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  • Writer's pictureJacob Curtis

Productive vs. Being Busy What is the Difference?

Being busy isn’t the same thing as being productive.

Productivity means working towards a goal. It means tangible progress, a timeline you can stick to, and an achievement that you’re reaching.

But just being busy? That doesn’t mean anything. You’re doing things for no real reason. You may feel like you’re working hard, and you may actually be a lot more stressed than you are when you’re truly productive. But you’re not really going anywhere.

Being productive is like getting on your bike and setting off on the road to finish a race, with mile markers and a finish line. Being busy is like huffing and puffing on a stationary exercise bike and wondering why you haven’t left your living room.

Today we’re going to talk about how to tell the difference between true productivity and just busy work.

What Are You Working Towards?

Productivity means you know what you’re working towards. You have a vision, and a purpose, and you understand how your daily tasks contribute to that purpose.

It’s important to have different kinds of goals in your business. Have long-term goals, like a five-year plan, but also make quarterly or monthly goals to monitor your progress. If you’ve been too caught up in day-to-day busy work to make goals for yourself, remember to make your goals specific, measurable, and attainable.

Give yourself a reasonable timeline to reach your goal. It won’t help you at all to make what should be a long-term goal a short-term goal. You’ll either give up on it or do a poor job because you’re rushing.

Break up your longer-term goals into short-term goals. For example, maybe you want to take a year to get into good enough shape to run a marathon. In that case, maybe your goal is to be able to run a 5k in one month, and a half marathon in six months.

What’s Your Vision?

It’s pretty easy to come up with personal goals, like the above example of running a marathon. But what about goals for your business? What would a business goal even look like?

Start off with the main vision behind your business. What’s your purpose? Do you have a mission statement?

If you have that mission statement firmly in your mind, it will be easy to think of goals you might want your business to reach. Do you want to increase your sales? By how much? Maybe you want to start selling a new kind of product, or maybe you want to hone in on your ideal customer base. What are the small steps to reach that goal? How will you measure your progress?

You also want to make sure your goals are reasonable. To go back to the example of running a marathon, getting fast enough to compete in the Olympics is probably not a reasonable goal for most people. And if you tried to achieve that goal anyway, you’d get discouraged and quit running at best, and maybe even injure yourself at worst. At the other end of the extreme, if your goal is just to run around the block, you’re going to reach that quickly and not feel any satisfaction from it. So be really honest with yourself about what is a good-fit goal for your business. Don’t think too big or too small.

Start off with the big picture, and then break it down into smaller pieces. At the most granular level, you want to connect all of your daily tasks to your goals. That way you can reframe your thinking from just getting by day to day to working towards something you want to achieve. When you have those goals set in your mind, share them with everyone you work with, so your whole team can work together.

Need help determining your vision or purpose? Check out our Resource Page to download your free guide now.

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