The Big Idea
Start with the end in mind.
Questions I Answer
- How can I prioritize what’s important?
- How can I organize my to do list?
- How can I be more productive?
- What can I do to find more time in my day?
Actions to Take
- Listen to Episode 006: The Power of Priorities to learn more about the priority system.
- Listen to Episode 022: Banking Time: 5 Tactics for Focusing on Your Priorities and learn more about banking up time.
Key Topics in the Show
Learn how Calee Lee used two unplanned hours in her day to create a 7 figure business.
How to attain the mindset that will move you towards real success & productivity.
Implementing an easy priority system that allows you to schedule the tasks and events that are important to YOU.
Learn how I scheduled my business around stages of life that works for my family and me, and how you can too.
Resources and Links
Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton, and this is Episode 24. Today we are going to talking about scheduling in the things that matter the most to you. Over the course of the last few episodes, we’ve been building up to this point. I’m really excited about today because in Episode 22 we talked about banking up your time. Then, last week for Episode 23, we had Laura Vanderkam on the show and she shared with us the finding from her time-tracking study called “The Mosaic Project.”
Both of those episodes had some strategies and some action items that you could start doing. Now, I want you to really pull this together and start scheduling in the things that matter.
I want to start off by giving you the permission you need to prioritize the things that move you forward. Sometimes it’s really hard to do for ourselves because we have so many things in our day and so many urgent items that seem to scream out to us. It feels like the things that are important to us tend to get pushed aside. They tend to get forgotten because there’s so many other things to think about and worry about. It can be really hard to give yourself that permission when everything else feels so urgent.
If you focus on the thought that you just don’t have enough time to get the things done that are really important to you, or the things you like to do, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and I don’t want that to happen. We want to take these pockets of time that we’re building up and have them create the biggest impact possible.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Calee Lee is a great example of this. She started Xist Publishing in 2011. She started it when she found herself with two unplanned hours in her day until her kids came home. Now, Calee thought about doing laundry because laundry is always calling out to us, it’s always urgent and it’s always piling up. Instead, she changed her mindset. She decided she wanted to do something she considered more important. She wanted to write a children’s story. Now this was a story she had been telling herself for years, and it was something she’d always wanted to do. She had just never written it. You know why? Because she didn’t think she had the time. Laundry was calling, so many other things that felt urgent were calling out and she wasn’t taking the time to really spend it on the things that were important to her.
You know what? Calee changed her mind and she decided she was going to do it. Within a few months, she had her book written. She published this book on Amazon, using their- Amazon’s publishing platform. Then she began to realize that, well you know what? If she’s going through the hassle of developing a contract, making an ebook, marketing it from home, well she might as well build a little company and do this for other people as well.
Within a few months of making that decision, she’d signed on a few more authors. They began to produce touchscreen-friendly picture books and more in 2013. By 2014, Calee was able to pay herself a six-figure salary. Today, her company – this company that began simply by taking two unplanned hours in her day- is now the largest digital children’s publishing start-up with over 180 titles from 45 authors and illustrators. That’s pretty amazing, am I right? All of this from two hours that she
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could have spend on laundry and she changed her mindset and began to focus on what was important to her.
Calee was one of the participants in Laura Vanderkam’s Mosaic Project that we talked about last week. When she filled out her time log, she was navigating how work fit into her life with have a four year old as a constant companion. This is a struggle many people have when they are trying to tackle big dreams and they still have small children at home, right? I thought it was really interesting, what Laura Vanderkam notes. She says, “The children will grown into becoming their own independent people and Lee’s business will begin to grow into its own, too. That’s a balanced life. It’s one that embraces ambition rather than that same old story of what balance should be.”
So, it’s really all about that mindset. Our lives ebb and flow with some seasons in our lives that are easy and some being difficult. When we keep our eyes on the things that really matter to us, the things that are important, that can help us navigate through to the other side.
Oftentimes we tell ourselves the story that when x happens, we’re going to be happy. “When I lose five pounds I’m going to be happy. When I start my business, when I write my children’s book.” But research actually shows this isn’t true. You’ll achieve the goal and you’re briefly happier but then you start looking at the next big thing. It’s not the actual achievement of the goal itself that’s going to make you happy, it’s a shift in the mindset.
Shawn Achor, a researcher at Harvard, gave a very popular TED talk where he shared his findings. Success doesn’t bring happiness. Happiness actually brings success. If you raise your levels of optimism, and you deepen your social connections, you actually raise your happiness. When you raise your happiness, every single business or educational outcome that researchers can conceivably know how to test for raise dramatically. That’s why it’s important to change our mindset and really focus in on the things that matter to us, because it raises our optimism and our happiness.
