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Are you productive or busy?

· personal development,productivity,time management

Are you productive or busy? What's the difference? Aren't they just the same? They can be. You can be a busy and productive, but quite often the two are worlds apart. I know. There was once a time when I was busy, but I wasn't really getting what I needed to get done. I felt the pile of work I already had turn into an insurmountable mountain. I was working, hard. But I wasn't being productive. I was responding to emails, attending meetings, training, but my to do list just grew and grew and grew - urgh.

There are so many reasons that you can be on that spinning wheel of busy and not really getting through your to-do-list. Sometimes, it's how your organisation is set up and sometimes it's just not being able to see the woods for the trees. This series of posts will give you all you need to learn to be productive, not just busy.

Change your thinking

1. The first thing is to stop thinking you need to be busy. Stop, stop, stop. It's a hard habit to break. Instead think in terms of what you have achieved, rather than rushing around looking like you're doing a lot. I have seen this in the office so many times. Doing, doing, doing, but not really getting what they need to done. So take a big breath and let yourself know that you're going to be productive. Achieve what you need to achieve.

Write that list

2. Write down what you need to get done. Write it down in small achievable chunks. This may take a while when you first start doing it, but it will get quicker the more you do it.

For example: today I wanted to get my blog posts out for this week. I could have written on my to-do-list, do blog posts for the week. But that feels impossible. I would have to think about what those blogs posts are when I am half way through the day and by then, my creativity and planning has gone to sleep. So instead, I wrote it down in specific tasks.

  • Write blog post on time management and productivity. 
  • Put together iconography on time management. 

I didn't know how long these would take, but I put next to them an approximate amount of time and then added another 15 minutes for distractions (urgent emails, phone calls, social media). By putting a time next to each task I can be realistic about how much I can get done each day.

Lunch - yes please

3. Now schedule lunch. Yep. I know what it's like to eat lunch at your desk everyday, but honestly even 15 minutes away from your desk will make you more productive in the afternoon. I don't schedule time for morning or afternoon tea breaks, but I do add it into the time I schedule for tasks. That way, I take it whenever I feel like it.

Order of the day

4. Once I have my list, I order it. Only focussing on the top 6 things to do. Or if they are big tasks, the top 3. If the list feels overwhelming, put a piece of paper over the other tasks. Now ordering the list has two purposes for me. Getting things done that needs to be completed urgently and putting the task I don't want to do at the top of the list. By doing the task you don't want to do first, it means that all that room it is taking up in your brain, will be free to allow you to get on with the rest of your day.

Schedule in your calendar

5. When I worked in an office and had lots of meetings and training, this was a life saver for me, so I wouldn't over schedule my time. I would add all my meetings into my calendar as standard, but also my tasks and then I would colour code them. The colour coding wasn't just for fun, it was so I could quickly look at my calendar and know what type of task I had to do. I would even schedule in prep time for meetings and training, otherwise I would be running from place to place without preparing.

This is my colour code I used:

Green - training or coaching (because the colour green makes me think of nature and growth and that's what learning is to me)

Yellow - this was lunch and holidays (yellow represents sunshine for me and happiness, aka lunch and holidays)

Orange - tasks. Anything that was on my to do list that wasn't meetings or other people (not sure why orange for this)

Blue - meetings

Create your own colour code, it makes it easier to remember what each colour means. If you're using outlook, get someone to show you how to make the colours bolder.

End of the day: get it out of your head

6. I know that you want to just leave and go home as soon as possible, but by taking 10 minutes at the end of the day, you can help yourself switch off quicker. Put on your list any actions/tasks that you need to add to your to-do-list tomorrow. This way, it's on paper and not in your head.


Now go home and don't dream about work.

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