April 15, 2024

6 Productivity Rules You Should Never Follow

Published May 13, 2023, 9:08 a.m. by Courtney

1. You should never work more than X hours in a day

This is a productivity rule that a lot of people follow, but it’s not always the best idea. If you have a lot of work to do, working more than 8 hours in a day can actually be more productive.

2. You should take a break every X minutes

This is another productivity rule that a lot of people follow, but it’s not always the best idea. If you have a lot of work to do, taking a break every 20 minutes can actually be more productive.

3. You should work in short bursts

This is a productivity rule that a lot of people follow, but it’s not always the best idea. If you have a lot of work to do, working in long bursts can actually be more productive.

4. You should only work on one thing at a time

This is a productivity rule that a lot of people follow, but it’s not always the best idea. If you have a lot of work to do, working on multiple things at the same time can actually be more productive.

5. You should never work on weekends

This is a productivity rule that a lot of people follow, but it’s not always the best idea. If you have a lot of work to do, working on weekends can actually be more productive.

6. You should take a vacation every X months

This is a productivity rule that a lot of people follow, but it’s not always the best idea. If you have a lot of work to do, taking a vacation every 6 months can actually be more productive.

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Hey, guys.

It's Chelsea from The Financial Diet.

And today, I want to talk about the concept of productivity

and the terrible advice that we often hear around the subject.

In many ways, I'm actually more long-term interested

in changing our ideas of whether or not

productivity as an abstract concept

is even really all that much to aspire to.

As a business owner, personally, for both myself and my team,

I often think more in terms of what

helps people do their best work, not the most work,

on a long-term sustainable basis that respects them as people

first and employees slash workers slash whatever

their job title is second.

Unfortunately though, in America, we still

tend to have a pretty singular fixation

on the idea of productivity that is in many ways

about maximizing.

Maximizing the time you work, the things

you're able to accomplish, the prestige and money you accrue

and everything else, basically geared toward being more.

But I don't think more is always better

when it comes to our work.

And in many ways, the data does support that.

So I wanted to take this video to debunk a few of those really

terrible productivity tips that we've almost

become numb to seeing, but should really

reconsider at their root.

No one is wake up early.

It's pretty much ubiquitous at this point

that when some business thought leader gives you

their secret to life, they're often

going to start with talking about how

they wake up at 4 o'clock in the morning or whatever.

And it's not a new subject for those who know on TFD,

but I've never been a morning person.

I wake up now earlier than I used to,

but I still tend to wake up on average around 8 o'clock

in the morning, which by entrepreneur standards,

is basically midnight.

But the reason why it's so important

to consider that focusing on a particular time of day

is not really that helpful is because for many people,

the morning is not the time at which they're

most naturally alert, productive, or even capable

of critical thinking.

And this actually has a name.

Delayed sleep phase syndrome, or DSPS,

is a disorder in which a person sleep

is delayed by 2 hours or more beyond what

is considered an acceptable or conventional bedtime.

The delayed sleep then causes difficulty

in being able to wake up at the desired time.

For example, a person with DSPS may fall asleep after midnight

instead of at 10 PM.

And then will have difficulty getting up

in the morning for school or for work.

And to some extent, I even resent the premise

that this is a syndrome or a disorder to begin with,

because unless we're talking about agrarian work,

a lot of when we have to do particular jobs,

especially professional white collar jobs,

is completely arbitrary.

But more importantly forcing ourselves

to operate on a time that is not optimal for us

or natural to our bodies has distinct consequences and a lot

of missed opportunity.

As many as 37% of people consider themselves

as evening people or night owls.

These people stay up late, like to sleep in,

and are most productive during the second half of the day

starting from about 2 PM.

But despite the fact that more than one third

of the population are evening types,

society, including many employers

are still holding on to the assumption

that people are most productive and efficient in the mornings.

The result, companies are losing millions of dollars every year

because of sleepy employees who are unable to focus at work.

So the best solution here is to find the times of day

at which you are most clear in your thinking

and most able to do that harder work.

And be value neutral about whatever that time happens

to be, then lean into it.

