Are you Productive or just Busy?


 In today’s ever increasingly crazy world it can be hard to differentiate between being productive not just busy

I’m busy all the freakin time but I’m not productive all the time.

How often do you claim you are just too busy?

I know I used the B-word constantly because I feel like I’m always rushing from one thing to another. If I’m honest with myself much of my busyness is self-inflicted in non-necessary areas. This makes me feel crazed and completely unproductive. 

It’s not necessary to make sure I’m caught up with whatever Real Housewives franchise is currently on or that I’m up to date with all my Facebook friends.

It’s like a nervous tic. When I don’t want to do something I find something to do that wastes time. Then when I run out of time to do my task, I cry and whine that I’m so busy.

I’m very skilled at being busy all day with nothing to show for it. I’ve had to learn to refocus myself on what’s important and more importantly hold myself accountable to my job. One downside of working for yourself. No one is riding me to get things done. You have to be self-motivated.

So how do you turn your “busyness” into productivity?

It starts with a to-do list. If it ain’t written down, it ain’t getting done. Now just because I have a list doesn’t automatically mean the tasks will get checked off. But it’s a step in the right direction, and I know I have this list that’s looming over me. 

When the tasks are all in my head, it’s not as easy. It can also give the illusion of more to do than you actually have which is more stressful.

The act of writing things down helps me feel more motivated to do something. But past that, how I’ve learned to hold myself accountable to being productive is by tracking my time. My writing is my full-time job, and I need to treat it as such and show up every day ready to work.

I need to be a better employee for myself, even better than I’d treat a regular job because I don’t get paid unless I produce. And sometimes even then that’s a gamble. Being an authorpreneur doesn’t mean a guaranteed paycheck every Friday.

The joys of entrepreneurship

Now I don’t work a traditional 9-5 but each week I block schedule my tasks around all the kids’ activities, working out, and manicures. I couldn’t possibly be productive with unmanicured nails. And I commit to working that time.

When I sit down to work on a specific task, I make a note of when I start and stop. Not every time I go to refill my coffee (which would be impossible to track) but the task in its entirety. 

I then track it in my calendar, and each week I add up the hours and divide into my weekly revenue to get the average hourly rate. 

Which is super scary sometimes. It’s always best to do this calculation in the evening with a cocktail.

This tracking does several things for me.

1.  It makes sure I’m actually working on projects and accomplishing something. 

2.  It allows me to track how long certain tasks take so I can better plan my time in the future.

3.  I am a professional writer who needs to make money to support my family. Tracking my hourly breakdown helps me spot inefficiencies, where I’m putting the wrong emphasis, and where I need to work harder. Also, while calculating my hourly wage can often be depressing, sometimes it’s good and that my friend is a huge motivator.

4. It gives me something to pull out and show all the people who think I play on the computer for a living and say look at this! OK, it’s just my kids who say that, but still.

Being accountable for what you do, or don’t do, is the only way to turn busy into productive. You need to find that internal motivator. 

It’s not always easy to make yourself do what you know you should do versus what you want to do, but keep your big picture in mind.

Netflix, as awesome as it is, isn’t going to help your author career

Now, get to work!

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— laina