Clarie Psychotherapy

Clarity to Choice and Courage

busy but unproductive

Are You Unproductively Busy?

Why do we do busy things that don’t bring us closer to our goals?

We sometimes engage in activities that may not directly contribute to our goals due to various reasons. Instead, we might find ourselves being busy with things other than the main task.

For instance, we might plan to start exercising and really want to go out for a run. Yet, when the time draws near, we end up doing other tasks or suddenly get bogged down by an influx of urgent things that might seem more important at that point. 

Here are a few possible explanations why we engage in busy activities but not bringing us closer to what we actually want. 


Putting things off is a common behaviour where we delay tasks that require effort or that we find unpleasant. Instead, we engage in less important or less productive activities to avoid the discomfort of the task at hand. This can lead to engaging in busy work or distractions that do not align with our goals.

One way to put a stop to procrastination is to take immediate sequential actions. For instance, we could pack our workout gear the night before and once we reach home – so that we can immediately change into the running gear and head out instead of waiting. 

Lack of Clarity

Sometimes, we may not have a clear understanding of our goals or how to achieve them. As a result, we may engage in busy activities that feel productive or make us feel busy. These activities don’t help us make progress towards our goals. This can happen when we lack a clear plan or direction. Rather than focusing on what truly matters, we resort to activities that are familiar or easy. 

Having a clear immediate next step planned out may help in getting the momentum started. At the same time, knowing why you set the goals in the first place can build on the clarity. 

Social Pressure

At times, social or peer pressure may influence our actions. We may feel pressured to engage in activities that are expected, even if they do not align with our goals. This could include attending events, or taking on additional responsibilities that are perceived as important by others. This social pressure can lead us to engage in busy work that does not align with our own priorities.

It could look like not committing to exercising or giving in to invitations to go out instead of your scheduled workout.  This is common when we don’t have a clear ‘why’ to take action on our goals, and fun with friends often beats an unappealing task. 

Distraction and Information Overload

In today’s fast-paced world, distractions and information overload from various sources such as social media, emails, and notifications often bombard us from all directions. This can easily lead us to engage in busy activities that do not align with our goals and even mindless scrolling for hours.

As we get caught up in the constant stream of information and distractions, we lost track of our goals. When we are distracted, it is easy to get blinded by the next shiny object or the next quick scheme. Cutting off distractions can be retracting cognitively whenever we find our mind wandering. 

Lack of Awareness of Self

We may be engaged in busy work without realizing that it does not align with our goals. This could be due to a lack of self-awareness or reflection on our priorities and values. Without being mindful of our goals, we may end up engaging in activities that do not contribute to our desired outcomes. Regular evaluation of actions can also help in aligning ourselves from time to time.

Practice mindfulness allows us to be more aware of what goes on in us emotionally, physically and mentally. This is so that we can catch these thoughts before acting on them. And when we do act on them, take corrective action to steer and refocus on the goals. 

If you feel you might be experiencing patterns of unproductive busyness, feeling exhausted and frustrated, there could also be deeper entrenched unhelpful beliefs that you currently hold on to. Speaking with a trusted person who can help you understand more and work through the core issues.

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