Super Busy with Low Productivity?

Do you catch yourself saying, “I’m so busy,” or “I’m slammed but can never get caught up,” when someone asks how things are going?
If so, you’re not alone. The goal is to turn the word “busy,” which can be an empty word, into “productive.” When you take a step back to look, really look, at your current work habits, it’s almost a given that you will learn when you are just busy, but not productive, and busy with actual accomplishments.
Many things can, without us realizing it, disrupt our production.
Everyone has a different approach to their workday, but you’ll find that many distractions we experience are common.
Identify Where You Spend Your Time
You can’t fix what you can’t see. This exercise may slow you down temporarily, but it is crucial to help you determine where you can trim time by doing things differently.
You can use an app or your computer, but if you step back and look at it the “old fashioned” way, keeping a pad of paper where you:
  • List a task
  • Note the “start time,”
  • Work to complete that task
  • Record the “stop” time
You can also note distractions that caused you to stop during that task, which will tremendously help your evaluation.
Distractions can be:
  • Checking email
  • Incoming phone call
  • Co-worker engaging in conversation

Do this exercise over a day or even a week. We suggest tracking the entire week, as you will have a broader range of task types to evaluate.

What to Look for in Your Evaluation
Were they unavoidable (i.e., your supervisor or co-worker had a question), or could they have been tackled once you finished that task? For instance, emails and phone calls are a huge distraction.
If you can choose to check emails and phone messages at specific times during the day, it’s incredible how much time you can gain.
Turning off your notifications is a big help as you won’t be distracted by the continuous “beeps” reminding you what you think you’re missing.
Do you, like many, have higher energy levels at different times of the day? Some may be raring to go in the morning, while others have bursts of energy in the afternoon.
If so, tap into that. Look at your task list, note the projects requiring more focus, and tackle those tasks when you are most energetic.
Multitasking is Overrated
Multitasking effectively is only possible if you’re doing something like stirring the spaghetti sauce and talking on the phone, which only requires minimal bandwidth. Many think they multitask but jump from one task to another, which is rarely good. Concentrating as you should is impossible and can lead to frustration because no one task is ever fully complete. And if it is, it’s a given that the level of quality is not there as it needs more focus.

Tackling one task at a time is much more fulfilling as you can check off the list and feel good about the outcome.

Take Charge of Your Task List
There are some things you can control and some things you can’t. If you can set up your own work day, even better, your work week, these are opportunities to be more prepared.
Note: If your supervisor sets the schedule, consider talking to them and asking if they are open to adjusting the timing of the tasks. Based on some of the strategic points discussed in this blog, they will often receive the same outcome but at different times during the day.
  • Organize your work week in advance. List the duties you must accomplish daily and check off each task as you finish it.
  • When planning for the week, place the more pressing tasks at the beginning of the week and when you know, you are the most energetic. This way, you tackle the most critical and challenging tasks early in the week.
  • Getting up early is an excellent strategy to get a head start. Having that extra time to prepare for the day, or if the morning is your “energy time,” you can get a jump start on a task that requires more brainpower.
Take a Break Already
Don’t be that diehard who refuses to leave their desk. It doesn’t do anyone any good and can be detrimental.
Without giving your brain a break to recharge, you will discover your get “brain fog,” and focusing is difficult.
After you check off a completed task, use that time for a quick walk around the office, AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER, to recharge.
For jobs requiring more time, break it up so that you refresh between crucial steps in that task.

Taking a step back to evaluate your work habits will make you more productive, not just busy, and the satisfaction you’ll feel is fantastic.

You can tackle anything, as long as you…
Work Smarter. Not Harder.