just 13 per cent of workers were actively engaged in their jobs in 2011-12.

In Australia and New Zealand, those figures were slightly better, with 24 per cent engaged, 60 per cent not engaged and 16 per cent actively disengaged. These figures put Australasian workers in second place in the world for engagement.

Managers constantly battle this disengagement that so often results in loss of productivity. While there is a lot of advice out there on how to do this, there are plenty of myths as well.

Here are three myths that just don’t add up when it comes to crunch time.

1. Busy = productive

Having piles of tasks to do one after the other might look impressive, but the real question is not how many tasks a worker can complete in a day, but how much they can get done.

It’s a fine line, but consider this. Management Today magazine once surveyed workers and found that the average UK employee wasted a year of his or her life in useless meetings. Inc ran a similar study and found that 25 per cent of the average worker’s day is consumed by email-related tasks.

These little jobs often keep people busy, but they don’t leave a lot of time for productivity.

2. The early bird gets the worm

This myth is so popular, it even has its own idiom.

Most people will have an idea of whether they are a typical morning person (a lark ), or a night person (an owl). With natural tendencies to work early or late and to have more energy at different times of the day, it’s clear to see that generalising everyone as more productive by starting with the sunrise is false.

The Simple Dollar suggests mapping your energy levels throughout the week to find the most productive times and days for you personally, rather than trying to force all your best work in over several cups of early-morning coffee.

3. Productivity is the opposite of procrastination

From putting off cleaning your room as a child to writing that essay in high school, procrastination is widely acknowledged – and shunned – as the nemesis of getting things done. When you search ‘procrastination’ online, the great majority of articles and readings will be on how to beat it.

Bizarrely, it seems no one even enjoys procrastinating, as they spend the whole time with the real task in the back of their minds causing anxiety. As an article in the New Yorker pointed out, 65 per cent of surveyed university students both knew they would procrastinate on a paper, and that it would make them unhappy.

Once you get your head around the idea that procrastination isn’t all bad however, you might find that giving your mind a break before taking on a task isn’t all that bad. Letting yourself get bored, or distracted, may help give your brain the break it needs to harness the creativity to do the task you’re putting off. An article from the Scientific American discusses how strong focus on a task doesn’t always get the desired result, and a little time away from the problem can help.

As such, measured procrastination – putting things off long enough to let the subconscious mull over how to tackle it best – may help your productivity once you start the work.