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Productivity Pitfalls, Bust and Productive are Not the Same
December 6, 2022   |   Episode #:

278: Biggest Productivity Pitfalls

In This Episode:

Do you ever feel like you haven’t gotten enough done…even though you were busy all day long? Busy and productive aren’t the same thing, but we often confuse the two. In today’s episode we’ll talk about why we pack our day too full and overschedule their calendars. I’ll share how we can learn about productivity from Star Wars (yes, it’s true!) and some strategies and techniques to make sure you focus on your priorities instead of getting off track.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

In chasing productivity, we can easily find ourselves exhausted, overwhelmed, consumed with burnout. 

Questions I Answer

  • How do I know when I’ve done enough?
  • Why do I feel unproductive even though I’m busy?
  • What makes people unproductive?
  • What is Parkinson’s Law of Triviality?

Actions to Take

  • Set yourself up for success by defining what is important on your to-do list this week.
  • Then take some time today to decide what “enough” looks like for this week.
    • What important tasks need to be done? What tasks just need to be started?
    • What items on your list need to be removed?

Key Moments in the Show

[02:51] How do you figure out what’s most important?

[07:03] The worst productivity advice

[09:01] Parkinson’s Law little known younger sister

[11:15] What Star Wars can teach us about productivity

[20:02] The real reason we end up overscheduling ourselves

Resources and Links

Show Transcript

Extraordinary is a choice. Take that in, soak it up because the hustle grind repeat mantra that society has been touting for decades. It add it all wrong. I’m Tanya Dalton. I’m a seven figure entrepreneur, best selling author, motivational speaker, mom and rule breaker. I’m here to help you live to your fullest potential. That’s what this podcast is all about. The Intentional Advantage is doing life on our own terms defined the status quo, and seeing ourselves outside of the tiny definitions society’s made for us. It’s intentionally choosing to step back away from the chaotic rush of your everydays and choosing, choosing to see that it’s your world. And it’s filled with opportunities. Let’s challenge the bedrock beliefs that so many have wholeheartedly trusted, because we were told they were truths. Let’s have a healthy disregard for the impossible. Let’s choose to be extraordinary.

Hello, hello, everyone. And welcome to the Intentional Advantage podcast. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton. This is episode 278. I’m loving the season on purposeful productivity, we’ve had a lot of fun. And based off the emails I’m getting from so many of you, you’re really enjoying the season.

I’ve been enjoying it because I feel like we’re really diving into what true productivity looks like–letting go of the old definition of productivity. I truly believe that old hustle grind, repeat type of lifestyle is just not serving us. So being productive in the most intentional, mindful way. That’s what I love about this season.

I want to spend the next few episodes focusing in on some of the planning systems and the thinking that boosts and increases this true productivity. All the episodes so far this season, those have been laying the groundwork, giving us the tools and the strategies to be more productive. Back in episode 276, we talked about how to find meaning in your work. But if we’re working ourselves to death, even in the pursuit of something extraordinary, is that really how we want to live in chasing productivity, we can easily find ourselves exhausted, overwhelmed, and consumed with burnout, which is why I wanted to talk about our topic today, I want to talk about some of the biggest productivity pitfalls. Because I think so often, we use that word productivity to hide behind to not actually do the work that matters, to not live with intention. Because we’re so busy being productive… well we’re busy.

We’re so busy being productive, we’re wearing ourselves out. And true productivity (we’ve talked about this so many times on this podcast) true productivity isn’t about doing more, it’s doing what’s most important. But that old definition of productivity, which is like get things done, and try to get as many things done as you can how to cram, you know, 12 hours worth of tasks into an hour. That’s what’s killing you. That’s what feels exhausting and frustrating when we do what matters. That’s when we go to bed satisfied.

