If you haven’t had a chance to read The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, you owe it to yourself to check it out. One of the most important aspects of the book, that I think a lot of us struggle with is the difference between being busy and productive. Ferriss says, “Focus on being productive instead of busy.” No, those two things are not the same thing. Busy and productive are actually two very, very different things. I mean, if you sit back and look at your day and feel like you were busy, ask yourself what you actually got done. Too often we spend so much effort spinning our wheels without moving forward a single foot. With that thought in mind, here are 5 ways to make that shift from being busy to actually being productive.
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The first thing you have to be productive is figure out what it is that you’re trying to do. I know that sounds simple and redundant, but it’s the truth. Everything from a day as a homemaker to a day as a CEO requires an end goal in site.
This is the step that helps me out the most in remaining productive. Basically, what you do is once you’ve established what needs to be done, break it down into smaller parts. I do this with a whiteboard, or even just with notepads. The bigger the task, the smaller the pieces you can break it into. Not only does this make daunting tasks more approachable, it makes the progress tangible. There is nothing like the joy of crossing an item off of a to-do list.
The point of visualizing the tasks is not to necessarily create an order in which they should be done. Take a minute to prioritize and organize. For instance, if certain tasks require leaving the office, group them all together so that you can get them all done in one trip. Again, I know that example sounds rudimentary, but organization serves as a chance to really go back through your tasks and develop a method to your madness.
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If you’ve got the opportunity to delegate tasks, do so accordingly. No one should have to tackle giant projects on their own. For instance, running a household is a giant project – once you’ve addressed what needs to be done, the partners can delegate the tasks to get them done efficiently.
Clear Your Mind
When you’ve got projects that take multiple days, nothing is better than just clearing your mind. Again, for me personally – this goes back to visualizing. Go back through what you’ve done take notes, and just clear your head of what’s been done. As gratifying as it is to cross something off of a physical checklist, it is just as important to wipe it from your brain to focus on what needs to be finished.
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The biggest difference in being busy and being productive is actually finishing what you’ve started. When we are busy, it is usually because we are in the middle of doing several things, instead of finishing them one at a time. I’m not saying that you can’t multitask but, at least, multitask on things that are associated to the same project. I’m bad about this one, personally, but when you put all these tips together, you’ll find that working smarter gets more things done in less time.