The Ongoing Battle of Busy Vs. Productive

Business People using the phone at coffee shop

You know the feeling, you’ve a mile-long to-do list, mounting deadlines, incessant emails, never-ending meetings, and you can feel the stress levels beginning to rise. Whilst we sometimes feel trapped it this situation, this is exactly the time you need to stop and ask yourself whether you are being productive or just needlessly busy.

Unfortunately, busyness rarely equals productive. Sometimes endlessly crossing items of your to-do list is just another form of procrastination that takes us further away from what we really need to achieve. Being busy is easy, being productive is where the real work comes in.

Here are our top tips for turning your busy into productive.


Take off your busy badge

In today’s world, being busy is often worn as a badge of honour. An endless to-do list and a full calendar can sometimes make you feel important. How many times have you heard friends and co-workers say they’re “so busy” in response to you asking how they are? Let’s redefine how we determine our value in the workplace. Because constant busyness is neither productive nor sustainable.


Leaping from task to task on your to-do list without any direction is not likely to get you closer to your goals or result in a high level of productivity. Instead, why not simplify your focus to three top goals or priorities to help you remain focused and productive. Get clear about what the most important things for you to accomplish are and then plan your day accordingly.


Don’t multitask. Countless studies show that humans are actually terrible multitaskers. When we constantly switch between different streams of information we have difficulty paying attention and recalling information, meaning it can take us twice as long as if we just focused on one task at a time. It might make you feel like you are being super-productive, but in truth multitasking decreases your efficiency and just ends up leading to more stress.

Say Yes Strategically
Busy people say yes to everything, productive people say yes strategically. Being intentional and considered in what you take on prevents overpromising and under-delivering, which ultimately is more detrimental than saying no in the first place. Trying to please everyone doesn’t please anyone. If you don’t believe me, take it from Steve Jobs who said, “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do”.


Regularly taking time out to stop and reflect helps to break the cycle of busyness and put you back on the path to productivity. Mindfulness can be particularly helpful when you feel stuck in a busy loop. Become aware of where your attention goes and reconnect to your priorities and goals. This simple yet highly effective practice will have you moving through that to-do list in a more meaningful and efficient way.

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