151: Making Your Systems Work For You | Tanya Dalton
December 3, 2019   |   Episode #:

151: Making Your Systems Work For You

In This Episode:

Have you ever wondered how to focus on your passions and priorities when you feel stuck doing mundane tasks like laundry, buying groceries, and paying bills? I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been there, but I’ll let you in on a secret – systems. Today I had a conversation with Laura, a wife, and mother of two sons, ages 10 and 12. She has a Ph.D. and works at a university with faculty, students, and staff to support the use of technology in the curriculum. We dive into how she can make systems work for her so she can live a life that’s more centered around her priorities. We discuss embracing yourself and the imperfections we all have, zoning in on areas that need a system in place, and making others responsible for their own productivity systems.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

This is how you get it all done.

Questions I Answer

  • What kind of systems do I need for work?
  • What systems do I need for my home?
  • How can I get more done without thinking about it?
  • What’s the best productivity trick?

Actions to Take

  • Think about how you can start to create systems in your life to bring more order around the things that you do. What is one area that you want to hone in on? Start there and create a system that works with you and your lifestyle.
  • Watch my TanyaTV episode, Our Family’s Weekly Planning Routine, to find out how my family and I become more productive together and plan out our weeks.
  • If you haven’t already picked up your copy of my book, The Joy of Missing Out, head to joyofmissingout.com or your favorite retailer. Read section three for an in-depth guide on creating systems

Key Topics in the Show

  • Zoning in on specific areas that need a system in place

  • Giving people responsibility for their own productivity systems

  • Getting systems up and running to put your tasks on autopilot

  • Using a springboard to help you overcome obstacles

  • Embracing your imperfect self

Resources and Links

Show Transcript

Welcome to productivity paradox with Tanya Dalton, a podcast focused on finding  true happiness through productivity. Season 12 is different from any she’s done before with real conversations with real women, applying strategies and concepts explored in The Joy of Missing Out. 

This season, you’ll learn how to live more by doing less. And now here’s your host, 

Tanya Dalton. 

Tanya: 

Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host Tanya Dalton and this is episode 151. Now before we dive into today’s episode, I want to check in with you. It’s the first week of December. How’s your stress? Are you feeling the holiday crunch? Yeah, I got ya. That’s why I want to make sure and mention that I’ve got a free live training this month, each week through the month of December called Let Go of the Holiday Hustle. Let’s make the season magical without driving ourselves crazy. I’ll share more details at the end of the show but I want you to go ahead and mark that on your calendar because I really want this to be the December that feels truly magical. 

Magical because it’s filled with amazingness but also because you miss out on the stress. Just go to Tanyadalton.com/holidayhustle to sign up. It’s free and I want you to find a little more joy of missing out on that feeling of being stretched too thin this holiday season. 

And speaking of missing out, I’m really excited about today’s episode, because as you know, all season long, we’re talking about the joy of missing out and taking those ideas, those tactics and the strategies that I talk about in the book and we’re applying them into our everyday lives. And today, we’re talking about systems, which makes me so happy because really, that’s essentially the entire third section of the book. It’s all about creating systems and if you know me, you know I love systems. I love them because it makes life so much easier. And truly, when I see people starting to implement systems that I teach, I can see the light bulbs in their eyes lighting up and I can see the stress starting to just go away which is really what we want. And I mentioned this in the pages of the book. 

But living a priority centered life, one that is focused on purpose and passion and priorities, it sounds incredible. But maybe just a 

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little bit unrealistic, right? People always think it’s unrealistic because real everyday life has to still happen. We still need to make sure the laundry gets done. We still have to go to the 

grocery store. We still have to pay the bills. So how could we possibly focus on our priorities when there’s so much of that stuff to do? Well, systems, my friend. Systems are the answer. 

So I’m loving this conversation that Laura and I have on today’s show, where we’re going to talk about creating some good systems in her life. Let me share a little bit about Laura before we jump into the conversation. Laura is a married mom with two boys, ages 10 and 12. She has her PhD and she works at a university and she works with faculty, students and staff all to support the use of technology in the curriculum. So she has a full plate to be sure. Listen in as she and I talk about how she can use some of these simple systems to make life feel a little more manageable, allowing her to really live a life that centered more on her priorities. 

