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Does Keeping Busy Mean More Productivity?

by James HargroveJune 17, 2021
Does Keeping Busy Mean More Productivity?

You know that feeling when you're so busy, but things still don't seem to get done? Well, there's a difference between being busy and productive. 

Does keeping busy make you more productive? Not necessarily. Being busy is about working longer and harder, while being productive is about efficiency and output. If it feels like every day the work just keeps piling up and you are rushing to get everything done, yet accomplish nothing, then your day has been busy, but not productive. 

A Planned Busy day Keeps you Productive

“Keeping yourself busy doesn't mean you are productive if you focus on the wrong things. You can bounce from task to task and not finish any, meaning your productivity was low. Planning your tasks and day is what keeps you productive. You know what you need to do and work on to  achieve what you want. I always say that a planned and busy day keeps your productivity high. If you are working without knowing what you want to achieve in the end, your productivity will be low.”

Hugo Guerreiro, Founder of The Men Hero, a men's lifestyle blog.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

“I don't think that being busier leads to more productivity. The saying work smarter not harder rings true and has substance behind it. Books like the 4 Hour Work Week from Tim Ferris show that using systems and other hacks like location arbitrage can lead to more productive results without burning ourselves out. When starting my blog I made sure to focus on being productive instead of being busy and using the 80/20 rule which basically says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your causes.”

Alicia Harper is an NYC Based Nutritionist and editor of the Probiotic Girl blog.

Productivity Comes with Busyness

“I've gone through many periods of productivity in my life, and found that I am far more productive when I'm 'busy'. Nowadays I'm blessed to run my own business - which I built in the mornings, evenings, and weekends while working my 8-5pm engineering career. and keeping on top of a gym schedule. My day would often start at 5.45am, and I'd only start winding down around 8pm. For me, being busy feels like riding a wave of momentum. The more tasks you finish, the easier it is to push on and get more done. I say all this as a very lazy person. I've equally had massively unproductive periods, where even going out to buy food is a massive effort. Something I wouldn't think twice about when I'm running between the gym, the office, and seeing my family. This needs a strong caveat: being busy does NOT mean having no downtime. When you're busy, it's even more important to make sure you're spending a few quality hours relaxing each day. Busyness doesn't always take care of Business.”

Previously a Civil Engineer, Craig Anderson built his content writing business around his day job and now runs ApplianceAnalysts.com.

Productivity is about Output

“Productivity is all about output. You must have a clear sense of purpose and objective, and you aim to achieve that in the most efficient way. Keeping yourself busy does not necessarily mean all that. Most people keep  themselves busy as a distraction, with no clear purpose or plan. In short, the difference can be summarised as working smart, rather than hard.

Scott Hasting, Co-Founder BetWorthy LLC

Busyness Leads to Efficiency

“I find that busyness does help me perform more efficiently. Dealing with all operations of a business requires a lot of different tasks, but I feel fulfilled in tackling a lot every day and proving to myself that I can accomplish more than I thought I could.”

Abe Rahmanizadeh, the COO and Co-founder of Leafwell Botanicals

Setting Tighter Time-constraints Leads to more Productivity

“Sometimes the more we have on our schedule, the more productive we are able to be. Oftentimes when you give yourself too much time for a task or project, we tend to procrastinate. Whereas if you only have a short window of time, say 30 minutes as opposed to 3 hours, you are likely to get it done in the length of time allotted - 30 minutes being more advantageous to get even more things done productively. However, a busy schedule with a clear, articulated plan of action should not be confused with a life of “busy” activities that do not serve a clear purpose. We are more prone to try “multitasking” when leading a busy schedule or feeling busy overall. Unfortunately, most multitasking attempts are futile as you slip into what’s called context switching instead. In which you are not actually doing multiple things at once mentally, but rather moving quickly from one thing to the next single-tasking, technically slowing yourself down in the long run and getting less done overall. There’s also a matter of momentum. When you lead a “busy” lifestyle where you are constantly moving, it’s easier to keep moving. Whereas when you have more time, more flexibility and more leniency, it’s harder to get up and get moving when you are used to enjoying your down time.”

Michelle Houston is a fitness-turned wellness professional & business strategist specializing in optimizing lifestyle balance for women through productivity strategies, self-care practices, healthy routines & automating online systems. 

ROI will Draw the Line Between Busy and Productive

“The myth busy equals productive is huge, especially in the entrepreneurial space and it can easily lead any entrepreneur or business owner into burnout or worse. Being busy and being productive are two entirely different concepts and just because something is on your to-do list, doesn't mean it has to be done. Read that again. If you are looking to get as most as possible out of your day/week, you need to take a closer look at your to-do's. Look at them in terms of ROI (return on investment): is the to do actually giving you the return you desire? In many cases, it will not help you move towards your bigger vision. The other smaller tasks that do need doing can be outsourced; think admin, outreach, marketing, design etc. Stay in your zone of genius and solely focus on the tasks that increase the biggest ROI and momentum for your business goals. Outsource the rest. That will make you far less busy and way more productive. Win-win!”

Susanne Grant, Grant Method Coaching. Susanne is an Award-winning Work-Life Balance Integration Expert, Intuitive Business Coach & Consultant and International Bestselling Author. 

Staying Busy Keeps the Mind Active

“Staying busy is the best way to keep mind active, if we are not indulging in any activities or the other then we are wasting our precious time and energy by just being lazy. Being busy is a good thing for our body and soul. That being said, it is equally important to prioritize the work and be busy with something productive rather than pretending to be busy and not doing anything. One of the reasons staying busy is important is because when you are in that state of affairs, you feel better, more whole, relaxed, justified, and in a very real way, content with yourself, and life in general. Additionally, it challenges your brain to think differently and vividly to find new solutions. Your skills will be sharpened and new skills will be learned.”

Jase Rodley, Entrepreneur

Keep Busy with Things that Help you Grow

“First of all, you need to learn the difference between keeping yourself busy and being actually productive, being busy always doesn't means you are productive. There is nothing wrong with being active, having a healthy routine, and doing for others. However, when we are keeping busy solely for the sake of staying busy, is when we’re usually ignoring our inner voice to help us find inner peace and stasis. It is crucial to prioritize and organize activities to maximize outcomes. Drop the non-essentials and focus on the 80–20 rule. Focus on one task at a time instead of falling for the myth of multitasking works. The key is to use this time to improve yourself. If you make a habit of keeping yourself busy doing things that help you grow, there are high chances that the habit will remain, and eventually, you will realize how much you have learned and progressed from this habit of staying busy.”

Cody Crawford, Co-Founder Low Offset

Being Busy is the Opposite of Being Productive

“No, I think that keeping busy is not making me productive. However, I think that it depends on the definition of busy and productive. See, for me, being busy means your plate is so full that you cannot get things done. On the other hand, being productive means you have a system and you’ve got a good one which is why you won’t ever be busy. Basically, I think that being busy is the opposite of being productive. So, if you are being productive, then you aren’t busy at all. You are just plain productive. It’s like being productive’s doing more with less, while being busy’s just doing more and more. This is the reason why I stopped saying “I’m so busy!” and started saying ‘I’m so productive today!’.”

David Bitton, Co-Founder and CMO of DoorLoop, a property management software for the real estate PropTech industry.

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