Busy is a four-letter word. It can be an excuse, "Sorry, I can’t, I am too busy!" Or a justification, "He’s so stressed because of how busy he is." Or even a cry for help, "I can’t do anything joyful; I am just too busy."

However, tough it may seem, we can stop the busy cycle. Here are two very simple steps to reduce distractions and be less busy.

Watch your mouth

Lisa Marraro Cole has spent more than 35 years in the healthcare industry. Her business, Re•Source, focuses on helping people live and die well via lifestyle change, health advocacy and end-of-life navigation.

As part of her work she must be fully present, focused and authentic with her clients. Operationally, she must be extremely organized, patient and efficient.

Like many of us, Lisa realized that running a successful business meant she would always have deadlines, meetings and an endless to do list. Instead of trying to change the essence of her business, she decided to change her perspective.

Her first step? Lisa stopped saying the word busy. She replaced busy with: passionately pursuing; actively engaged; and enjoying.

While it felt awkward at first, Lisa had been saying busy so often that within a week of replacing every instance of it, she had so much practice, the phrases started coming out naturally.

As a result of striking busy from her vocabulary, Lisa realized a huge shift in her physical and mental state. Being busy and talking about it all the time had weighed her down; the shift to more positive actions that reflected her choice to engage in what she was doing provided her with more energy and momentum.

This positivity, in turn, made it easier for her to be more engaged and energized with her clients. And best of all, it helped her to prioritize her day, say no to distractions and remain open to opportunity because she was focused on ensuring she was passionately pursuing activities instead of being busy doing things.

Practical steps

Once we stop saying busy and start aligning our actions with our priorities, we almost immediately begin to recognize the opportunity to have more space in our day to focus on our activities.

Yet, like any new habit, it can be hard not to get sucked back in to being busy. After all, being busy is often seen as a badge of honor. If you want it done, give it to a busy person!

However, as leaders, consultants and good employees, we must recognize that being busy clouds our priorities, closes off opportunities and drains our energy.

Thus, just like replacing the word busy with new phrases, we need to create new habits to protect the buffer zone between pursuing our priorities and being busy. One easy way to protect that space is to engage in an activity that reinforces whatever we need to stay focused.

For example, if we need a few minutes to clear our head before meetings so we can be better engaged, set time to make a cup of tea before each meeting. Doing so requires us to get up, walk around and do something other than work.

It is an easy habit that protects the few minutes before the start of a meeting, allowing us to gather our thoughts and concretely transition into the meeting.

The bottom line is that we are in control of how busy we are. Embrace that control by shifting from being busy to being actively engaged. Notice the shifts doing so creates, then embrace a few simple habits to protect and encourage that more positive mindset!