Everyone has probably heard it many times from other people: "I can't, I'm busy".
Everyone is busy. It seems like it's a new standard to be busy. You're not busy? Then you're not doing much, you're certainly wasting your time. That's the common thinking nowadays, and it's frustrating. Let me explain.
I know many people that look like they're really busy. They think they're doing great work, manage their life in a way that fills all their time with some productive work, but that's often not true. You see, being busy doesn't mean being productive. Sometimes it's quite the opposite.
And we all want to be productive, right? So when we're busy, we tend to think that we're reaching our goal. Busy time = productive time, right?
It took me a while to realize all that is not true. I can be busy all day, yet not finish that much. If I were productive all day, I would have finished a lot of stuff. And that's the whole difference. If you want to be productive, not just busy – you have to start thinking about the quality of your work too, not just about the time it took to complete it.
Being productive is about using your time to finish your tasks in an optimal timespan. It's all about working smart, it's about being efficient – and that appeals also to your time. If you want to feel like a really productive person, you need to forget about just being busy, because it's not any measure on its own. For example, listing all your tasks for the day and finishing them or most of them could give you the feeling of being busy, but it would also be productive, because you did a great job for that day. On the other hand, if you just sit in front on your computer all day an manage to finish maybe just few tasks while spending all your time and energy on that – congratulations, you can tell everyone that you're busy, because you really are – but you're not productive, you're not efficient. You're just busy. At the end of the day you might even feel accomplished, but did you really do enough to be?
It's a good excuse to be busy and everyone will understand that. But if you really want to get stuff done, you need to forget about being busy as any measure of your work, because all it is – is an excuse. Once I understood that, it has changed the way I look at work and my daily tasks.
Parkinson's law tells us that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion" and I think it has a lot in common with being busy. If you have a task and you work on it without any schedule, you start being busy, but you're essentially wasting your time, because if you set yourself a deadline – you'll then be productive, finish tasks easier and get more done – and be less busy.
Try it on your own – start "hacking" Parkinson's law and make use of schedules and deadlines. Write out your tasks for the day or week. Think about the quality of your work, not just the time it took to complete. These are the most efficient methods of breaking the habit of being busy that I know and personally use. It might change your whole perspective on work and productivity. Onto a more productive and less busy life!