The Big Idea
Investing in you means prioritizing you.
Questions I Answer
- How can I make time for the things that matter to me?
- What can I do to find balance?
- What’s the best way to prioritize tasks on my list?
- How can I organize my to-do list?
Actions to Take
- Review the Priority List and implement this system into your daily planning instead of the traditional to-do list, allowing you to focus each day on your own personal priorities, instead of simply being ‘busy.’
Key Topics in the Show
Why we get caught up in the idea of efficiency, and how to change your mindset towards being effective.
Defining what success means to you. What does it look like to accomplish a goal with a specific endpoint?
Examples of tying important goals and values to your mission so that your priorities are not mismatched.
5 reasons why we have a hard time mismatching our priorities, and solutions for each.
Practicing self-compassion: How to quit sacrificing your own needs and interests just for the sake of being ‘busy.’
Resources and Links
- Tips on How to Prioritize:
- Stop saying yes to tasks just to please other people. Start to say no when you don’t have the time. This way, you’ll increase your effectiveness by spending time and energy on tasks you will be best at.
- Prioritize time with your loved ones. Time with friends and family can help you recharge and refresh your mind. We also know that social connection is the biggest factors of happiness.
- Stop the addiction to notifications. When we check our devices, we get the same sense of satisfaction as checking off an item on our to-do list. Instead, set blocks of time to check email or notifications.
- Don’t allow distractions. Instead of setting up measures to prevent distractions, we let others interrupt us, meaning we will take another 23 minutes to get back into our working zone.
- Take breaks. It’s so important to take breaks and get enough rest. Schedule blocks of time into your day to take some breaks. This way, you’ll be working effectively, and not efficiently, allowing for focused work.
Welcome to Productivity Paradox from inkWELL press, a podcast focused on finding success and happiness through the power of productivity. Each season, Tanya focuses on specific strategies to help you discover your own priorities and purpose. Season five is all about investing in you. You can also join Tanya for more interaction and support in her free Facebook group at inkwellpress.com/group. 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 62. Today we are going to be talking about prioritizing the wrong things. But first I wanna share with you that today’s episode is brought to by Trunk Club, and later on in the show, I’ll be sharing a little bit more about them.
But let’s go ahead and dive into today’s topic. I wanna talk about prioritizing the wrong things, because I think this is something a lot of people struggle with. I hear from a lot of you that you understand you need a priority list, but you struggle with understanding what your priorities are. And oftentimes, we are prioritizing the wrong things. We’re spending our time on the things that are really urgent and not truly important.
So I want to talk to you first about being efficient vs. being effective. I hear that word, “efficiency” thrown around a lot. And I feel like that’s one of those words that people feel like, ooh, I really want to be efficient. But according to Peter Drucker, who’s often referred to as the founder of the modern management movement, efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing. There’s a big difference there. We get caught up in this idea of efficiency, because it sounds like we’re getting more done, but we don’t want to get more done. We want to get the important stuff done and leave the rest to the wayside. Being efficient is just another way of saying that you’re really busy vs. being effective, which means you’re doing your best work while you’re incorporating time management skills.
Remember how we talked about tracking your time back in episode 59? That tracker is going to come into play now. So if you haven’t been tracking your time, I really want to encourage you to do so. I have a free tracker download that goes with that episode, and you can grab that at inkwellpress.com/podcast under episode 59. It’s really simple to use, and it will give you some good insight, because if you don’t know where your time is going, it’s really hard to make any real changes to be effective. After all, how can you improve the way you’re spending your time if you don’t know how you’re spending it?
And I want to throw a little science truth for you. Newton’s third law of motion, when one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction of the first body. So in layman’s terms, equal and opposite forces. So there are productive and unproductive forces in our lives. Productive forces like focus, positivity, motivation, and then you
©Productivity Paradox Page 1 of 6
have the unproductive, like stress, lack of sleep, trying to accomplish too many tasks at once.
