The Big Idea
Having a system for planning enables us to achieve our goals
Questions I Answer
- What’s the best way to create a planning system that works for me?
- How can I be more productive?
- What’s the best way to plan your day?
- How can I feel more productive every day?
Actions to Take
- Watch the newest episode of TanyaTV on my YouTube channel: How to Prioritize Your To-Do List
- Purge, process, prioritize, protect and propel. It’s not difficult, but when you take the time and space to actually implement a system like this, you really will start to see a difference in how you move towards your goals.
Key Topics in the Show
Simplifying our lives by creating a process for ourselves
Taking ownership of our goals by writing them down
The 5 P’s for how to make plans and achieve goals
Resources and Links
- Weekly Kickstart Inserts
- Weekly Kickstart Notepad
- Related Episode: Episode 062: Prioritizing the Right Things
Welcome to season eight of Productivity Paradox with Tanya Dalton. A podcast focused on using productivity not just to do more, but to achieve what’s most important to you. Join Tanya this season as she focuses on planning for success using proven productivity strategies. To get her free checklist, Five Minutes To Peak Productivity, simply go to inkWELLpress.com/podcast. To get her free checklist, Five Minutes To Peak Productivity, simply go to inkWELLpress.com/podcast.
Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton and this is episode 92. Welcome to season eight of Productivity Paradox. It’s a whole new season, which means a brand new intro done by my husband John, and a brand new topic.
This season is all about planning for success. As we move towards the end of the year and into the next, this is the ideal time to lay down the groundwork and focus on how planning for success can help lead us into happier, more productive lives. We’ll be going deeper than just how to plan. We’ll be talking about distractions, time blocking, all sorts of topics. And we’ll be spending a lot of time talking about goal setting, and so, so much more.
Good planning pushes us towards our goals on a daily basis. When we work on goals daily, we’ll achieve them, and that is directly tied to solid planning. So today, I wanna talk about having a system and how it is so important to our success. I really want to talk about creating a planning system that works for you. Think about systems that you already use in your daily lives, like a system for doing laundry. When we do laundry, we don’t just take that heap of clothing and throw it into the washing machine, well at least I hope you don’t. You may not think of laundry as a system, but it is. Think about it. We first gather the items and then we sort them. Lights, darks, towels, blankets and so on. Some articles have special circumstances, like delicates which can be washed but need to be hung up. Other things aren’t washed at all, like things that need to be dry cleaned. This is a system. Your system may look different from what other people do, but it’s what works best for you.
Having a system in place is crucial to our ultimate success, and not just on laundry day. Think about your goals, those big goals that take time and energy. How do we accomplish these goals? Well, when we plan, we’re actively working towards our goals. But if we don’t have a system to make sure our planning is effective, it’s really easy to understand how we get off track.
Look at it this way, each day we wanna inch a little bit closer to our goals. If you get one percent closer to your big goals, the huge goals, every single week, within a year you’ll be 52% of the way there. Planning and having a system for planning shows us how to get to our goals each and every day. Small battles lead to big victories. One percent is minuscule really, and it’s likely actually that you can do much, much more. Having a foundation and making progress towards those big goals
©Productivity Paradox Page 1 of 6
is the reason for having a planning system. Systems provide that structure we need to achieve our goals.
We talked about systems at length during season three. So, as you know, systems are incredibly important for productivity and for your happiness. But, it’s important to know that just because we have systems, it doesn’t mean that they are set in stone. What works for us now, may not work for us in a few months or a few years, maybe even in a few weeks. These systems are always evolving just like we are.
In my family we have many systems that we attribute to our success. We have systems for making school lunches, for assigning chores and yes, for planning. Those systems though have changed over time. I used to work on our weekly plans for both home and work on Sunday afternoons. But, since started making a conscious effort to really separate my home and my work life, I’ve moved to doing this on Sunday for home and Monday work. I shared this process recently on a Tanya TV episode called, How I Plan With Our Family’s Weekly Planning Routine. So, I want you to check that out if you have any questions about how to plan with your family.
