There is a difference between having a lot of things to do and getting a lot done. But, we’re often told that being busy must mean that you’re productive.
Productive by definition means “achieving a significant amount or result,”while busy is “having a great deal to do or keeping oneself occupied”. The very difference between the two is that productivity produces results. Being busy just means using (or in some cases wasting) a lot of time and probably not getting the end result that you’re looking for. So how do you know if you’re really being productive? Here are 7 ways to determine whether you’re good at keeping yourself busy, or super productive.
1. Busy people find it hard to prioritize. Productive people have (only a few) priorities.
We’ve all heard someone say ‘there aren’t enough hours in the day’, I’m sure you’ve even caught yourself saying it a few times (I know I’m guilty🙋🏾♀️). How would you feel if I said there is no such thing as being too busy?
If a task, project or objective is important to you, you will find a way to incorporate it into your timeline. Having three or four priorities allows you to stay focused and work towards achieving the desired result. Having 20 priorities creates a headache and doesn’t give you time to complete anything. So when you find yourself running out of time, ask yourself if you have prioritised too much.
2. Busy people have “things to do”. Productive people have a mission to complete.
Busy people hide their lack of focus by creating a longer list of things that should be done. There isn’t a sense of direction in their actions, just a multitude of things that consume their time.
Productive people are on a mission. Their actions are driven by the conscious decision to achieve a particular result and everything that they do is geared towards it.
3. Busy people always say yes. Productive people know the power of saying no.
Busy people often over promise and under deliver. In their attempt to fit more into their never-ending to-do list, they take on projects and make promises that simply can’t be kept. They often do this with the best of intentions(after all we can’t complain about the person who wants to help everyone). But you also have to know when it’s time to help yourself, and that comes with knowing when to say no.
Productive people understand that time is of the essence and that, to produce quality work, they need to have time and space. They say no, not to upset people, but because they’re aware of their limits. Because sometimes you have to be a bit selfish to get things done.
4. Busy people focus on “doing”. Productive people gain clarity before taking action.
Documenting your decisions can be one of the best things that you can do. It allows you to clearly understand how your actions are having an impact on your life and what you need to do in order to progress. Taking mindless action doesn’t produce a lot of results. We live in a world where people are more interested in updating Instagram than they are proactively monitoring their personal growth. Don’t fall into the trap. Make sure that everything you do is inspired by your personal mission.
5. Busy people have too many options. Productive people focus on a few.
Everyone goes through a stage of wanting to do it all: to travel, save money, move out of home, get a degree, learn a language or get promoted at work. However, you do get to a point where focus becomes a necessity. You may want to do all of those things, but it is impossible to do them all at once. If this year, I want to start saving for a deposit on a flat, it’s probably not the best time to book flights to travel the world. So make sure that you know what you have to trade off in order to get what you’re aiming for. Remember there has to be some short term sacrifice for long term gains.
6. Busy people talk about time flying past. Productive people talk about what they’ve achieved.
As they say: work hard in silence and let success make the noise. Busy people might have a lot to do and not too much to show for it. Not because they aren’t capable of doing better, but because they are channelling their energy into for too many things.
Productive people can tell you exactly what they have achieved in the past few days, weeks or months because progress is their aim.
7. Busy people multitask. Productive people find their focus.
Focus can do so much for you.
In theory, multitasking seems like a great idea. Why not kill two (or more) birds with one stone? It sounds like you’re getting double the amount of work done in a shorter amount of time. But, what it really means is that you don’t finish many tasks because your time has been divided. Productivity is completing a task to a high standard and doing that requires focus.
There are plenty of great ways to do this. If you haven’t heard of the Pomodoro technique – check it out! You set a timer to 20 minutes and the aim is to focus on one thing and should you get distracted (by checking your phone, running off to get water, surfing the net), you have to reset the clock. Brutal? Maybe. Effective? Most definitely.
Think about how much you could achieve when you’re being productive. Don’t allow your potential to go to waste by consuming your time with ‘busy’. Instead of focussing on how much you have to do, focus on how completing each task will bring you one step closer to achieving your goal.