Pay attention to your “Million Dollar Minutes.” Your Million Dollar Minutes can be described as the times in your life that if gone tomorrow, you’d gladly pay $1 million to get them back. For example, if Kate sits next to me on the couch and tells me about something that happened at school, I know to drop what I’m doing, focus in and listen. I coined this term because calling these moments “Million Dollar Minutes” elevates the time in my mind so that I make it more intentional and meaningful.
As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Tonya Dalton, a productivity expert, writer, speaker and founder of inkWELL Press — a company centered around productivity tools and training.
inkWELL Press launched in November of 2014 and has been able to rapidly grow its online presence and expand into a national retail partnership thanks to a commitment to quality, focused marketing efforts, and fiercely loyal fans. Tonya built inkWELL Press to be a 7-figure business within 18 months with three employees.
Tonya’s messages about business management, productivity, and the pursuit of passion have impacted thousands and inspired her to launch her podcast, Productivity Paradox which has surpassed 1 million downloads since it began in 2017. Her podcast regularly ranks in the top 50 of all business management podcasts on Apple Podcasts.
Tonya and inkWELL Press products have been featured on Today.com, Apartment Therapy, BuzzFeed, HGTV among other places. Tonya is frequently interviewed on popular podcasts such as Live Inspired, How To Be Awesome at Your Job, Beyond the To Do List to name a few.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
Growing up I moved around a lot. Eleven times before turning 18 to be precise. My family lived all over the United States and in Europe twice, which meant I grew accustomed to constant change. Every time we moved I had to make new friends and find my own way all over again. While it was a challenge at the time, I think it helped instill the confidence I have now in life and business. I learned to rely on myself and on my family. Since family was my only constant when bouncing around to all these different places, I leaned on them for support. As a parent today, I’m very conscious of viewing family as a support system in raising my own children.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
In 2009, I started my first business with only $50 in the bank account and built it up to the point where my husband was able to leave corporate America and join me. But even though the company was successful, I found I wasn’t satisfied or feeling fulfilled. I redirected my focus and decided to launch a new business, centered around something I was truly passionate about — productivity. From that, inkWELL Press was born in 2014. What drew me to starting a business around productivity was my experience in coaching women business owners. These women were all extremely accomplished and successful professionally, but felt scattered in their personal lives and felt they did not get to spend enough time with their families. I wanted to help women see that finding harmony between our work life and our homelife is not just possible — it’s essential to our happiness.
In the first 18 months I grew inkWELL Press into a 7-figure business with only 3 employees. The main reason I believe it grew into what it is today is because of my supportive husband and two children. I look at it as a family business and bring my family into all of the major business decisions. Family updates are a two-way street in my home — I tell my children what’s going on at work just as much as they tell me what’s new at school. We’re able to lean into one another and support each other, which helps each of us be successful in our own endeavors.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
I begin my day with my morning routine. I like to get up early, before anyone else in the house is up. I find that carving out this space of time when the house is quiet allows me to get in almost a full day’s worth of work before anyone in my family even wakes up. That way when they do I can put my “mom hat” on and help them get ready for school and out the door.
I also leave work everyday at 3pm even though I run a very successful business. I go home and shift from CEO to parent. It’s important for me to hear about my kids’ days at school and give them the attention they deserve. In the afternoon and evening I like to sit beside them and “co-work” with them. That is, as they’re doing their homework I’ll take out a few things to work on myself, knowing that I may be interrupted by a homework question and have to put it aside.
After dinner we always try to spend time together as a family, whether that’s watching TV or playing a game. I also slot in purposeful time to spend with my husband. Carving out these intentional times in my day helps me fulfill each one of my many roles, including wife, mother and CEO.
Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?
I believe quality always trumps quantity! There was a study from the Graduate School of Social Work at Boston College that found the majority of children are not affected by the hours you work but the mood you come home in. This really struck me personally and is one of the reasons I’m such an advocate for doing work you are passionate about. If you don’t have that much time to spend with your children during the week, just remember to focus in on the time you do have. During that time give them the undivided, positive attention they deserve.
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is important to make time to spend with your children?
In my family we refer to ourselves as a “team.” We operate with a team mentality in the way we support one another and actively find time to spend with each other. My children always lift me up when I’m stressed out about work or something else going on and I try to do the same thing for them. People often forget the value of lifting each other up. It’s truly a gift you can give to your children. I’ve taught my children to also do it as siblings — if Kate has a huge test to study for, Jack will chip in more around the house. Having family to step in and help removes so many of the burdens life throws our way.
According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
- It’s important to spend individual time with each of your children. An example of this is the carpool schedule my husband John and I have created. In the morning Jack rides the bus and Kate rides in the car with us, and in the afternoon we’ll flip it. That way they each get quality, individual time with us as parents chatting about their day and their plans. It’s just a little nugget of time, but it’s valuable to have that check-in time with them one-on-one.
- Pay attention to your “Million Dollar Minutes.” Your Million Dollar Minutes can be described as the times in your life that if gone tomorrow, you’d gladly pay $1 million to get them back. For example, if Kate sits next to me on the couch and tells me about something that happened at school, I know to drop what I’m doing, focus in and listen. I coined this term because calling these moments “Million Dollar Minutes” elevates the time in my mind so that I make it more intentional and meaningful.
