Dear Working Mother,

I gave up on New Year’s resolutions  after my first daughter was born.

Instead I’ve got into a pattern of outlining a couple of specific goals for the year and focusing on achieving those.  The one big issue I’d like to tackle this year is my productivity verses my busyness.

Here’s my problem (OK problems) when it comes to being busy instead of productive:

I find it difficult to say no.  I, unfortunately, am still a YES girl.  Productive people take their time saying yes.  By not saying no I’m spreading myself too thin.  I’m taking on not only my own priorities but other peoples too.  I can’t be productive if I don’t have the time to focus on just a few clear priorities.  Saying no is crucial.

I have too many priorities.  Productive people have a few clearly defined priorities.  I often have 10 priorities in a day, which let’s face it, means nothing is really a priority.

I drift from idea to idea – my focus is unclear.  Productive people are focused and learn to move on quickly from old ideas.  It’s good to have options but having too many leads to lack of motivation.

I’m always telling anyone that will listen how busy I am.  I rattle off everything on my to-do list and what I need to accomplish in the next week.  I’m pretty sure productive people probably don’t talk as much about what they’re going to do.  I reckon their results speak for themselves.

In the same vein I’m always talking about how little time I have to do anything.  Between the three kids, feeding the family, the laundry, the house renovation, keeping on top of work I really do think I’m time poor.  But here’s the thing…I somehow managed to watch five seasons of the Good Wife over the last few months.  Productive people make time for what matters.  I imagine they don’t use lack of time as an excuse…which I do all the time.

Busy people multitask…I do it all the time.  I’m doing homework with the five year old, making dinner and talking to my mother on the phone at the same time.  No one task is getting my attention.  Productive people just focus on one thing at a time.

I used to do this all the time before I quit my job – respond quickly to emails.  I felt it made me look busy and responsive.  I still do it with my working mother business – I answer emails as a deferral technique.  I convince myself I’m busy but I’m answering emails instead of writing the Eletter.  The problem with answering emails first thing every day is that emails determine your priority list.  The trouble with this is that they’re your bosses and colleagues priorities, not your own.

All of the jobs I’ve ever had tend to value busyness over productivity.  A busy manager values hours clocked versus results.  They want you at your desk from 9.00AM to 5.30PM…they probably want you there longer than that.  A busy manager gets irritated if it looks like their employee is not working flat out or is not under serious pressure to fulfil their role.  This in turn creates a culture of employees learning to be valued for their effort, as opposed to the results they produce.

I know I’m not alone in my quest to become more productive.  I recognise the difference between being busy and being productive.  I want to make better use of my time and my potential.  I waste so much time everyday being busy with unimportant tasks.

Tune in next time for my step by step plan on how I’m going to go from being busy to being productive.  I’m sure I’ll have figured this out by the time I write again!


Martina Perry,
The Working Mother

P.S. In the meantime, if you have any tips or links on the subject I’d love to hear from you.