In the digital age, countless tools, apps, and techniques have emerged, all offering ways to increase productivity. While some popular systems are worth the hype, others simply don’t work as well across the board.
When you’re figuring out how to maximize your productivity, it’s important to remember that everyone is different, and what works for others may not be right for you. To that end, we asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council the following:
Q. Not all productivity systems work as well as they could. What is one popular technique, app, or method you find is overrated or doesn’t work so well for you, and why?
1. Productivity Timers
I’ve never been a fan of the productivity timers you see on every popular app store. I think that if setting a timer determines whether or not you get more done, you need to rethink how you’re working. There are plenty of other ways to boost productivity without stressing yourself out with a timer. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC
It’s a popular notion that you should use willpower to force yourself to do something. This is based on the belief that, at your core, you don’t want to perform this activity. You’re better off trying to understand the root of your resistance or finding alternative activities that feel better. Using willpower is exhausting and, in the end, you’ll end up doing the opposite of what’s important. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
3. Hard Time Limits
Many people set up fixed timeframes for accomplishing important tasks. I believe that such timelines should be guidelines rather than inviolable rules. Having hard time limits for a task builds anxiety and fear that you won’t get it done on time. It can also lead to procrastination as you’ll want to avoid feelings of discomfort until the last minute. It’s better to have general timelines instead. – Blair Williams, MemberPress
There’s lots of talk about concentrating your time into blocks during the day to stay productive. While, in theory, it makes sense, it’s very difficult when you’re juggling so many different things to really have dedicated blocks of time for different activities. There’s always bound to be that one question, phone call, or email that needs urgent attention. It’s not realistic to say things can wait! – Maria Thimothy, OneIMS
Ditch multitasking and instead batch your work into single focus areas. The idea of batching your work is that you do tasks in groups. For example, if you’re going to send an email, sit down and do all of your emails at once to avoid the multitasking trap. If you’re going to focus on writing, do all of your writing tasks while you’re in a state of flow. It helps immensely with productivity! – Erin Blaskie, Fellow.app
6. Short Breaks
Time and time again, I have seen how productive I am when going with the flow and not taking any breaks. It’s like binge-watching your favorite web series relentlessly. I don’t think anyone feels exhausted when they watch their favorite web series. It’s just the same with your work. You go with the flow because you love it, but don’t deviate with pointless breaks in between. – Kelly Richardson, Infobrandz
7. Doing Everything Yourself
I’ve heard far too many managers and business owners tackling tasks that can easily be offloaded. Their reasoning is it’s easier to just do it themselves. In the beginning, this may feel like the case, but as your business grows, you must learn how to delegate with trust in order to keep your productivity high and channeled on higher-level needs. – Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.
8. Dedicated Days
Day-long meetings and offsite days are great in theory; however, I have seen enthusiasm and productivity dwindle as the hours pass by. Instead of focusing on a single topic for eight-plus hours, break the dedicated time up into a few sprint sessions over a week of time. This gives your team time to marinate on the topic and take beneficial breaks to rest. – Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, P.A.
9. The Pomodoro Technique
I’m a big believer that momentum is one of the most powerful factors when it comes to getting things done. When I’ve already put in 20 minutes of focused work and have my train of thought and then take a five-minute break, not only will I lose my flow and train of thought, but it’ll take me at least five minutes to get back to things. If you’re focused, don’t stop. Take a break when you need it. – Karl Kangur, Above House
10. Standing Desks
I find that, whether I have a standing desk or not, I end up spending the majority of my working hours sitting down. If I do make any productivity gains when standing, they are minimal. In my experience, a quality office chair with well-designed ergonomics has been a much better investment for comfort and productivity. That and a short walk every now and then. – Jordan Conrad, Writing Explained
11. ‘Inbox Zero’
Inbox zero aims to clear your inbox every day by separating your emails into different categories. However, I’ve found that simply choosing to check my email a certain number of times a day and being strict about that number helps me get more done. It’s easy to get distracted, browse through useless emails, and waste time using this strategy. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
12. Listening to Music
Listening to music can energize you and improve your productivity, but it can also distract you. I’ve found that music with catchy lyrics tends to be a distraction. I end up humming along instead of thinking analytically. That’s why I tailor my playlist to the job at hand. When I need to think critically, I turn the music off. When my work requires less focus, I crank up the tunes and get to work. – Shaun Conrad, My Accounting Course
13. Relying Solely on the System
In general, people seem to put a lot of faith in the system rather than their follow-through. No productivity tool is enough to make you productive; you still need to rely on getting things done. Use productivity tools to support your operation, not to manage it. All too often, people spent more time updating and managing a productivity system instead of actually being productive. – Ryan D Matzner, Fueled
These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co.