Many people I interact with have the same general complaint. They feel stressed because they simply have too many things to do and not enough time to do them. They are so busy working on the
little things, they have no time to productively work on the big things. These same people frequently ask me for ideas on how they can reduce the number of things they have to do, as well as their stress.In an attempt to help my readers out with this problem I have spent considerable time and effort researching the differences between busy and productive people and the result is todays post “7 things that productive people do (that busy people don’t)“.
I hope you find some of these thoughts and suggestions useful.
For the purposes of this blog I have chosen to define “productive” as working thoughtfully toward the achievement of major life goals, which usually falls into the categories of health, wealth and happiness (happiness being the very big bucket that captures most everything).
“Busy” is all the things that we feel we “should” be doing that stand in the way of our doing the things we really want to do.
Firstly, a busy life does not have to be a stressful life. Stress is the response to our list of things to do, stress is not the list itself. My concern for all you busy people has nothing to do with your stress level, it has everything to do with the fact that being too busy can interfere with your attending to the bigger priorities in your life.
I want you to have the time, space and energy in your life to pursue the things that provide you satisfaction and happiness. You can only create that time by physically changing how you do things. Changing your attitude about certain aspects of your life will be addressed in some future blog post. Today I will focus on tangible ways to be more productive and less busy.
Below are my 7 things that productive people do (that busy people don’t).
Productive people focus on a mission, busy people focus on tasks.
Every day I see stressed people rushing through their lives. They are constantly checking email, posting on Facebook, rushing to meetings, watching television, shopping for new stuff and waiting in lines. They have unmanageably long lists of things to do and as a result they feel stressed, rushed and overwhelmed. They get up early, stay up late and always seem to be working
Many of these people wear their frantic busyness like a badge of honor and are fond of sayings like “I have no time to talk. I have places to be and things to do”. These same people often sacrifice their health and happiness because they are simply too busy.
Productive people are on a mission, they have relatively few goals and they make achieving those goals a priority, therefore they tend to their productive work before they get to the busy work.
As a personal example; I have about a million things I could be doing, but instead of doing those things I am writing my blog. I choose to dedicate time each and every day to writing. Writing is one way for me to fulfil my mission of helping others live more successful lives.
I have a mission and I spend time and energy each and every day in an effort to achieve it.
Productive people have few priorities, busy people have many.
When busy people say they are too busy to do something they are mostly being untruthful with themselves and with everyone else.
There has never been a single person on this planet that has ever had more than 24 hours in a day. Time is the one universal commonality among all people. None of us gets to pick how much time we have in a day, week, month or year. We only choose what we do with that time.
Productivity is a question of priorities, busy people have many priorities and as a result they make a little progress in many different areas. Productive people have only a few priorities and as a result they accomplish a great deal within those few specific areas.
My rule of thumb is; if you have three to five priorities you actually have priorities. If you have 25 priorities you have no priorities at all.
As a bit of a cautionary tale; years ago I worked for a very bright and capable man. As our leader he pulled us all away from our business for a 3 day strategic planning session. At the end of the three days our team walked out with 67 priorities. A year later nearly everyone was stressed out and no meaningful progress had been taken toward achieving the priorities.
Too many priorities means little or no progress.
Productive people say no more than they say yes.
At the risk of sounding selfish it is my opinion that people often ask for things that align with their wants and needs, not yours or mine. Saying yes to all the things that people ask for can quickly become a sever impediment to achieving your goals.
Recently I was approached by a group of people who wanted me to become involved in local politics, but after due consideration I declined the gracious request. While a heavy involvement in local politics would have been an honorable endeavor it simply did not align with my life mission.
Being able to say “no” is the only way to protect your “yes”.
I said “no” to various job offers so I could say “yes” to time with my family.
I say “no” to most television and Facebook so I can say “yes” to my writing.
I say “no” to sleeping late, so I can say “yes” to my health.
Part of being productive means living in integrity with your life’s mission and a big part of being productive means saying no.
Productive people focus on clarity of purpose before taking action.
Peter Drucker said – “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all”.
Steven Covey is quoted as saying – “begin with the end in mind”.
Busy people rush around getting stuff done, unfortunately much of what they do has little or no long-term value.
Productive people take the time to consider what they are working on and ensure that it makes sense. Productive people also take time to think, plan, prioritize and improve the systems they operate with.
Busy people spend all of their time in frantic activity.
Jeff Weiner the CEO of LinkedIn is said to spend up to two hours per day just thinking. Warren Buffet spend hours per day reading,
I recommend that EVERYONE incorporate planning time and thinking time into their daily schedules. Planning your day means you will be efficient, but thinking time will help ensure that you are being efficient in the right areas.
I also recommend that everyone spend a few moments every day reflecting what worked and what didn’t. The mere fact that you give some consideration to what you do and how well you do it will lead to significant improvements in your productivity.
Productive people are decisive.
Determining your priorities requires decisiveness. Learning to say no to time sucking requests requires decisiveness. Committing to your life’s direction also takes decisiveness.
But it is also important to be considered in your decisiveness. Rash decisions are often wrong decisions. Ensure that you are giving due consideration to your major decisions.
A major thing that keeps most people from becoming truly productive is a general reluctance to make a choice. Making decisions is some of the hardest work that a person can ever do and as a result most people steer away from it.
The reason why my work team wound up with 67 priorities is we couldn’t bring ourselves to make the hard decisions. As a result we failed to accomplish as much as we should have. The other reality is that many of the decisions that we should have made occurred through default and as a result we lost opportunity to be proactive in some areas of our business.
Personally I never met a successful person who was not thoughtfully decisive.
Productive people let their results do the talking.
Stephen King says: “A writer is a producer of words. Produce words: you are a writer. Don’t produce words: you are not a writer”.
Productive people are literally that; “productive”. They get things done. In many cases busy people are busy avoiding the real work that comes with being productive.
Writing weekly blogs is work, and it takes an effort. I don’t talk about my blog much; I am simply busy working on it.
I love da Vinci’s quote where he said – “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things”.
Personally I think that we should all go out and happen to the world. Someone else once said “act, or be acted upon.”
Are you happening to life, or is life happening to you?
Productive people focus on one thing at a time.
Productive people are diligent about creating time and space to work on one thing at a time. Productive people have a very few goals, and when they work, they only work on one thing at a time.
The rigor of deciding what goal you are working toward than regular, thoughtful, systematic action toward the achievement of that goal is critical to true productivity.
Multitasking is a fallacy; our brains can only focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking is simply a process of quickly switching between tasks. If you want to be more productive stop multitasking!!
Now you have heard my 7 things that productive people do (that busy people don’t) please let me know your thoughts.
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As always have a great week and thank you for reading.