…I’ve learned to say no: Most of us hate saying no because we don’t want to offend someone else. But as I mentioned above, if we say yes to something that doesn’t align with our North Star, then we end up wasting precious time. Remember: every time you say yes to something, you’re in turn saying no to something else. That’s right. Just think about it: if you say yes to a new work promotion that has you traveling every month, that means you’re saying no to the things that time could have been spent on — family, friends, and whatever else falls in your core values.
As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Tanya Dalton.
Tanya Dalton is a nationally recognized productivity expert, best-selling author and speaker. Tanya serves as a growth strategist for female leaders in the corporate and entrepreneurial sectors.
In addition to having her book being named one of the Top 10 Business Books of 2019 by Fortune Magazine, Tanya’s podcast, The Intentional Advantage is ranked among the top 50 in the self-improvement category on iTunes. She is also a featured expert on several networks including NBC and Fox and is a regular contributor for Entrepreneur.com. Tanya has been featured in some of the world’s leading publications including Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, and Real Simple. She has been awarded the elite Enterprising Women Award and has been named the Female Entrepreneur to Watch for the state of North Carolina.
Tanya is also the founder and CEO of inkWELL Press Productivity Co. a multi-million dollar company providing tools that work as a catalyst in helping women do less while achieving maximum success. For more information visit www.tanyadalton.com.
Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
My journey as an entrepreneur started with a phone call. My husband John was somewhere in the world on one of his marathon business trips. With an MBA in marketing, he was constantly traveling the globe working with Fortune 500 companies. I was describing what happened with the kids that day when he said three words that nearly broke my heart: “I’m missing everything.”
At that moment, something in me shifted. I knew the little side business I had started with only 50 dollar was going to change the lives of my family. I set a big goal for myself, standing there in the middle of my kitchen. I decided that I was going to grow my business so my husband could leave corporate America behind for good and come work with me.
What led me to productivity, specifically helping women, was a combination of my passions really. I’m a former teacher, so teaching comes naturally to me, and I also pulled on my own experiences in life. For a long time I lived in this world of “busy” and overwhelm, racing around with little purpose or direction in my life. My book, The Joy of Missing Out actually opens up with my own epiphany story. One morning I was literally turning in circles in my kitchen, feeling helpless and not knowing where to begin on my mile-long to-do list. It was then that I realized there had to be a better way. That the idea of “productivity” had to be redefined if women were to live their best lives. I set off to conquer that change and redefine productivity for women everywhere.
According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?
It’s nothing new that our society glorifies “busy.” It’s so easy to get sucked into that “go, go, go” rat race. I think there are a few reasons that cause this feeling of always being rushed.
One reason is we live in such a “plugged in” society. Email, text, Facebook messenger — there are dozens of ways to reach someone. Plus, with the invention of smartphones, we’re able to reach people anytime, anywhere — day or night. This makes it extremely difficult to unplug and focus in on what and who are truly important in life.
Social media also adds to this feeling of being rushed, because there’s the tendency to compare yourself to others. When you’re scrolling through social media and see pictures of “perfect” families, homes or lives, it’s human nature to feel inferior. The thing is though, life isn’t perfect, it’s messy. And if you fixate on doing everything perfectly, you miss out on all the good stuff.
That’s what really sparked the idea for my book, The Joy of Missing Out. I want to inspire people to take a step back and take control of their time. Productivity is not about doing more, it’s about doing what’s most important.
Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?
When we rush, we often think that multi-tasking will make us more efficient, but that is a huge misconception in productivity. In fact, multitasking will make you less productive. The American Psychological Association estimates that switching between tasks can cause a 40% loss in productivity. What’s worse is you also tend to be more error prone when switching in between tasks. This can lead to overwhelm, stress and burnout.
Additionally, rushing can lead to hasty decision making. Specifically, saying “yes” to things you wouldn’t normally say yes to and over-committing yourself. It’s important to remember that every time you say “yes” to something, you’re also saying “no” to something else. In the rush of the moment it may seem like a good idea to say yes to joining a committee or task force, but if you take time to actually think about it, that’s time that could be spent with your family and loved ones. Better yet, it’s also time that could be spent on YOU and your own passions and interests. When we feel like we are not the owners of our own schedule it’s a very frustrating thing. It can lead to depression and feeling a lack of fulfillment in life.
On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?
