269: The Easiest Way to Make Your Days Feel Meaningful | Life Rituals | Tanya Dalton Skip to the content
August 2, 2022   |   Episode #:

269: The Easiest Way to Make Your Days Feel Meaningful

In This Episode:

We often get caught up in trying to fight time – to squeeze every last drop out of whatever time or season we’re in… but it’s not about managing our time—it’s savoring the moments.

In today’s show I’m sharing one of my favorite productivity tips: using traditions to help streamline your days while making them memorable. We dive how to set up rituals by using habit stacking, why routines don’t have to be boring and we’ll give some tips and ideas on how you can use traditions to bring your family closer together.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

Take the little events in life and make them meaningful.

Questions I Answer

  • How do I take the stress out of the holidays?
  • What are the best family traditions?
  • What can I do to help make something memorable?
  • How can I make my day feel easier

Actions to Take

  • Use the big question: What would make this memorable? Then choose one weekly tradition to help bring your family together. Then pick a day of the week for this tradition to happen. Remember – it doesn’t have to be big or a lot of work, it just needs to be something you think will be fun and bring your family closer
  • Think about what traditions or routines you already do. Is there one that feels difficult or feels like it doesn’t fit what you really want? Choose to toss it.
  • Pick up a copy of The Joy of Missing Out or On Purpose to learn more about how to incorporate habit stacking and traditions.

Key Moments in the Show

[03:09] The secret to stretching time and making it memorable

[06:06] Why you can’t think of anything to make for dinner… or anything else for that matter

[11:50] How to make summer memorable

[15:44] What you can do every day to help build relationships

[21:51] Ideas for a better family meeting

[26:31] How to add flexibility to your life

Resources and Links

Show Transcript

Hello. Hello everyone and welcome to the Intentional advantage podcast. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton. This is episode 269. We’re in the middle of doing a fun little short season. Normally our seasons are longer. They’re 10 to 13 episodes. This one we’re doing is a shorter one, and I’m calling it the summer series because I’m diving into the archives of the 268 episodes that came before this one, and I’m pulling out some of my favorite episodes. Some of y’all’s favorite episodes. 

I’m giving them a refresh and a revamp pulling out some of that gold that we have throughout the years that we’ve covered on this podcast. So we have talked about how to prepare for vacation and make that stress free. And our last episode was all about making Friday, your most productive day of the week.

Now, in that episode, I talked about several ways to make Friday feel amazing and not just because it’s the day before Saturday, although that does make Friday pretty amazing. But in that episode, I shared lots of tips and ideas. And one of the things I touched on was this idea of making Friday a beautiful transition into the weekend. You could call it a ritual,

right? I love that word ritual. It sounds so much nicer and more beautiful than just calling it a routine, or you could call it a tradition. All of these words are the same thing, routine ritual tradition, that all work in the same way. I really love though, the word ritual or the word tradition, because routine can sound well,

You know, routine is kind of boring. So when we talked about that Friday afternoon activity, we could have said it was routine, but calling it a Friday afternoon tradition or a Friday afternoon ritual makes it sound magical. Doesn’t it sound like we would look forward to something we would relish and be excited about. And the truth is routines don’t have to feel routine.

So routine tradition, ritual, whatever you want to call it, that can really help add a lot of meaning to our days. Right now, as this episode goes live, we’re in the middle of summer, but have you ever had a summer that you thought, oh my gosh, where did summer go? It just flew by in a flash and you kind of wonder what happened.

It’s not just summer. That feels that way either. So what we want to do is we want to try to make time, feel more memorable, make it feel significant. I think we often get caught up in trying to fight time to squeeze every last drop out of whatever time or whatever season we’re in, but it’s not about managing our time. It’s savoring the moments and that’s what traditions, rituals, routines, that’s what they do. They help you savor the moments and make them memorable. They have this amazing way of weaving time together. I believe it’s the repetition of certain events that distills down into the strong memories. We have the things that we do again and again, cement ourselves in our minds and they help us create stronger bonds and connections.

