The Big Idea
Customize your productivity system to work for you
Questions I Answer
- How can I delegate to my team better?
- What’s the best productivity system?
- What can I do to get better with time management?
- How can I run better meetings?
Actions to Take
- Listen to Episode 034: Ask Tonya: Customizing Systems to Your Lifestyle
- Listen to Episode 037: Delegating at Work & Home: How to Empower Your Team
Key Topics in the Show
How to keep up with your productivity systems and routines… even during your busiest times.
The key to consistently delegating tasks to your family (even young kids!) and your team at work.
Examples of how you can customize your productivity tools to help keep the different compartments of your life organized.
Tips for creating family meetings that will run smoothly, and leave you feeling satisfied instead of burnt out at the end of your day.
Welcome to Productivity Paradox from inkWell Press. A podcast focused on finding true fulfillment and happiness through the power of productivity. To get your free checklist, “Five Minutes to Peak Productivity,” simply sign up at inkWELLPress.com/Podcast. Now here’s your host, Tanya Dalton.
Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host Tanya Dalton, and this is episode 39. Today is actually the last episode of season three. All season long we’ve been talking about systems, so today I am answering some of my top questions I’ve received from you, the listeners, about systems. Before we get started I want to give a quick shout out to our sponsor for today’s episode, FreshBooks. Are you looking for a way to streamline your financial situation at work? FreshBooks has you covered. Packed full of powerful features, it takes the stress out of running your own business. FreshBooks is offering a free 30 day unrestricted trial to my listeners, and I’ll be sharing all the details a little bit later in the episode.
Without further ado, I want to take as much time as I can to answer as many questions as possible, so let’s go ahead and take our first question. The first one is from Maisarah from Sarajevo Bosnia who asks, “How do you maintain productivity and routines during busy seasons of life? My productivity habits often get lost during busy times, and I struggle to come back afterwards.” Okay, so this is a really hard thing for a lot of people, including me. Systems and routines really should work, no matter how chaotic life gets. But often they don’t, because they’re not really setup to work well with the busy times in the first place.
I think that when you feel like your systems have failed, that’s the best time to stop, take 30 minutes to reflect on why they failed. You know, when it’s still really fresh in your mind. And then use that information to make your adjustments. We’re just getting now, back into the flow ourselves of our own productivity systems after focusing on our big fall planner launch, and we realized that we need to make some changes too, to some of our systems. So they can handle that business of the launching of the planners, just like they do at any other time of the year. Some of the systems worked great, which was amazing. But, some of the systems didn’t do so well. Those are the ones we’re really going to stop, and take a hard look at, and then figuring out how we need to adjust.
Maybe some of our automations need to be sidelined for the month of the launch. Or, is there maybe a way that we could do some of those tasks at a different time of the year? The best thing you can do, is if you know that you have a busy time coming up, adjust your systems beforehand. When you’re able to anticipate busy seasons, try to see if there are tasks that can get done before it even begins. Say for example, if you’re an accountant, and you know that March and April are absolutely crazy because of tax season. Don’t try to schedule that as the time when you, I don’t know, do something big on your house. Schedule that for maybe January, or February before that busy season starts.
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I always say, “Doing it before is better than saving it to do it afterwards,” because then it gets it out of your head. You don’t have to worry about getting done, which is what can happen if you schedule it in the time after your busy season. You’ll add to your stress, and we want to take the thinking out of it. We want to alleviate your stress, as much as possible. Because with busy seasons, there’s already plenty of stress to go around. Look too, at what you can take off your plate all together. It’s the perfect time to delegate tasks out, or even double up on your delegated tasks temporarily.
For me, when I get into busy seasons like this planner launch, I still want to make sure we’re eating home cooked meals. So I have a grocery delivery service deliver all of my ingredients twice a week. A side note here, cooking for me is a stress reliever. But thinking about what I’m going to cook, is not. That’s when I make sure that I’m delegating out. I don’t normally do that twice a week, but during the busy season I allow myself the grace of not feeling guilty that it costs more money, because it saves me in stress.
Are there things that you can delegate out that you maybe normally don’t delegate? Like house keeping. A little bit of extra childcare, yard work, whatever it is, it’s okay to take in a little extra help. Especially if it’s costing you more in stress. It’s really all about grace. We’re often so good at extending grace to others, but not ourselves. We beat ourselves up for not being good enough, or not doing it all. No one does it all. I don’t care what their Instagram feed says. No one is doing it all. And it’s okay to let some of those lower priority items go. And it’s especially okay to let some of the tasks that you really dread, let those go.
