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Ask Tonya Q&A: How To Keep Your Systems Running During Busy Seasons

“How do you maintain productivity and routines during busy seasons of life? My productivity habits often get lost during busy times, and I struggle to come back afterwards.” – Maisarah, Sarajevo, Bosnia

This is a really hard thing for a lot of people, including me. Systems and routines really should work, no matter how chaotic life gets. But often they don’t, because they’re not really set up to

work well with the busy times in the first place.

When you feel like your systems have failed, that’s the best time to stop and take 30 minutes to reflect on why they failed. And then use that information to make your adjustments.

The best thing you can do, is if you know that you have a busy time coming up, adjust your systems beforehand. When you’re able to anticipate busy seasons, try to see if there are tasks that can get done before it even begins. Say for example, if you’re an accountant, and you know that March and April are absolutely crazy because of tax season. Don’t try to schedule that as the time when you do something big on your house, perhaps. Schedule that for maybe January, or February before that busy season starts.

I always say, “Doing it before is better than saving it to do it afterwards,” because then it gets it out of your head.  With busy seasons, there’s already plenty of stress to go around. Look too, at what you can take off your plate all together. It’s the perfect time to delegate tasks out, or even double up on your delegated tasks temporarily.

For me, when I get into busy seasons like this planner launch, I still want to make sure we’re eating home cooked meals. So I have a grocery delivery service deliver all of my ingredients twice a week. I don’t normally do that twice a week, but during the busy season I allow myself the grace of not feeling guilty that it costs more money, because it saves me in stress.

Are there things that you can delegate out that you normally don’t delegate? Like housekeeping, extra childcare, yard work, whatever it is, it’s okay to take in a little extra help.


“I’m always wondering about what delegating looks like in your household. My boys are young, eight, six, and four, so delegating and being consistent with them are areas in which I struggle.”  – Amanda, Pomeroy, Iowa

I went into detail about delegation back in episode 37, but I love this question because it’s really important to delegate in our homes, not just at work, and I use a lot of those methods that we talked about with my own children.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a huge advocate for love and logic style parenting. It’s all about giving your kids choices… not any choice they want. They’re choices that you have chosen. When you’re a kid, you’re always being told what to do, when to do it, how to do it. That’s got to get frustrating. Allowing your kids to help with choices when it comes to delegated tasks, gives them some of that empowerment. Which then  encourages them to do the jobs, because they’re part of that decision making process. Get them involved as much as you can. When I was in the classroom, as a class, we would brainstorm jobs that needed to be done together, as that helped them have some ownership. And you can do that at home too, even if you already know what you want to delegate. Sit down with your family and let them work out what they think needs to be done and then ask them why they think it should be done. That will help associate a reason of why this job is important. And if they’re the ones

completing that job, they are therefore important too. I ask my kids to break down that big task, and figure out what all needs to be done. We have to scoop the yard, which of course is a necessity if you own a dog like we do. Edging, weeding, mowing, trimming the plants, and so on. I help guide them to figuring out what the steps are, and then we delegate them out as a team. I didn’t just assign them. They help me make those decisions, and therefore have more ownership over the task itself.


“How do you use your own systems to track business, personal, and family matters in order? Do I use three separate books, or color coding in one space?” – Lina, Los Angeles, California

As always I say… It really depends on the best system for you, and how much

space you need for each section of your life. I have a separate paper calendar that I hang up in each space. At work, I actually hang up two of our desk pads, one on top of the other. One shows the current month, and then one shows the month ahead so my team can see what’s

going on. At home, I’ve been using the desk pad there too, but we actually just launched some calendars, so I’ll be using those at home, once 2018 starts.

I like to make sure that everyone on my team, both my work team and my home team, get to see a birds eye view of what’s going on. I have a color coded iCal on my computer, and that shows a broad overview of everything that’s going on. That’s got family, personal, and business calendars.

