Just because you are busy all day does not mean that you are being productive. We all have the same amount of time each day, and despite the responsibilities we may have, we can decide how we use our time.
Consider as well that our priorities influence our decisions. Most of the decisions we make are not conscious ones. Our brains tend to make a lot of decisions on auto-pilot so that we can concentrate on the more important ones.
But sometimes, we allow our brains to make automatic decisions when we should actually exercise conscious control over them. We can, fortunately, take control and alter our decision-making.
But first, we need to find out whether we are predominantly productive or merely busy. So, let’s see what the differences are between busy people and productive people!
1. PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE HAVE A PURPOSE
BUSY PEOPLE ONLY ACT AS IF THEY HAVE A PURPOSE
Busy people like to impress others and imply that their busyness serves a real purpose. In effect, however, this is all little more than show. They don’t have a real mission. In contrast, people who are productive think clearly and their work serve their vision. Passion and a compelling mission propel their work.
2. PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE FOCUS ON THEIR STRENGTHS
BUSY PEOPLE ARE PREOCCUPIED WITH THEIR WEAKNESSES
The best way to approach any task is to be conscious of what one does well. Busy people, however, tend to focus on their weaknesses and thus waste a lot of valuable energy and time — that they should actually be using to enhance their already strong capabilities. Productive people are predominantly aware of and focus on their strengths.
3. BUSY PEOPLE SEIZE ANY CHANCE TO BUSY THEMSELVES
PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE CAN DISTINGUISH BETWEEN “URGENT” AND “IMPORTANT”
Busy people preoccupy themselves with unproductive tasks that seem urgent but are not very important. In an attempt to seem productive, they often make an unrealistically long list of daily “to-dos” — most of which eventually get postponed to the next day.
Productive people, however, can distinguish between really important work and work that merely seems to be urgent. Their list of “to-dos” is realistic, and they usually complete them. When they plan their day, they focus on quality instead of quantity, and first take care of the most important tasks.
4. BUSY PEOPLE ARE MULTITASKERS
PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE CONCENTRATE ON EACH TASK
Busy people occupy themselves with many tasks at once. This makes them feel like they are getting a lot done and being very productive. This illusory kind of “productivity” is a very attractive one. After all, they do seem to be doing a “lot of things.”
Productive people, however, are able to prioritize and concentrate on taking care of those tasks that are really important. When they indeed multitask, they will combine a really important task with one that is significantly less important.
They only work on the less important task when time allows — for example when they need to wait on something before continuing with their priority task. They also undertake the less important work only if it does not require much time or energy.
5. BUSY PEOPLE ARE EASILY DISTRACTED.
PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE WORK SYSTEMATICALLY.
The habits that busy people adopt are very counter-productive. Soon after beginning work on something important, they will usually allow themselves to get distracted by something unimportant, like reacting to new posts in their Facebook feed or constantly checking their emails. In the end, they are often left with a number of tasks they’ve begun but not yet done.
Productive people, in contrast, come up with a system for working on all their tasks, even the least significant of them. They schedule a certain time of day for getting each one done.
On the same note, busy people tend to respond to emails right away and compose their answers quickly — without giving much thought to what they are really saying. Productive people respond to emails only when their other priorities allow, and take time to carefully formulate their responses.
6. BUSY PEOPLE ARE GLUED TO THEIR DESKS
PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE KNOW WHEN TO TAKE A BREAK
Busy people avoid taking breaks from whatever they are working on. They regard a break from work as procrastination. They are also impatient with — and envious of — people who find the time to take a break and who seem to really enjoy their work.
Productive people know that well-timed breaks are actually productive because a break from work allows them to refresh and reset their thinking.
Any break from the task at hand can serve well — whether it be watching a short YouTube video, drinking some coffee, or just going outdoors for a stretch or a little meditation. Just like a muscle, an overworked brain loses its efficiency.
7. PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE FOCUS ON CLARITY BEFORE ACTION
BUSY PEOPLE FOCUS ON BEING BUSY
Productive people want to know exactly what they are doing before they start. This helps them complete their tasks the right way and avoid making mistakes and incurring delays that result from not fully understanding something.
