There is one difference between being busy and being productive, and that is the achievement of an end goal, in other words, getting stuff done. However, despite our best efforts, being productive can be harder that in sounds. The overwhelming feeling of juggling multiple responsibilities, having a lot on your plate, or getting yourself stretched too thin but not actually getting anything done, is a relatable one. We often find ourselves with a seemingly endless stack of tasks that we just can’t seem to put a dent in. For the busy heads and go-getters of the new millennia who might need help, let me share my top practical tips on how to reduce that busy feeling and yield productive results.

Eat your breakfast

A body without food is like a car without fuel…except that is where the analogy ends. A body is far more complex. Our brains need specific nutrients to function productively, so source them from whole-grains, low-fat protein and plenty of fruit and veg. Smaller, more regular meals also take far less energy to digest, helping you to avoid that dreaded post-lunch lull.

Write it down

We all know a person who gets an immense thrill out of making lists, strange right? But the truth is, this savvy individual is actually onto something brilliant. Writing everything down not only prevents details from being forgotten, it allows you to categorise and prioritise tasks to set realistic and achievable goals. Not to mention the smug satisfaction of ticking them off…and done!

See the Bigger Picture

With a narrow vision, getting bogged down in the trivial details can be overwhelming. On both a personal and professional level, an inability to see the bigger picture, or end goal, can cause us to waste time and energy. So, when struggling with decisions over seemingly menial tasks simply ask yourself, does it really matter in the grand scheme of things?

Learn to Say ‘No’

In a society consumed by the fear of offending, telling people ‘no’ can seem like hard work, and for some, even daunting. But agreeing to everything is not productive, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Turning things down allows you to make space for the tasks that really matter, and most importantly guarantees you a little rest – fresh mind, fresh ideas.

Take a Walk

It is no secret the benefits of regular exercise on general health, but how can it improve your productivity on a day-to-day basis? A study from Stanford University showed that a person’s creative output increases by an average of 60% after going for a walk. So, make the time, chase those good endorphins and harness that productivity.

Learn to Delegate

The concept of relinquishing control is somewhat alien to many of us, but as a method of reducing busyness, it is truly second-to-none. The key to successful, productive delegation is an established support network of trusted individuals. Set boundaries, keep track of progress, and provide sufficient support, just make sure you restrain the urge to micromanage.

Cut Meeting Times in Half

A colossal detriment to your productivity, disorganised meetings drag out potentially very simple discussions. Get the ball rolling and cut your meeting time in half by setting clear objectives, only inviting necessary attendees and never starting late. If you’re desperate, try standing meetings; bringing a literal meaning to ‘thinking on your feet’ studies show it takes people 30% less time to make decisions when stood up.

Do Not Disturb

It’s hard to put a dent in your workload when being constantly bombarded with questions and emails. Interruptions to workflow, no matter how brief, make you feel busier and reduce productivity. So, spell it out loud and clear with a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your office door, or the electronic equivalent feature on your phone and emails.

Whether we think it’s beneficial or counterproductive, we always tend to favour doing something versus the opposite, even if the former is not the most ideal option. Even if we have an innate aversion to idleness, there are times when it’s better just to pause and then plan the best course of action. As rational and discerning as we may be, we always fall into the comfortable trap of being busy. To stay productive means being mindful about your every activity, gauging the efficiency of every step and action we take. When we are busy with the usual groove of our daily routines, our need to rationalise and think goes awry. To really get something done, sometimes, all we need is a little push, a tinge of creativity and the will to make the hard decisions to stay on track of our goals.