The Big Idea
Customize your productivity systems.
Questions I Answer
- How do I create productivity systems if my schedule is inconsistent?
- How do I figure out my mission statement?
- Does productivity include making time for hobbies?
- How can I get rid of distractions so I can be more productive?
Actions to Take
Key Topics in the Show
How to maintain customized systems when your schedule is inconsistent or hectic.
Using your mission statement for daily planning to push you to your overall goals.
How productivity is about making time for yourself and hobbies, not just getting more done.
Ways to talk to your employer/manager about a monotasking system in the workplace with boundaries and without distractions.
How to implement organizing, cleaning and productivity into your household with spouses and children.
Resources and Links
- Download the Room Inspection Checklist to get kids involved in cleaning/organizing.
Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host Tanya Dalton. This is episode 34. Now last week in our episode where we talked about why to-do lists don’t work, I told you that this week we were going to be talking about my favorite topic, automations. But, I changed things a little bit. Let me tell you why. I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting a lot of questions about systems and how they work and how you make systems work for you. I thought, “You know what? We need to take a little break and I’d like to do an Ask Tanya episode where I answer some of these questions to give you a little bit of an idea about how you can make these systems really work for you in your life.” We’ll pick back up with automations next week.
That’s what I really love about this community where we’re talking all about productivity, I’m able to really listen when you have questions and try to see if I can answer them so that you can start applying it in your own life. Let’s go ahead and get started. I’ll get through as many questions as I can all while trying to keep this to our regular 20 minute episode. Let’s get started.
My first question is from Salima from McKinney, Texas, which McKinney is just north of Dallas. I lived in Dallas for a long time. I’m happy to hear from you Salima. She asked, “How do you create systems to accomplish tasks during the week when someone’s schedule is inconsistent? I try to keep up on the weekends, but it becomes overwhelming. I don’t feel like I have any downtime.”
That is a great question. I think that’s one that a lot of people struggle with. I agree when your weekends are filled with errands, and tasks, and 5 million other things, it begins to feel like they aren’t really breaks at all. Really, downtime is very important. I mean, we’re not robots. We can’t keep moving at a breakneck speed. We have to build in some downtime into our lives. We act like we can keep doing our best when we keep pushing and pushing and going without rest. I touched on it back in episode 26 when we had that episode on making the most of your weekend. Downtime is really important.
If you’re feeling like here in a time crunch, I would recommend using the time banking methods and start looking at your week as a whole. I think that really start to help. Start by thinking about what things in your schedule are consistent. Inconsistent schedules can be really difficult, but start with what you do know happens on a regular basis. Are there certain days or times in your schedule were things happen? For example, I know that Kate has soccer practice at the same time and on the same days each week. That’s something important. I want to make sure I’m popping those into my systems first. You can use these consistent tasks and appointments as your
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foundation for your systems. Plug in your known commitments into your weekly spread or even your monthly spread if you want to look at a broader view. Then think about how much time those are going to take you. Then plug in any other commitments you want to make time for. Remember, you have 168 hours in a week, not just the 24 hours in a day.
If you schedule is inconsistent day-to-day, instead of playing catch-up on the weekends, set aside time every morning. When I say set aside time, I’m talking no more than 10 minutes. Take that time to plug in your committed time into your daily schedule, and then figure out what else you have time to commit to. Remember, downtime and taking time for yourself is a priority, so make it one your schedule. Plug in your self-care time into your schedule just like any other commitment and make it happen. Treat it as you would a doctors appointment. It’s something that you cannot miss, because it really is important for you and your health and your own mental well-being. Those internal expectations need to fill in your calendar before you start plugging in the rest.
You have to start thinking of your downtime not as a luxury, but really as a requirement, because it is. Think of it like a flashlight. You switch a flashlight on, but if you leave that shining all the time, it’s going to start to dim. Eventually, it will fade to black. You need to give your batteries time to recharge, so you can really let you light shine. I really want to start thinking about your downtime as something that is not extra or something that you can maybe take or maybe not take. Think of it as a priority and really start making the most of your weekends.
