Bad Productivity Advice (And One Rule to Follow Instead)

September 30, 2016 • Rehack Team


Whether you’ve researched online or listened to too many well-meaning but ultimately misguided friends, you’ve probably received some bad productivity advice, and may even be following some of it in your daily work routine due to not knowing better. Continue reading to explore some of the most common examples of poor productivity tips, plus the one tip to take to heart.

You Should Work Smart, Not Hard

Countless articles urge people to work smart, not hard. However, this statement is empty advice without actionable insight for a person to follow. Also, this kind of advice actually doesn’t teach people anything new, because intelligent humans inherently know they’d prefer to figure out ways to reduce their output without sacrificing quality.

Multitasking Is Always Better Than Focusing on One Thing at Once

Multitasking is something that sounds like a great idea until you try it. That’s because the brain isn’t designed for multitasking. Doing more than thing at once slows down your brain’s processing speed, and studies say multitasking might permanently damage a part of the brain related to empathy.

“This Worked for Me, so It’ll Definitely Work for You, Too”

Some of the worst productivity advice comes from people who claim they were once habitually unproductive and unmotivated but suddenly stumbled across the magic tips that helped them improve for good. Be wary of individuals who are so sure of their own success stories they insist whatever they did will be just as useful for you.

Success stories usually aren’t identical, and you should never assume that what worked for someone else will be as effective in your case.

Delegating Tasks Is Always a Good Idea

Productivity gurus frequently recommend delegating tasks to others if you simply don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done on your own. However, it’s important to use that piece of wisdom sparingly so it doesn’t become bad productivity advice.

For example, when delegating tasks, always choose those that fit the skill sets of the respective individuals that’ll be handling them for you. You probably don’t want to ask someone who’s admittedly a terrible speller to proofread a presentation you have to give this afternoon.

Work on the Most Important Task First

Tackling the most crucial task on your to-do list first may not seem like a bad idea, but it could be — especially if you take an hour or two to get into the work “groove.” By accomplishing a few smaller, less important tasks before the most pressing one, you’ll get psychological boosts and be poised to succeed when it matters most.

Reply to Emails as Quickly as Possible

Productivity tip lists often discuss how email inboxes are huge time wasters, and they suggest first sorting through the most recent messages, and replying quickly to the ones that require immediate attention.

However, by doing that, your message may lose clarity due to haste. When working through your inbox, maintain quality over quantity instead.

Make a Master To-Do List

Contrary to oft-dispensed bad productivity advice, you don’t need a gigantic list of all your tasks. It merely reminds you of how backlogged you are, and will likely cause overwhelming feelings. Take a different approach and make a to-do list that gives guidance about which things to put energy towards first, so you’ll quickly press on through the day’s work.

The One Rule: Do What Works for You

And now for the one rule you should actually follow to be a more productive person: Do what works for you. Build your work schedule around your lifestyle, and tune into your circadian rhythms so you’re most productive during times that naturally suit you. Everyone’s different, so it’s not a good idea to hold fast to all-encompassing productivity pointers.

The next time you’re wondering why a tried-and-true tip isn’t helping you get more done, stay true to yourself. The more you personalize your work schedule, the easier it’ll be to give your best work, each and every day.