Oh I can’t, I’m just super busy.

That was my constant refrain for a few years. Long hours in my office, hustling hard on weekends, turning down social outings because I was working, working, working.

Because there’s something that makes you FEEL successful about putting in an 8-10-hour day, right? “I was VERY busy, therefore today must have productive!” But therein lies a problem for so many small business owners- a misunderstanding of what constitutes good work.


Being “busy” sometimes just mean spending a LOT of time at your computer or on your phone… produce low- to no-impact work (i.e. scrolling through a social media feed in the name of “research”). Being productive, however, means you’re doing work that has an actual impact on your business’ success. Productive means doing the hard work of prioritizing, determining where your attention is most needed.

Don’t get me wrong- “busy” is often a necessary part of productivity!

But what I want to make sure we don’t fall into is believing the lie that busy ALWAYS equals productive. Because that’s not necessarily the case.

It’s like how I used to view engaging on social media: it feels like an accomplishment to leave comments and likes on 10-15 different feeds in the name of “engagement,” doesn’t it? But… what is that actually doing for your bottom line? Or how about when you’re feeling bored, do you toggle over to your inbox and clear out a couple of emails, just to feel like you’ve done something? Just to look/feel busy?

Engaging on social media can be important, and keeping up with your inbox is as well. I don’t mean to write either off.

How to be productive | Abby Grace Photography

But what I’m saying is that simply checking off numerous items on a to-do list? It doesn’t necessarily indicate GOOD work. It’s like cranking widgets- low-impact work that FEELS productive, without accomplishing DEPTH.

I think so many of us settle for busy-instead-of-productive because it’s easier in the moment. But when we look at the long-term impacts of a business that only ever cranks widgets, while those widgets may keep your business afloat, what have they done to actually move your business forward?

Focus is hard. Especially in a world so intent on 24/7 accessibility. There are THOUSANDS of distractions pulling at your attention throughout the course of a work day: email, Instagram, Facebook, cute dog photos, Twitter, Pinterest, Netflix…. and on and on. That’s not factoring in ANY of your at-home responsibilities that also clamor for your attention!

And furthermore, we live in a world that rewards low-impact busy-ness faster than high-impact productivity! Spend more time engaging on social media? See the follower count grow. Answer five emails? Find six more in your inbox next time you check. Feels good, doesn’t it?

Focus is hard. But FOCUS is where so much of the good stuff can be found.

Focus is where the big ideas reside, where they go from concept to execution to real life results.

It may be hard to get there, but focus is where you’ll find that buzzy, heady sense of purpose, of doing work that has a bigger impact on satisfaction in your work than just being “busy.”

Need help getting focused? Here are my top two recommendations:

  1. Read Deep Work by Cal Newport. This is, hands down, the best business book I’ve ever read. It’s not just about how to focus (and the science behind it), it’s also about how to discern what tasks and efforts TRULY matters in your business… and how to let the rest go.
  2. Check out the Daily Focus Template that just hit the shop! I use this template most days I’m in the office, which allows for greater focus… which results in being productive in all the RIGHT areas of my business. Does that means I never engage on Insta or check my emails? No way! But it does mean that I try my hardest to CHOOSE when to do those things, instead of letting compulsive behaviors rule my work day.

Focus is hard. Really hard. But if you can build daily habits that make more room for focused work and cut OUT the feeling of needing to do everything all at once, you’ll find the work you produce is a better product, and the satisfaction you feel at the end of a work day is more complete!

How to be productive

Photos by my dear and talented friend Sarah Bradshaw!

*This blog post contains an affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, we earn a small commission if you choose to click through and make a purchase. Trust that I will only ever recommend products I’ve thoroughly tested and loved, and the resulting commissions make it possible for us to continue turning out great content like this post!

How to work fewer hours while getting more done

March 14, 2019

  1. Karen Field says:

    You are such a good teacher!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave A Note

Browse the Conversation ...

Snag the Gear Guide

Heck yes! Gimme!

Curious about my gear list?

Follow along






Back to top

JOin the abby grace newsletter community

Get on the list

for exclusive, once-weekly business & photo tips, early access to new courses and resources, and occasional Mean Girls quotes. 

%d bloggers like this: