Too Busy? How to Change That

Jun 6, 2024 | Coaching, Leadership

In leadership circles these days, it’s called “deselecting.” I love the concept.

Personally, I have some magical thinking about time. I falsely believe that it’s endless, expanding to fit whatever I want to do or get done that day.

And time after time, I run headlong into the truth: the number of minutes in a day is fixed.

Hence, my appreciation of the tool of deselecting. It’s looking at what’s on our plate and being intentional, responsible, and transparent about taking it off, either temporarily or permanently.

I also love that it requires looking at our mindset first. We need to embrace that we are human, not a robot or machine or time traveler. We need to give ourselves permission to say no to something or someone. 

If we don’t address what’s under the surface, the deselecting simply won’t work. We will back down or contort ourselves in some way.

Here are some deselecting examples from my life:

  • Putting my second book on hold temporarily so I can focus on moving
  • Quitting a group that is not meeting the goals I’d hoped for
  • Applying the slogan “Keep It Simple” wherever possible in my day

And some examples from my clients:

  • Taking work email off your phone (after you communicate how to reach you in a true emergency)
  • Starting 60-minute meetings at 10 after the hour to provide everyone with transition time
  • Reviewing the meetings you run and cut back or cancel the ones that aren’t productive
  • Quitting saying yes to every request (e.g., double book yet another patient)
  • Quitting or cutting back on voluntary, non-promotable roles at work (often called “invisible work”)

If you want a great example, listen to Dr. Ehlman’s story in episode 101 of my podcast Vital Signs: Thriving as a Woman in Medicine.

Deselecting is not about being irresponsible or leaving others in the lurch. It is about recognizing our human limitations and working with them while being able to bring our best selves to the tasks at hand.

To get started, ask yourself this question:

If I gave myself full permission, what might I stop doing? Brainstorm, then start with one item. 

When I see deselecting in action, I feel such a wave of admiration. Thank you to all of you that deselect regularly and proudly. The more we model these behaviors, the easier they become for everyone.

If you’d like some tips for deselecting, send me a message or email at
















Diane W. Shannon


Diane Shannon is an award-winning writer, author, and coach. Since leaving practice as a primary care physician due to burnout, she has worked to support physicians in achieving their personal and professional goals and to highlight the changes needed to reduce burnout, improve career satisfaction, and protect the bidirectional healing power of the patient-physician relationship.

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Diane W. Shannon, MD, MPH, PCC

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