When Being Busy is Unproductive

Being busy is practically a disease and to some, a badge of honour. Think about when you ask people how their work is, the most common answer is ‘busy’ rather than ‘productive’.

Yet being busy isn’t the same as getting things done.

Have you had a day where you felt like you didn’t have a minute to spare, yet you still felt like you didn’t accomplish anything? It is a common feeling.

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

Here are some symptoms of being busy without being productive:

  • You’re worried today about how busy you’re going to be 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 thinking about all the things you have to get done.
  • You’re always looking at your emails – ALWAYS
  • You eat at irregular hours (if at all).

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

1.      Prioritise. 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. Dictate the direction of your day by deciding 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 of 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 or 4 things done today. That might not seem like enough yet 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 – learn to say ‘no’. Life is about trading. You trade time for effort. That means you shouldn’t spend your time on activities that don’t deliver on your goals. Strive to eliminate as many of the non-meaningful activities 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.

If you’re too busy, it’s likely that you’re either spending too much time on things that don’t really matter or you’re spending too much time on tasks that aren’t productive. Prioritise your day and your activities, stick to it, and you’ll enjoy getting more done in less time.

To improve your productivity use ‘The 90 Day Business Goal Tracker’, available on Amazon.