But here’s the big question, how do you decide what’s important? How do you decide the work that matters, because we don’t want to wear ourselves out, we don’t want to be exhausted and overwhelmed. We want to be truly productive, we want to be happy, we want to be satisfied. And I did talk about the clear method that c l e a r method that I dive into in the joy of missing out. We talked about that in episode 275. When we discussed how to organize your to do list and we could use that strategy of the clear method to figure out what’s most important. Let’s go back to that quote though, when we talked in that episode, we talked about the clear method, we talked about organizing your to do list. We had a quote, but it was from… oh not Lord of the Rings… it was…Rings of Power. I forgot the name of it. That new show that’s been on Amazon, where one of the characters says you cannot quench thirst by drinking seawater. And yet, that’s what we find ourselves doing when we follow that old model of productivity. That’s the mistake we make. We don’t focus in and laser in on what is truly most important. We’re drinking so much seawater. And we heard another version of that in the conversation I had in the last episode with Niro Feliciano. And we danced around the idea of: Is this my goal? Is this what I want? I loved her therapist point of view on how we’re chasing the wrong things.

You know, drinking too much seawater, which we can all agree, doesn’t taste good. And yet we find ourselves surrounding ourselves with all the seawater. And part of it is because of expectation and obligation. Those two are best friends. And those two love to conspire against us, people and their expectations on us and what they want for us. We talked about that last week, how people rush us through life and tell us how many kids we should be having, and when we should be having the kids and when you get to get married, and all of this all of this expectation and obligation, not just from other people, also from ourselves, those stories we tell ourselves about what a good wife, a good mother, a good boss, a good manager, what those women do. And we’re setting ourselves up for failure, because we’re setting this high level of expectation and obligation that no one can live up to. And it is true that people do rush us through life. So a lot of it does come externally from society, from our parents in our upbringing, which they don’t mean, right, that’s certainly not intentional by our family members, by our friends.

We go through life like it’s this episode of Supermarket Sweep. You remember that show, where people would like have to go in the supermarket, and they were shoving things in their carts and dropping hands on the floor and cans or scattering everywhere. And far too often. That’s what life looks like, especially when we’re following that old model of productivity. We’re getting rid of those old models, I’ve really been on this journey myself, of what I call replacing. And that’s something I definitely want to talk about in a future episode, because I’ve never heard anyone talk about it. It’s about shifting the speed of my life, shifting it so it fits me and my desires, what I want what I think is most important. So that’s definitely a topic I want to get into another day, this idea of replacing, because today, I want to talk about why we chase down the wrong things, why we feel like we have to do everything, why we feel like we can’t slow down why we’re drinking too much seawater.

Simply put, it’s because we’re putting far too much on our plates. Our plates are piled high, like they are at a wedding buffet, cramming all these things on these tiny little plates. So here’s the easy thing. Here’s what we could say, Don’t put too much on your plate, see problem solved, right? It’s kind of like saying, Hey, if you want to lose weight, stop eating cookies. I think we all know not to eat the cookies when you want to lose weight. But I like cookies!

Who doesn’t like cookies? It’s not as simple as that. That’s why there’s you know, shelf after shelf after shelf at the bookstore of diet books and how to lose weight. Because it’s not that simple. It’s easy to say it’s not easy to implement. And part of it is because of the way we feel about these things. And that this is true on our to do list. I want to get to the heart of why we struggle, why we put too much on our plates, why we never seem to feel that satisfaction that we truly desire. And it’s what I call the big productivity pitfalls, where we’re hiding behind busy.

I mean, there’s a lot of people out there who say, gosh, you know what, I am busy all day long, slipping into bed, thinking God didn’t get anything done today. But they were busy all day. And that’s because they’re busy not doing the right things. Let’s back up for a second talk about that word, right? Because it’s not about me handing you a list of what’s right and wrong. It’s about what is most important to you, keeping your eye on that long game, really understanding what it is you want. So we don’t get distracted by the myriad of things in our day that can take us off course and causes us to be busy.

