Like most people, Natalie Houston knows what it’s like to fight procrastination. It’s what inspired her to become what she is now: A productivity coach.
“I’ve struggled with structuring deadlines, managing complex projects, and creating habits and routines that help me get the most out of my day,” she says. “Learning how to solve those challenges led me into productivity coaching. There are research-proven strategies you can use to create better habits and support your best work.”
One of those habits is that you must stop believing and adhering to a lot of myths about the workplace. The falsehoods that are out there are rules that do not apply to everyone, as well as practices that have actually been proven to be detrimental to workplace success.
We compiled the following list of workplace myths and spoke to the experts, like Houston, who know the truth. Here’s what they had to say.
Myth 1: The best work schedule is 9 to 5
Henry Ford created the idea of the Monday through Friday, eight-hour workday. But, there is no scientific proof that working those hours, or that many hours, is better for you.
If you’re in a co-working space or you’re a freelancer, you can choose which hours you’re going to work. However, if you have an office job, and you are forced to keep this schedule, there are ways you can make it fit your personal preferences.
“Carve out a few hours per week when you can work without interruption,” says Jan Jasper, a productivity coach in the New York City area. “Plan that around demand of your clients and boss. If you know that your best time to work is 9 a.m., but it’s also your busiest time for you, try to get some quiet time in from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Make the most of it.”
Myth 2: You’re more productive if you work at an office
Working in an office is usually inevitable, especially if you have a 9 to 5.
“It can be hard to be productive in an office, because you have so many distractions,” says Jasper. “I often hear people say the only time they can concentrate is if they go in early or stay late on the weekends.”
If you’re an employer, you may want to give your workers the option to telecommute on days that you don’t need them to physically be in the office.
According to research from Chinese travel website Ctrip, when a group of call center workers performed their duties at home, they made 13.5 percent more calls than those who stayed in the office. Thanks to telecommuting, the workers were more productive, and the company got an extra day of work out of them.
Myth 3: Multitasking is better
It may seem like you’re getting so much done if you’re on your cell phone, answering an email, and writing out your to-do list. In reality, you’re just hindering your productivity.
“We think we’re handling multiple things at once, but our brains are not designed to do many different cognitive tasks at the same time,” says Houston. “If you’re trying to do two things that both require focus and attention, you’re hurting yourself.”
According to productivity coach Susan Rose, many workers and sales people especially think that they should use the car as a virtual office.
“If someone is making a call, he or she should be stationary,” she says. “Your mind can only handle one activity at a time. Focusing on driving is the number one thing we need to do when we’re in the car.”
Research backs up Rose’s opinion: Statistics from the National Safety Council show that because having a conversation and driving are thinking tasks, you can’t do both at once effectively. Additionally, drivers talking on their phones are four times more likely to get into car crashes.
Myth 4: You’ll accomplish more if you eat lunch at your desk
Sure, you want to look like you’re working super hard, but you should never sacrifice your lunch break just to impress your boss and co-workers. It can damage both your productivity because you’re not taking a proper break, as well as your health.
“Mindful eating is one of the main habits of health that allow people to reach and maintain a healthy lifestyle,” says Jacob Rupp, a certified health coach at Take Shape For Life. “Like most things in life, food is mostly mental. Thus, eating while not paying attention to it might result in you not realizing you ate, or how much you ate at all.”
He continues, “Set aside what you are doing and focus on eating slowly. Setting aside time to eat allows you focus on your food and not mindlessly munch.”
Changing how you work
Don’t believe the myths. If you’re trying to fit the productivity mold, but you find that your work isn’t improving, or you’re not accomplishing as much as you’d like, go with what feels best and will work with your schedule.