Can you tell the difference between being busy and being productive? It can be easy to get the two confused. You feel like you’re constantly working, but aren’t accomplishing all that you’d like to.
In the “hustle culture” we live in, being busy seems like a bragging right. People constantly talk about how much they have going on, bouncing from meeting to meeting and a multitude of emails and tasks–but are they actually getting anything done?
We’d argue no. Busy is not the same as productive.
You may cross a few things off your to-do list, but if you’re ignoring one larger task to get many done, you’re not being productive in the long run.
Likewise, if you’re bouncing around too many separate activities, you may not get any of them done! Busy work is not your friend; it’s important to learn how to best prioritize your time to really get sh*t done.
Productivity isn’t necessarily a skill that is taught in the workplace, or even the classroom. The statistics surrounding productivity are staggering: goremotely.net reports that only 21% of employees in the UK feel that they’re productive for an entire workday, and that the average employee is only productive for about 2 hours and fifty-three minutes each day. If this is the case and workers aren’t really being productive, what are they doing with their time?
Well, it’s likely that they’re working, or trying to work, but are keeping themselves busy rather than being truly productive. Being on the go and always working on several different projects may make an employee feel like they’re doing a lot, but they may not actually be accomplishing what they need to.
Have you fallen into this trap? Here are our best tips for being productive, not busy!
Did you know that multitasking is a myth? If you’re trying to save time, multitasking is not the way to go. Scientists have proven that it is neurologically impossible to focus on more than one task at the same time. Goremotely.net reported that multitasking can decrease productivity by 40%.
So, instead we present: unitasking! Just kidding, that’s not really a word. But we do urge you to focus on one task at a time since that’s what our brains are wired for. As best as you can, focus on the one task at hand that you’re trying to solve, and then move on to the next!
Don’t just cross any random thing off your to-do list so you can say it got done. After all, what good is it to complete 10 minor tasks when you have 2 huge ones waiting to be completed?
Prioritizing your time is a major key to productivity. Think of how much less scattered your brain would be if you focused on two major tasks in your day, and sprinkled in a few minor projects to break up the heavy work. This will provide structure in your day, and a sense of accomplishment when you get the more important things done.
Make a schedule for yourself to tackle certain tasks at specific times. In the morning (or maybe the night before, if you prefer that!), look at the priorities list you’ve made and block out chunks of time to work on these tasks.
Being proactive with your scheduling helps you stop jumping between tasks. You could dedicate a planned hour of brainstorming or creative time during the day, or purposely block out times to respond to emails. Some people find it helpful to set aside an hour in the day purely as a “reactions hour” to respond to non-urgent messages and tasks.
Having set time to work on these tasks will help you stay on track and be less distracted.
Stop Thinking About Doing It–Just Do It!
As Nike famously put it, “Just do it!”
We can all get stuck dreading one specific task, but the procrastination is often worse than the task itself. Many people have found the “eat the frog” method of productivity to be helpful–”eating the frog” is setting aside the hardest (or most dreaded) task within your day, and knocking it out first thing in the morning.
Once you get that task done, you’ll feel relieved and ready for whatever else the day has to throw at you!
Say No if Necessary
It can be hard to say no to people, but if you truly don’t have the time or capacity to take on a task, it’s necessary. If you do decide to take on the task, be realistic about the time it will take you to complete it given what’s already on your plate. People understand that you have a lot going on and will respect your honesty regarding what you can handle.
Set Proper Boundaries
If you set proper boundaries around your work hours, you’re likely to be more productive within them. Think about it–if you blur the line between work and your home life so much that you’re working after hours when you should be relaxing, the opposite could just as well happen. You may find yourself scrolling on Instagram instead of writing the report you need to.
Setting boundaries means that you do your work at scheduled times and stick to them. Then, you’re less tempted to go on social media or do non-work related activities because there’s plenty of time for that after you clock out!
We hope these productivity tips have been helpful for learning to structure your day and get the most out of your work hours. If you’ve been struggling with procrastination or jumping between many different tasks, we’d highly recommend keeping these tips in mind. Remember to prioritize important tasks and stay on track, because being busy is not the same as being productive!