084: Ask Tanya: Being Intentional & Cultivating Happiness | Tanya Dalton Skip to the content
August 21, 2018   |   Episode #:

084: Ask Tanya: Being Intentional & Cultivating Happiness

In This Episode:

Learn how to be intentional with your family in today’s Ask Tonya Q&A episode. I’m answering listener’s questions about how to create & maximize time with family, the difference between urgent tasks and important tasks, getting your family on board with new systems, and how changing your perspective on others’ successes can lead to your own accomplishments.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

Urgent and important are not the same.

Questions I Answer

  • How can I be more present with my family?
  • How do I get started when I have so much on my plate?
  • How do I plan and maximize my downtime with my kids?
  • How can I feel more successful?

Actions to Take

Key Topics in the Show

  • My favorite tips on how to carve out whitespace & recharge so that we can work effectively & feel successful

  • Distinguishing between what is important and what is urgent in our daily lives

  • Planning and maximizing your downtime with your family

  • What is the frequency illusion? And how to use it as a springboard for success

Resources and Links

Show Transcript

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 84. Today is one of  my favorite style of episodes. It’s an Ask Tanya episode. So it’s your questions,  the ones that you have submitted to me, and I take time to answer them  directly. So any time that you have questions throughout any season of the  podcast, you can submit them to me at inkWELLpress.com/question, and then  when I have an Ask Tanya episode, I go through the questions that have been  submitted, I choose out a few, and then I answer them here on the show. So  feel free at any time to submit questions, because that’s where I got the  questions for today’s episode.  

Let’s go ahead and get started. Let’s dive into this. Our first question is  from Ashley in Bad Axe, Michigan, and she says, “I’ve been working through  your tips for the last year or so, and they’ve helped me immensely. I feel less  stress, more organized, and happier in general. I’m a very driven person by  nature, and always have been, which means during my downtime I have a hard  time just shutting it off. Any tips on how to help me forget everything waiting  and just enjoy my accomplishments and time with my family?”  

Well, Ashley, I totally understand this feeling, because I, too, have a hard  time shutting my brain off. I know for me, my brain is always buzzing, always  working, and I think a lot of people who are driven to achieve their goals and  to cultivate success, they have a hard time relaxing and just enjoying the  moment. And for me, even when I am enjoying the moment, my brain is still  working, and it sounds like maybe you’re the same way. What I want us to  avoid is that need to feel like we have to keep going, that we have to keep  working and planning. We want to really carve out some white space to be  able to recharge so that that can allow us to be the successful person we  really want to be when we want to focus on work.  

It’s really important that we separate these, and one of the first things  you can do is put your phone down. Too often, we are living life through that  three-inch screen. We feel that need to do a quick check-in, to just give the  phone a quick glance. You see, checking our phone is a dopamine addiction.  Just like we’ve talked about in the past with our to-do list, it’s that need that  we have to check in, because we get a tiny little hit of dopamine each time we  

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  1. It feels like an itch, right? That you have to just pick it up just really quickly,  and then we’re back into work mode.  

So we really want to make sure that we’re not spending time on our  phone, especially when we are wanting to be in our personal spaces. We get  so focused on our destination we often forget to look up and be a part of that  journey and be a part of the daily lives and the daily interactions that we have  with our family. We need to embrace some boredom. We forget that boredom  is a key part of creativity. We need to create that space. And often, we feel the  need to pick up our phone to fill up the empty spaces to try avoid being  bored. And instead, we want to look around and engage with the people  around us.  

Have you ever done this when you’re talking to somebody, even if it’s a  conversation you’re totally interested in, but then for some reason you pick up  your phone and you take a quick look at it? What’s the message you’re  sending there? It’s phone-snubbing people, right? And we don’t like it when  other people do it to us. I know it drives me crazy when I’m talking to  someone and they check their Apple Watch or they check their phone,  especially if I’m trying to talk to them about something personal.  