Allow yourself the space to be okay with not having your house spotless for a month. You’ll get back to normal eventually. Just make sure to give yourself a deadline when you want to start getting back to your routines, after being busy. That might mean it’s just one small step at a time. Keep in mind, it can be hard to switch back from being very busy, to your regular routines. You need to extend a lot of grace to yourself.
Okay, next question is from Amanda who’s in Pomeroy Iowa. She asks, “I’m always wondering about what your delegating looks like in your household. My boys are young, eight, six, and four, so delegating and being consistent with them are areas in which I struggle.” I know I went into a lot of detail, kind of talking about delegation back in episode 37, but I love this question because I think it’s really important to take what we talked about there and apply it, especially in our homes. I use a lot of those methods that we talked about, with my own children.
Obviously that relationship is very different from a workplace relationship, so it needs to be handled that way. One of the things that I think is really important when you’re pulling in your family to delegate, especially your kids, is that you give them a voice. Anyone who knows me, knows I am a huge advocate for love and logic style parenting. I used it as a teacher before I had kids, and I used it with my kids when they were little, and even now at the ages they are now.
Love and logic is all about giving your kids choices. Let me add a caveat to that. It’s not about giving them carte blanche, like any choice they want. They’re
choices that you have chosen. For example, when I wanted to leave the park at 2 o’clock, I would call out to my kids at 1:55 and I would say, “Do you want to leave now, or in five minutes?” Now, I’m pretty sure you can guess what my kids would choose. They always wanted the five minutes, which was fine, because that meant we were still leaving at 2:00 PM. But the key there was they felt like they had a say. Having some sort of choices really helps with motivation, because it allows them to feel a little more in control.
Think about this, when you’re a kid, you’re always being told what to do, when to do it, how to do it. That’s got to get frustrating. And it would feel like your whole world was, well, a little bit out of control. Allowing your kids to help with choices when it comes to delegate tasks, gives them some of that empowerment. Which then encourages them to do the jobs, because they’re part of that decision making process. Therefore, they feel like an integral part of the team. I found this to be true when I was teaching in the classroom, managing 25 kids, and when I was at home when I was only managing my two.
Get them involved as much as you can. When I was in the classroom, as a class, we would brainstorm jobs that needed to be done together, as that helped them have some ownership. And you can do that at home too, even if you already know what you want to delegate. Sit down with your team, or your family in this case, and let them work out what they think needs to be done. Ask them why it needs to be done. That will help associate a reason of why this job is important. And if they’re the ones completing that job, they are therefore important too. This is something I do with my own kids, because I think this really helps open their eyes to all the things that need to be done, like with yard work.
I ask my kids to break down that big task, and figure out what all needs to be done. We have to scoop the yard, which of course is a necessity if you own a dog like we do. Edging, weeding, mowing, trimming the plants, and so on. I help guide them to figuring out what the steps are, and then we delegate them out as a team. I didn’t just assign them. They help me make those decisions, and therefore have more ownership over the task itself.
One of the other things that I did as a fourth grade teacher, is I paid attention to the kids different strengths and weaknesses, and I tried to ease them into delegation by starting there. Here’s an example. I had a student that I’ll call Kevin, who had a reputation for being very difficult to handle. There’s always one in every classroom. But Kevin had a bit of a reputation. I watched him, and I noticed that he seemed to gravitate towards mechanical things. I approached him, and I told him that I noticed that he was really good at fixing things, and would he be in charge of repairing the electric pencil sharpener whenever it broke.
With 25 kids in my class, you can imagine that pencil sharpener broke like every other day. Now, that boy Kevin took so much pride in fixing that pencil sharpener. You could see him beam every time it broke, and I would tell the class that, “You know, Kevin’s our mechanical guy. He can fix anything.” And he began to feel ownership, and pride over this job. I was certain to point out his good work once he was finished, and I would do that to the whole class to make sure they all knew he’d
done a good job. It wasn’t long before Kevin was volunteering for so many other things in my classroom, and he even started to volunteer to do his own homework.
It really is a lot about motivation. I hope that gives you a few ideas of how you could implement these kinds of strategies with your own kids. All right, the next question I have is from Lina in Los Angeles California. Lina asks, “How do you use your own systems to track business, personal, and family matters in order? Do I use three separate books, or color coding in one space?” I think this is a great question, and as always I say, “It really depends on the best system for you, and how much space you need for each section of your life.” For one of the girls in my office who is single with a significant boyfriend, she uses a weekly kickstart for work. But then combines personal and family matters in her planner.
