124: How to Fill Your Days with Substance | Tanya Dalton Skip to the content
May 28, 2019   |   Episode #:

124: How to Fill Your Days with Substance

In This Episode:

It’s vital to learn how to fill your days with substance, allowing you to feel happier and more content in your daily life. In today’s episode, we’re talking about the importance of self-care and taking time out of your day to do things that fill up your cup. I’ll share some research about life satisfaction and give you actionable strategies to make yourself a priority again. It’s time to curb your people-pleasing patterns for good.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

You cannot shine your light on others if your battery needs recharging.

Questions I Answer

  • How can I take time for me?
  • What is self care?
  • How can I do the things I want without feeling guilty?
  • How can I make time for self care?

Actions to Take

Key Topics in the Show

  • 5 things to remember when scheduling your days

  • Learning to treat yourself as a priority

  • Creating time buffers to bank up time for yourself

  • Listening to your heart and doing what makes you happy

  • Being flexible and open to curveballs in life

Resources and Links

Show Transcript

Welcome to Season 10 of Productivity Paradox with Tanya Dalton, a podcast 

focused on helping you achieve your best life. Join Tanya this season as she explores the concept of bending time, so you could stay focused on what matters 


To get her free checklist, Five Minutes to Peak Productivity, simply go t

inkWELLpress.com/podcast. Now here’s your host, Tanya Dalton. 

Hello, hello everyone, welcome to Productivity Paradox, I’m your host, Tanya Dalton, and this is episode 124: Finding Happiness by Filling Your Days With Substance. And as you know, this season we’re finding ways to bend time. We’re changing our relationship with time and learning how to implement a variety of strategies to use our time better, or more effectively, so that way we can find more hours in our day to do the things that are truly important to us, the things that sometimes get pushed aside because we let our priorities fall below the priorities of others. 

So today, I’m going to remind you of the importance of figuring out how to fill your day with the tasks, and projects, and goals that are important to you. The things that make you happy, the things that make you feel fulfilled, things that are on your, “Oh, I wish I had time to do that” list. I want us to stop wishing and start doing. We need to fill our calendars with more substance. 

So, before we get started, normally I do a little introduction of our sponsor. But today, instead, I’m going to use our sponsor time to share a big announcement with you, so be sure to listen a little later on in the episode to hear my big news

Alright, let’s dive in to today’s topic. Let’s talk about filling our days with substance, because one of the things that researchers have been noticing in recent years is that there’s been a shift. Not a mid-life crisis, but a mid-career crisis. Now a mid-career crisis is sort of like a mid-life crisis, only it’s about how you perceive things 

as they’re related to what you’re doing for your career, or for what you do in your day-to-day job, so to speak, 

So, whether you’re a lawyer or a student, maybe an entrepreneur, a stay-at home mom, aka the CEO of the home, or whatever it is you do, it turns out that we have the same thing in common. Many of us experience life satisfaction in a similar pattern, and research shows that on average what many people call middle age is 

considered the most difficult time of life, 

Now economists David Branchflower and Andrew Oswald did research back in 2008, where they presented evidence that psychological well-being is U shaped through life, so it’s shaped like a U. And what that means is that life satisfaction over 

©Productivity Paradox 

Page 1 of 7 

the years has a tendency to take the form of a gently curved U, with a higher level of life satisfaction in both our youth and adolescence, and then declining and reaching the bottom of the U at around our mid-40s or so, and then going back up and recovering as we get older. 

So, think of it like a graph, where the findings end up in this U shape. And interestingly, it seems that this U pattern of self-fulfillment tends to be universal, affecting people around the world in the same way, and affecting both men and women. So, it’s not gender specific, and it’s not specific to certain areas of the world. It seems to be this universally common thing that we all experience as humans. And even though the curve of the U is, it’s more gently sloped, and not exactly a hairpin curve, the average dip in happiness happens between the ages of 20 and 45 or so. And it appears to be similar to the drop in life contentment that’s associated with people who through a divorce, or who’ve been fired, two very stressful and upsetting scenarios to be compared to, don’t you think? 

And Branchflower and Oswald’s data on satisfaction in life is consistent with another study back in 1996, which was much more specific. That study was about job satisfaction in Britain, where thousands of British employees were surveyed, but guess what? The data illustrated the very similar gently curved U shape, although in those studies the lowest point of that curve was around the age of 39. 