So we really want to avoid getting on our phone, especially when we’re  in personal time, unless you’re doing something very intentional on it. I’m not  saying we can’t jump on Instagram or Facebook. I’m just saying we need to  compartmentalize things. We need to give ourselves a container because I  believe compartmentalization is important, keeping those lines drawn  between work and home. When we look at our phone, we can end up going  down into that rabbit hole where our brain is re-engaged with our work  thoughts, when we really want to be in home mode.  

I think that’s what’s really important here is we’re not  

compartmentalizing. We’re not separating those two areas of our lives. For  me, when I compartmentalize, it’s like opening a door to a different section of  my life and closing the one behind me, so that way when I’m in home mode,  I’m really, truly focused on the people in my home life and I shut that door of  work behind me.  

Now, that’s not to say that I’m not going to be checking in occasionally  at work. I know that’s not often possible to just shut things down at 5:00 PM.  And really, honestly, most businesses frown upon that. I know for me, even  though I understand the importance of separating them, I still want to check in  and the evening hours a time or two, and that’s okay. What we need to do is  we need to carve out specific times that you will check in with work. We want  to say, “Okay, you know what? I’m not going to check in all day Saturday, but  Sunday between the hours of 1:00 and 2:00, that’s my time to check in with  work on the weekend,” or whatever works for you, maybe in the evening from  7:30 to 7:45.  

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I think what’s really important is that you make it mindful, that you make  it a container, so you get in and you get out. What happens is we don’t often  give ourselves a start time and an end time to get into our email, and so that  email just continues to bleed into other areas, because unlike other tasks,  when you check an email, it doesn’t necessarily start cleaning out your inbox.  More emails are coming in all the time, so it keeps adding up. So give yourself  a container and make it a mindful time that you are checking in.  

Do keep in mind you can do things like pausing your email program.  Most email programs have a pause button that you can implement, so that  way you’re not getting new emails coming into your inbox. So consider  looking into whether your email program will allow you to do that. I know that  Gmail does it, so if your business uses G Suites, usually you can go ahead and  set that up.  

The other thing I want to talk to you about is really the idea of the brain  dump. I think this is one of the biggest things to get things out of your brain  onto paper so you’re no longer thinking about it. So I would encourage you to  not to forget everything waiting, but to write it down. There’s a big difference,  because you can’t just tell somebody, “Just don’t even think about it.” Right?  That’s some simple advice that’s not really very simple to follow, but if you sit  down and you do a brain dump of the random thoughts, the action items, the  priorities, the things you don’t want to forget, when you sit down and you take  the time to do a brain dump and write them down, your brain stops worrying  about it, especially if you have a process in place where you check that  notepad at the beginning of your day when you’re doing your planning. A lot  of it is the stress of your brain wanting to work on things.  

So then once you’ve done your brain dump, the next day you can plug  those spec things into your planner, and then you can focus on the things that  you really need to get done. I do want to encourage you, too, when you do a  brain dump, I think it’s really important not to just stop with all the things that  you need to get done, but take a minute to also dump in a few things that you  are grateful for. That helps to create a little bit of happiness right before you  go to bed. And to me, that allows my thoughts to quiet, and any thoughts that  I have are really focused on what is positive, and it allows me to relax.  

Our next question comes from Rachel in Massachusetts, and she says,  “I’m struggling with getting started, and I feel like I’m so deep in the hole I  can’t get out of it. Nothing’s in order, and even though I try to create priority  lists, everything has become urgent because things have snowballed. I don’t  know if there’s a way to get systems and automations working for me. Trying  to get family on board is difficult, because there really is no buy-in. I get met  with, ‘We don’t need to plan. We’ll just do it when it needs to get done,’ which  it never does, or, ‘Why does that need to be on the calendar?’ How do I start?  How do I tend my garden when it’s nothing by piles of dirt and mulch. Thank  you.”  

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Well, Rachel, I understand this feeling, and there’s two things I want to  tackle here, ’cause I hear two things in your question. So I hear that we’re  struggling with what’s urgent and what’s important, and then I also hear that  you’re struggling a little bit with getting family on board. So let’s start with the  first one, “Everything is urgent because things have snowballed and feel out of  control.” And here’s the key. I think what’s really hard for people is we get  caught up in believing that urgent and important are the same thing, and in  fact, they’re very different things.  

