Busy Isn’t the Same as Productive

Busy Isn’t the Same as Productive

When I tell people that I work from home, one of the most common responses is something like, “It must be nice to have all that free time! I’ve got to put in my 40 hours every week at the office.” But, here’s something that most regular working people don’t understand until they run their own business and work from home themselves. There’s a major difference between “being at work” and actually “working.”

Now, I’m certainly not saying that everyone is slacking off at their regular jobs. Of course not. But, most people would be fooling themselves if they were to assert that they were actually “working” for the entirety of their 40-hour work week. Whether it’s going to the break room to refill your coffee or secretly watching a YouTube video your coworker forwarded you, that’s time “at work” that isn’t actually “working.”

You know another term that’s thrown around a lot these days? “Busy.” Everyone says that they’re “so busy” and we’re supposed to admire their hustle. Look how hard they’re working, right? You’ve got to admire that drive and determination, right? Except, there’s a big difference between being busy and being productive, just as there’s a big difference between being at work and actually working.

Busy Is Saying “Yes”

Look at all the things I’m ticking off my to-do list, while I keep adding more things to my to-do list. Yes, you’re going to be very busy if you go around saying “yes” to every request and opportunity that lands on your desk. Do you want to collaborate with another YouTuber on a video? Sure! Do you want to write an ebook? Absolutely! Do you want to run 25 miles a day, start an Etsy store, develop a mobile app, and write 3 blog posts a day? Totally! No wonder you’re burning out.

Whereas saying “yes” to everything is what will keep you very busy, being productive means choosing to say “no” to certain things. This doesn’t mean you should go around shutting the door on everything. What it does mean, though, is that you recognize the limitations on your time, energy and resources, so you intentionally choose what gets your “yes.” Everything else has to get a “no” if you want to be truly productive and move the needle.

You can do everything. Just not at the same time.

Busy Is Talking About Being Busy

You know what all busy people seem to have in common? They’re always talking about how busy they are. They’re quick to brag about all the projects they have on the go, projecting this image of how productive and important they might be.

Productive people, by contrast, don’t concern themselves with how busy they appear to be to other people. Instead, they let their work speak for themselves. If they are being truly productive in what they’re doing, people will notice. It’s just like how famous people don’t need to tell you that they’re famous, or how smart people don’t have to keep reminding you how smart they are. You’ll just know.

Busy Is Not Having Enough Time

Busy people are always talking about how busy they are. One way that they might put this is talking about how they never have enough time to do the things they want or need to do. Believe me. I’m totally guilty of this. But, I also recognize how having “not enough time” is a bit of a cop-out.

We have to remember that regardless of your station in life, regardless of how rich or poor or whatever else, we all get the same 24 hours each day, the same 365 days each year. True, when you’re going through financial hardship, how those hours get allocated will differ. But if you’re saying that the reason you’re not getting things done is that you don’t have enough time, it means you’re not necessarily choosing the right things.

Put another way, “busy” is having a lot of things to do and not enough time to do them all. “Productive” is choosing a smaller set of more important things to do, and then prioritizing your time to do them right. I once told myself that I didn’t have time to exercise, but then I made my daily step goal more of a priority. It’s a small step (pun intended), but it has made a world of difference.

You just have to know what gets a “no” from you, so you can prioritize your time and resources on your “yes” activities.

Busy Is Constant Movement

“Busy” and “frazzled” (or some other variation of the word) tend to go hand-in-hand. The telltale sign of someone who is “busy” is that it looks like they’re always doing something, because there’s always something to be done. They’re constantly moving, reacting to the stimuli around them, almost out of gut instinct, because they don’t have time for it. They’ve got to keep doing things.

But being “busy” in that way is like running on a treadmill. Sure, you’re moving and you’re burning calories, but after all that movement, you actually haven’t gotten anywhere. You’ll feel like you’ve been productive and you’ve accomplished something, but you’re right where you started and you’ll go through it all over again tomorrow.