And that’s what makes it memorable. It allows us to remember to savor, to relish this time and soak it all in. And that’s what I think is incredible. That’s why I think it’s honestly one of the easiest ways to make your days feel meaningful, to make them feel significant. So that’s what we’re going to dive into today, how to boost your productivity and how to make your days more memorable at the same time.

This refresh is based off of episode 88 way back in season seven, which was all about cultivating happiness through productivity, which was a great season. By the way, I knew this episode would be a great one to revamp and refresh because I truly believe traditions and rituals and routines can add so much meaning to your days. So what makes a tradition, a tradition or a ritual?

A ritual is the heightened attention around the activity, which helps it stand out as being extraordinary from just the regular routine. There’s this added emphasis. So it’s really any activity that’s purposefully repeated that word purposefully, I think is really important here because when we’re creating traditions or routines, we want to do it with intention. It’s not about adding more to your busy schedule.

It’s about filling your time intentionally asking the question, why do we do this? And then making the decision to do whatever it is you’re wanting to do, because it brings happiness because it allows you to stretch time. But what’s incredible. I think is that there is this productivity bonus to, I actually have a whole chapter in The Joy of Missing Out chapter eight, where we dive into this idea of using traditions to simplify routines. And we’ve talked about before this idea that your brain is a calorie burning machine, your brain is like a Hummer. It’s just constantly burning calories. And even though your brain is only one 50th of your body, it burns one fifth of your calories every single day. So with the amount of overthinking that I do on a regular basis,

you would think I would have skinny, skinny thighs, right? But our brain has this limited number of calories it can spend each day. So what happens is we spend our calories thinking about all these other things we need to do. We get to the end of the day and we can’t make a decision. Decision fatigue is very real – it’s because our brain has run out of calories.

It’s prioritizing your heart to beat your lungs to breathe. And it’s like, you know what? When it’s time to choose what’s for dinner can help you. I’m out of calories. This is why sometimes you stand in the middle of the kitchen, not sure what to cook or even what restaurant to go to. If you decide to go out to eat,

what we want is we want our brains to spend its energy on the big ideas on the goals you want to accomplish. So having traditions, having routines helps with that, it takes the thinking out of it, takes the overthinking out of it and allows you to just sit back and actually enjoy the event itself. And let me explain this, because what happens is when you know what’s going to happen,

because it’s a tradition, you can take the thinking out of it. You can stop worrying about what food you’ll make, what activities you’re doing. You’ll alleviate your stress while allowing you to live in the moment and create meaningful memories. That’s what a tradition or ritual or routine essentially is. It’s creating this almost. It’s not autopilot because it’s not without thinking,

but it takes the thinking out of it. It’s habit, stacking habit stacking with intention. Now habit stacking is something I definitely go into in my second book on purpose. It’s part of chapter nine, but habit stacking is this concept where we take a habit and we stack another habit, right on top of it. I want to do an entire episode, probably next season, talking about habits and habit stacking. But for today, I’m going to give you just a quick little, little overview. How does stacking take something you’re already doing? Like, let’s say, let’s say that you want to really incorporate journaling as a routine in your morning as this beautiful ritual you do in the morning. But it seems to be something you’re challenged with starting, right? Habits are hard to start at the beginning. But if we stack that habit on something you are already doing, it becomes so much easier. So let’s say in the morning, a habit you already have is probably getting something hot to eat. Probably coffee might be tea or something else, but generally, you wake up and it’s not a debate.

It’s not a question. Should I have coffee today or not? It’s like, absolutely. I’m having my coffee today. So what if you choose to put that journal right next to your coffee pot, that way as you get up and you head to the coffee pot, as you normally do without thinking, because it’s a habit, you see the journal there and that spurs you to get started with your journaling and then want you to do the journaling.

You stack another habit on top of that. And it all starts to happen without you having to put much energy into making the decision. See the thing is where you spend your time is a choice. So you can intentionally spend time in the way that you want, or you can just let it roll, like on autopilot without thinking about it. That’s what I want you to think about: What are the things you can set up.

