Productivity is Not Busy-ness

Been struggling with being busy versus being productive? In my recent post “Putting the You Back Into Your Life,” I mentioned that I am working on setting up my highest priorities and goals. This isn’t a one time event, but a ritual I plan on doing at least annually but more like semi-annually.

But even when you figure out your highest priorities and things you should be working on now, you may still find yourself feeling unproductive.

Here”s what we know if we research the most productive people. They concentrate on one thing at a time. Focusing on the task in front of them allows for them to finish faster, more effectively, and feel accomplished.

So how do we do this? First, we eliminate or minimize distractions. Distractions come from two sources.  One source is external- such as phone calls, emails, text messages, interruptions from other people and so on. Find your peak time, a time when you feel most energized and engaged, and sequester yourself. This most likely won’t be for more than a few hours at a time, or not even that. By cutting yourself off from the distractions of the outside world, you will be able to give yourself fully to the task or project at hand. You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish by shutting out distractions.

The second source of distractions is internal.  Unfortunately, this is the hardest source of to manage.  It is hard to cut yourself off from yourself. The key culprit is multitasking.  At this point, many recent studies have shown that multitasking reduces productivity, instead of increasing it.  Our minds can only hold one thought at a time and switching tasks cause us to lose focus and momentum.

Becoming more productive, requires we master the art of focusing on one thing at a time. We must give it our best effort and attention to the one task until it is done.  If boredom sets in while working on the task, take a SHORT break. Research has shown that actively working for 25 minutes then taking a short stretch and mental break will actually speed up our mind and allow us to be more focused for the next 25-minute session. It also helps to remember the ultimate objective of the task you are working on and what the reward will be. This way, when you return to the task after the short break, you’ll be less bored and more engaged.


Finally, don’t waste time on low priority tasks. You should be focusing on only the highest priority items throughout the day.  Avoid the “busyness” trap. Pareto’s principle applies here. This is the 80/20 rule and it says that 80% of the effects (output/gains) come from 20% of the causes (efforts).  Determine which 20% of the tasks or projects on your plate will yield at least 80% of the goals you have set for yourself and focus on those every day.


And of course, don’t forget the basics of time management.  Say no to as many projects or requests as you can to help streamline your workload.  If possible, cherry pick only those projects you know in advance hold high yield potential and pass on lower priority projects to others.  As much as possible, delegate lower yield activities to others.  Even if you have to pay someone to take on those low-yield activities, it will be money well spent.

Time, as I’ve shared before, is a limited resource we can’t get back. We must use it for our highest good and the highest good we wish to see in the world. As we do, we’ll know that the life we’re living truly reflects the unique gifts that only we can give. Have courage and discipline in managing your time and your life. It’s the only one you’ve got.

I am here, working right along side you, on building my own legacy. So I understand when it’s tough and that often balancing what we ought to do with what is hammering at us is hard. Our challenge and our responsibility is to keep pushing forward. The more we build the muscle of self control and internal focus, the easier it will become.

I am rooting for you every step of the way!

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