Being busy isn’t the same as being productive

Are you busy all day, yet feel that you don’t accomplish anything?

Being Busy isn't the same as being productiveBusyness is practically a disease today. We cram as much as we can into our limited time. Yet being busy isn’t the same as being productive.

Have you ever had days where you felt like you didn’t have a minute to spare, and yet you still felt that you didn’t accomplish anything?

There are many reasons for this, but the most important is a failure to prioritize and focus on the tasks that will really make a difference.

These are some of the common symptoms of busyness without productivity:

  • You’re worried today about being busy tomorrow.
  • You’re annoyed that the people around you never seem to be as busy as you are.
  • You spend your evenings thinking about all the stuff you didn’t get done today.
  • You can’t pay attention during conversations because you’re too busy thinking about all the things you have to get done.
  • You eat in your car.

If that sounds like you, try these ideas to free up time in your life and get things done:

1. Prioritize. Decide what the most important tasks are to accomplish today. If you don’t choose what you’re going to do today, you’re choosing to let the world decide your priorities for you. Being busy on your own terms is one thing but being busy according to someone else’s priorities is a different thing altogether. Dictate the direction of your day by making a decision before the day even starts.

2. Notice how you’re wasting time. Many times, we intentionally avoid doing what we know we should be doing. We don’t want to make that difficult phone call or work on that report we’ve been dreading for weeks.

  • We are all excellent at inventing other things to do that don’t really have a lot impact. Notice the things you do when you don’t want to do what you should be doing. It might be cleaning your desk, checking email, or getting coffee. When you notice your ‘stalling’ behaviors, it’s easier to catch yourself and get back on track.

3. Keep you to do list short. A good idea is to make a list of everything the really needs to get done, and then just focus on getting the top 3 things that need to be done today. That might not seem like a lot, but imagine what your to do list would look like today if you had been doing this exercise for the last 2 weeks.

  • The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of your work can be completed with 20% of the relevant actions. Focus on the most important stuff and you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done.

4. Eliminate the excess from your life. Avoid spending your time on activities that are optional unless you truly enjoy it. That means you shouldn’t spend your free time on that charity or club that doesn’t really matter to you. Strive to eliminate as many of the non-meaningful activities from your life as possible to leave room for the meaningful things.

5. Limit yourself. If you only allow yourself a limited amount of time to work on something, you’ll be forced to do the most important tasks first. The fear of not getting done in time will increase your efficiency.

6. Measure yourself. At the end of the day, ask yourself how busy you were. Ideally, you should have a full day, but you shouldn’t have an endless list of tasks to complete.

Life should be full, but that doesn’t mean being busy. If you’re too busy, it’s likely that you’re either spending too much time on things that don’t really matter to you or you’re spending too much time on tasks that aren’t productive.

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Till Next Time

Mike Gardner – The Time Doctor

Mike Gardner aka ‘The Time Doctor’ and is highly regarded as one of the UK’s leading Time Management and productivity specialists. As well as being regularly featured in both online and off-line media outlets around the world, he is the author of the best selling time management book, Business Owners: Your Family Misses You. He regularly speaks on topics that are congruent with his mission of helping small business owners, entrepreneurs and independent professionals to be incredibly productive, whilst still balancing their business and family commitments in a way that enables them to feel fulfilled and guilt-free. He is an avid Aston Villa fan, a Dad to Neil & Emma, a hubby to Wendy and in his role as an Officer with the reserve forces, he has completed operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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16 thoughts on “Being busy isn’t the same as being productive

  1. Hi Mike,

    My challenge is that I take on too many things at once and find it hard to resist. So what I am trying to do is say “No” more often, or even to say “I’m busy today I’ll do it tomorrow”.

    It’s becoming easier as I find that people are happy to wait!

    Thanks for a great list of tips.

    Joy Healey recently posted…What Is Premier Cashback?My Profile

  2. Hi Mike

    Hmm, I’m afraid I do recognize a lot of those symptoms in myself. Unfortunately the nature of my off-line business is such that it is “interrupt driven”, so if a customer needs my help they need it ASAP. Having said that, they’ve been very understanding with my recent family crises – but it’s time to catch up and get back on course now.

    I am learning how to say “No” to things I don’t want to do and, besides freeing up my time, it’s such a relief!

    I like the idea of a short to-do list – that seems a useful tip to try, because I know I have a tendency to multi-task to the extreme. Thanks,

    Joy Healey recently posted…Getting Paid To BlogMy Profile

  3. Something that makes it hard for me to accomplish my important tasks is the fact that I supervise employees working on my project. If they have questions or problems that need attention, they bring them to me. Now, supervising the staff is legitimately my first priority. But sometimes I spend so much time on my first priority that I don’t get to the second and third on my list of three goals (and of course, because I hadn’t read your post until now, my list of goals is usually endless).
    Hollie Hawley recently posted…[Product Review] Adventure Medical Kits Sportsman Grizzly KitMy Profile

    • Hi Hollie, sometimes we inadvertently make a rod for our on back, when it comes to managing employees. We tell our staff everything they ask of us because it’s easy, we can save time in the long run buy coaching employees by asking them what they do know and by getting them to think for themselves

  4. Great list, Mike. Now we just need to find out what happens to our brains when we start focusing on Social Media! I’m pretty sure mine turns to mush . . .
    Keeping the list short, focusing on the tactics that will get me there sooner, those are the tips that have really helped me in the past. Thank you for the re-enforcement.
    Kimberly recently posted…Funny Lady – Ronnie WalterMy Profile

  5. All good suggestions except that my job chooses priorities for me. And, those change constantly, so I have to remain flexible. I am guilty of that “people around me are more busy than I am” – thank you for giving me some ideas about what to do about that.
    Alana recently posted…One Last TimeMy Profile