You’ve heard me talk compartmentalization before, and I think it’s really important. If you’re interested, in episode 012, I talked about my ideal planning system… but since that episode, life has changed a little bit, and I have adjusted things. I decided that I wanted Sunday evenings to be my one time in the week where I was definitely not working. I’ve come to think of it as my deep breath before the week begins. I found that I really like the way that felt, so I restructured the way I plan. I think that is one of the most important things to keep in mind, is that once you create a system like a planning system, don’t be afraid later on to question it.

A lot of people do find it to be really helpful to have separate planners. As a matter of fact, there was a discussion in my Facebook group the other day, where someone commented that after listening to that episode on compartmentalization, she decided she was going to use one planner for family, and home, and social events. And then a second planner for work  and career development. She thought that this would help separate and focus on important things without watering down her personal development, because now she thought she’d have enough room to plan for everything that matters to her.

I love seeing and hearing how different people create these planning systems for themselves, and ultimately I think it’s truly up to you, and how comfortable you feel with keeping them completely separate. You can try to ease into a dual planner system by starting with a tool like the Weekly Kickstart. Honestly though, I don’t think I’d recommend keeping three separate books, unless you see yourself really using the space in all three. Which, could be stressful in its own way. It’s all about figuring out what works for you.


“In an ideal scenario, sitting down at the end of the week together is one, and discussing how the week has gone for us, and what’s coming up is great. And in fact, what I crave and long for the most. But with a blended family and exact opposite work shifts and such, it feels like we’re never able to come together as one. I need suggestions on fun and engaging ways to bring my family back together, to where I no longer feel like once I clock out as manager at work, I’m not simply turning around and clocking in at home as the manager/warden. Help please.” – Cassie, Farmersville, Texas

I think this is one that affects a lot of people. Varying schedules, blended families, feeling like there’s no time at all to come together. When you do come together, it feels more like you’re herding cats, than moving your family towards one central direction. I totally get that.

Start by adjusting expectations. Don’t start by shooting for the stars, and trying to figure out how to manage once a week meetings. Maybe start with once a month. Get everyone excited about the meeting, including you, by making the meeting feel less like a meeting. No one says that family meetings have to happen around a table. When my kids were little, we would do pizza parties in the living room. While we ate our pizza on the floor, I would get the conversation going. This became a tradition in my house.

You could do a game night, dinner at a restaurant that you all love, or maybe cook a whole meal together. Try to figure out some fun elements that really bring some life to your meeting. Another idea would be to rotate who’s in charge of the meeting. That person in charge comes up with the entertainment, and the food ideas, and then they even maybe chair the meeting. Start with that, and then build from there.

For the people in your family who can’t physically be there, maybe they could video in. Both Zoom and Skype are free ways to video conference, and work great to bring people who are remote into a meeting. Now, if you’re doing something like, let’s say you’re doing pizza night with those people who are in the room. Maybe those people who aren’t there could have pizza delivered to their house. Now, I’ve done that before where you order and pay for a pizza to be delivered to someone else.

That would definitely make them feel like they were still part of the fun. You want them to feel like they’re an integral part of the family, even when they’re not present. Then when you do meet, brainstorm together other ways to bring your blended family together. You might be surprised what ideas your family comes up with together, that works for the way that your family lives.


What’s Next?

I had one more question I wanted to answer, but began running over time from my normal 20 minutes or so. So, I saved that last question for The Weekend Ender (TWE) episode 038, which is live Friday, Oct. 13! So head over to iTunes and listen to TWE 038 if you liked these Q&As!

You can always submit your productivity question to me for my next Ask Tonya here. I try to do one or two of these each season, so there’s a good chance your question will end up in the mix!

If you’re enjoying these episodes and the blog posts that go along with them, feel free to leave me a 5-star rating and review on iTunes. It means so much to me to hear what you think and how the advice and downloads have helped you!

Happy Planning!

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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton