How to Go from Busy to Productive

by Michelle on August 30, 2012

The difference between “busy” and “productive” has nothing to do with an amount of time.  Each and every one of us has the same number of days in a year, with the same number of hours, minutes, and seconds within them.  And each and every one of us chooses what to do with those increments of time and whether or not we are going to be flexible with them.

So how does one ditch the BUSY to trade it in for PRODUCTIVE?  

It’s all a matter of using your time wisely and with purpose.  Your first step will be setting goals.  As Thomas Edison once said, “We shall have no better conditions in the future if we are satisfied with all those which we have at present.”  The vast majority of us would like change, growth, and some sort of prosperity.  Find yourself a quiet place (a place of inspiration if you can) for 10, 30, or 60 minutes to sit and reflect on what you want out of life in 1, 3, 5, and 10 years from now – professionally and personally.

And then, you will want to ensure you make the best use of your time to reach your goals.  Here are some questions you can use to help you evaluate where you right now with some tips to implement today to help you become more productive and less busy in life.

The Who, What, When, Where, and Why:

  • WHO: who are you spending time with?  Are they adding value to your life, either emotionally, inspirationally, educationally, financially, or in another productive, value-driven way?  Are you surrounding yourself with people who will lift you higher and encourage you, who are where you want to be in life, who make you smile & laugh & make you feel good about yourself and your relationship with them, and who appreciate what you bring to the table?  Are you taking time any time for yourself so you can make time to care for others?
  • WHAT: what type of activity are you doing?  Are they the types of activities which will get you to the goals you have set to achieve for yourself?  If not, what could you do differently keeping your end goal in mind?
  • WHERE: where are you spending time?  Do you find yourself at school, at work, at organizations, at places you volunteer or assist, at networking events, at home, at church, at book club, working out, with hobbies, at the bar, at the spa, on the couch, in bed, to name a dozen or so?  Do these places add value to the inner you and to the goals you wish to achieve?  If not, where can you go which will give you the best of both worlds in fun and accomplishment?  Are there opportunities to maximize your “where;” for instance, can you listen to an audiobook while on the treadmill or while carpooling to work/on the subway?
  • WHEN: when are you spending the time?  Have you set up a routine?  If routine is not possible for you, are you blocking out chunks of time to work toward your goals?  Are you also taking for yourself and your family?  Are you placing your highest priority commitments first and foremost and then letting the other priorities fit in and around them?  Do you need to better manage your time, set some guidelines and boundaries, and commit to enforcing them?  If this is your weakest point, find yourself an accountability partner to help keep you in check.
  • WHY: why did you choose the who, the what, the where, and the when?  No one else will be able to help you connect to the reason WHY you spend your time the way you do outside of you.  If you are not sure why, you might need to do some soul-searching if you would like to see improvement in your productivity.

Note that productive people change their lifestyles as needed; they also modify as they go along. 

Additionally, they take responsibility for the choices they make on a daily basis.    The above questions are not the type they ask themselves once but questions they ask themselves on a monthly, weekly, daily basis – essentially, “How can I use my time better?”   They also don’t let anyone else influence or dictate their decision on what to do with their time.  They remove themselves from toxic environments of negativity and doubt and instead surround themselves with support and encouragement.

Remember, misery loves company, but if you want to be a productive person, that is an invitation you will want to swiftly decline as it offers zero value to you, your family, and your goals. 

I’m not calling anyone out without calling myself out too – I used to be busy to the core!  I let myself go there, and I spent a number of years there – actually, well over a decade (almost two – yikes!).  As the years turn and life seems more fragile, I have I made the conscious effort to stop wasting my time and energy in toxicity and to spend my time in positive environments while placing focus on productive activity.  Touching base occassionally with these questions {“Who, What, Where, When, and Why”} will help you assess how you are using your time and if that use of time is in the best interest of you, your family, and your goals. 

Once I became productive rather than busy, I saw everything change in my life.  Opportunities opened up and I was able to receive them if I wanted them, all of which has allowed me to do the things I enjoy rather than having the things I love suck the joy out of me.  Besides, I would like to be remembered as productive, not social – as present, not busy.  How would you like to be remembered?  The choice is yours to make every single day.  Just remember: time is one resource we never get back. 

“I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today.  I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day.”  ~James Joyce


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