A busy life doesn’t mean a productive one

Before a top fuel dragster can make a pass the driver heats up the tires and lays down rubber to improve traction by feverishly spinning the tires in place while making little forward progress. The smoke and nitromethane fuel billowing into the air is an exciting sight. This is appropriately known as a burnout. But when the driver makes their run, they want minimal tire spin to launch their dragster toward the quarter mile marker in as little as 4.5 seconds at speeds near 330 mph. That’s productivity.

It’s important in every industry to differentiate between being busy and being productive. In the new economy results take precedence over appearances. Focusing on being productive has the potential to reduce stress and improve the end results. While making the common mistake of believing in our own abilities to achieve anything we set our minds to can lead to unnecessary disappointment, stress and unaccomplished goals.

David Allen, author of Getting Things Done offers some helpful tips for effective time management. He recommends grouping tasks and writing them down to prioritize your workload and reduce the time that’s wasted from task switching in your brain. Do this before the end of the evening and sleep better knowing the next day can start with productive tasks.

Another piece of advice, increase focus by setting internal rules for how often points of contact are checked. Since I can’t ignore an unopened e-mail, I’ve setup my e-mail preferences to show me new e-mails only every hour.

Lastly, take uninterrupted time to complete complex tasks so that the distraction of less complex tasks doesn’t diminish the quality of important ones.

Multitasking may be unavoidable, but minimizing it and even just being aware of its pitfalls can produce results. Reducing the number of concurrent task or open computer programs to only two will immediately increase effectiveness and work quality by concentrating focus.

Busy people commonly set unrealistic goals that cannot be delivered upon. It’s frequently said that we all have the same 24 hours in a day. Set realistic goals to ensure that expectations are delivered upon. And sometimes we have to say “no.” No matter how good the intentions, we cannot be everything to everyone all the time. Doing occasional favors in infrequent situations can be a positive thing. But, saying no when necessary frees up time for the tasks that deserve attention the most and solidifies expectations.

Implement some of these ideas to accomplish more, with less wasted energy and a reduced chance of burnout.

Wes Thurman serves as Art Director for Imagine Marketing.
Contact Wes at

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