The Difference Between Being Productive and Being Busy

Busy is the buzz word. People are so busy! How do we get anything done? The growth in technology and speed of information is driving us to act faster and faster. We may even be tempted to think, “I just sent them a text 10 seconds ago, WHERE’S MY ANSWER?” It’s easy to lose sight of what productivity really means.

To complicate the matter further, people tend to wear busy as a badge of honor; like being busy is a good thing. After all, an idle employee is a useless one. Or maybe you’ve been taught, “Above all else, don’t be lazy! Out work everyone else!” We may even go so far as to add more things to our day just to make sure we are seen as busy.

That means that leaders often hear phrases like, “I couldn’t finish this report because I didn’t have time!” or “I’m so busy I couldn’t complete my assignment.”

Take heart! Your direct reports aren’t misleading you. Truth is, they are probably extremely busy and that there aren’t enough hours in the day to complete every task. But, is all the work they’re so busy with productive work? It’s time to take a closer look at their actual work. What’s keeping them so busy? Maybe even, what’s keep you so busy?

Busy, Busy, Busy

We often ask individuals how many items they have on their “To Do” list. The answers we get range from 10 to 50(+). Really? How do they get anything done?

Productivity is about understanding what’s most important at any given time. If a person hasn’t done this, the default actions one takes when looking at the “To Do” list is to start with what’s easiest, or the most burning issue, or the painful issue of the moment. Often this pushes the tasks that will make them most productive down the list. And sometimes, completing them poorly or not at all.

If, on the other hand, people know what’s most important, they can work on the priorities and be assured that good, productive forward progress happens. Unfortunately, it’s not just that simple. If the priority is always the biggest pain point or if the priority becomes an issue that has just cropped up, then we may not be doing a good job of identifying priorities soon enough.

What Makes You Productive?

Productive team members can properly prioritize their tasks. We know that the Ivy Method (our last BLOG) suggested prioritizing a list of six things. We would suggest that you get even more focused and choose fewer items to be more productive.

When looking at your day, week, month, quarter, year, life, ask this question, “If I could only do 3 to 5 things today (or this week, month, quarter, etc.), what would take me farther than anything else toward reaching my goal?” If leaders could build habits around this type of thinking, then their own forward motion and that of their companies would yield greater results.

What’s the Real Priority?

It’s no surprise that under different situations, different types of priorities might be chosen. In some situations, leaders may make the wrong decisions on priorities, thus having a negative long-term effect on their company.

A leadership mindset means that one is focused on results. That means starting with the end in mind and working backwards. Honestly ask, “What result do I want to see?”

Once you are clear on the results, determine 3 to 5 manageable actions that you can put into place. Prioritize the tasks from 1 to 5. Of course, the first tasks are the most important tasks that will drive you to your results. They are the ones that will create the most impact. They may or may not take the most time. Remember, the issue is to define tasks that make you productive.

Being Productive?

Now it’s time to get to get to work…starting with Task 1. Don’t let the busyness of the day or others’ perception of your busyness sway you. Don’t forget, you have made the right decision to follow the order of your list to be productive. Tomorrow, and every day after that, you can make a similar decision. Now, you are on your way to develop a habit of being productive.

In the following blog post, we will discuss the next secret to productivity: delegation. Not interested in waiting and want to increase your productivity ASAP? Call us at 888.378.8808 or contact us here.


Learn about how Priorities are Key to Productivity