So what we do is we have some choices. We have some choices about what we can do to become productive. So we have option one, which is add more productive force by just powering through. Steel yourself. Drink another cup of coffee. Work harder. Muscle your way through and overpower those unproductive forces. Or, there’s option two: eliminate the unproductive forces in the first place. Delegate to take tasks off your to do list. Learn to say no. Take care of yourself so you’re getting enough energy.
I don’t think you have to think very long to understand that option two is our better choice here. Option one is trying to be efficient, not really effective. It’s pushing and pushing to get the work done fast without really considering what’s important to work on in the first place. And this leads to burnout. When you remove the things that are holding you back, you don’t have to push yourself so hard to get those important tasks done.
And though people often choose option one, it’s actually much less stressful to remove that which does not need to be done. It’s less stressful to take care of ourselves and really let ourselves be effective rather than pushing to be highly efficient. You’ll often hear me talk about your north star, which it tied to your purpose and your priorities. That’s what drives your goals. So to know whether something is a priority or not, you need to filter it through those goals, these goals that are tied to your north star. Highly effective people have a purpose: their goals. That purpose in forms everything they do, which is why they are always dedicated, organized, and on tasks. And this isn’t to say that they’re slaves to routine, they’re just driven to accomplish their goals and eliminate the things that are standing in their way.
I want you to define what success means to you, and what it looks like to accomplish your goal with a specific end point. This, again, is that benefit of the priority list over the to do list, because you’re actively ranking the items you want to do, using that filter we just talked about, so you can start with the highest priority items first, the ones that have filter through your goals. And you can create systems. A system is actually how you make progress towards your goal. So if your goal is to be healthier, your system consists of workouts you’ll do, the food you’ll eat, the healthy habits you wanna implement. Your goal helps provide direction and push you forward, but the system will help ensure that the goal is worked on consistently so you are successful.
Remember those tasks you looked at that don’t move you towards your goals but can’t be delegated or gotten rid of? Well, a system is how you schedule this task to happen regularly without having to think about it. This is what I mean when you hear me talk about automation, and back in season three, we talked a lot about systems to help automate things and help things work smoothly when you can’t delegate them or get rid of them.
Use your goals to make decisions easy, where they require less though. Highly effective people seem so decisive because they use those goals as their filter in the decision making process. You see, it allows them to focus. Herb Kelleher, the CEO of
©Productivity Paradox Page 2 of 6
Southwest Airlines, he makes decisions every day. All day long, he’s making decisions. And what he does is he focuses in by asking one question: will this help Southwest be the low cost provider? If so, the answer is yes. If no, the answer is no. And Southwest’s mission, by the way, is to connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel. See how that filtering question he asked is tied to their mission? Which is, therefore, tied to their goals.
Indecision is always due to lack of purpose. When you consider your important goals, your important values and your mission statement, your decisions become so much easier, and it becomes easier to truly prioritize the things that are most important. But the problem is, there’s these mismatched priorities. We don’t understand where our priorities lie. As a matter of fact, in the liveWELL Method course that I offer, we have an exercise that tests your knowledge of the priority levels, and you take a task and you match with the priority. Sounds simple enough, but it can be pretty eye-opening to how mismatched your tasks and priorities can get. In our fall class, one student realized she hadn’t been living by her priorities at all, when she matched all of the tasks with that important priority level, even the ones that were not tied to goals, even ones that were not tied to her north star, her mission, or her vision.
The problem is, when you treat all of your tasks as if they’re important, it actually ends up that none of them feel important, because you’re treating them all equally. And the problem is, to a lot of people, urgent and important are very similar. But there’s really a major difference between them. Important tasks contribute to your long-term goals. They pass the mission statement test. They fulfill what is at the heart of what you do. So a good question to ask yourself to see if it’s truly important is, if I sip this tasks, will I still reach my goals? And if the answer is “yes,” yeah, you can skip this task and it’ll be okay, it’s not really important. If it’s something that is truly tied to your goals, if it’s tied to what it is you want to do, that is what is important.