And listen, the data isn’t really new. Dr. Elliot Jacques, the psychoanalyst and social scientist, he’s the one who coined the phrase mid-life crisis all the way back in 1965. It was in a paper on working patterns of creative geniuse the careers of a number of composers and artists, and he found abrupt changes or declines in productivity around the age of 35. But even before that there were long ago signs of this mid-life drama. Think about Dante’s Inferno, where it has a passage that says, “Midway on life’s journey I found myself in dark woods, and the right road lost.” This slump in our life satisfaction, this is in around First Century. 

So obviously I could go on and on with more research and findings that illustrate how we all go through a slump from time to time, but do instead is let’s shift our focus for today, and discuss ways to turn that frown upside down. Or I guess, in this case, we want to take that bottom of the U shape, and start heading back to the top of it, towards that part of the graph where we’re feeling a little more fulfilled and happy. And that‘s what I think we really need to focus in on. This slump doesn’t have to continue, it’s not an L Shaped curve, it’s a U, so it does pick back up. 

So, whether you’re heading towards that U, you’re right smack in the middle of it, or if you’re on the other side, it’s always good to be reminded that the peaks and valleys, the ebbs and flows of happiness, are universal. We all experience them. But not only that, we also recover from them. Remember, it’s a U shape, not an L. SO maybe if we’re a little more mindful with how we’re spending our time, and we make 

sure that we do fill our day with things that feel important to us, the activities and tasks that really fulfill us, we can really focus in on being at that top part of that U. 

©Productivity Paradox 

Page 2 of 7 

But how do we do this? How do we fill our days with substance that makes us feel happy and content? I mean, there are times where we all feel like we’re stuck behind a mountain of other stuff that has to be done. And how can we possibly find time to dedicate to the things that we’re really passionate about? Or the things that make us happy? 

Listen, I get it. It’s hard. We all have obligations, and things that pull on us, like kids, and jobs, and volunteer commitments. Pets, and husbands, and the house, and, well, and lots of things. And we feel like we’re fine, and we pile it on, and pile it on, 

and pile it on some more, but somehow, we always tend to put ourselves last. We find ourselves doing, and doing, and doing for everyone else, while we continuously push aside our own wants and needs. We‘re so busy taking care of everyone else, we put ourselves at the bottom of our people-pleasing list. We all do it, some of us more often than others, 

And somehow, we think it’s okay to sacrifice our own health, or happiness, or our own needs, in order to fulfill the health and happiness and needs of someone else I mean, how many times have you been good about scheduling yearly physical exams for your kids, or maybe even for your dog or your cat, but somehow you never seem to have time to schedule your own annual visits? We just say, “We‘ll get to it next week,” and then next week comes and we push it off to the following week, and so on. Hey, I’ll raise my hand. I’ve been guilty of doing that in the past. 

Or maybe we’re constantly taking our kids to their activities, while forgoing our own. Like, maybe there’s this really great Pilates class at 4:00 PM on Thursdays, with your absolutely favorite instructor, but instead you have to drive the lacrosse carpool on those days. So, you grimace, and you load the kids and the gear in your car, and you take them to practice, and you skip your class that you really love, Look, I could go on and on with examples of how we women tend to think that it’s okay to de prioritize ourselves, but I think you get the picture. 

So, here‘s what you can do first: stop putting yourself at the bottom of your people-pleasing list and begin treating yourself like you are a pr are. You’re important, and you need to function, and to be happy if you’re going to be able to fulfill the needs of all those people around you. Think of it like those oxygen masks on the airplane: they’re always telling us, put your mask on first. They tell you that because you cannot take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first. So, steal that philosophy, reframe your thinking so that you know and understand that you need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of everyone else, Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s the exact opposite. You cannot shine your light on others if your battery is in constant need of recharging. We have to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves

So, I want you to think back to those five P’s that we talked about a few weeks ago, in that episode where we talked about all the different Ps when you’re structuring your day, and I want you to focus in on that third P: Prioritize. Be sure to prioritize yourself when you’re assessing your priorities. You are your number one 

©Productivity Paradox 

Page 3 of 7 

priority. You should be, because you cannot take care of anyone else if you’re not taking care of you. 