Hi Laura, welcome to the show

Laura: 

Hi Tanya. I’m glad to be here. Would love to hear about just how to better organize my home and what you do. It just seems to be a process, a system that I can just never wrap my arms around and maintain well. 

Tanya: 

I think you’re not alone in that and feeling. You probably doing a lot better than you think you are. So let’s stop and probably realize that, because I feel like we set ourselves up for these really high ideals of what things are supposed to look like. I know you have a lot going on in your home life with kids and a job full time and everything else. So let me start off by asking you, what does that mean that you want to have an organized home? What does that look like to you? 

Laura 

Well I hear a lot of people talk about how you feel about your home. And I definitely would like to just come home and feel a little bit of peace and joy when I think about my home space. And it does tend to feel a little bit more like a place of chaos because ! see things laying around where they shouldn’t be and there definitely is just that sense of like you’re looking for something and you don’t know where it is. You know, things should have a home. And again, it’s not in its home often. And so people don’t feel that sense of responsibility of putting things back where they should be. And sometimes there’s not a place where things should 

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  1. So there’s that. And then there’s just that sense of all the 

things that probably should have a time when they get done and they don’t have that either. 

So there’s just a lot going on that needs to happen and it’s not happening right now in my house. 

Tanya: 

Okay. Well let’s talk about a specific area. Just for the sake of the show that we can focus in on, like what’s an area of your home like when you walk in, is it like right into the kitchen? 

Laura 

Yeah. 

Tanya: 

What area is it that you feel it feels a little more chaotic? Let’s zone in on one. 

Laura; 

Sure. So maybe we can just talk about all the paperwork. So maybe just like bills and school paperwork for one. We could talk 

about that. 

Tanya: 

Yes. Okay. So I like to automate this kind of stuff as much as possible. I think you probably know that. I like to take the thinking out of it as much as we possibly can. 

So with a lot of that paperwork that we get, a lot of the bills and a lot of the papers that come home from school or from work. Do you have a central place where those all go? 

Laura: 

Well I’ve tried and then that place gets full and then it starts going everywhere else. 

Tanya: 

Yes, because it gets… Okay. So first thing is for your bills, do you get a lot of paper bills or do you do most of your bills online? 

Laura: 

I do a lot of my bills online but then it’s still all of the other mailers and things that come in. So I still get a few bills and paper but most of them come online, 

Tanya: 

Okay. So let’s talk about the bills first. So one of the things that I think is really helpful and helps me to automate a lot more is! have a very specific address that’s just for my bills. 

Sol only use that address for things like the gas company, the electric company, the cable company. And so that way I can set up actually truly it automation like a rule in my email service 

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provider. If it comes to that address, it goes straight into a folder right away. It doesn’t land in my inbox, it doesn’t get looked at, doesn’t get touched. It just goes straight into the folder. And I don’t worry about it until Fridays because Friday my automation is financial Fridays. Every Friday at the start of the morning, that’s when I go in and I open up that folder and I look at all my online bills I need to pay. 

And at that same time, that’s when I also take care of my paper bills. So everything financial gets batched together at that same time. So I get in that kind of financial mode where I’m already on the banking online, I’ve already got my credit cards out to pay anything, if I have to pay through QuickBooks or an invoice or anything like that. 

All that happens at the same time. So that way it’s not, you know, stress about did I pay the water bill this month? Because I know every Friday I’m doing a bill check-in. So do you think you could do something like that where the online bills go to the same central location and you pay the paper bills at the same time? 

Laura: 

Yeah, that sounds great. 

Tanya 

I’ll be honest because the financial aspect of life for most of us is one of those things that’s just an added stress. It’s just one of those things where we’re like, I don’t want to think about it so we’ll just put it off. I just want to deal with it. 

Laura: 

Yeah. 

Tanya: 

And then it becomes this raging inferno, it becomes this urgent fire. And if we take care of it a little bit at a little bit every Friday, it no longer becomes this big daunting task. 

