Why being busy is killing you slowly

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Here’s a small tale of two people;

A long time ago, in what feels almost like another life, I got a job working for a small luxury home builder.

The owner of the company made me one of two project managers. When I met the other project manager he was instantly likeable. He was very friendly, dressed in a smart suit and tie and had an infectious giggle. He loved the Simpsons and could often be heard loudly saying ‘Doh!’ throughout the day.

As time went on I noticed a very different pattern of behaviour between both of us.

We both had a similar amount of clients and the same responsibilities. We were both friendly, hard working and knowledgeable, but that was where the similarities ended.

What I began to realise was that both of us were actually very different.

For example;

I would get in to work at 8am and leave at 5pm.

My desk was reasonably tidy. I would typically focus on one file at a time and had a note pad on the side of my desk where I would write down all my tasks. If you asked for something from me, I’d reach for the appropriate file, find the document and hand it to you.

Our primary job was to facilitate the construction process, so I would start and complete the construction schedule – a task that would typically take 3-4 full days work. Only once one was completed, would I begin another.

If you saw me walking around the office it was probably at a medium pace, generally not in a hurry. I’d also linger for a friendly chat every now and then with the other staff.

Rinse and repeat…

My counterpart on the other hand, worked differently.

He would arrive at 6.45am and leave at 7pm.

When you’d visit his office, his desk had four or five files on it with paper strewn all over the desk. Not in neat piles, just randomly placed. If you asked him a question he would dig through the papers to find the page that had the relevant information.

Unlike me, he would break down the construction schedule into multiple parts. Only when construction really needed it would he complete the next section. This would put him under pressure whenever multiple projects reached the end of each stage at similar times.

If you saw him walking around the office, it would have been at a brisk pace and in a hurry. He’d have a friendly chat but then wave the paperwork in his hand at you and announce ‘gotta go, gotta get this done today!’

and so it went…

Now this is where it gets important.



My productivity was double my counterpart.

My salary was half my counterpart.


Because when you work for someone else, they want to see you as busy because to most people being busy is equal to being productive.

The truth however is that being busy has nothing at all to do with being productive.

Being productive is exactly that. Getting Shit Done.

Being busy is by definition “having a great deal to do” OR “keeping oneself occupied.”

Remember when your co-worker said “Here comes the boss – look busy!”

That’s what great employees do. They look busy – or they keep oneself occupied.

That is great as an employee. Unfortunately, that’s terrible as an entrepreneur.

Changing your ways

When you go into business for yourself you’ll discover that being busy kills your business in more ways than one.

If you or your employees are being busy for being busy sake, you’re basically throwing your money away.

Throw Money

Being in business is all about providing a product or service to someone. The more efficiently you can do that, the more money you can make.

Lets say you offered a service where you would write 1000 word articles for day-spas to put on their blog and you got paid $100 for every article.

Being busy might entail;

  • Writing
  • Researching
  • Scribbling notes
  • Reading other similar articles
  • Calling people about ideas
  • The list goes on…

Unfortunately, there’s no defined ending here. You’re being busy for the sake of being busy.

Lets change that and say you’d like to earn $500 a day.

Being productive would entail;

  • 2 x 10 minute phone calls to gather ideas
  • 20 minutes of research for each article
  • Writing 1 article per hour

In seven hours you’d complete all five articles and earn $500.

Were you busy during those seven hours?

I’d say no.

You were productive. You Got Shit Done.

This is a subtle difference in how you think about what you do every day.

Why I no longer have employees

Today I have a team of people that work for me, none of which are employees.

Employees are not in my best interest.


Because they are too busy.

When you have employees you are required to keep them motivated to complete your business goals.

When you have sub-contractors however, they are motivated to complete their work for their own goals.

Each of the people on my team are paid directly in relation to their productivity. They have a task, they get it done, they get paid a fixed amount we previously agreed on.

Their earnings are purely related to the work they contribute.

Isn’t that unfair?

Here’s the catch that a lot of people get stuck on.

As an employee a web designer might earn a salary of $60,000 a year.

As a sub-contractor that web designers earnings aren’t capped. The more productive they are and the more hours they work the more they can earn.

Why does a job title limit employee earnings?

Why as a business owner would you choose to limit your staff productivity by not providing any incentive to be more productive?

Why being busy isn’t attractive for your customers

Can you imagine how your customers feel about you being busy all the time?

  • Are they getting the best of you?
  • Are you giving them your utmost attention?
  • Are you looking out for their interests?

If you’re always busy, you’re doing it wrong. As a business owner myself, I wouldn’t want to work with you because you can’t help me – you’re too busy.

Consider what message you’re sending out if you describe yourself as ‘busy’ then make the adjustment to being productive.

As a business owner you have the unique ability to delegate anything and everything you choose not to do yourself.

Delegation can take you from busy to productive.

Why being busy is killing you slowly

What is it you’d love to do most?

No matter how you answer that question, you’re going to come to the realisation that your time is limited. Whatever you’d love to do most has a time window – and time is running out.

  • Time to make the money to go on your dream holiday.
  • Time to learn to play guitar.
  • Time to find the love of your life.
  • Time to learn a new language.
  • Time to spend hanging out with your kids.

So being busy, for the sake of being busy, is killing your dreams by slowly wasting away the limited time you have to do what you love.

This extends to every area of your life. It’s true for business, for relationships, for financial goals, for your education and for your health.

Being busy kills the time you had available to spend on something else valuable.

It’s all in your mind

When people would call and ask me how things were going I’d reply “I’m really busy” until one day I woke up to the trap I had set for myself.

I decided I didn’t want to be busy any longer. Instead, I chose to be productive.

If someone asks me today how things are going I simply reply with “I’m getting shit done.” I hope you do to.