Are You Busy?
Everyone is so busy these days. Just ask them. And yes, I’m sure you’re busy too.
But are you productive?
There’s the real question. There’s a big difference between being busy and being productive. Ever been stuck in a meeting? It seems they’re all the same.
A meeting is called and it’s very important. Everyone has to attend. There’s an agenda and everything. Hint: turning that agenda into a paper airplane or origami crane would be a lot better use of the paper.
Because you know and I know that nothing is going to get done. People are going to drone on and on, things will get “discussed”, and in the end, nothing will really happen. Except that everyone has just lost a couple of hours of valuable time.
What’s the Difference Between Being Busy and Being Productive?
If you’re busy, aren’t you automatically being productive?
No, not necessarily.
Busy is easy. Just keep moving, pretending you’re doing something. Surely you’ve done this at work when the boss is looking.
Or maybe you’re like me. When I get mad, I clean. Or at least I look like I am. Sometimes I actually do clean; it’s not as boring as pretending to clean. If my husband were a wiser man, he would make me mad more often.
That example actually tells you the difference between busy and productive. When I pretend to clean, I’m busy. And when I actually decide to do some cleaning, I’m being productive.
Productivity produces real results that you can show to someone and be proud of; busy doesn’t produce anything.
Let’s Stop Glorifying Being Busy
I asked earlier if you’ve noticed how busy everyone seems to be. It’s become sort of a badge of honor – to be so busy that you don’t have time for the simplest things. I think that’s when multi-tasking became a thing.
If you’re so busy that you don’t have time to eat or sleep, then you’re going to have to start doing more than one thing at a time. I mean, really? Only doing one thing at a time? When you could easily be doing several at once?
I hope you know that was sarcasm there. The truth is that multi-tasking is very unproductive. Your brain can’t possibly perform two or more tasks at a time and do them well.
The only time multi-tasking works is when you’re doing two mindless things at a time, like talking to a friend on the phone while you fold laundry. Even then, you may be missing part of the conversation.
So let’s stop walking around all proud of ourselves because we’ve got more to do than someone else. If you ask me, that just shows poor time management skills.
What Are You Doing While You’re So Busy?
Chances are, if you’re truly busy, you’re trying to catch up on stuff you should have gotten done earlier. In other words, you could be managing your time better or you’re just procrastinating.
And I have to say: I’m not being fair to some of you. There are people who work jobs that were really meant for more than one person, effectively doing the work of two people for a paycheck meant for one (or less). If that’s you, I hope that you’re doing two things:
- Keeping a detailed written record of every project or task you complete – an honest picture of what you do each day for the money you are being paid. That also includes any kind of written review or commendation you get.
- Keeping your resume updated and actively looking for new employment. I know it’s scary, and I don’t know your situation, but you deserve better.
How to Be Productive Instead of Busy
This first suggestion sounds awful even to me, but it’s important. In order for you to make your time more productive, you need to know where it’s going. And that involves keeping a time log.
There are (high priced) lawyers out there who bill in six-minute increments. Can you imagine having to keep track of your time to that extent?
Luckily you don’t have to; hourly or even half-hour increments ought to be good enough. You just need a better idea of where your time is going.
You can track your time with something as simple as a piece of paper and a pen. Or you can use an app. There are a lot of them out there; Zapier has rounded up a list that will give you a better idea of what you might be looking for.
There are also some time wasters that are pretty easy to come up with:
- That “break” everyone takes first thing in the morning as people arrive for work. It usually takes place wherever the coffee is located.
- The long lunch.
- The stop by someone’s desk to ask a legitimate question and getting caught up in a longer conversation.
I could go on, but you get it.
And the same things are basically true if you’re working from home all by yourself. We can all find ways to “not work”.
How About Some More (Easy) Ideas?
- Plan your time beforehand.
- Batch your tasks.
- Close your office door and/or get some noise-canceling headphones.
- Eliminate distractions. Turn your phone to silent and stop notifications. You can set it so certain people can get through if there’s an emergency.
- Get everything ready to work before you begin.
Once your productivity goes up, you should be looking for a raise (if you’re in the corporate world – remember – document) and if you’re working for yourself (good for you) then you’re looking at some free time.
Now think of it: instead of being so “important” because you’re so busy, you can be a successful person with time on their hands. Sounds good to me.