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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

3 Biggest Time-Management Myths to Stop Believing

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3 Biggest Time-Management Myths to Stop Believing

Time management has become something of a cultural obsession, and like any cultural phenomenon, it’s surrounded by some myths — including around the term’s true meaning.

What we really mean by time management is our ability to plan and control the time we have in order to efficiently accomplish our goals. It’s about balancing our tasks with the amount of time we have to get them done.

The last thing time management means is productivity for the sake of productivity. Unfortunately, the endless number of apps that promise to boost our productivity only reinforce that notion.

However, that only scratches the surface of time management myths. If you buy into them, you could develop habits that actually decrease your productivity. To overcome some of these misleading ideas, it’s important to understand why everyone — not just business professionals — needs to manage their time well.

Time Management Goes Beyond Business

We tend to think about time management in terms of how office workers balance their day-to-day tasks, such as answering emails, attending meetings, and contributing to team projects. However, time management is also important for getting the most out of our home life and hobbies.

Effectively managing your time brings you a host of benefits. It can boost your confidence by giving you a sense of accomplishment, reduce your stress levels, and allow you to spend more time on things like self-care.

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The trouble is, the way we think about time management has not kept pace with technological change. Time management is not taught in school, despite being one of the key skills of adult life. Many time management experts still teach the “ABC” method[1], despite the fact that modern life cannot be broken down into a neat little list of three priorities per day.

In fact, even many productivity experts misunderstand the realities of time management. They, as well as many students, professionals, and everyday people, believe three key myths about time management.

3 Common Time Management Myths

Spend enough time thinking or reading about time management, and you might start to believe the following myths.

1. If you could just get your schedule right, you’d be more productive.

One of the more dangerous time management myths is the idea that scheduling tasks better is all that it takes to manage your time. It can make you feel like you need to redo your whole schedule in order to be more productive.

The same goes for to-do lists. Well-meaning advisors can make you believe that writing out your tasks is a cure-all for your time management issues. In reality, these methods are likely to leave you feeling discouraged when you can’t seem to accomplish what you set out to do.

Harvard Business Review notes that these kinds of tasks fall under the time management category of “Arrangement.” However, there are two other domains of time management[2] that matter just as much, if not more, than the arrangement of tasks:

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  • Awareness: This refers to having a realistic view of the time you have. For example, knowing that you shouldn’t schedule a doctor’s appointment in the middle of a busy workday shows time awareness.
  • Adaptation: This refers to being able to adjust to unexpected interruptions or changes while performing tasks. If your doctor’s only available appointment is in the middle of that workday, adaptation means that you’re able to move things around to make it all fit.

These two skills are more difficult to develop than arrangement, which explains why we are so drawn to changing our schedules or making new plans. Arrangement is a good skill to have, but it cannot substitute for awareness or adaptation.

2. Time management tactics are one-size-fits-all.

Another consequence of the endless information about time management is that the tips and suggestions are often presented in a one-size-fits-all manner. In clothing and in time management — and frankly, in just about every area of life — there’s no such thing as something that works for everybody.

For example, some people prefer to start their day by doing their most difficult task first, a tactic known as “eating the frog”[3]. Morning people might find that the system works well, but for those who are most productive in the afternoon or evening, it doesn’t make sense to tackle the toughest task in the morning.

If you fall into the latter group, it might be better to start with smaller tasks to get your brain moving in the morning. After a couple hours of work, then you can tackle the big-picture task.

This is also true of non-workflow factors, such as waking up earlier, and tools like apps. Instead of assuming that what works for others will work for you, try out different methods until you find what actually does.

3. Time management is about getting as much done as quickly as possible.

When you believe that effective time management is about the quantity of the tasks you complete, you’ll inevitably sacrifice quality of work for quantity of work. What’s more, you will also be drawn to inconsequential tasks as opposed to your higher-order concerns.

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Our media environment encourages multitasking, and that’s what makes the myth so tempting. However, the best way to see multitasking is actually as rapid context switching, which can reduce your productivity by as much as 80%.[4]

Rather than doing a bunch of multitasking, I tend to advise people to find tools that will help scale personalization. Get those in place and then move on to another important task. For example, Hubspot’s free email marketing tools are something I use for some of my startups to scale personalizing email. Find a tool that allows you to scale, then focus on it so you can set things up for success and move on to another important task.

Time Management That Works for You

Although there’s no one time management tactic that makes sense for everyone, there are some things you can do to find what works for you:

Think About Time Management on Your Own Terms

The first step to becoming a better time manager is to stop feeling guilty if a certain approach doesn’t work for you. It doesn’t mean you’re a poor time manager or that you’ll never be able to accomplish your goals.

Time management should lead to less anxiety and more productivity. If a certain tactic isn’t accomplishing those things for you, then feel free to scrap it.

Practice Time Awareness

Time has a way of passing without you noticing it, especially when you feel busy all the time. But it doesn’t have to work that way.

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Leadership speakers[5] are starting to incorporate the concept of multiplying time into their talks: track your time, create moments of waiting and anticipation, and let yourself be comfortable with boredom. You might also reminisce about past experiences and accept feelings of awe and fear.

As you might notice, most techniques for time awareness are rooted in mindfulness. More importantly, they will allow you to enjoy your personal and social experiences without feeling rushed through them.

Say “No” to Some Tasks

One of the best strategies for time management is simply to reduce the number of tasks on your docket. Don’t think of it as letting others down; think of it as filling your own cup first. If your glass is empty, you won’t be able to give sips to others.

The key to saying “no” is being honest about why. If you have a time conflict — or even if you’re short on self-care time — most people will respect that. Saying “no” gives you a sense of agency and control over your life because declining a task that isn’t important to you is actually about saying “yes” to yourself.

Final Thoughts

Time management is tough, so there’s no need to feel like you have to be great at it right away. But until you get those time management myths out of your head, you’ll struggle to do what actually works for you. Stop believing in myths and start believing in yourself.

More Tips on Time Management

Featured photo credit: Rachael Crowe via unsplash.com

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John Hall

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time.

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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Are You Addicted to Productivity?

“It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013,[1]

“Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools . And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

“The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post.[2] “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

This is my mantra:

I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

Addiction to Productivity is Real

Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

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“A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC.[3] “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

“It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

“A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

“There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today.[4] “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

“For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”

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Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”

Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

  • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
  • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
  • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
  • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
  • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
  • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
  • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

1. Set Limits

Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

2. Create a Not-to-Do List

Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

3. Be Vulnerable

By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with thi s, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

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4. Understand Why You Procrastinate

Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.[5]

There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

5. Don’t Be a Copycat

Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

6. Say Yes to Less

Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

7. Stop Focusing on What’s Next

“In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack .

“That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

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  • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
  • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
  • Establish realistic goals.
  • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
  • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
  • Hold yourself accountable.
  • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
  • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

8. Simplify

Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

9. Learn How to Relax

“Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

“But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

“And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

  • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
  • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
  • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
  • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try .
  • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
  • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
  • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
  • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
  • Visit a massage therapist.
  • Just breathe.

“Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

It’s great to create and push forward — just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus, put in big time and then relax.

Are You Addicted to Productivity? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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