The Big Idea
The best way to invest in yourself is to get intentional about your time.
Questions I Answer
- How can I make time to do thing things I’m passionate about?
- How can I be more productive with my time?
- How can I stop feeling drained each day?
Actions to Take
- Start your day with YOUR priorities first – then block time for others.
- Make sure you’re taking real breaks throughout your day – take walks, don’t scroll through social media.
Key Topics in the Show
The importance of shifting your focus so you can use energy wisely.
Actionable tips for maximizing energy physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
How to invest in yourself and prioritize YOU when someone else is managing the tasks and schedule.
The best way to invest in yourself by creating an intentional mindset.
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 inkwellpress.com/group. And now, here’s your host Tanya Dalton.
Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton and this is episode 65. Today’s episode is brought to you by inkWELL Press and their brand-new academic year planner is launching this month. I’ll be sharing a
little bit more about that later on in the show. But, let’s go ahead and dive in because today is the final episode of season five where we’ve been talking about investing in you.
So, I wanted to take the time today to talk about investing your energy in yourself because we want to manage your energy, not just your time. This is about how we invest in ourselves. For some reason, it’s drilled into us that working solidly for eight hours or more will absolutely increase your output. It will increase your efficiency, and your productivity, but really this couldn’t be more wrong.
A workplace study found that an average working professional experiences 87 interruptions in a regular workday. Which means, yeah, you may be working long hours but you’re really having a hard time staying focused, staying truly productive, and staying energized for that full amount of time. It’s impossible. So really, if organizations want to reenergize their workforce, they need to shift their emphasis from getting more out of people to investing in them so they’re more motivated to bring their energy to work every single day. We as individuals ourselves, we need to recognize the cost of behaviors that deplete our energy and make different choices so we don’t burn out. You don’t really need to put in longer hours. It’s really about making a greater effort to renew your energy along the way.
Energy is defined by physics as the capacity to work. For people, this comes down to four main sources. The body, emotions, mind and spirit. In each of these sources, energy can be exponentially grown and it can be regularly renewed by establishing specific habits. To maximize and use our energy wisely, we need to focus on all four of these sources so I want to take a few minutes to go through each of them. Let’s start with the first one, which is the body. This is obvious, right? We need to make time to exercise. We need to get more sleep. We need eat better. We need to take care of our bodies. These are things we already know. The question is, how do we get even more energy from these things and how can you realistically actually implement them? We touched on some of this during last week’s episode when we talked about exercise but let’s briefly discuss the other aspects of taking care of your body.
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Let’s talk about sleeping. A lot of people like to brag, “Oh, I just don’t get any sleep. I just work all the time.” It’s not really a healthy way to live. We want to get more sleep, we want to get better sleep. So, to get more sleep, start by setting an alarm for when you need to go to bed. A lot of us get really caught up in what we’re doing and we forget. We forget we’re tired, we don’t pay attention, and then we end up going to bed late. So, setting an alarm helps trigger you to remind you it’s time to head to bed. iPhones now have a bedtime section of the clock app where you can set it up for what time you’d to get up, and the amount of sleep you’d really like to get. It will notify you when you should go to bed. You could even set this to be a little bit earlier if you’d like, if you want it to signal the start of an evening routine. An evening routine is a great way to signal to your body that it’s time to start shutting down, it’s time for relaxation. I find that when people add a routine to the end of their day they tend to fall asleep faster and deeper so it’s much more beneficial.
Eating is also really important for your body. We know this, but it’s hard to find time to really eat healthy. We have to use a little psychology to get ourselves to eat better and unfortunately it’s not as easy as just telling yourself, stop eating cookies. I really wish that were so, because I would have told myself that a long time ago. But, we have to try to change how we think about what we put in our mouths. Studies show that when kids ask themselves “What would Batman eat?” They were far more likely to reach for apple slices over french fries. Now, I think we all know kids normally prefer french fries over apple slices but when they thought about what Batman wanted, they would choose what they thought Batman would have chosen. You don’t have to use Batman in your own question unless that would work, but maybe think about someone you admire who makes healthy choices and ask yourself what would they chose to eat? Would they chose to eat right now? What choices would they make? Whoever it is, you’ll find that about a third of the time, that will make it easier to start making healthier choices for food.
The third thing that really affects how your body processes energy is hydration. This one isn’t as obvious for many people. Most people are actually mildly dehydrated throughout the day and this causes overeating, mood swings, brain fog, it causes you to be really tired. Stay hydrated by drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up. If you think about it, your brain has been dehydrated all night while you’ve been sleeping. Give yourself a glass of water to help you wake up and then about every two hours throughout the day, you need to make sure that you’re drinking. Make sure you’re having something to drink before each meal. You could use your habit tracker to establish this habit. I personally am amazed at how much better I feel, and how much better I eat when I’m hydrated. The feeling of hunger and thirst are very similar so many time when you think you’re hungry, you’re really just thirsty. Try drinking a glass of water next time your stomach seems to be asking for something and see if that doesn’t help.