For her, family doesn’t take up as much space, so it’s easy to keep it all together. I on the other hand, I use two weekly kickstart’s. One for family, and one for work. I have a separate paper calendar that I hang up in each space. At work, I actually hang up two of our desk pads, one on top of the other. One shows the current month, and then one shows the month ahead so my team can see what’s going on, and anticipate what’s going to happen. At home, I’ve been using the desk pad there too, but we actually just launched some calendars, so I’ll be using those at home, once 2018 starts.
I like to make sure that everyone on my team, both my work team and my home team, get to see a birds eye view of what’s going on. I have a color coded iCal on my computer, and that shows me a broad overview of everything that’s going on. That’s got family, personal, and business calendars. What I like about that, is that it’s really easy to see everything together, but then I can easily separate them into their own individual calendars with a click of a button, I can make all the business items disappear. Or, all of the personal items disappear. That way I can view everything, or hone in on one area of my life. That makes sure I’m not really double booking my time.
I use that digital calendar to plug in events week by week on my weekly kickstart. I think what’s important to me, is that I plan in order of my priorities. For me, family is the highest, so I always plan that first. That way my priorities are scheduled into my week first also. I do my personal planning on Sunday’s kickstart, and then I do my business planning overview on Monday morning. That keeps them completely separate.
You’ve heard me talk compartmentalization before, and I think it’s really important. I do want to make sure and point out, that I did do an episode, episode 12 I believe, where I did talk about my ideal planning system. But since that episode, life has changed a little bit, and I have adjusted things. I decided that I wanted Sunday evenings to be my one time in the week where I was definitely, absolutely, positively, not working. I’ve come to think of it as my deep breath before the week begins. I found that I really like the way that felt, so I restructured the way I plan. I think that is one of the most important things to keep in mind, is that once you create a system like a planning system, don’t be afraid later on to question it, or to see if you can improve it, or adjust it with how your life is changing.
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A lot of people do find it to be really helpful to have separate planners. As a matter of fact, there was a full discussion in my Facebook group the other day, where someone commented that after listening to that episode on compartmentalization, she decided she was going to use one planner for family, and home, and social events. And then a second planner for work, and career development. She thought that this would help separate and focus on important things without watering down her personal development, because now she thought she’d have enough room to plan for everything that matters to her.
Several members of the group chimed in. One said that she uses two planners, and was worried about redundancy. But found out it works really well for her, and that the only redundant things that get noted in both planners, are work things that are outside of their normal hours of her personal planner. The details go into the planner they belong in, and the other planner just gets a note.
I thought that was really interesting. I love seeing and hearing how different people create these planning systems for themselves, and ultimately I think it’s truly up to you, and how comfortable you feel with keeping them totally, completely separate. You can try to ease into a dual planner system by starting with a tool like the weekly kickstart, and see if you want to build on that and move into completely separate books. Honestly though, I don’t think I’d recommend keeping three separate books, unless you see yourself really using the space in all three. Which, could be stressful in its own way. It’s all about figuring out what works for you.
Before I get to my next question, I do want to take just a minute to give a quick shout out to our sponsor FreshBooks. I’ve talked a lot about the importance of tracking your time in this podcast, but it’s even more important if you get paid by the hour, right? The FreshBooks teams have made it so much easier to make sure you’re getting paid for the time you spend working. They have a complete time tracking feature within their accounting software, so it can immediately track the amount of time you’ve spent, plus it seamlessly ties it to your clients or customers, so invoices are a breeze. I love how this program makes sure that you’re spending more time on the things that matter most, and less time counting your minutes. If you’d like to give that a try, FreshBooks has kindly offered a free, unrestricted trial to my listeners. Just go to FreshBooks.com/Paradox, and in the section that says, “How did you find us?” Type in, “Productivity Paradox,” and they’ll take care of you.
Okay, my next question is from Cassie from Farmersville Texas who asks, “In an ideal scenario, sitting down at the end of the week together is one, and discussing how the week has gone for us, and what’s coming up is great. And in fact, what I crave and long for the most. But with a blended family and exact opposite work shifts and such, it feels like we’re never able to come together as one. I need suggestions on fun and engaging ways to bring my family back together, to where I no longer feel like once I clock out as manager at work, I’m not simply turning around and clocking in at home as the manager/warden. Help please.”
I love this question. I love what you said about feeling like a manager/warden, because that stinks. No one wants to come home from work, and then feel like they’re putting on their warden hat. I think this is one that affects a lot of people. Varying schedules, blended families, feeling like there’s no time at all to come together. When
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you do come together, it feels more like you’re herding cats, than moving your family towards one central direction. I totally get that.
