Stop the Busyness, Be Productive (365 Days of Spirited Living – DAY 105)
(30 Things To Stop Spending Time On If You Want to Be Successful #14)
“It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?”
— Henry David Thoreau
Busyness and productivity can look like the same thing on the surface, but deep inside they are vastly different. Many people think busyness equates to productivity, but it really doesn’t. We all know the busy people. They’re the ones who are always moving, sighing, and constantly checking things off their to-do lists. Busy people rarely have serious time to think and reflect on their day. They move from one thing to the next, and are always telling themselves they can’t do this or that right now.
I define busyness as doing things. I define productivity as accomplishing things. In other words, busy people just do. Productive people produce. Successful people are productive people. We can see that you have been busy because of what you have produced, created, innovated, spoken, or written. Research shows that we are innately wired to stay busy all of the time. North Carolina Business School professor Bradley Staats and Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino state, “It’s very easy to succumb to the temptation of staying busy even when it is counterproductive: It is the way our brains are wired.”
We would rather traverse throughout a store, not picking up anything in particular, than stand in a long checkout line. The reason is because our brains are wired to be active. Our activities justify our busyness. When we don’t know what to do or face an uneasy dilemma, we tend to jump into action first than consult, analyze, and reason. By nature, we know that reacting to situations is bound to be a disaster, but we do it anyway. The reason for this is because we have a strong disinclination to inactivity.
What do people complain about the most during the morning commute? Traffic. We don’t like to sit in traffic because we don’t like to not be moving. Immobility affects our brains and causes us to feel stuck and thus to feel like we have to get out of that “stuckness” — in others words, we have to be in motion. To many people, inaction denotes idleness but nothing could be further from the truth. When we feel inactive or look as if we are not busy, those are the times we are doing our best work.
Life is essentially made up of priorities. Busy people have dozens of them, but productive people only have a few. Everything and everyone cannot be a priority. If it is (and it often is for busy people) you don’t have a priority list, you merely have a to-do list. With this, you will more than likely try to fit everything into a small amount of time, run yourself ragged, and create a mess. The Pareto Principle comes to mind here. This principle states that 80% of the results will come from 20% of your activity. What you make your priority is what you will focus on.
That leads to another point. Productive people focus on one thing at a time while busy people are happy to multitask. Focusing on one goal or project will give you a better chance at being successful than trying to perform a juggling act in a circus. Busy people love action while productive people aim for results. Productive people who eventually become successful people understand that the point of working is to deliver a product or service that is useful, excellent, timely, and valuable. It is important that we pay attention to time wasters. When we find ourselves in an productive situation (such as most conference calls and board meetings) we should have the courage to step up and change.
Busy people talk while productive people finish what they start. Talking about going to college and actually completing your college degree are two different things. Talking about writing a book and publishing a book are not the same. When you interview for a job or position, the employer is less interested with knowing what you are doing. He or she wants to know what you have done. Your track record is a good indicator of your future performance.
Value is created not based upon effort (trying) but based upon results. We have an obligation to be both excellent and effective in our work — whatever it is. Busy people tend to create busy followers, busy homes, busy organizations, and busy team members. They measure progress by activity, by punching in the hours from 9 to 5. Productive people create productive followers, productive homes, productive organizations, and productive team members. They measure progress by results. Putting in time is not a goal; completing projects are.
Part of being a successful person is learning when to show up for the fight and when to close the door and move on. I used to think that if I wasn’t always hard at work — in front of my computer, head in a textbook, pen to paper, reading, emailing, connecting, running errands — that I was idle and wasting time. But I’ve grown from that. Productivity is just as much about what you accomplish as what you take time not to accomplish. Rest, relaxation, and enjoyment of life is what balances productivity.
“The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.”
— Thomas Sowell