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5 Myths You’ve Been Told About Productivity That Aren’t All True

Have you ever laid in bed at night feeling guilty because you feel as though you have not done enough for the day? Also, have you noticed that a few common replies to a “How are you?” text is either “Been busy,” or “Feeling tired”? These feelings of exhaustion and guilt from not doing enough stems from the idea that we need to be productive all the time. There is a never-ending stream of videos and articles giving us solutions to increase our productivity. Yet, no matter how hard we try, it just seems like there are not enough hours in a day to work. As many of us are hooked on hustle culture, let’s debunk these 5 myths about productivity and develop a healthier expectation for our productivity.

 

1. More hours = more work done.

Person working on a laptop with a cup of coffee

The term “OT”, also known as overtime, is a term that many of us young adults working corporate jobs are all too familiar with (and maybe even afraid of). Spending more hours in front of our laptops somehow shows others that we are getting more work done. This causes many of us to feel the burden to work till the wee hours of the morning.

 

In these past 2 years, where the boundaries between our working hours and personal time have blurred significantly, many of us realized that the concept of ‘more hours equals more work’ is a pure myth. Furthermore, it might be counterintuitive as it may cause us to return to work the next day feeling drained, which leads to lower performance, lowered productivity, and cranky workers. The human brain cannot function at maximum capacity for 8 hours straight. So, work smarter, not harder! Know when to stop, and take some much-needed breaks.

 

2. Join the 5 AM club.

Woman waking up and stretching from a bed

The 5 AM Club is a book and concept started by Robin Sharma who believes that 5 AM is the best time to wake up and get your day started. This idea is referenced in many articles on productivity, where it recommends that we imitate the routine of successful people, such as when they commonly wake up before sunrise.

 

Waking up at sunrise might work for some people, but not necessarily for everyone. We all have our unique body clock which dictates our own alertness and sleepiness levels. I have experimented with waking up at 6 AM every day for a week and noticed that I would need a nap at about 3 PM, even when I normally do not have naps during the day! At the end of my little experiment, I concluded that it is better for me to get enough rest during the night and get more productive work done when I’m more awake and fresh.

 

3. Resting is a waste of time.

Woman resting on bed with a smartphone

Staying busy is always thought of as being productive. To maximize every waking hour, we try to complete as much as we can, as fast as we can. Some of us work all the time at the expense of everything else in our lives, and we even glorify it to a certain extent! We use entertainment as merely a distraction from work, and there is no real rest for our minds. We wake up stressed and go to bed stressed. This is a huge productivity myth!

 

I often feel guilty about taking breaks even on weekends because I know my other colleagues are not resting (based on that green ‘online’ dot on Microsoft Teams). To me, taking breaks would mean I will be left behind. I know many friends who feel this way, and many have let it affect their mental health. I wish we could take a step back and weigh out the pros and cons of the hustle culture and how it is actually affecting our mental health.

 

4. Stick to your routine.

People and colleagues talking around a meeting table

Quotes like “Just Do It” or “Yesterday you said tomorrow” rile us up to get things done now. From my primary school to my university days, I’ve always had a timetable from Monday to Sunday (whether self-imposed or given by my school). I have been relatively consistent with sticking with my preset schedule. However, after graduating and coming out to work in my early 20’s, I realize that it is much harder (almost impossible) to stick to a schedule. Ad hoc work can sometimes pile up and work social events can come up unexpectedly.

 

I used to live by the rule, “Today’s procrastination is tomorrow’s work”. However, this mentality has caused me a lot of stress. I end up beating myself up for the work I have not finished. It would be better if I can practise more flexibility in my schedule and learn to properly prioritize my tasks. Being clear on the urgency of each task will help you to focus on the tasks you need to finish by the end of the day. Hence, this will prevent you from feeling too disappointed that you haven’t done as much as you would like to!

 

5. Set big goals.

To quote James Clear from the book Atomic Habits: “Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.”

 

We live in an era of social media where our friends appear to be doing better than us. Being ambitious and achieving great things is something to be proud of all over Instagram and Facebook. It can often seem like we are not doing enough, and we could feel the temptation to set big, unrealistic goals. But if we set a goal that is too big, it could backfire when we fail and give up altogether. It is best to build up easily achievable goals to have sustainable progress towards a bigger goal. Staying focused on the goal is important, but enjoying the process is even more so!

 

 

The problem with productivity myths is that they can make us feel like a failure when we are not able to measure up to it. We are not a productivity machine; we are human beings. So, instead of working ourselves to the ground because we felt guilty, learn to take some time to stop and rest. It would be better to enjoy our work and challenge ourselves in a way that works best for us so that we can have sustained productivity for a longer time.

A work in progress. Might get overexcited for a good book, a good conversation or a good meal.

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