Are You Busy or Productive?
A few years ago, I spent a day with Kilian Jornet, the world’s top ultra-man. Kilian has set the record for fastest ascent on Mounts Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, Montblanc and Cervino. In our conversations, Kilian discussed the difference between his life in the mountains and city. In the mountains, Kilian has a clear destination, but he is constantly adjusting his path due to terrain, weather and ground conditions. When he’s in the city, he sees people walking confidently up and down the street. They look so sure of their steps, but they often have no idea of their true destination. As Kilian indicated, this is one of the key differences between busy people and productive people. Here are a few others:
1. Busy people want to look like they have a mission. Productive people have a mission for their lives. Busy people hide their doubt about the destination of their lives by acting confident in their little steps. Productive people allow others to see the doubt in their little steps because they are clear on the destination.
2. Busy people have many priorities. Productive people have few priorities. Nobody is ever too busy; if they care, they will make time. Life is a question of priorities. If you have three priorities, you have priorities. If you have 25 priorities, you have a mess. The Pareto Principle states that 80% of your desired results come from 20% of your activity. Henry Ford built a fortune not by building better cars, but by building a better system for making cars. Busy people try to make better cars, while productive people develop better systems for making cars.
3. Busy people focus on action. Productive people focus on clarity before action. To focus on the top 20% of your activities, you must gain clarity about what those activities are. The greatest resource you will ever have to guide you is your own personal experience— if it is well documented. Sadly, most people only document their life in Facebook status updates. Keep a diary and take five minutes each day to reflect on the past day; highlight what worked, what didn’t work and what inspired you.
4. Busy people multitask. Productive people focus. Productive people know about focus. Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique? It is brutal, but effective. Start by identifying a task to be done (e.g., write a blog post). Set a timer to 20 minutes and work on that task until the time sounds. Any distraction (e.g., check email), and you have to reset the timer to 20 minutes. How many Pomodoros can you complete in a day?
5. Busy people talk about how they will change. Productive people are making those changes. Kilian doesn’t spend much time talking about what he will do. He talks about what he has done, what he has learned and what inspires him. Spend less time talking about what you will do and dedicate that time to creating the first step. What can you do that requires nobody’s approval? What can you do with the resources, knowledge and support that you have? Do that. It is amazing how the universe rewards the person who stops talking and begins.
We are born with incredible potential. At the age of 20, the best compliment that can be paid to us is that we have a lot of potential. At the age of 30, it still sounds good. At age 40, the compliment starts to become insulting. At age 60, telling someone they have a lot of potential is probably the cruelest insult that can be made about their life. Don’t let your potential go to waste. Create something amazing. This is its own reward.
Conor Neill is an EO Spain – Barcelona member, faculty member of EO Leadership Academy, professor of leadership and CEO of TaxiJet. Contact Conor at
firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his blog at www.conorneill.com.