Which brings me to my next point.

Another terrible piece of productivity

slash business advice you'll hear

is the maxim first in, last out.

Now, let's start with the basics here.

Even the 40-hour work week that most of us adhere to

is really-- especially when it comes to office work-- totally


First of all, for workers of any kind, 40 hours a week of work

basically precludes any true level of work-life balance

when you consider just how much of their waking hours

that time represents.

But perhaps more importantly, the 40-hour work

week initially arose as a reaction

to exploitative factory workers who were heavily overworking

their labor force and were being actively compromised with

to reach that new 40-hour limit.

It's not as if that number was reached independently

as the correct amount of time for a person to work,

which is why the above and beyond model of emphasizing

being the first person at your desk and the last person

out your door as a key to success--

things that you'll hear all the time on shows like Shark Tank--

isn't just wrong, it's also potentially destructive.

According to research, knowledge workers

have just two hours and 48 minutes

of productive time each day.

This is a far cry from the eight plus hours we typically

spend at work.

And while there are plenty of factors

that inhibit our productivity each day,

from stress and procrastination to a lack of focus,

one of the worst is just simply working at the wrong time.

So when you consider how little of the office workers

actual time is spent doing deep, thoughtful, productive work,

you start to realize that even the 40-hour work

week is probably too much.

Let alone showboating by extending

your day on both sides.

And honestly, most of this is probably just

in an effort to demonstrate how busy you are,

which in my opinion, is really just another way of saying

how inefficient you are.

And it also creates a toxic environment

for colleagues wherein you all become

in a sort of silent passive aggressive competition

for who can seem the most dedicated to their job.

Long story short, you should be working smarter, not longer.

Number three is following this or that miracle diet.

Whether we're talking about Jack Dorsey of Twitter who proudly

talks about-- without seemingly any trace of self-awareness--

his starvation diet in which he just literally doesn't eat most

weekends because, I guess, life isn't difficult enough,

there are also miracle diets on basically every end

of the nutrition spectrum promising all kinds of benefits

that extend well beyond the physical

and into being your most productive self.

There are those business and lifestyle gurus

who champion everything from vegan diets,

raw diets, macrobiotic diets, keto diets, paleo diets,

carnivore diets, liquid diets, and so on and so forth.

Now, to be clear, it is not new that diets position themselves

as a miracle way to achieve the body you want

in the shortest span of time or with the least

amount of effort.

That's quite old.

Although, arguably in and of itself rather problematic.

But it is fairly new for these diets

to be so closely aligned with the vision of health that

is about a sense of purity and detoxification

and control over your higher self and self

actualization, which then in turn

will supposedly manifest in all kind of benefits

in terms of your potential output and productivity.

The truth is, as it's always been,

and as boring as it may be, the diet that is right

for you is one that you can follow your entire life, which

is sustainable and manageable and helps you

feel genuinely good on a consistent basis.

And of course, aligns with your values and your needs.

Whether for your body or your productivity,

there is no such thing as a miracle diet.

Number four is know your competition in and out.

Now, it may seem intuitive to be very keyed into what a rival is

doing in your career, whether that's

another employee at your own organization or a rival

at a different organization or an entire other organization

within your industry.

But it can actually be stifling to creativity

and independent thought to be super aware of what others

are doing, as well as being a pretty substantial time suck.

Plus, it can have the unintended consequence

of subtly influencing you on your own ideas

based on what others happen to be doing.

From a business perspective, thinking about competitors,

endlessly researching them, making spreadsheet

after spreadsheet takes up a lot of time,

especially when there are a lot of them.

Take marketing technology as one example.

If your startup is looking to bag some market share here,

then you probably can't even keep up

with the number of competitors given

the phenomenal pace at which this landscape is growing.

The 2017 marketing technology landscape super graphic

really highlights this.

In 2011, there were around 150 marketing technology companies.

Fast forward six years, and there are now over 5,000.

In the last year alone, there has been a 40% growth

in available solutions.

You would need to hire someone full time just

to keep up with it.

