7 Differences Between Busy and Productive People

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There is a difference between having a lot of things to do and getting a lot done. But, we’re often told that being busy must mean that you’re productive. 


Productive by definition means “achieving a significant amount or result”. While busy is “having a great deal to do or keeping oneself occupied”. They very difference between the two is that productivity produces results. Being busy just means using (or in some cases wasting) a lot of time. So how do you know if you’re really being productive? Here are 8 ways.

1. Busy people find it hard to prioritize. Productive people have (few) priorities. 

There is no such thing as being too busy. If it is important to you, you will find a way to incorporate it into your life. Having three or four priorities allows you to stay focused and work towards achieving the desired result. Having 20 priorities creates a headache and doesn’t give you time to complete anything.

2. Busy people have “things to do”. Productive people have a mission to complete.

Busy people hide their doubt by creating a longer list of things that should be done. There isn’t a sense of direction in their actions, just a multitude of things that consume their time.

Productive people are on a mission. Their actions are driven by the conscious decision to achieve a particular result and everything that they do is geared towards it.

3. Busy people always say yes. Productive people know when to say no. 

Busy people often over promise and under deliver. In their attempt to fit more into their never ending to-do list, they take on projects and make promises that simply can’t be kept.

Productive people understand that time is of the essence and that, to produce quality work, they need to have time and space. They say no, not to upset people, but because they’re aware of the limit.

4. Busy people focus on “doing”. Productive people gain clarity before taking action

Documenting your decisions can be one of the best things that you can do for yourself. It allows you to clearly understand how your actions are having an impact on your life and what you need to do in order to progress. Taking mindless action doesn’t produce a great deal of results. We live in a world where people are more interested in updating a Facebook status than they are proactively minding their personal growth. Don’t fall into this habit. Make sure that everything you do is inspired by your personal mission.

5. Busy people have too many options. Productive people have few. 

Everyone goes through a stage of wanting to do it all, to travel, save money, move out of home, get a degree, learn a language or earn a promotion. However, you do get to a point where focus becomes a necessity. You may want to do all of those things, but it is impossible to do them all at once. If this year, I want to start saving for a deposit on a flat, it’s probably not the best time to book flights to travel the world.

6. Busy people talk about time flying past. Productive people talk about what they’ve achieved. 

As they say; work hard in silence and let success make the noise. Busy people might have a lot to do and not too much to show for it. Not because they aren’t capable of doing better, but because they are channeling their energy into for too many things.

Productive people can tell you exactly what they have achieved in the past few days, weeks or months because their aim is to …

7. Busy people multitask. Productive people find their focus. 

Focus can do so much for you.

In theory, multitasking seems like a great idea. Why not kill two (or more) birds with the same stone? It sounds like you’re getting double the amount of work done in a shorter amount of time. What it really means is that you don’t finish many tasks because your time has been divided. Productivity is completing a task to a high standard. That requires focus.

There are plenty of great ways to do this. If you haven’t heard of the Pomodoro technique – check it out! You set a timer to 20 minutes and the aim is to focus on one thing and should you get distracted (by checking your phone, running off to get water, surfing the net), you have to reset the clock. Brutal? Maybe. Effective? Most definitely.

Think about how much you could achieve when you’re being productive? Don’t allow your potential to go to waste by consuming your time with ‘busy’. Instead of focussing on how much you have to do, focus on how completing each task will bring you one step closer to your goal.

Feel like I’ve missed something? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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