Stop being busy and start being productive

- May 17, 2012 2 MIN READ

Recently I sent out an email asking people what their top business issues were, and one issue kept coming up: How can I get more time to do all the things I need to do? I wish I had the answer to that one! Well, actually I do…

While I would love to start a discourse about the nature of time, reality, consciousness and “the matrix”, I’ve decided to give you some “instant pudding” instead – something that you can use straight away. It is the best (ever) tool I have found to focus your thinking and actions, so that you can get the best results in line with your vision and within the time you have available. 

Where does the time go?


I have searched for years and never found more than 168 hours in a week. And yet, in business today we are expected to produce more with less – better services, quicker response times, more products to market, increased sales and better value for money. Managers and leaders in particular are expected not just to plan and prioritise their own work but also to be responsible for what their team accomplish. 

And then therein lies the catch 22: 

The harder (or more) we work, the more money we make. And the more money we make, the less time we have to enjoy it. 

This is the world that we live in today, and the only way out of this loop is to stop being busy and start being productive

Want more articles like this? Check out the productivity section.

How to be productive

In about 1986 I read a book by Alan Lakein called How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life. Why can I remember this so clearly? Because it was from this book that I learnt the best time management/time allocation tool I had ever come across – bar none. 

Lakein suggested that you should always ask yourself two questions: 

What is the best use of my time right now? 

Is this contributing to my progress? 

This literally became my mantra and allowed me to always work on my highest priorities. In fact, I had these questions written in every day of my diary (I used paper back then!) so I saw them possibly one hundred times a day. As a result I became incredibly productive and achieved a great deal. 

Over time, as my vision has become broader and more holistic, I have added some key additional questions: 

What is the one key thing I will complete today that will move my world forward? 

If this is the ONLY thing I get done today, will that make me happy? 

Is this serving my highest values? 

Is this contributing to my higher purpose? 

Am I doing what I want to do, or am I just being busy? 

Am I avoiding what I know is important by creating new stuff to do? 

These questions have taken me about 20 years to learn (I know, I know – I’m a slow learner!). But now I use them all day, every day. They are programmed into my phone to remind me (hourly). They are printed out on a sign right above my computer screen. 

As a result, I now focus on the things that are meaningful to me and uplift me, rather than responding to other people’s agendas. In other words, I am spending my time the way I want to. 

Now for the challenge: give David’s questions a go and let us know the results! Or what techniques do you use to increase your own productivity?