Are You in Control of Your Day?

Are You in Control of Your Day?

Have you heard the saying if you want something done give it to someone that is busy”? Well, its true success is connected to action, however, it is not necessarily connected to staying busy. A better version of the saying is if you want something done give it to someone that is productive.”

Are the most successful people in the world really the busiest? Or are they the most productive and least distracted?  

Being busy and being productive can often be confused with one another. If you are busy, you may have a lot on your plate, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you are productive or using your time efficiently. Being productive means being able to complete a task or get something done. You do not need to be busy to be productive. 

Being busy has to do with how you spend your time, whereas productivity has more to do with what you accomplish. 



[Busy is defined as having a great deal to do. ] 



[Productive is defined as achieving or producing a significant amount or result. ]  

So, do you just have a great deal to do or are you actually producing a significant amount of results?

A lot of people are great at “looking and feeling busy,” but not so great at actually being productive. Having a busy mindset can feel disorganized and fast-paced, resulting in you working harder, not smarter. Having a productive mindset is more action-oriented and result-driven, keeping you organized, steady-paced and working smarter, not harder.  

Those with higher emotional intelligence (EQ) are typically less busy and more productive. Busyness can lead you to overextend yourself with varied obligations, appointments, commitments, and responsibilities leading to less success overall. Being productive versus being busy will be the reason you hit your goals. 

How do you become more productive and less busy? The answer is to be in control of your focus. Naturally, we will have many distractions and attention grabbers throughout the day. The most productive people can filter through the noise adjusting their attention to result-driven actions.  

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, a book by Daniel Levitin, has an interesting section on cognitive overload and how it correlates to productivity. Levitin points out an interesting fact on how highly successful people (HSP) differ from the rest of us when it comes to attentional filters. 

What is an “attentional filter?”

Simply put, our attention is limited. To pay attention, the brain uses a filtering system known as the attentional filter.  

This passage from Levitin’s Book explains it well:  

In order to understand one person speaking to us, we need to process 60 bits of information per second. With a processing limit of 120 bits per second, this means you can barely understand two people talking to you at the same time. Under most circumstances, you will not be able to understand three people talking at the same time. … 

With such attentional restrictions, it’s clear why many of us feel overwhelmed by managing some of the most basic aspects of life. Part of the reason is that our brains evolved to help us deal with life during the hunter-gatherer phase of human history, a time when we might encounter no more than a thousand people across the entire span of our lifetime. Walking around midtown Manhattan, you’ll pass that number of people in half an hour. 

Attention is the most essential mental resource for any organism. It determines which aspects of the environment we deal with, and most of the time, various automatic, subconscious processes make the correct choice about what gets passed through to our conscious awareness. For this to happen, millions of neurons are constantly monitoring the environment to select the most important things for us to focus on. These neurons are collectively the attentional filter. They work largely in the background, outside of our conscious awareness. This is why most of the perceptual detritus of our daily lives doesn’t register, or why, when you’ve been driving on the freeway for several hours at a stretch, you don’t remember much of the scenery that has whizzed by: Your attentional system “protects” you from registering it because it isn’t deemed important. This unconscious filter follows certain principles about what it will let through to your conscious awareness. 

Not giving your full attention is a sacrifice made on the quality of your thoughts and your work. To be more productive and less busy learn to be more present and in the zone with anything you’re trying to finish or accomplish.  Practice focusing on one thing at a time and fully completing one task before jumping to the next. 

Use your attentional filter to your advantage. Filter out the less important things and give 100% of your focus to tasks that drive value and productivity. Being in control of your day will not only help you obtain your goals but will also increase your confidence, decisiveness, and self-esteem by knowing you run your life and your life does not run you.

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