So they happen automatically, but you want it to be intentional. You want it to be things that bring a lot of joy, a lot of happiness, which makes your days feel meaningful. That’s what I want to spend the rest of the show doing. I want to talk about how you can start to use traditions to make this summer feel memorable. Or if you’re listening to this episode,

months down the road in the dead of winter, how to make that season memorable, every season should be memorable. So let’s dive into that in just a moment. First, I want to take a quick mid episode break. One of my very favorite traditions. One of my very favorite rituals that I do every summer is I spend time investing in myself.

I find that because summer is a little bit of a different season. There’s not a lot of getting up early and rushing kids to carpool and dropping off for school and things like that. I have a little more freedom, a little more flexibility in my days. And so it’s a perfect time for me to take a course enroll in a program to spend a little time sharpening my saw,

getting a little better at whatever it is I want to improve upon. So that’s one of the reasons why I made sure that I refreshed and revamped, not just this episode, but also some of my favorite courses, some of y’all’s favorite courses multiplying your time. The extraordinary life blueprint have both had a little bit of a refresh, including a brand new price drop.

So both of those programs are available now at a brand new lower price. Summer is an ideal time to dive into sharpening your saw and investing in. You had to TanyaDalton.com/courses to get more information about both the extraordinary life blueprint and multiplying your time. I’ll have a few more courses rolling out this fall. I’m really excited about, but go ahead and take a look right now,

TanyaDalton.com/courses. I promise you, these courses will change the way you view your time and help you accomplish all those things you want to accomplish. All right, let’s dive back into the day show for the second part of the show. 

What I want to focus in on is how to make this time that you’re in right now, memorable, whether you’re listening when this episode goes live, and it’s the middle of summertime, or you’re listening to this in the fall, but the sake of ease, what I think I’d like to do, because I could use the words, routine tradition and ritual interchangeably. I’m just going to use the word tradition just to make it easier on me. Okay. All right. So let’s talk about this idea of creating these traditions so that it makes our lives feel more memorable.

It helps us to stretch time and truly one of the best benefits of traditions is that it creates this happiness and excitement, but they do a lot more for us than just build that excitement. They keep us grounded. Traditions create this regular rhythm in our lives. We know that the world is composed of cycles, sunrise and sunset seasons of the year. There’s a circular concept of time and repeated events create a sense of rhythm throughout your life.

Throughout the year, families can build anticipation for regular traditions and look back at those events. And it feels like it just solidifies you. This is the thing is during tough times, traditions have been shown to build stronger foundations for relationships. A lot of times, life can feel a little bit unstable.. things shift and change. But when you have traditions,

When you have this strong foundation and your family knows, you know what, every Sunday is movie night, or Hey, I can always count on going out with dad for an outing on Friday night. There’s this beautiful stability that happens because it adds this level of comfort and security traditions also instill family values. They teach and reinforce what’s important to you and your family.

So let’s say for example, faith is important to you. A daily family prayer reinforces that education may be as something that’s important, nightly bedtime stories does that for you, or if having a strong sense of solidarity with your family, maybe it’s family dinners or events like game nights to build that sense of solidarity. It creates a sense of belonging and connection,

which strengthens family relationships. And that’s been proven time and time again, that these traditions, this weaving of time creates a strong foundation. And as I mentioned earlier, traditions create lasting memories, Ellen Galinsky, who’s the co-founder of the family and work Institute, surveyed children on what they remember most about their childhood. Most of the kids, they talked about simple every day or every year traditions like family dinners, holiday get together as bedtime stories. I think a lot of times we get caught up in doing these big things, these big vacations or something large for our kids, but really it’s often the tiny little things that matter most. So this is why I, as a mom, I love traditions. And when I started having kids, I really wanted to have some incredible traditions that felt meaningful,

but here’s the thing. You don’t want to have 10 million traditions because we don’t want to wear ourselves out, right? So we don’t want to go crazy. We want to aim for quality over quantity. Find what resonates with you and your family. Think back on your own childhood and remember the surprisingly silly and simple things that were fun. And that created memories for you as a child.

And then what you want to do is you just start practicing the traditions regularly. I mean, otherwise they’re not traditions, right? It seems pretty simple. So we want to be somewhat consistent with it. So there’s a couple of ways you can do that. So let’s dive into each one of them because there’s daily traditions, weekly traditions, and then there’s also life changes or yearly traditions as well.

