It is very easy to confuse motion with accomplishment, but simply being busy doesn’t do anything toward reaching our goals. Being busy can be addictive. Look around and you will hear a lot of people complaining about how busy they are, but when you look deeper, it is clear that they like being busy.
I’m not sure why this is. I think being busy makes us feel important. It is possible that we feel important because we assume that important people are busy or that people who accomplish a lot are busy. While neither of these things is necessarily true, there is something about being busy that people like.
The people who are really productive are usually the the least busy. In fact, sometimes it doesn’t seem like they do very much, but it is quality of the little they do that adds great value. Truly productive people focus on providing value, not on doing more things.
When we focus on creating value instead of just doing more things, we are able to focus on what is really important. Often, this means getting rid of tasks that seem important but provide no lasting value. Often it means shifting responsibility for tasks to someone else.
When you start noticing that your focus is shifting away from “what can I do?” and toward “what is valuable?” you are taking the first steps toward being less busy and more productive.
Originally published April 16, 2007.