Are you productive or just busy?

Are you productive or just busy?

What's the difference between them? I'll explain it in this article.

We often confuse being busy with being productive. That means we think we are productive, but we are just busy.

When Steve Jobs was busy and stressed, he took many walks. And even Waren Buffet, for many the best investor of all times, plays bridge for 8 hours - every week.

Zeigarnik Effect

Zeigarnik Effect And so a question arises in my mind: How did these two people become so successful?

Psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik has found out that our brain remembers non-completed tasks better than completed ones.

This is because when we don't complete something, our subconscious is constantly working on a solution.

So when Jobs went on long walks, he created a kind of vacuum in his mind that could then be filled with new ideas and solutions to old problems.

But does that mean that we should postpone everything we should be doing right now? Not really...

being productive - create something

Create something I think it's simply a problem of definition and how people see procrastination.

In ancient Egypt, for example, "procrastination" simply meant "waiting for the right moment". But what people mean by it today is putting things off.

Actually, procrastination just means that you don't use your time the way you want to. When Steve Jobs went for a walk, he just decided to use his time for it and during that time he thought about how to solve his problems.

Just because we are sitting in front of a keyboard does not make us productive. Rather, we should look at the output of our work. Because I can sit at my Macbook for hours without having any form of output.

But if in the end something countable comes out of it - then I have used my time productively.

how to apply this to your life - tips

take walks

When I realize that I'm overworked or just can't get anything done (it doesn't matter wether its writing or coding) I take a walk. Lucky for me - the forest is really close by. This always fills up my energy tank. I just love the calmness of the woods. It's just quiet - besides some birds, but they only improve my mood.

If you don't live close to the forest or some walking trails - just go for a walk in your neighborhood.

do something completely work unrelated

You need to do something that doesn't require a lot of thinking. Like gardening - no offense to all the gardeners out there. But it is a fact that watering plants doesn't require much thinking.

So when you're watering your plants and you have a still incomplete work task in your head, your brain will work on the problem you have with it.

take a nap

This one sounds a bit silly but hear me out. If you can't get nowhere with your work and you just can't come up with a solution for a problem - take a nap.

Your subconscious will work on your problem in your sleep. So chances are good you come up with a solution while you're sleeping.


I hope I could clear up some things. By now you should know that being busy doesn't mean that you're being productive. If you want to be productive - create stuff. But take breaks when your body / your brain needs them!