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I can’t honestly remember where I first heard the question,

“Are you being productive? Or are you just being busy?”

But it resonated enough with me that I jotted it down on a sticky note and attached it to my ring light (ever present for Zoom calls).

It has remained there at eye height as a constant check in reminder since.

The Sticky Note

That sticky note has kept me focused too many times to count, when I was tempted to check emails, mark a few student papers (ever present during a Uni teaching term), accept that meeting invitation for an unneeded meeting, or scroll social media to check the status of posts or a conversation thread.

Honestly, so much of what we can get caught up doing is just busy work.

I likely owe the ability to have created an entire new online course (How to Use Social Media to Grow Your Travel Agency) in the period of 4-weeks to the commitment to task that sticky note promoted.

I got up early, worked during the day and into the evenings, and there were many days I didn’t check email until the end of the day, and sometimes only after 3-4 days.

Perhaps unremarkably, nothing serious happened as a result.

Timely stuff reached me by text. I did a social media fast during that time too – ironic since social media was what I was teaching about in the course.

But the dramatic pull back from endless posting and content creation also reinforced one of the main themes of the course, to simply focus on one platform and do it well.

Meetings happened without me, and I skimmed the minutes later, offering feedback as requested.

That took five minutes, not the 1.5hrs originally requested to attend.

It’s remarkable what can happen when we refuse busy work or things that take us off task.

Plus Ear Plugs!

Ear plugs – those were another indispensable tool for shutting out distraction and remaining laser focused on task.

The only time I removed them was during the recording of material.

The course launch at the Las Vegas Travel Agents Forum was a tremendous success, and since returning I have now fully built out the content and lead magnets to have it run evergreen.

There’s also serious interest from several host agencies and conglomerates in group access or a licensing agreement to train 100s of their agents.

Focus is a rare thing these days, since we live in a distracted world, where the default switch is always “on” it seems. Being productive rather than busy is my message and hope for you this week. I know it’s summer, and you may well be taking some time off. But if you’re not, I’m willing to bet that if you proactively focused on task for just 2 hours a day, you could likely take much of the rest of the day off, and still accomplish what you normally would.

Something to think about as the sunshine calls you to go play outside…!

While this content isn’t specifically about marketing, it sure will impact your marketing success if you are able to apply focus and attention to what matters!



Mary Charleson, is a marketing speaker, educator and strategist. She is the author of blog and weekly newsletter, featuring marketing tips, served up like a personable chat with a caring friend over coffee. She has authored two books: Word of Mouth Mouse & Mobile and Five-Minute Marketing. Mary is a CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), a designation through NSA (National Speakers Association) held be fewer than 12% of speakers globally. She is a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers and the Global Speakers Federation. Subscribe to Mary’s Weekly Five-Minute Marketing Tips.