John pulled into his usual spot at work. He let his car idle there for a few minutes, letting the podcast he was listening to finish. It was a great episode and had sparked an idea he was eager to try for his company. If it worked, it should help grow the production company he owned in a new direction.

At his desk, John flipped on the monitors and logged in. Pulling open his browser, he logged in again — this time to his email. 73 unread emails. John sighed, then scrolled through them.

Clicking on one of them, he began reading. It was a question from someone in the sales team. A few minutes later, John had typed up his reply and sent it off. One down, 72 to go. But first, coffee. John made his way to the break room and joined a few of the other folks there getting their morning coffee.

Back at his desk, he was about to start on the next email when his phone rang. It was a customer. One of John’s employees, Adam, had edited together a commercial for last week. They wanted some changes and needed them done by the end of the day so the ad could run over the weekend.

Hanging up the phone, John made his way over to Adam’s desk to relay the news. He’d only been there for a few minutes when John’s smart watch buzzed. It was time for the first of what would be a day filled with back-to-back meetings.

At the end of the day, John left the conference room from his final meeting and made a point to swing by Adam’s desk. Adam had just finished up the changes.

“Looks great!” John said, looking them over. “Send it on.”

It felt good to sink back into his office chair for the first time since that morning. His computer had long-since gone to sleep, but happily reared back to life at John’s command. Now there were over 100 unread emails. Sighing again, John barely noticed the lights in the rest of the office go dark as he started typing away.

Image from The Office / © 2009 NBC Universal

Busy-ness can kill your business

We’ve all had days like this. John got into the office with an idea to help move his company forward. Before the day started, he had great planes for the day. By the end of the day, he got none of that done.

When you have a day like this, you don’t feel unproductive. For good reason. It’s not productive. In fact, if you’re not careful, days like this can be the downfall of your business.

John’s entire day was spent being reactive to those things around him. He even let one customer’s deadline become important enough to derail whatever Adam was working on that day — putting Adam behind on another project. Was it that important? Or was John merely reactive to the urgency of the customer?

Getting stuff done isn’t the key to having a productive day. Getting the right stuff done is the key to success. Focus on things that’ll move the needle and let everything else take a back seat.

“The greatest enemy of good thinking is busyness.” — John C. Maxwell

many hats

Are you busy or productive?

It’s normal for entrepreneurs to wear several hats. That’s a big reason why it’s so easy to get wrapped up in being busy without making a difference. When you’re in the thick of the day-to-day tasks at work, it can be difficult to pull yourself out of it to focus on the big picture.

Busy entrepreneurs try fitting ‘just one more thing’ into their day.

Productive entrepreneurs are deliberate about what they accomplish. Everything is part of the plan.

Busy entrepreneurs let others take control of their to-do list by reacting to the urgency of others and take it on as their own.

Productive entrepreneurs triage requests from others to determine if they’re urgent or important.

Busy entrepreneurs delegate projects while holding onto the final approval themselves.

Productive entrepreneurs know when they’re the bottleneck and trust their team to make the right decisions when they’re not around.

Busy entrepreneurs wish they could find the time to organize their lives.

Productive entrepreneurs know they’ll only be organized if they make the time to do it.

Busy entrepreneurs default answer is, “Yes.”

Productive entrepreneurs default answer is, “I’ll add it to my backlog.”

Busy entrepreneurs reply to emails and messages right away.

Productive entrepreneurs set aside specific times of the day to reply to emails and messages.

Busy entrepreneurs strive to be great at multitasking.

Productive entrepreneurs know multitasking is worse than a lie.


Ultimately, the success of your company depends on how much you’re able to focus on growing each day. There will always be things to fill your time. As your company grows, there will be a lot of work to do. Ask yourself:

“Is this project urgent or important?”

“Is it busy work or will this move the needle on my business?”

“Am I the right person to do this, or is there someone at my company who can take ownership of this project?”

Being an entrepreneur puts you in a unique position at your company. There are things that only you can do. There will be things that only you should do.

My challenge to you is to take a step back, look at the things taking up your time and make a conscious decision about each of them. Stop being a busy entrepreneur and start down your path of being productive.


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