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“Busy as a bee” is one of those phrases that makes us think of a person who is constantly in motion, and dedicated to a greater goal. But the fact is, busy-work isn’t necessarily productive work. It’s not uncommon for people in leadership or management to provide ‘busywork’ to some employees just so they have something to do, regardless of the actual effect of that work. In order to make the most of our time, we should aspire to make our work focus on productivity, not being busy.


Use the Pareto Principle

Economist Vilfredo Pareto was active in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and he developed the idea that only 20% of our work can lead to 80% of our productivity. This isn’t accepted among all professions, but it’s a good way of thinking about what our work actually does – try and identify that 20% that does the most work for you and do your best to do more of it.

Don’t Get Distracted

Busy work is often made up of small tasks that pop up out of nowhere and beg for attention right away. If you’ve ever spent a Monday responding to ‘urgent emails,’ surprise calls, or any other kind of ‘quick tasks’ that end up taking longer than you expect, you understand how being busy might not be productive. These activities often need done but learn to prioritize the productive tasks and know when to say ‘not now’’ to those unexpected ‘urgent’ tasks.

Multitasking Isn’t Real

Now, it’s true that many people are capable of juggling multiple tasks at the same time. It’s even true that some people are quite good at this. But there are many studies that have shown that multitasking is detrimental to our productivity. Every time we ‘multitask’ we are actually just hitting pause on one task and picking up later. Even if it doesn’t take long to re-adjust to a task, that momentary ‘where was I?” can throw off your work. Additionally, there is much to be said about ‘Flow State’ where your mind is engrossed in a task. Plying this state of mind requires you to stick to a task for long enough to be lost in it – which multitasking interrupts.