We often associate busyness with success. We tend to think that the busier you are, the more important and in-demand you must be. And if you're not busy, then you must not be ambitious or working hard enough.

Our society has taken busyness to new heights, but being busy can actually prevent you from maximizing your potential. Super busy people usually operate reactively, have no time to think, and are scattered because of the sheer number of things they are juggling at any given point in time. The truly successful people are the ones that guard their time, say no often, and leave room for the truly important things in their lives and work.

How then can you achieve what you want while avoiding the chaos that busyness can bring? Here are three ways you can increase your productivity and stop being so busy:

1. Spend some time observing how you work.

Are you structuring your day and how you engage with others in a way that optimizes efficiency? Or are you bending to the needs of others, sacrificing your own time and space because you think that you have to operate in a way someone else wants you to?

This type of thinking happens all the time: You lack exercise but fail to suggest walking meetings because you think others will not be agreeable. You succumb to a travel schedule that leaves you weary because you "have to" have an in-person meeting. Or you say yes to all meetings that you are invited to because you are afraid you will miss out.

More often than not, you are participating or operating in ways that are either inefficient or superfluous without even realizing it. Get clear on what kind of workday would energize you, and then, with that in mind, rethink how you work. You would be surprised how many things you still do but in a way that doesn't suck your time and energy.

2. Focus on the work at which you are exceptional.

Time and time again, I speak with CEOs and leaders who are buying into the idea that success means knowing and being good at everything. However, they wonder why they aren't engaged, or are bordering on burn out.

Rethink the work that you are doing: Is it really the work that you should be doing or is there someone else that could do it better? We each have a unique genius, but most of us are not sure what it is or aren't ruthless in delegating work that is not aligned with it. Delegating is not only more efficient, but it's also a great way to empower your co-workers: Give them meaningful work that is a great fit for them, not you, and recognize them for their unique skills.

3. Allocate time to think or meditate.

We live in a world where faster is better. We have been taught that doing is the path toward achievement.

However, as counterintuitive as it sounds, slowing down helps you get more done in the long run. It also helps train your mind to focus. One hour of focused thinking can often produce more output than three hours of scattered, multitasking chaos. Make sure you are blocking off time in your calendar to think. Even if it's one hour a week, or one day a week, it will most certainly shift your productivity and improve your creativity and quality of ideas.

Published on: May 23, 2016