Busy vs Productive: Which Would You Rather Be at Work?

There’s no telling how many professionals today are overwhelmed, or even burnt out, by their busy lifestyles. How many times have you seen someone post on social media about how busy and time-poor they are?

Why are we so busy? Many people hold on to the belief that we need to be busy in order to be successful. If you want to climb the corporate ladder or scale your business, you need to be ready to get extremely busy. There seems to be a large confusion on our part between being busy and being productive. 

Is it necessarily the same thing to be busy and productive? Let’s rephrase that question this way: Do you have to be busy if you want to become productive? 

Well, no we don’t. I’ve met a lot of people who are extremely busy- they work 14-16 hours a day, sacrifice their health, snack on pancit canton for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to save time- but they’re not productive. They don’t hit sales quotas, their businesses are in decline, and so on.

On the other hand, I’ve met people who took good care of their health and relationships and spent no more than ten hours at work, yet still experienced exponential growth. I’ve realized that busyness and productivity are two completely separate things. And many times in our career and life we are faced with the option of being one or the other. 

Which would you rather be?

Aiming for productivity instead of busyness will help you experience greater growth in your career. Here are three tips that will help you become more productive at work without burning yourself out.

1. Find Time to Rest

Self care is very counterintuitive when it comes to productivity. We think of rest and recreation as the complete opposite of work. But self-care is actually essential to productivity. The body and mind can only go so far without rest. A study by the University of Illinois shows that overwork without rest can dramatically reduce focus as well as productivity.

Our insatiable need to keep pushing non-stop was what lead me to write “Break: Conquering Burnout with Sabbath Rest.” We think that rest inhibits our fruitfulness when it actually fuels it. Rest is a universal necessity. Devices need charging and cars need refuelling, so why wouldn’t your body need time away from work? 

2. Know your priorities

Busy people will always make the claim that they don’t have time. But if we were truthful and honest, we’d realize that we actually have a lot of time; it’s just that a lot of it are going into the wrong things. Prioritising teaches us to invest our time in activities that help us achieve our goals. 

One common example for Filipinos is the disproportionate amount of time we put into social media. There’s nothing wrong with checking Facebook and Instagram, but too much of it can eat into time we could be spending achieving what we would like to achieve- getting a few more meetings in, starting a side hustle, finishing your report on time (or even ahead of time) and so on.

3. Focus on your strengths

There’s always an itch to try to be everything to everyone. As a consultant, I often make the mistake of trying to do everything for my client. But it’s actually when I do less for my client when I can help them achieve more. Meaning, I focus only on what I am good at. I know my strength: providing creative strategies that help businesses grow.

When a client asks me, “can you do team building exercises?” I know I can do it, but I won’t. Because I know it’s not one of my strengths. My client and I are both better off if we leave that need for someone else to meet. Being productive is not always about doing more things. It’s also many times about doing a few things extremely well. 

In a day and age where the time we spend in the office is over-glorified, I hope to see more professionals who are smarter with their use of time. Let’s not just focus on the number of hours we clock in in a day or the number of days we work on in a year. I would rather spend half a day getting things done than wait for the clock to strike five so I can call it a day once again. 

Don’t strive to be busy. Strive, instead, to be productive. Focus on the results. Ask yourselves what will help you reach your goals and remove as much obstacles and distractions that you can that keep you from becoming the best that you can be.

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