The Big Idea
The best way to invest in yourself is to get intentional about your time.
Questions I Answer
- Does meditation increase my productivity?
- How can I be more productive without working all the time?
- How does mindfulness affect productivity?
Actions to Take
- Challenge yourself to meditate for 3 minutes a day for 7 days.
Key Topics in the Show
5 easy ways you can start investing in yourself right away.
The importance of whitespace to boost productivity and your mental well being.
How mindfulness will create space between what is happening and your reaction to it.
Actionable tips to help you get started with meditations
Resources and Links
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 inwellpress.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 64. Today’s episode is brought to you by the Peak Work Performance Summit, a free five-day online summit that I’ll be sharing more about later in the show.
Today, though, I want to focus on how you can really begin investing in yourself. All season-long, we’ve been talking about this idea of investing in you, but how do we do it? How do we really start implementing this? I feel like so many people live their lives without any real direction and they just live it as it comes, and they’re fine living their daily life by default, but, really, you need to create structure for yourself and take your life in the direction that you want to go in.
Investing in yourself allows you to become the best version of you in all the areas of your life, spiritually, mentally, financially, in every way you could really think of. Investing in yourself makes others more likely to invest in you. It helps you think and prioritize your values that can really improve the quality of your life.
Women, in particular, can have a really hard time prioritizing themselves and investing in themselves, because we’re often conditioned to prioritize spending time on others or we believe that self-care is trivial and maybe even selfish, but it’s not. Taking care of you helps you take care of others in return, so I want you to focus on yourself like this is an investment. Investing in you is an investment in a project, a project that you’re paid to do and that you’re required to get real results. You might even want to ask someone to hold you accountable if that helps you make progress.
There are so many different ways that you can really invest in yourself. I want to focus in on five easy ways. The first one is look for learning opportunities. Just because you’re not in school, it doesn’t mean you should stop learning and, even if you are at school, it doesn’t mean you can’t extend your learning into things that truly interest you. Make time for continued development, time to study subjects outside of what you took in school. Maybe you want to learn to code or maybe you want to take an art class.
You could consider attending seminars and conferences. Live events, webinars, conferences all provide education, networking and career opportunities, as well as an opportunity to meet experts and influencers and people you admire. It’s a great place to network and meet others with similar interests, or consider even things that are
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local like checking your local bookstore or library to see if there are author visits. That’s a great way to dive into new ways to learn.
The second way you can invest in yourself is through reading, reading as much as possible, and keeping up with current events. That really piggybacks off that idea of continuing your education. Book clubs and newsletters with a weekly event or even a roundup can really help with this.
Many successful people attribute reading to really helping them develop themselves. Bill Gates, Stephen King, Oprah Winfrey, all avid readers and make time in their daily schedule to read. According to research conducted at the University of Sussex, reading gave the best return on reducing stress levels by 68% after just reading six minutes. I don’t know about you, but a six-minute investment to reduce my stress that much, that’s something I’m really interested in doing.
Dr. David Lewis, who conducted the test, concluded, “Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation,” and, if that doesn’t convince you, Elon Musk, when asked how he learned how to build rockets, he replied, “I read books,” so reading is a great way to invest in yourself.
Another way to invest in yourself is through writing. Writing is almost therapeutic because it gets your emotions out on paper. It helps you put into words what you want and it enhances your creativity, your communication skills, and it makes you into a better thinker.
Seth Godin says, “There’s no more urgent reason to write. You’ll not only improve your communication, you’ll learn to think more clearly as well. The person who benefits most from your writing might be you.” It can be as simple as keeping a journal to help you really integrate writing into your daily life, and you don’t have to write long. Five minutes is plenty of time.
The fourth thing you can do to invest in yourself is develop new skills. Take what you learn when we talk about all those new learning opportunities and grow it into a true skill. Make learning a lifetime goal and process. You could learn a new language. Take an art class. Get a certification or an extra degree. It’s really up to you.
I’m a part of a foundation from my local community college, and I believe community colleges are one of the most underutilized resources in any community. The amount of classes and continuing education they offer is astounding and, generally, at really good prices. You can find classes on cooking to technology to honing in your business skills in areas like marketing. Make time to develop these new skills you learn and allow them the space to grow, because learning new skills encourages your creative thinking.
The fifth way you can really invest in yourself is by making time for your health. Both physical and metal health are extremely important, but we often feel like we don’t have the time, so make sure to create a plan that you have in place to preserve your mindset when you have stressful times, and build in breaks that incorporate your health into your regular schedule. For exercise, you could try to go for a walk or get exercise during your lunch break.
