Time Management For Leaders: Busy or Productive And The Difference


So often we fill our calendars with meetings, to-do tasks, and events that it seems the right the thing to do as leaders. At the end of the day, we can check off those pending items with a sigh of relief. Yet, have we really accomplished anything?

Being busy and being productive can be elusive and it shows in actions and habits that are distinguishable, one from the other. We came across 11 different types of activities that can distinguish one from being busy versus being productive. 

Time Management For Leaders: Busy or Productive And The Difference

1. Busy people want to look like they have a mission. Productive people have a mission for their lives.

Productive people tend to be ok with criticism about the small steps they layout. They are more confident than busy people in where they are going. Without a plan, busy people shy away or are more sensitive to criticism of their daily tasks because they might just know that it has little impact to their overall goal. 

2. Busy people have many priorities. Productive people have few priorities

If you have a large list of priorities, you might just end up with chaos. Productive people rely on systems to get to a resulted outcome. Instead of focusing on orchestrating lists, true productivity is tying together the whole picture with less details and more action oriented items.

3. Busy people say yes quickly. Productive people say yes slowly

Jim Carrey starred in a movie that came out in 2008 about a guy that goes to a motivational speaker to open his mind to more positive experiences by saying "Yes" to every opportunity around him. Comically, the story is founded in the reality that saying "yes" to everything, although true to a servants heart, is unworthy of pursuit if you are ever going to be productive.

Develop the ability to measure your priorities and say "no" once in a while. Declining offers and refusing ideas is not an indication that you are insensitive but rather an ambitious and focused person on the results you want to achieve.

Busy or Productive? - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Click through the slideshare to review which category you might fall into and how to correct those from being just busy work into productive work! 

4. Busy people focus on action. Productive people focus on clarity before action

In order to know if something you did in the past worked or didn't work takes measurement and tracking. Sadly, social media for many is this tool of measurement in documenting their lives. Yet, if you want to know that what you are doing is having an impact on your goals, take 5 minutes and try writing in a journal at the end of the day of the things that you accomplished. After a period of time, you will take notice of the things you are doing well versus what you need to improve on.

5. Busy people keep all doors open. Productive people close doors

In order to reach a goal or desired outcome, it's important to close yourself off from distractions and get to the task at hand. You might know people that want to learn a language, visit 5 countries this year, participate in 5 community outreach programs, and be coach to several youth sports teams in the city. One things for sure, this person will not reach any of these goals because her door is wide open to this and more opportunities they get involved in. Productive people stay focused and finish one project before attempting to master another.  

6. Busy people talk about how busy they are. Productive people let their results do the talking

Talk is cheap in the sense that being productive comes with less declarative statements and more demonstrative actions. Unless you climbed Mt. Everest, wanting to do so is not compelling to anyone. The less we talk and the more we do allows the feeling of productivity to take on a whole new feeling. Have you ever felt productive when reading a good book? You might if you haven't left things go undone for the day. Next time, try starting that new project and check on how you feel. You might find that even though you started something new, not completing your past tasks can make you feel pretty lousy.

7. Busy people talk about how little time they have. Productive people make time for what is important

To a fault, productive people utilize time much differently than busy people. If you are busy, you are the first to complain about not having time. Why? Because you are under utilizing the very resource that productive people value the most. Productive people will spend their day on tasks that reach a targeted goal. If they get the whole day off from work, they won't start to work on a task that doesn't impact their goal directly.  

8. Busy people multitask. Productive people focus

There is a technique called the Pomodoro Technique. Take a clock or stop-watch and, set it to 20 minutes. Work on a task and don't allow any distractions to set in - nothing. Don't get up to get water, go to bathroom, check on your phone, or answer any calls...nothng. Go distracted? Reset the time. Productive people can accomplish more of these cycles of work than a busy person because busy people love to multitask. 

9. Busy people respond quickly to emails. Productive people take their time

Answering emails is a tough one for everyone. What most don't realize, is that answering emails is acting on someone else's interest, not yours. They sent you an urgent email, yet, it is not urgent to you as much as it is to the person that sent it. Realistically, you should act on 3 different behaviors when working in your inbox. Act, Delete, or Postpone. Everything else is just wasted time. 

10. Busy people want other people to be busy. Productive people want others to be effective

Managing busy people is a challenge, if you are a busy manager. The challenge is becoming productive yourself and not managing how busy you can keep your staff but how well their results are. Productive managers enjoy their work and look for others to have the same experience. Busy people are focused on what they will receive for their work when productive people are fueled by the work they have and how well they can do it. 

11. Busy people talk about how they will change. Productive people are making those changes.

What can you do today that does not require the approval of anyone? Busy people are stuck in planning and hoping. Productive people are in action, they are in motion towards their goal and realizing their full potential.


Take a moment and look at the way time management for leaders can affect your organization. These tips apply at all levels of the business organization chart. If you are dedicated to excelling in your business, utilize these principals to begin shifting from a busy leader and into a productive leader.


LUXA Enterprises specializes in hr outsourcing and hr solutions. We have a passion for employee relations and want to help small and mid-size companies increase productivity at work. Find out why people choose to work with us!



Topics: Advice Business Advice