Three things you can do to live unhurried, even when you’re busy

Leave margin and take moments amid your full schedule. Here’s how to build mindfulness into your life.

Busy has become our badge of honour. “Busy,” we say when asked how we are. Too often, what we mean is: “I’m productive. I’m significant. I matter.” How much we do can become our identity.

The problem is when busy-ness creeps inside. It becomes hurriedness, leaving us in a jumble of feeling frazzled yet never achieving enough.

How do you know you’re hurried? You check emails while waiting 30 seconds for the microwave. You nod as someone talks to speed them up. You struggle to be there with those you love. You keep promising, “It will be okay when this is over,” but it never is.  You numb yourself, exhausted, in front of a screen.

So, as the new year gets underway, how can you be busy without being hurried? Here are three Ms to help you make the switch.


Think of your life as a page. Are you writing all over it, or do you leave margin? Margin creates room not only for delays, but also for opportunities. It gives you space to say yes when you want to.

Schedule open days in busy times. I try to set aside one day a week to work from home with no appointments: this is when I come up with new ideas for training and presentations.

Take breaks every 90 minutes. Your glucose levels and blood pressure drops at these intervals as your body moves from higher to lower alertness, reports Tony Schwartz, author and chief executive of the Energy Project. You then feel fidgety, hungry and your focus slips — don’t ignore these signs. Instead, eat or drink something, walk around, or change channels mentally.

Leave buffers between meetings. Make them 50 minutes long, instead of an hour, so you have a chance to take that break.

Eat lunch — and make sure it’s something you like. It should be a treat, not a chore.


Taking a moment to pause and be fully present means energy is gained — not drained.

Practice mindful walking between meetings, or over lunch. Be where you are. Notice the small details around you, so you are not consumed by regret over the past or worry about the future.

Our smartphones so easily become a security blanket that covers the gaps in our time. Get into the habit of putting it away at a certain point in your commute, 20 minutes before you get home, so you arrive ready to focus on your family.

Make sure you do one thing you find pleasurable each day. Read a few pages of a novel or magazine; listen to music. My “mini-holidays” include pilates, rowing on the river or a few stretches in the morning.


Don’t check email on your phone first thing in the morning. This floods you with stress — causing knee-jerk responses and a slower start to the day.

Leave your phone downstairs at night, and try a short meditation when you get up. It can be as simple as spending two minutes doing nothing except experiencing your breath go in and out, and being aware of your surroundings.

Or subscribe to a mindfulness app to download meditations. In our next newsletter, I will round up some of the best, but for now, here is a 14-minute LiveWorkWell meditation on making space for silence.