The Difference Between Busy and Productive

With productivity at the forefront of almost every working person’s mind, it has caused a lot of misconceptions regarding the topic to distribute throughout workplace. You might have been go-go-go all day long, but were you truly productive? Too many people believe that being productive is the same as being busy, but in reality, the two are distinctly different.

Think about it this way: Have you ever had a day where you got a lot done, but did not feel content or accomplished when it was over? That is what being busy is. A productive person would prioritize the things that need to get done, meaning they have less tasks to complete throughout the day, but a greater sense of accomplishment at the end of it. Here are a few more ways to distinguish a busy person from a productive person.

Productive people have an end goal in mind. Busy people are doing things just to do them.

As you are doing a task, ask yourself, “What goal is this helping me accomplish?” If you can not answer that very simple question right away, then you are not being productive. You should always keep your big-picture goals at the forefront of your mind so that you are able to prioritize your responsibilities and schedule them on to your calendar accordingly. Every task you complete should bring you one step closer to finishing a larger objective.

Productive people have a small, clear list of priorities. Busy people prioritize everything.

If you have 15 to 20 things to get done each day you need to reevaluate exactly what your priorities are. Author and college professor, John Spencer, points out that busy is fueled by perfectionism, while productive is fueled by purpose. Being productive isn’t about getting the most things done, it’s about getting the right things done. Your list of priorities should be short, and every single thing you do in a day should fit within at least one of them.

Productive people focus on one thing at a time. Busy people try to multitask.

Neuroscientist Earl Miller says, “People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves.” Switching from an email, to a project, to a presentation, back to a new email is not nearly productive as it seems. Research has shown that multitasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%. This is because each time you switch from one project to another your brain has to take time to refocus itself, meaning a lot of working time is wasted.

Productive people make time for their priorities. Busy people complain about not having enough hours in a day.

You do have enough time to get your work done, and if you feel as if you don’t, then you need to analyze your time management skills. When you shorten your list of priorities, which in turn shortens your to-do list, you can realistically plan the time it will take you to finish each task. Productive people focus on the impact of their projects, not the time it takes to complete each one.

We have all been guilty of being busy instead of productive, but being able to recognize that shortcoming is a major step in making a sustainable change. Any time you are feeling overwhelmed with your responsibilities or your work, take time to ask yourself whether you are being productive or busy. If you find that you are slipping by allowing yourself to be busy, just take a break from working to adjust your day and your priorities. Giving yourself the chance to look at your ‘priorities’ objectively will allow you to recognize your areas of misjudgment, giving you a clearer idea of which tasks actually fit in to your priorities and which ones are just busy work for you.

By |2019-01-07T14:25:30-07:00January 7th, 2019|