The Big Idea
You set the pace.
Questions I Answer
- How can I multitask better?
- What are some good habits to help me be more productive?
- How do I create a better morning routine?
- What can I do to feel more productive and successful?
Actions to Take
- Reflect, process and prioritize at the end of your day with the Daily Download. I use this notepad every evening to help me keep on task and gives me a jump start the next day.
- TIP: Use the habit trackers in your planner to track how you’re learning: reading, watching documentaries, visiting a museum, etc. Treat it like a real priority.
Key Topics in the Show
How to rethink busy: ways you can own your day, not the other way around,
Why it’s important to take charge of your time and tasks.
My favorite tips for how you can focus in on one task and your top priorities.
Take the thinking out of it: how to think about routines and habits in a new way and why they’re important to create & maintain.
Examples of little tasks you can do to give yourself little wins throughout your day.
Resources and Links
- Related Episodes:
- Episode 010: The Magic of Monotasking
- Episode 041: How Is Fear Holding You Back?
- Episode 045: The Power of Choice
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, 5 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 52. Today is a very important day because not only is this the final episode of season four where we’ve been talking all about big goals and dreams, it’s also the one-year anniversary, or I guess podcastversary of this podcast. 52 weeks ago from today, I started this podcast, and to see how far it’s come has been an amazing journey. That is why I feel so passionately about you chasing your big goals and dreams. I’m excited that today is our final episode of season four.
I do want to let you know that this episode is brought to you by inkWELL Press, a company focused on creating the highest quality and most effective productivity tools you can find so you can start living your beautiful, successful life today. You can check out our complete line of productivity and planning products at inkwellpress.com.
Let’s go ahead and get started talking about how you choose to spend your day. I think this is such an important topic for us to round out everything that we’ve talked about over the course of this season because I really believe so many people
feel out of control with how they get to spend their day. I want you to start by rethinking busy.
We need to rethink what it means to be busy, and we need to try to slow down. For a lot of people, busy has become the default mode, but here’s the deal: Busy doesn’t mean that you’re happy, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re productive. My definition of productivity is not about doing more things; it’s about doing the important things, focusing your time so your priorities in your life sit front and center, and they get the lion’s share of your time.
We feel so obligated in today’s world to keep up a busy schedule because, well, that’s what we think we’re supposed to do, but here’s the biggest rule in life: There are no rules. You have to live by your own rules and stop worrying so much about what others think. How do we rethink busy? We want to own our day, not the
other way around, but when you spend all day running around putting out fires, you end your day feeling exhausted and unsatisfied. How many times have you laid your head on the pillow at the end of a long day, and you felt unsatisfied, unsuccessful, and unhappy, but you think, “Why? I was busy all day long,” but what were you busy doing?
Back in episode 41, I shared one of my favorite Bob Goff quotes. He says, “I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now, I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” My question for you is are you
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spending your time being busy at nothing, or are you focusing your day on what matters most? That’s really at the heart of what I want to talk to you about today.
What I want to encourage you to do is I really want to encourage you to focus on priorities and forget about the rest. Parkinson’s law states that tasks and work will expand to fit time you give them. If you give your insignificant tasks a small container
of time, they’ll fit it, and if you give the same task a big container of time, they’ll fit that too, so we have to limit the amount of time we’re giving these unimportant items. Yes, I use the term “giving” there intentionally. You’re gifting time on tasks and activities as if your time were infinite and you can generously hand it away.
We have to contain these tasks that are on our priority system listed as insignificant and that they are unimportant, but they’re urgent. We can’t let these dictate our day. You need to own your day, and the first step is taking charge like you’re the boss of your time because, well, you are. Even if you don’t think you are, you own your time. As Simon Sinek says, “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” We’re allowing our own learned helplessness to tell us that we don’t have a choice. We discuss learned helplessness at length back in episode 45, but we have to take back that control and understand that we do have a choice and how our time is spent.
Warren Buffett says, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” Remember the 80/20 rule? It’s also known as The Pareto’s principle. It applies to almost everything, like how 20% of your efforts will account for 80% of your results. You don’t have to do all the things to reap the benefits, so you have to figure out, what are your top priorities and focus in on those things and what is needed to reach that goal. Let go of the other projects that are potentially distractions to your own success. You have to get in the habit of letting go of the things that aren’t working. We have to stop sweating the small stuff. My dad is forever giving me this advice, since I was in high school. I’ll admit, it drives me a little bit crazy in the heat of the moment, but secretly, I think it’s because I know he’s right.
We have to walk away from being frustrated and irritated about pointless items, and that includes the things that others think of us, like what they think when we do say no or when we prioritize our lives. You have to learn to deal with what’s in front of you and what is truly up to you. Things that you can control include your emotions, your judgments, your creativity, your attitude, your perspective, your desires, your decisions, and your determination. We need to focus on that instead.