But I wanna continue with this idea of sharing the ways that we can simplify our lives by creating a process for ourselves. This is important because it’s more than just a list, it’s a system. I thought we needed to really dive into this, because while we recognize that planning is key, I found that a lot of people don’t really have the structure for how to plan. But if we don’t know how to plan, it’s no wonder why we feel so overwhelmed. We need to take the time to write things down. And I think that’s a really important part of understanding what works best for you. Because we often forget how important it is to take the time and the space to actually write. Because when we write things down, it allows us to free up the brain space. And that actually deepens the connection to that information, because it has a visual queue and a reminder, which means that we’re much more likely to remember that information later.
This is actually called The Generation Effect. People are more likely to remember what they’ve written than what they’ve read. Writing down plans then is even more important than just thinking about them or typing them. Writing down our goals is taking ownership of them and creating our own path to success. Research has shown that we’re 42% more likely to achieve goals that are written down than those that aren’t. Part of this is due to the Endowment Effect, which indicates that we are more successful if we feel like an idea or a task actually belongs to us. Writing down our goals is taking ownership of them. This is why it’s key to understand and to own our day. We set those rhythms when we decide what’s most important. Without this sense of ownership, we can begin to feel like we’re at the mercy of everyone else’s demands. And that’s not a very good feeling. I think we can all agree.
It’s crucial for us to create an environment that enables us to be successful. Environment is so important. We often connect the environment to the situation that we’re in. Think popcorn at the movies, you might not even want popcorn when you go to the movies, but you automatically associate popcorn with the theater. It’s the same thing with the environment you create for planning. Maybe for you that means sitting in a comfortable chair or playing quiet music in the background. Selecting a
©Productivity Paradox Page 2 of 6
space to work on your planning and your goals is really one of the big keys to giving them focus and attention they deserve.
You need to use that dopamine we’ve talked about in the past, you need to use that to your advantage. Dopamine is that chemical that helps control the brain’s reward center. It’s released when we get something that we want. It makes us feel good that we’ve achieved our goals, even the small ones. And this makes us more likely to continue doing the task that cause that feel good reaction. So, when we’re planning and taking action, use that dopamine to your advantage. We’ve talked in the past about how dopamine has good parts and bad parts to it, this is one of the ways we can really use it for good.
So, I really wanted to explore this idea of how to plan, because I think it’s so important. I’ve developed a system called the Five P’s that I think will help. The Five P’s are: purge, process, prioritize, protect and propel. I wanna go quickly into what each one of these means.
So, the first one is purge. When we purge, we’re moving information out of our brain and onto the page. The act of writing down is so important because it frees up your brain space, so that you could really focus. We experience this all the time. Think of an instance when you’ve been working on a task and an idea pops into your brain. What do you do? Most of us write it down so we can get back to focusing on the task, right?
According to Scott Schaffer, Associate Dean and Professor or Management at Wake Forest University School of Business says, “Many, if not most people, carry around a lot of stuff in their heads that they’re trying to keep track of and remember, including appointments, meetings, project deadlines and to-do’s. Doing this causes brain fatigue.” It’s very similar to decision fatigue, which we discussed in several episodes. He goes on to remind us that mental lists distract us from the more productive uses of our brain. So, doing a brain dump really does help.
In my Five P’s system, I call this a purge. To purge, we list all the tasks that we need the complete. Get them out of your brain because our brains need to release this information, so designate a time and a space for this to happen. It can be done on your own or with other members of your team. I mentioned earlier that I now do my weekly purge on Sundays for home and on Mondays for work. I use the Weekly Kickstart to help me organize this list. Now you could use a sheet of notebook paper or a blank sheet in your planner, it’s really up to you. But to purge, you jot down everything that needs to be accomplished for that week. This is so important for getting things out of your head and onto that page. Purging can also jumpstart our creativity. Remember, this is just the first step, but it’s not the only step.
