The Big Idea
Scheduling the unschedulable will allow yourself the space to be able to do what you want to do.
Questions I Answer
- How can I figure out what tasks to prioritize?
- How can I feel like I have more time for my family?
- How can I be more productive at work?
- What can I do to create balance in my homelife?
Actions to Take
- Watch this week’s TanyaTV video on How To Schedule Your Day and Find More Free Time
- Believe that today is day one. Don’t keep looking out for one day. Start today. Schedule what feels unschedulable. Put the things into your calendar that you really want to do and then go do them. That’s the key to happiness and living the life you truly want.
Key Topics in the Show
Prioritizing your tasks & investing your time consciously
Setting boundaries to allow yourself to dedicate your time intentionally
Consequences of deprioritizing yourself and your loved ones
Planning your free time in order to truly enjoy it
Resources and Links
Welcome to season seven of Productivity Paradox from Press, a podcast focused on using productivity not just to get more done, but to accomplish what’s most important. Join Tanya this season as she focuses on cultivating happiness through the power of productivity.
To get her free checklist, Five Minutes To Peak Productivity, simply go to Press.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 83.
This season, we’re talking all about cultivating happiness through our productivity. So using our productivity to inject happiness into our day, so that way, at the end of each day, we’re feeling just a little bit happier than we did the day before.
And today’s episode is something I am really excited about because we’re talking about scheduling the unschedulable. And I know you’re thinking to yourself, “What does that even mean?” That’s what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about how we schedule in things into our day that feel like we shouldn’t be scheduling them, but things that’ll truly increase our happiness.
When I’m traveling around, and I speak to lots of different people, the thing that I hear often is that they wish they had more time. But we really don’t want more time, we want to know that we’re spending our time well on the things that are important to us. We want to do things that count in a fulfilling and meaningful way. That’s really what we’re looking for when we say that we want more time. Sometimes we get stuck in these loops of doing things that we have to do to get through life, instead of really doing what we want to do.
We tell ourselves that at some point, this cycle will stop and once these certain conditions are met, things will get much better. We think, “I just need to focus on work until I get promoted. And then in five years, I’ll have time to spend with my kids.” Or, “I have so much to do. I just don’t have the luxury of going out with my friends.” But this, my friends, is like a mirage on the horizon. Each time we get closer, the goal moves back just a little bit more. Truly, without any effort on our part, nothing will change. And our priorities, will continue being put last on our list.
When we spend our days reacting to emails and requests for just-a minute meetings, or other interruptions, that often means we don’t have the time we want to work on proactive tasks, the truly important tasks and the
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activities in our day. When you feel like everything is urgent, it feels so hard to walk away from any one thing. Each task feels unavoidable, and it feels justifiable to miss out on a dance recital, or dinner with friends, or skip time at the gym again, when you think you’re doing what’s right to get everything done.
Usually this feeling is simply because we just don’t know how to prioritize. So instead, we work harder, and we sacrifice what’s important in the process. When you stop worrying about getting everything done, you can focus instead on getting the right things done, and focus on the things that are truly important to you.
Let me share a little unfiltered truth with you. Just because a task is urgent doesn’t mean it’s important. We have to stop treating all of our tasks as equal. We need to prioritize our priorities and you need to start investing your time consciously, so you don’t ever regret where you spent your time each day, each month, and each year.
I use that term investing here purposely because the seeds you plant today, grow into our future. These seeds need watering, and love, and attention if we really want to see our futures thrive and when we invest on what is truly important to us, not only does that increase our future happiness, but it doubles our happiness of today.
A couple of hours of flexible time to work proactively will help you be more productive and get things done. And knowing that this time won’t be disturbed will allow you to get into a state of flow and focus on the task at hand. We have to be really intentional with our time by recognizing the value of our time, and making the best of it.
Because here’s the thing. Our time is valuable. Whether you get paid in a way that feels valuable or not, your time is a finite resource. It is your most valuable resource, and yet we spend it like we have a never ending amount of it. When we decide to change things and make small daily actions work for us rather than against us, we can choose to live intentionally.
So why is it that we don’t spend our time in the right places and really focus in on what is important? We’re not paying attention to our priorities. When we’re not aware of our priorities, we don’t think about spending time on them in the first place. Life starts to pass us by without a sense of meaning.
Instead, we really need to use tools like a planner to note the key activities, and the places in our lives that we want to be spending our time, where we want to invest our energy and our focus. And then we can see when we’re spending time on those priorities. And when we find that we’re not really doing that, we can make adjustments. It’s hard to argue with data.
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You want to know how you spend your time? Look no further than your calendar. When you do, your priorities should be crystal clear because they should be front and center on those pages. And if they’re not, it means it’s time for some adjustments, and that’s fine. We all have times where our priorities are not necessarily where we want them to be. Just means you need to reassess, and readjust, and that’s okay.
