How busyness reduces productivity

Do you define your days by how busy you are?  If you believe that being busy makes you more productive, you might be confusing quantity and quality.  Productivity isn’t so much the number of tasks you do,  it’s whether or not you do what really matters.

Frantically busy doesn’t mean productive. If you’re checking your phone and writing an email while flying from one meeting to the next… Stop.  What’s most important right now: meeting, email or phone?  If you say meeting, then it’s time to ask yourself a few questions, so you get the most of your time and energy investment.  What is that meeting for?  What’s the expected outcome?  Why are you in that meeting?  If you don’t know the answers, then you’re busy, but you’re not productive.  Focusing on what matters makes you productive.

Running like crazy is exhausting.  You deal with demands by running faster, but there will always be more demands than hours in a day.  You can’t fit 8 hours into 4, any more than you can fit a gallon of water into a cup.   Forget having super powers; you’re human.  Running like crazy makes you exhausted.  Be selective, focus on what matters most, let go of the overflow – no guilt.

What’s your busyness really showing?  A while back, I was giving a productivity session to a small team.  They were discussing better ways to work with their manager, who was there, deep in his phone, oblivious to what was going on.  He was neither here nor there; obviously to him this was not important enough to be fully present.  But busyness is not leadership, it’s not showing superpowers; all it showed what his inability to focuslead and manage himself, choosing what matters.

Fast and busy doesn’t make life more fulfilling or interesting.  Dust-rising activity doesn’t mean much.  It makes life tiring, busy, overwhelming.  You’re neither here not there.  Stressful but empty. It feels like you’re always rushing through everything, instead of being present.  You’re with your kids, or at a restaurant with friends, but texting and distracted.  What matters right now?  You can’t be everywhere and do everything at once.

Busyness limits productivity.  Feeling busy has little to do with purpose, leadership, power, meaning, stamina, productivity or efficiency…  In fact, busyness looks a lot more like disorganization: you’re overwhelmed because you’re trying to do it all – no focus, no triage, no decision. It steals productivity away from you.

Make the most of your days.  Think about this for a minute: when you line up all the demands and tasks on your plate today, which ones really matter? Do you give priority to busyness, leaving yourself zero energy, time and motivation for what really matters?  Choose to make your days productive by using a triage approach to prioritize what matters.

Choose productivity over busyness – 5 strategies to try today

  1. Put away your phone: at your next meeting or for your next task, put your phone away and on silent, instead of checking it every 6 minutes (the average for North American adults). Even keeping your phone nearby is distracting. Trust me: life on earth won’t end because you’re off line for an hour.
  2. Make the most of a meeting: be clear about reasons, expected outcomes, agenda and your role. Don’t just passively attend; invest in what you’re doing; find ways to make it happen.
  3. Avoid multi-tasking: it doesn’t work: it feels like you’re doing more, but facts speak that you’re being less productive because you’re distracted by multiple demands.  Try another way to work, such as consecutive serial tasking (see previous blog).
  4. Edit and triage your day: trying to add to your already overflowing schedule by double or triple-booking your time isn’t productive or efficient.  Fear of missing out (FOMO) or making the wrong decision?  You won’t ever be able to do it all.  So focus on what matters and prioritize your time accordingly.
  5. Step back and prioritize: assess what matters most, and what you need to let go in order to deal with it. Otherwise, life will decide for you, and it’s unlikely that you’ll end up doing what you wanted or needed.

See your day open up.  There is time, and a whole world to be enjoyed, when you allow yourself to do a little less, instead of filling each minute with busyness.


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