5 Tips for Being Productive, Not Busy

5 Tips for Being Productive, Not Busy

I’m a calendar junky.  There, I said it.  I believed that in order to feel accomplished, and important, I needed to fill my calendar, every day, every moment. I filled it with meetings, calls, appointments, lunch dates, product reviews, sales pitches, networking meetings, board meetings.

I was busy, but I was not productive.  All the things I was involved in served only to take up valuable time, and then I would find myself working late into the evening, and yes, on the weekends, doing actual work I was being paid to do.  I had a hard time saying no.

As an HR Department of One, your job is never just “HR.”  You wear many hats, payroll, event planning, accounting, executive assistant, travel planner, safety, facilities, heck sometimes you even do maintenance! Not to mention the countless interruptions you get throughout the day.  You know the knock on the door followed by “Got a minute?” turns into 30 minutes, and another task to add to your calendar.

So, how do we transition from being busy, to being productive?

  1. Eat That Frog! - You may know Brian Tracy’s famous “eat-a-frog”-technique from his classic time-management book, Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. Right when you start your day, choose the most unwanted task, and just get it done. 
  2. Learn to say “no.” – Busy people say yes to everything; productive people say yes carefully. Be honest with yourself about deadlines, the time commitment required, and how your skill set fits in to determine what you should devote your time to. You’ll learn to say yes strategically rather than saying yes to everything.
  3. Think Smaller – Set smaller, measurable goals. Align your to-do list with your calendar. By blocking out time on your calendar to tackle to-dos, you won’t be derailed by meetings and lingering action items.
  4. Focus on one project at a time. Multitasking is interrupted productivity. Instead of doing multiple tasks at once, you are switch-tasking and this start-and-stop process prevents you from hitting a state of flow and engaging in deep work.
  5. Close the Door – This is a hard one. Learning to close the door is like learning to say no. By closing the door, you let everyone know that you are not to be disturbed unless it is an emergency, sometimes adding a sign to the door helps. By shutting out all distractions, you can focus and efficiently use your time without being interrupted.

At the end of each day, ask yourself, “did my work today bring me closer to my goals, or did I just have a busy day? Honest introspection should become a daily practice as you find out which productivity methods work best for you. Take a few moments at the end of each day to meditate on what went well and what didn't. takes notes and adjust!