You’ve heard me talk about Parkinson’s Law on the podcast before you’ve heard in my book, you’ve heard me speak on stage. Parkinson’s Law is one of my favorite lots to talk about, which talks about the fact that work expands to fit the time allowed. So we want to focus it on the vital few versus the trivial many, what we haven’t talked about on this show, really at all. I don’t think Funny enough, is Parkinson’s, other law. So yeah, our good friend Parkinson has another law. That is also true, and it’s called the Law of Triviality. So we want to focus in on the vital few and let go of the trivial many, but trivial many is where many of us end up focusing. You know why? Because it’s easy. It’s the low hanging fruit. It’s the things that feel really simple to make decisions about. Or they’re the little things on your to do list that you want to check off first because ah it feels so good to check things off your list. We have talked about that, but our brain naturally goes for the quick wins. And that’s what happens with the law of triviality, we end up getting distracted by the busy work. And so we don’t end up doing the big important work that matters that allows us to feel that satisfaction.

So often, it’s because we lose sight of the big picture. When I’m speaking to business owners. A lot of times I talked to them about getting the forest view, zooming out, getting that big picture. So often, we’re so deep in the forest, all we can see are the trees, we want to zoom out and want to get the forest view. That’s one of the things that we did during my strategic planning circle that I had back in November, where we talked about getting this forest view. And it’s so easy to lose sight of what you’re trying to do if you’re not really clear on where it is you want to go. Every day we are bombarded by decisions and choices. And it’s really easy to get off track. This is why you’ve heard me talk about Wayfinding multiple times in my book on purpose. And also in Episode 249. We went in depth with that idea of wayfinding to figure out your goals, but this is not uncommon at all. In fact, let’s talk about one of the biggest film franchises in history…Star Wars biggest film franchise in history. It’s made over $10 billion. Its very first episode, which oddly enough is episode four. A New Hope it almost got derailed. The whole movie almost got derailed because of Wookie pants, or rather Wookie lederhosen.

I love this story because I think it really showcases how even big corporations, big giants who we look at as having it all together, easily get off track. In fact, in April of 2021, Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, he did a tweet that said Fun fact, very early in shooting of Star Wars, studio execs expressed a deep concern that chewy Chewbacca didn’t wear any pants and suggested he wear a pair of leader Hosen that they would focus on this amongst all the grotesque elements in the script made us laugh and a little bit worried. And it says hashtag true story. Wilkie pants I think is such a great example. I mean, here it is. It’s 1970s of filming of episode four. The studio execs are spending precious time and energy worried that the character was in decent, because all he was wearing was a bandolier you know, a strap of ammunition across his chest and he didn’t have pants.

And Mark Hamill says I remember the memos from 20th Century Fox, can you put a pair of Lederhosen on the walkie I mean, all they could think of was this character has no pants on this went back and forth. They did sketches of him and cool lots and baggy shorts. I love that quote from Mark Hamill. And you imagine Chewbacca in like baggy cargo shorts, just not the right effect. And if you’re not familiar with all of the behind the scenes that happens with that first Star Wars, it’s fascinating, but to be honest with you, and to put it really really nicely. It was a hot mess. I mean, hot mess. They were massively over budget.

They had film sequences with special effects that hadn’t been invented yet. They had eight, eight or two d two robots, each of which could do one single movement or task. And they couldn’t even do the single task. They were designed for Irvin Kershner George Lucas’s mentor says these are two D twos, they never did what you needed them to do, we ended up pulling them with nylon cords instead of using the electronics because they would get stuck and go in little circles instead of going straight. So here we have a major character RTD to moving around in circles instead of doing what he’s supposed to do. We have massive over budget issues. We’ve got special effects that need to be invented. And they’re worried about Chewbacca wearing cool lots or cargo shorts. I mean, nuts. It’s crazy. But this is what happens. So here is a great film franchise. That’s the start of it. And they’re worried about whether the rookies wearing pants. I just think that’s so funny. And we see this time and time again, with companies we see it with, you’ll see them going off track. This is why it’s so important to know where we’re going and to really laser in on what are the priorities. This is why we talked about earlier this season that concept of starting with the end in mind that was episode 273. And to be honest, it helps us with balancing it all. Although you know how I feel about balance

But this is the thing is, we get really caught up in oh, I need to do all these different things. A lot of times because of obligation and expectation, those two best friends that we talked about earlier, it’s easy to do, because we want to live up to expectations, we want people to be proud of us. It’s important how how we look to everybody else. And we sometimes do get caught up with that.

