In the quest of becoming the best version of yourself that you can possibly be, you might find yourself struggling to get everything done in time. When you’re too busy, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and the more you have on your plate, the less productive you will be.
There is a significant difference between being busy and being productive. Being too busy might mean you just don’t have a lot of time on your hands, but being productive means you’re making the most of your time and you’re smart and efficient when it comes to accomplishing your tasks.
You can spend all day being busy at work, for instance, on a project that isn’t even yours at all and then think to yourself that you’ve been productive. While on other days you might spend only two hours writing your first novel, working out, starting a new business, or even cleaning out your closet and it’ll still be a much more productive day.
Efficiency vs working hard
People still confuse the two until this day, when there is a fine line between working hard and working efficiently. Working hard doesn’t mean you are being productive, and working too hard might actually mean you are being too unproductive in some cases.
If you spend too much time on a project that could have taken you only two hours if you planned correctly, working too hard is actually a bad idea.
Abraham Lincoln is often quoted for the greatest productivity quote of all time, he brilliantly said: “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my axe.”
Being efficient means you excel at the result, not the performance. Finding the best way to do something that will benefit you in the long term, is what makes you productive.
Spend Time to make time
This can even mean sacrificing some time now to get a lot of it later. For example, busy and hardworking people often work without a long-term plan. They just handle things as they come. That’s why they feel busy – because it never ends.
If you don’t have a planned system to measure your progress with, it feels like there isn’t any progress at all (or at least not as much as you worked for it).
And even if you do have a plan, the strategy is missing. What happens then is that you can get easily distracted and waste your precious time on thinking and exploring whether you should change the way you’re doing things or if you should add that thing to your `strategy`. Basically, you can end up doing a lot of things that you shouldn’t be doing.
On the other hand, if you invested extra time in planning the exact steps and strategy to reach your goal, you would have a clear vision of how the process should look like. You would predict most problems you could face in the process of executing and have a solution for them before they even occur.
In addition to that, being efficient sometimes means that we need to delegate tasks to make the end result as we want it to be. For instance, hard workers who run a business like to do all things by themselves, and they don’t let other people help them.
Unfortunately, there is a limited number of hours in the day that we can work for, and there is also a limited amount of workload each one can take.
So, what happens to hard workers is that as hard as they work, they burn out soon. As a matter of fact, the harder they work the sooner and harder they burn out.
Being productive means you value your time
You would never hear a productive person say yes to everything that comes their way. Productive people learn to value the limited amount of time they have in the day, and they often times say no to a lot of other things that do not correspond with their priorities.
This is a problem that hard-working busy people have. While saying yes to almost everything can make both parties feel good at the time, it can be a disaster later on when you find yourself burned out with false promises.
Productivity is all about time management
This goes hand in hand with what Lincoln has preached, instead of hammering down on a tree with everything you got burning yourself out, it’s best to save your energy and time, harness the tools that you have and sharpen the axe.
In our modern sense, instead of just working on a project that takes a lot of your time, you should find tools, people, and resources that can help you save time even if there is a trade-off.
For instance, if you are working on something that is too automated and mundane, something that can easily be done by almost anyone, hire someone or ask for the help of a friend (there are things that even your kids can help you with). That way you’ll save the time and energy that you can now put in other areas that will further enhance your productivity or simply have some time for yourself.
This might not be seen as productive in the short term, but in the long term when everything is settled, you’d find yourself thankful for having invested in the resources that saved you the time and energy.
Productive people know when to take a break
It’s true that productive people are all about efficiency, but sometimes efficiency means that you take time off what you are doing or call it quits. This is one of the most valuable qualities that productive people possess.
Let’s face it, all of us are not going to be able to work 24/7 every day of every week. There is a time when we will burn out and start being counter-productive.
Productive people take the time to reevaluate what they do in the day. If they continue to see hints of a lost cause, they won’t have a hard time quitting it right then and there. Busy and hard-working people cannot do that.
Productive people know the value behind investing in themselves
Investing in yourself might not feel productive at first, but it is a truly valuable thing you will appreciate when you need it. Productive people don’t mind spending some time in the day working out, cooking a healthy meal, sleeping the recommended 8 hours per night or even engaging in some leisure activities.
Being busy will leave you tired and bitter after a few days. That’s why productive people have a slow and steady success rate that is positively going up while busy hardworking people encounter extreme spikes of ups and downs. While at times they might experience an all-time high spike, they will surely come crashing down to an all-time low very soon. In turn, it’ll make it hard for busy hard-working people to come up to the base, all while productive people are maintaining slow and steady increments each time.
You may be thinking that, at the end of the day, it does not matter which road you take as long as you arrive at the finish line. And you might be right. However, if you want your car to be in one piece when you get there, it’s wise to plan ahead and choose the road with the least barriers and constructions on its way.
Being productive is an easy task. The only problem is that being busy is a bit easier.