This Is the Difference Between Being Productive and Being Busy

Let’s be honest: We’re confusing the two.

Rawpixel / Shutterstock
Rawpixel / Shutterstock

Let’s all be honest here: we’re confusing being productive with being busy. I’ve learned that the really great stuff in life—the true growth and breakthroughs—come after periods of time when we’re productive. Consistently working on what’s going to get us to where we want to be. Instead, too many of us are focused on being busy. And people who are busy often are the least productive.

How many times has someone asked you, “How are you?” or “What’s going on in your life?” and you’ve answered, “I’m so busy!” The logical next question they ask is, “What are you so busy with?” And you pause and think for a minute, and then respond with a laundry list of the tasks on any given day’s to-do list. Or maybe you offer up an exhausted, “Oh, you know, life.”

I’m not judging, truly. I’ve given those responses. Many, many times. Before and after I was a mom, a super-successful entrepreneur, and an author. And every time I offered up a similar response, I’d feel even more overwhelmed and exhausted and disappointed in myself. Because deep down, I knew that all the stuff that was eating up my time—that I was allowing to eat up my time—wasn’t what I really wanted to be doing. And I longed to be able to answer with passion and purpose about things that were really filling my soul.

What if your answer was an energetic, powerful sharing of your Priorities or your top Goals that you’re currently working toward? If that’s where all your time was going, those are the things that would be on the top of your mind and the tip of your tongue. How would that feel? What if all of us were walking around having conversations about our Priorities and Goals, supporting and cheering on one another, instead of lamenting how busy we were and how little time we had to get it All done?

We women are spending our time on the wrong All. Imagine what we could do and who we could become if we were clearing out all the crap that isn’t serving us and focusing only on the stuff that’s important to us.


So let’s figure out how much of your time you’re spending on the wrong All. I’m going to take you through an exercise I do at least twice a year, and I’ve coached my team to do it too. This two-step exercise is going to show you exactly where all your time is going. If you half-ass it, it’s not going to give you the information you need about where you’re spending your time and you might as well not bother. So go All In.

I want you to write down everything you do over the course of a week in all parts of your life, and how long you spend on it. And I mean everything. Grab a notebook and carry it with you everywhere, or download my Edit Your Life Log at, so you can capture Every. Single. Thing. you do for seven days. Just like an eating log if you’re trying to figure out what you’re putting in your pie hole, if you don’t write down everything you’re spending your time on, it’s not going to help you identify what you need to change.

Once you’ve spent a whole week recording your life, look at everything listed on every day and categorize each entry.

  • Mark “P” for everything that serves one or more of your Priorities.
  • Mark “G” for everything that’s helping you get closer to achieving one or more of your Goals.
  • Mark “F” for everything that’s just plain Fun.
  • Mark “H” for everything you Hate doing.
  • Mark “S” for everything you think you Should Do.
  • Mark “M” for everything you think you Must Do.

As you label each activity, really think about how it should be categorized, and call BS on yourself if you need to. The things that are marked “P” and “G” are what you should be doing, if in fact they truly serve your Priorities and Goals. And the things you’re doing for “F”un? Girls gotta have fun, so you get to keep those, too. Plus, if you did serious soul searching in the One Word process, the Fun things you’re doing will likely be serving at least one of your Priorities and Goals.

Those you mark “M” must truly be the things you cannot possibly avoid, like sleeping, basic hygiene (showering, brushing and flossing your teeth, etc.), taking time to fuel your body, and going to the bathroom. (Hey, I told you to write down everything.) Anything else doesn’t get an “M.”

The entries you’ve marked “H” or “S” or those without a label because you can’t figure out what they are? That’s where we’re going to spend our time together. If I could, I would grab your time log, shine a light on each of those entries, and cue a chorus  to start singing, “Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelu-u-u-jah!” Because I get to help you take a critical look at them, and by the time we’re done, I’m certain you’ll be able to exchange these tasks for more time for your Priorities, your Goals, and your sanity.

Excerpted from You Can Have it All, Just Not at the Same Damn Time by Romi Neustadt with permission from the author and publisher.

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