When we slow down it gives us more time to notice things we wouldn’t normally. People are so uncomfortable with the idea of being bored and having nothing to do. In reality, boredom actually sparks your creativity. A 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that bored people “are more likely to engage in sensation seeking.” This means they go looking for activities or sights that engage their minds, which stimulates the brain’s reward centers. These people are also typically prone to “divergent thinking styles,” which means they’re more able to come up with creative new ideas.
Embrace some whitespace in your life. Your brain needs room to stretch and play, and if you fill every spare second of your day, there’s no room to allow that space.
Slowing down also allows you to appreciate what I call “Million Dollar Minutes.” Your Million Dollar Minutes are the moments in your life that if gone tomorrow, you’d gladly pay 1 million dollar to get them back. Think of all the times your kids interrupt your workflow to tell you about their day, or when your mom calls and you’re caught up in something else. Pay attention to those moments. We don’t want our life to be made up of missed precious moments. We want to live them!
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?
Yes, I do a few things to make sure I’m living my life with intention and slowing down to do more. They are:
- I only pursue things that align with my North star: Throughout history, the North Star has guided sailors and adventurers on the path to their ultimate destinations. While we may not be sailors, we still need a constant in our life to help guide us through the darkness. Our purpose and our priorities need to drive our productivity. The more we allow our North Star to guide us, the more productive and fulfilled we’ll become because it determines how we want to spend our time and, most importantly, guides our decisions.
At first, I had no idea what my North Star even was. I had to sit down and do the work. One’s North Star is a combination of your mission (statement that tells us what we are doing now), vision statement (tells us where we want to be), and core values (how these can be defined by our actions).
Once you have this filter set in place, you’ll find decision making to be much easier. You will erase the time spent agonizing over whether you should say “yes” or “no” to a request. The answer will lie within your North Star.
2. I’ve learned to say no: Most of us hate saying no because we don’t want to offend someone else. But as I mentioned above, if we say yes to something that doesn’t align with our North Star, then we end up wasting precious time. Remember: every time you say yes to something, you’re in turn saying no to something else. That’s right. Just think about it: if you say yes to a new work promotion that has you traveling every month, that means you’re saying no to the things that time could have been spent on — family, friends, and whatever else falls in your core values.
Still, the act of saying “no” is a lot harder in practice then in theory, so here is a helpful technique I use. It’s called the Sandwich Method because what you’re doing is sandwiching the “no” between two very nice statements, which represent the two pieces of bread. Using the example above, here’s what it would look like: “Thank you for thinking of me for this position. I’ve thought about it and given the travel that’s necessary for this role, I don’t think I’m the best candidate. It is such an honor that you thought of me, and I know you’ll find another equally qualified candidate to fulfill the position.”
See? You’re saying no and protecting what YOU really want while still being respectful. Remember: Being kind and being assertive are not mutually exclusive.
3. I set boundaries to protect myself and my time: Often we hear a word like boundaries and believe that we are limiting ourselves and our choices. What we don’t realize is that boundaries are actually a source of freedom! Solid boundaries allow us the space we need to focus.
Most of us have three buckets in life: work, home and personal. Creating boundaries allows you to focus on each area within its own time so that each is treated as a priority in its dedicated space.
What are a few examples of boundaries we can set you may be asking? Here are a few I like to use:
- Be transparent with your colleagues about your hours of availability. These days, just because you leave the office doesn’t mean you’re not reachable, so you have to set those boundaries with your professional colleagues so that there is space between your work and home life.
- If you’re currently working from home, alert your family or roommates when you’re entering a “deep work” period and are not to be disturbed. My favorite thing to do is put up an actual “Do Not Disturb” sign and put it in front of me. It hasn’t failed me yet!
4. I use traditions and automations to make life simpler: I love traditions and automations because it takes the thinking out of things. Here’s an example: My kids never ask me what we’re doing on Christmas Eve because we do the same thing every year. It’s a tradition. I make the same crab dinner I make every Christmas Eve, then the entire family opens up a new pair of pajamas to wear, and then we all congregate together around a game or movie.
I also add automations into my life by designating certain tasks or chores to certain days. For example, at home we have Laundry Tuesdays. I never have to worry about when the laundry will get done because my kids and I automatically wake up every Tuesday morning and know it’s the day to do it. I like to do this at work too — Marketing Mondays, Finance Fridays — once you get into systemizing your life like this it becomes addictive because it eliminates that decision fatigue we all hate.
