7 Things Unproductive People Do To Be Unnecessarily Busy

5 Seconds Summary:

Being busy sometimes gets glorified as being productive. It’s not, and doesn’t really translate to the completion of works.Avoid these unproductive traits and stop being mindlessly busy. 

No, you’re not that busy.

You are just inefficient.



I don’t have time; I have thousands of things to settle.

I am so stressed, it’s like my work never-ending, it keeps on piling, ugh

Sounds familiar?

Same my friend.

For the longest time, I always wonder why certain people manage to do more things in life, whereas some people (ie, me) get buried in a pile of works.

As a serial complainer, of course, I point my finger to my never-ending work which I assume leads to me being busy all the time. While thinking other people have a better life since they have lesser work.

I am so wrong.

The root problem is not entirely on the workload only, but the habits that keep us to be unnecessarily busy. All the time.

Since most of us work 9-5 pm and there’s nothing much we can do about it, the only thing we can change is ourselves.

This is the bitter truth. The reality slap we need to learn if we don’t want to be busy all the time.

Funny thing as I research for this article, I stumble upon an article giving tips on how to appear busy in front of their bosses.

I literally LOL-ed but then get grossed out as I notice I have done some of those unintentionally when I work.

So here are the things that the average or maybe unproductive people do, that keep them busy, but get nothing much done.


They get distracted easily.

So, so easily that they will check their phones every time the notifications chime in. Be it with email, WhatsApp, or just a random chatty co-worker, they get distracted every single time.

You know when we get distracted, we are not that focused.

And when we are not focused, the amount of time needed to complete certain task just gets expanded. That’s why the project or task is not settled even if we have spent a lengthy amount of time on it.

The tricky part is, is quite difficult to notice that we are distracted unless we audit what we did every single day.

Or maybe we are being mindful when we work.

Which we don’t, that’s why they get distracted easily.

The thing with notification, especially email is that it can suck us out to do other people’s agenda.

The solution

  • The simple solution is to turn off all notifications and shove your phone in the drawer. Out of sight, out of mind
  • Only check the work email at a certain designated time. Tim Ferris  did the extreme by only checking his email once per day. If your nature of work relies on email maybe, it’s not possible to just check once/day. But still, schedule when the best time is to check the email
  • The chatty co-worker is probably the trickiest part of all. Especially if working in a cubicle. They can just pop out of nowhere and start telling stories about their weekend, not cool. Just get the noise-cancelling headphone and hope it helps reduce the distraction.

They don't have any specific goal or to-do list of the day

It’s not necessary to have a to-do list if we are sure about what things to do. But most of the time when we don’t set a specific things  to do, the day just went by without doing anything.

Here is an example

9 am reach office

Chatting with a colleague while making coffee about politics or celebrity gossips

Shoot, it’s already 10:30 am.

Switch on the laptop and read the news to confirm the political stories your colleague just told you

Check the email and gets frustrated with a new project or task given to you

Go to your colleague and complaint for 40 minutes

It’s 1130 am. You don’t have any mood to do work as you are already hungry

Scrolling into social media while waiting for lunchtime

Post lunch? The after-lunch slump.

You are sleepy and just checking your email. Again.

After a few clicks, well its time to go home


And that my friend, the blueprint of being busy while doing nothing at all. Throw in a couple of ‘work calls’ and you get the perfect routine.

All because of not having a specific goal of what we are focusing on that day. The day just went by with filling random things that don’t add value to your work or life.

And yeah, having a to-do list might help.

Another issue of having no aims of the day is we get sucked into other people’s agendas. Other people’s stuff is considered as more important compared to our work.

 Because when we don’t have priority, we become part of their priority.


  1. Get the stick note and highlight your important goal of the day and to-do-list

They Don’t have a specific timeline on when to complete the project

And the project and task get stretched until God knows when.

This brings me to my next point, Parkinson’s Law.

Parkinson’s Law stated the amount of work gets expanded based on the time allocated to that.

To quote Elon Musk

“If you give yourself 30 days to clean your home, it will take you 30 days. But if you give yourself 3 hours, it will take 3 hours. The same applies to your goals, ambitions, and potential.”-Elon Musk

Having a timeline is crucial and I can’t stress this enough. If your work doesn’t have any existing timeline, create your own Gantt chart and stick to it.

It doesn’t matter whether if it’s for work, or study, a timeline is needed

They Don’t know how to prioritize

I have noticed that sometimes when we don’t prioritize, we end up doing the same work 2-3 times. To re-edit, to re-visit, or worst, to re-do the work

Prioritizing work is key.

Simply by looking at the continuity of the work, start with the fundamental or basic work and proceed with the more complex tasks.

Set the dateline and settle the work that requires immediate attention. So, we can avoid walking around like headless chickens nearing the deadline

Always track your work.

Identify how much time has been spent on doing certain things. And what is the outcome of doing this?

This check and balance are essential to prevent the ‘always busy sentiment’ as we know how to prioritize.

Use Apps like Trello or Asama to organize and see the progress of the work.


Batch the work.

One way to tackle it is by batching the work. Just identify the common theme of the work and batch them or do them together.

For example, if we are doing research on a certain topic, cluster the information together for another topic of discussion.

or batch read the email and do similar things at once

They Spend time complaining about the task rather than brainstorming about the solution

What I noticed about people who are always busy is that we can always see them talking to others, complaining about things.

Don’t get me wrong, venting about works ie complaining might help sometimes. But not complaining every single day.

Use the energy from complaining towards brainstorming ideas or the solution to something that you want to complain about.

Yes, we appear very functional from afar talking to people about the problem in general. But just noticed, how frequent we do it

They Don’t know how to work in a team

Sometimes yes, the work is abundant. But rather than going crazy, work with your team. Leverage the work if possible

The issue sometimes arises from the thought of being a perfectionist. Or simply feel that our works is somehow superior compare to the others (it’s not)

And we end up with thousand of a task left undone just because of the inflated ego.

Just stop it. The work won’t stop and yes, we need help from other people


They do things the hard way

Ways to be busy? Add unnecessary work on your own

When you are given a certain task which is quite new for you, how you will approach it?

Will you jump down and try and error on your own?

Or you meet someone familiar with the work and ask them to brief how to approach the task.

If you choose B, congratulations you know how to work smart.

The work will be 20-30% done when we understand how actually to do it. Yes, trial and error are important in carving out our skills, I agree.

But it will need more time. So much more.

Just imagine if you get some stuff from Ikea that you need to assemble. Which one gives better instruction, the manual instruction or the person who assembled it before?

For me, I will go the person. Simply because they had the experience. They know the tips and tricks. They know how to assemble it well.

Seek help.

Once you get some idea, then you can go and explore it on your own.

Reduce your busy time by seeking help. not asking people to do work for you but a simple guide on how to do it.

Lets get un-busy, starting now







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