It becomes so much more manageable so it becomes easier. So what I would recommend is, so we have your online bills going to 

a central folder. Let’s have a central spot in your house that’s right by where you walk in after you go to the mailbox and that’s where your bills go. So, I don’t know if you walk in through your 

garage or you walking through the front door but is there a spot somewhere in there that you could go… I mean, and there’s a lot of great little office supplies that places like World Market or TJ Maxx with those little kind of file folders, is there a place that you can hang up something like that and just put the bills in? 

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Laura: 

Yeah, I could 

Tanya: 

That way it’s all in one central location. So one of the other things that I do when I check the mail is that as I’m walking from the mailbox back to the house, I’m actively sorting the mail and I’m pulling out everything that needs to go to recycling because then it doesn’t get stacked up. 

I think a lot of times people get their mail and there’s this giant stack of bills, flyers, all different kinds of things in there. 99% of it is trash, let’s be honest or recycling rather. But if you go through and sort that so it doesn’t just get put into that, you know, whatever you decide to use as your container for bills. I like to have like a little separate segment of it that’s for other important papers of which I think most of the flyers and most of what you’re getting in your mailbox is not, right? 

Laura: 

That’s true 

Tanya: 

So just doing that and honestly it takes no more than like a minute to truly sort your mail. I seriously sort it in my hand. I take the bills, they go straight into the bill thing and then have a recycling container, if it’s not convenient, put one nearby. 

So you can just literally put the bills and the recycling away at the exact same time. What we really want to do is we want to minimize the fact that the recycling can is on the other side of the house so it becomes cumbersome to even head over there. 

Laura 

Right. 

Tanya; 

Right? That the bills are on the east side of the house and everything else is on the west side of the house. Not that we’re living in these giant mansions. I know, I’m certainly not but it is still, trekking across the room is an inconvenience. And so as you know, humans were kind of like, I don’t need to do that. I’ll just stick all of this together. And that’s when it begins to add up. 

Laura: 

Yeah. 

Tanya: 

So what I would do is I would have a recycling area for your recycling, a little area for your bills that you’ll pay on I’m saying financial Friday because you know I love alliteration. So a little area for your bills and then a section for important paperwork. So this is the area where you put any sort of paperwork that needs to 

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be filled out. Whether it’s for you or, I know you have two kids who are in school and there’s a lot of paperwork… 

Laura: 

Yeah. 

Tanya 

…that comes home with the kids. So I would automate that as well. So let’s say Friday is your financial Friday and then maybe part of your team planning. Are you doing team planning with your kids where you guys are all planning together? 

Laura 

That’s something I’m working toward but I’m not doing it yet. 

Tanya: 

Okay. That’s okay. That’s all right. Little steps, right? Little steps. I actually have a video on Tanya TV where I walk through how I do it with my family. You might find that helpful sol can always, I can give you that link and I’ll put that link in the show note for the listeners. I can always send you that link as well. But what I would say is during that team planning, that is when those other important papers come out and get signed. So again, we’re automating it so it’s not the morning of the field trip where the kids are going, oh my gosh, I have to have this filled out, I have to… Right? All of that. You’re familiar with that, right? 

Laura: 

Yes. 

Tanya: 

So really automating that and making it so those things happen on a regular basis. So for me, financial Friday is when I’m taking care of the bills. And Sunday, during my team planning where my family is all sitting together and we… Our team planning probably takes maybe 10 or 15 minutes. 

So it’s not a big intrusion on our day. It’s really a chance. And I think this is the difference as I look at it not as one more thing to do but I look at it as a chance for my family to come together and to have a touch point. We’re really diving a little bit deeper into what’s going on in each other’s lives instead of just the how was school today? It was good. 

Laura: 

Yeah. 

Tanya: 

Those conversations that happen and so if you start to look at it that way and that’s your chance for them to also be more responsible for their paperwork, that if they have a field trip coming up, they talk about it during team planning and they say, okay, I have a paper for you to fill out. So that way too, the other 

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bonus there is you’re putting responsibility on your kids because here’s the deal. 

You don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to be in charge of everything and manage everything. They can take on a lot of those tasks. And really when you give them more ownership over that, you’re starting to give them their own productivity systems where they start building this in in their own lives. 

Laura: 

Yeah. That is so big. 