So, here‘s what I’d like to do. I’d like to give you a challenge. I want to challenge you to schedule at least one thing every day that’s a priority to you, or something that moves you towards happiness. Doesn’t have to be anything big but prioritize it. Schedule it into your calendar. Stop making excuses, stop pushing yourself to the bottom of your list. Whether it’s quiet reading time, or workout time, or brainstorming time for that new business idea you have, or maybe it’s time to deepen a relationship that’s important to you, it doesn’t matter. What I want you to do is make an effort to schedule it so it’s a priority, and it’s in your daily calendar. That’s my first challenge to you, I’m going to have another one here a little later in the episode, but let’s start there. 

Now this is the point in the podcast where I normally do my sponsorship call out. But if you recall, I said I wanted to share a big announcement. And its really kind of tied to today’s episode, because we‘ve been speaking about prioritizing and making an effort to schedule in a priority. And my big announcement is: I have written 

a book. And yes, making time to write this book meant making it a priority. I had to schedule it into my day, because while I was writing it, I was still producing this podcast, still running my company, and yes, still taking care of my family. Talk about bending time, right? I had to prioritize writing it, but I am so excited about this book, it was easier for me to schedule it in because it did really make me happy. 

The book is called The Joy of Missing Out, and it’s actually available for pre order right now, anywhere that books are sold. So, I’d love for you to grab a copy, 

This book is definitely, without question, a passion project. I am so insanely proud of how its turned out, and I cannot wait for you to get your hands on it. But it did require me filling my day with substance, it required me making it a priority. And I’m so glad that I did, because now I can give you this book. You can go out and buy the book, and have it in your hands, and that to me has been one of the most amazing experiences, I shared on Instagram and in my newsletter about how this has been a goal of mine since I was 12 years old, and I’ve accomplished it, simply by making it a priority. The fact that I can tell you right now that you can purchase a pre-order copy, that to me is such an amazing experience. 

So, let’s think about this. Let’s think about scheduling things that are important to you as a priority. And I want to let you in on another little scheduling secret of mine. You probably remember that in the past I’ve talked about using buffers when you’re blocking in your calendar. And that, if you think something’s going to take you 20 minutes, you add that 50% buffer block, and you block in 30 minutes instead for the task. It kind of helps give us a little bit of breathing room where we can work on projects and not feel rushed for time, right? 

Okay. Well here’s the secret: in addition to scheduling blocks of time for my own priorities, each and every day, I like to use the buffer time as a way to bank up even more time for myself. When I finish a project early, or I have buffer time to use, / 

©Productivity Paradox 

Page 4 of 7 

try to squeeze in something that’ll make me happy. For example, I love to read, which is probably why I wrote a book. But sometimes I use my buffer time to sneak in some of my reading, whether it’s a new book I’m devouring, or an article / bookmarked to read, I use spare moments to fill them up with reading, because reading makes me happy. It fills my cup. 

Or, if I know I’m going to be in the waiting room for the doctor’s office for 15, 20, 30 minutes, I don’t let that time go to waste, I bring my book. I use these opportunities, and I fill them up with substance. And actually, if you like to read, but you feel like you never can find the time, I’m actually sharing five tips on how to make 

time for reading in my newest episode of Tanya TV this week, so be sure to check that out. 

But in addition to these tasks, I like to build in buffer time with carpool time, so that we won’t be late if we hit traffic, or if something unexpected happens. Some people don’t like to get to appointments or commitments too early, because they think it’s a waste of time. So, they forgo the buffers, they hurry out the door in a mad frenzy. Not me, I’m there a few minutes, early, I love getting to places early, because / use my buffer time to catch up with Jack or Kate and find out what’s going on at school. I use that as time to connect with my kids for just a few minutes each afternoon. 

So, buffers can really be your friend. They can create opportunities to make your days happier. So, when you sit down, and you look at the time you have, I want 

n filling it with happiness. And it doesn’t have to be difficult. This is that whole idea we’re talking about, all season long, about changing that relationship that we have with time. When I’m talking about bending time, it’s beginning to make time your friend. 

