Most of us look for ways we can be even more productive at work.

In fact, there are whole industries built around productivity and finding ways to help people improve their time management and results. While there are many great tools and strategies, there’s a lot of relatively common advice that isn’t really helpful.

Have you seen any of these common misconceptions?

#1. Just “eat the frog”

“Eat the frog” is a common piece of productivity advice originating from productivity master, Brian Tracy. It basically means that you should always do your biggest, most important task, or the one you are most likely to procrastinate over first. Tracy says “if you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest first.”

To enter a caveat here, this advice does work well for some people, however it’s not for everyone. For some people, doing the biggest, ugliest task first means they’re frustrated by mid-morning and pushing the task aside. When you have a frustrated brain, the flow-on impact can be poor for your productivity. It’s hard to focus on anything else when your brain is in a frustrated fog.

For some people, the best approach is always going to be to get all the little things out of the way first. In fact, sometimes that improves your focus for “the frog” because you don’t have any other tasks waiting for you. It’s easy to get distracted or stressed when you’re thinking about the many other tasks waiting for you!

#2. “Do all the important things in the morning”

This advice would be fantastic - if every person was genuinely a “morning person.” The fact is, many of us aren’t - people have “best” times of day all over the map. Forcing the most important work into the morning won’t help everyone.

What’s the alternative? Doing tasks that require focus during your own best time of day. So a better approach is to match the task to the time on the calendar when you know you’ll have the right kind of energy for it.

For example, some people like to schedule “like” tasks in blocks based on the level of focus the task requires. If you’re a morning person, it might make sense to schedule all meetings for the morning, avoiding a natural slump in the afternoon.

#3. The “two minute rule”

The two minute rule states that if a task comes up that will take you two minutes or less (a phone call, responding to an email, quick data input etc), then you should drop what you’re doing and take care of it.

One of the problems with this theory is that it’s training you to divide your attention and lose focus on key tasks. There is evidence to show that on average, it takes 23 minutes and 30 seconds to get back on task once focus is divided. Besides that, what would your day look like if a series of two-minute tasks came up while you were trying to work on a big project? By that math, three distractions could cost you an hour of work, even if their total task time were just six minutes.

The type of task also matters, as you’ll see in our next point…

#4. Multitasking is inherently bad

We’ve all heard this one, that multitasking is inherently bad for productivity. This has come about because most of the time, what people are doing isn’t multitasking at all, but rapid serial tasking, or task switching.

The question then becomes, is it actually possible to multitask and is it therefore bad for productivity? Most of us don’t do more than one thing at a time, not really anyway, but it is possible if the tasks you are doing are complementary.

For example: going for a lunchtime walk while listening to a podcast; rehearsing a presentation while cleaning your desk; or riding your bike while coming up with ideas for a pitch.

These are good examples where multitasking can actually work in your favor to maximize your time. The key is that the tasks don’t compete for your cognitive energy, but use different parts of your brain. Pairing up “thinking” tasks with tasks that you do on autopilot are good examples.

Multitasking isn’t always impossible or bad for productivity – look for complementary activities CLICK TO TWEET

#5. “Scheduling is so simple, anyone can do it”

Hey, if scheduling really were that simple, no one would have any issues with coordinating large meetings or complex events, right? The fact is, scheduling can be much more complicated than filling a gap on a calendar. Someone who schedules as part of their job needs to consider:

  • The type of meeting or event
  • When it needs to be (are there any constraints on time?)
  • Whether the meeting will be in-person or virtual
  • Who needs to be there
  • The method by which people will be there (e.g. if one person needs to dial in)
  • Whether you need to account for different time zones…

People often don’t give scheduling much thought other than events appearing on their calendar. If you’re a busy person, you could regret trying to do the scheduling for yourself. It can involve a lot of back and forth to coordinate that you simply won’t have time for.

#6. “A great EA will read my mind from Day 1”

A well-known productivity tip that is not a myth is that hiring an EA can help to keep you organized and on top of things. A myth that is attached to this is that the EA should be able to read your mind from Day 1.

That’s just not how it works. When you start working with an EA, you’ll have a more productive relationship if expectations are realistic from the start. For one thing, it takes time for an EA to get to know you, how you think, how you like to work and your habits. At the same time, they’re learning how the business operates as a whole, including the culture, systems and processes.

Realistically, you may not notice much difference on Day 1, but if you’ve gone in ensuring that the EA will be set up with everything they need to understand how to work with you, you’ve taken a strong first step.

Another thing to remember is that if you’ve got huge to-do lists or if things are in a bit of a mess, an EA is perfect to help with those things. However, giving them the list of 50 things and expecting that all will be taken care of by the next day is not realistic. You will work more productively together if your expectations are reasonable.

#7. “All we need is a hack or an app”

There are a lot of great hacks and apps (or stories about great hacks and apps) out there that are supposed to send your productivity through the roof. Can they really help? Yes and no - that’s where the myth comes in.

When people are overly reliant on a hack or an app, they often lose touch with what really makes for successful productivity with an EA: the magic is in the relationship. Building on that relationship and ensuring that you have mutual trust can lead to so much more than any app can deliver. For one thing, it encourages that vital two-way communication that you need in order to work well together.

The other part of being reliant on apps is that they’re not always the hugely productive solution you think it will be. There can be a temptation to think it will make you more productive than paying for help, but that is rarely the case. To give an example, we often use Calendly to avoid too much back and forth over finding mutually acceptable meeting times.

While we like working with the app, that doesn’t mean that all of our clients do. Sometimes people will email or call asking if we’re free at a certain time rather than checking via the app. That’s just how it is - you often won’t convince everyone to use it. (And our EA can manage when people ask about those things!)

Final thoughts

There’s a lot of emphasis placed on productivity these days and everyone seems to be searching for the latest “hack” that will make them more effective.

Be wary though - some common advice simply isn’t great for everyone, and, some things you might think (like EAs being mind readers on Day 1), simply aren’t true. It’s important to find the right systems and processes that work for you.

An EA is great for this - not only can they take things off your plate that make you more productive, but they can help you to set up more efficient systems and processes. Would you like to work with a great EA? Talk to us here at Worxbee, we’d love to match you up with one of ours!