Are you Productive? Or Just Busy?

The word "productive" is often used to describe a person’s ability to get a lot of work done. However, more usefully, it can be used to describe anything which has a positive outcome. A prospective student, for example, may have a productive conversation with a college about their future plans or a householder may have a productive day getting the cleaning done.

"Busy", on the other hand, refers to how much you have to do, irrespective of what the result might be.  You can incredibly busy, for example, and not really get much done.

So the trick is to achieve productivity – in effect, to ensure that your busy endeavours end up in positive results!

How can you do that?

There are several ways that you can work towards productivity:

  • Firstly, organisation is the key.  If you have a huge amount of work to plough through, then spend the first part of your day organising and prioritising.  Many busy people don’t do this because they feel that it will take up valuable time which they simply don’t have.  However, it really IS worth doing because ultimately, it will actually save you time in the long run.

  • Split your week up into tasks for each day – that way you are less likely to feel overwhelmed by a large amount of work.  Try to focus only on the specific tasks allotted for that day and put the others aside until you are going to actually tackle them.

  • Be realistic in what you can achieve that day. Prepare yourself for success not failure! Psychologically, that really gives you the edge because success is motivational – a productive and successful day on Monday sets you up for a productive week.

  • Get the tricky tasks out of the way first. Once you have completed those, the rest of your tasks will seem easier by comparison… and you won’t spend time worrying about them.

  • Have a clear vision of what you hope to achieve – otherwise how will you even know if you have achieved it or not?  Just as therapists may ask their clients what their goals are, have a clear sense of that yourself.  Remember that with one big goal, there are many sub-goals, so don’t expect to reach a major mile stone every day!

  • Be flexible. Things don’t always work out as planned so be prepared to adapt and change as you go along.  Successful people are able to adapt and change with circumstances.

  • When you do achieve something – however small – allow yourself a mental pat on the back and even a small ‘reward’.  

  • Remember to take breaks – even in a very busy day.  Going without lunch is not helpful, for example, because even though you may gain an hour, your body and mind won’t have enough fuel to work at their optimum level.

  • Accept that sometimes, for various reasons, you won’t be on top form.  Be kind to yourself – let it go because tomorrow is a chance to start again.