Things that are important are tied to your mission, to your vision and  your core values, what I like to call your North Star, which means they’re often  tied to your goals. They’re tied into the person you want to be and where it is  you want to be going as that person. Urgent items are tied only to time, only  to time. They have nothing to do with being important. They only have to do  with time. Just because something is urgent doesn’t mean it’s important. And  this is a hard concept for a lot of people to get, because things that are urgent  are screaming fires in our day and we feel like we must take care of those first  because they are screaming out at us. Right? But really, what we want to do is  we want to spend more of our time on what’s important.  

So I want you to think through those tasks that you feel are really  snowballing, and decision, “Are they really important, or are they simply  urgent?” You see, when we spend time on what’s important, it doesn’t become  urgent. And that, I think, is the biggest secret to productivity is when we  spend time on the things that are really going to move us forward in the  direction we want to go in, the things that are tied to that North Star. Those  things never come into urgency mode where we feel like we’re having to take  care of these fires.  

Let me give you a quick example. When your car breaks down, that  becomes an urgent problem, right, because you need your car to drive  yourself to work, to drive yourself to the grocery store. It becomes an urgent  problem. But if we take care of it as an important item before it’s urgent by  getting the car serviced or taken care of, it doesn’t end up breaking down. It  doesn’t become something that’s urgent.  

And so I understand, it’s hard to focus on what’s important but not  urgent, but that is really where we have to spend our time. Otherwise, it’s a  little bit like digging a hole in your garden during a dust storm. It just keeps  building up. And that’s that snowballing that you’re experiencing. You’re  experiencing that you’re digging these holes and they’re filling back in with  more and more tasks.  

So I want to encourage you to give urgent tasks time, but we don’t want  to give it a lot of time. We need to give it a very limited time. You have to start  pulling yourself out of this hole step by step, and it’s not going to happen  overnight. It’s not going to happen all at once, since it has snowballed for so  

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long. You might actually have a very large pileup of these urgent things that  you need to do.  

So let’s break down urgent at this point, and let’s figure out what needs  to happen day by day. So what I want to encourage you to do is each day  figure out what needs to be done that day and that day only. Don’t worry  about what’s going on in the future. Worry about that day. And then I want  you to also choose at least one task that’s important, and it’s something that  can be done to get ahead before it becomes urgent. So each day you’re  tackling the things that are urgent, but then take on one or two things that are  important but are not urgent at all. That’s how we’re going to start getting  ourselves out of this hole that you’re feeling. Okay?  

So then I also want to talk about the second part of your question,  which is getting your family on board. And I know it is such a struggle when  someone who is a significant other, like your husband, is not really playing nice  in the sandbox and they’re not really wanting to support you in these ideas  that you have. So I think the key here is to start by understanding, why does  your husband feel this way? Instead of feeling like it’s you against him, I want  you to come together.  

I think that’s really important, because we have to respect the fact that  there’s a reason why your husband feels this way. So is there something in his  past or an experience that’s made planning feel too rigid? Because it seems to  me like he’s pushing back on the idea of structure, and there’s likely a reason  for that. Maybe it’s an over-structured upbringing or too much rigidity at work.  I want to encourage you to see if you can dig a little deeper to find what that  is so then you can approach these items with a little more compassion  towards why he feels that way.  

Now, I still want you to be firm and stand your ground. We’ve got to set  due dates for things. But I think it’s really important to understand why he’s  feeling this way so you can address these issues when you’re talking to him  about the things that you want to have done. One of the biggest parts I  believe about relationships is having this mutual respect for each other. So we  have to respect the fact that he feels this way and you feel this other way, and  come together and find a way for that to work together. I think letting him feel  like he does have a say will really make a difference in how he feels about it.  

