Don’t be busy, be productive

Being busy and being productive are two different things. We clearly need a framework that allows us to do things that are urgent or important and also the things that really matter to us


How many of us have wished for a day comprising more than 24 hours? How often have we thought that we would have pursued our dreams or aspirations more strongly had we had more time in hand? How many of us have wondered about what all we have done or are doing today, and how time has just flown by?

All of us have had these thoughts swirling around in our heads. Most of us, by default, blame time for not being productive or anywhere close to our desirable projects. The truth is, we all struggle to make time for what matters. We start each day with the right intent, but somehow, the entire day just gets swallowed up by meetings, e-mail chains and social media.

First, let’s talk about what TIME is.

I recently attended a Time Management workshop by Ankur Warikoo and he presented a fascinating description of time:

Time is – Allocation

Time is – Energy

Time is – Money

This truly gave me a lot of insight into how I would like to spend my time and manage it effectively.

Commonly, being frazzled and distracted has become our default mode. We are clearly BUSY throughout the day, with our calendars screaming for breath, but does that make us productive?

Here comes the critical question that we need to ask ourselves — Do we wish to do only urgent or important things in our lives? Do we aspire to make time for things that matter to us well? Life is not about striking off our To-Do list every day or, as Gandhi said -“There is more to life than increasing speed”.

Hence, we clearly need a framework that allows doing things that are urgent and important, and the ones which matter to us or we care about deeply — such as spending time with family, writing a book or a novel, volunteering for a cause, and so on.

What keeps us so busy?

In the book, Make Time, by Jake Knapp & John Zaratsky, they say in the 21st century, two powerful forces compete for our time. The first one is called the Busy Bandwagon, which defaults to endless tasks. This basically is the constant state of busyness — the overflowing inboxes, stuffed calendars and infinite to-do lists. Striking all this off is how we survive in the modern workplace and prove to be productive.

The second force that competes for our time is the Infinity Pool, which defaults to endless distraction. Infinity Pools are apps in our phones, laptops and televisions, filled with games and social feeds. They are always available and highly addictive.

Both these forces are powerful and have clearly become our default setting for functioning. This is what keeps us busy all the time.

How do we get rid of our busy default mode, be productive and still make time for what matters to us?

Being more productive at work isn’t rocket science, but it requires a greater awareness of time management. How to produce more is a question that has been plaguing employees and employers around the world for ages now.

Regardless of where one works and what one does, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more productive and effective. Every day one starts with a plan to do so much, but soon one finds oneself getting distracted, focusing on low-priority tasks, and, more simply, procrastinating. How does one regain control of one’s time?

One way could be by using some productivity techniques adapted to one’s personality and work style. Those who have the primary objective of working better must do everything possible to organise themselves in such a way as to face the most demanding tasks every day first and then the less complex ones. This is because, during the initial hours, the level of attention and prowess is undoubtedly better, compared to other moments. By proceeding in this way, one can give one’s all and perform the complex tasks immediately, soon finding oneself having already managed the worst tasks.

It is also advisable to avoid multitasking. Unfortunately, doing multiple things is not suitable for productivity or even health because when one multitasks, one lets one’s attention constantly shift between one task and the other. It is, thus, impossible to devote oneself with the utmost concentration to one’s primary job or task at hand.

The framework which can help you achieve the above is as follows:

Make one priority goal for the day – Start each day by choosing one highlight — a single activity that you do not necessarily have to do but want to do. This will keep you motivated and happy.

Beat distractions to make time for your highlight – E-mail, social media, notifications are everywhere. Be mindful of how you leverage technology and stop the reaction cycle. Adjust the technology usage in a manner that doesn’t intrude on your productivity sprints. For instance, turning off your notifications is a great way to have uninterrupted work slots.
Energise – Exercise regularly to recharge your physical energy. Meditate, read and sleep well to recharge your mental and spiritual energy. This will allow you to keep going throughout the day without experiencing fatigue.

Reflect – This is your time to revisit your day to analyse what worked for you and what didn’t. Refine the tactics or drop the ones that were not relevant.


Being more productive isn’t always something that appeals to us. It gives the impression of someone who works head down all day with no time for anything else. Being more productive is not just helpful at work, but beneficial everywhere and anytime in life.

Being busy and being productive are not the same thing. If you spend your day busy doing something, it doesn’t automatically make you productive. You must ask yourself what you do all day. And at the end of the day, what dominates you: frustration or satisfaction?

Actual productivity sometimes seems unattainable, but it allows you to do much more, and above all, it allows you to have time to live your life.

The author, Vanya Gambhir is the co-founder and CEO of Khojdeal. She efficiently and effectively believes in aligning the organisational resources so that they are in line with the organisation’s goals and vision.  

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