One of the single biggest time management mistakes people make is to confuse being busy with being productive. When you are busy, all you are doing is filling time. You are working, so it gives the temporary illusion that you are getting something done, but you’re not. If you want to actually make progress on a goal you have to be productive.
(Check out my video about being busy and productive Here)
When school let out last week, several of my colleagues asked me how I planned to keep busy this summer. I don’t plan to “keep busy” this summer. I plan to be productive.
This summer, I have many goals but my biggest one is to prepare my book for publication. My manuscript is finished but as I’m quickly finding out, writing the book is one of the easier parts of the publishing process! I’ve decided that the only way I’m going to finish this summer is to find time every day to devote to the book. I could spend this time reformatting all of my headings and playing with the cover font. I am technically “working” on the book, but I’m only being busy. I’m not taking concrete steps to move toward my goal. Sure, the cover font needs to be dealt with at some point, but the more pressing issue is finding an editor and researching publishing outlets. If I want to be productive on my book right now, I need to work toward those goals. (On that note, if you know of a trusted editor, let me know!)
Busy is Easy, Productive is Hard
The problem we have is that being busy is easy. Being productive is hard. Here are three simple steps to make sure your work sessions are productive:
1) Have a Goal- Without a goal, our work has no purpose. Have a concrete goal that you are working toward.
2) Have a Plan- Your goal is worthless if you don’t have a plan to get there. What small thing can you do each day that will move you toward your goal?
3) Re-assess Your Plan – After you create your plan, you can’t blindly continue down your path. If something isn’t working, re-assess and change your approach.
Remember, sometimes your plan won’t always work and it might feel like you are taking a step backwards, but that’s OK. A step backward means you’re learning from your mistakes and sometimes that’s part of being productive. When you’re busy, you’re only taking steps sideways. You’re still moving, but you’re not going anywhere. Only productivity actually moves you toward your goals.
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