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Busy vs. Productive

Updated: Jan 3, 2020

During my lifetime I have had the blessing of traveling to countries on different continents, each having a different Gross Domestic Product (GDP). I have been to countries in which everyone is extremely busy, but the third-world status still remains.

Years ago, while traveling in Europe, I learned a lot about work ethics through simple observation. Each day Switzerland's businesses open and close at a certain time. People are not on the streets having fun when it's time to work, and people are not working during the time to rest either. They have a remarkable work ethic. Switzerland is a small country of 41,285 square kilometers, which is just twice the size of El Salvador but sports a GDP greater than Argentina. How is this possible?

After that first trip to Switzerland, I returned home with that question resounding in my head. So, I researched their culture and learned that the root of their success comes from the value they give to time. They value it to the point of creating technology with the purpose of measuring time. Everyone knows that the Swiss hold the original patents for pocket and wristwatches. The reason for their success is that they have learned to prioritize, follow-through, and be disciplined with the use of their time.

Swiss culture is very time-efficient. Their daily life has been built using time management principles. Children are taught to manage their time at a very early age at home, school, and work. They are disciplined enough to make the most of a single hour. Priorities are set, and distractions are set aside effortlessly. Their remarkable value of time has led a small country to become a powerhouse with a GDP of $678 billion which is larger than the combined GDPs of Bolivia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, and Uruguay(1). These facts show that staying busy is not necessarily the most productive way of living unless we learn to manage our time with purpose.

So, yes, we must stay busy. That's not an option, but the challenge is to stay busy with the purpose of growing. This only comes when we value time, set specific goals, and just do it consistently without distractions.


(1) GDP data source: Wikipedia, "List of countries by GDP", United Nations column.

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