Urgent tasks, on the other hand, are just tasks that need be handled quickly. You know a task is urgent when it has a pressing deadline, but urgency is only about time, not about whether it’s important or not. I think that’s important enough to repeat again. Urgency is only about time, not whether it’s important or not. And I think that’s what people make the mistake in believing, that these fires that have to be put out, those are the things that must be done first. But when you use a priority list, you can stop wasting time deciding what to do next, or whether you should start with the hardest or the easiest task, and instead work by priority. Looking at your tasks by priority helps you see what needs to be done now, that fits in your immediate section, and what needs to be worked on long-term, the important section. And then the things that can be delegated or done another time or not done at all, those are the ones that fall under insignificant. And I think it’s really important to understand.
I wanna talk about why we get into this habit of mismatching our priorities. But first, I wanna take just a second to remind you that today’s episode is brought to you by Trunk Club. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m pretty picky about who I talk about on my podcast episodes, so when I tell you that I love Trunk Club, you know it’s true. To be honest, I found them. I was looking for a solution for myself, because I was feeling frustrated about my closet. I wanna stay in style. I wanna have clothes that work well
©Productivity Paradox Page 3 of 6
for my life, but I honestly don’t have time to go walk around the mall. I wanna spend time doing other things. What I love about Trunk Club is how easy and streamlined it all is. I have a conversation with my stylist on the phone or via chat, I tell her what’s going on, I tell her my budget, and she pulls together a collection for me. No need for me to get on Pinterest and make a board or anything like that. So simple and fast. I’d love to introduce you to my own personal stylist. Just go to inkwellpress.com/ trunkclub, and you can work with her too. And there’s no charge for my stylist if you purchase anything she chooses in your collection. So it’s really easy, and it can be free. So I love that.
All right, I wanna get back into the “why.” Why do we get into the habit of mismatching our priorities? And I think there’s really five reasons why we have a hard time with this. The first thing is we say “yes” to tasks just to please other people, even if we already have more on our plate than we can handle. So starting to say no to tasks that we can’t do our best at or don’t have the time for, that will help increase your effectiveness, because you’re no longer dividing your energy between tasks and you’re only focusing on things you, and only you, will be best at. So we have to learn to really say no.
The second reason is we forget to prioritize time with our friends and family. It’s so easy to get caught up in work and in the chores and in the errands, but stopping and setting aside time with your loved ones? That will make you more effective in the long run. Time with your friends and family? That can help you recharge and refresh your mind. And we know that social connection is one of the largest factors in happiness.
The third thing is we’re kind of addicted. We’re addicted to those small hits of dopamine that are constantly hitting our brain when we’re checking things like email or notifications, we get that little hit, and it feels good. When we check our emails and notifications, we get a sense of satisfaction similar to checking an item off of a task list. Instead of rationally focusing on some real tasks to chase that feeling, we end up just checking notifications. So de-prioritize unnecessary tasks like this and set specific times for checking email and notifications.
The fourth thing that happen is people distract us from our task at hand, and we allow them to invade our space and invade our time, instead of setting up measures to help stop that distraction interesting the first place. When you focus only on the task at hand, you enter a state of flow that effectively makes the task take less time. When you’re distracted by others, it can take us up to 23 minutes to get back into that flow and to re-focus. That means you just lost 23 minutes of deep work time on a priority task. That’s a problem.
The fifth thing that happens is we push ourselves too hard and we don’t give ourselves breaks. It’s important to take breaks. It’s important to get enough sleep. Those things need to be a priority, even though it might feel like you’re wasting time or could be optimizing that time. Optimizing time is just a tactic of efficiency. It doesn’t actually make you more effective. Set aside blocks of time within your day that you treat like important meetings, meetings with yourself, and use them as breaks so you can reset, refresh, and effectively handle your upcoming tasks. I think if
©Productivity Paradox Page 4 of 6
you really acknowledge these five things that so many of us do, you’ll start to recognize them and it becomes easier to avoid these habits we’re falling into.