- Remember that quality time doesn’t always have to be in person. I have notebooks for each of my kids where we write letters to one another and pass back and forth. This allows us to write down feelings or thoughts on a topic that may be difficult to discuss in person especially now that my kids are older. Sometimes I’ll write a letter to them after they’ve long gone to sleep. And even though they’re not next to me, it’s still quality time that I’m gifting them.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?
- Use traditions: Traditions are things we use to mark time with intention. Sunday morning pancakes or Friday game night — because they occur consistently without thought they open the door to quality time with your children without requiring a ton of effort or stress.
- Turn off your phone! When your kids get into the car after school, gift them the full amount of time you have with each other. Turning your phone completely off also gets rid of the temptation to check it and shows your children you want to give them your full attention.
- Don’t overschedule yourself or your children. Many of us fall victim to the pursuit of not wanting to miss out on anything and end up over-cramming our schedules. Ask yourself and your children if the things on your schedule are actually activities or events you want to do. If not, can you take that time and instead spend it together?
- Weekly planning with my family: I like to do Sunday planning with my family. Having a weekly “meeting” of sorts helps build that team mentality I mentioned earlier. Everyone knows what is going on in each other’s lives and we can check in on members of the family who are stretched thin at any given time. This process of checking in helps us all do better.
- Put family time in your calendar: Each month we sit down and figure out the activities we want to do together as a family and we put those activities or events in our schedules. When you treat family time as an appointment you’re more likely to follow through with it! Plus, the anticipation of the event is almost as exciting as the event itself, which is an added perk.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
I believe good parent loves their children the best they can — that looks different for everyone. There’s no right or wrong way to parent, the key, though, is paying attention to who your children are as individuals. They all have different personalities, goals and needs. For example, my son Jack is an introvert and the idea of going out to a restaurant and alerting the waiter that its his birthday is completely mortifying. My daughter Kate on the other hand is an extrovert and makes it a requirement that we tell the waiter it’s her birthday! Sometimes in the pursuit of being fair to each child, we lose sight of the fact. It’s okay to treat kids a little differently because they are individuals with their own unique wants and needs! Every child receives your love in different ways, so it’s important to be aware of that and make sure what you are doing fit his or her personality.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
Part of our weekly family meetings is spent talking about our goals. For each big goal our children come to us with we help them figure out the mini milestones they need to achieve and habits they need to cultivate in themselves to make it happen. For example, when my son Jack wanted to try out for his school play we knew that as an introvert it would be a goal that was out of his comfort zone. We broke out each of the things he needed to do — pick a song to sing, practice a monologue — and each family member chose a task to help him with. Each one of us helped him with a different milestone so he felt more confident reaching his goal. In the end, he did end up trying out and was awarded a part in the play!
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
Success to me is not about how much money you make, but about how happy you are. It’s about keeping your priorities in focus. The majority of parents will name their children as their first and foremost priority. After that, It’s all about intentionality and learning to say no to the extra noise in our lives.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
One of my favorite books is How to Really Love Your Child by Dr. Ross Campbell. The book is about how to stop what you’re doing, look your children in the eye when they’re speaking and be mindful of that time. He also talks about filling up our children’s “love tanks,” which is a technique I’ve adopted in my own life.
Another favorite resource of mine is Love and Logic. I’ve used this both as a parent and teacher. It’s a parenting and disciplining strategy that helps your children understand and make good choices.
Here’s a tip of mine for when you do find a parenting program, book or resource you like: see if there is an audio or video version that you can listen to or watch with your partner. That way, you can experience it together and share the parenting duty of how you’ll go about implementing the guidelines into your everyday lives. That way both of you are the “experts” and you can lean on one another a little more during those tough parenting moments.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is from Oprah: “Do not think you can be brave with your life and never disappoint anyone. It doesn’t work that way.”
I love this quote because I truly believe you have to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks and be happy with the imperfectly perfect you! The other day I sent a text to my 12 year old daughter, Kate, to see how she was doing with her friends and she replied “We’re all weirdos so we’re all happy.” To me this response was the ultimate cause for parenting celebration because it means my husband and I have taught her that it’s good to be different and unique — to stand on your own and not follow the crowd. As a mom of a middle schooler, that’s definitely cause to celebrate!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The movement I’d like to spearhead is the “Joy of Missing Out.” That is, how to actively choose to miss out on all of the extra “stuff” in our lives so we can focus on the moments that really matter most. In between the stress and worry there are moments full of joy and happiness. We just have to miss out on the rest to really experience them.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!
About the Author:
Dr. Ely Weinschneider is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based in New Jersey. Dr. Ely specializes in adolescent and adult psychotherapy, parenting, couples therapy, geriatric therapy, and mood and anxiety disorders. He also has a strong clinical interest in Positive Psychology and Personal Growth and Achievement, and often makes that an integral focus of treatment.
An authority on how to have successful relationships, Dr. Ely has written, lectured and presented nationally to audiences of parents, couples, educators, mental health professionals, businesses, physicians and healthcare policymakers on subjects such as: effective parenting, raising emotionally intelligent children, motivation, bullying prevention and education, , relationship building, stress management, and developing healthy living habits.
Dr. Ely also writes a regular, nationally syndicated column about the importance of “being present with your children”.
When not busy with all of the above, Dr. Ely works hard at practicing what he preaches, raising his adorable brood (which includes a set of twins and a set of triplets!) together with his wife in Toms River, New Jersey.