But here’s the problem, when we’re not aware of our priorities, we allow others to steal our time. There will never be a shortage of people, or projects, or tasks requesting our time, including in some jobs, the pull to work longer hours. Working with others is a great thing to spend time on. But when we don’t know our own priorities, we try to fulfill ourselves with other peoples’ priorities, and then we end up feeling a little bit empty and overworked. Not a good combination.
When we understand where our own priorities lie, we can set boundaries and dedicate our time intentionally. When we let others eat away at our time, we end up deprioritizing family and friends. And when we feel the pull of the urgent, we often lose sight of the important. One of the most important places to spend time is on our family and our friends. It can seem less of a priority to make it home for dinner, to show up to a gathering of friends, to go on a date with your spouse, or call your patents. Ultimately, this erodes our relationships.
When we intentionally spend our time on our friends and our family, we can build those relationships up and get support during this time where we feel like everything is urgent. Scheduling time with family and friends can feel very Type A, so it might not feel good but when we treat this time as important, we ultimately help ourselves find more harmony in every part of our lives. And even worse, when we allow others to steal our time, we deprioritize ourselves. When we deprioritize ourselves, we don’t take breaks, or maybe even vacations, which we truly need to reduce stress and gain perspective.
Studies have shown that when we skip our breaks and our vacations, we could be at significantly higher risk for developing heart disease and even heart attack. We’re adding unwanted, and quite frankly, unneeded stress into our day. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need to add more stress into my day, there’s plenty already there. So we can make sure that we schedule time off in advance so we can alleviate some of those feelings of guilt. Our goal is that when we look back at our lives, we find that we have a lot more, “I’m so glad I did that stories,” instead of, “I always wanted to sentiments.”
Not making yourself a priority also leads to neglecting our health, even though getting enough sleep, healthy eating, and exercising regularly dramatically increase our day-to-day happiness. The time we schedule now for these self-focused activities, payoff later when we’re avoiding time spent in
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the hospital, or money on medications. Self-care and prioritizing truly make a difference between savoring life and simply trudging through it.
Worst of all, too, when we deprioritize ourselves, we lose track of who we are, what brings us joy, where we are in life, and where are we going. We do these things by spending time intentionally reflecting. This could mean taking walks, meditating, journaling, praying, just zoning out during our morning commute. When we’re always busy, always working on urgent tasks, we lose sight of ourselves, which makes it hard to ever really feel good about ourselves.
We need to intentionally create good habits when we prioritize what is important to us. And good habits don’t necessarily come naturally. Many of us might succumb to watching hours of Netflix or snacking every day if we don’t want more for ourselves. So this comes in the form of scheduling things that you might have thought were unschedulable.
I want you to think about the last time you had a free day and you ended up not doing much, but you still felt tired at the end of the day. When we have free time, it feels counterintuitive to schedule things throughout that day, but that’s exactly what we need to do. Instead of scheduling meetings, and errands, and work like normal, we need to schedule things are restful and beneficial, so we use our time well. Free time is a gift that means you have choices about how you want to spend that time. The problem is, is when we have this time and we don’t put a plan in place of what we want to get done.
When you don’t have a plan, time can pass extremely quickly, to the point where you realize you spent the entire morning scrolling social media, or binge watching TV. So we want to try to not waste away this time with things that feel mindless. And while there’s a time and a place for TV, and social media, and you can do that very intentionally, they can create an addictive feedback loop that bogs us down in a way that makes us want to sit on the couch all day long.
Another addiction you can cut out of your free time? Email. The average worker spends about 25% of their time on sorting, reading, and writing emails, which is far too much time. And here’s the thing with email. Spending more time on it now, doesn’t decrease the amount of time you’re spending on it later. It just creates more time spent later will all the replies coming back to your inbox. So we want to really limit our time in our inbox when we have free space in our day because we want to be conscious of where we’re really spending our time.
Instead, let’s put some plans in place in anticipation of our free time. This makes it more likely you will spend it intentionally. When you have a plan in place, you’re more likely to follow through on that plan. You’ll likely have a wider range of positive experiences when you plan for them, than if you just
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let time pass haphazardly. And I know, people don’t want to plan their free time. It feels counterintuitive, but often, this is exactly what we need in order to truly enjoy it.
Research shows, we’re actually happier when we plan our free time, and that doing nothing doesn’t really make us happy, and neither does watching TV. We often don’t do the things that make us happy. We do the things that feel easy. Now you don’t have to plan out every spare minute of your free time. Just plan three to five events to ensure you feel like you spend it the way that you wanted to. They don’t have to be big events. They could be small events, just things that you enjoy. Going to a fitness class, going to an event, trying a new hiking trail, whatever it is that makes you happy. Figure out what that is and put that into your day.
Planning things in advance also gives you something to anticipate. Research shows that we actually get joy not just from the event itself, but from the anticipation beforehand and the list of activities of what you could do is absolutely endless. You could take a walk, treat to yourself to a special coffee drink, head to the local bookstore, make time to read all the articles you’ve been saving for later, or that book you wanted to start, but never finished. Make time to sit outside or walk outside. Call a friend to catch up. Plan a date with your significant other. It really is up to you. Schedule things that feel unschedulable. The things that are really important to you, block off time in your day and make it happen.