I have a woman that I have been meeting with regularly, and kind of coaching through in her business. And she’s got this huge contract that’s coming out that she is going to be taking on with her company like a nine figure contract. It’s very exciting stuff. And she totally deserves it. I’m so excited with her for her. But she and I have been meeting regularly because part of it is I’m helping her say no to all of the trivial mini all the little things that you know, we feel like we should be doing well, I should do these things, or I want to do these things, because this is what people expect of me. And I was telling her, we got to start with the end in mind, which is this nine figure contract that you’ve got, we got to set up the infrastructure, we need to make sure that all of that is running smoothly. Let’s put in the boundaries, before we dive in. Because this big nine figure contract is happening at the start of next year. Let’s start now figuring out what are the boundaries? And let’s focus in on how do you really want to feel as you’re going through this.

We talked about that idea of focusing in on the emotions as well, we tend to undervalue those pulling in that feeling of how we want to feel at the end of the day. That’s what we talked about during that prioritizing episode. But how do we want to feel at the end of the quarter? How do we want to feel at the end of the year? Do we want to feel exhausted? I don’t think anyone says you know what I want this year, here’s my resolution, my word of the year is exhaustion. Now, nobody says they want burnout as their word of the year. But we do this to ourselves, we we jump into things and we think well, I’ve got I’ve got 15 minutes. So yeah, I’ll say yes to this three hour task, we have this tendency to try to cram too much into our day into our lives. So by backing up and saying, alright, what are the boundaries? Before we dive in? What are what are the things that could be the rabbit holes that we end up chasing down are the distractions are the big things that take us off track, let’s be aware of those, then we can really focus on on what’s most important, letting go of the trivial many, I think that’s so important to do. But there is a major reason why we struggle with that. There’s a really big reason that we feel like we have to do more. And I want to talk about that in just a few seconds. First, let’s take a quick mid episode break.

Are you tired of being the best kept secret in your industry, or maybe you’re tired of feeling like you’re running in circles, to have a successful business while having a successful personal life. Both are very important. The truth is, you don’t win in business by doing what everyone else is doing. You win by playing a completely different game, you do what works for you, you keep your eye on what the long term goals are exactly like what we’re talking about in today’s episode. This is what I love to do during my strategy sessions, meeting one on one with you helping you get real solutions, not plug and play formulas, not templates, customized solutions to help you stand out as a thought leader in your industry, as the visionary for your business. So if you’re interested in multiplying your profit margin while working fewer hours, so you can have a thriving personal life. Or if you’re interested in aligning your goals to a clear vision. So your business runs like a well oiled machine, or just you know, drop in that heavyweight of confusion and lack of clarity you’ve been carrying around. A strategy session with me is exactly what you need. Go to Tanya dalton.com/strategy. For more information, I do a very limited number of these strategy sessions. But I absolutely love doing them. To me, there is nothing more exciting than working one on one, giving you that clarity you need. So you’re off and running. It’s amazing. We have so much fun during these days. And oh my gosh, we get so much done. So Tanya dalton.com/strategy is where you want to go if you’re interested in grabbing a strategy session with me. Again, there’s a very limited number and I’m already starting to fill up for 2023.

All right, let’s talk about this idea of putting too much on our plate. Because as I said earlier, isn’t it as simple as saying, well just put less on your plate. Hmm, gosh, I wish it was easy as that we could have like two episodes of the podcast. You’d be like got it. we’d move on right? But it’s not as easy as that. And honestly, the reason why we all struggle and I’m putting myself in this boat. Hey, anytime we’re talking about things like this, my hand is raised. I have these issues too.

