Are You Productive or Just Busy?

Boosting on-the-job productivity.

Kallee Feuz Sep 1, 2017

It’s the end of a hectic workday. From dawn to dusk, you breathlessly darted from conference call to client meeting to email inbox, returning requests served your way like Serena Williams on the tennis court. But as you straighten up your workspace and prepare to head home, you realize that you accomplished very little over the course of the day. Despite your perspiration, you were, in the words of Bing Crosby, “Busy doing nothing.”

Unlike the mere act of being busy, productivity is tied to achieving or producing a significant result. On-the-job productivity follows when you take charge of your time and make your workday more meaningful. Following are ideas for boosting productivity at work:

1. Set incremental and long-term goals. Goal setting helps you prioritize your to-do list so the most important items get checked off first. What do you want to accomplish in your current job? What daily and weekly duties matter most? What steps can you take to move toward your long-term career goals?

2. Be proactive rather than reactive. Instead of reacting to other people’s priorities, take control of your own. Call to check up on a client before a problem arises; create an opportunity instead of waiting for one to come your way.

3. Don’t say “yes” to everything. Sometimes the unintended consequence of saying yes to one commitment means saying no to another. In his Harvard Business Review article, author Greg McKeown suggests “not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately and strategically eliminating the nonessentials.” Ask yourself: Will this undertaking matter in a day, week or month from now?

4. Don’t be afraid to sacrifice short-term efficiency for long-term productivity. Charles Duhigg, author of “Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business,” gives the example of personal conversations at the beginning of a business meeting. While five minutes discussing weekend events and family life might seem like wasted time, a group who gets to know each other better will become more productive over the long term.

5. Take periodic checkups. People are good at knowing whether they are productive, Duhigg says, but too often don’t stop to analyze how they are spending their time. To stay productive, regularly ask yourself: Am I spending my time in a way that is meaningful?

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