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Busy Does Not Mean Productive

20 January 2021

It’s tempting to be busy. “Busy” signals that we’re working. But are those “busy” signals reality? And, even if they are, is merely busying ourselves actually meeting our clients’ needs to the very best of our ability?

I think that, often, we need to step back and ask ourselves whether our “busy” work is producing the solutions our clients want and need, or are we merely doing what’s easiest to do? One of the best ways to determine this is to ask ourselves the hard questions. But it’s also a very good idea to check in frequently with our clients, to ensure we are actually being productive for them, and not merely busy.

If our workplace is a factory line, measuring productivity is an easy matter, and, up to a point, keeping busy will raise our productivity while in the factory. For knowledge-brokers, though, the metrics are much more complicated. We measure productivity via our clients’ satisfaction, our own valuation of the services and solutions we provide, as well as our bottom line.

But we all, factory workers and knowledge-brokers alike, require rest. We all know muscle fatigue, what it feels like, and how, sometimes, without rest our bodies just won’t do what we want of them. The same is true for the brain. A factory worker’s hands need rest, and a knowledge-worker’s brain needs rest, or they won’t be able to reach that deep level of focus which produces their best work.

And right now, I think many of us are experiencing a kind of mental fatigue, after a year of COVID-19 and the crushing Saints’ loss on Sunday, sadly ending their season.

I’ve written extensively on the need for recreative time, vacations, holidays, getaways. But it’s been a while since I’ve written on the perils of fatigue – and they are real. Fatigue impairs memory, concentration, and decision making (bad for knowledge workers!), as well as coordination, reaction time, and muscle strength (bad for physical workers!).

Therefore, in order to continuously produce our best work, we have to avoid the trap of being busy instead of being productive. We have to rest our minds, so they can rejuvenate and refresh themselves. This is not accomplished by reading thick technical tomes, but a well-written yet undemanding novel can fill the bill, for readers. We can take a nap, exercise. Anything which allows our brains to take some time off and kick back.

This isn’t a matter of stress-relief, as important as that is. Resting our minds, daily, is stress-prevention, in addition to promoting our best and deepest work. Sounds like a good combination to me.

How do you like best to rest your brain? What activities (or non-activities) bring you the greatest focus and calmness during the workday?

Please click here to email me directly – I’d love to hear your stories and strategies.

Until next Wednesday –



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