This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

How To Stop Wasting Time Being Busy And Make Stuff Happen

It's time to ditch multi-tasking.

If you take time out to look at your day -- what you planned to achieve versus what you actually achieved -- you might be sorely surprised.

Many of us begin the week telling anybody within earshot how 'so incredibly busy' we are that we barely have time to scratch ourselves, let alone phone home to check in with our loved ones.

But if you're guilty of multi-tasking and/or whinging about how busy you are, perhaps it's time to take a look at the way you spend your time. Is it purpose-driven and focused or is it completely random?

The Collective CEO Lisa Messenger told The Huffington Post Australia there's a big difference between being busy and being productive.

"People buy into their own hype, constantly saying 'I'm so busy' to make themselves sound important. It becomes their default thing to say," Messenger said.

"But it's not a sustainable way to run your life. I'm so bored with saying, 'I'm busy.' The reality is I get a lot of things done but these days I say 'I'm being very productive.'

"I urge people to check in with themselves and find out what your non-negotiables are. Find out how you work best and from where. Allow yourself to adapt to that and, if you work for somebody else, have a conversation about what works best for you," she said.

You'll be more productive if you focus on things one at a time.
You'll be more productive if you focus on things one at a time.

"For me, I don't get to my office before 10am. It took me years to feel comfortable with this because I always thought I had to get to work before my staff start and be the last to leave. But not anymore."

Messenger said she quickly learnt that exercising, doing strategic thinking, meditating, taking her dog for a walk or writing in a journal were all things that got her in a 'calm place'.

"It meant that when I came into the office, I was the best version of myself and my productivity soared. I come to work with calm energy.

"Often we lead our lives according to others' expectations but, when I realised I was getting caught up in my own hype, I made changes that allowed for some amazing things to happen," Messenger said.

"Work out what your strengths are. If I was to get busy doing detailed tasks, I'd sit there and stare at it for eight hours. It would be the least productive version of me.

"So it's often really good to outsource whatever you're not good at. For me, if something is very detail-oriented, I outsource it to a staff member or a freelancer so I can focus on the things I'm good at. Outsourcing gives you time to focus on your strengths and allows you to be more productive."

Lisa Messenger advises people to find out what works for them in helping them be more productive instead of aimlessly multi-tasking.
Lisa Messenger advises people to find out what works for them in helping them be more productive instead of aimlessly multi-tasking.

"I see a lot of business owners who keep everything very close to their chest. It might be from a control perspective or they might be afraid to pay others to take over some tasks.

But as soon as you let go and empower people who are better than you to do that task, the most extraordinary things will start to unfold. You will see yourself as more productive than ever before and start achieving beyond your expectations."

'Change Meridien' founder and author Michelle Gibbings told HuffPost Australia if you want to build your influence at work and make more progress, you need to avoid the trap of being 'busy' on things that don't really matter.

"You need to get busy, on purpose. And that means ditching multi-tasking," Gibbings said.

"We all love to believe that we're brilliant multi-taskers. However, the sad reality is that we aren't.

"When you multi-task your attention is fractioned, and as you switch from one activity to another, you lose concentration and ultimately, become less productive," she said.

"If you're sitting in a meeting and typing an email, you won't be fully concentrating on what is being said in the meeting. At the same time, each time you switch from one task to another your brain is activated, and that uses up precious resources."

Gibbings is a big fan of writing a list to get the most out of every day.

"It's a good idea to plan ahead.

"The night before, think about the things you really need to do tomorrow and write these down. But don't just write a list. Instead, work out how many hours you want to 'work' during the day and then for each 30-minute block write down what you want to do in that time," Gibbings said.

Michelle Gibbings suggests people ask themselves these questions:

  • Am I conscious about how I use my time?
  • Is it purpose-driven and focused?
  • Will the activities I do today get me a step closer to my goals?
  • Will they make a difference to my life and to the life of those around?
  • How much time am I wasting on activities that don't add any value?

Lisa Messenger's Top Tips:

  • Work out your strengths and weaknesses. Outsource your weaknesses so you can focus on what you're good at.
  • Ask yourself the hard question: are you productive or are you 'just' busy?
  • Focus on the things that give you calm energy before you step into the office. It might be exercising, writing in a journal -- anything that you love doing that makes you feel focused.
  • Outsource anything that is wasting your time. If you're not great at cleaning, get yourself a cleaner. It frees up an hour -- at least -- of your time when you could be achieving other things.
  • Slow down and you will start achieving all of your goals.
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