Companies have even started to take notice of these findings. MetLife started hiring people based off optimism. It turns out, optimistic hires outsold their more pessimistic counterparts by 19% in year one. By Year two, they were outselling 57%. Here’s what MetLife says about that. They says, “if we know the intelligence and technical skills of an employee, we can actually only predict about 25% of their job success. 75% of long-term success is predicted not by intelligence or by technical skills, which is how we normally hire. It’s actually predicted by three umbrella categories. Category 1, optimism, which is the belief that your behavior matters in the midst of a challenge. Two, your social connection, whether or not you have a depth or breadth in your social relationships. Three, the way you perceive stress. So it’s really all about changing your mindset, which sounds easy to do, right? How do we do this? How do we change our mindset so we can find happiness and focus in on the things that matter most? I believe it’s all about your priority system. That’s what will allow you to schedule in those things that are really important to you. I went into depth, back in Episode 6, on how a priority system works, so I would recommend giving that a quick listen to hear the ins and outs of how that works if you haven’t done that already. It’s only about 20 minutes, like most of my episodes, but let me give you a quick refresher just in case you don’t remember. There are three tiers, or three levels, or priority. Priority Level 1 is important and urgent. I call this the Immediate Priority Level. The Immediate Priority Level is what we call ‘putting out the fire’ here at Inkwell Press. It’s the tasks that are related to our
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goals and pushes them forward, but it’s really stressful, because these are the tasks that are under a time crunch. These are the things that have to be done right away. We want to get these things done so we’re in control of our time with less urgent tasks.
Which brings me to Priority Level Two: important and non-urgent. This is what I call the Important Priority Level. Remember, priorities are not all equal. We want to spend most of our time working on the Important Priority Level. These are the tasks
that are important but not urgent. These are actually the items that are going to push us forward to our goals, to our dreams, to the things we really want to do. Then we have our third level of priority, and that is the Not Important But Urgent Tasks. These are the ones I call “Insignificant.” So, a lot of these tasks that we encounter through our day actually fall into the Insignificant Priority Level. These are the tasks that other people push onto us, which creates a sense of urgency, but they don’t move us closer to our goals.
So, the three levels are Immediate, Important, and Insignificant. These priority systems only work if we’ve mastered the art of the word “no.” Otherwise, we get stuck with a laundry list of insignificant level tasks and we feel too out of control to work on our important priority level. We can’t treat all the things as equals. Not everything is a priority. Here’s an interesting fact: the word “priority” didn’t even exist until the 15th century. Then it was singular for 500 years, until the 1950’s when suddenly it changed from “priority” to “priorities,” as if changing this word into a plural made it real that we could actually focus on many, many things when really the word priority tells us we should be focusing on fewer things, not all the things. Nobody in the history of the Universe ever became CEO because they spent their time putting out fires, which is what you’re doing when you’re spending too much time in the Immediate and Insignificant Priority Levels. Those insignificant tasks -responding to emails, attending the meetings- those are the things that stop you from being fired, but the deep work, the things that propel you forward towards your bigger goals, your projects and tasks, that’s what gets you promoted. The important level of priority is what will push you forward. Remember, when you say “yes” to something, you’re saying “no” to something else. So what are you saying “no” to when you say “yes” to spending 28% of your time on email. Yes, the average worker actually spends 28% of their time answering email. So it’s not about doing it faster, it’s really about asking whether it needs to be done at all. Especially if it needs to be done by you, because you want to spend most of your time in that Important Priority Level.
How can we use the Priority System to our advantage so that we can really schedule in what matters to us? You can start by creating a schedule that allows you to spend that time where you want to. Lisa Miller is a public affairs executive in Washington, DC. She has a pretty regular, regimented schedule. She works Monday through Friday, and she invests as much time as possible in relationships with reporter and various political power players because that’s really important for her job and it opens up the doors for her company. Many people in her industry do power dinners where they use that time to invest in these relationships. Lisa, though, has found a way to create a schedule that allows her to do something that’s on her Important Priority List. She really wanted to be home for the early evening. Most days at works she grabs coffee in the middle of the day with a reporter or colleague. She uses that time to cultivate these relationships.
She also does what she calls “Mom O’clock” which is, she steers clear of the dinners and the happy hours and instead she regularly meets with reporters for
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cocktails at 4:30. The reporter is happy for the excuse to leave their work early. By 5:30, they’ve bonded, they’ve had a little time to invest in their relationship and then the reporter can head out to dinner and Miller is able to be home by 6:15. This is a great solution for Lisa. Many working parents feel like they can’t do happy hours or social events and sometimes feel like they might be missing out. If they’re important to your businesses or your personal life, there are ways to fit them into your schedule. You just might have to think outside the box just as Lisa did. I think that’s what’s important. It’s really about scheduling in those important items first and then working the rest of your schedule around it. So, don’t just think about 9 to 5 as you’re work time. For many people this is not even their most productive time. Think about it in terms of how you can make it so that your important items get put on your calendar first.
The second thing to do is change the script for yourself. I had a script I used to myself about what it meant to be a “good” mom. I thought that good moms stayed home, they had cookies baked when their kids got off the bus, they volunteer all their time with their school and I really think I had this script because, well, that’s what my mom looked like. That’s what my mom did. But it didn’t really work for me. I really like working, but I couldn’t let go of that guilt because in my script I wasn’t being a good mom. I had to change the way I was thinking. I had to shift my definition of what that means.