Start by adjusting expectations. Don’t start by shooting for the stars, and trying to figure out how to manage once a week meetings. Start small. Maybe start with once a month, or even once every two months if that’s a better or more achievable first step. Then to get everyone excited about the meeting, including you, make the meeting feel less like a meeting. No one says that family meetings have to happen around a table. When my kids were little, we would do pizza parties in the living room. Let me back up and say, we never ate food in the living room. But, for pizza parties, yes. We would do a special night every once in a while, where I would spread out blankets, and we would do a pizza picnic, followed by a movie.
While we ate our pizza on the floor, I would get the conversation going. We would cover the topics I wanted to cover, but it didn’t feel so much like a quote/ unquote, “Meeting.” This became a tradition in my house. For those of you who know me, know I love traditions. I love traditions for several reasons. First of all, because that’s what I believe our kids memories are made of. The repetition of a tradition, that eventually seals itself into a happy memory. And second reason, kids love traditions. They start looking forward to knowing what’s coming, and they get really excited. Lastly, well, it takes the thinking out of it. You know I love that. It’s less stressful because you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to do, and that can make it a little more fun for you.
That was my tradition when my kids were young, but you could do a game night, or perhaps you do dinner out at a restaurant that you all love, or maybe you even cook a whole meal together. Try to figure out some fun elements that really bring some life to your meeting. Another idea would be to rotate who’s in charge of the meeting. That person in charge comes up with the entertainment, and the food ideas, and then they even maybe chair the meeting. Kids love to fel like they’re in charge, no matter how old they are. That would take the pressure off of you, and would give them some leadership skills at the same time. Which, is a win/win in my book.
Start with that, and then build from there. Then you can begin to ramp it up to twice a month, and then eventually to weekly meetings. Now, I know you mention that finding the time to all get together was part of that challenge, but you don’t have to physically be together in the same room to create that feeling of a team. Think outside the box. You can do something like have those people in your family who aren’t physically able to be in the room, maybe they could video in. If you have your computer system hooked up to your TV, you could even project it there so everyone could easily see each other.
Both Zoom and Skype are free ways to video conference, and work great to bring people who are remote into a meeting. Now, if you’re doing something like, let’s say you’re doing pizza night with those people who are in the room. Maybe those people who aren’t there could have pizza delivered to their house. Now, I’ve done that before where you order and pay for a pizza to be delivered to someone else. That would definitely make them feel like they were still part of the fun.
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Or maybe having a physical meeting is just too hard. You could have a message board, where everyone shares a brief note on their highs, and lows, and maybe one goal for the coming week. And those who are too little could either draw a picture, or they could dictate to another family member what to write. That way it feels less like a meeting of status reviews, and more like a family HQ. Those kids who don’t physically live in your home could send you a text of what to write in their space, and you could take a picture of the board each week and text it to them. What you don’t want to do is exclude them just because they aren’t there. You want them to feel like they’re an integral part of the family, even when they’re not present.
Then when you do meet, brainstorm together other ways to bring your blended family together. You might be surprised what ideas your family comes up with together, that works for the way that your family lives. I hope those ideas have helped.
Okay, I’m running a little bit short on time, but I have one more question I really want to answer, about having a lot of projects going on at once, and keeping track of them. Here’s what I think I’m going to do. I think I’m going to save that question for my Friday episode. If you haven’t caught my new weekender episodes, that’s something I just started a few weeks ago with a new mini episode each Friday. The goal of my weekender episodes, is to end your week on the right note, with either a productivity tip, maybe an extension of what we talked about in the podcast that week, a story of inspiration, or just a little something to make you happy.
Those have been going on, on Friday’s. If you’re subscribed, it should automatically be going to your podcast player. Otherwise, you can make sure to check those out every Friday. I started those, I think about two weeks ago. Make sure you don’t miss out on that, because this week I will be answering that question about keeping track of multiple projects. Okay, this is technically the last episode of season three, which has been great. I’ve loved all that we’ve covered with systems, but I am beyond excited for season four because I have some great episodes already laid out, and I’m so excited about our theme. I’ll be revealing that next week.
Make sure you tune in next Tuesday where I’ll be sharing that. Of course don’t forget on Friday, my weekender episode. I’ll be sharing two really big announcement this Friday in that weekender episode, that I have been working on for months and I
cannot wait to reveal it. I’ll definitely be sharing details on that this Friday. All right, until next time, happy planning.
Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press. To get free access to Tanya’s checklist, “Five Minutes to Peak Productivity,” simply register at inkWELLPress.com/Podcast.
**This transcript is created by AI, so please excuse any typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes.
Tanya Dalton is a woman productivity expert, keynote speaker and best-selling author.