Busy people tend to see such preparation as a waste of time. They regard activity as equal to productivity, so they get started without really knowing what they are doing.
8. BUSY PEOPLE ALWAYS SAY YES
PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO
Busy people typically take on tasks regardless of how much time they have to dedicate to them. Their intentions are good, but they often end up with a long to-do list filled with promises they really mean to keep but cannot possibly fulfill.
Productive people value their time and the quality of their work. They know that accepting any task without creating time in their schedule for it, will negatively impact their productivity.
Before saying yes to anything, they first seriously consider whether they can fit it into their schedule. They have no problem saying “no” when needed.
9. PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE WANT OTHERS TO BE EFFECTIVE
BUSY PEOPLE WANT OTHER PEOPLE TO BE BUSY
Productive people encourage and help others to work as they do. They know that productive work requires time for planning and organization. In contrast, busy people will expect others to be busy as well, regardless of how unproductive their work might be. This is because they usually think that they are working more than everyone else.
10. BUSY PEOPLE WORK HARD
PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE WORK HARD, AND SMART
Busy people work a lot. They work hard. They are not lazy. But, although they work hard — and even efficiently — they do not work effectively.
Productive people, in comparison, place an emphasis on working effectively, then they worry about being efficient.
So, what’s the difference?
Efficiency means getting things done, quickly working through a to-do list of tasks. That sounds good, but it is not enough.
Working effectively means using your resources — your time, energy, and perhaps co-workers — to complete the most important tasks.
If you are merely efficient, you may be getting a lot done, but those tasks may be taking resources away from the really important ones.
11. BUSY PEOPLE FOCUS ON MICRO DETAILS
PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE FOCUS ON MICRO AND MACRO DETAILS
Details can be very important. Most successful people know that often the “devil is in the details”. Busy people, however, dedicate far too much time and energy to details — easily losing sight of the big picture.
Productive people know that some details are vital to achieving overall success while others are not. They consider the details within the context of the big picture in order to determine whether or not they are worth pursuing.
12. PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE LET THEIR RESULTS DO THE TALKING
BUSY PEOPLE TALK ABOUT HOW BUSY THEY ARE
Results are what is important to productive people. They are not too concerned about how much work was put in — although they do try to be efficient as well. They also do not have to impress anyone with their hard work. The results speak for themselves.
Busy people will talk about all the work they are doing, and how many tasks they’ve completed — before any overall result is achieved. They often fail to realize that getting tasks done does not guarantee the overall desired result.
13. PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE BUILD A SUSTAINABLE SYSTEM
BUSY PEOPLE BURNOUT FAST
Many productive people develop an effective routine for starting their workday. They know that their work is a long-distance run, not a series of sprints. They also know that life consists of more than getting tasks completed.
They have a life outside of work, including friends and satisfying relationships. Busy people are like beavers cutting down trees to build a dam without worrying about where to build it. One tree after the other.
They are preoccupied with work but are essentially unsatisfied because the next task is always waiting for them.
14. PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE ARE ABLE TO EXCLUDE
BUSY PEOPLE TRY TO INCLUDE EVERYTHING
Busy people try to do virtually everything. Opportunities seem to spring up everywhere — some new way to sell on the Internet, for example. They hate the feeling that they might be “missing out” on something.
In contrast, productive people recognize that they can’t do everything.
Knowing this, they are quite capable of excluding superfluous activity in order to focus on those things that will lead to long-term success.
15. PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE WORK ON THEMSELVES
BUSY PEOPLE REMAIN STAGNANT
Productive people often think about their own performance. They are able to recognize things they could have done better and take steps to improve their performance.
Busy people are, well, just too darned busy to step back, reflect and work on improving themselves. While productive people are constantly moving their skills forward, busy people, in effect, are running in place.
To-do lists are useful, but if you spend your day pursuing the items on your list and you’re constantly adding to them, you’ll come to adopt the habit of being busy. If you take the time to prioritize and determine what is really important; if you make a plan for completing the really important tasks; and if you learn to adapt to changes that inevitably occur — then the habits you develop will be productive.
This list of habits provides excellent reasons for making changes to how you work. The most important reason is the fact that productivity actually provides freedom. This may seem counter-intuitive. But you’ll find out how true it is, once you change your habits!