But even just on an individual level, workplace politics

and gossip can have a damaging effect on mental health,

as well as your own career trajectory.

Since the '90s, many researchers in the fields

of mental health and organizational management

have written about the effects of workplace bullying

and mental health.

Psychological burnout, depression, anxiety,

aggression, even psychosomatic complaints

where psychological strain manifested physical symptoms

like migraines have all been well documented symptoms

of workplace bullying.

But aside from the obvious effects of harmful rumors

on victims, there's also evidence

to suggest that negative gossip can actually change

the way we see the world.

Perception is everything, or so the saying goes.

And priming ourselves to only detect the negative

in our daily lives can have long-term consequences

on our own mental health that can

persist, regardless of whether we're

the victim or the perpetrator.

Ultimately, it's healthiest to view your own organization

and broader industry as a place where everyone has room

to succeed and someone else's path

does not have a huge bearing on your own.

And if you happen to be in a situation

where you have a coworker who's unbelievably frustrating to you

because they're lazy or manipulative or incompetent

or all of the above, it's important to remember

that you are probably not going to be

able to do anything about it.

You'll have to let that work itself out on its own

and not waste some of your precious time focusing

on their career.

Number five is multitask.

Simply put, multitasking is just not a good idea

for people who ultimately want to be good at what they do

and able to accomplish it competently.

The neuroscience is clear.

We are wired to be monotaskers.

One study found that just 2.5% of people

are able to multitask effectively.

And when the rest of us attempt to do two complex activities

simultaneously, it is simply an illusion.

Trying more than one thing at a time,

especially anything potentially dangerous,

like texting while driving, seriously

compromises our ability to complete the task safely

and well.

Equally important is repeatedly switching back from project

to project like a hummingbird darting

from flower to flower and then back to the original flower

can impair our ability to function at our finest.

And this fallacy really gets at the heart

of what we often conflate when it comes to productivity.

Doing more for doing better, which

is particularly frustrating when we

consider that focusing on more in a short-term moment

can often mean doing less on a long-term time scale.

Lastly, number six is being a perfectionist.

There is a real cult of perfectionism

in the professional world.

And we can tend to overlook how dangerous it

can be because a lot of the advice

seems to make sense on its surface.

Things like, if you can't do it right,

then don't bother doing it at all.

The truth is that if you are growing in basically

any profession there are going to be

an enormous amount of tasks that you simply

will not have the skills to do right the first time.

And learning and growing in your career with the right mentors

and with the right level of patience for yourself

and ability to learn from your own mistakes

is a crucial part of career development.

And beyond that, this desire for perfectionism

often leads us to a sort of paralyzation

when it comes to trying things we may not be good at

or that we may not perfectly understand.

Or keep us locked in a cycle of doing things that

are familiar to us or taking familiar solutions to problems

without really taking the time to explore

if something could be done better

by being done differently.

And in its most extreme forms, this kind of perfectionism

can actually be fatal.

One older study, for example, found that over half

of people who died by suicide were described by their loved

ones as perfectionists.

Another study found that more than 70%

of young people who died by suicide

were in the habit of creating "exceedingly high expectations

of themselves."

Toxic perfectionism seems to hit young people, particularly


According to recent estimates, almost 30%

of undergraduate students experience

symptoms of depression and perfectionism

has been widely associated with these symptoms.

And these trends have been rising

over the past few decades, particularly

in the English speaking world.

Curran and Hill studied more than 40,000

American, Canadian, and British college students

and found that in 1989 to 2016, the proportion

of people who exhibited traits of perfectionism rose by 33%.

And while you may not necessarily be at this extreme,

it's important to consider how you're

framing your own successes and your mistakes in your mind.

Is the latter opportunities for learning

or for beating yourself up?

In the end, productivity in and of itself

may not even be the best goal.

But if we are aspiring to work better and more

thoughtfully while taking up less of our precious time,

it's important that we lean into what actually

works not just what sounds good on an inspirational coffee mug.

As always, guys, thank you for watching.

And do not forget to hit the Subscribe button

and to come back every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday

for new and awesome videos.



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