So let’s start with simple one daily traditions. These are the small things that you do almost daily. It doesn’t have to be every single day, but happens all the time. A lot of times, these traditions are things you don’t even realize are traditions because they just happen spontaneously, like having family dinner together or kicking the soccer ball after you come home from work.

What we want to do is we want to put in a little bit of intentionality to develop a positive daily tradition and ritual. So do you like these traditions? Do you like these things that you’re doing? And I know right now you might be thinking to yourself, oh, I don’t, I don’t think we have any daily traditions, but I bet you do.

I mean, how many of you have a bedtime routine for your kids? See, that’s what tradition we call it a routine. But remember routines, traditions, rituals, all the same thing. Just different words. Right? When my kids were young, we did read aloud time. And it was really funny because we read books. Like we read the Hobbit,

We read Lord of the Rings. We read Harry Potter. We read all these different kinds of books, these big books that were bigger than what my kids could read at the time. But we would read every night, but like 30 minutes before the full kind of brushing your teeth, putting on your, your jamas kind of routine would happen. Right. It’s funny though because just the other day, Jack is home from college this summer. And just the other day, he was talking about how we had read the Hobbit together and how much he had loved that. And I think it really hit me. I was like, wow, that’s, it’s not something we did for the full 18 years while he lived at home,

We did it for a while and then things shifted and changed. But I felt like that was amazing. Like, I love that he remembered that and he was like, oh mom, I was reading something to him. And he goes, this reminds me so much of you reading the Hobbit out loud. And I felt like I wanted to cry. Cause it was just one of those mom moments where you’re like,

oh my God, they really were taking it in. Right. We do all these things for our kids. And sometimes we wonder why we’re doing it, or if we’re wearing ourselves out and then one day your kid comes to you when they’re 19 and they talk about something that you did together when they were seven. Yeah. I love that. That’s why I wanted to do this episode today.

And this is the key. We want it to be intentional. Like I wanted to really instill a love of reading for my kids. So that’s why we read together as a family. If we don’t have that element of intention, you can develop daily habits, these daily traditions of doing things like everybody’s staring at their smartphone or their tablet without really talking, or watching TV kind of mindlessly, you know, with TV watching is something you enjoy as a family. I think that’s great to watch a show that gets everyone fired up and talking like talent shows and singing shows. That’s a great way to get things started, right? Or you could do things like have a family meal.

Notice, I didn’t say dinner together, cause it doesn’t have to be dinner and it doesn’t even have to be every single day or it could be something like having music and off key singing while you clean up the kitchen. And we definitely do that. I like to sing really loudly and garble lyrics. Well, we cleaned the kitchen. You could do a,

What did we learn today? Conversation at breakfast, it could be something like daily lunch notes for your kids or bedtime stories or evening walks even a secret family handshake or a secret family. High five. I have a friend whose family, every time a family member walks in, they say a certain phrase and that everyone responds with this call back. It’s pretty funny.

And this is the thing is a lot of times these little traditions are exactly that. They’re a little silly. A lot of times they’re simple. That’s what makes them easy to do. And that’s the trick is we want it to be easy, but we want it to also create that feeling of solidarity, that feeling of having that strong foundation. Right. All right.

So that’s some ideas for some daily traditions. There’s also weekly traditions, which are basically the same as daily traditions, but they happen less often. See none of this is rocket science, right? Again, though, we want to make sure that they are Intentional. So it could be something like focusing on one-on-one time with each parent and child, like maybe Friday night is a night where your kids go out with your spouse.

Or it could be that Tuesday afternoon is your day to pick up one of the kids early from school and y’all go do something. My mom, when I was little, would pick me up from kindergarten. I went to half-day kindergarten. I still remember this. God knows how many years later, and we’re not going to talk about that. But when I was in kindergarten,

I got out, you know, it was a half day and my brother was in mother’s day out. My younger brother, my sister was in, I guess she must’ve been in like second grade at the time and my mom would pick me up and we would go out for lunch. I still remember that. I still remember where we went. I have these memories that are really important.

