For many of us, business and busyness go hand-in-hand. Modern workers are constantly bemoaning the conundrum of having to get ever-more done in ever-less time. In this atmosphere, it is hardly surprising that legions of productivity-boosting hints & tips have proliferated. Each latest incarnation promises us a sure-fire route to To-Do List Zero, if we can just learn to work better, stronger, and faster.
Improving our productivity is a worthwhile goal. Unfortunately, most productivity-boosting advice isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. Here are five common offenders that are more likely to hinder your career than help it:
“Everything Gets Better with Coffee”
Few and far between are the employees who don’t regard their morning cup o’ joe as a sacred workday ritual. But if you’re justifying your ten-a-day habit with the logic that caffeine = productivity, some bad news is heading your way: coffee-drinkers are not any more alert that their decaf peers.
The fact is that when you drink coffee regularly, you become so used to the caffeine that you no longer feel the effects of it. And if you drink coffee irregularly, you’re more likely to become anxious than alert.
“The Early Bird Catches the Worm”
Ask a bunch of CEOs and bloggers the secret to success, and many return the same answer: get up at 5.30am. The logic seems sound enough; the more time you spend awake, the more you can get done.
But to get anything done well, you need to be operating off a good night’s sleep. And for most adults, that means 7-9 hours each night. Which puts your bedtime at 8.30pm-10.30pm each night: perfectly possible, but rather detrimental to your social life.
Moreover, forcing your body awake before it’s ready is a recipe for feeling sluggish all day, and this problem is compounded if you get up in the dark.
“Social Media is a Waste of Time”
Few things seem to exemplify the drawbacks of the digital age like our perceived addiction to social media. So bosses block access at work, and lifestyle websites urge us to ‘detox’ from the soul-sucking effects of plugging in. But science has found that social media use actually makes employees more productive.
Explanations vary from the need for workers to take brainless but enjoyable breaks in order to stay focused, to the idea that social media often has business purposes, such as facilitating professional networking or providing industry information.
“It’s Not About Having Time, It’s About Making Time”
John Maynard Keynes was a pretty smart guy. But he was spectacularly wrong in his prediction that modernity and technology would see the working week dramatically reduced and human being enjoying a life a leisure. Instead, our unpaid overtime is through the roof, our lunch breaks have become non-existent, and we’re all checking work emails at midnight.
Unfortunately, none of this is making us more productive. More unfortunately still, it actually does the exact opposite. Human beings are not robots, and without rests, breaks, and a decent work-life balance, our work output becomes both drastically reduced and poor in quality. In short: overworking yourself achieves nothing.
“Become a Master at Multi-Tasking”
Multitasking has long been held up as the key to pulling together all the strands of our increasingly busy lives. But practically every scientist who has studied it comes up with the same conclusion: that multitasking is “neither effective nor efficient”.
It turns out that the human brain is not designed to deal with multiple thought processes at once. When it tries to do so, it takes it 40% longer to complete any given task. In fact, our mental faculties are so spectacularly bad at multi-tasking that one study found that our attempts to do so lowers our IQ to the equivalent of an eight-year-old child. Looking stupid in front of your boss? Not the best idea.
Beth Leslie writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency specializing in matching candidates to their dream internship. Check out their graduate jobs listings for roles. Or; if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs.