How to Be Productive Instead of Just Busy
Everyone these days seems to be busy. But there’s busy and then there’s too busy.
Some people no doubt use busyness as an excuse to avoid doing things they don’t want to do. And some use it as a status symbol to signify their success. But many people seem to be genuinely too busy, constantly juggling responsibilities and running from place to place and commitment to commitment.
They hardly ever take a day off because they can’t afford the time. They work while they eat. They rarely get any exercise, except maybe running for the train or bus. They spend too little time with their family and friends and usually feel exhausted.
If you’re too busy, it seems like you would know it. Then again, maybe not, given all the websites that describe criteria for recognizing whether you’re too busy. It could be that some people confuse being busy with being productive, but the two are not the same.
For example, busy people tend to have a long list of priorities; productive people have relatively few priorities, and it’s those few that they focus on. Busy people repeatedly say yes to requests that will distract them from their most important priorities; productive people recognize the importance of saying no, and when they say it, they say it like they mean it. Busy people talk about how little time they have; productive people decide what’s important and make time for those things.
If you want to be less busy, or at least have some control over your busyness, try making a list of all the things that fill up your day and see which you can postpone, delegate to others, do more efficiently, or eliminate altogether. Establish priorities so that you focus first and foremost on tasks that are deadline-driven or urgent; by doing this, you’re less likely to let yourself be distracted by less important tasks that might otherwise take over.
Also, try to do more single-tasking instead of multitasking. By devoting your full attention to the things you really have to do, you’ll complete them faster and with fewer errors.
Try to avoid rushing; too often, rushing simply leads to mistakes and the need to redo what you’ve just done. If you do make a mistake, stop and try to figure out why. Was it fatigue? Complacency? Lack of knowledge? Something else? If you can figure out why, think about what you can do to avoid a recurrence. Sometimes, going slower and taking longer means you’re less busy in the long run.