Why Being Busy Can Be Unproductive

Would you believe that “busy-ness” is practically considered a disease today?  Why? It’s because we all cram as much as we can into our seemingly limited time. Yet, being busy isn’t the same as getting things done.

Haven’t you had a day where you felt like you didn’t have a minute to spare, yet you still felt like you didn’t accomplish anything? Of course, nearly everyone has.

There are a lot of reasons for this, but the most important is a failure to prioritize and concentrate on the tasks that will really make a difference.

These are some of the common symptoms of busyness without productivity:

  • Worried today about how busy you’re going to be tomorrow.
  • Feeling annoyed that the people around you never seem to be as busy as you are.
  • Simply spend your evenings thinking about all the stuff you didn’t get done today.
  • Can’t pay attention during conversations because you’re too busy thinking about all the things you have to get done.
  • You eat in your car.

If that sounds like you, try these ideas to free up time in your life and get things done:

  1. Determine which of the tasks are the most important ones you need to accomplish today. If you don’t choose what you’re going to do today, you’re choosing to let the world decide your priorities for you. You set the direction of your day by making a decision before the day even starts.
  2. Notice how you’re wasting time. In many circumstances, we intentionally avoid doing what we know we should be doing. We don’t want to make that difficult phone call or work on that report we’ve been dreading for weeks. 
  • We are all excellent at inventing other things to do that don’t really have a big impact. Have you noticed the things you do when you don’t want to do what you should be doing? It might be cleaning your desk, checking email, or getting coffee. Speak to yourself and say “I am stalling” Then it would easier to catch yourself and get back on track.
  1. Keep your to-do list short. A good idea is to make a list of everything the really needs to get done. Then, just focus on getting the top 3 or 4 things done today. That might not seem like enough, right?  But can you imagine what your to-do list would look like today if you had been doing this exercise for the last 2 weeks? 
  • The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of your work can be completed with 20% of the relevant actions. Focus on the most important stuff and you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done.
  1. Eliminate the excess from your life. Avoid spending your time on activities that are optional unless you truly enjoy them. Don’t spend your free time on that charity or club that doesn’t really matter to you. Strive to eliminate as many of the non-meaningful activities from your life as possible to leave room for meaningful things.
  2. Limit yourself. Only allow yourself a limited amount of time to work on something.  This way, you’ll be forced to do the most important tasks first. The fear of not getting done in time will increase your efficiency.
  3. Measure yourself. At the end of the day, ask yourself how busy you were. Ideally, you should have a full day, but you shouldn’t have an endless list of tasks to complete. 

Life should be full, but it shouldn’t be busy. If you’re too busy, it’s likely that you’re either spending too much time on things that don’t really matter to you or you’re spending too much time on tasks that aren’t productive. Prioritize your day and your activities.  Stick to those items, and you’ll enjoy getting more done in less time.