3 Ways To Stop Being Busy And Start Being Productive

Away from commotion and to creation.

Michael Papas
5 min readSep 16, 2020


Photo by mauro mora on Unsplash


I’ve been busy, recently. Not productive.

As days settle into dusk, I reflect on a near-complete to-do list. I’ve finished 90% of the tasks set for the day. Part of me self-congratulates on a job well done.

But despite all the hustle, I haven’t gone beyond yesterday. I’m not any closer to my goals, I haven’t built my skills and my knowledge base is unchanged. My borders remain fixed. But why? I’ve been so busy.

On weekends, I talk to friends about how I’m so on-the-go. I’ve got so many balls in the air, I’ve barely a moment to relax. Sometimes I’ll even catch myself enjoying it, like there’s pleasure in professing productivity.

It’s not just me. Most people I know speak this way. “How have things been?”, I’ll ask. “So busy”, the inevitable reply. Sometimes even with pride beneath the surface.

‘Busyness’ can be worn like a badge of honor, celebrating productive feats between office partitions. If you’re not busy, there’s something wrong. Your business is in decline, your job is insecure, or maybe you just hate achievement.

It’s a culture of busyness.

Antelope, or field mice?

You could spend a whole life this way. There’s a deep well of emails to answer, spreadsheets to tweak and meetings to arrange. And you could draw from that well indefinitely, never actually creating anything.

But consider. Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the US House of Representatives, has an analogy recorded by Tim Ferriss in Tools of Titans:

“A lion is fully capable of capturing, killing, and eating a field mouse. But it turns out that the energy required to do so exceeds the caloric content of the mouse itself. So a lion that spent its day hunting and eating field mice would slowly starve to death.

A lion can’t live on field mice. A lion needs antelope. Antelope are big animals. They take more speed and strength to capture and kill, and once killed, they provide a feast for the lion and her pride. A lion can live a long and happy life on a diet of antelope.”



Michael Papas

Insights from neuroscience, non-dual mindfulness, and psychedelics to upgrade your awareness. For gigs or just to chat, get me at michaelpwriting@gmail.com.