Since the adoption of the 40-hour work week, most people have been expected to log eight hours of work per day. For some of you, this eight-hour workday doesn’t seem long enough to get everything done.
Often you get to the end of the day and think, “I was busy all day, but what did I accomplish”? Just because you show up at work every day and put in long hours doesn't mean you are getting the right things done.
When it comes to the workday, there’s a big difference between being busy and being productive, yet many of us use the two terms interchangeably. Knowing that busyness doesn’t always equal productivity can really transform your career growth.
In this post, I want to make a comparison between being busy and being productive. Read this post, before scheduling another meeting, so that you can switch your focus from being busy to being productive. Here are 4 ways you can start:
List your projects
Do you have a routine in place to get the absolute most out of tomorrow? The cornerstone for every successful entrepreneur lies in the most traditional form of planning: the ToDo list.
Being overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do is a symptom of not keeping such a list. Knowing what your objectives are and the steps necessary to achieve them is the trick to boosting your personal productivity, and no, this cannot wait until tomorrow.
Becoming organized is one of the most important reasons for keeping a ToDo list. Organizing your tasks with a list will make everything much more manageable and make you feel grounded. If you record all your tasks in a ToDo list, you can easily review the list and prioritize the most important tasks so that you don’t waste time on trivial activities when there are important matters that need your attention. Keep a list of everything that you need to do, with the most important tasks at the top of the list, and the least important tasks at the bottom.
Eliminate Distractions and Focus
What distractions around you decrease your productivity? When you really need to get something done, the last thing that you want to deal with is a constant stream of distractions.
Distractions include phone calls, emails, text messages, and social media, which can fool us into thinking we’re being productive while destroying your focus.
Distractions are the #1 cause of lack of focus. If you need to get things done, the simple fact is that you need to put away the technology. Turn off the cell phone, close Facebook, shut down Twittert, put your head down and do your important work.
I’m a huge advocate for social media (Read my post on Harnessing the Power of Social Media). I realize it is here to stay and it is essential for building a business. However, retweeting all of your followers or updating your Facebook status is definitely not productive.
Headphones work nicely when we are trying to focus. Even if you aren’t listening to music, your co-workers will think twice before asking you a question that isn’t really urgent or that they could find the answer to themselves.
Keep Track Of Your Time
“If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.” – Lord Kelvin
There is only one metric that truly matters when it comes to productivity: your time. You must actually log how you spend your time so you know whether or not you’re actually making that item a priority. Do this in order to make sure you’re really focusing on the most important thing.
At the end of the day, do you wonder where all the time went? Most of us have only a vague idea of how much time we spend on our daily tasks. Often, we don’t realize how much time is filled with “busy” work instead of actual work. This is because we’re not keeping track of our time properly. The whole point of keeping track of your time is to make you more aware of how you're spending your workday, and if you're wasting time on tasks that should only take a few minutes, that's important to know. Unaccounted time could mean lost revenue.
Examine your activities and reevaluate your list
Your list will always be evolving and it's really easy to let your ToDo list get out of hand. Examine your ToDo list daily to make sure your tasks are still in the right order and you’re not wasting too much time on each. Reweigh daily the pros and cons of focusing on specific tasks, and prioritize them accordingly. Maybe you’ve gotten some new to-dos. Maybe another project has suddenly been upgraded to urgent status. Figure out where to fit them in.
To summarize, don’t waste your time being busy. Keep yourself focused on what you need and should accomplish. Stop being consumed by the end-less tasks that make you appear busy. Apply all four of these techniques consistently and turn busy days into productive ones.
Do you find yourself wondering how you spent an entire day looking busy but got nothing done? What steps have you taken to fix the problem? Join the discussion in the comments below!