Be productive, don’t just be busy

By Nurul Hanani Hasmin

Sometimes having too many goals can be a biggest downfall. You keep on running here and there with your to-do list, crossing off items after items in the list. This action makes you feel very productive. But are you really being productive or just being busy?

We believe that being busy is something to strive for and the busier you get the better, to the point where you think that being busy with work is something to be proud of.

Focus is very important in helping us to achieve our goals. What we fail to realise is that sometimes having too many goals can stop us from achieving any goal at all.  For example, you want to learn to play piano, at the same time, you need to practice hard for your upcoming football tournament, and study for your final year exam. At this point, you get way too much on your plate.

The more goals you have on your list, the less time you have to focus on things that actually matter and incidentally the less productive you become. While you try to get too much done at once, you will soon realise that you can never really finish doing anything. People often mistake business for being productive just because they are doing so many things.

Here are some differences between being busy and productive:

1. Productive people are single-task while busy people are multi-task.

No one is too busy for something, if they care they will try and make time. It’s just a matter of priorities. However, having too many priorities may lead to chaos. Doing many things at once may make you feel super productive, but in reality, you are actually distracted.

Multitasking makes you tire because you are using too much energy doing everything at a time. On the other hand, single task helps you to put your focus on one thing at a time. Productive person tend to focus on one task at a time and it makes them more productive by allowing them to fully engage in the task at hand.

2. Busy people are bad at prioritising while productive people are great time-managers.

Busy people always say that they don’t have time. The main reason why busy people usually do not accomplish much is because they don’t know how to prioritise very well and end up taking longer time to work. They usually just tackle task randomly without prioritising it according to importance or urgency.

On the other hand, productive people tend to work on the most important thing first. Instead of wasting time on the things that don’t matter, they prefer to be more selective with the use of time and resources. They know how to manage their time wisely and at the end of the day they have accomplished the goals that they set out to do.

3. Productive people say ‘yes’ strategically while busy people say ‘yes’ to everything.

The key to improve your productivity is by avoiding the tendency to say ‘yes’ to every task that lends on your plate. Productive people usually think about the consequence of saying ‘yes’ and only say ‘yes’ to things that help them to accomplish their goals. It gives them time to think about how saying ‘yes’ to something that will fit in their priorities. They are brave enough to say “no” if they think they can’t manage that.

4. Productive people do not get carried away by distraction while busy people lose focus soon.

Busy people are easily distracted because they don’t know how to focus on one thing at a time. They consider themselves busy even though they keep wasting their time doing things that are less important in their list.  It takes focus and skills to produce good results and distraction and interruption can reduce your ability to stay focus and lead to poor results.

Indeed, the hardest lesson to learn is that busy does not equal productive. Once we understand the difference between these two words, it is not hard for us to be more productive and goal-oriented instead of just being busy without getting any outcome from it.

According to Tim Ferris, an American author, “Being busy is not the same as being productive. In fact, being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” Nowadays, many people use the phrase “I’ve been busy” as an excuse. Busy is not respectable anymore. Being busy is just doing some stuff while being productive means getting stuff done. Therefore, start focusing on being productive instead of busy.***

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