Myth #1: It’s All About Time
Imagine you’re working at a coffee shop and have forgotten to bring your laptop charger with you. Will you start crossing off the smallest stuff straight away or, knowing that you only have a few precious hours left before your laptop dies, are you gonna cut to the chase and go straight to those tasks that you absolutely must get done?
Think of yourself as your laptop. For a few short hours every day, you’re bustling with energy. A task you thought would take 4 hours is done in two and you keep crossing item after item off your to-do list. But, as time goes on, you feel your energy levels go down, until you’re completely spent. All of a sudden, even the simplest of tasks, like writing a short email, seems like too much work.
Lack of time isn’t the problem. Lack of energy is. Figure out those few precious hours every day when your energy tank is full and use them to tackle the frogs (those all most important tasks). As your energy starts to deplete, start working on all the smallest tasks that are important but not as urgent. When your inner battery hits an all-time low, take some time off to relax and recharge. Watching Netflix or reading blogs during this time is the most productive thing you can do to get your energy levels back up again.
Myth #2: Power Through No Matter What
We’ve all been there. An important deadline is looming over your head and you’re not even halfway through your project. Armed with a few cups of strong coffee, you set out on a work marathon. But, inspiration doesn’t come. Your energy abandons you. You’re now working at a sloth’s pace. Worse, what you’ve already done is so bad, you fear you’ll have to start all over again anyway.
Take a break. I know it seems counterintuitive.
When you have so much to do, even going for a short walk seems like a complete waste of your time. But that’s how the magic happens. Archimedes was taking a bath when he discovered a method for measuring the volume of an irregularly-shaped object. Einstein was daydreaming about time and space when he suddenly came up with the relativity theory.
Downtime works because it allows the mind to rest and enter a wandering state that promotes creativity and problem-solving. Next time you want to get something done, schedule in a break or two. You’ll get it done faster and better.
Myth #3: Multitasking Makes you More Efficient
Remember the good old days when you waited to finish a task before tackling the next? These days, you’re more likely to check your emails while talking on the phone and cooking dinner. Multitasking has become a badge of honour. The more things you can do at the same time, the more you can cross off your to-do list and feel accomplished. But, then, why does writing an email take so long? And how come your dinner tastes so insipid?
Like Dr Paul Hammerness and Margaret Moore, authors of “Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life”, have discovered, multitasking doesn’t make you more productive. It only “increases the chances of making mistakes and missing important information and cues”. Now you have to spend more time fixing them. Ditch multitasking and focus on one thing at a time, instead. You’ll be a lot more productive and efficient.
Myth #4: You Need Expensive Gadgets
Asana. Trello. Wunderlist. Slack. Evernote. Nozbe. There are a gazillion apps out there that promise to increase your productivity and help you accomplish all your goals in time. If you’re anything like me, you’ve already tried them all and then some. And when they didn’t help as much as you thought, you blamed it on your lack of resources. If only you had a few extra bucks to switch to the pro plan, you’re sure they’d work for you, too.
Truth bomb: productivity apps are just tools that help you keep your to-do list organized. It’s your job to do the organizing. You can use the fanciest apps in the world, but if you don’t prioritize your tasks and use your energy wisely, you won’t get much done.
Myth #5: You Need To Work Longer Hours To Get Everything Done
It’s 5:00 p.m. Most of your colleagues have already left the office and are now having dinner with their family. But you don’t have that luxury. Half of your daily tasks are still on your to-do list. You just need more time to get them done. So, you’re staying put until 9. There’s only one problem with this plan. As the hours wear on, you get more and more tired. You still have tasks on your list but not a spark of energy to do them. You’ll have to suck it up and repeat the ordeal tomorrow.
It’s time to take a cold hard look at your priorities. Go through your to-do list and eliminate anything that’s not absolutely necessary. Then, automate and delegate as much as possible of what’s left in there. Focus on the rest. Getting rid of what you don’t have to do yourself will open up your time for the things that you absolutely have to do to move the needle forward in your life, business and vocation – without tiring you out unnecessarily.
Myth #6: Busy = Productive
There’s a reason why we tackle the smallest, shortest tasks first. Crossing them off your to-do list makes you feel productive and proud of yourself. Look at how much you’ve done already! But, then, why are you so stuck? Your business isn’t growing. You’re struggling to attract new clients. You keep postponing your launch because you still haven’t made any significant progress on your book or product.
Just because you cross a lot of items off your to-do list, it doesn’t mean that you’re being productive. If you’re not focusing on the things that move you closer towards your goals, you’re justing wasting your time and setting your business up for failure.
Myth #7: You Can’t Fit Creativity Into A System
Are you the artistic type, constantly waiting for inspiration to strike before starting work? You sit and wait, but the Muse isn’t showing up today. Maybe tomorrow you’ll have better luck. What no one tells you is that waiting for inspiration is like waiting for Godot. What you need to get things done is a system. The most successful creatives in the world, like “Eat, Pray, Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert, force themselves to write or paint every single day. That’s how things get done and projects completed.
Bonus: a system also helps you deal with the non-creative side of your business, such as bookkeeping, much faster. With all that boring stuff out of the way, when inspiration does indeed strike, you’ll have more time to focus on the work that really matters to you.
Being productive is all about prioritizing your tasks, managing your energy levels and putting the right systems in place. Now you know the secret, get to work. You’ll be amazed at how quickly those all important items will roll off your to-do list.