Are you being busy or productive? Determining the difference between being busy and productive is key if you ever want to be able to come up for air and still know that you’re reaching your goals.

I hate the word busy because it’s so overused. A lot of us have packed schedules and things going on. However, I still don’t like to see ‘busy’ being worn as a badge of honor. When I used to glorify my busy life, I realized that I only did so because it seemed nearly impossible to escape.

Feeling like you always have to be doing something or else becomes a horrible experience after a while. This is why I prioritize focusing on being productive over being busy. The word ‘productive’ just sounds better and it is. Being productive means you’re focusing on getting results and making progress, not just spending day after day putting out fires and barely staying afloat.

In this post, I want to go over the key differences between being busy and productive while highlighting some of the things you may focus on (that you shouldn’t) if you’re riding the wave of busy.

Busy people focus on:

Adding More to the To-Do List

Busy people are always focused on adding more to their list. They make the mistake of believing that if they add more stuff to their plate, they’ll get more accomplished. This isn’t always the case and can often leave you feeling more stressed and overwhelmed at the end of the day.

Productive people understand that it’s more about quality than quantity. Instead of focusing on busy work and meaningless tasks, productive people prioritize their responsibilities and take on less so they can be more effective and strategic with what gets done.

Jumping at Every Assignment and Opportunity

If you pride yourself on being busy all the time, you may not know how to slow down and actually be more selective in the tasks you take on. Realize that jumping at every opportunity and email will just leave you feeling burnt out. Plus, you’ll miss out on the opportunities that you really want to take advantage of because you’ll be too ‘busy’.

Instead, do what productive people do and choose your activities and projects wisely. Don’t become a yes man or woman and prioritize your tasks in order of importance.

For example, if an email comes in but it’s low priority, don’t feel pressured to open it and respond right away. This requires time and energy to do and it will take you away from other more important things that you could be accomplishing at the time.

Juggling Multiple Assignments at Once

Another big difference between being busy and productive is the fact that busy people tend to multitask in an attempt to get more done faster. Multitasking hardly ever works because our brains were not designed to divide our attention among several tasks and projects.

Personally, I can’t even write a blog post while listening to television or the radio. If I want to be productive and get something done quickly, I just focus on my tasks one by one. You may feel like you’re getting less done this way but on the contrary, you’ll actually be checking more off your list in the long run. Realize that you can’t do everything in one day but tasks do add up over time especially when you start to measure your results.

Giving Into Distractions Too Easily

Busy people try not to give in to distractions but this is hard to do when you’re constantly jumping from one assignment to the next and saying yes to everything. Realize that some opportunities may really be distractions in disguise if they don’t align with your current goals. Also, some things are just distractions to begin with and should avoided at all times.

The main difference between being busy and productive is having a plan. Your plan to become more productive should include the realization that distractions exist and will come up often. Identify your distractions early on and narrow down some ways to prevent and avoid them.

For example, I know some of my biggest distractions are my phone, email, and YouTube. Since I don’t really take a ton of work calls, I purpose to turn my phone off or put it on airplane mode during the times of the day when I’m trying to focus deeply on a task. Another thing I like to do is limit how many times I check my email per day and block out certain blocks to go through messages and reply. Finally, I try to block distracting sites like YouTube when I’m working on my computer and need to be more productive.

Working Long Hours Then Wondering Where the Time Went

Someone who prides themselves on being busy may work all the time and believe that’s the only way to accomplish something and be successful. Productive people understand the value of hard work and how necessary it is. However, they also realize the benefits of working smarter and not harder.

The truth is, you don’t have to work 60 hour weeks or be busy from sun up to sundown. Instead, focus on doing the work that will give you the biggest return. Then, plan your schedule around your current motivation and energy levels. If you’re a morning person, schedule certain tasks to be completed in the morning when you feel most productive. Don’t put things off for the whole day and procrastinate. This will just make it worse.

Stick to a reasonable schedule and take breaks to refuel and you’ll notice a major change.

As you can see, there is so much to consider when discussing the difference between busy and productive. While the differences are pretty clear, it’s also pretty easy to understand how people feel they can be productive when they’re actually just drowning in busyness.