One of the scripts I had to change was that good moms volunteer at their kids’ schools all the time. That’s what my mom did and that’s what I expected to do too. I don’t volunteer at my kids’ schools as often as I thought I would. I had to change that script in my mind. I can volunteer in other ways. I can bake cookies and send them to class parties, I can help other parents with organizing different events. I can only do so much. I’m not going to say I’ve gotten rid of the guilt because we all feel guilty about how we spend our time, but I do feel so much better about it because I’ve changed my way of thinking. I’m not a lead volunteer, I’m a supporting volunteer. My schedule, because of this mind shift has evolved, too. When my kids were little I ran my business as a work-at-home mom. That allowed me to create pockets of time while I had little ones home all day. During nap time, during mothers day out, those were the times where I did these work sprints so I could get a lot of work done. Now my kids are older and they go to school every day. So, I go to a studio and I work full time out of the house. I generally get up early and I work in the morning before my kids get up. Then I spend some morning time with them and then I go back to work and I leave my studio around 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon to spend the afternoon working on homework and things for my kids. Then my evening, I come back to doing a little bit more work before unwinding. That’s what works for me. That has allowed me to feel good about how I’m spending my time in my Important Priority Level. Yours may look very different from mine and that’s absolutely okay. It is really about finding what works for you. As with anything we talk about here on Productivity Paradox, it is about what’s working for you. What brings you the happiness. Not about what I’m doing, or somebody else -your neighbor or anyone else- what works for you.
Here’s what’s going to help. Create little pockets of time that start to build up. We talked about this in Episode 22 when we talked about banking our time. When you treat time like money and you invest in it, you’ll begin to see a return on the investment. It starts to compound with interest. It’s about taking these little time snippets and building them into something bigger.
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For example let’s say you want to read more. That’s something that’s really important to you. Stephen King advises people to read 5 hours a day, which sounds insane. Sounds wonderful, I’m not gonna lie, but how can anyone possibly read that many hours in a day? Well, Stephen King does it. He does this by fitting reading into every second of his day that he can. While he’s standing in line, when waiting for the lights to dim in a movie theater, any spare moment he has he spends it on reading because that’s what’s important to him. You can do the same thing with the things that matter to you.
There are minutes hidden in tiny pockets of your day. Just like the jar of change that maybe you have on your dresser. A few pennies here, a nickel there, it all eventually adds up to dollars, right? So it’s really about taking these tiny little nuggets throughout your day and building it into something bigger. Remember to focus on the harmony of the 168 hours in your week, not the just the 24 hours in your day. Balance out the heavy work days with the lighter work days. Balance out the days that you work mostly on insignificant objectives with the days that you work on important objectives. It’s all about the harmony. Finding the time that matters to you. Consider splitting work time to spend more time on the things that matter most to you. Let go of any ideas that you maybe have always told yourself, these scripts that you’ve said to yourself for years about you have to be home for some certain part of the day. If you balance not being home for dinner some days, with being home for breakfast or lunch on other days, you’re creating more harmony in your life than if you’re working late every night or scrambling to get home every single evening.
The last tip I have for you is to assume you’re going to go home at a certain time and then plan your day backwards. Feeling in control of your schedule prevents you from feeling burned out at work. Then you begin to spend your time more wisely because you’ve created a plan. So, start with the end in mind. This is just like what we talk about with goal-setting. Always starting off with where you want to be at the end. At the end of your day, when do you want to be grabbing your coat and heading out the door.
I love what Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism, says about this. “The things we have to do expand to fit the time we give ourselves to do them. So if you fail to plan a specific time, those urgent tasks, well, they’ll expand to fill it. But if you say, ‘I’m going to take 90 minutes to tackle all these emails and then I’m gonna turn my attention to more important tasks,’ well, then you’re more likely to tackle a lot more of those emails in those 90 minutes because you’re ready to get to those things that are more important.”
I really would love for you to start implementing this and start scheduling in the things that matter to you. It’s about having a priority list, not a to-list. I know we went through a lot of different strategies and tactics and lots of tips. Don’t worry, though, cause I know that you’re not taking notes cause many of you are listening while you’re in your car or while you’re working out. I’ll have all of this and more listed in the show notes. If you go to inkwellpress.com/podcast and then click on Episode 24, you’ll find all the information we talked about here today. So no worries if you aren’t sure of all the different strategies we talked about. Now, next week, we are goin to be talking about taking back your Friday. This, I think, is a really important topic because I think for a lot of us we love Friday, but it’s also our most unproductive day. We are going to be figuring out some strategies for making your Friday the most productive day and the day you look forward to the most of your entire week.
Don’t forget, you can feel free to connect with me on my website, which is inkwellpress.com/podcast or you can connect with on social media using the username @inkwellpress on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, you can find me just about anywhere.
All right, until next time, happy planning.
**This transcript is created by AI, so please excuse any typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes.
As a woman time management keynote speaker, Tanya Dalton speaks about productivity, goal setting, finding purpose and being a team player at work.