Tanya: 

So it really is… I think I say this all the time but my goal as a mom is that when my little birds leave my nest, not only do they fly but they soar. And so when we give them these little tiny pieces of responsibility that builds over time and that creates these breadcrumbs for them to look back and say, I am responsible, i 

am capable. And that makes them more confident and more self assured, and they start to build in their own productivity. 

Laura: 

Yeah, 

Tanya 

Which I think is really important. 

So that’s just a little start to get you started with paperwork. What I would say too is let’s start there, get that where that feels manageable and feels good and then look around. What else is in 

that same area, that same space that you’re walking into that feels chaotic? What’s something else small that you can tackle? And then one thing at a time, start building in these systems. Don’t try to do it all at once. Take your time. This is a big elephant, we need to break it down and eat it bite by bite. 

Laura: 

Okay. 

Tanya: 

All right. How does that feel? 

Laura: 

That feels good. That’s a great place to start. 

Tanya: 

All right, that’s amazing. That makes me really happy to hear. 

Laura 

Me Too. 

Tanya 

I want to dive more into systems in the next part of the show but first, let’s give a quick word for today’s sponsor. 

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Today’s episode is sponsored by the university of California Irvine or UCI’s Division of Continuing Education. It’s a great resource for anyone who is looking to gain credits towards a master’s degree or maybe if they want to reenter the workforce after some time off or perhaps just to learn some new skills to help you with a new business you’ve been thinking about. Now for those of you who are trying to juggle work and family while attempting a career change, UCI is 100% online courses so that’s convenient and it’s flexible. And they have a great assortment of courses that are taught by industry practitioners with real world experience. 

So no matter what you’re looking for, they have tons of specialized studies from healthcare to business and education to 

ralegal, digital marketing, human resources and so many others Registration is now open and they have a great deal for Productivity Paradox listeners. Simply go to ce.uci.edu/productivityparadox. Enter the promo code paradox to get 15% off a continuing education course and again, it’s ce.uci.edu/productivityparadox. Don’t forget to use that code paradox to get 15% off of one course. This offer is valid until December 31st 2019 

Tanya: 

Okay, let’s get back into this idea of systems because we know that having some systems in place helps take the thinking out of it. We talked about that idea of decision fatigue in the book so I don’t want to go too far down that rabbit hole here today. But the more time, the more energy that we spend thinking about the menial tasks like what to do with that mountain of paperwork, it 

takes away from the important tasks. The things that are really tied to that ideal life that we want. It’s all about conservation here. If we have a set amount of brain power each day and we do, do we want to spend it on these tasks and hope that there’s enough at the end to give to our goals and our dreams or do we want to get these things running on autopilot a little bit more so we can focus nice big blocks of time and energy on the important work in our lives? 

Okay. I kind of set you up here. If you look, it’s a really simple answer. We don’t want to think about laundry. We don’t want to think about the paperwork growing. We don’t want to think about fertilizing the yard. We want life to run smoother and easier, and systems are what’s going to make that happen. Here’s the thing, it isn’t rocket science. We know we don’t want to spend our time stressing about the bills or what to put on the table for dinner tonight. So why don’t we just already have these systems 

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running? Why is it so hard to get them going? Well, there’s a few things at play here but the biggest of all is making it so easy, you almost can’t help but do the system. We don’t want to over complicate it, we want to make it really simple. And in our talk today, I mentioned to Laura, doing something small like setting up a container right where she sorts her mail so that the junk mail goes right away into recycling. 

Make it so you cannot fail. Now I know what you might be thinking. I don’t want a big ugly recycling container right where walk in. Okay, well make it pretty. No one said it had to be a big blue plastic bin. It could be anything. It could match your decor. I’m a big fan of getting baskets and sorting containers found anywhere from like office supply stores to World Market or wherever. The key here is that we really want to make it so easy, so simple that the system can happen without thinking and that means making it so that you don’t have to walk the 20 steps over to the recycling container at your desk in the other room. Removing the obstacle can be a huge springboard in finding 

success. It really is as simple as something like that. We think, oh, 20 steps isn’t that big of a deal, but it is. At the end of the day after you’ve gone to the mailbox and you have that giant pile of mail and your bag and your briefcase and kids running in and out 

of the door, the 20 steps make a difference. 

