5 Steps to Quit Being Busy and Start Being Productive

busy vs productive

When it comes to the workday, there’s a big difference between being busy and being productive. In fact, it’s often quite easy to fill an entire day with “busy” work while not really accomplishing a single thing worthwhile. Unfortunately, we often fall into this trap without realizing it, and only see things clearly when deadlines aren’t being met and bosses or clients are unhappy. The solution to this problem is to understand what’s causing it, recognize when those things are happening, and then take steps to turn your busy day into a productive one.

Eliminate Distractions
When you really need to get something done, the last thing that you want to deal with is a constant stream of distractions. Whether it’s phone calls, coworkers or employees interrupting you, family members barging into your home office, or any number of other things, every distraction not only wastes the time it takes to handle, but also make it harder for you to get back to full productivity. At the end of the day, you’ll find that you were busy all day, but didn’t finish the things that needed to be done. Solve this problem by letting others know that you need to work, locking the door, wearing headphones – whatever you need to do, do it!

Let Go Of Technology
As annoying as distractions from others can be, an even worse problem comes when we distract ourselves with emails, text messages, and social media. If you need to get things done, the simple fact is that you need to put away the technology. Turn off the cell phone, close Facebook, shut down your Twitter client, put your head down and do your important work. All of those things will still be there when you’re done.

Keep Track Of Your Time
One reason we often don’t realize how much time is filled with “busy” work instead of actual work is that we’re not keeping track of our time properly. It’s easy to ignore something when you’re not holding yourself accountable for it. Try this – take one week and document every action you take during work hours. If you stop and look at the top stories on Reddit for half an hour, write it down. Assuming you don’t cheat, chances are high that you won’t be very impressed with yourself when the week is over.

Examine Your Activities
Once you’ve looked at the time you’re wasting, the next step is to figure out which activities in your daily routine aren’t giving you the value that your time is worth. Are you replying to emails when you should be coding, or checking your company’s Facebook page when you should be finishing jobs for clients? Maybe the way you’re scheduling meetings is causing you to waste the entire middle of the day. As you did before, take a week and keep track of every action you take. Examine your schedule to figure out what can be eliminated and what can be improved.

Make Meaningful Changes
The last tip for peak productivity may be the hardest ones. It’s easy to write down what you’re doing, and it may be simple to figure out where you can improve, but actually taking the steps to change can be difficult, even if you know you have to. Just look at it this way – if you’re getting by on eight hours of “busy” a day, just think what you could accomplish with even four hours of being truly productive. Being productive doesn’t just mean more work, it brings with it all the benefits of doing the job that you know you can do.

Do you find yourself wondering how you spent an entire day looking busy but got nothing done? What steps have you taken to fix the problem? Join the discussion in the comments below!

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks, Matthew. Interesting points. I do agree that changing behaviours remains the Most difficult game-changer. However (and also!), I have found that really getting people to just Record their Actual time activities is surprisingly difficult. Almost as if they didn’t really want to truly know! Regards. Frank Berry.

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