Recently, I was having a conversation with a colleague and the usual conversation statement came in, ‘You’ve been busy I see’. Normally my automatic response to this statement is ‘always’ and if you know me, this is something that is true. But for some reason this time I paused to consider, we are always quick to say that we are busy, but are we being productive during this ‘busy’ time?
Barbara Hemphill, founder of the “Productive Environment Institute” and an expert on time management, says checking things off a long list (which I am guilty of) may simply be a way of relieving the pain of procrastination. Being productive, she says, means accomplishing those tasks that will get you closer to meeting your goals. Any other tasks that don’t help you to do so are just clutter.
The key difference is that busyness is easy to fall into and productivity is hard work. It requires clarity, usually some focus and strategic thinking, and is part of a larger plan.
Being clear about what your goals are is the easiest way to tell if you’re being productive. As much as we’d like to think otherwise flitting from task to task without clear direction or goals is just “busy work” and is likely not going to result in a productive day. Doing three things at once may make you feel like you’re being super productive, but research shows we are actually terrible multitaskers.
Research also showed that people who were regularly bombarded with several streams of information (no matter how organized or efficient you think you are) had difficulty paying attention, recalling information, and switching from one task to another, compared to those who only focused on one task at a time. Multitasking has even been shown to lower IQ.
Single-tasking, on the other hand, means focusing on one task at a time and makes you more productive by allowing you to be fully immersed in the task at hand.
In a recent article I discussed the importance of not overbooking or over scheduling one’s-self and its negative effects. Similarly, improving your productivity means avoiding that tendency to say yes to every task that lands on your plate. Its important to note that the most productive people think about the repercussions of saying yes and only take on what will help them accomplish their key goals.
There are simple ways besides single-tasking to that can turn business into productivity. Take a break, taking breaks to rest and recharge, even for a few minutes means that you’ll be forced to consider with how you are spending your hours and then you’ll approach your next block of time with more purpose. Create a Clutter free zone. Clutter, whether it’s physical or digital, is attributed to everything from inefficient thinking and lower levels of personal satisfaction to poorer eating habits. Too much clutter means that you’re in danger of sabotaging your own productivity with distractions. Turning businesses into productivity is a habit, all you have to do is cultivate it.