The “productive” mindset is different. It means that you give yourself the space to take a real break every now and then. It means giving yourself the opportunity to activate the default mode, a place where some of your most creative and original ideas can emerge almost spontaneously. By taking the time to contemplate your decisions and plan your course of action, the actions you take can indeed be more productive and not simply mindless busywork.

Are You Busy or Productive?

You’ll find that there is so much to the dot com mindset. It’s moving away from the idea of trading hours for dollars and toward the idea of how you can earn more dollars with fewer hours. You’ll come to understand the concept of nonlinear growth and the dangers of early potential. And yes, it’s about coming to grips with the idea that simply being busy will never be enough. You need to be productive. Motion for its own sake will get you nowhere.

To be productive means that the actions you take actually move the needle. And no one is going to move the needle for you but yourself. So, get to work.

Invoicing Etiquette: 5 Tips for Productive Communication

Invoicing Etiquette: 5 Tips for Productive Communication

Sometimes getting paid for your work can be more difficult than actually doing it. Tracking down outstanding payments, asking for money and following up with clients can feel like a cat-and-mouse game at times. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an easier way to ensure that you receive accurate and timely payments for your various projects?

Sticking to invoicing etiquette can help keep your professional communications productive and fruitful. For example, a client who is impressed by how smooth and pleasant it is to work with you may seek you out for future gigs. On the other hand, responding to invoicing issues harshly may burn bridges and narrow down your pool of contacts in the future.

Here are five tips for following optimal invoicing etiquette.

Set Your Terms Up Front

Let’s put it this way: An invoice shouldn’t hold any surprises for your clients. The bill should be par for the course because both parties established payment and delivery terms much earlier in the process. The precursor to any successful invoicing process is a well-written contract. At the same time, also be sure to have your full company information and branding on your invoices. This will not only look more professional, it will also help with invoicing and payments for both parties.

…And Make Them Specific

What should your contract contain? The more specifics, the better. The Balance recommends including these components to make your contract foolproof:

  • A job number for each project (so you can track it over time)
  • Job description (explain the scope of work and the deliverables)
  • Timeline for completion
  • Payment terms (when, how much, what method)
  • Space for signatures and dates

You can see a full breakdown of The Balance’s tips for better invoicing below.

Send Timely Invoices

After working hard on a project for a client, you wrap up the last detail and send it along. When should you send an invoice? You can save yourself a headache and a costly delay by invoicing your client immediately. Invoicing on the day of completion (rather than waiting two or more weeks for a new billing cycle) means you’re nearly 1.5 times more likely to get paid, based on research analyzing 250,000 invoices.

Assuming that your client will remember to pay you is a recipe for disaster, as is leaving a gap between when you finish a job and when you send an invoice. Ask for payment when the project is still fresh in everyone’s minds and you’ll get better results.

…And Make Them Accurate

Nothing is more counterproductive than sending an invoice with incorrect information. Or sending it to the wrong client. Or sending a generic invoice that’s missing key identifying information. Remember, your clients (just like you) could be juggling many invoices at once; sending timely and accurate statements is a favor to your clients and to your own workflow.

Online invoicing software can help you uphold professional etiquette and streamline your approach to payments. Remember those numbered contracts from above? Using a cloud-based platform like Due can help you keep track of every project from start to finish. And to top it all off, automatic late payment reminders help you keep the lines of communication open if there’s ever an issue with a deposit.

No matter what type of business services or products you are selling, it’s extremely important to make sure you have control over your outgoing, incoming, paid and due invoices at all times. You can see a preview of what a platform like Due offers for invoice tracking and management in the screenshot below.

Be Polite

When you’re down a few hundred or thousands of dollars in income, it’s frustrating. You know you’re right; you delivered the work on time and held up your end of the bargain. But it’s important to stay polite and professional in your communications with the client. You don’t want an important client relationship to sour because you snapped at them after a single invoice got lost in the shuffle. Stay polite yet firm (and persistent) and you’ll get the resolution you’re seeking.

When it comes to your business, every contract, invoice and email matters. Follow these five tips for productive communications when it comes to invoicing etiquette.