4 Ways to Shift from Busy to Productive


As a business owner, would you consider yourself productive or just busy? It seems like time is flying by at warp speed these days and I often catch myself working harder instead of smarter. Can you relate?

Unfortunately, it’s only gotten worse as I get older. I’m getting less and less done than I’m used to and I’m sure there are plenty of readers out there that can relate to that frustration.   

So, I started looking at why it was that I was running all day and still not reaching important daily goals.

Tasks that are easy aren’t always the most productive

Easy vs. Productive

I had to admit to myself that I was gravitating to the easier things: returning emails, researching, organizing my office, or making calls.

But, the stuff that really counted kept sliding from one day to the next.

Each night, as I reviewed my Task List, I got discouraged and mad at myself for getting distracted and swore the next day would be different.

I was “on a mission” I’d tell myself.  Only the next day wasn’t different.

Yes, I was meeting deadlines, but I wasn’t charting new territory. There were several new projects that I wanted to dive into, some new computer skills I wanted to learn, doing a better job with social media postings, and other projects.

Sound familiar?

To be more productive, ask yourself the right questions

To Be More Productive – Ask The Right Questions

So, how do we go from a life of “been there, done that” to a life that’s more productive and meaningful?

As with any task, it starts with asking the right questions.

You also need to get to the bottom of why you get distracted or can’t meet your goal expectations in the first place. From there it’s easier to find ways to work smarter.

For instance, do the things on your Task List have real meaning to you or at least have enough benefit to make them worth your valuable time and energy?

Are you filling up the day with less important tasks just to avoid dealing with the more difficult ones that you feel intimidated by or just hate doing?

Are you only doing things on your Task List that make you feel good or get excited doing?

By the way, that isn’t a bad thing.  Having things on our Task List that make us feel better about ourselves can be healthy.

Doing things like learning new skills, tasks that allow us to achieve milestones we can be proud of and things we just flat-out love to do can all be good for the mind and soul.

But, if the things that are taking you off task happen to be less goal-oriented, be honest about it.

To be productive, you have to “own your day”

Own Your Day

In a Forbes article written by Jennifer Cohen on the topic of being busy versus productive, she says “The most productive and efficient people are those that “own their day” versus letting their day own them. They work to maximize their time to be as productive as possible, not just busy”.

She used an example of where a busy person would write a note to follow up with a client or vendor when a productive person would have already acted by calling them and getting it done right then and there.

Seems a little intimidating, doesn’t it?  Like being required to be some kind of Task Superhero.

Productivity takes planning

Getting Real About a Plan

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s the good news! You don’t have to be going a zillion miles per hour every minute of the day to be productive.

For all you limited-energy people, there’s hope!  You can be productive at a slower pace just as much as you can at a pace where your pants are on fire.

The secret is understanding what your true goal is and being realistic about how you’ll achieve it.

The old adage about “how do you eat an elephant?” rings true.  You can achieve anything as long as you work at it one bite (or step) at a time.

So, let’s tackle that big ole elephant right now!

Steps to an Achievable Goal

Step One – Get very clear on what it is you want to achieve. Be realistic about the time, energy, and attention that effort will require.

This means being honest with yourself about the realities and skill sets you have in time management, discipline, and organization.

If you know you have too many other work or personal commitments to complete a task, reset your expectations to accommodate those factors.

Step Two – Focus on one task at a time.

For people like me who tend to multitask, this can be challenging. But it’s critical to the success of your mission to do it.   I know it works because it’s advice I’ve given my senior and coaching clients for years who were tackling a downsizing move or business challenge.

When they focused on one area and completed the project before moving on to the next task, they felt good about their accomplishment. It gave them confidence and inspiration to continue the quest.

Master Your Calendar

Step Three – Master your calendar.

Trying to do tasks without scheduling and sticking to that schedule only promotes frustration and self-recrimination.  We’d like to avoid that, right?  So let’s take those tasks you’ve worked so hard to break down from step one. Figure out a day and time when you can give it 100% of your attention without distractions.

You’ll be amazed about how much you can get accomplished when you carve out blocks of dedicated time. This means no phone calls, no answering emails, or other typical daily distractions until the task is completed.

Some experts in time management suggest writing down everything you do over a 1-2 day period of time. It gives you a better idea of the type of activities you are spending most of your time working on. I’ve done this exercise and it is definitely an eye-opener. Try it!

Break the process down into smaller bites

Step Four – Think smaller.

When you’re planning goals, you may need to think smaller when it comes to managing tasks.

Creating smaller tasks may seem like they’ll take longer for you to complete your goal. But, it will actually help you complete it faster.

I’ll give you an example. Back when I started my first business I had a line item on my Task List to create a website.  Each day, that line item got pushed forward. Why? Well, first, I didn’t even know where to start the process.

Second, it was too large a task to do in one day or even a week. By not setting realistic expectations, I set myself up for failure.

It was only when I broke the process down into smaller steps that I could complete the task and feel less overwhelmed.

The Biggest Block to Being Productive

What’s the most consistent factor that keeps people in the “busy” mode instead of being productive? I’ve already mentioned it a few times. It’s called distraction.

Being able to control those distractions will allow you to get a lot more done, in less time and with less frustration. 

I know you can do it! Show yourself that you have the mindset and the will to make that task list a success story!

So, until next time, my friend, as I always say….stay safe, stay healthy and stay strong!

P.S. If you’re starting a new downsizing business, but feeling overwhelmed and unsure if you can do it all on your own, the Downsizing Institute’s Mastery Program may be your answer. Check it out here.