And if you’re finding that it makes a difference, make it easier for you. Use a springboard. I have an entire episode way back in 

episode 35 all about creating those springboards. And springboards are just things that help us overcome our obstacles. So when you think through a system, what are the stumbling blocks? What are the obstacles that are going to pop up? So in thinking about the conversation with Laura, what were the other obstacles that came about when we had that conversation about her paperwork? So thinking those through and then really creating ways so those obstacles become easier. That’s the trick. In the book we talk about this idea of eating our elephants. So let’s break it down and see where are the places that can cause us to get stuck. Well, recycling, that’s one. Having a central location for all the paperwork. There’s another one. 

And so yeah, maybe the office across the house, maybe that does work for you but if you’re finding that papers are consistently getting stashed in areas of your kitchen, kitchen counter piles anyone? Then having things in your office across the house, that’s not working. Stop forcing yourself to try to do a system that’s not 

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working for you. Set up your paperwork in an area that’s closer. We talk about this idea in the book that good systems play off your strengths and your weaknesses. I think so often we want to pretend that we don’t have any weaknesses or we can just force ourselves to quote unquote “be better.” You know what? Come on. Let’s just embrace our perfectly imperfect selves. Let’s make our systems truly work for you. It’s okay to be that person who drops your clothes onto the same chair before bedtime. But if you’re that person, then let’s create a system so when you look at that chair, you don’t feel like a failure. 

Maybe move your clothes hamper next to the chair or perhaps you keep a stash of hangers next to the chair so you can grab the clothes and put them on a hanger on your way to the closet the next morning. The key here is to make it work for you. What’s truly realistic for you. And that’s really all that matters. You need to be okay with not being perfect and let go of the need to feel like you have to do everything just right. None of us are perfect. By the way, I’m totally the clothes on the chair person. That is 100% me at night. I’m also the I don’t like to put things away neatly in the morning person and I’m the… Okay, nevermind. You get the idea. We are all imperfect. We all have things that we’re stronger at and things that we’re weaker at. Let’s stop pretending that we don’t have any weaknesses. 

It’s okay to be that person who dumps the clothes on the chair. Let’s just make it so you don’t feel like such a failure with it. Let’s make it so the system works to that advantage. I’m far from perfect just like everyone else but you know what? I feel really 

good about the state of my place because I create systems that help ensure that I will feel successful. Stop working against your weaknesses or beating yourself up for not being disciplined enough. Create a life that really does work for you and who you really are so your weaknesses can become your strengths. A disciplined life sounds fabulous. Actually, it sounds like a whole lot of work. Not terribly fun or exciting. No one is really disciplined. They’ve just learned to make life work for them, not against them. 

Take your elephants, break them down. Find the weaknesses. Find the places that are going to be stumbling blocks for you and turn them into springboards. Make life run a little bit easier for you. And seriously, if you want to create systems, read section three of the book. It is all about how to create systems that are truly designed and customized just for you, playing to your strengths and your weaknesses, eating those elephants bit by bit by tiny bit 

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and bringing your team on board to make it all happen even easier. Okay? So if you haven’t grabbed a copy of the book, go ahead and grab your copy. Read section three. I can promise you it is the best in depth guide I’ve ever created about systems. So give that a read and I promise you it should help. And speaking of helping, do make sure you’re going to show up for that Let go of the holiday hustle free video training that I’m doing all month long. It starts on Thursday and it really is designed so you can have less stress, more happiness, more joy this holiday season. 

Let’s stop stressing and let’s really find the magic of this holiday. Let’s make this the holiday that’s the one that you and your family really do remember, Just sign up at Tanyadalton.com/holiday hustle, Tanya with an O and a Y. All right, I hope to see you there. 

Next week we’ll be continuing our season on the joy of missing out. We’ll have a conversation about getting back on track and we’ll be touching again on this idea of discipline. So l hope to see you here next week. All right. Until next time, have a beautiful and productive week. 

Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox. Want to learn more about your unique productivity style? Simply go to Tanyadalton.com to take her free quiz and get free 

resources designed just for you. That’s Tanya, with an O and a Y

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