It is a common perspective that people who deem themselves busy are productive and reach their goals. However, from careful observation of “busy people”, I found that many were just racing through their day to go home and run back to their televisions, their video games and anything else that is distracting.
Again and again I experienced “busy people” complaining and listing all the things on their to-do-list, only to postpone most of them. They showed common patterns, such as complaining about a goal or task, but further delaying it as much as possible. They were running around, were here and there, but ended up with nothing. They kept blaming external factors for their lack of progression.
We all strive to be productive but few people have the necessary skills to do it efficiently, thus leaving most of us in the category of a procrastinator.
As someone who used to be such a “procrastinator”, I have found ways to overcome lethargy and become productive. I broke this cycle unwillingly when the task that I had delayed for so long was substantially overdue, which of course was the situation for many other tasks. With nobody to help, I took the “bull by the horns” and prepared myself to navigate this exploding mind field. It is safe to say it was not a smooth ride, but I manage to get out of it almost unscathed. After that, I vowed never to procrastinate and be “busy” again. Now, I am determined to be productive.
With this in mind, here are my tips, as well as some pointers from experts on how to be a productive person:
1. Write Everything in your Calendar (with alerts at least one day in advance)
A seemingly simple approach, yet how many people actually do it? Before I developed this habit, I would sometimes miss meetings and forget about items on my to-do-list (don’t lie, we all have one). It wasn’t until I received an angry e-mail from an acquaintance that I realized I had missed our meetings two days in a row. Needless to say, it wasn’t a pretty experience and not something I would prefer to repeat. A task that would take ten seconds to perform I had pushed because I was too “busy” with other things.
However, don’t stop with a simple alert. Sync your calendar with your emails and computer so that you have at least three places where you will be reminded of upcoming items. Believe me, the three tier system has saved me more than I would like to admit. I also recommend setting up alerts one day and two hours before the event. That way, if you are like me, and forget everything almost instantly, you’ll be saved again!
2. Take a Breath and Think Before you Act
The saying “think before you speak” rings true here. Many of us have a one-track mind (i.e. doing one task at a time). However, thinking in a “one-track” manner causes a lot of back and forth between departments and tasks. As a result, items on that infamous to-do-list are avoided. Rather, it will save time if you tell yourself to stop, slow down and take five seconds to think about what you are going to do next. Indeed, five seconds are all it takes for you to turn from a busy person into a productive person.
3. Say Yes, but Wisely
You are either a person who says YES to everything or NO to everything. There is often no middle ground. If you are a NO person I am going to assume you are not busy and therefore do not need to read this article any further. However, if you are a YES person, please keep reading.
YES people like me will say YES without a second thought. Most sources, to help you become less busy, suggest to say NO more often, but where’s the fun in that? Say YES as much as possible, but keep in mind that we are all humans and can’t be in several places at once.
Before saying YES to anything, I always quickly glance at my calendar to make sure I am not in a scheduling conflict. One of the worse things you can do is overlap events and then realize it shortly before it happens. Again, this has happened to me and again, angry emails ensued. As mentioned above, I make a habit of not being in situations where I get angry emails – It clearly is something I prefer to avoid.
4. Stop Complaining
If you are complaining of being too busy then most likely you are not “busy”. Also, no one wants to hear about how “busy” you are. Sorry, but that’s the truth. That being said, you should use this new found silence and put it towards reaching your goals and tasks. I promise that it will be better use of your time.
5. Find Balance
As clichéd as it sounds, it is quite true. Earlier this year I thought, “I don’t need to relax. I can totally go on working non-stop for a few weeks”. Was I wrong! I spent the three weeks waking up, working incessantly for 14 hours, go to sleep only to repeat the same schedule the following day.
I thought this was possible until one weekend I went to bed on Friday night, planning to work the next day, but instead woke up at noon on Sunday feeling like I crawled out from a cave. It was neither fun nor worth it and I was not as productive as if I had given myself at least an hour a day to relax.
That being said, this doesn’t mean being a vegetable watching Netflix for six hours will avoid the “cave crawl”. It just means that we all need to accept that we are human, not machines and need breaks and recovery time.
Now let’s get productive, prioritize the important things and avoid the “cave crawl”.