Idle Busyness is Making You Unproductive

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Many of us are guilty of finding ways to stay busy, but this busyness doesn't necessarily mean we are being productive. A recent article in HBR calls this idle busyness, a self-imposed bad habit that keeps us from being idle for any period of time.

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According to research, people would rather do something counterproductive than do nothing, especially when faced with an ambiguous problem. This is an emotional reaction that tells us that it's better to do something, even if you don't know what to do yet, then to do nothing. However, it is often more productive to sit back and observe a situation to explore all the options.

In a study conducted by HBR, they found that people felt more productive when they were completing tasks. This was especially true when there was a tight deadline, as the employees saw planning as a waste of time, even if it did help with performance.

In another study conducted on a call center in India, HBR found that the added step of thinking improved overall performance. Employees undergoing training were split into two groups -- the first was asked to spend the last 15 minutes of the workday writing and reflecting on everything they did and learned. The second group continued to work through the end of the day without any additional training. At the end of a month, the first group performed 22.8% higher than the second group on a final training test.

By reflecting, you are becoming more aware of your progress and gain insight into how to proceed with the next steps of the project. Even in the planning phases, taking time to simply think leads to high levels of productivity.