But the one thing that I really want to mention to you, the one thing that I think is so important, is that you need to be prioritizing yourself. When we feel depleted, we have nothing left to give. Being efficient and filling all of our time and prioritizing others over ourselves, that drains our energy, and then we have no desire to do anything else. There’s a big difference between happily giving our time to others and making ourselves do these things because we should or we have to. It’s not necessarily about changing the tasks, it’s about changing our attitude towards them, based mainly on our attitude towards ourselves. This is why it’s so key that you’re taking the time to prioritize you, because when you take time for yourself, it’s so much easier to give time to others.
We tend to lose ourselves in this busy mentality. It feels easy sometimes to throw ourselves into the various roles of parents, partners, professionals, and we pack every minute of our day with tasks to do within that role. And we often use that checked off to do list to prove our worth. And we rarely stop to ask ourselves, “Are these tasks truly fulfilling?” This is why we can feel so empty inside when somebody asks us about what we’ve done. We’re so busy checking off our list of achievements, we haven’t stopped to think about whether we even enjoy them. We sacrifice our own needs and our interests, and we give up aspects of ourselves just for the sake of being busy, because we think we are supposed to be busy.
Our critical inner voice, that’s the one that tells us that we should be busy. That’s what’s telling us we have to achieve certain goals in order to be acceptable or worthy. It’s also the voice that tell us anything we do for ourselves is selfish. When we listen to this voice, it’s so easy to get caught up in that busy mentality, until we look around us and we ask, “Am I really living the life I wanna live? Am I doing the best for the people around me by being present and feeling good?” You have to quiet that voice, that little voice inside your head, that tells you that you’re not good enough, that you have to do more, simply to do more.
That stress not only hurts us, but it also hurts the others around us. When we get caught up in this busy mentality, we create a cycle of stress, which can feel like it’s the normal grind, but stress takes a huge toll on our mental and physical health
and even the way we treat others, because we start to feel, well, stressed. And we take out that stress and that frustration, usually, on those that we love around us. The way that we act when we carry the stress affects us and everyone around us.
One of the biggest reasons, though, that we don’t prioritize ourselves, is we don’t practice self-compassion. We are so unkind to ourselves. I can tell you, for myself, that there are things I say in my head when I look at myself, or I look at what I’ve done, that I would never say to anyone else. I say these things and I don’t give it a second thought, even though I would never say it to another human being, I seem to think it’s okay to say it to me. But it’s not. Research shows, though, that being kind to ourselves and practicing self compassion, it improves our well-being and it benefits those around us. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we be nice to ourselves?
©Productivity Paradox Page 5 of 6
Researcher Kristin Neff, who’s one of the world’s leading experts on self compassion, she argues that having a kind attitude towards ourself actually allows us to reflect better upon our mistakes and begin to effect real change. She says mindfulness is a key element to self-compassion. So try practicing self-compassion, because it allows you to feel more comfortable being you. Pushing ourselves too hard, making ourselves feel guilty about what we didn’t do, that makes us so much less effective.
Research by the Energy Project recently uncovered that workers who didn’t practice self-care well, they have trouble focusing on one thing and they’re easily distracted, which means you’re not really doing your best work. Taking care of ourselves is a basic need, and we need to do that to help us get our tasks done to the best of our abilities, which makes us more effective than efficient. When we make time for our wants and needs, we’re able to give our fullest selves to the world around us. Prioritizing is an investment in you, and I want to encourage you to really think about that. When you prioritize, you are investing in you, and you deserve that.
This week, in my mini episode, The Weekender, I’m going to be sharing a story about how I had to reframe my mind to be able to figure out I was prioritizing the wrong things. So tune in for that on Friday. And next week’s episode will be all about what you do when your plans get derailed. What happens when things do not go the way that you had planned? So I hope you’ll tune in for that.
I do want to encourage you to sign up for my newsletter. You can do that over on inkwellpress.com/podcastemail. Today, in the episode, I mentioned I had a download for you of the time tracker. When you’re on my newsletter list, that will be emailed to you automatically the day the episode goes live. So you don’t have to go hunting around for it or digging around, it will be emailed to you automatically. So sign up for the newsletter, and you’ll get access to those as well as some other downloads that I offer.
All right. Until next time, happy planning.
Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press. To join Tanya’s free group, simply go to inkwellpress.com/group.