The Big Idea
Stay mindful and intentional with your time
Questions I Answer
- How do I make progress on a big goal?
- What’s the best way to get started on my goals?
- How do I manage multiple projects or tasks?
- How can I find balance between work and home?
Actions to Take
- Listen to Episode 037: Delegating at Work & Home: How to Empower Your Team
- Listen to Episode 041: How Is Fear Holding You Back?
Key Topics in the Show
Tips to make progress with a big, daunting goal when you feel like you don’t have time.
How to let go of guilt, cushion your time, and fill your ‘personal’ bucket so that your life has harmony.
Steps to combat analysis paralysis so you can make your big dream a reality.
The key to managing your many projects, deadlines, tasks, and goals so that they are achievable and not overwhelming.
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. And now, here’s your host, Tanya Dalton.
Hello, hello everyone! Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton, owner of inkWELL Press, and this is episode 44. Today is one of my Ask Tanya episodes, and it’s one of my favorites, because I love when you guys ask questions, and I have a chance to connect with you, and help you find some solutions. So, before we get started answering questions, I want to give a quick shout out to our sponsor of today’s episode, Fresh Books. They’re a cloud based accounting software that’s designed with productivity in mind. It’s the easiest way to get paid quickly if you’re a freelancer, or entrepreneur. And they’re giving away a free trial. I’ll be sharing more about that later in the episode, but let’s go ahead and get started.
My first question is from Erika, in Seattle, Washington. Now, Erica sent a really long submission, so I shortened it, just for the sake of time. And she said, “I’m unhappy with my current nine to five job, and I want to move my art career to a place where I can leave. I’m struggling with knowing where to start, what to focus on, et cetera. But my most pressing issue is how to juggle my time, goals, and projects. I can’t work on my priority, which is my art, and art goals, for the majority of my day. And I’ve got other little around the house projects that need attention too. I find myself reviewing my goals often, trying to figure out if they’re relevant. Some goals have obvious steps forward, but what do you do when those are completed, and the next steps are more vague?”
I think this is a common question, because there’s a lot of people who are doing a side job, or a side hustle, and they’re wanting to transition that into full-time, and they don’t really know where to start, and take care of all the things that have to be done with work, and everything else. So do you remember when I had Gretchen Rubin on the show? She talks about how people respond to expectations in her book, The Four Tendencies. And, based off of reading the full submission, where I read the whole email, I think you sound, Erica, like you’re a questioner. So what does that mean? It means that you question all expectations. Both the internal, and external, and that you’ll meet an expectation if you think it makes sense.
So why is this good to know? It’s good because it helps you understand what you need to do in order to move forward. For a questioner, you really need to know your why, when you’re doing a task. You’re in a place, right now, where you’re trying
to progress your creative goals, and that’s a big, daunting task. There are lots of things to be done, so that can feel overwhelming, where you don’t know what to do next, because, well, it feels like there’s a million things to do.
What can help you organize this chaos of tasks is breaking them down into categories. For example, maybe you have creative work, then you have administrative tasks. You have online work, for your website, and then errands. One thing that would be beneficial, as a questioner, is that when you write down a task, for each of these
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categories, is also writing down why this needs to be done. Especially things that seem vague, or things that you’ve been avoiding doing. As a questioner, you can convince yourself that something isn’t important, pretty easily. But having the why written out in front of you, each time you check your list, forces you back to reality and to actually getting that task done.
Having these categories of tasks, and why they need to get done, helps you prioritize what needs to be worked on for the variety of projects that you’re doing. You need to prioritize your priorities. What tends to happen is that people think that everything is a priority. So they want to treat all things as equals, and they’re not. Your priorities have priorities. So you need to figure out how these priorities rank, and then how much time you want to give to each. Then start blocking time in your schedule for this work. Just make sure to assign what you’ll be working on during that time.
Higher ranking priorities get the lion’s share of that time, so let’s say you have five blocks of time in a week, for you to work on this goal of making art your career. Your highest ranking category should get two or three blocks, and then dole out the
rest. These time blocks need to be treated as non-negotiable. Nothing can override you using that time for your art. And let me give you an example, from my own life.