The reason why we struggle is enoughness, which is probably not a word, but I think it should be a word. I want to talk about the idea of enoughness. Because I really think this is a big secret to productivity. It is one of the biggest pitfalls, because it keeps us from getting to the happiness we want. Answering the question of what is enough, that changes everything that changes the whole ball game, what happens is, we get caught up in this idea that more is better. The more things I have on my to do list, the better off I am. The more things I have on my plate, the more important I look, that’s true, hey, I have fallen trap to that myself. But all that is is clutter, crap that weighs us down, that trips us on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

We’ve all done that. Same thing, right? That clutter, maybe that you we talked about in your home, or the clutter we have, you know, in the garage, it’s the same thing on your to do list. That’s what’s catching your heel and making you twist your ankle, having this excess, the needless extra that doesn’t really add to our lives. And a lot of times it’s tied to here we go again, that whole idea of expectation and obligation, which then gosh, the domino effect is strong here ties into our overprotecting. We feel like we have to do it all. And we have to do it incredibly well. Don’t forget, you have to look good while you’re doing it. Now, if you remember back when we talked about that clear method, in that episode about how to organize your to do list. The R in clear was is it reality based. That’s what the R stands for reality based. Because a lot of times, these obligations and expectations are not based on reality, we are over perfecting over working overburdening ourselves with making these tweaks and tiny changes. When it really doesn’t add to the end product itself. We’ll spend three days searching for the perfect font for the presentation, when Who the eff cares about what the font is, choose a font and move on. We care about what the presentation is about. We care about what helps you stand out.

We have to define enough. It’s so important for our own happiness for our own satisfaction. And yes, for our productivity, if we’re not taking the time to truly start with defining what enough is, then how do we ever know when we’ve done enough? This is probably the number one question I get asked by people, how do I do enough to feel better? Well, have you defined what enough is, if you haven’t, it’s like a finish line that just keeps moving back over and over again.

It’s like being Tantalus, you know, in the Greek mythology where he keeps trying to go climb up the hill to grab the grapes, and the grapes keep going out of reach. And he tries to drink the water and the water is constantly receding just out of his grass. So he’s always hungry, always thirsty. And that’s means he’s not satisfied, which we’ll come back to that word again. And again, this season satisfaction. That feeling of fulfillment, that feeling of fullness that, ah feels so good, let’s end more days like that. But if you haven’t defined enough, you’re never going to reach it. You know, it’s interesting. I, you know, I had that strategic planning circle I kind of touched on earlier, which by the way, was incredible. And people are already asking me if I’ll possibly do it in January. So if you are interested in doing the strategic planning circle, send me an email, because I may be convinced to do one in January. Okay, side note there. But in the strategy circle conversations that we had, when we were planning out our year I shared with them, I gave lots of just different extras and bonuses with it.

I gave them this project overview Charter, which is a relatively simple document that you fill out anytime you’re starting some big initiatives, some big project or something that you’re wanting to do. And what it does is it outlines what is the end result? What would be considered done? What would be considered good? What are extras? What are the bells and whistles? What are the nice to haves, what are the rabbit holes, what are the things that we’re gonna get you off track? What we wanted to do. And what I wanted to do when I created this document was I wanted to make it really clear whether you’re the one leading that this project or somebody on your team. Everyone understands and knows the expectation. We define what good is and I loved how when I went through this during that strategic planning circle, all the women and these are women running successful businesses. Were like, oh my gosh, I’ve never done this