And then I want to encourage you to really start being a cheerleader  when something, no matter how minor it is, gets done on time. You have to  get your family on board through guidance and support through some gentle  reminders, because sounds like you can’t do this on your own. And you know  what? You don’t have to. This is a thing. Family is there to support one  another, and you just need to bring them together.  

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It’s going to take a little extra love and energy to plant the seeds of  success, because truly, what is a garden at the beginning but piles of dirt and  mulch. But if you tend to it regularly, giving it love and food, you start to see  the tiniest green buds that soon enough bloom into growing plants and  flowers, and that’s what you’ll get, too.  

My next question is from Jamie in Gilbert, Arizona, who asks, “How do  you plan and maximize your downtime with your kids?” Well, Jamie, this is a  great question, but just like anything else, I plan it out. I schedule it. I make  sure it feels very intentional.  

One of my very favorite parenting books is called “How to Really Love  Your Child” by Dr. Ross Campbell. It’s a book that I read again and again,  because it really talks about the importance of quality when it comes to the  relationships with your children. And that’s true not just for your kids, but for  any relationship that you really want to cultivate, whether that’s your spouse  or your friends or your parents, or really anyone.  

One of the concepts the book talks about is when people talk, stop  what you’re doing and give them the attention they deserve. That means that  yes, you’re not going to continue whatever task you’re working on. If someone  wants to talk to you about something important, you stop what you’re doing.  Let’s say you’re chopping vegetables for dinner. I stop what I’m doing while  I’m at the cutting board. I turn and I look at my kids, and I look them in the eye  and I have a conversation with them.  

Now, this doesn’t have to happen every single time, because we have a  ton of conversations at my house, as I’m sure you do, as well, but when I feel  like it’s an important conversation, I treat is as an important conversation and I  think that’s really important, is that we give our kids our full focus. Too often  they’re getting these little, tiny smatterings of what we’ve got, and I think it’s  important that when you are wanting to feel more intentional with your  children that you really make that a focus.  

These downtimes can be found in pockets that you actually create  yourself. Here’s an example of creating a pocket of time to be really intentional  with some downtime. You can purposely leave for an activity 10 minutes  earlier than you normally do. That way, actually you’ll end up feeling a little  less stressed about getting there, which is a bonus, and when you’re less  rushed, conversation flows easier in the car. The car is a fabulous place to give  your kids some focused attention.  

I like to schedule in that time, because then when we arrive early, not  only have we had a conversation on the way to the place, when we arrive  there, I shut off the car and I enjoy some really good one-on-one time with my  kids. I turn around in my seat, I look them in the eye, and we have a  conversation. And it’s amazing how deep conversations can go when you’re  

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confined to a car. Those are the moments where I find my kids open up and  share the most intimate things or they share things that have been in their  heart for a while, I think because they realize I’m not rushing around and I’m  truly focused on them, they feel a little more open. So try to find ways that  you can carve out these pockets for yourself.  

Also, I would encourage you to try to create some intentional time to  team-build. Create some activities that you can do together as a family.  Brainstorm some activities that they would enjoy, and then call a family  meeting and start gathering their ideas. Give them some ownership over this  time. I think that’s really important. When you involve them in the process,  they feel like they are truly a part of it rather than something that’s happening  to them. They’re told all day long by teachers, by you, by everyone, what to do  and how to do it and when to do it, so it feels empowering to them to feel like  they have a say.  

Plus, you might be surprised by the things your kids really want to do  with you. For example, Kate likes for me to make slime with her, something I  personally would never have added to my list, but it’s something that we now  do together. Having a list makes it easier to actually schedule out the  activities. It’s kind of like when it’s dinnertime and someone asks you what  restaurant you want to go to and you can’t think of a single one, what we want  to do here is we want to put a little water in the well and make it easier for you  pick activities, and then plan it out. Put it on the calendar, talk about how fun  it will be.  

