I grew up in a large family run by a hard working, strong-willed Italian mother. Lots of noise, lots of love and no tolerance for sitting around. No wonder the following Italian Proverb caught my attention! “Often he who does too much does too little.”

We were taught that keeping busy and working hard were what mattered. Now, I do attribute a lot of my good attributes to Mom, but the message on keeping busy wasn’t her most sound advice. I am always busy and doing a LOT. Years ago I named what I do as “flitting” – like a bee who is on the move and sipping nectar from one flower to another. What I realized is that while flitting does allow me to stay busy, it does not allow me to be as productive as possible.

What does work?

1. Making a list of priorities. The daily list is made once a day. The weekly list once a week. Items on the lists include To Do actions and other priorities to keep in focus.

2. Having boundaries. It is easy to get caught in the “got a minute?” trap. Think back, when someone asks if you have a minute, is it really a minute? It’s okay to ask if you can get back to them, or ask for a minute to wrap up your thought, email note, etc. so that you can then focus on the other person.

3. Setting goals. I don’t consider these the same as a list of priorities or actions. Goals are outcomes that you want to work toward in some future time period. The actions to reach the goals will end up on your priority and To Do lists.

4. Pausing. Pause and take a deep breath which will also allow you to glance at that priority list to see where time should be spent.

5. Slow down on the response time. Set emails to be received every 60 minutes. When working on the computer and the box pops up with a new email, my mind flits right over to see what it is. The discipline to let those go is easier when they aren’t loading every 3 minutes!

Focusing on what is important will allow you to be more productive and accomplish so much more. Busy-ness without a focus may keep us looking productive, but does not allow us to be efficient. Sorry Mom.