When was the last time someone asked you how things were and you immediately replied, ‘busy as ever,’ or something to that effect, because you felt that somehow this meant you were succeeding? We’ve all done it. There is this perception that being busy automatically equates to being productive and as we don’t want to admit to being unproductive we wear busyness like a badge of honour.

The truth is that busyness does not always mean productivity. It is possible to spend your days like a headless chicken and not actually have a lot to show for it that really counts. Don’t get me wrong. I am in no way condoning laziness. I am however saying that it is possible to be effective and still have a life that is well balanced; a life that is made up of work, rest and play in proportions that bring out the best in you. You certainly do not have to act like you are busy all the time in an attempt to impress others. If you really are bent on impressing others, then increasing your productivity without necessarily working all the hours of the day will impress them more than anything else. You will find people asking you, ‘how on earth do you manage to get those results and still be appear so calm?’

So how does one increase their productivity and still manage to reduce their working hours? Here are a few tips which if put in practice is sure to make a difference:

  1. Prioritise – some things are really not as important as they first appear to be. Many times we let activities that don’t really serve us well or reflect our core values take too much of our time. Develop strict boundaries about how you spend your time.
  2. Delegate – you really are not the only one with skills and talents. Yes, someone else will do it differently but different does not equate to less efficient. If it is something you really don’t need to do yourself, find someone else who can and use your time for doing more important things like developing strategy or even personal development.
  3. Learn to say no. Most people are flattered when they are asked to do something and busy people tend to get more put on them because they have proved that they can be trusted. Ask yourself, ‘is this thing I am being asked to do aligned to my values?’ ‘Does it serve me and/or the people that matter to me well?’ Can I afford to add it to my schedule and not compromise on something else that is more important? If the answer is no to any of the above, don’t take it on. It is a time drainer.
  4. Reflect – develop the habit of asking yourself: ‘How can I do this more effectively?’ You’ll be surprised at how creative you can be if you take the time to stop and think instead of always assuming that because you have always done it a certain way, that is the best way.
  5. Finally, build in times of rest into your daily or weekly schedule and adhere to it strictly. These times are crucial for your refreshing and re-energising so that when you return to work, you’ll be so much more productive.

Next time someone asks if you are busy you can say: ‘ Yes, but no busier than I want to be. I am doing just the amount of work I want to do’.