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Being busy is not necessarily the same as being productive. There is a difference and that difference can directly affect your business – and your life.

Productivity is defined as the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of output per unit of input. But is it possible to be productive even if you’re not producing results? Can there be a purpose to busy-ness that has positive effects on overall productivity in the long run? I guess that depends on how you look at things.

I came across a blog recently that led me to ponder the question of how we judge and measure our productivity. It was an interesting take on the subject that I think many people would relate to.

In the blog, Jack Simpson, a PhD candidate from Australian National University, ruminates on whether there is value to projects that go unfinished and what it really means to be productive – in our own eyes and/or the eyes of the people paying us to accomplish something.

I found this interesting on a number of levels. And it really made me think.  When it comes to productivity, profitability, and achieving goals for your business, actually being productive is what keeps revenue flowing and keeps a business strong. But there’s more to life than money and always being productive. I know that seems like a funny thing for a productivity expert to say, but I have a reason for saying it.

Sometimes busy-ness can be an outlet or distraction from the pressure we put on ourselves to achieve. For some, it can be the break they need to keep life fresh and pursue new passions. It can be taking on projects to expand our knowledge base or increase our engagement in our lives, which could also be seen as a form of productivity if we think of life as a journey with multiple pursuits that come together to create a richer experience.

This all led me to think that maybe productivity shouldn’t be so narrowly defined — or all we strive for. There’s no question there is value in what we learn from the process of working on new things and exploring the boundaries of what we are capable of. There’s no question that not everything we set out to do turns out to be a clear win that’s worth doing and completing. And maybe that’s okay from time-to-time.

When it comes to business, our clients expect us to deliver. Our clients expect results. The only way they care about what we learned from many starts on things that were never finished is if it led us to a better, completed project in the end for them. But when it comes to life, we need to give ourselves the freedom to be busy once in a while. We have to find a balance between allowing ourselves the freedom to experience new things versus focusing solely on productivity for profit.

So, what does productivity really mean? Is there a way to be productive in our work life and sometimes just be busy with no real expectations? Is there a benefit to allowing ourselves to just be busy sometimes?

It all comes back to what we value and prioritize. Yes, we have to assess what’s important to keep our businesses growing and strong, but we should also make time for exploration of new ideas or activities and doing things we enjoy, that enrich us somehow, without the pressure of results. We should realize (and acknowledge) that some tasks we take on are purely for the purpose of growth or the potential to learn something new that may be valuable down the road. And some things are done just because we enjoy doing them, with no expectations at all. We need to be sure we have some time set aside to nurture who we are as people and find some “unproductive” joy. Because there can be value in that too.

In past blogs, I’ve written about the importance of taking vacations to recharge, taking breaks regularly to keep your mind refreshed, and even napping during the day to boost energy levels for greater productivity. But today, I’d like to encourage you to set aside some time to do something just for the sake of doing it. Allow yourself some time to do some busy-work that won’t necessarily bring in more money, but will feed your mind or soul in some way. Learn something new. Try something you’ve never tried before. “Waste” some time on something that you may never actually finish, but that you’ll learn something from or feel good about trying. After all, we all only get this one life. Let’s make the most of it!