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The Difference Between Being Busy and Being Productive


I’m sure you’re too busy for this 4-minute video but humor me for 2-minutes and I’ll give you a very brief synopsis.

Many of my corporate clients struggle with the issue of working on the RIGHT thing. This video squarely addresses that problem. The most common strength of the 17.5 million people who have taken the StrengthsFinder assessment is Achiever. This means that of those folks who have taken the 45-minute personality assessment, many of them report enjoying getting a lot done every day and making things happen (at work and at home).

However, after years of coaching some of these Achievers (and wrestling with my own Achiever which ranks #3 in my “Top 5” strengths), I have noticed that many of these same people worry that they can work on the WRONG things – for instance the easy things, the things that are “low hanging fruit,” the things that may make your colleague happy but that are not necessarily your top priority. They leave work every day knowing that they were busy, but they have a gnawing feeling that they were not productive. Sound like anyone you know?

Here are four tips that may help you in 2018 and beyond to become productive at work (and not just busy).

  1. Set priorities – Your top priority should be where you spend your time and effort. Get the critical things done first, INSTEAD OF the easy things.
  2. Start saying “No” – This is a big challenge for many of my clients who enjoy reaping the respect of others by helping and seeming to be the “go-to” person when there is a difficult task at hand due to their stellar work ethic. My suggestion to those who love saying “Yes” is to say, “Yes, but not now.” If saying “yes” to helping others on tasks that are not your top priority is your number one productivity distraction, test out this technique.
  3. Set realistic deadlines – Giving yourself too much time (or not enough time) to accomplish tasks can also be problematic. Breaking large priorities into smaller tasks is the best way to initiate difficult projects. Setting the appropriate timeline to complete these smaller tasks will create a positive snowball effect in that you can build on your small success day after day.
  4. Create short “to-do” lists – Many of the busy people I coach create long lists every day of all of the things they plan to accomplish. I have met more than a handful of these same people who keep their past notepads containing these lists for posterity. Ok, there may be a tiny chance that they’ll need to know in the future that they started working on a certain project on May 14, 2015 but it’s much more likely that these old notebooks are only used as a self-soothing technique to give evidence to worried Achievers of just how much work these dedicated individuals have put in year-in and year-out. The proof is not for their boss, mind you, it’s for them. High Achievers love to know they are getting lots done, and these old lists – with check marks at the side, or lines crossing out the tasks listed – are a way to show themselves in black and white that they have a long history of getting things done. Unfortunately, these old lists only show how busy they were every day, not how productive they were each year. If your habit has been to create a long daily to-do list, try something different in 2018. Create a daily 1-3 item list that forces you to consider your biggest priorities every day.

Best of luck for a PRODUCTIVE and happy year.

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