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Time Check – Being Busy vs. Being Productive

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

I’m a little all over the place this week. I can’t believe it’s already December 11th! Where has the time flown? Time to get back on track!

With the holidays nipping at our heels, I think we are all feeling the pressure of time (or lack thereof) more sharply. The holidays aren’t the only period in which we should be mindful of our time. Every day of the year we can make time work for us, or against us.

You can get busy doing something, or nothing. It’s up to you. What matters is if you decide to get busy, make sure it’s the right kind of busy. Productive busy. Busy for the sake of being busy is wasteful and unfulfilling, not to mention exhausting.

One of my all-time favorite lyrics is from the Prince song, Raspberry Beret.

“Seems that I was busy doing something close to nothing, but different than the day before.”

It always made me laugh because there’s so much truth in that line and I've been there a time or two. There are periods in our lives when we are a little bit aimless and just looking “busy” to get by. That’s okay for a little while. However, looking busy all the time with nothing to show for it catches up with us sooner or later. There’s always something to be done and there’s no time like the present.

The goal is to use our time wisely and the trick is to find the way it works best for you. Here’s a few ways you can make time work for you.

Be Selfish with Your Time

Not in a bad way, in a good way that works for you. Really evaluate what’s important and what’s not. Time spent on tasks that don’t add value to you, your family, or your long-term goals or selfcare can deplete you and compromise things of more value. You can let those things go.

Guard Your Time

Treat your time like the valuable commodity it is. Block durations on your personal and computer calendars to ensure you have dedicated time to work on and complete your priorities. Don’t be afraid to turn down meetings, outings, invitations, and other events where your presence is not really required, your interest doesn't really lie, or your time is not productively spent. This is where you can turn FOMO, The Fear of Missing Out into JOMO, The Joy of Missing Out. You didn’t really want to go and see that new movie with the actor you’ve never heard of and read subtitles for 90 minutes, did you?!

Focus Your Time

Be mindful and targeted in what you do. Make a “to list” that ranks the most important task to the least important that need to be accomplished in a day. They all need to be addressed at some point but put the most effort into the task with the highest priority, so you have the focus and energy to deliver your best work to those tasks. If the first three items were the most important and you got to them all, great! Numbers four, five, six, etc. now rise to the top when the list is refreshed the next day. If more pressing priorities present themselves, move things around, change the priority order, you know what’s urgently needed.

Track Your Time

Do you ever get to the end of the day and wonder where the day has gone and why you didn’t get to the end of the list? Were you interrupted? Did you interrupt yourself? It’s time to investigate.

Tracking what happens in the course of a day can be a real eye-opening experience. Try tracking what you do every day for three days. Grab a small notebook or dedicate three pieces of paper to this activity. Note every little thing you do in blocks of time (your bathroom breaks are you own so, no tracking needed!) If at the end of your three-day tracking journey you notice you took a lot of breaks, watched a lot of television, took a long lunch, surfed the web for hours, and/or got distracted by other people, you have work to do. It’s time to cut the fat!

Being able to see in black and white where your time goes is a gamechanger. Now that you know where the time drains and distractions are coming from, you can put strategies in place to overcome them. Who knows, you may end up with time on your hands to watch a few more cat videos after all but you’ll feel better about it because your work is done, and your priorities will be met.

Don’t Forget to Use Reminders

I know, I know, no one wants another device blinking and beeping at them, however reminders programmed into your phone, computer or smartwatch can be instrumental in helping you get and keep a handle on your time. Don’t program them for every little thing, but reminders for key appointments and tasks are really useful in keeping you on time and on track.

Establish Good Routines

Computers, calendars, trackers, and smartwatches are wonderful, but they pale in comparison to the ultimate time management machine! You! Yes, we human beings can be pretty incredible in managing our own time and tasks through the development and adherence to routines. If you are so inclined, establishing routines for your morning ritual, daily commute, your approach to work, errands and other tasks can be very beneficial in saving time. There’s nothing worse than doing the same things every day but in a different way every time. What a time waster! Consistency and predictability lead to efficiency and that works for everyone.

We have limited time in our day and in our lives. It’s important that we make the most of the time we have to ensure we are living to our fullest potential as well as spending time on the things we care about and with the people we love. If we spend all of our time being “busy,” we miss out on a lot of very important things. If you feel anxious when you are not busy, examine what that feeling is and why you feel that way. No one should be “on” all the time. It’s not healthy. “Down time” is very important and should be prioritized as well. Complete the tasks you must so you can enjoy your periods of rest and not agonize over what you didn’t get done.

There’s saying my sister and I thought was hilarious when we were kids, “Time is not your enemy unless you try to kill it.” Be kind to your time. There’s a big difference between being busy and being productive so make sure you’re getting the most out of your time to get the most out of life.

Time getting the best of you? It’s time to get a handle on it. Book a time with me to talk about it. I assure you it will be time well spent!

Take care and be well,



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