So, I want to share with you five things to think about when you are scheduling your days. So, the first thing is, make time for the people and the things that you love. Do yourself a favor, make a choice to spend time with people who make you happy. Carve out time in your calendar to purposely focus on time with them. Not rushing around, but actually being with them. And then make time for the activities that you love. 

Maybe you love roller coasters, or exotic vacations, or three-hour hikes. Not exactly things you can do every single day, or on a regular weekly basis, that’s okay. As long as you get to do those things you love every once in a while, you’ll get a greater sense of joy and happiness. So be sure to schedule things throughout the year, so you have something to look forward to, something to anticipate, because anticipation builds up our happiness. 

The second thing to remember is to listen to your heart. You are the only one who truly knows what makes you happy. Sometimes we have family, or friends, or significant others who think we would be great at a particular job, or task, or project. But if it’s not something that really floats your boat, don’t pursue it just to make other people happy. You need to make you happy. Follow your heart, find happiness that 

©Productivity Paradox 

Page 5 of 7 

includes living to your values and your standards, the things that you truly believe to be important in life. That’s what guides and shapes us. Over time, the more we hold on to our values, the better we feel about ourselves. When you compromise or forgo your own values, your own ideas of happiness, we end up feeling frustrated and unsatisfied. So, honor your happiness as much as you can. 

The third thing to remember is to push yourself, not others. Sometimes it’s easy to think that other people are responsible for our happiness, or our lack thereo But ultimately, it’s up to you. You have ownership of your time, so power to take charge of your own happiness, and work towards getting to where you want to go. Don’t blame others, or the world around you. Don’t wait for other people to get you to that finish line. You’re responsible for your happiness. 

Just like we talked about earlier with me writing the book, that’s something that really, really made me happy. Each morning as I would get up and carve out that time for myself to write, that made me happy. It didn’t matter what anybody else wanted, didn’t matter what anybody else thought. What mattered is, that was me building in time that filled my cup, that made me feel satisfied. So, think about what 

ownership you have over your day. 

The fourth thing to keep in mind is to be flexible. Be open to change. Change is the one thing in life that you can completely count on. Life is full of curve balls, and things are going to happen. So, make sure to have a contingency plan, and try to be as flexible as possible. If you can learn to go with the flow you’ll find yourself in a much happier state, instead of the frustrated one that can happen when change occurs in our lives. 

And the fifth thing to remember is to treasure the simple pleasures. Don’t forget to appreciate the simple things in life that bring you happiness. Sometimes, in the busyness of our hectic everyday lives, we lose sight of the little things that bring us joy: the people we love, the fond memories, the funny jokes, the holidays, the accomplishments you’ve made along the way. It’s the little things in life, that’s the gift that keeps on giving. Gratitude really can create a more positive mental mindset. So, look for the good, try to see the glass as half full, When you evaluate your life, don’t immediately devalue something, just because it isn’t perfect. Find the beauty in imperfection. Look for the positive attributes when you can. When good things happen, even the smallest good things, appreciate and cherish them. 

And that leads to me to one last challenge for you. You know I’m a fan of taking time for gratitude, so I want to challenge you to spend five minutes at the end of the day either verbalizing or writing down the things you’re grateful for. Whether you share it with family over dinner, or you write it in a journal, or maybe you even use dry erase markers on the mirror in your bathroom, doesn’t matter. The whole point is to take some time to appreciate the positive things that happen to you each day. When you start to do that, you’ll take on a more positive, optimistic outlook. And truly, I believe that having a positive mindset can really help us get out of the bottom 


of that U curve and get up to that higher ground where we have a better sense of fulfillment and happiness. Ultimately, that’s what we’re all looking for here. 

So, I hope that today’s episode has given you some ideas on how you can add some substance to your days. Because, when you add happiness into your days, it makes them feel more valuable. And that, in turn, makes you feel more satisfied, 

So, don’t forget about my two challenges from today. The first one, make yourself a priority, and schedule it. The second one is to find three things to be grateful for each day this week. Maybe one of them could be being grateful for more time to read, because don’t forget, you can check out my YouTube video at inkWELLPress.com YouTube, on how to find more time to read. 

And next week we’ll continue our season on bending time, with special guest Ken Coleman. Ken is a member of Dave Ramsay’s team, he will be sharing some fabulous tips and ideas on how to live a life you love. Alright, until next time have 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.