Don’t Be Busy, Be Productive


Don't Be Busy, Be ProductiveQuick! How many times this past week have you used the word “busy?”

I’m too busy, I’m so busy, I’ve been busy.

People seem to just love using the word and carry it around like a badge of honor. 

I know I do at times.

When I talk to people about my different roles as a physician, husband, father, entrepreneur, blogger, people tend to respond with, “you must be so busy.”

Who Isn’t Busy?

The truth is though, which physician isn’t busy?

If you’re working 50-60 hours a week seeing patients, running back and forth from the clinic to the operating room, rushing through a 5-10 minute lunch (or skipping it altogether), you’re busy.

If you have a significant other, and you’re trying to devote time to your relationship on top of your professional life, you’re busy.

If you’re a parent and are trying to carve time out to be present with your kids, taking care of them, going to soccer games, trying to help them with homework, or just being a human rock wall (like I am these days), you’re busy.

If you have other side hustles and are pursuing them to try to gain financial freedom, then you’re busy.

If you have other things you’re passionate about like music, art, or gardening, and are trying to hone your craft and expand your mind outside medicine, then you’re busy.

The funny thing, I’ve stopped trying to use that word when describing myself.

“I’m Busy” Is An Excuse

Busy carries a certain connotation, almost a mindset. And, for the most part, I don’t think it’s positive. In fact, not only have I used it as a badge of honor, it has been used as an excuse – an excuse not to be excellent in all aspects of my life.

Why did I not follow through on that thing for my wife?

“Things got really busy.”

Why can I not spend that much time with a close friend who happened to visit?

Well, I’m busy.”

Why did it take me extra long to complete that project for my business?

“I’m just so busy.”

I’m kinda tired of being busy.

What would I rather be? I’d rather be productive and my focus is on that.

I don’t know about you, but I have certain people in my life who help push me to be better. Of course, my wife is one of them. But I’ve spent a lot of my time with people lately who I’ve seen are working on themselves in the same way I’m working on myself.

They're trying to be better and more productive doctors, entrepreneurs, partners, parents, and every role in between.

Being Busy Vs. Being Productive

Busy means the focus is on how much time I’m spending on something. Productive means making the results the priority.

No longer do I just say I’m going to spend the next hour working on something. I now say I’m going to get these things done now.

Have you noticed that if you have to devote a certain time to something, it typically takes that entire time? Why? Because you’ll get distracted in the middle, you’ll focus more on how much time you have versus what needs to get done.

I create a checklist of things to do and get it done.

Busy means multitasking. Productive means focusing on one thing at a time.

Now, this is a struggle for me. At any given time, I feel like I’m juggling a million things. I’m sure everyone feels the same.

So I jump back and forth between tasks getting little bits and pieces done and often, everything is half-complete. I don’t feel that “win” of being totally productive and all I’ve spent is time to finish nothing.

The goal is to stop multitasking so much. They say that when you switch back and forth between tasks, it wastes a ton of mental energy.

To change gears, it takes a few minutes to switch to something new. So when I try to write a blog post, then answer a phone call, then check sports, then back to my other side hustles, the switching is wasting a ton of mental energy and effectiveness.

Busy means not having time for anything. Productivity means having time for things that are a priority.

Again, I use that word busy as an excuse all the time. When my kid asks me to take her to the playground and I tell her I’m busy, it just means I have something more important to do at the time.

When I tell people I’m too busy to help them with something but find time to binge watch a favorite show, it just means that it’s not a priority.

When it’s a priority and you’re focused on being productive, you’ll find the time, energy, and effort needed to do something.

But is there a way to pursue all the things you want to do and not be busy?

As someone who is working on this now, I figure it’s a matter of using our time more wisely so we can be more efficient.

Make It Happen

My goal is to be action-oriented and focus on results. I have to be better at setting goals and making sure I accomplish them, not have a long list of unfinished tasks.

At the end of the day, I don’t want to be too busy for my family, friends, and to do the things I love. That’s the whole point of financial freedom anyways.

To have the choice to do what I want, I just have to choose not to be busy so I can have the time to pursue what I want.



  1. I used to think the ability to multi-task meant that individual was talented and made the best use of time.

    I have a similar experience as you Peter that although I can multi-task, I actually think there is a drop in productivity because of it for the reasons you mention (get distracted more, line of thought changes so you take time to readjust etc).

    When I’m in the reading room, I try to knock out my cases based on modality via lists I create. Reading mammograms in a row gets me in that mindset, CTs, etc.

    It seems like you get on a roll when you stick to one thing and it makes it more productive.

  2. I like this. I never say I’m busy. Others tell me that I am.

    It annoys me when others say to me “You are so busy… or I’m sure you are very busy… ”

    It sounds like they think I’m too busy for them. Or that I’m out of control. I’m not.

    Am I productive? Yes. Do I waste time? No. I have limited minutes in life and I chose my tasks, goals, and priorities based on where I want to go.

    But I’m in charge of my life. I do only what I want to.

    I also changed my phrases from “I don’t have time to do that” to “That isn’t a high priority for me right now.” There is always plenty of time for high-priority items.

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