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Create More Hours in Your Day by Being Productive, Not Busy

Don't brag about being busy—turn your unproductive busyness into focused productivity.
June 13, 2017

I hate busy people. 

More specifically, I don't care to be around people who love being busy and telling you all about just how busy they are—those people who are constantly in a rush, look flustered, and manage in every conversation to bring up how many emails they receive on a daily basis.

The issue is that too many people confuse being busy with being productive and, worse, pride themselves on being busy. It's time to remove the busy badge of honor and learn how to turn that unproductive busyness into focused productivity that makes you feel like you have more hours in your day.

The Myth of Multitasking

If you believe that you can productively multitask, then I have some oceanfront property in Arizona I'd like to sell you. Multitasking is a myth; it's not a real thing. What most people call multitasking is actually switch-tasking, according to leadership expert Dave Crenshaw. This method can take longer and potentially lead to more errors in your work. In fact, according to Crenshaw, you can spend twice as long completing tasks this way than if you were to just separate the activities and complete them one after the other. 

A great organization strategy can be the difference between always being ahead of deadlines and being the person who is 10 minutes late to every meeting.

—Kelsey Meyer, co-founder and president, Influence & Co.

If you're ready to turn your unproductive busyness into focused productivity, these tips can help.

1. Minimize self-made distractions.

This switch-tasking plays out for business owners when they think they can take phone calls and respond to email and organize their desks all at the same time. Instead of trying to do it all at once, use block scheduling to set aside chunks of time to focus on specific types of work, like meetings and phone calls in the mornings and creative work in the afternoons. This keeps you from switching from one way of thinking to another all day long.

While you're at it, remove unnecessary distractions by muting (or turning off) Slack, Google Chat, social media and other desktop notifications while you're working on certain tasks.

2. Eat that frog.

Another thing people do that makes them feel busy (but not super productive) is give themselves small tasks to do all day, rather than sitting down and doing the hard work they really don't want to do but that will have the biggest impact on their company.

Brian Tracy wrote a great book called Eat That Frog! to help people stop procrastinating. The title is based on the saying that if you eat a frog first thing in the morning, you have the satisfaction of knowing that everything else you do that day will be more enjoyable. People make themselves busy to avoid eating the frog. If you start your day by doing your hardest work, then you can be (and feel) more productive.

3. Optimize your organization.

Many people who seem insanely busy are simply disorganized. A great organization strategy can be the difference between always being ahead of deadlines and being the person who is 10 minutes late to every meeting.

There are dozens of organization methods, techniques, and tools out there, so try a few and see what works for you. Some favorites of my team members at Influence & Co. include:

• To-do list apps and tools like Wunderlist or Todoist to keep your task list organized

• Email tools like Mixmax or Charlie App to cut down on time spent scheduling and prepping for calls with clients and partners

• Editorial calendars and templates to keep your company's marketing goals on track

• Methods like the Pomodoro Technique to tackle those big projects

4. Stop bragging about being busy.

The final step in creating more time in your day is to understand and truly internalize the fact that busyness is not a point of pride; being busy doesn't make you a better entrepreneur, manager or employee.

Instead, pride yourself on becoming a non-busy person who has time to think critically and creatively, to read and learn more about your company and your industry, and, most important, to be productive and make a meaningful difference in your organization. Making a huge impact on your business without making yourself sick working 100 hours a week? Now, that's something to brag about.

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Photo: Getty Images