Being Busy vs Being Productive

More and more I encounter people who talk about how much they’re involved in and how many things they do.  Quite often this is delivered in the form of complaint.  I have to wonder, who is it that puts these burdens upon them?  Is it not they themselves who choose to engage in so many activities?

I also note that some of these people are not especially good at some of the things they do.  Some seem to be forever working toward things they never actually achieve: chasing after something that eludes them because they’re weighed down with too much detritus not related to that goal.

too many projectsOur modern world sets this scenario as being the norm and anyone who is not over-burdened is lazy.  I see sayings like, “If you want something done, give it to the busiest person you know.”  At first glance that seems to make sense, but upon deeper examination it falls apart.  Is that person “busy” because as soon as they finish one task they take on another or because they accomplish little: just trying to keep all the plates spinning?  Too often it is the latter.


I learned long ago that I don’t do well at trying to do several things all at once.  I accomplish more by focusing on one task until it’s done.  By prioritizing my day so that I work on the most important thing first, and by designating a realistic number of things to get done each day.

Sometimes dealing with the world means I have to compromise that.  Today, for example, my highest priority task is to get Blondie Bear to her veterinarian appointment at 2:30 this afternoon.  But I won’t squander the time before that, I will pursue other tasks, but with an eye on the clock and an awareness of how much time it will take to secure the dog-herd, get myself changed into “going-out-in-public” clothes, get Blondie loaded into the truck, and drive to the vet office.  Because that is most important.

Have-to-do and Do-when-possible

I keep a list of things that I’ve identified as needing to be done.  Much of this is done in a planner style pocket calendar.  I write in only the high priority tasks: day and time.  The others I write on small sticky notes and attach them to the days I plan to do them and in the order that would be best.  As I complete them I peal off the note to reveal the next task.  This way I can rearrange if needed, or move things to another day if one day falls apart completely.  Because that happens.

I have to remind myself that life is fluid: the unexpected pops up and things have to change.  All the more reason to have things prioritized: know what is most important and go after that first. Then go after the next most important.  Get to the little stuff when you can.

Pressure to Perform

Taking on more than you can reasonably handle puts a lot of pressure on yourself.  This pressure results in stress.  Stress results in degraded health.  Degraded health results in reduced ability to do things.  Reduced ability to keep up with the flood of things you feel you need to do results in more stress.


You will be healthier, happier, and more productive if you learn to say “no” (without feeling guilty) to those things that are a low priority to you, be realistic about how long it takes to do things, and make time to step away from the crush to relax — not once a year, not once a month, but at least weekly.

Taking proper care of yourself, physically and emotionally, keeps you better able to stay on task for yourself an to do things for others too.

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