Busy People Vs. Productive People

Hey, Psych2goers! Have you ever been in a situation where you have spent a lot of your time doing something, but you often feel that you haven’t achieved much?  Do you pass up social invitations from your friends, telling them that you are too busy? 

In this article, we share the distinction between being busy and being productive: 

  1. Have many goals vs have priorities 

Throughout the day, week, and month, we have several tasks and goals we need to accomplish: this is where the difference between being busy and being productive becomes apparent. Busy people try to achieve multiple goals at once, while productive people give the most attention to the critical things first. 

If your top priority is to learn a new language, to be productive, you allocate one hour each day to study. You will make sure that there are no distractions, and you do not let emails, texts, or any other lesser tasks interfere with the highest priority task. Once you’ve completed the highest priority tasks without distractions, you have more time to work on the next priority. 

  1. Impulsive yes vs Thoughtful yes

When thinking of a busy person, usually we picture someone who never says no. Saying yes to everything is a defining trait of a busy person. Consequently, they fill their schedules with activities that keep them occupied but don’t impact their lives substantially. 

On the other hand, people who are productive say yes or no thoughtfully. They know that every “yes” they give today will ultimately lead them astray. By doing so, they can preserve a limited resource called “time” to use it for the things that are most important to them. 

  1. Multitask vs focus 

Have you ever seen your friends or siblings staring at their computer screens and doing multiple things at a time? They are listening to the online classes and occasionally glancing at their smartphones, and replying to the comments on their social media profiles. This three-way attention divide is known as multitasking, and it is a dead giveaway that someone is busy instead of being productive. 

In contrast, a productive person is “monotasking” instead of multitasking. They focus only on one thing at a time, enabling them to use their time more efficiently. 

  1. Get drowned in the details vs keep eyes on the macro and micro.

People who are too busy worry more about deciding between details A and B than choosing one and moving forward. Let’s say you plan to publish your first comic book; if you are a busy person, you will deliberate too long on the name of your main cartoon character, while the fact is it does not matter that much! In reality, you can pick one up and go, then go back and revise as you gain more insight. 

Instead of obsessing over details that don’t matter, a productive individual focuses on details that affect the outcome. In other words, they know that they don’t have to do everything right – they just have to do the right things right. 

  1. Let other people set the direction vs set the direction themselves. 

When society tries to convince you that specific paths are the right ones, you have two options: follow those paths or think about what you want for yourself. If you belong to the first group, you are a busy person, whereas you are considered productive if you choose the second option. 

A productive individual knows their vision and purpose in life. If you set the direction of your life according to what is crucial for you, instead of succumbing to what other people tell you, you are a productive person. Productive people act consciously and intentionally. 

  1. Try to do everything themselves vs. using the right tools and resources to help them.

Have you ever been in a situation where you do everything yourself? Perhaps you want to start an online business selling clothes, and you find yourself taking the role of administrative work, graphic design, photography, advertising, and others? This is a telltale sign that you are busy rather than being productive. 

In contrast, productive people realise that they have a limited amount of time each day. They outsource and delegate a task if it takes too much of their time. They speak to people who have the expertise and use a product/service that can complete it more quickly (and better). 

Final thoughts 

Sometimes, you just can’t help to simply go through the motions, live an unconscious life, and be a busy person in this fast-paced world. 

However,  when you choose to be productive, it helps you have a more balanced and accomplished life. In other words, it enables you to gain a better outcome of what you are striving for. 

Psych2goers, let’s now evaluate the past couple of months of your life: Have you been busy or productive? 


After Skool. (2016, October 26).  Busy People vs. Productive People. [Video]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTy-Fy3M00k

Stringer, H. (2017, September). Boosting productivity. American Psychological Association. Retrieved December 11, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/09/boosting-productivity.html

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