So there’s lots of ways you could do this. Like, like my mom did with taking me out to lunch, but you could do a game night or a movie night or a pizza, or maybe there’s a special weekend morning breakfast or going on certain errands together. That’s something that John and Kay have done since she was really little. They go to the grocery store together,

which is great for me because I hate grocery shopping. They go together or it could be a special dinner as a family. I started doing Sunday suppers a few years ago when my kids, which I guess it was back when Jack first started high school, it was really getting more difficult to do family dinners together more often because everybody has busy schedules. So it was a great way to have dinner together every night or not every night on Sundays.

So we would have dinner on Sundays. It was a great way to, for me, who loves to cook to have an excuse, to cook a really elaborate meal. And we always said friends were welcome, but it was a night for us to all come together and enjoy that time. Another great tradition. That’s a weekly tradition is a family meeting.

You know, having a family meeting allows everyone in your family to get on the same page, to feel organized, to feel successful, to get together, to talk about what’s going on. I’ve had a tradition of having a weekly planning meeting with my family at the start of the week. I started doing this when they were really really little and I found that helped us feel like we were team Dalton.

That’s what we’d call it. We call it a team Dalton meeting and it kept us on track for what we needed to do. And it helped boost our productivity, but it also helped us feel closer together as a family because we were able to support and encourage one another. I really feel like for me, that family meeting was so important because I wanted to set my kids up for success.

I wanted them to feel successful when they left my nest, I wanted them to fly. I wanted them to feel capable and organized, knowing how they could take care of themselves, right? From a productivity standpoint of being able to tackle their projects and their schoolwork, which is where we are now with Jack being in college. He’s obviously not part of these meetings anymore, but he feels empowered. I actually have a video where I walk through what we do and our weekly planning meeting as a family so that my kids feel empowered for the week and how we support each other. I have it on YouTube. You can look for it there. Or if you’re in my inner circle email list, I’ll make sure to send you a link to that because it’s probably one of the, it’s the one that I get the most emails about by far is people talk about that one. So I’ll also put a link to it in the show notes, but if you’re on my email list, I’ll make sure to send you that link this week. All right. So that’s daily traditions, weekly traditions, but there’s also yearly traditions or even life change traditions,

you know, things that happen with big milestones. So it could be things like birthdays or the first day of school or holidays that are meaningful for you. So let’s talk about some of those because they’re a great excuse for building out a tradition. Like when your kids start school, lots of ways to make that day special with either a special breakfast or taking a photo of them or asking questions that you collect year after year,

about what they love, what they want to be when they grow up, you see a lot of people do things for birthdays. You know, we have the regular tradition of blowing out candles and getting presents, but you could also give your kids new privileges, new responsibilities each year as they get older. You know, maybe the tradition is that you give your kids two envelopes every year for their birthday.

You give them a couple of presents maybe, or whatever you want to do, but you give them two envelopes. One that has a new privilege, a new thing that they’re able to do. And one with a new responsibility to give them an age appropriate task that they do. That’s a good way to mark that year, right? To show that your kids are getting older or perhaps it’s a life change.

That doesn’t happen all the time. For example, moving, you know, I moved 11 times before I turned 18. That’s a lot of moving, right? We had a lot of life changes growing up. And if you’re in a family that moves a fair amount, or if you’re preparing to move to a new house soon, you could create a new home tradition like a dedication or a blessing,

or even a family time capsule. One of my favorite traditions that we do as a family is we have special meals for different holidays. We do something special to mark the occasion by having something we don’t have any other time of the year. So for example, on Christmas Eve, I make roasted crab with a full spread. That’s all eaten by hand.

And every year we anticipate the meal, we get excited about it together. I mean, my kids literally start talking about it around Thanksgiving, but here’s the thing: it’s really nice that we’re all excited about it. But the added bonus is that’s a lot of stress taken away from my holidays. I’m not worried about what we’re having to eat. I don’t stress about when each thing has to go into the oven because I do it each year.

It runs like clockwork. And that is a Christmas Eve gift to myself. I’ve made notes on when to pop different things into the oven over the course of the different years. And I’m able to focus on my family and not the dinner. That’s a big boost to your productivity and to your intentionality. We have a lot of fun family traditions, and I bet you do too for different holidays.

