Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Turning Busy Time into Productive Time

You all know the busy bee. No matter what day you ask, she’s busy.  If you ask how she’s doing, she’ll provide a laundry list of things left undone that she’s working on. 

Problem is: next week her laundry list will probably be the same … or worse. 

Why?  Because she’s busy, not productive.

Just because we have a lot to accomplish, doesn’t mean we are approaching our to-do list in a productive manner. In order to be productive, you have to make progress. Busy bees don’t. They flit around in all directions until they feel so overwhelmed they procrastinate. 

How can you stop the busy bee syndrome?  Here are some great ways to get you started.

Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals is the first step toward turning busy time into productive time. S.M.A.R.T. goals are ones that are: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.  For more information on setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, you can view this video.

The reason goal setting is so important to productivity is that you need to focus on what you need to accomplish. Without a plan, you’re like a driver trying to maneuver a car without a steering wheel; you have no control over where the car is going and eventually you will crash. 

Prioritize Your Goals

Just like you wouldn’t put slacks on before your underwear, you shouldn’t try to attack your goals without prioritizing them first. 

Review your goals and consider which ones you need to work on first. Deadlines help you prioritize goals, but when you accept a new project with a closer deadline, you need to consider if this is a new or repeat client and what the future impact might be on your career when accepting this new project if it impacts other deadlines. 

If you are working on a project without a solid deadline, create measurable and timely tasks to keep you on track.

Write a To-do List

You’ve set your goals and prioritized them. Now, you need to break them down into monthly or weekly to-do lists. 

The first thing a to-do list does is give you a way to focus on smaller tasks so that the larger goal doesn’t seem so daunting. A to-do list also allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment when you check off a completed item — which is a huge source of motivation. 

After using to-do lists for several weeks or months, you’ll also be able to better gauge how much you can truly accomplish during a specific time period. While it might vary depending upon the size and complexity of the projects you are working on, it will still give you a good overall picture of whether your writing schedule is working. 

Create a Writing Schedule That Works for You

Speaking of writing schedules, you need to create one that works best for you. If you’re more productive in the morning, then that’s when you should be writing. I realize my most productive hours are after 9 pm, so when my girls were younger I would wait until they went to bed to sit down to work.

For those who can’t write during their ideal time frame because of other commitments, use lunch hours and wait times before doctor appointments to increase productivity.

Track Your Time

Allowing distractions like email, your phone, and the Internet to steal your writing time will leave you feeling overwhelmed when faced with a deadline. Letting family and friends invade the time you’ve put aside for writing will also keep you busier than normal. On the reverse side, taking time dedicated to family and using it to catch up on writing projects can leave your family feeling resentful of your career. 

Take out a pen and pad or create a spreadsheet to track your time for the next five days. This will help identify exactly how much time you spend on each task and where time is wasted. Identifying what distractions and interruptions keep you from obtaining your goals will help you eliminate them. 

Keep a careful eye on how much time you spend working on projects where you just couldn’t say, “no.” Volunteering in your community and taking on special assignments can often make you feel good, but if you commit to more than you can realistically handle, you’ll soon feel the pressure and  procrastinate. 

Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals and prioritizing them, maintaining to-do lists, creating a writing schedule that works best for you, and tracking your time will help you be productive rather than chronically busy.

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at and her children’s book blog at


  1. Terrific advice, thank you! I need to be better at sticking to the schedule I create and watching the distractions carefully, particularly right now in the midst of the COVID Pandemic.

  2. I struggle with that sometimes, too, Karin. The virus made it more difficult. We are all searching for normal, but it remains hidden from us. If we use this time to create the schedules we always need, then once normal reappears we will be better for it.