Richard Maloney | December 18, 2022

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

At a glance

  • Busyness is a state of being where everything is about urgency, while the important gets ignored. Productivity, on the other hand, is intentional, driven, and part of a bigger goal that has more value and meaning.
  • Working with a life coach can help you build awareness of your working style and give you the tools to filter and prioritise better.


The first challenge to getting something done is to sit and work on it. The second and a rather sinister one is to take it to completion without getting lost in the process. Being busy and productive may look like two sides of the same coin, but they are not, and it takes keen observation to distinguish between them.

Time becomes a luxury when you are a working professional, a parent, and a partner. It’s what determines how you prioritize life and work. A mindfulness coach can help you develop an awareness of where and how you spend your time. With awareness, you can then step away from being busy and instead be more productive with the time you have.

In this blog post, let’s try to understand the difference between being busy and being productive and what makes productivity a prerequisite for success. You can always work with a life coach in Australia to make the shift from busyness to productivity.


1.    Productive people view time as a limited resource.

Strictly speaking, time and money are the only two resources we have to create, change and get things moving the way we want. While busy people and most people focus on money, they fail to see it in relation to time. This mindset creates lots of problems and even more stress. A productive person, on the contrary, takes into account the output achieved in a given hour or a day. This allows them to filter the irrelevant and return to what matters the most at the moment.

Result: A productive person knows they have limited time to get the job done. Such a person is less likely to fall into the distraction trap or procrastinate for hours on end. Work becomes fast and efficient with fewer errors.


2.    Productive people know when to say no.

Productivity is not about hustling hard. It’s about hustling smart. While busy people say yes to everything (even when they don’t have the energy or time for it), productive people are adept at saying ‘no.’ It may be tempting to say yes because you want to be accommodating and helpful. But you may be implying your time is up for sale. It’s important to remember that saying no does not mean being rude—as a matter of fact, the opposite I true! It means you are clear on what is not important. Productivity prioritizes selective attention and awareness.

Result: A productive person has fewer commitments because they’ve effectively filtered out the noise of every demand and expectation that the world has for them.


3.    Productive people create systems of minimum friction.

Busyness works on ad-hoc availability of willpower and energy. That’s precisely why busy people are susceptible to burnout and loss of motivation. Productivity, on the other hand, doesn’t rely on unpredictable bursts of energy. Productive people realize that constant decision-making is a drain on their minds as well as calendars. Instead, they rely on systems. Simple, repeatable systems so the mind can be trained to follow it on autopilot without having to wrestle each day. A good example would be batching similar tasks together to achieve a flow state rather than switching between writing an article and checking your email.

Result: Consistent, reliable progress that can be sustained over longer periods of time without affecting the quality of work or your health.


4.    Productive people know that breaks are akin to refuelling.

When you are trapped in the cycle of busyness without having anything to show for the time spent at the desk, you’ll eventually feel guilty while taking a break. A well-earned break will almost always refuel you, while a break from distraction and multitasking does nothing but make you feel bad about how little has been achieved.

The quality of the break itself may become a cause of concern. Taking a nap or a walk around the block feels refreshing but using your break to catch up on your email or watch another episode can defeat the entire purpose of a break.

Result: Productive people get a healthy dose of dopamine that comes from a well-rested mind. A busy person feels stressed even during a break resulting in a toxic cycle of guilt and shame.


5.    Productive people know the importance of purpose over perfectionism.

Busyness is about trying to do everything perfectly and then beating yourself up when you don’t meet your own high standards. Furthermore, it takes away from your ability to be present in your life and enjoy it more fully because you’re always thinking about what else you could be doing instead of what you are doing right now. The more you strive for perfection, the busier (and less productive) you become.

When you’re focused on being perfect, you’re always looking for the next thing that needs to be done. When you’re focused on productivity, you’re looking for ways to do your current work better. When you’re being productive, you are fuelled by purpose. It requires intentionality about how you spend your time, energy, and resources so you can achieve something meaningful in your life or bring value to others’ lives.

Result: Productive people find meaning in their struggle, and instead of getting fazed by problems, they are better equipped to find solutions for them.


In conclusion, productivity mixed with breaks empowers you and emboldens you to live life on your terms. Productivity brings a healthy balance of challenge and excitement into your life without draining you. It gives you agency and control over your life choices. It means you can work on the hard stuff and have fun living your life outside of work too.

If you feel worried is engulfing your peace, working with a life coach in Australia can help you reassess your working style. A life coach will help you find balance while working on your goals. At Quality Mind, our exceptional life coaches and personal development coaches give you tools and techniques to create better systems and manage time, so you don’t get caught up in a whirlwind of busyness—rather, rise above it.

Register for our free discovery session now, or get our Life Scoreboard for a value assessment on different aspects of your life.