Tonya Dalton answers your questions from the productivity paradox podcast listener Q&A.

Productivity Paradox Listener Q&A: Find Harmony in Work & Home Life, Pt. 1

When sitting down to record episode 019 and answer your questions, I really wanted to take my time and give as much thought as possible to the answers. I received so many great questions and it was hard to choose which to answer. I picked six total that I thought many could relate to as well. The first three are in this post, but be sure to read part 2 of the productivity questions blog too! So let’s jump right in and see what people from around the world wanted to ask!

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QUESTION: “What’s your advice for being productive in a hectic environment when you can’t plan because you get asked tons of things during the day?”
-Arumi, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

Answer: Hectic environments can really make tasks feel urgent, and there’s a big difference between urgent and important tasks. Definitely learn more about these types of tasks in episode 006 to help you understand how to deal with each one. Urgent items get our attention first. And when you’re dealing with urgent tasks, you’re in a reactive mode. But when you’re dealing with what’s important, you’re being proactive, and that’s what we want because then you’re being more productive. It’s hard because the things you’re asked to do throughout the day from others probably aren’t moving you toward your goals and your priorities at work. It’s really easy to fall out of alignment with where our goals are. So that’s all well and good to know, but how do you actually deal with this?

Productivity Questions. Compartmentalizing can help us gage the importance and urgency of various tasks, letting us feel less stressed and more focused.

I’m encourage you to make sure that planning your day is the first thing you do when you get into the office each morning. Fill your time slots with the tasks that you feel are important, with a few slots open for others. You’re also going to have to say no sometimes. And that’s a good thing.

You can accept the tasks from your boss or your supervisor, but with a little bit of a ‘no’ attached. Remind them that you have a lot on your plate already. Say something like, “Great. I’m happy to do this. I’m working now on the project you assigned on Tuesday. Is this new task a higher priority? If so, I’ll need to push back the deadline of project X. I just want to make sure I’m working on the tasks you think are most important.” It’s a gentle reminder to your boss that you already have tasks that were deemed important on your plate. Sometimes it’s a matter of reminding people that you have other things that you’re working on for them.

For co-workers, it may be that you need to assess whether you’re really saying ‘no’ enough. If you’re saying yes all the time, people will get used to that and assume that you can always take on more. So it’s not really their fault. Nicely show people your boundaries and they will follow. Back in episode 007 we talked about 5 ways that you can say ‘no’ nicely. So I would encourage you to use those at work too. You might just have to modify them a little bit to fit the situations.

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QUESTION: “Sometimes I feel as if I’m spending more time planning and outlining how I want to spend my day, week, or month than I do actually getting the things done. Any tips on how to simplify and streamline planning so it actually helps me accomplish my goals rather than get in the way?”
-Lauren, San Francisco, CA

Answer: Planning doesn’t need to be one of those things that eats away a lot of your time. I know some people love to spend a long time making their planners beautiful with stickers and illustrations and I think that’s fabulous if it’s something you really enjoy doing, and as long as it doesn’t keep you from taking those plans into action. Here are my top tips for effective, but efficient planning, which I also talk about in episode 012:

  • Start automating your planning so it happens around the same time every day, week, or month, and then set how long that planning session should take. The amount of time is really up to you. Your planning and your productivity is personal. So figure out what amount of time works for you.
  • Try sitting down on a designated day (my day is Sunday) write out your weekly task list (I use my Weekly Kickstart) of what you need and want to accomplish. Give yourself 30 minutes to do this. Don’t assign any days or time for the tasks, just do a brain dump for both home and work.Productivity Questions. Use the inkWELL Press Weekly Kickstart notepad to begin your weeks goal setting and planning ahead.
  • As a family, go through and have each person takes 2 or 3 minutes talking about their upcoming week. This makes everyone responsible for their own tasks and allows for others to support them. But don’t write down these items in your planner – this is another brain dump and weekly overview.
  • At the beginning of each day spend 10 minutes planning that day. Block off time for important tasks that need to be accomplished.
  • At the end of the day, make sure all the things on your list that were accomplished get checked off. And then spend 5 minutes at the end of the day doing a daily download. So really, you’re spending about 15 minutes per day planning.Productivity Questions. Use the inkWELL Press daily download and daily docket for recording plans and accomplishments from your day. Then reflect.

When I first started this system I set a timer to make sure I didn’t spend too long getting caught up in my planning. I don’t have to do that anymore because now I have the system down.

Try using that priority list that I discussed back at episode 006, and put only the important tasks into your planner. Once those are done, then you can you tackle anything else on your master list.

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QUESTION: “I’m a stay at home mom, my kids are seven and nine, and I have six hours to myself to get personal and household to-do’s accomplished. And I feel as if I failed each day. It’s almost like I have too much time, yet I don’t have enough. What advice do you have for domestic engineers? I work out, run errands, worry about my kids, prep dinner, etc, but somehow I’m falling short. I’m reactive instead of proactive. I don’t have time to develop my hobbies and interests. I feel like I’m missing some key tip in life, so how am I supposed to get it all done without losing my sanity?”
-Jill, Cincinnati, OH

Make sure that you’re really giving yourself a little bit of grace. If you really don’t feel like your finding the time to be proactive, especially with your hobbies and interests, I would recommend you schedule it. Don’t wait for the time. Pick two times a week to start you off and block off time for the things you want to do. Since your kids are both in school, schedule it during the day. And that may eliminate some of that mom guilt you feel. Treat this like a priority. If you had a dentist appointment at 11:30 in the morning you wouldn’t miss it, right? You wouldn’t push it to another time. I want you to treat your hobbies, wants and needs, etc. the same way. Yes, there is a mountain of laundry that could be done during that time. But there’s always a mountain of laundry. Take the time you need to help you make sure that you are taking care of you. Start scheduling it in and don’t put it off. Soon it will become a habit!

And here’s the other thing – You don’t have to get it all done. Are there things you maybe need to say no to that are really pulling at your time? Step back and assess if all the the things you’re doing in the day are really important. Start by editing just a few things out of your schedule or by delegating and see where you can find more time for your priorities.

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Thank you Lauren, Arumi and Jill for the amazing productivity questions – I know other people may have had the same thoughts and questions as you both, so I hope this helped them as well!

In part 2 of the Q&A blog post, I’m answering three more GREAT productivity questions from listeners. And feel free to submit one yourself at inkwellpress.com/question to see if yours will get on the podcast or blog next! Click here to listen to the episode 019 Q&A!

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Productivity Paradox Listener Q&A with Tonya Dalton - Learn how to be more productive at work and home. Visit inkwellpress.com for more!

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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton