In our quest to get things done, we sometimes confuse busyness with productivity. What is the difference? It’s easier to be busy and more difficult to be productive; as productivity requires focus, strategic thinking and big-picture planning.
Many of us have had the opportunity to work with “busy” people. They constantly rush around, in a mild state of panic, stay late at work, and yet seem to accomplish very little in their week. Conversely, there are those who appear to effortlessly get things done, who always seem to be in control, to have the answer.
There’s a difference between being busy and getting things done and it influences your success directly. Simply put, busy people cram more to-do’s and work into their day while productive people cut their work load by up to 50%.
The good news is that if you are more “busy” than “productive”, you can learn the traits necessary to be more effective in your workday (or even with your studies if you are a student!) How do you do it?
Learn to prioritize
Productive people know the difference between an “urgent” task and an “important” task. Busy people treat all tasks as “urgent” and therefore find themselves pulled in many different directions. You cannot treat all tasks as equally important if you want to be productive. Focus on getting what truly matters done before moving onto a next, less urgent task. By allowing yourself to focus the appropriate time and necessary resources on the tasks at hand, you will be more productive.
Create a system
Productive people apply a systematic approach to their work day and obligations. Busy people are easily distracted, bounce from task to task, check email, answer text messages, etc. Productive people set aside these distractions, so they can concentrate more on what is necessary to fulfill their goals for that day. They designate specific times for email and phone checking rather than constantly doing these activities throughout the day.
Productive people practice the art of focusing. Busy people consistently multitask. To give a task your full attention takes practice, but the results are worthwhile!
Productive people know that taking a break recharges them both mentally and physically and allows them to be even more productive throughout the day. Busy people, on the other hand, rarely leave their desks, preferring to look busy rather than as if they are enjoying a break.
Pause before saying “yes”
Productive people know that their time and attention is valuable, and therefore, are not as quick to say “yes” to new assignments or obligations as their busy counterparts. Before agreeing to anything, take a beat and reflect on how it will impact your time, your priorities and your focus. Every time you say “yes”, you are dividing your time and resources. There is only so much of you, so use your time consciously.
Take a moment and seek clarity
What is it that you are trying to accomplish? Break it down into manageable tasks. Don’t allow anything else to take up mind space or time until you accomplish some of those tasks that will bring you closer to your goal. Being clear on the goal and desired end-result will make you more apt to work productively toward reaching them.
The proof is in the pudding
While I’m not 100% sure what that phrase is intended to mean (and now I’m hungry), to me, it means that my actions will speak louder than my words. The quality of the work that I accomplish is more important than my talking about how busy I am producing that work. Those who run around saying “I’m so busy” are wasting precious time being busy as opposed to getting things done. Be a “doer”, not a “talker”.
Look at your “to do” list
If your to-do list is a mile long every day, chances are likely that you are being more busy than productive. Productive people selectively decide what they are going to do and then strategize how to do it. In being selective, they are actually able to complete many of the to-dos on their list by the end of the day. And isn’t that a good feeling?
Track your progress
Action does not always equal accomplishment. If you are expending more energy than necessary in completing a task, you are not using your time in a productive manner. Busy people tend to tackle tasks in random order; productive people take the most strategic path to achieving measurable goals.
The good news is that anyone can begin implementing new skills and techniques to help them move from busyness to productivity. The first step is to take an objective look at yourself. Are you always busy? What does that mean to you? Does being busy keep you from pursuing different things?
Then ask yourself, how might I improve? What will being more productive add to my life? It could result in less hours at work, more happiness and satisfaction with your job, more free time to pursue hobbies or to spend with others important to you.
Being productive can lead to great personal and professional success. Give it a try today!
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