Busy or Productive?

Wednesday, October 18 2023

I imagine you consider yourself busy. That’s your life. As a business owner/entrepreneur you’ve probably been busy for decades. It started when you decided to own your own business. You put in long days and nights working on everything from cleaning up, marketing, sales, operations, negotiating bank loans, hiring and training new employees, to tracking cashflow… but are you productive or busy?

When people ask how you’re doing, invariably the answer is “busy!” If you are sitting still you get antsy and feel guilty. When you go on holidays you’re checking your messages and counting the days until you can be back at work.

But are you productive?

The Merriam-Webster definition of productive is:  “… yielding results, benefits, or profits.” Being busy doesn’t enter the definition at all. You can be busy and productive… or not. I’ve seen some business owners who weren’t busy at all but were very productive. And you know the flip side.

Busy or Productive?

If I want to be more productive in the future, what do I need to do? As a typical employee, I may need to be more organized, more disciplined, busier. However, as a typical business owner, I need to be more thoughtful, reflective, focused and strategic. It’s important to be less busy, and I need to invest more time working ON the business, not IN the business. I need to lead more than do, and should work on my succession plan. I need to spend more time on relationships and less time on paperwork, and need to learn from the past, imagine the future, and ask myself, “What is the most important thing to do right now?”

Marshall Goldsmith wrote a great book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” in which he reminds the reader over and over, that the very activities that made you successful early in your career will work against you as you grow into more responsible roles.

It turns out that being “productive” is a moving target. When you think you have it nailed, you change your role and become more responsible. How you are more productive changes too. As a business owner, you want to:

  • Set and communicate goals
  • Increase clarity and reduce chaos
  • Focus on results, not activities
  • Use your brain, not your brawn
  • Help others to be more productive through coaching, encouragement, feedback and clear expectations

Being productive as a business owner means helping your people to be more productive. If they are productive, you are too.

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