Pilates, for me, is something that I really have to do, in order to keep my back in good shape, I have like a 95 year old back, and it really causes me a lot of problems. So I have to go to Pilates a couple of times a week. But it’s really easy to say, “Oh, I don’t have time to go this week. I’ve had a lot of orders over the weekend, I need to ship, I’ve got a couple meetings.” It’s really easy to push that aside. But when I block my time for Pilates at the beginning of my week, and I treat it as a priority, nothing can override it. Therefore, I end up going to Pilates the amount of time I really need to, and I really want to, because I’ve treated it as a priority.
And this is really important, because when you’re talking about your art becoming a career, consistency in studio work really can help you when you want to be creative. So when you complete a step in a project, before you pack it all up and move on, I want you to try to brainstorm what needs to be done next, and write that down. Don’t forget to mention your why. This is that same concept that we discussed before, that Earnest Hemingway mentioned. Leaving a little water in the well. For Hemingway, it meant he didn’t stop writing and then pack it up for the end of the day. He had a plan for what he wanted to write the following day. So he didn’t sit down in the chair, and feel stumped.
Take advantage, when the creative juices are flowing, to write down those next steps, and that will help keep moving you forward. Even on those days when you feel like your well is dry. And remember this. While you do want to take your creative work seriously, the foundation of creative work is having fun, and doing something for yourself. When you keep that in mind, it becomes clear what’s important for you to work on, in the moment. And, if you’re trying to build something creative that you’re not having fun with or enjoying, it won’t make a solid foundation. So make sure you’re keeping it so it stays fun.
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Okay, the next question I have is from Katelyn in Normal, Illinois. She says, “I work full-time, and I’m a mom of a toddler. I have dreams, goals, projects I want to work on, but I’m so tired, by the time I do just the ordinary day-to-day stuff. I have no time. Every 15 minute section of my day is full, and I just don’t know how to muster up the energy, at the end of the day, or wake up earlier, to do any more than I’m already doing.”
Katelyn, it sounds like you have a really full plate with lots to do, and you’re running out of room, which means it’s time to delegate. Let’s talk about that first. I did an episode, back in season three, I believe it was episode 37, where I talked about why you need to delegate, and how. So I would recommend giving that a quick lesson. And I want you to take some time to brainstorm. Is there anyone you could delegate some of the day-to-day stuff to? And I want to challenge you to think outside of the box. Especially if you’re immediately thinking, “There’s no way!” Or you don’t have a budget for it.
When my kids were little, and I felt like I didn’t have time to do all the things I needed to do, including making dinner each night, I started a supper club with three other moms, where we would each bring the ingredients for one night’s dinner. We would bring enough for all four of the families. And then we would cook together. Our kids would play outside while we worked inside, chopping, sauteing, and enjoying the act of cooking. Because we were each only responsible for coming up with one meal, it was so much easier, and it allowed me to batch my cooking, making it fun, because I was doing it with friends, and I had four nights worth of meals, just in one afternoon we spent together.
I want you to brainstorm the tasks and activities that feel like, well, and anchor around your neck, and then see if you can find some ways to delegate it. Or at least make it so these tasks aren’t quite so difficult. The other thing that struck me, in your question, is how you mention every fifteen minute section of your day is full. We need to create some time cushions, to your day. If you don’t have time for breaks, you’re doing way too much. And I want you to fill in the blank for me right now. A good mom always, what? What do you think defines a good mom? Is it that you entertain your toddler all day long, without taking breaks? That a good mom never accepts help? Or a good mom doesn’t hire a babysitter? I’d love for you to take some time to really answer what that means to you. How would you fill in that blank?
And then I want you to ask yourself, is that statement really true, or are you just holding yourself up to such a high standard you can never really achieve it? We all have these stories we tell ourselves. What a good business owner does, what a good boss does, what a good mom does, what a good friend does, and we set these unrealistic expectations that no one could achieve. And, in fact, you would never hold anyone else to these expectations, right? So I want you to take a good look at the stories you’re telling yourself, and decide whether you’re being fair to yourself. It sounds, to me, that you’re setting some really high expectations of what it is you need to do.
And don’t let these stories that you’re telling yourself, like, a good mom doesn’t make time for herself, hold you back. We’ve been talking about having these three different compartments in your life, in my course, the live well method. We have
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work, home, and personal. And it sounds like you are trying to achieve balance in your work and home compartments, and your personal bucket is getting neglected.