I think for the most part, most of us understand we need to be taking better care of our bodies, but I want to talk about our emotions because that’s the second area we need to focus on with energy. Taking control of your emotions can improve the quality of your energy tremendously regardless of the pressures that you face. To do this, you have to first become aware of how you feel at various points of your day and you need to acknowledge the impact these emotions have on your effectiveness. Without intermittent breaks and some recovery, we’re not really capable of sustaining
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high positive emotions for these long periods of time. We tend to slide into negative emotions and our fight or flight mode multiplies all throughout the day. One simple, yet powerful, habit for diffusing negative emotions is deep breathing. Exhaling slowly for five or six seconds turns off that fight or flight response and it creates a sense of relaxation and a little bit of emotional recovery.
The Energy Project taught this habit to Fujio Nishida, the president of Sony Europe because he had a habit of lighting up a cigarette each time something especially stressful occurred, which happened two or three times a day. So, when he replaced this bad habit of smoking with deep breathing, he found he no longer had the desire for cigarettes. It wasn’t the smoking that had given him the stress release, but it was the relaxation prompted by the deep inhalation and exhalation. So, next time you’re feeling stressed, really do take the time to do some deep breathing. I know it seems kind of trite, but it can really make a difference.
One of the other things you can do is express appreciation for others. We already know that social connection is the greatest predictor of overall happiness. So it makes sense that expressing appreciation to other’s is a powerful habit that fuels positive emotions and therefore, energy. One of the things I’ve done to really encourage this in myself is I’ve set a goal to write one unexpected thank you note a week to someone. It’s not a thank you note for a present, but a thank you to someone who had brightened my day. They’ve lifted me up somehow, they’ve done something small that has really affected me. I’ve noticed that by doing this, I’m starting to notice an increase in my optimism and my happiness so it’s really a benefit to me and it gives them a little boost of happiness and optimism when they get the letter.
The third area that affects your energy is your mind. This part mostly has to do with changing the way we concentrate on our tasks by reducing interruptions and cutting out multi-tasking. You know how I feel about multi-tasking, right? We want to give our full attention to the task at hand by going to a quiet, non-distracting place, maybe turning off your phone or turning off email notifications. You’re going to need to change expectations. If you’re the type to respond to email mere minutes after it hits your inbox, you’re setting some high expectations there. Those people then expect you to always respond right away and we need to adjust that. Let people know that you’re checking email less frequently and that you’ll respond within the same day, but you’re not going to be constantly in your inbox. If you’re always in your inbox, how are you getting anything important done?
In general, when teams implement these types of changes, they get their work done in less time. They finish projects under budget, and they feel more productive than ever. It’s so important to give yourself the space to work and if you’re spending all of your time putting out fires by responding to emails or answering phone calls, you can’t really get your deep work done. Meditation is another way to really fuel your mind and you heard me talking about this last week in episode 64. So, you know meditation can reduce stress, it can help you sleep better, and improve your health. I want to encourage you to keep up with that challenge I offered to you last week and remember, don’t worry about forcing yourself to start with 20 minutes. Start with just regular three-minute sessions. Even two or three minutes can have a substantial stress reduction effect and it’s such a great investment in you.
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The fourth area of energy is your spirit, or your outlook. The energy of the human spirit really comes from doing work that is fulfilling and gives you a sense of meaning and purpose. Work that matters to you will give you more positive energy, it gives you better focus and greater perseverance. People want to make an impact, you can do this by clarifying your priorities and establishing habits in three different categories. Doing what you do best and enjoy most at work, prioritizing time in areas of your life you feel are important, and living out your core values in your daily behaviors. This could include giving and doing things for others, getting approval and acceptance from others, anticipating an event you enjoy, learning new things. If you’re in a position of influence over others, either as a manager or a business owner, you can help encourage the spirit in your own team.
One of the things I do for my team is called High-five Fridays. Each week my customer happiness team collects all the nice comments and nice email we receive and on Friday, I have them send it out to everyone on my team. I do this because every member of my team is important and everyone of them contributes in some way, shape, or form to the mission and the vision behind my business. It’s important for them to see the role that they play. Many times the stories that receive are incredibly impactful and they show us the work we’re doing is really making a difference. This is such an easy way for me to help encourage the spirit of my team members. So, think about ways that you can do that for your team.
I want to talk about why investing in you means making yourself a priority, but first, I want to give a quick shout-out to our sponsor, inkWELL Press. This month, inkWELL Press launches our new line of 2018-2019 Academic Planners in our hard cover and our popular coil-free design. These 12-month planners run July 2018 through June 2019. They feature the same goal-setting features, the same thick paper, and high-end materials as our regular year planners. Academic year planners are perfect for students, teachers, or parents. Anyone who likes to plan their year around the school calendar. Just head to inkwellpress.com for more details and to place your order so you can be prepared well before the school year starts.
