Being Busy Isn’t the Same as Being Productive

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Research has found that people have a natural aversion to idleness: we’ll go out of our way to stay busy, even if we have to invent things to do.

But being too busy can be counterproductive.

Studies have also shown that we have a bias toward action: when faced with a problem, we prefer to act, even if it would be best to pause first or do nothing. Together, both of these behaviors show that choosing to be busy is the easy choice.

Being productive, by contrast, is much more challenging. What helps remedy this dilemma?

Take time to step back and reflect on a regular basis. Reflection helps us understand the actions we’re considering and choose the ones that will make us productive. Even 15 minutes of planning each morning can help.

So the next time you feel busy, stop and think about what you actually need to get done.

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September 1, 2015

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