You’ve heard me say this before, but balance is bogus. What you really need is harmony. So I want you to think, what small steps can you start taking to start filling your personal bucket? We can’t make big changes from the get go, so what is something you can work on, step by step, day by day, that fulfills you, personally? It’s not about adding more stuff to your day. I think you’ll be stretching yourself too thin if you do. It’s about figuring out what to cut, so you can really grow and make the time for the things you want to do outside of motherhood.
Let me rephrase that. To make time for the things you want to do outside of motherhood, without the guilt. Katelyn, I hope you find that helpful, and I hope that you take the time to really think about what these stories are, and how you can delegate, so you really can carve out that time for yourself.
Okay, I have a few more questions to answer, but first I want to give a quick word from our sponsor, because you’ve heard me sing the praises of Fresh Books before. Because I love how it truly makes life easier for freelancers and entrepreneurs. With features like automated reminders for unpaid invoices, automatic recurring invoices, and so much more, it really helps you spend less time worrying about the money, and more time on the things you really do love about your business. And that is productivity, right? The amazing people at Fresh Books have kindly offered a free, unrestricted trial, for my listeners. Just head to FreshBooks.com/paradox. And in the section that says “How did you find us?” Type in Productivity Paradox, and they’ll get you set up with your free trial.
Okay, I want to move on to the next question which is from Susanne in Vienna, Austria. She says, “Hi Tanya. My husband and I have been dreaming, for several years, to move to Ireland. We are in our early 50s, and fear is holding us back. It seems to paralyze us. The moment we think about it, where we could start, we get so overwhelmed that we give up, and we stay in our comfort zone. It’s so frustrating. Do you have any advice?”
Well, Susanne, I love this dream you have, because it sounds amazing. But it seems like you’re suffering from total analysis paralysis, here. So let’s work together to get you over this analysis paralysis. And the first thing I’d like for you to do, is I’d like for you to start adding some images of Ireland in some key places. Like on your bathroom mirror. In your wallet. Anywhere where you’ll see them often. And I want you to make it so the idea of Ireland is always around you. So you can start visualizing what life would really be like for you there.
Visualization is a really powerful tool. And the more you begin to visualize yourself there, the more real it becomes, in your mind. The science behind visualization is amazing. I’m not a doctor, so I’ll use Doctor Srini Pillay’s description of how it works. When a person has a stroke, due to a blood clot in a brain artery, blood can no longer reach that tissue that the artery once fed with oxygen and nutrients. And that tissue dies. This tissue death then spreads to surrounding areas that also do not receive blood anymore. However, if a person with this stroke imagines moving the
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affected arm or leg, brain blood flow to the affected area increases, and the surrounding brain tissue is saved.
Imagining moving a limb, even after it’s been paralyzed, because of a stroke, increases the brain blood flow enough to diminish the amount of tissue death. This is a very clear indicator of the power of visualization. See what I mean? Visualization is really powerful. So I want you to begin to think about your life in Ireland. And then I want you to ask yourself, why? Why do you want to move to Ireland? Why does the idea of this move excite you? And I want you to write out a statement saying why you want to move, and what you are going to do there, and I want you to put it where you and your husband will see it often.
And then I want you to create another list. Your fear list. You can use that download that I had back in episode 41 to help guide you on this, if you’d like. But I want you to take a look at what your fears are, because I want you to begin to look these fears square in the eye. Acknowledge them. Think about what, truly, is the worst case scenario, and is it really that bad? If the worst case scenario were to happen, would you be able to recover? Spoiler alert, the answer is yes. What we want to do is find a reason for you to keep moving forward, towards this goal, that is stronger than the doubt and the fear that you are feeling right now. Sometimes, we allow our fears to take over, and they feel so much bigger than anything else.
So focusing on your why, belittling your fears, and visualizing should push you to start taking action. Then you’ll be ready to start to do a brain dump of all the things you need to have happen to achieve this dream. Write down everything, from the big stuff, to the small stuff, to the stuff that scares you. Figure out, what’s the smallest action you can do first? And then do it. Maybe your first step is to tell a friend. Maybe it’s to contact a real estate agent, who will get the real timeline going on getting a house in Ireland. Or selling your place in Austria. Start with just a few small steps, and get the momentum going. This is a beautiful dream that you have, and I really hope that you start moving forward, so you can accomplish it.