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In 2004, researchers at Leeds Metropolitan University found that workers who exercise around lunchtime felt better overall about their work and were less stressed. Despite having used energy at lunchtime, they also felt less fatigued in the afternoon.
My friend Jamie has done a great job of finding ways to pop in exercise throughout her day. She works for blocks of time and then, for her breaks, she drops down and does some tricep dips or some pushups. She actively works to incorporate exercise.
Now, if you’re in a place where you can’t drop and give me 20, you could walk up and down the stairway. Small movements add up. Sometimes, I leave in the mornings and I go for a Pilates class or I’ll go for a walk around my warehouse when I need a mental break. Incorporating exercise doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be difficult and it doesn’t have to be expensive.
The other part of taking care of your health is taking care of your mental well being. Giving yourself white space, space that isn’t cramped full of tasks and errands, that is so important for your own well-being. People often ask me how I come up with big ideas and plans, and, honestly, I actively carve out time for my brain to breathe. I give it space to play. I drive to Charlotte regularly, which is about a two hour drive, and during at least one way, I drive in silence, no music, no podcast, just me alone with my thoughts, and I love the space. I find that it’s incredibly helpful for my own mental peace.
I shared earlier this season that I went on a white space vacation last month, where I completely unplugged from work, no communications from my team, which actually worked two ways. It allowed me time away, but it also helped ensure I had systems in place, so my team felt confident in making choices and moving forward on work without me there.
Being mindful is so important, and it’s so important to take the time to give yourself that space. That is an investment in yourself. This is an area I think so many struggle with because white space can feel like a waste of time. After all, you’re not running and doing things. You’re being still. I want to explore this idea a little bit further in just a minute, but, first, I want to take a minute to talk about today’s sponsor.
If you’ve ever wondered how you can take your performance to the next level, I have something I know you’re going to love. It’s an online summit called the Peak Work Performance Summit, and it’s something I have watched myself for the past two years. Why? Because it features some of my favorite thinkers in the world of psychology, business, wellness and productivity, so we’re talking about New York Times bestselling authors like Charles Duhigg, Gretchen Rubin, Shawn Achor, Jeff Goins, Marshall Goldsmith, all names you’ve heard me mention here on the podcasts.
For five days, they’re sharing their best strategies for getting things done, and tickets are completely free. This is a great example of investing in yourself, and it doesn’t cost you anything. Go claim your free spot at inkwellpress.com/peakwork. That’s “peak” with an A.
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Okay, I want to get back to this idea, this idea of really investing in yourself through your emotional well-being and mindfulness because I really feel that this is one of the parts that’s difficult for a lot of people. If you’re not prioritizing what matters, other people in life end up forcing their priorities onto you, and that usually focuses more on your output, not your happiness.
Our lives are just a series of moments, one after another, and we can use those moments to be busy, indulging I what we want, staring at a screen, or we can try to use a few of them to be still and silent to help ourselves grow and find a little bit deeper meaning. When you’re focused on productivity and busyness, sitting in silence feels like a total waste of time, not to mention, even if you do try, your thoughts are going 500 miles per hour, and trying to stop thinking is like trying to stop a runaway train.
If you’ve ever experienced this, that is a sure sign that you need a little more mindfulness in your life, so I want to talk to you about meditating, because meditating is a great way to incorporate mindfulness into your day. Meditation helps you be still, and it retrains your mind to simply be present. It creates space between what’s happening and your reaction to it.
Dr. Matthew Lippincott is a researcher who focuses on organizational leadership and mindfulness. He interviewed leaders who actively use mindfulness throughout their day. 100% of the participants linked mindfulness to improvements in their professional and their personal lives. 100% experienced more productive responses to the emotional states of others. 90% experienced openness to new ideas and input from others. Businesses, big businesses are starting to take note. They’re noticing the effect of mindfulness on their employees and have started instigating programs for them
Aetna, a healthcare company, launched two mindfulness programs in 2010 to help reduce stress and improve reactions to stress in their employees. They studied the outcomes of these programs and saw such a significant improvement in perceived stress levels and the various heart rate measurements that they ended up offering the program now to their customers as well.
Intel is another business that began offering mindfulness programs to their employees. Using a scale of one to 10, after taking the program, they saw their participants report a 2-point decrease in stress and feeling overwhelmed, a 2-point increase in new ideas, clarity, creativity, focus, quality of relationships, and a 3-point increase in overall happiness and well-being. Obviously, creating the space to be mindful makes a huge difference.
