In everyday conversations at work, when you ask a colleague How are you?, the reply is mostly Busy, and you? Me too, is the reply, as well. These sentences say a lot about our current work culture. The words align with the main message that there is not enough time in our days. In fact, the term busy has become a symbol of honor. For many, it is how we need to live in order to survive, let alone get ahead. Personally, I feel that it is destructive not to differentiate between being busy and being productive.
How to differentiate between being busy and being productive
First, being busy means doing many things. The to do list never ends and also grows longer by the minute. Research shows that this leads to drowning oneself in the go-go-go and the consequence might lead to chronic stress. On the other hand, being productive means getting the right things done. This allows one to be in the driver’s seat and to get out of the car when need to. In other words, every decision we make must be a decision based on priority rather than operating on autopilot. Productive people are clear about what is important, while busy people are putting out as many fires as they can while more and more keep popping up.
Second, based on my experience, productive people do not view their to-do list as all the things they need to get done. They see it as a list of possibilities and opportunities. They choose what to focus on and then work to accomplish. They pause and feel good about progress made. Busy people, on the other hand, feel the pressure of getting more things done so that they can quickly move on to getting more things done. They never feel content. Productive people have a destination in mind and know where they are heading but busy people are running around without a clear or any roadmap.
Third, productive people include both rest time and fun time in their priorities and planning. Busy people skip this to do even more. Also, I believe that those who consider themselves productive pause to celebrate wins – big and small. They take stock of where they have been, where they are right now, and where they are heading. However, busy people “don’t have the time for this”.
Tactics on how to be more productive at your workplace
Below are six tips and tactics that I have found useful in becoming more productive than busy.
- Actively track your tasks.
- Set deadlines for approaching tasks.
- Take breaks in between tasks.
- Reflect on your tasks and doings.
- Remove distractions when working.
- Use technology, apps and tools for working better.
- Learn to say no to tasks that are trivial
Overall, people are good at being busy. However, I believe that every day we have the opportunity to start the morning by being in the driver’s seat. It is up to us to decide if we want to work harder or smarter. By proceeding with what is important and a smart way of doing things, by learning to be flexible and by adapting when inevitable changes come up, one is able to take part in enhancing a more productive work culture.