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Are you productive or just busy?

We live in a highly cluttered world today. There are advertisements everywhere driving different marketing messages into our brains. We are born with incredible potential. At the age of 20, the best compliment that can be paid is that you have a lot of potential. At the age of 30, it is still okay. At 40, you have a lot of potential is becoming an insult. At 60, telling someone that they have a lot of potential is probably a serious insult. There is a difference between having a lot to do and being busy. Our culture has made “being busy” one of the highest valued currencies in our social market. Some of the main culprits that get in the way are interruption, distraction, lack of clear priorities, and attachment to the idea of being busy.

inspiration with Cynthia C Hakutangwi

Is being busy the same thing as being productive?

Do you feel like you are running around taking care of a lot of things, but your to-do list doesn’t get any shorter? Do you feel like your time is taken up by a lot of tasks, but you aren’t making forward progress on the most important things? If this describes you, chances are that you are just busy. Being busy doesn’t mean that you are actually getting things done. Just because you scurry about with a lot to do doesn’t mean that you accomplishing anything worthwhile. If you want your business to be a success, you need to understand the difference between busy-ness and productivity. When this feels like the case, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate your situation. When you are productive, you are more than just busy. You are actually working toward your goals. In this article we will look at seven differences between busy and productive people.

Busy people work hard. Productive people work hard and work smart

Busy people are not lazy people. They work hard. The problem is they work hard without working smart. They are efficient but don’t think about being effective. On the other hand, productive people focus on being effective, then efficient. Efficiency means getting granular tasks done quickly and accurately. Effectiveness means finding the most resource-optimal approach to do things. Effectiveness comes before efficiency, because if your approach is ineffective, you waste precious time/energy even if you are efficient.

Busy people focus on micro details only. Productive people focus on macro and micro details

Details are important. Many successful people are detail-oriented. But busy people can be overly focused with details with no end in mind. What’s the end goal you’re pursuing? Some details matter while some don’t. Productive people evaluate details against the big picture before considering whether to pursue them. Busy people focus on detail after detail without regard for the big picture.

Busy people do not think about their life direction, instead letting others set their direction. Productive people set their direction and constantly evaluate their progress versus direction

Everyone has their agenda to sell, especially groups with vested interests. What is a lucrative path today may not be so 10 years later, as time has repeatedly shown. Organisations will push for their agendas, sometimes masquerading them as care and concern for you. What is your life direction? What do you want to do in your life? What is your ideal life like? Know that when your ladder is propped up against the wrong wall, you can spend all your time climbing but reach a different place. Busy people go through monotony of routine work each day without thinking about what they want. Because of that, they spend their whole lives rushing, racing, and spinning in their hamster wheels but not get to where they really want. Productive people, on the other hand, are clear about their direction, independent of media conditioning. They subsequently work on achieving it, even if slowly, constantly evaluating if they are on track.

Busy people say yes to everything. Productive people say yes/no strategically

Saying no may seem simple but it differentiates between busyness and productivity. Busy people never say no: they say yes to everything without evaluation. As a result, they fill their schedules with endless things that keep them busy, but don’t change their life. Productive people, on the other hand, deeply evaluate decisions, especially those that require a mid-to-long term investment of their time, before saying “yes” or “no.” That’s because they know that each “yes” conveyed now will take up their time later on.

Busy people jump on every trend, bandwagon. Productive people consider the value and implications before going into anything

There is nothing wrong in following trends sometimes, especially if done for enjoyment’s sake. Just because you are presented with more options and details today doesn’t mean it’s good. Be aware of such mind traps because the majority of trendy things today is just noise and does not help further your life.

Busy people talk about how they will change. Productive people are making those changes

Spend less time talking about what you will do and dedicate that time to creating the first step. What can you do now that requires the approval of nobody else? What can you do with the resources, knowledge and support that you have now? Don’t let your potential go to waste. Create something amazing.

Busy people try to do everything themselves. Productive people find the best tools, services and people to help them

It’s not just about getting help from people, too. Even if you work primarily alone, there are many tools and product-based services that can hugely improve how you work. There’s no need to do everything alone. There are tools, people, contractors and services out there that can help you. Research and look for solutions to your problem. Consult people with the right expertise. Find ways to leverage, meaning to strategically use resources to increase what you can do, rather than get stuck doing everything by yourself.

Get out of the trap

The more deliberate we are about how we spend our time and energy, the less likely we will get bogged down in trivial tasks, and the more likely we will build successful, meaningful businesses and live accomplishing, engaged lives. Being busy can be a comfortable trap. When you’re busy, you don’t need to think. You just need to do. Sometimes, your head can be burrowed so deep in your work that years can pass before you realise the time that has passed you by. Think about the past three, six, nine months of your life. Have you been busy or productive?

Cynthia C Hakutangwi is a communications and personal development consultant, life coach, author and strategist. She is the managing consultant of Wholeness Incorporated. Her most recent published book is titled The Wealthy Diary of African Wisdom, previously published titles include Destination Wholeness – Going Beyond Brokenness, The Whole You – Vital Keys for Balanced Living and Intelligent Conversations: A Mindset Shift Towards a Developed Africa. She is co-author of Success Within Reach. E-mail: Facebook: Wholeness Incorporated. Website:

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