Why Being Busy Does Not Equal Being Productive

Why Being Busy Doesn't Equal Being Productive

I used to believe that being busy was something to strive for and the busier you are the better. I thought being busy meant having a lot of things done and when people would ask me what I’m doing, I’d reply with “I am very busy right now” or tell them that I am swamped with work. I thought that being swamped with work is something to be proud of. Boy, was I wrong.

The more I told myself that I had a lot of workload, the less time I had to focus on things that actually matter and incidentally, the less productive I became.  Perhaps I became victim to the myth that one must work harder and longer to be more productive, and that in turn will produce a better life and better economy.

 A few weeks ago I read this post on Tiny Buddha about productivity and happiness. It really made me think and I started becoming more aware of the work I do and how I feel when I do it and it hit me that really, busyness does not equal productivity. Here’s why:

You place value on how busy you are rather than how effectively you work

You may be accepting (or even giving yourself) more work just so you can be busy but how effectively are you working? Being busy means you are rushing your work as you get to completing your to-do list. You focus more on the to-do list rather than what’s on it and therefore you place emphasis on finishing your work instead of how effectively you are doing it. Would you say you’ve been productive when you’ve squeezed lots of tasks in one single day and then cut corners to complete them? I personally wouldn’t. I would feel as if I did my work halfheartedly and that’ll diminish the pride I have in my work.

You have less time to take care of yourself leading to negative stress

When I am stressed, I cannot get any work done. I’d be feeling lethargic and my work day would end (or won’t even begin) then. So it’s very important not only to my well-being but my clients and business that I’m stress-free and feeling refreshed when I tackle work. I get more done and effectively because I’m not feeling tired and able to focus on the task on hand with enthusiasm. Note that I wrote “focus on the task on hand.” By that I mean I’m not focusing on when I’ll finish something to start another but on what I am doing.

I think as business people, we often forget that we are only humans and human beings do not survive on being ineffectively busy 24/7. We need time away from work (that’s why vacations exist, haha!), we need to spend time with other human beings who we love and some days we just need to not do any work at all (even the bible has the Sabbath written as a law).  

Your work becomes less enjoyable

When we’re busy, we start resenting the fact that we’ve got work to do and no time to do what we’d like to do to other than work and consequently work becomes annoying.  We start seeing work more as a displeasing chore and who wants to dedicate hours of their days doing displeasing chores?

When I started Allebasi because it was something I’m passionate about. Imagine if I stopped enjoying the work that I do; there would be no point and it would feel as if months of dedicated hard work have gone done the drain and it would mostly feel like a drastic waste of time. People who enjoy their work are more productive because they are excited to be working and thus get work done, and effectively.

You take focus away from your goals

I am not saying you shouldn’t work hard to reach your goals. However, you shouldn’t give yourself the impression that filling your schedule with unnecessary tasks is crucial for you to reach your goals faster. You’ll just be setting yourself up for burnout and you’ll probably forget why you set yourselves those goals in the first place. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work we have to do and that makes it easy for us to give up. By taking one step at a time, we

We believe working long hours leads to more productivity

What we need to remember is to take one step at a time and focus on one thing at a time. Sure, time is valuable but we actually have a lot of it in a day. We just need to work more effectively and get our productivity that way.

I used to believe that the longer I worked, the more productive I was being but it turns out working longer just meant wasting time doing unnecessary tasks. Today if I tell myself that I have to do something I make sure that it is really necessary and aligned with my goals and well-being. If not, I forget about it and don’t do it. This frees up a lot of my time and I’m able to focus on things that make me happy and new ideas that actually get things moving along.

It was actually proven that working long hours does not lead to higher productivity. John Hicks, a British economist, reckoned that “probably it has never entered the heads of most employers…that hours could be shortened and output maintained.” Hicks reasoned that with longer hours, output per hour would fall. As workers slaved away for longer and longer, they would lose energy, which would make them less productive.” Makes sense doesn’t it?

Nowadays I shy away from taking on unnecessary tasks. I am more responsible with my time and I look forward to work every day. If I am busy doing something and a friend or family member wants to chat and they ask me if I’m busy, I’ll reply with, “Only just finishing up a blog post.” I reckon that if I have time to reply to them, that I’m not really busy am I? If I was busy, I wouldn’t have time to read the message or reply. So simple! But I do make a conscious effort to have time for my family and friends.

When scheduling work to be completed, I have to make sure that I also schedule time for non-related work. Because I now know the difference between being busy and being productive, I was able to find a blance and I’m not as stressed as I was 3 weeks ago. Bye-bye hair shedding and breakouts! Haha!

I want to hear what you have to say. Did you ever believe that being really busy meant being productive? How do you think people could be more productive without being unnecessarily busy?

P.S Don't forget that I'm co-hosting a Twitter chat for entrepreneurs this Friday. Check out this post for more details.