In order to achieve effective productivity in your life, it is first useful to be able to identify the subtle differences between being productive and being busy.
Prioritization : Wishing vs. Willing
Often, our productive goals consistently fall second to our busy to-do lists, as we validate the latter as an obligation and relegate the former to an option. The importance —or lack thereof— we levy upon our tasks can easily leave us prioritizing a redundant cycle of futility and eventual stagnancy.
The danger in poor prioritization is that our motivation begins to atrophy and our goals become smaller and smaller; a worthy goal regresses to a passing thought to a suppressed fantasy. We discredit our potential and scope of possibility when we compromise our time to a busy cycle where futility takes priority. We make time for one and leave the rare leftovers for the other.
Our productive and passionate goals are reserved for the endangered and evasive “spare time” because we think of them as more personal and thus more expendable, and therefore do not hold ourselves accountable for their fruition. Those who reserve spare time for their goals will rarely ever find it and thus, will habitually occupy themselves with busyness and then pardon and rationalize their lack of progress accordingly.
So many dreamers leave their dreams behind because they could not mature into doers—because they did not hold their aspirations sacred enough to allocate the necessary time for them. They place them in the ‘wishing’ pile rather than the ‘doing’ pile, and discover a bit too late that wishing to do something is drastically inferior to willing to do it.
5 Differences Between Being Busy & Being Productive:
1. Productivity is defined by output while busyness is defined by input.
This is the interaction between what you are doing and why you are doing it. This discernment contextualizes the purpose of your tasks. Without the “why,” or the intended output, the “what,” or the input, is futile. Productivity builds the “what” in complete submission and reverence to the desired “why.” There is a goal, a desired output, synonymous to progress that the input is striving towards.
Busyness is quite satisfied by resultless input simply for the false sense of accomplishment for having done anything at all. If the only cause and effect of your task equates to doing something so that anything can be done, knock it to the bottom of the list. Do not waste your time prioritizing activities for activity’s sake.
2. Productivity values long term fulfillment while busyness values short term satisfaction.
Productivity is concerned with where we’re going in life while busyness is concerned with what we’re doing today. In order to be effectively productive, it is necessary to have 20/20 vision in order to prioritize your short term goals in reference to the long term ones. You are using both near and far sight. The most effective short term goal is the one that builds towards the long term one. This acute perception helps us to identify the futile or constructive value of a task on a grander spectrum rather than our usual day-to-day perspective. Identifying the progressive nature of a task, helps make present moments more worthwhile in their nature to affect future ones.
Busyness is nearsighted. It sees today, maybe tomorrow, and checks of to-do lists that expire in meaningfulness as soon as the clock chimes a new day. We proceed with nearsighted tasks because the crossing off of the now trivial task still provides a fleeting and false sense of accomplishment that validates our sense of effort enough to recreate these futile tasks day after day. But these empty accomplishments, though temporarily satisfying, lack any long term fulfillment.
3. Productivity is measured by quality while busyness is measured by quantity.
Busyness measures efficiency by speed while productivity measures efficiency by progress. The cornerstone behind productivity never asks how much can I do, but rather how well I can do it. It is more concerned with progression, the depth of the purpose, while the former is simply concerned with curating a facade of frequent activity. In essence, productivity serves progress (forward movement) while busyness serves preoccupation (idle activity.) If you look back and see that, though you’ve been moving, you haven’t moved forward, you were probably busy being busy.
4. Productivity is a product of strategy while busyness is a product of routine.
Productivity requires strategy and a sense of methodical direction. Progress is not random, it is systematically planned. Goals, whether small or large, are comprised of building blocks, which require some premeditated blueprint and foundational structure. Strategy is the best weapon against our innate humanity to fall into passive habit. Busyness opens the gateway to complacent comfort zones , which is why we find refuge within the fraudulent security of routine. It is easy to fall into ritualistic habit and, in doing so, to feel we are accomplished within a stagnant routine despite our desires that long for more.
5. Productivity invests in time while busyness wastes it.
Productive people treat time as an asset. Since time is a non-renewable resource that cannot be saved or hoarded or stored away for a rainy day, it is imperative to invest in in it; to make each moment exponentially increase the worth of the next one. Similar to people who waste money, busy people waste time. Both of these habits result in poverty. We associate poverty with lack of money, but it too can define the lack of time. The waste of money and waste of time share the same narrative: spending resources on liabilities or fleeting gratification and then becoming indebted to and imprisoned by the resulting lack.
The conscious implementation of these comparisons does not completely nullify the mundane responsibilities from obligation, rather it provides a different basis upon which to prioritize your obligations, thus making making the majority of your activity productive and progressive.
The context in which to apply these subtle differences between busyness and productivity is purely a subjective one, as no one can identify the importance of your priorities but you. Once you characterize your own busy versus productive enterprises, you will be equipped to prioritize them effectively.
Read the other parts in this series:
Lauren is based in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to writing here on Pursuit of Daydreams, Lauren’s daydreams consist of all forms of design: Graphic, Fashion, Web, Interior, Art. On any given day, she can be found preoccupied with at least one of the above. She is happiest with a bowl of ice cream in hand.
Also published on Medium.