Over the last 50 years, busyness has become a status symbol, both in mainstream culture and in many organizations. Companies that reward and promote employees based on their willingness to work long hours and take on increasingly heavy workloads are setting themselves up for higher turnover, burnout, and decreased productivity. In a recent HBR article, “Beware a Culture of Busyness,” the author addresses the causes and consequences of corporate cultures that promote busyness.
At Ziksana, we frequently hear that leaders don’t have time to take breaks, meet with direct reports, or attend coaching sessions. With a seemingly endless stream of new tasks and shifting priorities, they struggle to keep their commitments to themselves and others. If you resonate with this challenge, then keep reading! While busyness may make others perceive you as important, effective, and morally admirable, it does not mean you are being productive.
Busy vs Productive
Whereas busyness is about having your time filled, productivity is about spending your time on things that matter. We hope these four reminders will help you shift from a practice of busyness to a practice of productivity.
- Have Clear Priorities – while it might seem obvious, having clear priorities and sticking to them is paramount to being productive. What is most important to you right now, both at work and in your personal life?
Oftentimes, our calendars are filled with activities and tasks that don’t reflect what is most important to us and the companies we work for. The less clarity we have about our priorities, the easier it is to fill our time with tasks that simply don’t matter. The more our actions are aligned with our priorities, the more productive we become.
- Focus on Outcomes, Not Effort – according to research, the harder we work to achieve something, the more we value it. This often means that we equate working hard with doing something valuable, and we may put in more effort than is actually necessary to achieve a goal.
To combat this tendency, consider where most of your energy and effort is being directed. Is it leading to outcomes that are aligned with your priorities? Is it possible to spend less time on something and still achieve a good outcome? Consider learning about and applying your Top 5 Strengths to achieve better results with less effort.
- Acknowledge Finitude – In his review of the book 4000 Weeks by Oliver Burkeman, Matthew McFarlane describes Finitude as “the idea that the limited amount of time we have on this planet isn’t just something we have to manage; it’s the defining feature of human life.”
Acknowledging finitude means staying in touch with the reality that we have a limited amount of time and responding with more intentionality around how we spend it. While it may seem a bit dark, acknowledging finitude can set us up for a more meaningful, fun, and purposeful life.
- Manage Your Energy with Breaks – many of us stay busy because we’re afraid of being unproductive, but the opposite is actually true! Research shows that taking breaks throughout the day can reduce stress, increase creativity, and boost productivity. Breaks don’t have to be long to be effective!
According to data, shows that the most productive workers engage in job-related tasks for 52 minutes, then take a 17-minute break. In order for breaks to truly be energizing and restorative, we recommend learning your play preferences and engaging in activities that are truly enjoyable for you.
Don’t Be Busy – Be Productive!
Need some help putting these ideas into practice and finding the line between busy and productive? Check out our coaching programs, or reach out to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation!