Being Busy or Being Effective-Steve Obiakor


A lot of us especially in this part of the world believe that being busy and even being efficient means being productive and effective. We can be busy with a lot of things, but sadly not being productive. This does not amount to ‘being busy doing nothing’. One can actually be very busy doing something but without having any result to show for it. While we attribute being busy and efficient to effort, being productive and effective is ascribed to results. You hear such quotes as “you cannot be doing the same thing the same way all the time and expect a different result”. Wrong application of effort and efficiency will certainly produce no or negative result. What this tells us is that it is result or effect that matters most and not efforts. Let us look at the differences between being busy and being effective.

  1. Reactive and Proactive.

Busy people are very reactive; they wait for something to happen before they start running up and down to put it under control. This approach most times fails woefully. Effective and productive people are proactive; they prepare for something even before it happens. They envisage that something is about to happen; they even most times prevent them from happening. We see busy individuals, busy agencies trying to salvage a situation and we try to sympathize and commend their effort even when their effort yields no results. We say “Oh the fire fighters really tried; oh, the police men really tried; oh the residents really came out to clean up the environment”.  Most times you discover that these disasters were caused by preventable factors; the fire fighter would be more effective if he focuses more on fire prevention which in turn reduces fire fighting. The same applies to individuals; learning to prevent failures is planning and planning leads to effective results.  Effective individuals and agencies devout more time in preventing unfortunate disasters. You may not see them running helter-skelter but a lot is being done in the background. Most busy people want to be noticed while productive people want their results to speak for them. Effective agencies build strong institutions while busy agencies build strong individuals. Reactive people think of the gains of the moment while proactive think of future gains.

  1. Negating the Basics:

Many are always too busy to pay attention to the basics of their lives. They are too busy to pay attention to their health; too busy to pay attention to their families; too busy to pay attention to the basics of their career and therefore learns nothing; too busy even to the detriment of their own happiness. We cannot be too busy and allow our personal lives suffer; that in itself amounts to cutting our nose to spite our face. We will not only be ineffective but also in danger of being bugged down by illness and stress; emotional breakdown and depression. We must learn to get our lives well organized and tidy. In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,

Stephen Covey talks about prioritizing; he says  “Many people spend their time prioritizing urgent and shallow activities while few people pay attention to important and deep activities’’

In analyzing this, Benjamin Hardy gave examples of shallow activities as “just day-to-day stuff, hustle for money left right and center’ answering phone calls and chatting on social media etc; and deep activities as “learning, health, Spiritual life, relationships and goals”. The items on the “deep activities” are the foundation for future sustenance; they are far more important; they are the essence; they are the basics.

  1. Unhealthy Competition:

Many are busy comparing themselves with others. They are very efficient in keeping track of other people’s achievements and failures that they forget their own goals in life. More often than not, we hear such sayings as”there’s no competition in life; no competition in destiny”. You can only be in competition with yourself; you are the only one who determine your success or your failure. This is a healthy competition; you dress smartly to win partners, appreciation and respect; not because you want to be like a neighbour across the road or a celebrity in a magazine.  You work hard to pass examinations, job interviews or promotions; not because you want to out do a contemporary somewhere. When our activities in life are geared towards catching up with others, there is a problem; we would be busy living other people’s lives because we fail to realize that goals differ from person to person. It is healthier to believe that someone else is interested in your position than to say your position is not good enough. This will ultimately make your work harder to maintain your position. It is a serious waste of time trying to run other people’s races. Set your own goals, run your own race and purse your own prize. Rather than compete with others, find a way to synergize, collaborate and align with   productive friends. This will make you more productive than fighting and working hard to be like someone else. You’ll keep on fighting and you’ll never achieve much.

  1. Attitude and Skill:

You can learn a lot of skills but your attitude can render your skill ineffective.  The fact that you are a skillful designer doesn’t mean you’re effective in designing. It is important not to confuse having a good skill with having a productive attitude. If your attitude to your skill is negative, your results will be negative. Remember that effectiveness is not efficiency. You can be very efficient without being effective. If you can make very good dresses but nobody patronizes you because you send away all your customers with your bad attitude to work, your attitude kills your efficient skill and renders it ineffective.  Having a very good skill and a very bad attitude is another way of being busy without being productive.

In summary, you’ll be less busy and more productive when you:

  • Focus on results rather than efforts
  • Choose effectiveness in place of efficiency
  • Exhibit the right attitude to support your skills
  • Plan and prioritize your activities
  • Face your goals and avoid unhealthy competition
  • Take your basics into consideration too

See you at the top

9 Replies to “Being Busy or Being Effective-Steve Obiakor”

  1. Exceptionally instructive write up!
    “Effective agencies build strong institutions while busy agencies build strong individuals” Every leader should knw this. Thanks boss

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