7th November, 2018

Due to not being very busy last week, I came to pondering busyness and productivity.

I’ve always been of the belief that in order for me to be at my most productive I need to be busy. There is something about being just a little under pressure (not drowning, just a little pressed) that I believe makes me work at my best. And that isn't very helpful. 

In the last month, I’ve had a few days where things have been quieter than normal. And I have been suffering a bit of angst over that. In part, because I’ve been at capacity on client work for so long that it just feels weird not to have all my time booked out now I have a gap. But also, because I realise that I have come to equate being productive with being busy and they are not the same thing. I think this is in part a personality thing, I used to run restaurants and my favourite part of that job was looking at the Saturday night bookings and knowing that it was going to be a challenge to turn enough tables in time to fit everyone in. Not impossible, not a “we’re so overbooked we might as well start giving the apology drinks away now” but an “if we do X Y and Z and T comes off this could work”. A nice blend of adrenaline and creative problem-solving.

In my current role, I work with three big tasks to do every day. They are the ones I absolutely must complete if I want to be working towards my plans and completing the projects that are vital. Every single day while I was quiet I hit those. And a few more besides because who only has three tasks? And yet I was feeling like I’d accomplished nothing and was very unproductive simply because I wasn’t feeling busy.

So, by way of giving myself a little talking to, here is my take on the difference between being (too) busy and being productive.

Being productive – working methodically and in an organised way through what needs to be done. Having clear priorities about what gets done when. Ensuring that regular breaks are factored in and work doesn’t start to take over life.  Keeping distractions (whether work or not) to a minimum so that your brain isn’t trying to process multiple things at the same time. Ending the day with excellent outputs and a clear sense of what needs to be done tomorrow. In short, achieving what was set out as the tasks for the day is being productive!

Being busy – constantly flicking between many things in an attempt to keep up with too many tasks at once. Replying to and actioning things immediately instead of chunking up time properly. Thinking that movement and action is the same as productivity, it isn’t - just doing stuff cannot guarantee results, you need to be doing the right stuff! Forgetting what is urgent versus what is important. Not really knowing what is still to do because you went down an unplanned wormhole two hours ago and haven’t surfaced yet. Knowing as you are doing, it that your daily plan bears no resemblance to the actions currently being taken!  Forgetting that your brain is in a body that probably needs a drink of water and to move several times in a day.

Now I have had that little moment of reflection I can safely say that today I am being productive and I am going to make sure I tell myself this at the end of the day just in case my adrenalin-junkie brain feels that it was all a bit boring...


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