Being Busy vs Being Productive : How to Get More Done
Workaholics Aren't Heroes
"Workaholics aren't heroes. They don't save the day, they use it up. The real hero is already at home, because he figured out a faster way to get things done." - Jason Fried
This is the essential difference between being busy, and being productive. While keeping yourself busy is important, being busy doesn't always equate to results. For example, if you were to spend the entire day digging a hole in the ground and then coming back to fill the hole in, you would stay pretty busy. However, at the end of the day you didn't really accomplish anything productive.
Activity ≠ Results. I have always admired people who had the "hustler mentality". Those who can stay up late, wake up early, and with seemingly machine like focus work towards their goals. I have no doubt that you have to have some level of this work ethic and drive to succeed, however I don't believe it is the only piece of the puzzle. If you want to become more productive, and less busy, keep reading.
"Achievers always work from a clear sense of priority". - Gary Keller
One of the lessons in Gary Keller's best seller, 'The One Thing' is that you have to learn to prioritize your time, and focus on the actions that will yield the most impact. To do this Keller suggests taking some time in the morning to plan out the number one thing you have to get done today. Taking care of the highest priority actions first will give you the momentum and structure to drive results, rather than just being busy. When you focus your time from highest to lowest priority, everything seems to fall into place, kind of like a line of dominoes.
Another tip that I have found personally works is to document, every hour, how you spend your time for a few weeks. The benefit you receive from the documentation of your time, is that you now have a physical copy of your process that you can evaluate later. It is like working a math problem, when you show your work it is easier to learn where you went wrong, and where you can improve.
The Man Who Chases Two Rabbits
The Chinese philosopher Confucius said, "The man who chases two rabbits, catches none." We have all had the moment when we get overwhelmed because we "have a million things to do." In a frantic rush we try to multitask and get everything done at once. What usually ends up happening, is we are left with a bunch of half way done projects, or worse, a finished project that we have to correct. This is a drain on not only time, but on our quality of work. Imagine if instead of trying to 'chase two rabbits', you took a second to focus on the most important task, and then doubled down on that. Focusing on one project at a time improves the quality of your work, and leaves you more time to improve the quantity of your work.
If I had to pick one word to summarize, it would be focus. Plato once said, "All things will be produced in superior quantity and quality, and with greater ease, when each man works… without meddling with anything else," and I agree. You can be the hardest worker in the world, but productivity comes when you focus on being really good at thing at a time rather than spreading your attention.