Are you “Busy” or are you “Productive”?

The pace of life and business never seem to slow down for most of us.  It is not unusual for me to talk with someone and ask how things are going.  The typical response is “busy”.  With all due respect, I often answer the same way.  This started me thinking about what busy means versus being “productive”.  Let me share a few thoughts about what I see as the major differences between busy and productive:




The days are very full and there is little spare time Days are full, but there is time for planning and reflection I try to be a disciple of the Deming cycle: Plan-Do-Check-Act; by doing so I try to allow time for planning and reflection before I start or revise something I am working on
Life is stressful and the long-term implications of being busy continually are not positive Stress is evident, but this is more productive stress that is tempered with times of pause and rejuvenation Working in intervals where there is effort followed by pauses for rest and re-focus can be a more productive manner to operate under
Many irons in the fire, but there may be a lack of focus in approaching work Planning and reflection may allow for more focus, allowing one to say No occasionally versus always saying Yes, regardless of the project Focus is a key item for leaders to be effective.  One of my good friends always reminds me there are “riches in niches” and niches are developed with focus
Relationships may suffer due to the frantic pace of work on most days Relationships should sustain, if not further develop, due to focus on key initiatives and areas of interest and strength Relationships are a key item in any successful business and taking time to cultivate and grow them is a very important investment of time
Little time to celebrate on key wins or reflect on key disappointments as work progresses Time for reflection is essential in determining what works well and what is not working well on a regular basis Productivity is closely tied to feedback and reflection on each project.  Neglecting this reflection lets key learning opportunities slide away where they cannot be examined and learned from


I could show further examples, but I believe the key points have been made.  Here are the key differences I see between busy and productive people:

  • Busy people have a lot going on, but productive people are learning as they progress
  • Busy people can check the box when they complete a project, but productive people are still reviewing what worked well and what did not even after the project is complete
  • Busy people don’t take time to regroup and refresh, but productive people realize that this refreshing step is key to future success.


Are you busy or productive?

Which would you prefer to be?