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effective vs busy

You checked the box, but did you miss the boat?

“Ken, I’m so busy. Honestly, I haven’t even had time to reflect on what I want from our call today. I feel like I’m constantly working and while I manage to plow through a pile of stuff every day, I don’t seem to be making any progress on my most important initiatives.”

Like all my clients, Max was busy.

But was Max productive?

And beyond productivity, was Max effective?

Too often leaders get caught up “checking boxes” – knocking things off their never-ending to-do lists – yet end up “missing the boat.”

Just like Max.

Busy and “productive” – but not actually getting anywhere.

What’s the difference between being productive and being effective?

When you are productive:

  • You get a lot done. The focus is on output.
  • You do more things, faster.
  • You may be busy but miss the larger picture.

Productive people check off tasks and fill time.

When you’re effective:

  • You get the right things done. The focus is on impact.
  • You slow down to make better choices about what’s most important.
  • You align your effort with strategy and priorities to make real progress.

Effective people use their time and energy to create value.

To be effectively productive, you need to focus your efforts on the key activities that truly matter for the outcomes you want to achieve.

3 steps to being more effective

Increase your Awareness: Where are you already effective?

At the end of each day, take no more than 5 minutes recalling one instance where you felt you were effective in your actions.

  • What happened? Jot down one sentence to capture the context.
  • How were you effective? What exactly did you do?
  • Did you need to overcome a barrier to be effective? What was it? How did you overcome it?
  • How can you apply this effectiveness to other situations?

Check In: Are you busy or procrastinating?

For many people being busy is an unconscious deception keeping them from doing what really needs to be done.

Do you ever tell yourself stories like these:

  • “I know it’s not as important, but I have to get this urgent thing done today.”
  • “Sure, I need to have that conversation, but I have to perfect this spreadsheet first.”
  • “Over-delivery is my specialty! I love to impress with my attention to detail and presentation.”
  • “We should cover every contingency before moving forward. Sure 20% of the effort gets 80% of the results, but I must be 99% certain before moving forward.”

The stories we tell ourselves to justify this procrastination feel so right!

Use the Rule of Three to Move from being Productive to Being Effective.

Start by determining the 3 things that absolutely must be done this month for you to be successful.

This is hard work.

Your starting to-do list probably won’t fit on a single sheet of paper!

Considering your values and your vision of success, narrow to your Big 3.

  1. Start every week by repeating your Big 3 on Monday.
  2. Repeat your Big 3 daily (before you start being “busy”).
  3. Share your list with another person. Get them to join you in being accountability partners. Check in weekly on your successes and learnings. Repeat.

Busy is a great way to deny, avoid, and defer the most impactful work.

Behind this kind of busy is fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being wrong, fear of conflict, fear of being seen as incompetent, etc.

 “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt

Real transformation comes from becoming aware of your unconscious fears that are driving the bus and then by creating new mindsets, emotions, and actions to move forward despite the fear.

Coaching can provide clarity and accountability to move forward with what matters.

If you are ready to move past “checking boxes” and are craving more purpose, change, and impact for yourself and the world, I’d love to talk about it: Book a call with Coach Ken

Let’s make sure you catch your boat!

Missing the Boat

It is not so much that the boat passed and you failed to notice it.

It is more like the boat stopping directly outside your bedroom window, The captain blowing the signal horn, the band playing a rousing march.

The boat shouted, waving bright flags, its silver hull blinding in the sunlight.

But you had this idea you were going by train. You kept checking the time table,

Digging for tracks.

And the boat got tired of you,

so tired it pulled up the anchor and raised the ramp.

The boat bobbing into the distance, shrinking like a toy –

At which point you probably realized you had always loved the sea.

Naomi Shihab Nye

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Ken Roseboom

Ken Roseboom is the President of Thinking Partners. He partners with leaders to increase impact, create aligned teams, and deliver better results. He leverages the Alignment process, assessment tools, expert coaching, and years of front line leadership experience to support his clients.