For, I think it’s Zig Ziglar, who says, If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. We don’t want to aim at nothing, we want to know what direction we’re moving in, we want to have a clear understanding of what is good, because if you don’t take the time to define it, you’re constantly going to be dissatisfied, like Tantalus, reaching for the grapes, reaching for the water, never really satisfied, make the decision at the beginning at the starting point. I mean, this is starting with the end in mind at the starting point, what is enough. And this is true when we’re talking about productivity. In this case, when we’re talking about a big project for your business, or if we’re talking about how you want to feel at the end of the quarter, or how you want to feel at the end of the week, or the end of the day, what is enough? I want you to start really thinking about that question and asking yourself, what is enough, because the problem is, so often we get to the end, whether it’s end of the day into the quarter end of the project, and we think ah, haven’t done enough, didn’t do well enough, didn’t hit the target. Even though there was no target to hit, there was no target to hit. And yet you are left feeling unworthy, feeling frustrated, feeling exhausted, that has to be one of the biggest pitfalls I can think of.

It’s one of the biggest questions I get, how do I know when I’ve done enough? I love that those women in that strategic planning circle, we’re so excited about defining enough understanding what that finish line looks like, Oh, we’re all tired of spending our days feeling exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed, irritated at ourselves. And the truth is all the things that I taught those women in the strategic planning circles all and I do these strategic planning circles, one on one and Strategy Session days, it’s so enlightening when people realize, oh, my gosh, I have never truly set the expectation for myself before. And then I wonder why I haven’t hit it. When we start to do that. It’s so empowering. And that’s what I want for you. And we’re going to continue this conversation of this idea of enoughness, which is my new favorite word, I guess, this idea of enoughness, because we’re going to be talking about how to customize and create a planning system for yourself. And we have to circle back on this idea of enough starting with the end in mind and making those decisions because that’s a big part of creating a really strong planning system for yourself, I want you to feel incredibly productive, not in the old way, not in the old model, where it means Gosh, falling into bed and just being worn out. I want you to fall into bed and feel productive as in, ah, I did enough today. I did amazing. Today was fabulous. That’s really what I’m here for. That’s what I love, love, love doing when I work get to work with women like you or I get to speak on stages and get to have these conversations. Because when we define that for ourselves, it really is life changing. So if you are interested in possibly joining in on a strategic planning circle, I think I’m gonna do another one in January. It’s a possibility, but only if I get interest. So send me an email Hello at TanyaDalton.com. Or if you’re interested in a strategy session, oh, we have so much fun, really defining enough deciding what those targets look like in a strategy session. Tanya dalton.com/strategy. Here’s what I want you to take away today, especially in this crazy, crazy season we’re in where we are just at the start of the holidays, where we feel like there’s so many parties and things we need to do with our kids. I want you to ask yourself that question, what is enough? What have I been chasing down? That’s just trivial. That’s busy. That’s not really making the holidays memorable. Not making my work feel satisfying. What have I been doing that makes me feel frustrated at the end of the day? Let’s define enough for you. Let’s be really clear and aligned. When you do that when you understand what it is you want and how you’re going to get there. That’s when you’ve got the intentional advantage.

Thanks so much for joining me today. Quick question though, before you go. Do you like prizes? When you leave a rating and review of the intentional advantage podcast you’ll be entered to win my life changing course multiplying your time, simply leave the review, and then send me an email at Hello at TanyaDalton.com with a screenshot I choose one winner at the end of every month. So go ahead do it right now. Just a quick comment with what you loved about this episode or the show in general and a rating and send it our way not gonna lie by stars is my favorite. But I’d love to hear what you think of the show. And if that’s not enough of an incentive for you to win the Multiply Your time course, I have to tell you reviews are the number one thing that supports this podcast and me, it’s the best way to spread the word and get business tips and strategies to all those other women out there who need it. So there you go, two great reasons for you to go and leave a review right now. So go ahead and do it. Send that screenshot my way because I want to give you a free course. And thanks again for listening today. I’ll be back next Tuesday, and I’ll plan to see you then.


** The Intentional Advantage has been called one of the best productivity podcast for women. This epiosode’s transcript is created by AI, so please excuse any typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes.

Tanya Dalton is considered one of the best motivational female speakers. As a woman productivity expert, she has motivating keynotes on goals, priorities, habits and more.