Although I don’t have many rituals in my daily routine I do have one that has lasted for 35 years. Each morning my husband and I begin the day drinking coffee and talking about what’s going on in the world and what is planned in our small piece of the world for the current day. This shared time provides me a good beginning to each day. There is a certainty to that time of each day, and, notwithstanding illness or other unforeseen random events which happen very rarely, I know what will happen each day between 6:00 and 6:30 a.m..

After 7:30 in the morning I have learned to expect the unexpected. And, for many years I fought against the unexpected. I was convinced all of these “things” that interrupted me throughout the day made me much less productive than I could be. If only my phone would stop ringing and beeping, my email inbox would pause for just a few minutes, people would stop knocking on my closed door…but rarely did a day go by without all of these “things” preventing me from getting my “real” work completed.

For many years the reason I justified working late every night and on the weekends was because all those “things” prevented me from doing my “real” work. I needed to be everything to everybody, and I never really was. As time passed I sensed that I was becoming less and less to fewer people. But, then I began to understand the differences between what I thought I needed to do and what others needed. I was enjoying being busy and in control, but in reality I was not in control at all. At the same time I realized I didn’t want my work to be my life, and I was the only person who could change that.

What a great discovery! I gave myself permission to stop being so busy. I allowed myself to redefine what “things” are the most important in my daily life. Five ideas help me to be less busy and more productive:

  1. Pay myself first. I take time every day to energize myself, and it pays off!
  2. Take time for other people. It pays high dividends by aiding my understanding of others, and it helps to build a participatory, productive culture.
  3. Plan for the unexpected and manage the interruptions. I build a daily schedule that accounts for the extemporaneous as well as scheduled events. Stepping away from the task at hand to listen to someone who is dealing with a challenge is expected.
  4. Develop others to share the load. I’m confident my team can handle the issues that crop up daily.
  5. Don’t make commitments about which you aren’t passionate. Our time is precious, and we should use it wisely.

Try it. Stop being so busy!