A vital part of the Five P’s is step number two, which is processing. Many people move from listing straight to doing, without taking the steps necessary to make sense of what needs to be done. So, we don’t wanna skip over step two. Step two is process. When we process, we look at each day individually, rather than planning out the entire week. This gives us some flexibility to make changes. We don’t know what’s gonna come up from day to day, so it really allows us that flexibility that happens because, you know, life, right?
©Productivity Paradox Page 3 of 6
Using the Weekly Kickstart as a guidepost empowers you to use the beginning of each day to set up those tasks. Spend the first 10 minutes of your morning setting up your day. Being adaptable and moving things around is so necessary. And, I want you to ask yourself during this time, “What can I get done today and today only?” What this does, is it allows us to set up our days to be achievable. And that’s really important. We wanna set ourselves up for success, by setting up our days to be achievable. Each day is a new opportunity. Each day also brings its own set of challenges. So, planning each day as it comes, allows us to give ourselves some grace for the less than ideal days. We all have them. But it also allows us to soar even higher on those really good days.
When we do this, when we take this time to process, we develop a healthy belief that we have the ability to handle the challenges. And let’s be honest, we do have that ability. We just sometimes forget. In this way, we don’t let the challenges of the day derail us. Sometimes the day before can be really difficult, and if we allow that to bleed into our morning, that sets our day up for not feeling so good. So, just look at that day and what you wanna get done. We don’t wanna start the day feeling defeated by the things that were left undone the day before. As you know, it all starts with momentum. Small steps are better than no steps.
Processing is a habit and it’s a skill. When we set aside time for this, we begin to show value for it. And then we become more realistic about the expectations that we can set for ourselves, and we can start to see the impact of overloading our list and what that’s doing to our lives. This is what allows us to set ourselves up for success. And ultimately, it moves us forward to the next step of the Five P system.
Prioritizing. When we prioritize, we identify the importance of the task and the urgency. What I found is that most people focus on the urgency of the task rather than the importance. And that’s how we end up with these really, really long to-do lists. For a long time I really resisted creating a daily planner, because I felt doing so would encourage these impossibly long to-do lists. But, using a priority list allows us to designate which tasks are immediate, which ones are important, and which ones are insignificant. And that’s why I set up our daily planner that way, because I really want you to focus in and prioritize on where each task needs to fall. That empowers us to prioritize those items that must be addressed first.
I don’t wanna spend too long talking about priority lists, because we’ve talked about them in several episodes. We’ve talked about them in episode 33, we also discussed how to prioritize in episode 62. So, to use our time more effectively, you can revisit one of those episodes if you’d like more information on the priority list, or I’m gonna do a new episode of Tanya TV this week called, How To Prioritize Your To do List, where I’ll walk through this process step by step.
But here’s what I want us to take away, too often we get caught up in doing those tasks that feel most urgent rather than the ones that are most important. And really, it’s the ones that are most important that are going to move us closer to our goals. Urgent tasks, are just that, they’re urgent. They must be done because of the deadline, but they’re not necessarily the most important. This is why a priority list is key. It’s both evaluating the value of what we must do and putting a level on each
©Productivity Paradox Page 4 of 6
task, so it’s apparent to us where we want to focus first. Being productive is about prioritizing and making the best use of our 1440 minutes we have every single day.
And that brings us to our fourth P, which is protect. When we protect our time, we fill our calendar. That’s right, we fill our calendar in. When you’re doing your morning process time, I want you to put in your most important tasks first. That empowers us to identity our priorities and give them the most time. Schedule batch time for checking email and doing other similar tasks. Block your time. I’m going to actually be talking more about time blocking in an episode in just a few weeks. So, if you want more on that, I’ll be covering it, don’t worry. But I want you to protect your time by thinking about who you are and how you work best.