Okay, next question I have is from Laura from Oakland, California. She says, “I was very inspired by your episode about creating a personal mission statement. Thank you for sharing your own. I can how you are achieving your mission through inkWELL Press and your podcast. I’m wondering how you get from mission statement to every day goals. For example, your mission statement does not say anything about starting a business, creating planners, or podcasting.”
This is such a good question. Here’s the thing, mission statements are your overarching why. They lead you down a lot of different paths. someone with very similar mission statement than what you have, could really follow a very different path of achieving it, because we’re all unique people. Everyone’s different. Just to
back up for a second and remind everyone, back in episode 4, I talked about that my mission statement is, “I will use my passion and expertise in organizing and productivity to inspire others to achieve their goals and dreams.” That’s my mission statement. With that statement, I created a planner and then I expanded to a podcast that you’re listening to right now and coming up this fall online courses, which are going to be launching very soon. Someone else may have taken that exact same mission statement and done something different. They could have taken it to mean
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that they want to get certified as a professional organizer, someone who goes into people’s homes and works one-on-one to clear the physical clutter.
Why did I do something different. Well, I looked at my own strengths to see where I wanted to go with that mission. I knew I loved being an entrepreneur. inkWELL Press wasn’t my first business. I knew I loved running a business, so I started there. Then teaching has always been a big part of who I am. I used to be an elementary school teacher. I loved doing business consulting. It’s always been a big part of who I am. I always knew that this mission would expand somehow into teaching. That’s why even from the very beginning, I always had videos that went with my planners. I knew I wanted education to be a big component of my mission. That said, I didn’t know at the very beginning I would have this podcast. As I started to feel like I was working on my mission, I paid attention to what I was really enjoying and what came naturally to me. I let my mission guide me with where I wanted to go based off of what I really felt like I was enjoying and what I really wanted to do.
Once you have created that mission statement, what I would recommend doing is that reflection sheet that I gave out back in episode 1 as part of our three part goal-setting series that I did. When you’re filling out, really look at what you seem to gravitate towards and what you definitely don’t seem to enjoy. That’s going to help you figure out the path that you want to follow while you use your mission as your North star. That’s what I love the most about having a mission statement. It’s that it’s your guide. As I said, it’s your North star. It’s really up to you to create that path. That’s what I would recommend you do. After you figure out what you think your mission statement is then you can do those three steps in the goal-setting series. The reflection, projection and then the action. Each one I have as their own episode. They’re episodes 1, 2, and 3.
Remember, what we talked about in that first episode of this season, number 27? We talked about eating the elephant. In this case, the elephant is your mission statement. Just tackle one piece at a time and see where that North star guides you. I hope that helped answer your question.
All right. Our next question is from Kristin from Midvale, Utah. She asks, “Is productivity only about getting things done? I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I’m always trying to be productive, but does productivity include making time for hobbies?”
I love this question, because I absolutely do not believe that productivity is getting more things done. As you can imagine, I read a lot of productivity books and articles. I feel like I see all these articles that say something like, “Answer 70 emails in an hour,” or “How to accomplish 40 tasks in one day.” Well, that’s just getting more things done. That’s not really being productive. To me the definition of productivity is not getting more done, it’s focusing on getting the important things done. It’s living with intention. Absolutely, making times for hobbies is productive. You know why?
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Because it’s something that’s important to you. It’s something that you enjoy, obviously, right? Or else it wouldn’t be a hobby. To me being productive means you aren’t spending the majority of your day on the minutia, on the insignificant tasks. It’s about finding ways so you can focus on the important tasks. In this case, of course, the important is making time for a hobby.
Here’s the deal. We all have things that we have to do every single day. Things that don’t necessarily align with our purpose or our mission. Yes, I think we need to be mindful to live as much as possible in that important priority level that we talked about last week, but there’s always going to be things that we just have to do, right? Yes, it means streamlining and editing at times. It means batching your tasks. You do that not so you can cram more into your day, you do it so you can bank up your time and spend it on the things that matter most. Productivity can look very different for everyone, because it’s about working toward your goals whether that goal is work or home or hobby related. I have goals for my hobbies just as I do for other aspects of my life. I feel productive when I worked on my hobbies, because I know I’m taking a step in the right direction to feel even more fulfilled by the things I like to do.
