Keep Calm and Be Productive

keep-calm-and-be-productive-2The Jenny Journey to being a successful person continues (will it ever end?!?!). I’ve been covering the first few items on the “12 Things Successful People Do Differently” list. So far, here’s what I have analyzed:

1. They create and pursue S.M.A.R.T. goals.

2. They take decisive and immediate action.

Now, I’m moving on to number 3:

“They focus on being productive, not being busy.”

Take a walk down a New York City street midday and you’ll see busy. Men and women, in suits, dashing every which way, hailing cabs and talking on phones. Leave a sporting event parking lot and you’re stuck inching along in traffic. That’s busy. Or, the mall the day after Thanksgiving. Ok, you get the picture. How many of us have sat at our work desks with our minds spinning madly from all the items on our “to do” list? And, how many of us, at the end of that day, exhausted and drained, realize that we only completed one or two items on our list? For some reason, our society has taught us that being busy IS necessary. You’re supposed to go to school full time and work two jobs, join a sorority, play volleyball, sing in choir, socialize with friends and get an hour of exercise in every day. WHY?!

I found an awesome article on Forbes titled “Why Being Busy Can Keep You From Getting Ahead” by Caroline McMillan and I think it really touches on how we can keep our cool AND still get work done. McMillan says, “But a life that’s too busy is a double-edged sword, and it can affect more than just our sanity. Experts have found our frenetic pedal-to-the-metal mentality also could cause us to stall out in our careers. If that comes as a surprise, take a closer look at some of the implications of falling into the “busy trap.””

So, let’s look at that “busy trap”:


McMillan quotes Barbara Ehrenreich from her essay, “The Cult of Busyness”:

“The secret of the truly successful, I believe, is that they learned very early in life how not to be busy.”

How can you not be busy at work? School? Isn’t the point to be busy? Prioritizing your “to do” list allows you to tackle “first things first” or “One thing at a time”. My dad always taught me, “Do it right and do it well. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you.”

So, what I’m getting here is if my priorities are in line and I take my time, I can successfully complete items on my “to do” list effectively without being “busy”?


I find this quote, which McMillan uses in her article, by David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, extremely spot on:

“There is too much distraction at the day-to-day, hour-to-hour level of commitments to allow for appropriate focus on the higher levels.”

We all have commitments to attend to. But, how can we accomplish them while working toward our bigger goals? Admission: I focus on busy tasks because I must get them done. If someone asks me a question and I’m in the middle of a task, I’ll ask them to create a ticket for me to help them later. But, if my goal is to be a great leader AND help my team, why does the busy task take priority? Looks like I need to reevaluate my own goals!

Taking a Breather and Slowing Down

“So if one of the greatest scientists of all time took a few breathers, let’s follow suit. We don’t want to get bopped on the head by our own proverbial apples and be too busy to see them as anything more than an imposition.” (McMillan)

Breaks are important. I cannot stress this enough. I have a really tough time with this, though. I rarely take a full lunch break or even 15 minute break. My tingly sleeping legs can vouch for this too. Why don’t I do this? I guess sometimes I feel I won’t get everything I need to done if I take a break. But, breaks encourage clarity, focus and relieve stress. That is pretty dang important if you’re trying to be productive! (Note: another thing I need to reevaluate at work). Not a day goes by where every task is completed anyways, so why not take a break anyways, feel less stressed and still get work done?

I’d like to end on McMillan’s quote:

“…our minds, bodies, and even careers depend also on our ability to hit the “pause” button.”

Let’s all take time to hit the “pause” button in order to be more productive. Let’s take care of ourselves in order to be successful in the long run!

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  • Wow, this is a terrific post Jenny and a great reminder to pause, breathe and let our minds rest and catch up for a minute. This is a great little nugget to take throughout my day today.

  • Thanks Jeremy! It really is a good reminder! As easy as it sounds, it’s definitely something that most people forget on a busy work day. I’m glad you’re able to use this nugget 🙂

  • “busy trap” , nice world . thanks for share. Lol…

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