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The Worst Productivity Advice Ever

January 12, 2016

Everybody’s an expert today. We love to predict the unpredictable, extend many lengths of advices that are life changing in some quasi-significant way, and all this for the sake of bragging rights. “We got it right. We know how it’s done” — we’ve all come across people who claim to be absolutely sure that they have discovered the secret to every answer we are looking for. Business in slump? A strategy in disarray? A lover not convinced? There’s deceptively legitimate, empirically assured advice for everything on the internet today.

Then again, with so many people (convincingly) professing that they’ve got it right and they know how to help you get it right, there’s no easy to tell the real from the nonsense.

No subject has witnessed (and carelessly welcomed) more preachers and teachers than productivity. Every form, style, make and version of advice on the topic has been written about, slide-shared and rehashed at least ten new times.

The problem; for one is that there’s too much of it to consume. A search query for ‘productivity tips’ generates over a whopping 94 million results. Just skimming through the top results will put you in a catch 22 and drain you off your productivity before you even get started with any of the blessed recommendations.

And even if you manage to narrow your search, picking out true wisdom from all the folly is a task in itself. How do you know for sure which advice to take and which to toss?

To help you sort through the ginormous heap of productivity-related data, here is a checklist of the advices you can (and should) toss and those that you ought to retain.

Toss: Empty advices

There are plenty of productivity gurus out there who happily extend empty instructions. “Get in the habit of doing things”, “work smart instead of working hard”, “make a plan for everything” — these are advices that offer no real help for a simple reason that we humans inherently understand all of this. It is because someone was unable to channel these thoughts into actual action is the reason why they came looking for advice in the first place.

Take: Take the thought behind the suggestion. Everything that someone recommends comes from a certain human truth. But it doesn’t bode well for us to take everything on face value. Try to see beyond the words and look for a truth that actually weighs up and tactically helps you.

Toss: Ignore “I have done it, so can you” advices

The truth is that our brains our wired for trusting people. And coming from a seemingly genuine source we are even more inclined to take up somebody’s suggestions, pegging its merits against their apparent credibility, so to speak.

Take: Tap the tools, not the tale. Take only the most useful information from experiences of others. You don’t have to do exactly the same things as them, because much like a bolt of lightning, successful outcomes don’t quite happen the same way twice. Your realties may be very different from these people, so unless you can factor in these variations, your chances for recapping their success stories as yours are on the unlikely side of things.

Toss: Self-defeating suggestions

“Unless you plan better, your plan will fail” — how has a statement like this ever helped anyone? These click-baity, search-optimization-purposes-only articles do very little to actually help address a productivity conundrum; much less offer any real value for the content consumed.

Take: Sniff out portals where suggestions come from authentic sources. Discover where conversations really happen on the topics you are interested in — are they taking place on a LinkedIn circle or is there is an active discussion portal on Quora? Participate in these places, put out a query of your own to those who know their stuff when it comes to the subject of productivity. That’s one way to pluck the real from the imposter.

Toss: Advices from productivity gurus

You will be amazed to find out how many people actually knight themselves with this title. From leading human resources professionals and talent consultants to self-help pundits, each one of these sects has something to offer to the productivity-hungry disciples. And very often not all of it is tactically useful.

Take: No one is saying you need to denounce every ‘expert’. Some tend to offer genuinely helpful suggestions, direct you to the right kind of strategies and tools that will help you achieve an efficient work ecosystem of your own. All this is good, but take it with a pinch of salt. If you are unsure about an advice, follow it up with a peer. No matter how objective we try to sound, everyone operates with some sort of bias and that’s the hard truth. A productivity expert may be working off his/her biases, and that’s something you may never know. So, while you bestow your faith in the embrace of experts, know that you can apply your realities to their suggestions to know if their suggestions actually make sense for you. Haven’t we all heard that adage: If it seems too good be true, it probably is.

Toss: Advices from “successful” people

Do you how many “How Mr. successful managed to achieve an unachievable turnaround in his professional life” articles are out there? Over a 100 thousand. And if you look close enough, they all say the same things.

Take: Anyone who has ever been successful has taken on a series of same life decisions, just in different intensities and at different stages of their lives. But what they all will always have in common is a deep sense of purpose, a drive to do great work, discipline, access to right kind of tools and a routine they swear by. Don’t believe us? Run it past any successful person in your life and you’ll see this truth staring at you point blank.

Much like happiness, productivity is an outcome of something else altogether. There are no hard rules which can guarantee that you will become that efficient ninja you’ve been meaning to be, but then again, sought at the right places, suggestions from those who have learned from experiences and skill will, at the very least, help guide the way better.


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