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Discussion Forum > Busy and/or Productive?

"Busyness is defined by what you haven't done. Productivity is defined by what you have done."

July 28, 2015 at 19:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
In the context of these two terms I think that productivity is defined as moving your committments - to others and to yourself - forwards towards their many goals. Busyness is a function of your activity and time used. Becoming more productive is defined as using your busyness to support your productivity and being aware of, and managing, that busyness which will not.
July 29, 2015 at 12:52 | Unregistered CommenterChris
I think of "busyness" as the entire set of activities on which I expend time and effort - productively, restoratively, or wastefully.

There is a lot of overlap and gray area between those categories, but I think of "productivity" as the outcome/results of the productive activities. Those are the activities that accomplish, or bring me closer to accomplishing, the things that matter to me, from the most mundane tasks (eating, washing, spending time with loved ones) to the loftiest goals (world domination, etc.).

It's helpful to distinguish between the mundane tasks and the lofty goals, but my instinct is to classify both as "productive" because if you neglect the mundane for too long, you can kiss your bigger goals goodbye. For example, you might be able to hire someone to wash your dishes and cut the grass so that you can spend more time inventing a perpetual motion machine; but you still need to manage that person. And you can't hire someone to do your eating and sleeping for you. (I've tried! It doesn't work!)

Besides: If I spend an entire day catching up on mundane but necessary overdue tasks, without getting any closer to my bigger goals, I have at least prevented myself from slipping farther away from my goals. Sometimes, that is an accomplishment in itself!
July 29, 2015 at 18:57 | Unregistered CommenterJulieBulie
... so I think that means I agree with Mark's statement, more or less, regarding "productivity." But I'm not sure how to connect "busyness" to what I haven't done; I don't understand that statement. Does it refer to the things that don't get done when we waste time spinning our wheels?

Chris's definition of "busyness" is a lot like mine, but much more concise. :-)
July 29, 2015 at 19:04 | Unregistered CommenterJulieBulie

<< But I'm not sure how to connect "busyness" to what I haven't done; I don't understand that statement. >>

My experience as a time management coach was that when people said they were "too busy" they would then point to a huge list of things which they hadn't yet done. And frequently they wanted my help not just to get it all done, but also to get even more things done (i.e. "all the things I'd like to do but I'm just too busy").

My aim was to convince them that the way to become more productive was to cut down on all the busy work so that eventually they could point to a record of achieving things that really mattered to them (without my prejudging what those things should be).
July 29, 2015 at 19:28 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
" If work and leisure are soon to be subordinated to this one utopian principle - absolute busyness - then utopia and melancholy will come to coincide: an age without conflict will dawn, perpetually busy - and without consciousness."
Gunter Grass
July 10, 2017 at 18:38 | Unregistered Commentermichael
Busyness is defined by activity, productivity is defined by effectiveness.
July 10, 2017 at 19:49 | Unregistered CommenterPaul MacNeil
Mark's original definition is perfect.
July 11, 2017 at 17:57 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Another take on the definition: -

Busyness is not being particularly aware of what tasks you are doing.
Productivity is being more aware of what tasks you are doing.
July 12, 2017 at 10:45 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
"Busyness is defined by what you haven't done. Productivity is defined by what you have done."

Why do we sometimes do the things that keep us busy but don't deliver any results that matter?

Mark's definition suggests to me that we do it because we are focused on (consumed by?) the pressure of our backlogs -- we are not on top of our work, we have too much unfinished WIP, we are reacting to all the things we haven't done, we cannot think clearly to focus on the things that really matter, or even to identify it.

Why do we sometimes do the things that make us really productive and give us the results we want?

Mark's definition suggests to me that we do it because we are focused on the results we are getting, and those results give us more momentum, which keeps us on top of our work; we don't carry around too much unfinished WIP because we are too focused on getting stuff done that matters, and this sharpens our focus even further.

It seems the real question is: how to do the latter and avoid the former?
July 16, 2017 at 7:53 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
My main challenge with all the TM systems has been avoiding a feeling of obligation to busyness. "Do nothing" can be hard to put on a "might-do" list; I often feel guilty about doing nothing. But busyness can be a pain - to myself and to others. I'm still experimenting with ways of getting doing to be balanced between idleness and busyness so that "being" comes out just right and quantity balances quality. Reducing a sense of obligation is one way to be open to reconciling leisure with busyness, idleness, and urgency. Perhaps it's another way to reach flow state.
November 19, 2017 at 23:21 | Unregistered Commentermichael

Maybe DIT is the right system for you at the moment? It features this moment in the day, when you finished the closed list and therefore can now "play". Maybe to experience this for a while will help you to better discern how to handle your "main challenge." It's at least my suspicion, judging from what you wrote.
November 20, 2017 at 15:32 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher