In today’s ‘always-on’ culture, there is a constant urge to be always busy, and to be perceived to be busy, to respond to everything instantly and to complete things as soon as possible. It can lead to feelings being overwhelmed.
You’ve probably had one of these days:
You work really hard. After a long day, you get home and say to your partner
“I’ve not stopped today”. And they reply, “what did you achieve today?”. You pause, think, and then respond, “absolutely nothing: I’ve just been busy doing stuff!”
We’ve all been there.
We’ve confused productivity with busyness.
Busy people conceal their doubt about the direction of their lives by acting confident in their little steps but because they are focused on the end goal, productive people allow others to see the doubt in their small efforts.
The editor of Pop Culture and Society, John Spencer, has four principles for distinguishing between being busy and being productive:
• Being busy is frantic, while being productive is focused.
• Being busy is fueled by perfectionism while being productive is fueled by purpose.
• Being busy is about working harder while being productive is about working smarter.
• Being busy is about being good at everything while being productive is about being great at a few important things.
It’s an easy mistake to make. However, what is amazing is that the solution is also easy.Begin by becoming more mindful of how you spend your time , and choose tasks more carefully. Instead of just rushing into busyness and focusing on doing stuff, consider the impact each task will have on overall business performance. This will help shift your focus towards being more effective.
Having a clear outcome in mind is one of the simplest strategies to become more effective. As you start your day, before you begin any tasks, have a clear outcome in your mind (or better still, write it down on paper) of what that day would look like if it were to be successful. You can apply this to any individual or personal task, and it only takes a few minutes. Jot this down on a Post-it note and stick it on your desk , have a to-do list right in front of you as a constant reminder of what you want to achieve that day. When you have your list, take a second and prioritize. Start small and pick the top three tasks you feel are of greatest priority for that day and focus your efforts on those. It is important to remember that when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. Pareto’s principle tells us that we get 80 percent of our results from 20 percent of our activities. What are the 20 percent of tasks you can accomplish that will yield the highest results?
Another strategy to restart your day is to complete the most critical task for the day first. Steven Covey calls this “first things first” and suggests that successful people make this a habit.
I totally agree.