Next time that you’re feeling guilty about wanting to spend time on a hobby, I want you to stop and take a deep breath. Then I want you to change your mindset. I want to think of it as being productive, because you’re spending time on something
that’s important to you. Stop thinking that productivity means doing all the things or being busy. It really means just the opposite. I hope that helped answer your question. I hope that helps a little bit with feeling maybe a little more productive when you are doing the things that you enjoy, because I really think happiness is what life is really all about.
Okay, my next question I have is from Sarah who’s from Superior, Wyoming. Sarah says, “I’m one of those who cannot cut out distractions or batch my to-dos at work very well. Nothing I’m doing, training, lunch, anything is too important to not pause and handle any requests that come from my managers, be it addressing an envelope, adding a corporate seal, or just getting a purchase order. I have to stop and do it. Emails have to be answered in the order that they come in. You recommend mono-tasking or batching to cut down on errors. When that’s not an option, how do you to stay productive and keep your errors down?”
Sarah, first I want to apologize that obviously in a work environment with a manager who doesn’t quite understand what it takes for their employees to be productive. I know that’s got to be so frustrating to be interrupted during your lunch or during training to do little tasks like addressing an envelope. I think that this is something that is not uncommon, unfortunately, and that really leads you to try and be a role model for the type of person you want your demanding boss to be. You can do this by taking the initiative to clearly communicate with your boss what they want
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to have as a priority. When your manager comes to you with any requests, calmly and rationally review it, where it says on the priority list that you are currently working.
Here’s what I would encourage you to do. I would encourage you to use the priority list system that we talked about last week in episode 33 and keep it out on your desk where it can be seen. Show it to your manager and ask them, “Where does this new request rank in my system? Where does it go in the priority levels?” When I say ask, I mean genuinely ask, not snarky ask like you’re irritated. Here’s why. Knowing how they feel about this as a priority might give you some insight as to why your boss thinks that the task or the interruption is so important. Maybe it’s part of a bigger system that he or she is trying to avoid anything gumming up the works or slowing it down. Although, granted, this is not an effective strategy on your managers part.
Once you have that insight as to why your boss thinks it’s so important to drop everything, maybe then you can start to create systems to help that run in a way that doesn’t need to be a full interruption like adding the corporate seal. Can that system be made so that all the documents get put into a certain location in your office that you check twice a day so yo can affix these seals as the same time. If your manager is worried about this process of getting these corporate seals put on these papers, maybe that will be enough to appease them that it gets done twice a day. Then give an estimate for how long this task is going to take and what if anything you need to complete it. Offer a reality check on how this new assignment affects your other ones, especially if there’s a potential for some missed deadlines.
There are some managers who’ve been taught that by being very demanding, they’re going to get results. That doesn’t really mean you have to passively go along with it. Stay positive and calm, I know probably sometimes that can be really difficult, and to deliver the best results you can each time. Use positive reinforcement for good behavior. When you plan ahead together and ensure your goals and deadlines are reasonable and aligned, say something like, “I appreciate that you understood that we’d have to push back the ABC project by a couple of days to tackle this new initiative.” Celebrate your successes in the form of status reports. These can be quick, concise emails to keep your boss informed of what you’re doing behind the scenes and help them better understand how productive you are.
I’d also recommend trying to slowly enforce some small boundaries. I’d start with lunch. It’s completely unreasonable for them to interrupt your lunch break on a regular basis for something insignificant like addressing an envelope. Really, it’s all about setting some boundaries. Let your manager know that you’ll get the task done right away, as soon as your lunch break is up. The more you start to enforce this boundary, the more mindful they’ll begin to be of it. I really feel like if you can open up this door of communication between you and your manager, that might help
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alleviate some of this. It can be that your boss doesn’t quite understand what it is you’re doing all day and what all the different tasks are that you’re in charge of that. Sometimes it’s just a matter of informing them. Hopefully that will help. I know this is a very frustrating work situation for you, but I really feel like opening up the doors of communication might make it a meaningful impact.
My question is from Liana in San Diego, California. She says, “I struggle to be the best mother to my two toddler girls, a three-year-old and a two-year-old. I read books on how to raise wonderful kids, but none of the ones I read talk about how to implement tasks and chores into the routine. Do you have any tips on how to help moms to start teaching toddlers on organization and chores?”