I really believe in using the priority system that we’ve discussed several times, and if you aren’t familiar with it, episode 33 is a great place to get the full primer on how the priority list system works, but we have to use a system that helps us put our priorities at the very top, at the very front and center of our lives. We need to prioritize opportunities for growth and creativity. In our priority system matrix, oftentimes, these are the tasks that fall under the important category, but they often get pushed aside because they aren’t urgent. As I mentioned earlier this season, creativity isn’t just for artists; it’s for anyone who wants to push the boundaries of who they are and what they want to do. We need to place an emphasis on creativity and growth, and that includes learning.
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As a former elementary school teacher, I fully believe in the power of being a lifelong learner. After all, that is what has propelled me on my journey of where I am today. When I started my first business, I had no business training, not one single business class in college, but I dove in, and I learned, and I learned, and I learned.
Have you ever heard people say how much they enjoyed a vacation? Oftentimes, it’s because they caught up on their reading. Don’t wait for your next vacation to start prioritizing some reading time or time to learn and explore. Prioritize time for it into your day. You can even use one of the habit trackers for reading and keep track of the books you’ve read in the year.
In my Taking Back Your Friday episode, number 25, I talked about a way to batch learning so it becomes a part of your week that makes it feel kind of like a mini vacation, but there are other ways too that you can expand your horizons: visiting museums, catching a documentary, watching educational talks. Play. Do something that you can learn from that you enjoy. This could be something different for everyone, and you could even tie into an action plan you have for a long-term goal. Take the steps you wrote out, and work on the first one for an hour every day, or 15 minutes if that’s all the time you can spare and treat it like a real priority.
If you don’t have the time to work towards your goals, ask yourself, where is your time really going? You never know what you can learn that might open up a whole new door for you. Opportunities abound when you know about them. That’s why growth and creativity have to be a priority. When I say to focus on your priorities, I don’t simply mean lump more on to your already-overflowing plate. I mean for you to truly give attention, your full attention to those priorities. Monotasking, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to really make your priorities feel like priorities.
Now, I know focusing on one thing at a time can feel difficult, but with practice, you get really good at harnessing your focus, and you’ll always get a better payoff from focusing on one thing fully instead of trying to do a lot of little things without our full attention. One of the ways to do that is by really getting comfortable with declining request for your time or taking time to really consider these requests more carefully of whether you really want to do something.
Oftentimes, the promise of doing all the things is just a cleverly-disguised way to avoid facing trade-offs, which just results in you scattering your focus and spending time on everything but the important things that actually matter to you.
Use this laser focus too at the times that work best for you. We have to stop being fixated on the clock, and instead, focused on timed blocks of work. We tell ourselves these stories that, “Oh, it’s past 8:00 p.m., so I have to stop working now,” or, “I’m useless before 7:00 a.m.,” but there are just arbitrary rules based on the hands of a clock. We all have different peaks and valleys for our productivity. This ties into that ultradian rhythm we’ve talked about in the past. I’ve shared before that I am not a morning person, and yet I still get up around 5:00 a.m., even though most people consider this far too early to do anything. I used to tell myself that I didn’t want to get up that early, but I’ll be honest, I love getting up that early and enjoying the quiet of
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the house while I get some work done. It’s one of those things that truly has surprised me.
I want you to take into account your personal energy rhythms without fixating on the actual time because we don’t want to waste our peak times on mindless work, and we don’t want to spend some of those slumps in our ultradian rhythm on the important things as well. Try to explain to those around you what times you work best, and then treasure those times for working on your big ideas and projects. Doing this means you’ll get more and better work done in the same amount time as working on it outside of a peak productivity time. You’re being more effective with your time, so set aside blocks of time to work throughout your day and throughout your weak, and then measure your progress and how many blocks you complete. Focus on the things that excite you and they make you happy to do, and then you have to go do it. Time is shorter than we really think it is.
I can hear you yelling back at me through your podcast app saying, “But I have so many things to do.” You really don’t. You’re making a choice to allow those insignificant things to run your day. Not everything is a priority, and we really need to take a hard look at the items on your list each day and make a decision whether they are truly, truly important to you and whether they do push you forward towards your purpose, towards your goals, towards your dreams. A good way to create that space is through routines and habit. I want to talk about that in just a minute, but first, I want to talk about inkWELL Press.
You all know that I am a big believer in chasing your big goals and dreams, which is why I created a company around that whole idea. inkWELL Press offers a wide range of productivity tools, planners, and accessories that are designed to keep you moving forward towards those goals and dreams. We have weekly planners, daily planners, productivity notepads, meal planners, journals, all the tools you need to start 2018 on the right foot and to make it the year that you accomplish your goals. Visit our site at inkwellpress.com, and start living your dreams today.
