Busy Is the Enemy of Productive. Which Are You?

Top professionals figure out the difference between these two qualities and spend the lion's share of their time generating results.

learn more about Stacey Alcorn

By Stacey Alcorn

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

What qualities make some salespeople excel while others languish, struggling to make a living? One key differentiator between elite sales producers and the rest lies in their productivity.

Elite salespeople have figured out the difference between busy and productive and spend most of their time delivering results. If you watch how low to moderately productive salespeople behave, they are always busy. They frantically go about their day completing one task after another, yet never move ahead in their business.

The elite sales producers, on the other hand, are always productive. They are not franticly pulling out their hair because there's too much to do. Rather they show absolute focus in doing what matters to build their business.

Are you sick of being busy and ready to take your business to a new level by being productive?

Here are seven lessons in how to become productive rather than busy:

Related: 3 Small, Doable Ways to Become Wildly More Productive

1. Narrow the to-do list.

If you have a to-do list that is pages long, you have set yourself up for a busy day, not a productive one. Narrow down your daily list to the two most important things you must do to move your business forward.

Everything else on your list is just noise that gets in the way of productivity. Don't concentrate on the noise: Focus on the two items you can do today to build your business.

2. Monetize that list.

So what are the two most important things you must do to move your business forward? If you are in sales, then the most vital items on your list should be prospecting and retaining business.

I own real estate offices, and although there are a million little things I could and should do daily (like writing blogs, creating training content, reviewing budgets or meeting with the marketing and advertising team), none of these tasks generates income.

Therefore, they are never my first priority. The two most important tasks on my to-do list every day are recruiting new sales team members and retaining the ones I have. Everything else falls into my "maybe if I have time later" bucket.

Your time has value. Concentrate on the two things that represent the highest and best use of your time. Delegate everything else or put those items on the back burner until you have free time.

Related: Culture That Counts -- 5 Ways to Dramatically Boost Employee Satisfaction

3. Optimize your work area.

If you're easily distracted, then you must find a way to make your work area conducive to productivy. I find it difficult to make my daily prospecting calls at the office because I'm easily distracted. I chat with people and get carried away tackling "busy" tasks that don't move my business forward.

Therefore, I do my prospecting calls from home, early in the morning, without distractions. Productivity is difficult to achieve if you're constantly interrupted. So shut the door to your office, work from home (if that doesn't distract you) or find a quiet corner at a coffee shop where nobody knows you. But find a way to make your work area work for you.

4. Eliminate time sucks.

What are you doing daily that's a complete waste of time? Here are a few that I've noticed in my life and have since eliminated: television, people who gossip and unwanted sales calls.

Take a couple of days and map out how you spent your time in 30-minute increments over 10 hours.

Are there segments of your day that could have been better spent?

Eliminate anything that adds no value to your day or life.

5. Shut off the devices.

When working on the two most important tasks of the day, shut off your phone and email and turn away from social media. On a daily basis, I don't even check my emails or voicemails until I've finished my two most important tasks.

Why? There are time suckers lurking on your device. These time suckers are an invitation to make you busy, but they will not make you productive.

6. Chill.

The most productive salespeople are the ones who regularly take vacation and scheduled time off during the week. You cannot remain focused and productive without taking breaks to recharge through focused relaxation.

7. Don't be hard on yourself.

Productive salespeople do not berate themselves when things fall through the cracks. When you focus on just a couple important tasks each day, sometimes stuff gets overlooked.

Sure, you'll miss an email or a deadline here or there. But if it was for the betterment of your productivity, who cares? Let it go!

Related: The Not-to-Do List -- 7 Habits That Are Sabotaging Your Productivity and Happiness

Stacey Alcorn

Author and Entrepreneur

Stacey Alcorn is CEO of Boston-based Laer Realty Partners.  She owns and operates several businesses in the Boston area including a consulting firm, a law firm and a fashion line. She is the author of REACH! -- Dream, Stretch, Achieve, Influence.

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