Okay, I think I have time for one more question, and this one is from Gabie in Indianapolis, Indiana. She asks, “How would you suggest managing different projects with differing timelines, and figuring out how to break each of these project tasks down into monthly or weekly tasks?” I think having multiple projects with multiple requirements, and multiple deadlines, is something so many of us have to deal with, so I love this question because I feel like it applies to so many people.
I always think that the best step to get you started is laying out each project on its own action roadmap. And you list out the steps, and the end date. I have an action roadmap download, if you need one, in the show notes of episode three. While it’s designed for goal setting, honestly, projects work a lot like goals, in my opinion, and you could absolutely use that here. But, essentially, what I want you to do is create a roadmap to list out all of the tasks and activities that need to happen to get the project completed. And then you’re going to group those tasks into mini milestones. This allows you to see the big things that you need to get done.
Then you’re going to set a deadline for each of these milestones. That’s the best way to break down your project into monthly or weekly tasks, because instead
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of looking at this big project as a whole, which can be kinda scary, instead you’re looking at each milestone. One after another. Each week, or each month, you focus on those milestones, and those milestones only. That helps you know what you need to do next. The key, though, is, when you’re setting up these milestones, and giving them deadlines, that you look at your timeline realistically.
You might remember, back in episode 19, where we talked about cushioning your time, and we talked about the phenomena called planning fallacy. That explains why we all have this tendency to underestimate our time. So, as I mentioned in that episode, it’s always a good idea to add a little time buffer to your estimate. That way, if you finish up early, you can bank that time. But, if something happens to take longer, as things tend to do, you’ll keep your project on track, time wise. That’s the first step to getting the project organized. But what do you do when you have multiple projects?
Well, I’m going to do my best to explain what I do. It makes total sense, if I showed you an image, but I’m gonna do my best to talk you through this. I like to use a calendar to make sure I’m not putting too much on my plate at one time. So what I do is I assign each project a colored highlighter, and then I use a big calendar, as a matter of fact, I use my inkWELL Press desk pad for this, because it’s really nice and large. And what I do is I mark off the days that I’m working on a project.
Most projects have a couple of phases. For example, a lot of our projects, that I work on for inkWELL Press, I have research time, development time, promotion time, launch time, and then followup. Depending on your projects, yours obviously might be broken down differently. What I do is I write which phase of my project I plan to be working on, and I do that on the calendar, and I use the highlighter to color code it. This, of course, often spans several days, so I just extend the colored mark so I can see how long I’m going to be working on each of the phases for each of the projects.
But what’s important here is this. I have an idea of how much energy and time and focus each of these phases requires, so I make sure I’m not doubling up some of the time consuming parts of one project at the same time as another project. For example, I can easily do research on one project, while working on followup for another project. But I wouldn’t do two launch phases that overlap at all, because that’s a really time and energy consuming part of my projects. And I generally make sure that I don’t butt two launches up one day after another. Having that color coding on my calendar makes sure that I can quickly see, at a glance, that I’m not overwhelming myself with the big steps of the projects at the same time.
You’re not limited, though, to only color coding your projects. You could actually add color coding for the other aspects of your life. Like your busiest seasons, or your peak times for you, personally. So that you essentially block these times off so you’re not trying to do big work during those big times in your personal life. What I really love about this system is that it allows you to keep track of what you’re working on, while simultaneously being mindful of your time. And I think that’s really what’s important, here, is making sure you’re staying mindful and intentional with your time, and not overlapping your projects so you’re doing too much work at the same time.
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Okay, unfortunately that is all the time we have today to answer questions. If you do have questions, I will be doing another ask Tanya episode very soon. You can post those at inkwellpress.com/question. I’ve got a little form for you to fill out, so you can ask away. I’d love to hear, what are the things that are keeping you from feeling as productive as possible.
All right, next week we are going to be talking about the power of choice, and how choice can really motivate you, and push you in the direction of your dreams, and your big goals. So I’m really excited for us to talk about that. I do want to take one quick minute to remind you that it is the time of year where it’s time to change your planner. So if you’re interested, make sure to head over to inkwellpress.com. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter, because we have some special events coming up, and I sure would hate for you to miss out. Okay, 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 and inkwellpress.com/podcast.