It’s not just activities themselves that build happiness; it’s the  anticipation of them, drawing it out, stretching it out, so time feels longer. You  end up savoring that time more, and it feels more intentional and in the time  building up to this activity, you can gather materials you need, make it clear to  anyone who might interrupt, like work or friends, that this is time for your  family, and then unplug and focus only on this time you have with your kids.  Just like mono-tasking at work, mono-tasking with your kids helps you get  into a state of intention where you enjoy the moment without worry, and  that’s really how meaningful relationships really begin to build and grow.  

Our next question is from Lenora in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and she  says, “It seems like everyone around me is getting all the things I’m working  for without even trying: getting married, getting promoted, having kids. Why  does it seem like I’m the only one not finding success?”  

Well, Lenora, I know in times like this it feels like you’re the only one with  this problem, but let me assure you, you are not alone in this feeling. I know  for me when I was dealing with infertility and I was struggling to pregnant  with Kate, this was a time where I felt like everyone around me was pregnant,  literally everyone. I think I had one week where five of my friends told me they  were pregnant, and then I went to the grocery store, and every magazine had  

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on its cover some sort of pregnant celebrity. So suddenly it felt to me that  everybody was pregnant. Friends who weren’t even trying to have kids were  pregnant. And that felt really isolating, and it felt really upsetting, because I  felt like I was failing at not becoming pregnant.  

What was going on, though, is the same thing that you are experiencing,  and that’s the feeling of the effects of frequency illusion, which is the  phenomenon that when you’re working towards something or if you learn  about something new, you suddenly start seeing it everywhere. Have you ever  had that happen, where maybe you see some information about a celebrity  and then suddenly they’re everywhere? Or let’s say there’s a purse that you’ve  seen that you really like and you would love to own it, and then everywhere  you look suddenly it’s in the magazines and people are carrying it around and  you see it everywhere you go.  

Here’s the thing, it feels like it’s some kind of weird coincidence, but  really, it is this frequent illusion that we’re experiencing. Your brain is  constantly scanning our environment. It takes in millions and millions of bits of  information every single second. It’s a lot of information, so it has to filter.  Otherwise, we would go crazy with the amount of information our brain would  have to process.  

So your brain is constantly searching, filtering, and scanning for different  things. Really, it’s the things that are important to you. So once your mind has  declared that an idea is important, it sets up a mental filter, so new  information about this idea reaches your awareness instead of getting filtered  out as unimportant. So even though those things were there all along, they’re  suddenly being placed front and center in your brain, so it feels like it’s  everywhere even when it’s not. Now, that’s the reason why you’re feeling like  everybody’s getting all these things and you’re not is because you’re starting  to notice it more. It’s not necessarily that it’s happening more often; it’s just  that your brain is filtering out for that.  

Now, this can actually be a good thing. Since you’re primed to notice  this idea around you, you can use this to your advantage as a springboard to  gather ideas and to feel motivated to keep working towards whatever it is  you’re wanting. For example, if you have a friend who just got promoted,  great, ask them about their experience. What did they work on to get the  promotion? How did the conversation with their boss go? And so on.  Whatever it is, use that as a springboard. And instead of seeing other people  getting what you want and feeling demotivated, use it instead as motivation,  because if they can do it, you can, too, and you can learn from their  experiences and use them for support. So I want to encourage you to look at  things that way instead.  

Now, I do have one more listener question that I would love to answer,  but we’re out of time. So what I’m going to do this week is I’m actually going  

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to answer this on Tanya TV. The question will be from Lena, who wants to  know about managing a thriving career and having a happy, healthy home life  without one suffering. So we’re talking a little bit about balance. And that’ll be  on my Tanya TV channel, which you can get at inkWELLpress.com/youtube,  and I have new videos on there every Tuesday that relate to what we’re talking  about here on the podcast.  

Next week we’re going to continue talking about cultivating happiness  through productivity by talking about eliminating stress by bending time, so  I’m excited to talk to you about that. In the meantime, I would love for you to  join my group. We have lots of questions and discussions, just like we did here  today on this episode, all the time in my free group, and I’d love for you to  join. You can request an invitation to join at inkWELLpress.com/group. I’d love  to see you in there. 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.