Liana, I have to be honest with you. You’re not the only one who’s emailed me questions about how do we get other people including our children, our spouses, our roommates, our bosses to really pitch in and help us out, which is the reason why I decided to stop and ask Tanya episode. I changed the path of this season a little bit. I decided from reading several questions similar to this one to do an entire episode about delegating and how you can delegate to your teams. Teams included children in your family. They include spouses. They include team members in your organization where you work. I really feel like this is something that a lot of people struggle with.
Ley me go ahead and tackle just a little bit about how it works with kids. One of my favorite topics other than productivity is parenting, because obviously, I’m a parent myself although my kids are much bigger than two or three years old at this point. I’ve been through many different phases with them. Of course through my teaching career, I’ve worked with a lot of children. I think the number one thing you can start with is giving them the opportunity to help. Think about when your kids are little, like Liana’s been there when a young, they’re always saying, “I help. I help. I want to help.” They want to do little things. Really, it can be as simple as giving them tasks when you’re at the grocery store, having them help you find the green beans, having them help you put things in your carts. When you’re doing cleaning the bathroom, having them grab a little corner of the sink. They’re not going to do an amazing job. They’re little, but getting them involved while they’re young really can make a difference.
One of the things that I did with my own kids is I created little charts for them to make it even easier for them to feel like they had a job and that they could be successful in them. I have one, actually, that you can download. You can find that inkWellpress.com/chorelist. It’s a room inspection chart where I created a really section chart where my kids knew exactly what I wanted done in their rooms to get it clean. They have a little checklist. When I go through and I check their room, I use the
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same checklist so that they know what the expectations are, and they feel responsible for it.
Now, my kids are old enough to read, so it’s easy to do a checklist. When you’re a little you can easily find Clip Art by doing searches on Google and making little picture charts where they know in the morning there’s a picture of their bed and there bed is made. Then there are the books put away on the shelf. Then there’s their clothes picked up and put in the hamper. You can find little Clip Art pictures where they can go through. You can take something like a clear contact paper or you can take it to FedEx Office and get it laminated. They can even take dry erase markers and check mark as they do each of these tasks.
One of the things that I did when my kids were where young and they were able to read a little bit is I have place mats for them that I made that I laminated. They had what they were supposed to get done for the day. Is their backpack ready to go? Do the have their library in their backpack? Did they brush their teeth? Did they brush their hair? I started to give them a little bit of responsibility for themselves. I think a lot of times kids really react well to having these responsibilities.
Here’s the catch. The most important part of any system whether your kids are teeny tiny or big kids like mine or you’re talking about a spouse or coworker, the most important two words you can say to them is thank you. Everyone regardless of age responds well when they feel that the work they’ve done is appreciated and that you are grateful that they pitched in and did anything at all. I want to encourage you to just start small. Give them tiny tasks to get them started. Create a little chart, so they know exactly what to do. You can download my chart at inkWELLpress.com/chorelist if you’d like to take a look at that. That room inspection chart has been a godsend for me getting my kids to clean their room. I hope that something like that gives you an idea of how you can move forward with your own kids.
I’m going to be doing an entire episode just on delegation. We’ll be talking about all the different steps that need to happen to really get delegation working for you. We’ll be talking about that in just a few weeks. We are out of time for today’s episode. I love the questions that so many of you sent in. I cannot tell you how amazing it is to be able to read what you guys are responding to in the podcast and seeing how you’re implementing a lot of these things we’re talking about and the struggles you’re having. If you do have questions for me, go to inkWellpress.com/ question and you can submit a question for a future ask Tanya episode. I have another one scheduled later on this season.
This week promises to be a big week for me personally and in business, because it is the launch of our 2018 planners on our website. For those of you who’ve been emailing and commenting on social media, thank you all so much for your excitement. It really does help build the momentum for me and gets me really, really
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excited, because it’s been a lot of work. I’m so thrilled to finally get these in your hands. While I’ll be tired, I promise to you back next week with that automations episode. It’s going to be a good one. I really feel like it’s going to revolutionize and change the way you look at systems. Until next time, happy planning.
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**This transcript is created by AI, so please excuse any typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes.
Tanya Dalton is a female time management speaker. She is a woman on a mission to redefine productivity.