Being Busy Versus Being Productive

The world is not short on ideas. However, walking the talk and playing your role in facilitating the execution of ideas and helping to move a project or a business from point A to point B is harder to do. Those who understand the logistical realities of what it takes to execute strategies make the best strategists. Those who drive innovation not out of an indiscriminate desire to innovate, but ultimately as a creative and practical solution to meet an objective, become the best project leaders. These individuals get the job done and inspire others around them. Does your agency or marketing department have these assets in place?

"Never confuse motion with action." -- Benjamin Franklin

Never will you hear a member of an agency team or marketing department relish all the free time they have. Everyone is busy, all the time, usually working at or near capacity. Parkinson's Law states that "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Being busy in and of itself tends to erode productivity in every organization. While it is important for managers and leaders to identify and remedy areas of inefficiency, as individuals we should all be aware of how our day-to-day productivity can be improved. 



Your personal career growth and your contribution to your company's success should be in alignment. Passion, a strong sense of pride, organization of priorities, and persistence are intrinsic attributes that should complement experience and knowledge acquired over time. Entrepreneurs possess one particular trait that can help everyone excel: They do what they need to do to put their ideas into action. This same characteristic can be observed in good salespeople who have the ability to close. We should all strive to hone our focus to achieve.

"I never worry about action, but only inaction." -- Winston Churchill

When was the last time you analyzed your organizational skills or methods of prioritization and approach to achieving your goals? Have you stopped to ask yourself if you are busier than you are productive? 

There's no need to be embarrassed. We all fall into the trap at some point. It's important to acknowledge that there may be a better way to work and periodically make changes in your day-to-day routine, particularly when you are in a comfort zone. Unfortunately sometimes layers of management and politics create a culture of perceived busyness, rather than a culture of productivity and professional and personal progress. In a sense, the path of least resistance is to fill up your time with "work," ensuring a level of accountability for effort without being accountable for actually achieving your goals.  

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it." -- Yogi Berra

We do live in an age of information overload and multiple stakeholders vying for our time and attention. However, your personal success is up to you. Resist the urge to check your email every three minutes. Start your day half an hour earlier and use that time to catch up on industry news. Allot specific times to check and post to Twitter and Facebook.  

Responding in real time is only a priority if social media is part of your role. Identify aspects of your responsibilities where you need to improve. Find a mentor. Be a mentor to others on your team. Be competitive, but have humility. Strive to impress yourself and push your boundaries, and you will become a more valuable asset to your organization. 

"An organization's ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage." -- Jack Welch 

An individual or team can only get so many As for effort before they deserve to be deemed ineffective and a change in approach and accountability is required. These patterns of inefficiency can be observed both on the organizational level as well as the individual level. The topic of productivity has significant relevance in the context of agency relationships with their clients as well as the interrelationships within marketing departments. An organization's culture must nurture both valuable strategic thinking and the facilitation of action. Is this true of your company and that of the key partners you rely on? 

I'd love to hear some of the ways companies are fostering or hampering individual growth that contributes to or detracts from organizational productivity and progress. Share your thoughts with us!

5 comments about "Being Busy Versus Being Productive".
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  1. Kevin Lee from Didit, May 31, 2011 at 11:13 a.m.

    Interesting. We've found that making sure that teams know how to prioritize the day's campaign optimization tasks is at leas as important as knowing how to do those tasks. Similarly, we've started to educate clients how important it is that we do things in the right order not go off on tangents that the client wants (shiny object syndrome).

  2. Rusty Borkin from Diver Client Consulting, May 31, 2011 at 11:37 a.m.

    An important determinate to the "being productive vs being busy" dilemma is knowing the results of activity. So knowing the value of action is as important as the action itself. And for that you need feedback from your clients. A process without an effective feedback loop is not a process at all.

  3. Bruce May from Bizperity, May 31, 2011 at 1:03 p.m.

    Good performance management practices can improve every aspect of marketing. We teach our clients how to incorporate these practices into all their marketing processes. Great post.. rock solid advice all around.

  4. Jason Heller from AGILITi, May 31, 2011 at 3:49 p.m.

    @Bruce @Rusty - feedback / performance management is definitely key. I find that the issue is often managers that get bogged down in 'busyness' themselves and therefore perpetuate a culture of accountability for effort rather than accountability for results. A minimal satisfaction result is accepted way too often.

    @Kevin - good points. For many, often easier said than done. So kudos for having a process in place to reinforce priorities.

    Yes, not getting distracted by shiny objects is important. But just wanted to add a note that ensuring the right resource is in place to focus on helping teams understand how and when new channels/tools/technologies/opportunities can work for clients (or your business), is also important.

  5. Jeff Pundyk from The Economist Group, June 2, 2011 at 1:46 p.m.

    Jason, your point about info overload is right on. walk away from the computer, turn off the smart phone, and think.

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