3 Productivity Tips That Don’t Work (And What You Should Do Instead)

Are you the type of person who’s always on the hunt for ways to improve your productivity and focus at work? If so, there’s no shortage of expert tips and article round-ups to help you categorize and analyze every aspect of your day, especially when it comes to how you deploy technology throughout your workday.

But what if the very tips you’re relying on to improve your productivity actually have the opposite effect—costing you time rather than saving it?

Before you try out the next big recommendation from the pros, take a look at these digital productivity tips that don’t work very well—and what you should be doing instead.

Unproductive Tip #1: Automate every task you can

Some productivity experts say automating personal and professional responsibilities is the best way to reduce the number of repetitive tasks on your to-do list and recapture that time for more focused work. But unless you are particularly tech-savvy, the reality of identifying and managing automated tasks can quickly become an overwhelming to-do list in itself.

For example, scheduling automatic notifications for deadlines or important events can be practically impossible to update if something changes later on. If not done properly, creating folders and automatic filing systems in your email inbox can cause you to miss important emails and not know it.

A much more effective approach to time-saving automation? Tracking your time with a program like RescueTime and analyzing the data to find out which tasks you can automate and habits you can change in order to be more productive. Using the data you gather over the course of a week or a month will give you an in-depth understanding of how you spend your time at work – whether that’s in email, phone, internal program or other – and help you identify most useful automation opportunities.

Unproductive Tip #2: Use technology to be available around the clock

In many professional settings, being available by email and phone around the clock is the status quo. Being responsive by phone or answering email in the evening (and sometimes even on vacation) makes you one of the most productive employees on staff. While on the surface this might look like you’re being productive, it actually undermines your productivity in the long run. Studies show the brain needs frequent breaks throughout the day and longer breaks (such as overnight) to maintain maximum levels of both short-term and long-term focus, productivity and creativity.

Instead of using technology to be available around the clock, it’s far more productive to focus 100 percent on work while you’re at work and limiting the time you’re available to your required working hours. Then, in your off hours, prioritize activities that help you disconnect from the workplace, fully relax and rest.

Fortunately, technology can help you unplug, too! Consider using an app like Freedom App to set blocks on company or work-related websites during your off hours and change your phone settings to mute phone calls from work except for the most important emergency contacts, such as your supervisor or a close coworker. The resulting sense of disconnection and relaxation will give you the break you need to bring your best self to work the next day.

Unproductive Tip # 3: Aggregate your news intake with social media

Are you among the 67 percent of American adults who get their news from social media? On the surface, it might seem like an efficient use of your time to replace your daily newspaper with a quick check-in on a Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn news feed. But it might surprise you to learn that following news in this way is more time-consuming and causes more stress than more traditional forms of consumption like paper newspapers or weekly newsletter digests.

As it turns out, following the release, development and updates of breaking news stories (in addition to your own social network’s commentary) plugs you into a cycle of information gathering and processing that can be straining for your brain – and doesn’t actually leave you more informed.

A healthier and more productive approach to staying up to date on important news is to sign up for email digests from news sites you trust or from news digest sites like Industry Dive or SmartBrief. Not only will this screening process naturally help you avoid issues like fake news because the time delay will weed out a higher number of fake stories, but you’ll also end up being informed about only the most important and most impactful news stories rather than all of them.

At the end of the day, the most effective productivity tip is the one that works for you. Try new things regularly – including these three tips – and keep trying until you find what makes you feel the most engaged and focused at work.