“Beware the barrenness of a busy life”.
Dictionary.com defines busy as having a great deal to do.
Conversely, Dictionary.com defines productive as producing or able to produce large amounts of goods, crops, or other commodities.
So, which of these definitions describes your daily endeavors in the workplace?
People use the terms in a similar fashion, but I am quick to tell folks my goal is to be productive daily.
Busy can quickly become a mindset that leads to staff becoming overwhelmed with the tasks they must handle in the work environment. I ask staff members how they are doing throughout the day and when I hear someone say they are busy I simply ask: are you busy or productive?
This makes folks pause for a bit and then they want to know the difference. Again, I refer to the two distinct definitions. Someone who exclaims they are busy is identifying they have a lot of things to do, and they are thinking about that workload. Some will just come out and say I have a lot on my plate and need to get things done. Sounds reasonable but it can also cause a mental drain on the staff member and anyone else who hears a constant “I am busy” drumbeat in the work environment. Yes, there may be a lot to do but saying ‘busy’ does not move the needle to get things done.
Flip the script!
My goal is to be productive daily, and this starts with the concept of coming to work to get things done. The old saying talk is cheap would apply here. Talking about being busy does nothing to get task accomplished. A productive mindset allows staff members to come in with focus and take an active role in getting things done. Tools I use to increase productivity:
- To Do Lists (daily, weekly, monthly)
- Outlook calendar (meeting reminders, team time off, out of office reminders)
- Face to face conversations
- Large Post It Notes on my office walls
- Staff meetings (group, 1:1, virtual)
I have used To Do Lists for most of my professional life and these lists help me plan/organize my day to keep me focused on deadlines and work products I need to complete. I begin each morning before going into the office with a list of action items I want to accomplish for the day. I sync this list up with any items I did not complete the previous day once I arrive in the office.
FYI, I am also the first person in the building most days so I can have 45 minutes to consolidate my lists and build a game plan for the day. Yes, I put this much thought into my operation to ensure I have a productive day. I am trying to maximize my opportunities to be productive and leverage all the tools available to help me with this. A secondary benefit of my lists is they allow me to pick up where I left off when I must help staff members with a task or problem. I can come back and pick up where I left off without wasting time trying to remember what I need to get done. Please note, staff and clients take priority, so I get a lot of practice coming back to my daily lists.
Face to face conversations are a great way to keep the productivity flowing. I find simply getting up from my desk and going to have a conversation is more productive than emailing back and forth. We can talk things through, come to a consensus and eliminate potential misunderstandings. Of course, this only works if the person is available to have a conversation. 😊
The large Post It Notes on my office walls is something I started while working in the Florida State University’s Career Center. The concept was for me to put big projects on Post It Notes so staff could come into the office and add updates to each project. I began to allow staff to build their own projects and put them on my office walls so we could work them together. I got the Post It Note idea because my white board was not large enough to highlight multiple projects. I purchase the Post It Notes from Staples and they stick to the wall. These notes provide a great visual to highlight how productive we are on any given day. One of my current staff members said coming into my office and seeing the notes is like being ‘in my mind’. I quickly told her to get out of there because there is a lot going on up there. 😊
There are other ways to become productive in the work environment, but these are a few that I leverage daily to help move me and the organization forward.
So, I ask you, are you busy or productive? What tools are you using to help your productivity? I welcome your thoughts—thanks!
“Focus on being productive instead of busy”.