All right, let’s get back to talking about why you need to be making yourself a priority. Your self-control and energy are intricately linked. Both are finite, daily resources that tire just like a muscle. As the day goes on, we have more difficulty exerting self-control and really focusing and as the self-control tires, we feel tired. We begin to feel that tasks are more difficult and we have more negative emotions. We talked about the ultradian rhythm back in episode 59 when we discussed being protective of your time so you know your time throughout the day is not all equal. Some hours you can get through three steps of a big project and other times, all you can manage is to get through a few emails.
We know, too, that we can’t try to beat this cycle by working longer hours. That just makes us actually less productive. Instead, we need to harness our best hours and become effective. We want to work the right hours. The ultradian rhythm valleys are your body’s natural way of saying, you need a break. We can’t eliminate all of our energy dips, but being aware of them will allow you to get your best work done within the high peaks instead of trying to muscle through those valleys. The best way to invest in yourself is to get intentional about your time. Instead of working for hours and trying to battle through these distractions and energy lows, take the
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hint. You need a break. It’s a mind-set shift. Breaks are easier to prioritize when you know they’re going to make you more effective and more productive.
When you feel like they’re just a way to waste time, it feels less important so we need to change the way we look at them. I want to encourage you to take a real break, one that will help you recharge. Checking your emails or scrolling social media? That doesn’t really recharge your brain the way that maybe taking a walk does. Think back to what you really enjoy, use the breadcrumbs that we talked about back in episode 55 as your guide and use your break for that, use it for the things you enjoy. Maybe that’s drawing for 10 minutes, or listening to music or calling your mom. Whatever it is, make sure it feels like a break. If you set your own hours, you might be thinking “Great, I can start implementing this right away.” But, if you work regular office hours, eight hours a day, five days a week, that might seem a little difficult. How do you invest in yourself when somebody else dictates your day?
Well, you need to take back some of that ownership. You need to own your day, not the other way around. And, I know that seems impossible when you have a manager who’s telling you what to do and how to do it and when to do it, but you can have some ownership. You’ve heard me say that I spend the first 10 minutes of every day planning. I do this before I do anything else. Definitely, before I check email. I want to fill my calendar first. I want to schedule in the important items. I want to put my priorities in there before other’s have a chance to squeeze in theirs. This is an investment in me. Then, you can break your day into hourly intervals. What I do, is I assign a topic of what I want to cover during that time. I might do a block of design work, or a block of content creation with a break included, of course. After I’ve scheduled these blocks for myself, then and only then, do I allow others to get their priorities on my calendar.
You can even schedule time for this. You can have a small block dedicated to returning emails or for one-to-one meetings, but start your day with a filled calendar. One that’s filled with your priorities. What I want you to do is look at your goals. Look at your tasks and break them down into what you can do for an hour at a time. Not only does this break larger tasks and goals into manageable bite-sized pieces, but when you list these by priority, it gives you a clear picture of what you can work on right now. This is an investment in that future self we’ve been discussing all season long, but what’s key here is this, you have to respect your hour. This method of time blocking only works if you respect the energy levels and allow them to reach a high level of focus for an hour and then take a real break afterwards. Allowing yourself to be distracted with email or social media or allowing others to disrupt your time, doesn’t get you into that peak productivity mind-set. It doesn’t get you into that zone we’re looking for.
And again, I know I’ve said this already, but I’m going to say it again, you have to take real breaks. Workers who really separate themselves from work during their breaks are more productive than those who do not. Good breaks include walking, reading, chatting with others. It can be really tempting to think of dealing with emails or taking phone calls during your breaks, but that just leaves you more tired and needing more energy. We want to not wait until we’re fully exhausted to take our breaks. Waiting until your body is screaming, “I need a break,” means you’ve pushed yourself far too long already. Keeping to your schedule ensures that you work when you are really most productive. Remember, I’ve said this a few times, but it’s far more productive to rest for short periods than it is to keep on working when you’re tired and distracted.
Here’s what I want you to leave this season knowing, if you want to invest in something with a minimum risk and a guaranteed big return, invest in yourself. There is no greater way to see a difference in your life than in to invest in you. And, I know all season long you’ve been hearing this message from me, and I’m hoping that you will begin to see yourself as the priority that you really are.
This has been such a great season, I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every episode and I hope you have too, and I hope that you’re walking away from this knowing that an investment in you is so important. If you have enjoyed the show, I would really love it for you to head to iTunes, leave me a five-star rating. Or, even better, leave me a review. I love reading my reviews. If you don’t know how, I’ve got simple instructions, just go to inkwellpress.com/ratethepodcast and I’ll walk you through this. This week, I have a mini-episode all about how to live to be 100 so be sure to listen to that on Friday. And then, next week our new season begins, season six and we’ll have a whole new topic to explore and discover together. Tune in next week to learn a little bit more about what that will be. 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.