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Keeping Yourself Busy All Day Long Doesn’t Mean That You’re Productive. You’re Simply Procrastinating.

Keeping Yourself Busy All Day Long Doesn’t Mean That You’re Productive. You’re Simply Procrastinating.

Many people like postponing challenging work tasks by completing the ones that don’t require much cognitive power first. Usually, they think it is better to fill in the time rather than stay idle when they procrastinate. At least, doing something means they are being productive. Does this situation happen to you often in the workplace? If yes, you’ve already fallen into the trap of mistaking the two kinds of tasks: “reactive” and “proactive”.

Reactive tasks are those tasks that are somewhat urgent and maybe even important but don’t have a high long-term value. Proactive tasks are those that we know we should do, that have a high long-term value but are often blocked by procrastination and reactive tasks.

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Examples of reactive tasks and productive tasks at work

There are plenty of reactive tasks that need to be done at work, like replying to email, documentation and and repetitive tasks that maintain the operation of your company. But that doesn’t mean you should always use them as an excuse to postpone your proactive tasks, like coming up with new ideas for an upcoming project, thinking ways to improve the performance of your company’s products in the market, improving the communication and cooperation with other colleagues etc.

Typically, we spend 80% of our time on reactive tasks and only 20% of our time on proactive tasks. That explains why most of us are only busy but not genuinely productive at work.

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To reverse the situation, first you need to clearly know where you are by taking the following actions:

1. Look at your to-do list and count the number of proactive versus reactive tasks

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2. Calculate your ratio

  • Count the number of tasks (for example, 20 reactive and 5 proactive for a total of 25)
  • Divide by 100 (0.25 for our example)
  • Divide the number of reactive tasks by that number (eg. 20/.25 = 80%)
  • Subtract that percentage from 100 to find your proactive ratio (eg. 100% – 80% = 20%)

How to shift the ratio to make time spend on the right tasks

  • Reduce the number of reactive tasks : Are they all that important that they really need to be done? If not, take them away.
  • Create more proactive tasks : Think of the things you’re passionate about and the goals you want to complete. Add those things to your to-do list, regardless of whether or not you feel they’re urgent. It’s the things that are important, but don’t have a deadline that will make all the difference in our lives.
  • Learn to say “NO”! : Knowing when to say no to someone is a powerful thing. Remember that every “yes” is a drain on your time and energy and it keeps you from being able to say yes to something else – like your dreams!

Takeaway: Keep in mind that reactive tasks only keep you busy and distract you from genuine productivity. To ensure your time is fully well-spent, you shouldn’t shy away from doing more proactive tasks. Good luck!

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Bill Widmer

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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