Feeling productive in a world full of busy
“Hi. Yeah, I’m good thanks, busy. How about you?”
It’s a VERY common response these days to the opening of a conversation, and I am totally guilty of this myself and replying to a “hello, how are you” with the above or something similar.
When did we all become so busy?? And why do so many conversations start this way? Are we validating ourselves and our worth through the level of ‘busy-ness’? Are we competing on who’s the busiest with the longest to-do list? Or have we just gotten so busy that we’re too busy to take the time to reply with how we actually are?
When I told a friend of mine that I was starting a blog so that I could write about topics related productivity, she posed a useful question to me that I actually hadn’t stopped to think about and ask myself.
She said, “why do you think we are driven to be productive?” Pretty simple question, right? But I have to say, it got me thinking a little deeper about why we are becoming more and more interested in productivity in a world of busy.
Everyone will have their own version of what busy is, but how do we define being productive verses being busy?
In response to my friend Elise’s simple, yet thought-provoking question, I narrowed it down to four key things and came up with CAMP (Gotta love a made-up acronym):
Let me explain...
For me, one of the main differences between busy and productive is the sense of control and consistency that productive brings over and above busy. When we’re in busy mode, we are rushing, often multitasking, juggling loads of balls and trying not to drop any. It’s a fine balancing act of getting it all done and fitting it all in. And yes, sometimes it feels like it is OUT. OF. CONTROL.
When we wear the busy badge (and we’ve all worn it, I know I have), we will often tell people out aloud just how busy we are, and how we had to stay back at the office until 2am to get our work finished and how we just have so much to do. And of course, the reality is, yes, we probably are all busy. We do all have a lot to going on in and around our work, our family, going to the gym, fitting in the weekly shop and chores, making sure the kids get off to school with their packed lunch and handmade science project, and making sure we get to the office in time for that oh-so-very-important meeting (which by the way, probably could have been resolved with a short conversation between two people and not the ten that were sitting around the boardroom table on their phones distracted with their other ‘busy’ things)
On the flip side of busy however, when we are productive, we are IN control. We are focused. We are working our way through our tasks in a controlled, methodical way. And we are getting it done, for the most part, without feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
At the end of the day when we come home and change into our ‘lounge pants’ (yes ok, pyjamas) and we say ‘gosh I was so busy today’, it just doesn’t evoke the same positive feelings as if we were to sit down and say ‘gosh, I was so productive today’.
When we are busy, we can often feel like we haven’t accomplished anything. We had loads to do, but there is still a list as long as your arm and it’s never ending.
We strive for that feeling of being productive because it feels good. When we’ve been productive, we feel like we’ve accomplished something and achieved what we set out to when the day started. And who doesn’t love that feeling right!
When we’re productive we are generally gaining momentum, we are moving forward and making time available for the other things that are important to us. We’re staying on track and moving in the right direction. When we are busy, we are often spinning our wheels and not really getting anywhere fast.
OK, so I am definitely a list maker. I write lists and put things on them that I’ve already done just for the satisfaction of being able to tick them off (I’m sure I’m not the only person that does this am I?? Send me a message to let me know if you do this as well so I know I’m not a complete weirdo!)
Being able to see that you are getting through your tasks makes you feel like you’re making progress. The key thing to note here though, is that the task list needs to be carefully considered and compiled, with the most important tasks tackled first.
Sometimes when we have a big chunky task or project on the list, it’s easy to skip over that one and do the smaller, less important tasks first because they are easier, and so we can get that feel-good buzz of ticking them off the list…. BUT, to make progress, and I mean real progress that moves you forward and gets you closer to where you need to be, you have to be productive in executing those important, meaningful tasks. (watch this space for a new article coming soon on how to determine what the important tasks are)
And so, I think that to answer my friends’ question, we are driven to feel productive because it brings with it, feelings of satisfaction and a sense of achievement. It makes us feel like we have more time, and we are in control.
In Brendon Burchard’s book, ‘High Performance Habits’, he writes that through their research conducted through multiple surveys and studies, they found that;
“if you feel more productive, you are statistically more likely to feel happier, more successful, and more confident. You’re also more likely to take better care of yourself, get promoted more often, and earn more than people who feel less productive.”
Being productive is not about having more things on the list ticked off and fitting more stuff into your day, it’s about getting the important tasks done in a controlled, focussed and consistent way. A way that does not make you feel stressed or overwhelmed. In a way that makes you feel like you’re moving in the right direction, and not just going around in the busy circle.
Being productive is putting on your lounge pants at the end of the day and having a real sense of pride for all the things you have achieved, and not feeling completely exhausted and dreading the list of things that still awaits you tomorrow.
So next time someone says ‘hey, how’s it going?”, and you catch yourself replying with ‘yeah, good busy”, try reframing it in a way that reflects how productive you’ve been and how much you’ve achieved. Tell them how that’s made you feel. I guarantee it will provide a much more positive start to your conversation and daily interactions with people.
Thanks for reading.
Would you like to learn about some useful tools for working out which tasks are really the most important ones so that you can plan your day in a more productive way? Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some examples of tools and techniques to effectively tackle your to-do list.