I want to take some time to talk about routines and habits because I feel like this is an area where that can really begin to make an impact because they take the thinking out of it. Back in episode 31, I talked about the fact that researchers at Duke University found that about 40% of the actions that we make every day are actually habits, not really decisions. Without that, we would go nuts.
For example, if you had to concentrate on each act of the steps you have to do each day like putting on your pants, you would have no energy or time to focus on what’s really important. We have to take as much thinking out of it so we can save up that energy to really think and focus on those priorities we just talked about. Here’s the key: Habits build and begin to create routines, and routines and habits take the thinking out of it, which can help you really set up your day for success. Your morning and evening routines prime you for success, and they keep you from thoughtlessly stumbling through your day. It’s like a series of small winds that build up and give you momentum.
Let me explain what I mean. Imagine you’re looking at a hill that you need to ride your bike over. Standing at the bottom at a dead stop, it seems like a daunting
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task, but if you invest some energy into backing up your bike and beginning to pedal, you’ll build some speed, and that momentum will carry you up that hill and over it. The initial energy seems great, but in the course of getting to the top, it’s imperative to your success. It actually makes it easier for you to accomplish the task, so metaphorically, we have to keep pedaling. We have keep that momentum going so you need less energy to get going to the next activity. To gain momentum, you first have to make that step, and if you want to run, you have to start first by walking.
Having some solid habits and routines in the morning contribute to that initial push you need. Newton’s law of inertia states, “An objection at rest stays at rest, and an objection in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalance force.” Use that to your advantage. Get that motion going. I start my own morning routine with 16 oz glass of water, and then I move on to a series of tasks that make my morning feel less stressful and more energized.
Why do I start with a glass of water? It’s a small win. You see, I read an article a while back about how, if you wake up grumpy and sluggish, as I always did, it’s probably because you’re dehydrated. Think about it: Your body, which is made up mainly of water, has gone about eight hours without a single drop. Your brain requires hydration to really start functioning, so I start with a little quick hydration. I leave a glass of water by my sink, and I begin my day with that water, and it works. It makes a huge difference in how I feel in the morning.
The bonus here is that right off the bat, I’ve started with a win. In the first 10 minutes of my day, I’ve consumed 25% of my water goal for the day. That feels pretty good. Then I use that momentum to keep me going, but it’s not just your morning routine that help you with these wins. Your evening routine can set up your following day for success. Investing less than 1% of your time tonight will help make you 10 times more effective tomorrow.
You’ve heard me talk before about ending your day with a daily download, and you know that I believe so strongly in this that I have a notepad called the daily download dedicated to this task of reflecting, processing, and prioritizing for the next day. This one activity is what helps me close out my day. It’s a part of my routine. It’s like an appointment with myself, and I don’t even have to think about it. It just happens automatically. This planning gives me a head start for the next day, and it keeps me on task. It’s a little momentum boost to keep me going up and over that hill.
Here’s the takeaway I want from you at the end of this episode. What I want you to keep in mind is that you own your time and you choose how you spend your days. You can allow others to run it for you by allowing their priorities and their urgent fires to take over, or you can take control. I use the word mindful a lot, not just in business, but also at home. It’s a word I use almost daily. I like the word mindful because, at its heart, it’s about paying attention to yourself, paying attention to others, and paying attention to the legacy that you are creating. I’ve often said that productivity is 90% mindset, but I think most of life is mindset. It’s about the choices you make, how you choose to spend your time, how you choose to live your life, and
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how you choose to treat your priorities. After all, if they’re priorities, shouldn’t they be treated that way?
As we close out this season on chasing your big goals and dreams, I want to challenge you to make some choices. Choose to rethink what it means to be busy, and choose to live a life you’ll love. Make the choices that do allow you to achieve those goals and dreams that you really want. I want to close out this season with a quote from Lao-Tzu, the ancient Chinese writer and philosopher and the founder of Taoism. He said, “Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.” I love that. I want to encourage you to spend your time doing what matters most to you, and if that’s your big goals or dreams, then make it happen, my friends, because you, you are worth it.
Now, next week will be the start of season five with a brand new topic that I can hardly wait to share. It’s hard to believe that this big goal and dream of mine to host a podcast has now officially reached its first birthday. I want to give you all a very heartfelt thank you. Thank you for listening and for all the kind notes and the emails I receive. On the days that are hard, and there are hard days for me just as there are for you, those are the things I cling tightly to for my own momentum, so thank you, thank you, thank you. Until next time, happy planning.
Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press. To get free access to Tanya’s checklist, 5 Minutes to Peak Productivity, simply register at inkwellpress.com/podcast.