Let me share with you one of the ways that I do this. I absolutely love my best friend, Erica and we live in separate states, so we don’t get to see each other very often. When we get on the phone with one another, I really want it to feel intentional. I want to not only truly enjoy the experience of talking to her myself, but I also want to convey to her how important she is to me. So I want to give her my full attention because really, that’s what she deserves. And while I’d happily talk to her every single day, we both have full time careers, we have families, and activities. You know, life.
So she and I schedule out time to talk on the phone and at the end of each call, we set the time and the date for our next conversation. That way, we both plan around that time and here’s the thing. That doesn’t mean that our friendship is so ultra-structured, and we only speak during those times, and we only have these containers where we can speak. That is not it at all. We have a ton of spontaneous conversations. We’ll do quick chats on the phone, we’ll Voxer each other back and forth, and we text but having that intentional time carved out helps ensure that Erica remains and feels like a priority for me.
When I have that time scheduled, I don’t schedule anything else during that time. That is time that I am pouring love into my best friend and we do fun things together because we schedule this time. We do things like we’ll read books together, even though we can’t get together in person, we create
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our own private little book club to discuss the books and the passages we love. So yes, this time is scheduled but creating that space helps me feel unrushed and I’m able to truly enjoy our conversations fully. I don’t feel like, “Oh, I’m trying to do this while I’m emptying out the dishwasher.” I’m fully focused on her and her alone.
I think that’s what’s most important to me here, is that I’m wanting to make sure that I’m spending my time intentionally. And I think that you would love to live intentionally, as well, where you are conveying to other people how important they are to you. Intentional living is really any lifestyle that is based on your conscious attempt to live according to your values and your beliefs, by making small choices and taking action to fulfill yourself.
When you realize that life is made up of choices, you realize you can really pick your attitudes and your decisions. You don’t have to let past circumstances determine the patterns of your life. Leveraging the power of small consistent actions makes the most significant impact. And one consistent decision you can make, is deciding how you want to live your life, regardless of the choices that other people make.
How do you want to spend your time and who do you want to spend it with? How do you want to feel and what do you want your life to look like? Getting intentional means spending time thinking about these things, and then making choices so you can live that way. It also means returning to your why, or what I call your North Star. Your mission statement, your vision statement, your core values. What passions do you have that are bigger than yourself? Write those down and think about the daily actions you can take to live it.
If you want to spend more time helping people, start by making time for people you already know and care about. If you want to spend more time on a passion project, start with a related project you started, but didn’t finish. Or, one that you’ve always said you’d start someday. If you want to spend time traveling and collecting experiences, start planning a small trip you can take next month. It doesn’t even have to be that far from where you live, but plan it, and make it happen.
Goals and action steps within them give us something to work towards and help keep us motivated. We’re shaped by our purpose and acting it out thorough our goals. Completing goals gives us a real sense of intentionality and attaches meaning to our daily actions. When we are purposefully completing our goals, we realize that the small daily steps really do make a difference, and influence the biggest changes in our lives.
I want to encourage you to intentionally invest your time now on important things, instead of saving them for later, which often means they don’t happen at all. We end up with a more abundant life and more
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accomplishments in the future when we live a life of intention. And that means, scheduling what feels unschedulable. I want you to feel good about what you’ve done. And when we have this space to be able to do what we want to do, let’s make the choices that feel good to us.
If you wait until all of your tasks are done to sit down and enjoy what is most important to you, that time will never come. There’s always some sort of work to be done. You’ll end up putting it off, exhausted by the end of your day, too tired to enjoy the things that you in your heart of hearts truly enjoy most. And that is not the way that we want to live.
This is why on the front page of our 2019 planners, it says, “One day or day one?” Will you keep telling yourself, “One day I will plan that trip I want to make?” Or, “One day, I will accomplish my life goals?” Or, will you start being more intentional and say, “Today, is day one of my journey?
I want to encourage you to believe that today is day one. Don’t keep looking out for one day. Start today. Schedule what feels unschedulable. Put the things into your calendar that you really want to do and then go do them. That’s the key to happiness and living the life you truly want.
Want to go a little deeper into this idea of intentional living? Be sure to watch my video this week on YouTube, on How To Schedule Your Day and Find More Free Time. You can find that at inkWELLpress.com/youtube. And next week on the podcast, we will be doing an Ask Tanya episode, where I will be answering the questions you have submitted, all about productivity and finding your happiness.
If you’d like to submit a question, you can still do that. Just go to inkWELLpress.com/question to submit your question. And I’ll choose my favorites to put on the air. Alright. Until next time, have a beautiful and productive week.
Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press. To join Tanya’s free group, simply go to inkWELLpress.com/group.