If You Want to Be Productive, Stop Being Busy

11/01/2016 12:48 am ET Updated Nov 02, 2016

Are you annoyed by that one coworker that always manages to leave the office on time?

Do you wonder where they get the nerve to leave, when you are left sitting at your desk for another two hours?

Do you secretly think to yourself that, not only will they not get the promotion you are both up for, but that they should actually be spoken to for their obvious lack of work ethic?

A work ethic like you have.

You are there early, you stay late, you are in all of the meetings, you are involved in all of the conversations.

You, are everywhere.

But...are you producing results?

Are you simply busy each day, having convinced yourself that busy means productive?

Have you fallen into the trap of thinking that longer hours is the equivalent of being a harder, more productive worker?

Many individuals state that one of the major complaints they have about the company they work for, is that it takes too long to get anything done.

This is often attributed to a number of factors like red tape, lack of time, too many projects on the go, or systems that just don’t allow for employees to execute.

However, one factor that is rarely, if ever, discussed is the difference between how busy everyone is, and how productive everyone is.

At some point, appearing to be busy has been deemed the equivalent of being a productive employee.

In fact, it is often the employee seen rushing between meetings, complaining about having no time to eat or use the washroom, or sitting at their desks until 8pm each night, that are perceived to be the all-stars.

Yet at some point, surely, outcomes need to be measured?

If an individual is so busy that they can barely take time to eat, it can only be assumed that one of two things is happening:

1. They are in the middle of executing on the tasks required to complete a project, initiative or change; or

2. They are incredibly disorganized.

When It’s Crunch Time

There will always be a circumstance that calls for a ‘big push’.

Large projects, new contracts, or a product launch; these are all examples that require an increase in effort and a short disruption in your calendar.

It might be a new company-wide system to implement and it’s all-hands on deck to get things pushed over the finish line.

Perhaps a large client is finally won, and the ramp-up process means that day-to-day operations are temporarily disrupted as you add the new processes to the mix.

These situations have a beginning and an end date.

They will also involve the analysis of everyone’s efforts and the outcomes achieved. These are expected and acceptable rearrangements in your time and purpose.

But the key here is that, there is a measurable start and end to the process where new norms are established.

This state does not go on forever and ultimately become a daily occurrence.

Your coworker that manages to leave the office on time each night, take vacations without obsessively checking email, and actually take lunch each day, is most likely incredibly productive.

They have figured out how to manage their tasks, time, and calendar in such a way that they can get everything that they need to produce, finished, in the time frame given.

Disorganized as a Work-Style

When it comes to your work-style, staying late and attending every meeting you are ever invited to does not translate into being productive.

If you are so distracted with where you need to be next, with have time to prepare thoughtfully for your next task, then you are not working productively.

Rising stress levels at the very thought of saying yes to a request to have lunch with a co-worker, because of all of the ‘things’ you need to get done, is a sign that you are currently unproductive.

You have not yet figured out how to organize your time in such a way that you know where it is all being applied.

If your workday stretches out with no hard-stop, then you will never be able to focus on producing outcomes. Your day will become a wide-open, never ending stretch of time that you feel compelled to fill up.

The Proof is in the Product

It is common for individuals to convince themselves that by being busy, they are working hard.

Yet when asked to point to their outcomes, they have nothing more to show for their efforts than a packed calendar.

Take a look at how you manage your day and look at what tangible outcomes you are able to measure at the end of each one. There is a really good chance that the coworker that is able to leave on time, and appears to be stress-free, can do this.

If you do not have a result to point to after all of your efforts, then you are not productive.

You are busy.

If you would like to identify whether or not you are busy or productive, let’s connect and I will show you how!

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