As I worked on reviewing the tasks I’d completed in June and made plans for July, I realised something. Despite the fact that I made important progress and learnt lots of new things, it didn’t really seem like I’d done anything different. And in fact, I’m not sure whether some things were done to the best of my ability.
Yes - you need to give yourself a break in order to grow and you shouldn’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. But it wasn’t really about that. I was working hard. Was I working smart? No. Which is what today’s post is all about - why “busyness” is a false sense of productivity.
Alright - what does this even mean?
Essentially, it’s thinking you’re being truly productive when really, you’re not. It’s busy work, multi-tasking, and just plain busyness, which leads to you not getting any real work done. I don’t think the process of being productive is something you can just switch on. It’s a whole skill in itself that you’ve got to develop. I believe that I continue to better this skill on a daily basis - productivity is something that is really important to me.
So if this is something that sounds like you, thankfully, you can start making a difference with some small changes.
In the blogging world especially, it seems like it’s “cool” to be busy. If you’re not constantly reaching one goal and moving onto the next, then are you really doing any work at all? This is obviously not true. We’re all working hard. And if you switch off at 8pm and don’t do any work on a Saturday, then I’d actually say that you’re the cool one. You’re finding the balance. You’re working efficiently. You’re not just being busy for the sake of it. You’re enjoying your life and being productive at the same time.
I wouldn’t like to count the amount of times I’ve not replied to messages for ages because “I’ve been really busy”. But I also know I’m not alone - this is an ongoing battle for so many of us.
So how do you identify “busyness”?
When you realise you suffer from “busyness”, that’s the first step to making some important changes. Take a look at some of these and see if you can relate:
Do you try and do loads of things at the same time?
You’re scheduling social updates, taking part in a Twitter chat, formatting your latest blog post and planning your list for tomorrow all in one go. Sound familiar? Sure, you might complete all those tasks eventually. But you’ll also find that a few hours has passed and you subconsciously think - this shouldn’t have taken that long.
How to change it
If this isn’t working for you (which I can bet it isn’t), then I’d seriously recommend time blocking. Get your tasks in order of priority, look at how much time you have available during your day, and then set certain amounts of time aside to complete certain tasks. When you’re taking part in a Twitter chat, maybe add social scheduling alongside that - those two go hand in hand. Then you’ve got two big tasks boxed off in an hour.
The way to do it effectively is pick small blocks of time. No more than 30 minutes. You might be thinking that 30 minutes doesn't seem like enough, but add it all up and you’ll find you’ll become a lot more efficient - as well as learning which tasks work well together.
Do you spend more time planning than actually taking action?
Guilty. Planning is a hugely important aspect of what we do, as well as having ideas, inspiration and schedules. But you might also find that if you spend more time working on your plans rather than actual tasks, you won’t progress - even if you don’t realise the reason.
How to change it
Whenever you’re planning something, stick to no more than 20 minutes. After that, you’re giving yourself too much time. Whether it’s sorting your to-do list or planning your next blog post, 20 minutes is all you need before you can start to take action.
Do you seek perfection?
We can all relate to this one, but it’s important to realise when it’s going too far. Spending hours or even days waiting until something is 100% done (or you’re 100% ready) isn’t working in a smart way. I’ve been doing a lot of this lately in terms of getting my freelancing services ready, and I can’t say I’ve made any real progress.
How to change it
In a nutshell? Just get it done! Easier said, I know. But in most cases you can revise what you’ve done. That’s the beauty of it. You can keep tweaking it as you go along, because let’s face it - perfection doesn’t exist. As you grow and progress, you’ll have to adjust things anyway. There’s always room for improvement, which means nothing is really perfect. There’s a quote I love related to this: “My life may not be perfect, but it does have perfect moments.”
Do prepare and plan excessively?
Doing this for a certain task can sometimes be a sneaky way of procrastinating, even if you don’t realise it. For instance, about a year ago, I’d spend hours reading income reports and posts about turning my blog into a business. Now, there’s nothing wrong with spending time on this. But the reality is, if I’d spent half my time actually writing content or implementing some of the strategies I’d found on my website, than it’d be time better spent. There’s always room to learn but don’t fall into the trap of only learning and not putting these lessons into practice.
How to change it
You know the ratio for sharing on social, where you promote 30% of your own content and 70% of everyone else’s? You can apply this here. Spend 30% of the time you’ve allocated to this task learning and making notes. Then for the other 70%, try implementing some of the things you’ve learnt. Plus, you might even be able to write a post about your progress!
A Final Note
If you only take one thing away from this post, let it be this - start to become more aware of when “busyness” starts to creep into your routine. This is going to be a big thing for me to work on during the rest of the summer, and I’ll make sure to update you on my progress.
If you can make small, yet intentional changes you’ll be building your way to a smart way of working productively, a less stressful daily routine and a more meaningful work day. Try not to let “busyness” fuel your work and remember to give yourself a break from time to time.
Work smart, reflect on what you’ve achieved and carry on reaching your goals. You can do this!
Do you think you suffer from "busyness"? What do you do to make sure you're working productively?