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Popular productivity concepts — myth or real?

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4 min read

Do I really have to get up before 5 AM to be truly productive? Are some days of the week more productive than others? Multitasking — good or bad?

We are looking at these and more popular productivity assumptions to see which of them really hold up.

Monday blues

Mondays have a bit of a reputation. Getting back into the work pace after the weekend can be challenging. But some surveys show that it might actually be one of the more productive days of the week.

According to this Redbooth Report, Monday was the day of the week when most tasks were completed by the surveyed workers, Tuesday being a close second.

Accountemps Survey showed that 35% workers reported their productivity peak on a Tuesday, followed by 25% on a Monday.

Looks like getting into the work week might feel a little difficult, but at the end of the day, you do get a lot done in those first couple days of your work week.

5 AM

Ah, the magical 5 AM. Rise early and get things done before anyone is even up. Beat the traffic. Feel more energetic. Etcetera, etcetera.

How have we arrived at this number as the best time to wake up in order to achieve peak productivity, and, most importantly, is it even true?

While we could not find much evidence to support the 5 AM claim, we did find one study that showed shifting your waking up one hour earlier reduced the risk for depression.

So is the 5 AM alarm one of the myths about time management? Depending on your job and lifestyle, waking up a little earlier to get an early start might be beneficial as long as you move up your bedtime, respectively. We’d argue that getting enough sleep was at least as important as waking up early in the morning.

Multitasking

Multitasking has been hailed as the best way to approach work in most modern environments — we are answering our emails in meetings, drafting presentations as we are brainstorming new ideas for our next project, compiling reports over lunch...

Science reveals a different picture though. Turns out, when you look at time management facts, humans just aren’t a multitasking species.

This study showed multitasking resulted in decreased speed and accuracy. Another study highlighted that people were less aware of their performance of each task when performing several at the same time.

So if you want to be productive, better focus on one thing at a time and do it well.

And if you keep finding yourself on social media or entertainment websites when you should be working, try Focus.

The app blocks content you want to avoid for a set chunk of time. This way, even if you mindlessly log onto a website you are trying to avoid, you’ll get a productivity quote in your browser instead of all the distracting content:

Focus quote

The Power Nap

Another popular productivity-enhancing solution is power naps. Let’s see if it’s another of one time management myths or based in fact.

Taking a small break in your schedule for a 15-20 minute nap only to find yourself sleepy for the next two hours might not sound like your idea of enhancing your productivity, but a lot of people swear by it. There’s even a Wikipedia page dedicated to the phenomenon.

Naps do increase cognitive performance, especially when they happen at the right time of day (i.e. not too late in the day) and don’t last too long (people tend to feel groggier for longer after long naps, so 20-30 minute naps would be ideal for work week productivity purposes).

Keep in mind that improved productivity after a power nap only lasts for about half an hour to two hours after you wake up, so be sure to schedule your day right in order to be able to leverage that benefit!

Deadlines

Setting a clear deadline for your work can help with procrastination and boost productivity just because you know you need to hand in your work by a set time. The issue with deadlines is — they cause stress. So is this another one of the myths of time management?

Some research says that big, important deadlines can cause significant stress and affect the quality of life; while other studies show that absence of hard deadlines and reliance on ‘slippery deadlines’ instead can lead to less productivity and pave the way to procrastination.

Our bet is that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle – most people do well with some framework in place to structure their day-to-day, but once the pressure is cracked up too high, it becomes overwhelming very quickly.

Our advice would be to make sure the deadlines you have in your work are warranted. If something really does need to be completed by a set date and time, it makes sense to set a hard deadline. But adding artificial deadlines to your day might only decrease productivity in the long run, while promoting burnout.

And when you do need to meet your deadlines, use task managing apps like Taskheat and 2Do. Both help you map out your projects and keep an eye on any approaching deadlines with no stress.

2Do planner

2Do is all about checking off items in your list and facts about your time management style,  while Taskheat is about making your planning visual and seeing the big picture of a project.

Taskheat flowchart planner

Final thoughts

Not every productivity hack you hear about is fact-based. Some concepts evolved from personal experience, hearsay, or even just an unexplored hypothesis — something that felt right in theory, but at the end of the day was just a guess.

Mondays might feel overwhelming coming in from differently paced weekends, but surveys show that they remain one of the most productive parts of the week. Deadlines can bring stress but they also add structure to your work. Naps can be refreshing, unless you sleep for too long, disrupting your schedule and feeling groggy even an hour later.

All in all, productivity hacks and ideas that work for others might not work for you. That means you’ll have to experience some trial and error when taking on new solutions to up your productivity.

Just approach your days with an open mind and keep what works while dropping what doesn’t!

And if you’d like to try the productivity tools we’ve mentioned in this article — the app to help you block distractions Focus, to-do list app 2Do, or project mapping tool Taskheat, — find them all and more apps on Setapp, a single-subscription service with dozens of tools for your day-to-day tasks. Start today with our special offer of an extended 14-day free trial (expires after World Productivity Day on June 20, 2022) and see if it fits your workflow!

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