“Busy as a bee” is used to describe someone who is bustling, industrious, engaged, working, active and productive. However, originally it described undesirable character traits. The term “busy as a bee” originated from Geoffrey Chaucer’s, The Canterbury Tales, (the Squire’s Tale), 1386-1400:
“Ey! Goddes mercy!” seyde oure Hooste tho,
“Now swich a wyf I pray God kepe me fro!
Lo, whiche sleightes and subtilitees
In wommen been! for ay as bisy as bees
Been they, us sely men for to deceyve,
And from the soothe evere wol they weyve;
By this marchauntes tale it preveth weel.
But doutelees, as trewe as any steel
I have a wyf, though that she povre be,
But of hir tonge, a labbyng shrewe is she,
And yet she hath an heep of vices mo;
If you cannot understand the original passage in The Canterbury Tales, I have it translated in modern English too.
Eh! By God’s mercy!” cried our host. Said he:
“Now such a wife I pray God keep from me!
Behold what tricks, and lo, what subtleties
In women are. For always busy as bees
Are they, us simple men thus to deceive,
And from the truth they turn aside and leave;
By this same merchant’s tale it’s proved, I feel,
But, beyond doubt, as true as any steel
I have a wife, though poor enough she be;
But of her tongue a babbling shrew is she,
And she’s a lot of other vices too.
A babbling shrew with tricks who was as busy as a bee and deceived men. That is definitely not a very glowing description for a wife!
Are You Busy As A Bee?
Being industriously engaged is a positive trait and one that employers appreciate. However, there is a fine line between being an industrious busy bee and someone who is just being busy for the sake of looking busy. Of course, the latter is not actively engaged in accomplishing anything worthwhile.
There are far more busy people than there are productive people unfortunately. It is so much easier to look like you are a rock star with no time to spare when in reality, you are simply filling space with tasks that don’t really matter.
How To Be A Productive Busy Bee
Let’s say that you now have identified yourself as a non-productive busy bee. I’m not asking you to raise your hand and announce it to the world. But if you realize that you are often busy without any great accomplishment, there are a few things you can do to become productive:
- Be peaceful and quiet – Removing chaos from your thoughts allows clearer thinking which ultimately leads to more productive actions.
- Say no – You cannot be everything to everybody. Learn to set limits for yourself and say no when you have enough on your plate.
- Stop over committing – Simplify your life with less activity. By doing less, you will have time to not only enjoy the activities more, but you will also have more thought involved while being industriously engaged.
- Set goals – It is important that you have a plan every day. Without one, you will find that you wander in and out of tasks aimlessly accomplishing very little.
- Get help – There is no shame in not being able to do it all. Did you forget that you are human? So if you feel overwhelmed, ask for help and don’t stop asking until you get it.
- Call – Unless emails are necessary as a document of record, pick up the phone and call the person. Not only is it more humanly friendly, but it is much faster than emailing each other back and forth.
- Be health focused – Eat good food and get enough exercise each day. If your body is primed and in good working order, your brain can produce more creatively focused thoughts and ideas.
- Short increments – Do tasks in hour increments. Not only is it better for your thought process and concentration to have a five minute break every hour, but it is also healthier for your body. Get up and walk for five minutes to get the circulation going in all the body parts that remained stagnant for an hour.
- Sleep – The benefits of getting a good night’s rest cannot be obtained any other way.
- Focus on one thing – I know that multi-tasking is a desirable trait, but stop it. Focus on one thing at a time. You will find that the task is completed much quicker if you stay focused on one thing.
- Eliminate distractions – It may not really bother you if people wander in and out of your office continually or the phone rings constantly, but eliminate all the distractions. While you are focusing on a task, keep your work area and environment clear of all distractions.
- Clean it up – Get rid of all the extra clutter laying around. Be clean. It is much easier to think and get things done if everything is in it’s place. You will also spend less time searching for things that you need.
- Work smarter – Use your brains for more than filling your skull. For instance, if you are making spaghetti sauce, cook twice as much as you need, then freeze half of the meal. It won’t take any more time to cook twice as much and you will have another meal all ready without having to spend so much time preparing it.
- Take shortcuts – Whether you learn how to file faster, use keyboard shortcuts, or cut the grass in less time, it will serve you well to figure out efficient shortcuts to accomplish your tasks.
- Important tasks first – Do the important tasks first while you are fresh and your mind hasn’t been taxed by the day or people.
Are you buzzing with energy and excitement at the prospect of getting more done in less time? Good! Just remember: Being busy as a bee can be a positive or negative behavior. If you follow the tips above, you will bee more productive and that is definitely positive! One last thing – Honey, if anyone ever calls you a babbling shrew, give them a piece of your mind that will make them sting for a very long time.