Eight Business Leaders Share Their Takes On Unhelpful Productivity ‘Advice’

There’s a lot of great business advice out there—but there’s also an equal amount of unhelpful advice. While many people think they have the answers, only you can know what’s right for your business. However, it can sometimes be hard for new business owners to know what advice is worthwhile, leading to costly mistakes.

Below, eight Young Entrepreneur Council members each describe one piece of productivity advice they disagree with and why, and instead offer alternative advice they feel is more worthy of your attention.

1. One-Size-Fits-All Advice Doesn’t Fit All

I personally can’t stand most one-size-fits-all advice. We are wired very differently regarding motivation and productivity, and this is especially true for leaders and entrepreneurs who exist to buck trends. My big breakthrough when I stopped trying to listen to specific advice. Instead, I started treating my productivity a lot like meditation. I have a goal in mind that I’m committed to. At any point, I’m either effectively working toward that goal or I’m not. When I notice that I’m not, I gently recenter myself, keeping track of what derailed me. I still get distracted, but I am very good at catching that and refocusing. This skill is much more important than how I keep my lists of goals and tasks. Alex Furman, Invitae

2. Working On Your Most Difficult Task First Isn’t Always The Most Efficient

To work on a difficult task means you’re setting aside a lot of other tasks just to complete the biggest (and possibly only) task you’ll complete that day. On the other hand, the most difficult task could mean accomplishing smaller tasks that would actually lead to finishing the difficult task. Though it is rewarding to finally complete one big task in a day, it could lead to procrastination, such as giving excuses to not do anything at all, knowing that you’re just aiming to complete the one big project. Then, you miss some details because you just did everything in one go. It is best to work on the most difficult task one day at a time to see if you can still add, correct or tweak things. While doing that, find ways to deal with other smaller tasks as well. – Daisy Jing, Banish

3. Work-Life Balance Wins Out Against The Old-School Standards

The pandemic and globalization have shown us that people can be highly effective working outside the office and not always during the old nine-to-five hours. Employees with better work-life balance will always perform better than ones who are stressed out, feeling like they’re working in a box. However, it will take flexibility, transparency and proper project management tools between the manager and employee to do it correctly. – Andy Karuza, NachoNacho

4. Outsourcing Doesn’t Always Save Time

Outsourcing can be great for many tasks; However, I think the principle has been taken too far, as many entrepreneurs absorbed the lessons of The 4-Hour Workweek (where author Tim Ferriss advocates outsourcing as a primary strategy to build a largely passive income). People starting out can waste money and compromise on quality if they try to outsource tasks that they don’t really understand themselves. An example might be someone trying to build an e-commerce empire by hiring “experts” on a site such as Fiverr. You can get real value from freelancer sites; However, you first need to understand your own business model thoroughly, which means putting in the hours and learning the business. Outsource once you have a system in place. – Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting

5. Learning To Say ‘No’ Is Important, But So Is Negotiating

Learning to say “no” often can improve productivity levels. This is easy to say, but hard on a practical note. This productivity advice hinges on saving time for more productive work by saying “no” to unnecessary tasks or people. But what if your boss wants last-minute project updates along with the client presentation you are already running late on? Or what if your spouse needs a bit of help with household labor? Saying “no” can get hard here. Instead, negotiate. Try schedule-syncing. Share your work schedule for the week with your boss and spouse, and see how you can carve some free time outside of your day-to-day professional work for any additional demands on your time. With this transparency, both will be aware of your schedule and conditions and will be more mindful not to bog you down with extra demands. – Brian David Crane, Spread Great Ideas

6. Juggling A Bunch Of Tasks Isn’t Productive

The idea that you have to juggle a million things at once to be productive is something I can’t stand because it’s simply not true. You don’t have to do everything at once. In fact, trying to do too many things at once can actually lead to more mistakes and less productivity. I advise time blocking, a concept where you dedicate a certain amount of time to one task and then move on to the next. This allows you to focus on one thing at a time and get it done more efficiency. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

7. Waking Up Early Doesn’t Equate To Success

Wake up early if you enjoy waking up early and find your productivity increases. Do not wake up early and think it is going to make you a billion dollars. Understanding your rhythms and developing self-awareness is a huge part of being an entrepreneur. In the press, there are lots of very successful who tout early rising as entrepreneurs of their success, but really, that is not for everyone. Being your absolute best means knowing yourself and getting to know yourself. – Matthew Capala, Alphametic

8. Time Is Fleeting, So Use It Wisely

One piece of productivity advice that I can’t stand is, “Take your time.” Time is something that we can never get back. If you’re wasting time at work, it’s not coming back. Instead, I would advise people to use their time wisely and focus on what’s most important to them. – Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC

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