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Hey Busy Bee: How Productive ARE You?

busy bee

Hey Busy Bee…How Productive ARE You in That Little Hive of Yours?


busy bee

“Productivity isn’t about how busy or efficient you are – it’s about how much you accomplish.”

Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

And take it from a die-hard busy bee: the difference between being busy and actually accomplishing what you set out to – in a day, a week, a lifetime – can be significant.

Oh, the things I can get done in a day! It would make a real bee’s head spin 🙂

For me, the problem isn’t getting stuff done – oh no.

My problem is getting the right stuff done at the right time…for me.

Thankfully, my magic bookstore – Munro’s Books in Victoria, BC – manifested, yet again, the perfect book at the perfect time: The Productivity Project; Accomplishing More By Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy, by Chris Bailey.

Now I must confess (like any busy bee worth her salt), it was the COLOUR of the book that caught my rapidly-roving eye: a stunning turquoise with the word ‘Productivity’ in large white letters.

Productivity Project book cover

Yes, that’s right: I judged a book by its cover.

But since I obviously buzz through even bookstores (sigh), if a pretty blue is what catches my eye – and proceeds to change the way I work – then who am I to complain?

And boy oh boy, am I ever getting a lot out of The Productivity Project. In fact, I would say the book has helped me transform my work day – both what I accomplish as well as the quality of the work.

“What separates the most productive people from everyone else is that they make course corrections every week to gradually get better at everything they do.”

Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

By making a few small changes over the past few weeks, I have accomplished more – in less time – than I had in the previous few months.

“Productivity isn’t about doing more, faster – it’s about doing the right things, deliberately and with intention.”

Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

If you’re pondering your productivity, near the beginning of the book, author Chris Bailey delivers this zinger of a sentence you may find of use:

 “I think the best way to measure productivity is to ask yourself a very simple question at the end of every day: Did I get done what I intended to?”

– Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

A simple question, yes – but not a very pleasant one, if the answer is no…again.

Because frankly, it does get rather tiresome – literally – to work harder and harder and still not be able to answer YES to this question at the end of the day: Did I get done what I intended to?

For me, when the answer was no, as it often was, I had to ask myself: why NOT?

Was I not prioritizing and setting clear goals for the day? Or was it because I allowed myself to get swallowed up - again - by the daily tsunami of e-mails? Or sucked into the bottomless black hole of social media? Click To Tweet

Did I spend yet another entire work day in front of one computer or another, desperately trying to get caught up…and yet still not have managed to get done what I really WANTED to get done?

 “By controlling how much time you spend on a task, you control how much energy and attention you spend on it.”

Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

And this is where my trusty timer is really coming in handy.


To tackle e-mail, I now set aside two to three work sessions a week when I can go to town on e-mails and social media – for a pre-determined amount of time. I get the most important tasks done first and when the timer goes off, so does my computer.

“Don’t check your e-mail unless you have enough time, focus, and energy to respond to whatever might come in.”

Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

I had been wasting an unbelievable amount of time “just taking a quick look” at my e-mails, then flagging them as unread – and then going back to answer them later on. I was doubling my work-load!

I’ve also had to accept that e-mail, like housework and gardening, is not something I will likely ever be fully caught up on. And that’s okay.

“When you are on your deathbed, you’re going to look back with satisfaction at the cool and meaningful things you’ve accomplished, not that you stayed on top of your e-mail.”

Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

Amen, brother.

Thanks to The Productivity Project, I would say the one change I have made that has led to an exponential increase in my productivity is: PLAN TO DO LESS IN A DAY. Click To Tweet

Now, it may seem counter-productive to tackle less in a day so as to accomplish more. But it works.

Here’s why:

“By simplifying how much you take on, you create more attentional space around your high-return activities, so you can focus on them more deeply.”

Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

By deliberately choosing to do less tasks in a day, I find I am actually getting more quality work accomplished because I’m not negatively impacting the task I am working on – by worrying about all the other tasks that still lie ahead in the day.

About a year ago, I got into the habit of working on my larger writing projects (screenplays, etc) for only an hour at the beginning of every workday (on a computer with no access to the internet or e-mail). Early morning is my “Biological Prime Time” – when I have the most creative energy.

So although I was working on my most important task at the best of time of day for me – with no distractions – I wasn’t putting in enough time to be able to accomplish a decent amount of work.

So, after reading The Productivity Project, I switched it up a little and tried two hours of writing every second morning. What a difference!

Plus, creating more space in between the different tasks – thereby effectively slowing down my day – is working wonders because, as a writer, that non-work time is often when the important insights come.

Now of course, productivity is highly subjective and intensely personal. What works for one person may not work for another…and not everyone is interested in becoming more productive.

Truth to be told, what motivated me to pick up the book was the simple fact that the older I get, the less time I want to spend sitting in front of a computer!

But since I do still want to get my projects accomplished (before I’m 90), I am constantly on the hunt for ways in which I can be more productive in the time I do put in.

So if you, too, are on the lookout for ideas on ways to potentially increase your productivity, I highly recommend The Productivity Project.

In the meantime, here are 5 takeaway tips from the book that you may find of use:

1. Productivity isn’t about how busy or efficient you are – it’s about how much you accomplish.

2. Rearranging your day around when you have the most energy is one simple way to work smarter instead of just harder.

3. Work on your highest-impact tasks when you are able to bring the most energy and focus to them.

4. By controlling how much time you spend on a task, you control how much energy and attention you spend on it.

5. By simplifying how much you take on, you create more attentional space around your high-return activities, so you can focus on them more deeply.

Some days, of course, are not going to be productive at all…and that is a-okay. In fact, down-time is absolutely essential in order for us to recharge. We all know that but a friendly reminder never hurts 🙂

Related blogs by Maryanne

Do You Procrastinate? Here’s a Great Tip: Think of Your Future Self

Prioritizing – What’s Important NOW?

Putting it Off – What Is Your Procrastination Telling You?

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive Maryanne’s weekly blog, please sign up here.

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3 thoughts on “Hey Busy Bee: How Productive ARE You?”

  1. I feel like this is the story of my life! I’ve tried setting timers but find I usually get on a roll and don’t want to stop. I also get sucked into the black holes of social media and e-mail all too often. I need to turn it all off to focus!

    I love your posts Maryanne – they always seem to hit the right note with me when I read them! 🙂

  2. Hi Ashlyn! That’s fantastic that my blogs sometimes resonate with you. And I know what you mean about the timer…because you are right, sometimes if you are on a roll, you don’t want to stop working – and that’s okay, I think. It happens to me, too, quite a bit. I just try to be really aware when working on e-mail (versus a writing task) to not go TOO long past the timer. Because otherwise, I am rather like my Retriever, Sadie, who loves chasing a ball…I don’t always know when to STOP 🙁

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