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7 Excellent Pieces of Productivity Advice We’re Probably Ignoring Right Now


Ever hear the expression, “Know better, do better?” Despite originating from a pretty lovely Maya Angelou quote, in practice, this phrase has become one of the more teeth-grindingly superior ways for the good citizens of the internet to put each other down, whether the topic is career development or parenting. It’s also, in its abbreviated form, unlikely to inspire people to embrace innovation. One thing, and possibly only one thing, is for sure when it comes to human behavior: knowing better definitely does not mean doing better. If it did, we’d all be experts at life and wizards of productivity by now. Let’s admit that the true challenge is taking all the advice we’ve already received. Sometimes, we flat-out ignore the collective wisdom of efficiency experts, and we’re not even sorry.

early bird catches the worm 

(Photo Credit: Andy Morffew/Flickr)

For example, we recently asked Facebook users to share their favorite (or possibly “favorite”) time management and productivity tips that they never use. In most cases, the unspoken coda was, “And you can’t make me, either!”

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Here’s some of the best advice we’re not taking:

1. “Check email only three times a day.”

Jen: “I know I should only check email a few times a day for maximum productivity, but instead, I check it all the time, starting first thing in the morning, when I’m still in bed.”

2. “Avoid social media.”

Elizabeth: “Checking social media when I complete something and before I start another. I should get up and walk around for five minutes instead.”

3. “Document everything.”

Matt: “The biggest productivity rule that I’m a bit lax on, and/or often don’t see followed is strict adherence to documentation practices. For large complex systems, if there is any discrepancy between reality and what was documented, it can waste huge amounts of time for both myself and people on my team. Issues that come up often require a deep dive into requirements documentation, and they tend to become a big mess of ‘well … who really remembers how this was supposed to work?’…*crickets*”

4. “Email: Only Handle It Once.”

Helene: “The ‘only handle it once’ rule for email. I get it: makes sense to read the email once and deal with immediately, avoiding email clutter in your brain or inbox. But turns out my procrastinating ways can’t get behind this rule, and I often write emails and save them as drafts, or flag emails for follow-up later.”

Megan: “…I try to only handle email once and keep my inbox empty and yet my inbox ALWAYS has at least 10 items in it from weeks and weeks ago. Usually it’s newsletters or other informational articles that I am interested in and want to read, but can’t read right this second. My oldest email right now is a link to a podcast that I want to listen to, but can’t find the time to even add it to Downcast. I used to file these in a ‘to read’ folder, but I’ve found that when I ‘file’ things to read later I never read them, but if I leave them in my inbox it feels like they might actually get read some day.”

5. “Break up tasks.”

Alex: “‘Break larger tasks up into smaller, easier-to-accomplish tasks…’ which to me reads as ‘demonstrate to yourself just how enormous this one task actually is, so that you can see how many steps it takes for you to do just one thing at your job.'”

Megan: “…That’s a good one too. I’ve actually done that to a task and so freaked myself out at how big it was that I gave up on doing it at all! #backfire”

6. “The early bird gets the worm.”

Becky: “…Getting up extra early – I understand that the ‘early bird gets the worm,’ but no one ever talks about the fate of the early worm. I get up as late as possible but also work much later than most – I am just naturally a night owl and worthless in the early AM.”

7. “Eat that frog.”

Maya: “I never ever ‘eat the frog’ and do the hard thing first. I do allllllll the piddly tasks and one-offs until I have nothing else pinging around in my brain and am ready to sit down with the hard thing at the last possible minute. …I don’t think I COULD eat the frog! My brain would be like, ‘Did you send over that contract? What about that program description? Have you gotten back to that person with the minor question that you don’t feel like answering but you need to because it’s an important relationship?’ These are not things I feel like doing after the frog is consumed.”

Names changed to protect contributors from more well-meant advice.

Tell Us What You Think

What productivity advice do you routinely ignore? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt

Correct, and thank you! Changed to “well-meant.”


Interesting piece overall. Just one thing: advice can’t be “well-meaning.” That’s reserved for the people who give the advice.

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