Being Busy vs. Being Productive
Contrary to what most people think being "busy" does not necessarily mean being "productive. In fact, being busy could easily be the opposite of being productive -- especially if you're filling your day with busyness that doesn't have to get done (surfing the internet, running needless errands, sitting through irrelevant meetings, procrastinating, etc.)
If you've been feeling overly busy but not overly productive, here are a few things to think about.
1. Do your most dreaded task first.
I find that whenever I have a specific task I REALLY don't want to do, I'll magically fill my days with needless busy-work to avoid doing that one task. However, once I actually bite the bullet and complete that task, I instantly become more focused, and more productive.
Keep in mind, this doesn't necessarily need to be the "biggest" task, the just task that you dread doing or tend to procrastinate on the most. It could be something as simple as cleaning out your email inbox, sending monthly invoices, or updating your website. Whatever that task is, do it first and I can almost guarantee you'll be more productive.
2. Make a to-do list AND a don't-do list.
I'm a big advocate for making to-do lists every day. However, when it comes to productivity, there's a pretty good argument for making a "don't-do list" as well.
If you know that you are easily distracted by your favorite website, friendly coworkers, or your phone that never stops ringing, put those items on your don't do list and remove those distractions during your focused working hours. Send your phone straight to voicemail, close all unnecessary internet windows, and close your door (if you have a door) or at least politely explain to coworkers that you're in the middle of something... I'm sure they won't mind coming back!
By eliminating extra busy-work and distractions via your don't do list,
3. Monitor your multi-tasking.
Most of the time, I'm an advocate for multi-tasking because I honestly do feel that I'm able to get more accomplished in less time when I multi-task.
However, when it comes to work that requires any amount of focus, multi-tasking will certainly make you feel busy, but it could actually hurt your productivity.
Whenever I need to really focus on something, I've found that I'm much more productive if I complete one task before moving onto the next task -- or trying to do multiple tasks at one time.
4. Evaluate if the task is necessary AND beneficial.
There are so many times when I've wasted valuable time doing something just because I thought it was necessary, only to realize (after the fact) that it was just needless busywork -- not actually anything productive. Whether it's meetings, conference calls, or responding to every single email in your inbox, take the time to consider whether the activity is really going to benefit you or if you'll just be wasting time.
By implementing these tips, you'll hopefully get more done in less time!