Busy Isn’t Always Productive

Are you a busy person? Are you always “on the run” from the time your feet first hit the floor until your head finally returns to the pillow? Is there always “stuff” left to do at the end of the day?

If you answered yes to those questions then there’s no doubt about it; you are indeed a busy person.

Now let me ask you a completely different question. Are you a productive person? Does your busyness lead to a result. Put simply, do you get stuff done? Do you know how you got it done and most importantly, do you know why it should have been done?

If you answered yes to those questions then you are likely a productive person. You are also very likely to be a successful person. Merely busy people are seldom truly successful; productive people almost always are.

Busy people are always working; productive people are always working towards something. That something is usually a goal or at minimum a desired outcome or result.

Here’s the deal with goals, if you don’t have goals, written goals, along with a fairly detailed plan on how you will achieve each one, then you don’t have goals. Not true goals anyway. Not goals you’re likely to achieve.

The most successful people have written goals, goals based on their core values. They work towards their goals every single day. Sometimes they take big steps towards a goal, some days it’s a tiny little step but virtually everyday it’s something.

Successful people know that if they didn’t get closer to a goal then their day may have been incredibly busy but it was not productive.

Goals allow you to have focus and focus is a key to success. That’s why the most successful people don’t buy into the folly of multi-tasking. Multi-tasking makes you busier, and less productive all at once. Few things actually waste more time than multi-tasking and few things save more time than focus.

I know there are multi-tasking people out there who will vehemently disagree with me on this but all the statistics and research are on my side here. Few things waste more time than multi-tasking. We use it when we’re “stuck” on something or there is something else we would rather be doing. We use it to distract ourselves from more important but less enjoyed tasks.

Here’s an interesting question to ask yourself a few times during each day: “Is what I’m doing at this very moment the most productive thing I could be doing?” If you answer honestly you’ll be shocked at how many times your answer is no. You might be doing something you like to do, you might be doing something that’s easier to do, you might even be doing something very productive, but that’s not the question. Is it the most productive thing you could be doing?

Now, take a breath. I understand that no one can answer yes to that question every time. In fact, I’d estimate that even the most successful people can answer yes less than half the time. But asking the question makes you more aware of how you are using your time. You won’t have to wonder “where the day went” anymore. You’ll know why you didn’t get done what really needed to get done.

One more thing, as you ask yourself that question keep in mind the words of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower who said “What is Important is Seldom Urgent and What is Urgent is Seldom Important.”

When deciding if you’re just busy or actually productive it helps to know the difference between merely urgent and truly important. That difference is found in your true goals.

14 thoughts on “Busy Isn’t Always Productive

  1. I’m always surprised when people try to demonstrate or brag about their multitasking skills. I also believe that we can be very productive when just taking a few moments to quietly reflect.

    • Thanks Willis, my first 15 minutes of the day, EVERY day, are spent planning and reflecting on how I want to day to go. It doesn’t always go as I expected but those 15 minutes are some of the most productive of my day.

      • I couldn’t agree more, dear Steve, when it comes to effectively understanding the difference between being busy and productive.True goals, as you say, make all difference.
        Btw, if you allow me, one of my latest poems has got the title “Time … to Reflect and Act”.

        Best regards,
        Maria

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