Are You Busy or Are You Productive?

Guaranteed Success: What are Your Top 3?

“Few things are as dangerous as being busy.” – Robin Sharma

It seems we’ve all mastered the art of being busy. Ask around—you won’t find many people who wish they were busier. But I think Oprah said it best: “The essential question is not, ‘How busy are you?’ but “What are you busy at?'”

The Problem With Busy
What Oprah was getting at is that where you direct your time and energy matters. It’s not enough to just spend time and energy. You need to spend it wisely. Emails, phone calls, staff interruptions, checking voice mail, texts—these are all things that feel important. When we do them we feel like we’re getting something done. We feel productive. But often those things are nothing more than the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.

Cutting Through Busy to Productive
I was listening to an interview with Mark Sanborn and he posed a wonderful question:

What are the three things that you should do everyday to ensure your ongoing success?

At its core, this question is about separating the urgent from the important.  About avoiding the trap of being busy but not productive. After I heard this question, I took a few minutes to think through what mine were. I’m sharing my top four here and invite you to share yours so we can all learn from each other.

My Top Four:
Building relationships
Content development
Leadership of my team

Quiet, But Critical
Highly productive activities often share a common characteristic: they’re quiet. Unlike the squeaky wheels, important actions don’t come calling. They just sit back and wait. That’s true of my important activities.

For example:
If I don’t get on the exercise bike and work out, the bike doesn’t call to ask why. Yet being healthy and energetic is critical to my productivity.

If I don’t develop any new content today, my customers don’t call to complain, even though new content is critically important to my business.

If I don’t build relationships, other people won’t build them for me, even though relationships are critical to my personal and business life.

The important things in work and life don’t always come knocking. They’re easily pushed to the background by the squeaky wheels that make you busy, but not productive.  And they also play second fiddle to the voice in your head that tells you to do what you want not what you should. To put off what’s important to another time.

Being busy is easy. And while being productive may be hard, it’s also what defines the difference between the good and the great. What 3 to 5 actions would ensure your success if you did them every day? Let us know in the comments!