Let’s talk about how we can incorporate mindfulness in a very easy way, and that is through meditation. Now, you might be thinking meditation is a little woo-woo, or it seems like sitting still for long periods of time would be terribly boring, or you might be sitting there, shaking your head, thinking, “I’ve already tried meditation. I can’t stop thinking. Meditation just won’t work for me. I just can’t do it.”
What I want to do here is I want to help you change your mindset and your approach, and, spoiler alert, it’s not actually about not thinking, and it doesn’t require
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huge amounts of time to really see the benefits. Most problems with meditation stems from assumptions that you already know how to do it. You already know what it is and you already know what it’s going to get you, but, really, meditation isn’t about trying to quiet the mind or having some sort of transcendental experience.
Meditation is simply about being present with whatever is happening to you moment to moment. It isn’t about the absence of thought. It’s about recognizing your thoughts. Sound a little too zen? Okay, let me break it down for you.
You have no control over your thoughts and, when they pop in your head, you can’t learn to just quiet your mind. What you can learn is to stop trying to control your thoughts and just observe your mind, and you’ll find that it naturally begins to calm.
Watching our thoughts and our feelings allows them to come and go with less judgment, and we become more comfortable looking at who we are. We realize we are more than our problems, more than our thoughts or our feelings as these come and go. You might feel like you aren’t making any progress and wonder if you’re even doing it right. It’s okay. Allow those thoughts to come and go as well.
Headspace, a meditation app, does an excellent video visually showing what this means, so I’ll be sure to post that in my show notes for this episode because I really think it’s worth watching. You’ll be able to grab that at inkwellpress.com/ podcast under episode 64, but I want to give you a couple of simple meditation tips just to get you started.
Start by sitting comfortably. For some, this might mean sitting on a cushion on the floor, but, for most beginners, this isn’t the most comfortable position. Try sitting in a chair instead with your feet resting flat on the ground and your back upright. Whatever is the most comfortable for you will work as long as your back can stay comfortably straight.
I often meditate while sitting on my bed with my back against pillows. You can feel free to email me if you’re a meditation expert and tell me that’s not how it’s done, and I’ll reply and tell, “It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you do it,” so get yourself comfortable. Stay in the present and observe what goes on. This is what meditation is really about, simply noticing where our thoughts are that are going through our mind and what sensations are going on in your body, and you accept this experience without judging it.
You might have negative thoughts or even a constant stream of ideas and emotions. That’s okay. Just try to sit back and see them like you would clouds passing by. Start small. You don’t have to meditate for an hour or take a 10-day silent meditation retreat. Instead, set yourself up for success. Challenge yourself to meditate for three minutes a day for seven days. If you’d like to continue sitting after three minutes, feel free to do so.
To make this easier for you, I’ve got a download to help you work through a seven-day meditation challenge. You can grab that at inkwellpress.com/podcast.
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Just scroll down to episode 64, and you’ll see the download there along with that video I talked about earlier.
A seven-day challenge is a great way to start. It’ll help you pick a time and a place that you want to meditate in, a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, and then we’ll choose a day to start your seven-day challenge. It could be today. It could be next Sunday. Whenever it is, plug it into your calendar and block off that time. Make it even easier to get started by setting up your space with everything you’ll need ahead of time.
After doing the seven-day challenge, you’ll find that it’s easier to create a regular routine. What’s really important is that you find a time that works for your regular schedule. That, for you, might be later in the day or during lunch. For me, it worked out best during my morning routine. I wake up a few minutes earlier. I meditate for at least three minutes, and then I also meditate before diving into a big project during a focused block of time.
This allows me to get that residual attention cleared away so I can be more fully present for the task I really want to pour my energy into and, speaking of energy, that’s actually our topic for next week. We are going to be talking about how you invest your energy into yourself, how do you make yourself a priority and how do you focus in on that. I’m really excited because that will be our final episode for this season on investing in yourself.
This week, in my mini episode, the Weekender, I’ll be talking about another way that you can incorporate mindfulness outside of meditation, and I’ll be sharing a story about how my husband, John, does that in his daily life.
In the meantime, I’d love for you to sign up for my newsletter at inkwellpress.com/podcastemail. When I have a download, like I do today for our challenge, you’ll get that sent to you automatically. I’ll even have a link so you can watch the video I talked about in today’s episode. It’s a great way to get the resources I talk about without having to go all the way to the website, but I do want to make sure and encourage you to grab that challenge and do the seven-day challenge to try meditation. Three minutes a day is all I’m asking for. 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.