Are You Working in a Focused Way…or Just Looking Busy?

productive boss or just looking busy?

“I’ve been busy, so busy” people love to say, like it’s something to be proud of. I prefer the quote, “Busy is a sign of weakness.” It means you don’t know how to focus or prioritize.

Derek Sivers, who founded CDBaby and sold it for an obscene sum of money many years ago, was at the point at the end of it where he was literally only working two hours a week at most. Since 2011 he has published 24 books though, including Anything You Want. Now he does other things with his time that are productive, but he says no to a lot of things that aren’t. Here’s what he said in an interview on Tim Ferriss’ podcast:

Every time people contact me they say “I know you must be incredibly busy”, and I always think “No, I’m not.” Because I’m in control of my time. I’m on top of it. Busy, to me, seems to imply out of control, you know? Like “Oh my God, I’m so busy! I don’t have any time for this shit!” To me that sounds like a person who’s got no control of their life.

You know what’s usually making you busy instead of productive? Things you’ve allowed to control you instead of you controlling them. How many of these things are bossing you around every day?

Your E-mail Inbox
Making YouTube Videos
Wordpress upkeep
Keyword research
TV News
Making graphics for Pinterest

Who is the real boss of your phone?

Now, how many of those things did you imagine yourself doing when you said you wanted to be a travel writer? Which are really paying your bills and which are just distractions from your real job? If you’re an Instagram influencer who is really getting paid to look dreamy in a hotel bed with room service #coffee, then more power to you—it’s your job. If you’re getting paid by brands to feature them in videos, then okay, you’re a vlogger and that’s a job. But it’s not really part of your job if you are a writer or blogger.  (And remember, a blogger is someone who has a blog that people actually read.)

What If Your Work Time Was Really Limited?

There’s a framing question that can give you clarity on that, which is, “What if you could only work two hours per day? What would you work on?”

I’m guessing if you really wanted to be a writer, you would spend it writing. You wouldn’t waste time sending out Tweets that bring two people to your website at best, or posting daily photos on Instagram that don’t bring in traffic or dollars. You would automate that stuff pronto, or find a virtual assistant to take care of it. You would fire up and offload what’s not earning you an optimum hourly rate. Because you’ve got to pay the bills, right?

You would focus on what really has impact and leverage.

You would send out queries like a machine if you were a freelancer and meet deadlines when you get the gigs. If you were a blogger, you would do lots of quality, in-depth blog posts with good search potential and e-mail sign-ups potential. If you knew getting a book published would have a huge impact, you would work really hard to complete that book. In all three cases, you’d probably be doing some pitching to someone who is going to hand over some cash—or finding a way to get your followers to buy from you instead of just clicking a “like” buttom.

So why aren’t you doing those things now?

Go ahead, work two good hours instead of eight mediocre ones. It might just change your life.


I’ve spoken twice at TBEX on the subject of getting more accomplished each week and the productivity module of my comprehensive Travel Writing Overdrive course is often the one that has the most impact on students.

So I’m launching Productivity Power for Writers shortly, a 4-module course that will reveal how to get more great work done without working more hours. To get on the notification list, go get this e-book with quotes from successful writers through the ages. 

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