So I think it’s really important to think about what do I want to do to make this feel memorable? I think a lot of times we get caught up in doing the things that we think we’re supposed to do or what everybody else is doing. But what is it you really want distill it down to that one question. What would make this memorable for us?

Because that’s the thing, that’s the beauty found in traditions. They take the big and the little events in life. They give them meaning they build insignificance and here’s the thing. Traditions are going to change. We talk about this on the show all the time that our goals change, our purpose changes. We change our traditions, our rituals or routines. They’re going to change too.

I think it’s really to be okay with that. The thing with traditions, isn’t that rigidity of having to have it on certain times or certain days of the week. It’s really about the meaning behind us. So for example, we talked about that idea of Sunday suppers that I had with my family. Well, now we have Sunday suppers, except for on the weekends when Jack comes home from college,

because a lot of times he has to go back on Sundays. So we do Saturday suppers that doesn’t take anything away from it, right? It makes it still special. And my kids still get excited because it’s that intentionality behind it. A lot of times now my Friday night pizza night is Friday pizza lunch. This summer, my kids both have jobs.

Hallelujah are both working, but they both worked dinner shifts a lot. So it needed to shift and it needed to change. That’s the point. It doesn’t have to stay exactly the same. It’s taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. Don’t keep doing traditions or routines because you think you have to, or ones that exhaust you because you feel obligated. Get rid of the old ones,

make new ones this year. I’ve added a few new fun traditions in June of this summer, that became nacho ordinary month. That is absolutely what I called it. Not your ordinary month. I wanted to do something fun because Jack was home for the summer and I wanted to get creative in the kitchen. So we made June nacho month. So every week of June,

I made nachos in two different ways. We did sushi, nachos. We did traditional Mexican nachos. We did Greek nachos. We did Italian nachos. We did all kinds of nachos because I wanted to get creative in the kitchen. And I want it to be fun. The kids loved coming up with the nacho ideas. And now I’m like, we have to do this every year because it was so much fun.

Right? So no matter what it is you’re doing, the important thing is choosing to spend time intentionally. That’s what builds the memories, do things that feel good, do things that feel fun just for the sake of being fun. I mean, not your ordinary month. That’s ridiculous, right? Dumb, dumb title for a month. And yet it was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it already for next year,

right? There’s going to be times where you’re doing traditions, that don’t really align with what you want. I spent a lot of years doing crazy Christmas dinners that took a lot of time and effort and energy. And I found that I was the biggest Grinch on Christmas day because I was exhausted and worn out. Really when I asked that question, when I distill it down to that question of what would make this memorable,

it wasn’t about the fancy dishes. It wasn’t about all the effort that I was putting into. It was about time spent together and making that Christmas Eve dinner, where we get messy and dirty. I mean, like we are cracking open crab with our hands. We’re eating bread and dipping it in. It’s a little bit of a hot mess. And that’s what makes it fun.

That’s what I want you to think about what would make this time you’re in memorable. So for those of you who are listening as this episode goes live, what do you want to do now to make summer feel memorable? If you’re listening to this another time of the year, what do you want to do this month? Feel memorable? Don’t get caught up in feeling like you have to figure it all out because you’ll remember, then we’re in that vacation planning episode earlier during the summer series two episodes ago. So 267, you don’t have to be the cruise director. You don’t have to do it all alone. Ask your family what they want. What kinds of things do they want to do? We’ll talk about that in my weekly email this week. And maybe I think this might be a fun idea.

Why don’t we crowdsource and see what kinds of ideas you guys have reply back to my emails and I’ll share them with you guys because we don’t have to do it alone. What I want you to do is I want you to feel like right now, whatever time of year it is, whatever day of the week it is, it’s special. Let’s treat each day as meaningful because when we stop trying to fight time and we choose to save her it when we spend our time in ways that feel meaningful, that’s when we have the Intentional Advantage. 

**Please note: Transcripts are created using AI and may contain misspelled words or grammatical errors.


Tanya Dalton is a productivity expert and author. She loves speaking to audiences of women and corporate executives. She offers opening and closing keynotes on productivity.