4 Office Productivity Myths Debunked

Productivity Priorization & Balance

When it comes to office productivity, “business as usual” will sometimes lead you down the wrong path. Here are four things to stop doing at work.

Do you want to improve your office productivity? Sometimes it’s as simple as not doing the things that don’t work — which sounds obvious, but gets dicey when it goes against standard advice you’ve always been given. If you want to amp up your effectiveness at work, here are some productivity myths you may want to consider crossing off your to-do list:

1. Multi-Tasking Gets More Done

When you’ve got a million things to do every day, it may seem as if the only way to meet goals and deadlines is to multi-task. However, the truth is that dividing your focus between projects can actually slow you down and make you more prone to errors.

A much more effective way to work is to focus on one thing — and one thing only — at a time. Consider slowing down and immersing yourself fully in the task in front of you. You may find that you get it done quicker, produce a higher quality outcome and that you enjoy completing the task more.

By the way, this includes email; if you keep your email open on your desktop all the time, you may be keeping yourself in a constant state of multi-tasking. Even if you don’t stop to check your messages every time a new one comes in, you’ll at least see a notification pop up on your desktop. This can take your focus away from the task at hand. Don’t be afraid to shut your email off for the first 50 minutes of the hour, and then check back in during the last ten minutes before shutting it off again. If there’s an emergency during that 50 minutes, someone will let you know.

2. Organizing Your Email Is the Key to Ease

Speaking of email, did you know that sorting your email into folders may actually hold you back instead of making you more organized? Researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz for IBM found that neatly organized inboxes made messages harder to find. Instead, they suggested keeping a few folders for those tasks that need extra attention, unsubscribing from as much junk as possible and utilizing the search feature for the rest of your inbox. Not only can this technique save you time when organizing your inbox, but also you’ll find what you’re looking for much more quickly.

3. If You Work More Hours, You’ll Get More Done

There’s a professor at Portland State University who regularly gives his students the following assignment: Take an hour off and do anything that will make you happy. Many of the students don’t know how to handle it and end up doing homework during designated fun time. Professionals have the same problem — many people think that if they work more hours, they’ll get more done and achieve greater success. However, the amount of hours you spend at work doesn’t necessarily equate to greater levels of office productivity. In fact, sometimes it’s just the opposite. Having greater balance in your life can help you be more focused and efficient at work.

4. Experienced Minds Know Best

Experience can be a great thing, but it can also close your mind to opportunities that could be the most effective choice in a given situation. Some of the most effective leaders bring a beginner’s mind-set with them to work, meaning they remain open to all the possibilities available to them and avoid getting bogged down in the nonsense of daily office minutia. Don’t run to the first great answer you find for a given problem. Instead, take the time to consider many possibilities up front and you’ll likely save yourself time down the road when you don’t have to backtrack and redo work during execution.

Productivity is not one size fits all — you have to figure out a system and routine that works for you. Experiment, try new tactics, and don’t let someone else’s way of doing things get in the way of doing what you prefer. If you’re meeting goals, that’s your biggest measure of success!

Karlyn Borysenko
Karlyn Borysenko

My goal is to make professional life better for individuals, and drive productivity and results for organizations. I fix the "people problems" and I help individuals build better working relationships across their organizations, navigate office politics, create a great organizational culture, build and lead more productive teams, and be great managers. I'm one of the few workplace bullying experts in the country and I can help individuals who have been targeted, or organizations who think they might have a bullying problem on their hands. And if you work in sales or fundraising, I can teach you how to "read" your prospects to increase your close rate and generate more revenue. I'm an MBA, a PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology (ABD), and a certified DiSC Trainer. I believe passionately that an organization's most valuable resource is its people, and that leaders have a responsibility to put structures, processes, and systems in place that will support employee success, development, job satisfaction, and organizational culture.