The difference between being busy and being productive

The big difference between busy and productive

It’s easy to be busy. You’re probably busy right now! And depending how your busyness manifests itself, you might be reading this while eating a piece of a toast or walking down a sidewalk or having a conversation with someone. (If you’re doing all of these things at once, please feel free to stop reading, you are a wizard and we can do nothing for you.)

Busyness can be many things — checking email, looking up next week’s weather, obsessively keeping up with the news, seeing if airfare to Minneapolis has gotten any cheaper yet. Busyness can look like productivity, it can feel like productivity, it might even enable productivity, but busyness can never be productivity. If productivity is a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, then busyness is a generic imitation brand with a name like Allspice Bread Crisps.

The difference between productivity and busyness

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. With that in mind, here are a few easy ways to turn busyness into productivity.

  1. Take breaks. Part of what fuels busyness and limits productivity is how we do (or don’t) manage our time. We’ve already tackled how a schedule can actually free time up, but one essential way to be productive is make sure you rest and recharge, even for a few minutes. This way, you’ll be forced to reckon with how you are spending your hours and then you’ll approach your next block of time with more purpose.
  2. Declutter your life. How many tabs do you have open on your internet browser? How many stray to-do lists do you have on your desk? Or crumpled receipts on your nightstand? (Okay, maybe that’s just us.) If the answer is a lot (or even a few), you’re in danger of sabotaging your own productivity with distractions. Clutter, whether it’s physical or digital, is attributed to everything from inefficient thinking and lower levels of personal satisfaction to poorer eating habits.
  3. Focus on just one thing. You’ve scheduled in some breaks and minimized your distractions, now devote some time to doing one thing and one thing only. It could be a project you’ve been half-focusing on or finally booking that flight to Minneapolis or clearing out your inbox. Whatever it is, dedicating a sacred block of time to the task will help you be decisive and determined enough to actually get it done.

Now get busy. Or better yet, don’t.


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