Remember those ultradian rhythms we are always talking about? We all have these natural rhythms, an ebb and a flow to our energy levels. Having an awareness of this allows us to better protect the most productive times of our day. Some of us do this by waking up early, so we have the energy and the space to work on things that are most important to us. Reading, writing, exercising. Some people have a quick burst of energy midday. Other people it’s late at night. You really have to make time for your priorities and protect the time that you wanna spend on them. And that’s different for everybody.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who’s a mother of five children, she sets aside regular mandatory no-work time. She prioritizes eating dinner and spending time with her family, so she doesn’t work from 6:00 to 9:00 PM. In fact, she actually turns her phone off during that time. And then, she’s open to working after that time or working up until that 6:00 PM time. So, she’s very protective of the time that’s important to her.
But it’s not just at home that we can protect our time. At work, you can create themes for more effective time management. In fact, many offices choose to have a day and a time set aside for meetings and to limit the amount of time spent on those meetings. Some places have even taken this a step further, with a technique called Silent Start. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos began this style of meetings several years ago. All attendees read and think while studying memos that contain important information. That’s all prepared ahead of time by the meeting facilitator. Now there are several benefits to this, the undivided attention to the material, the generation of ideas, the focused participation, everyone is literally on the same page. So, I want to encourage you to make sure you’re protecting your time.
The fifth P is propel and this is my favorite of all the Five P’s. Because to me, this is really what boosts your productivity the most, but it’s the one that many people forget about. When we propel, we use the momentum from the day before to move forward towards our goals. You often hear me talk about the water in the well, I use that term a lot here on Productivity Paradox, because it’s so important. So, in many households, this momentum might look like putting items in a designated space. Backpacks by the back door, work items on your desk, like I’ll put my planner on my desk or all the lunch items together where they’re easily found. You find that by doing this, you’re more calm in the morning as you gather your belongings and head out the door.
©Productivity Paradox Page 5 of 6
By planning ahead the night before, and using that time before bed to debrief and prepare, you set yourself up for success. These intentional steps propel us forward the next morning and provide the momentum we need to get started on our daily tasks.
The Five P’s is really pretty simple to do, and that’s why I made everything start with the same letter, so it’s easy to remember. Purge, process, prioritize, protect and propel. It’s not difficult, but when you take the time and space to actually implement a system like this, you really will start to see a difference in how you move towards your goals. And that’s what’s really important here. Each day, we’re making steps to getting closer and closer to our big goals and dreams.
David Niven, from 100 Simple Secrets Of Successful People says, “Life satisfaction is 22% more likely for those with a steady stream of minor accomplishments than those who express interest in only major accomplishments.” So in other words, making these small steps really leads to a happier, more fulfilling life.
Researchers who focus on happiness, have consistently found that pursuing goals is a trait that happier people have in common. So, when we think about our best life, we focus on how to get there rather than the reasons why we can’t, or we won’t ever get there. It’s embracing optimism and pursuing the attainment of these goals that makes them possible. And that, that’s what makes our best life a reality. And that’s what I want for you. So, I am absolutely thrilled that this is the episode to kick off this entire season on planning.
As a matter of fact, next week we’ll be talking about the power of paper, how journaling can change your life. And then don’t forget I do have a Tanya TV episode I talked about earlier, about how to prioritize using that priority list system, where I’ll go through step by step, that priority list system that we’ve talked about before. But what’s great about Tanya TV episodes, is because they’re videos, I can really show you how it all works. So, you can find that at inkWELLpress.com/YouTube.
Now, this season, we’re going to be talking all about planning. So, if you do have any questions about planning or how to plan, be sure to submit them, because I will have an Ask Tanya episode as part of this season. Simply go to inkWELLpress.com/question, you can fill out a little survey with your question there and I’ll choose a couple of my favorites to share on a future episode. And I’ll probably do one on a Tanya TV episode as well.
All right. We have a big season coming up and I cannot wait. So, until next time, have a beautiful and productive week.
Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox. To get free access to Tanya’s valuable checklist, Five Minutes To Peak Productivity, simply go to inkWELLpress.com/podcast.