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Ditching the Four-Letter Word- Busy

Ditching the Four-Letter Word- Busy

You and I live in a world that expects fast-paced, perfectly executed productivity and immediate results. Unfortunately, those expectations have pushed me to unsustainable workloads, quick (but weak) answers, and low-quality responses to demands. At the time, it felt like an inescapable trap. Still, once I read John Spencer's four rules for understanding the difference between being busy and productive, I could step off the merry-go-round of busyness and join the ranks of the effective! John, the editor of Pop Culture and Societ, has shared the best rules for identifying the state of being practical rather than looking busy with a flurry of activity. 

Check them out:

  • Being busy is frantic while being productive is focused.
  • Being busy is fueled by perfectionism, while being productive is driven by purpose.
  • Being busy is about working harder while being productive is about working smarter.
  • Being busy is about being good at everything while being productive is about great at a few essential things.

Is your brain exploding yet by those subtle distinctions? Mine was. These rules visually shifted my perception of "looking busy" to "looking at how" I work, understanding that there was a needed strategy more than a to-do list to accomplish (the work smarter part) of the rule set; below, I attempt to share important aspects of how I've learned to emphasize productivity in my work rather than my flurry of activity done quickly by examining how I need to focus, use my purpose, work smarter, and identify the few essential things.

Focused Work

So how do you stop being frantic and get focused? First, it's getting clear on what a successful project is and looks like BEFORE diving in. Other than finished, what am I creating? Who is it for specifically? How long do I estimate it take? When will I set aside focused time for this work in my day? Clarity and scheduled work time allow me to stop outside distractions (sorry, email, FB, and people, it's work time!) and focus my thoughts, research, and findings on the project to pull it together. Prioritizing thinking time and scheduling work times for this project gets me halfway to the finish line! I'm sure to have time to focus and pull it together in a well-thought-out way!

Purposeful Work

Emotions motivate action. Frantic busyness without direction is certainly action by emotion, but it is not purposeful. Creating a definite purpose or meaningful actions to sustain even the most mundane tasks must be connected to our values and beliefs. To be values-driven, I need to feel it is valuable to the efforts of what I'm creating or sharing. Research from Harvard Business School suggests that when our motivation is situational, it can get us through a specific goal or accomplishment. Still, motivation connects to our purpose (which tells us that even one moment of failure can never define us). In that case, you connect your values and beliefs. So if you have a hard time getting motivated, connect to your values and reflect on these quick questions by digging into what you find essential to your unique purpose in life:

  • Who else is going to benefit from what I'm doing?
  • What matters most to me? What do you think I should do now?
  • If I get this done well, what aspirational or value of mine does it support?

Working Smarter

So we all know we should be working smarter! But what exactly is working smarter about? It is about using your time and energy more efficiently to get things done. Working smarter includes using your resources, like priorities, to accomplish the most important and urgent things. One of the most overlooked resources you have at your disposal is your energy levels. What are the keys to managing your energy? Mental health experts at BettrUp suggest you focus your energy on these areas:

  • Setting boundaries and limits
  • Take care of your body, so include rest and recovery.
  • Setting aside time for deep thought and work
  • Journal about your energy levels (peek times, not so-hot times)
  • Learn to delegate or say 'no' to unnecessary tasks

The Few Important Things

Listen, the firehose of to-dos is hard and fast. It's easy to get lost in the steady stream of urgent and vital items that pop up daily. But I've found that when I protect these few blocks in my day, my chances of ending the day feeling accomplished tilt toward the positive.

  •  Each day, spend some time reviewing and updating what needs to be done, but ensuring you continuously look for ways to improve your prioritization skills is essential. I like to start with what I can drop or delegate, check what is becoming more critical to complete, and choose the time and day to do them by writing them down in my calendar.
  • Make sure the structure of your day works for you. Pay attention to your best focus times (morning, afternoon, or late night) and plan your tasks and priorities to use that time to focus on the task at hand. 
  • Finally, make your workspace as distraction-free as you can. Decluttering your environment and putting phones and email out of sight helps you focus on the tasks in front of you. By keeping your work environment clear of distractions, your focus can be placed where you want and need it to be.

DeShawn Wert teaches intelligent, motivated, professionals how to get stuff done so they CAN relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor! Let's explore how you do your best work together. An Ericson-trained life coach and JTS Coaching-trained ADHD coach, DeShawn is a member of good standing in the ADHD Coaches Organization. She's been a contributor to several books on living with ADHD, including Dr. Dale Archer's book, The ADHD Advantage, and Laurie Dupar's series called, More Ways to Succeed with ADHD.


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You know what I find fascinating? It's our differences

~ especially those of us who can be a little off-center trying to function and find fulfillment in the mainstream world. This world values efficiency and productivity, which can require productivity techniques and hacks that some of us find 

too mundane and soul-crushing, if not impossible to follow.

For me, I've found I can't follow mainstream productivity tools and hacks. I've had to learn to drive my brain, use its quirks and creativity to feel seen, make contributions to the world, and enjoy both work and home.

I like working with smart people who are ready to dump conventional productivity techniques to learn their true personal productivity by understanding how to drive their brains and discover their unique strengths to redesign their days with systems that complement them.

Let's start exploring together!