Being busy means doing stuff. Being productive means getting stuff done.
There’s busy. And then, there’s spinning your wheels. Being busy does not equate to being productive and learning the difference is a life skill that can carry one very far. And in our culture, a long to-do list is basically a badge of honor. But how do we go from being busy to being productive?
First, we have to identify the time wasters. It’s no secret that social media channels, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat all take a toll on the clock. A quick “check-in” can suck minutes and hours from the day. A 2017 study reported that the average American spends over two hours a day looking at social media. Let that sink in. Two. Hours. Almost 10% of your day down the social media drain. If we factor in six hours of sleep per night, that’s 20% gone. And what do you have to show for it? Unless you’re a social media manager for your employer, probably not much.
Beyond social media, other time wasters include online shopping, gaming, and obsessive email checking. It’s not that these are bad things, but it’s easy to lose track of time while doing them. Then, there are things like sitting in unproductive meetings, being disorganized, and allowing constant interruptions to your day. All these things take a toll on time management, and thus negatively impact true productivity. Sure, you’ll be busy. But you won’t be getting much done.
Time suckers identified, it’s time to transition from busy to productive. Consider the following tips and tricks to move your time from managing you… to you, managing your time.
- Use a project management software.com has a free program that is easy to use and tasks can be set to repeat on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or even periodic basis. Imagine making a to-do list once, and knowing that every time you click check – the item regenerates itself for the next time it needs to be addressed. If you’re a chronic list maker, this is your new best friend.
- Look at every project through the lens of “work smarter, not harder.” Rather than doing things “because this is how we’ve always done them,” consider steps that may offer the same result with fewer steps or resources. Quality isn’t compromised, but efficiency is improved.
- Focus on the details, but don’t get bogged down by them. If minute details matter in the grand scheme of things, yes – they warrant your attention. However, choose your battles. Focusing on nitpicky details that are only relevant to you will waste precious time in your quest to be productive.
- Plan ahead. Decide your route and don’t tackle projects by the seat of your pants. There’s a reason successful businesses operate with a business plan. It’s an outline of the process to get from startup to successful operation. While not every task requires a multi-page game plan, any task is better managed when there’s an idea of how to get from A to Z.
- Don’t be afraid of “No,” and use “Yes,” sparingly. We live in a society where we feel guilty to say no, but the truth is – sometimes, no is the best answer. You can’t be all things to all people all the time.
- Be strategic and employ “wait and see.” You don’t have to jump on every brand new greatest-thing-since-sliced-bread-idea. Remember the QR Code phase? Many businesses jumped on that technology-bandwagon and found it was short lived. Take your time to see if the next greatest thing really is the next greatest thing.
- This is a hard one, but looking at the expertise and resources that surround you can truly add to your productivity. If you have a spreadsheet you need to do, but pivot tables aren’t your thing, ask someone who can help you get started. What may take you three hours may only take someone else 30 minutes! Use your resources and ask for help! But make sure you watch and learn so you know for the future!
When it comes to productivity, it’s not a matter of being a harder worker or a busier person. It’s a matter of organizing responsibilities efficiently. And besides – doesn’t it feel great to check things off the list?