Are you productive, or just busy? 4 steps to get back on track!





Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing

Lao Tzu


I am always busy, but I am not always productive.  I think many people take great pride in being busy.  It’s like saying “look at me, I must be important as there is just not enough of me to go around, so many people need me and my time.”  

What I really want is to be PRODUCTIVE, not busy.   If you are addicted to being busy, here are 4 steps  to help you move from just being busy, to getting things done.


1. Have a plan!  If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, your day will be spent on distractions.  Email, what to have for lunch, that stain on your clothes, office politics, Google image searches, and shuffling papers can fill your day.  You may even feel like you accomplished something because at the end of your day you are tired, and you were BUSY all day long!   To stay productive you need a short list of items you want to accomplish in plain view taped where you have to look at it all day, and allow that list to redirect you every time you see it.  Check you goal “compass” throughout the day to stay on course!


2. Do it completely the first time.  Don’t write or ask imprecise questions that then create new questions.  Ask for specific information or instructions, and then repeat it back to make sure you heard what was said.  Just trading something back and forth is being busy.  Completing the task is being productive.


3. Stop giving away your “life gold.”  If you don’t value your time and attention, advertisers, and unfocused people will steal your life gold.  You have so many minutes to live, so start asking yourself before you start taking on a task “Is this worth my life gold?”   Lao Tzu  understood this  when he said “Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.”  I would rather enjoy the beauty of watching the wind rustle through the trees while letting my mind go blank, than sit in a meeting that I don’t need to be at, or managing email.  When you are dead, no one will say “Wow, her email inbox was almost empty!”    If you can’t be actually productive, don’t wear yourself out with busy work, stop and recharge your batteries. 


4. Simplify everything!  Say “NO” to requests if they do not help you focus on your goals.  Reduce your possessions to those that you actually use.  Each possession will take more life gold.  You have to care for it, repair it, polish it, dust it, and remember where you put it.  Choose any new possession carefully, as it quite possibly will be with you for a lifetime.  Say yes to opportunities or charitable requests that will allow you to be productive in areas of interest that touches your heart.  Volunteering for a church or school event isn’t busy work if you heart and mind agree it’s a good use of your life gold.

Furiously answering emails and engaging in office politics may seem like you are getting something done, but in the end, if nothing changes due to your efforts it’s just busy work.  Start making small observations and changes each day to focus on what you want to produce with your time and effort.  Visualize a shinny gold coin dropping out of your pocket every 10 minutes when you catch yourself being distracted from your chosen goals.  You can’t have that life gold back, it’s gone.  You spent it!   Now decide what you want to spend your next irreplaceable gold coin on!   Ingrain this mind picture into your daily life and it can help you spend your days more wisely on the goals and people that you have decided are truly important to you.  If you spend your life gold consistently on ONLY those goals and people that are important to you, you will be truly productive every day!


by Nate Truman

Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.
Charles Richards

We are all different, but the one great equalizer is time. From the richest to the poorest, we all get the same “infinite now” to use how we choose. In today’s internet world, however, there are more requests for our time than ever before. I have always had a “to-do” list handy for many years. On this list are the items I want to get done, and I can choose which ones to work on. Some are urgent, some important, but they are MY goals.

Slowly over the last few years, my list started becoming my inbox in my email account. Now, many of the emails DID have something to do with items that I had on my list, but many were forwarded chain mails, funny photos, internet hoax warnings that just asked for my brain power for “just a second or so!” I would open it, scan it, decide if it was worth any more time, delete it or if I thought it warranted a response, I would quickly hit “reply” and send a short answer.

I felt like I had accomplished something! I had dealt with an item, and crossed it off my list. There was only one problem: that email was never MY goal, it wasn’t on MY list, and I achieved nothing other than keeping a server busy, and wasting some of my life.

Add to that a MySpace or Facebook account, Twitter, my lotto winnings in Nigeria, and people with a lot of time on their hands forwarding on funny pictures of cats, and suddenly I was spending every free moment of my day trying to delete or cross off another email. I worked all day, never stopped typing or responding, and at the end of the day I had no real progress towards my goals. I did feel like I had put in a good days work, but when reviewing all that had been done; I had made little or no progress on my action items.

So here is my short list of ways to control the EMAIL MONSTER and get back to your goals:

1. Unsubscribe from everything! Just as you would not subscribe to 20 magazines that would pile up in your mail box, unless you have one or two info emails that you actually get info you use in your life or business on a regular basis, they are out.

2. If it says Fw.fw.fw.fw.fw.fwd at the top, delete it.

3. If it is a good friend that you want to stay in contact with, you can reply, but ask a specific question, to start a conversation.
“LOL” may be polite, but you are not closer friends because of that communication. Tell them you always will have time for them, just not junk mail.

4. Don’t open your email account when you sit down at work! This is the KEY, but I know it’s hard to do! Those emails are waiting for responses RIGHT NOW!
It’s OK. Take the first hour of your computer day, for your goals, your to-do items, your creative time. You may find you want two hours tomorrow!

5. Don’t fall into the trap of yo-yo emails! If you must deal with something, deal with it once, and if you don’t want to hear about it, don’t ask a question in your reply!
Otherwise, it will come right back to your “in box” tomorrow.

6. Choose ONE social networking site, and don’t allow yourself to spend key early time there, and limit it to 30 minutes. Even better, join, find your friends, and only respond to set up a time when you will actually see each other. Best? Just don’t.

7. Print out a large print version of YOUR to-do goals and tape them to the side of the computer. Work off of that list.

8. DELETED! As Strong Bad the cartoon would say, delete any emails you can after dealing with them. For the emails with info you may need later, put them in a folder and name it “info.” Do this sparingly, otherwise when you go looking for it, you have to spend too much time digging for it.

9. Don’t be part of the problem! If you are the one forwarding cute animal photos, or chain mails, that means you have nothing to say to the other person other than the real life “Hey.” If you just want to reach out and touch someone, take the time to write a short personal email. We have all seen the cute cats in the fishbowl.

10. Stay on target, by not opening more windows. If the amount of time wasted clicking from one link to another were added up, I think we would all be astounded by the amount of lost time and potential. Don’t follow the “shinny foil ball” of the pretty advertisement or tagline. Even one about “10 WAYS TO CONTROL THE EMAIL MONSTER!”
(Well, maybe that one!)

You have the same amount of time each day as the greatest people currently on Earth have, but I know they are creating, and doing. Remember, no one will say at your funeral, “his inbox in his email account was nearly empty!” Start today to put into action these few steps, and you can tame the EMAIL MONSTER. Who knows, you may be able to start skipping days, or weeks without checking! If you just freaked out a bit at that thought, you really need to start doing a few of these!

Now, email this to twenty friends in the next five minutes, and great things will happen to you! If you don’t your computer will crash. Just kidding. No really, do it.

As Featured On EzineArticles