5. My family has Sunday team planning: Every Sunday my family and I meet to go through the week ahead together as a team. We call ourselves Team Dalton because as a family and team, we’re able to lean on one another for support. I encourage you to do the same thing. Leaning on others is not a sign of weakness. In fact, sometimes it’s necessary. If I know I have a big launch coming up at work one week, I let my family know about it during that Sunday meeting. That way other family members can pick up a few home-related chores or errands while I’m focused on work. Knowing you have that support behind you and you don’t have to “do it all” is such a relief. Meeting as a family each week also allows me to know as a mother what my kids are prioritizing in their own lives currently, and how I can be a support system for them.
6. I make sure to take breaks and time off: One of my favorite things to tell people who are afraid to take breaks or take vacation because “they’ll fall behind,” is this: Periods of rest are not a reward for great work, but a requirement for great work to happen. Time off is essential to allow your brain to reset, and it can actually stimulate creativity. Research by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity has shown that optimistic emotions — like the kind that we feel when we’re on a relaxing, playful vacation — tend to make us more imaginative and capable of thinking outside the box. There have also been a variety of brain imaging studies that have confirmed that daydreaming, relaxing and being idle can actually trigger alpha waves in the brain that are linked to creative insights and innovative breakthroughs. So contrary to what people would expect from moments of inactivity and perceived “laziness,” our brains don’t shut off but are actually busy at work!
How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?
To me, mindfulness is all about living your life with intention, and also making an effort to invest in yourself. There are 5 easy ways to invest in yourself. You don’t have to do all five right away, either. Just choose one or two to integrate into your daily/weekly routine and you’ll be surprised how great it will make you feel!
- Look for learning opportunities: Make time for continued development — you can attend seminars, conferences, watch webinars and network with others who share similar interests. Something as simple as checking out a book from your library on a topic you’re passionate about is a great step.
- Read and keep up with current events: According to research conducted at the University of Sussex, reading gave the best return on reducing stress levels by 68% after just reading six minutes. I don’t know about you, but a six-minute investment to reduce my stress that much, that’s something I’m really interested in doing.
- Write: Even for just 5 minutes, you can attempt to write daily or a few times per week to start. Writing can be very therapeutic and improve your communication and creativity. It can be as simple as keeping a journal to help you really integrate writing into your daily life, and you don’t have to write long. Five minutes is plenty of time.
- Develop new skills: Make learning a lifetime goal and process. You could learn a new language. Take an art class. Get a certification or an extra degree. It’s really up to you. Make time to develop these new skills you learn and allow them the space to grow, because learning new skills encourages your creative thinking.
- Make time for your health: This means both physically and mentally. We often feel like we don’t have the time, so make sure to create a plan that you have in place to preserve your mindset when you have stressful times, and build in breaks that incorporate your health into your regular schedule. Take a look at your schedule and see what will work best for your time, your family and your needs.
Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?
Every time you’re making a decision, be mindful of your North Star, so you can ensure the time you’re putting in is going to benefit YOU and your goals. Also make sure to block out time in your schedule for yourself — that is, time to do the things you’re passionate about.
One thing I do that has been really effective is that I often wake up very early — 2 hours before the rest of my family gets up — to have that “me” time. I write, meditate, get some work done…whatever is calling out to me on a given day. Find that time to carve out for just you — even if it’s only ten minutes a day.
Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?
I love to use time blocking as a mindfulness technique. A great way to reduce overwhelm in the workplace is to plan each day with blocks of time to be devoted to tasks that need to be completed or to decompress after spending a period of focused time on that big item on our priority list.
While it may seem that these time blocks will actually eat up more of your schedule than you think you can allot, you might be surprised by exactly how much you’re able to get done when you make a point to block off specific periods of your day. During these time blocks, make yourself unavailable to colleagues, clients and the like that often create distractions.
By creating these blocks of time each day, you’re not only giving yourself the space to focus on your tasks without interruption, but you’re also making a point to devote your time in an intentional way… ultimately boosting your productivity and effectiveness on the job.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices?
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown,
Atomic Habits by James Clear,
On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life by John O’Leary,
Believe Bigger: Discover the Path to Your Life Purpose by Marshawn Evans Daniels,
Insight Timer app for meditation,
Calm app for moments of whitespace
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I love this quote from Laura Vanderkam because it’s so in line with what I teach: “Instead of saying ‘I don’t have time,’ try saying, ‘It’s not a priority,’ and see how that feels.” Our culture glorifies “busy,” so much so that many people are racing around trying to cross off as many tasks as they can on that never-ending to-do list. The problem is, no matter how many tasks you do cross off, your head will still hit the pillow at night feeling like you got nothing done. If all the tasks you crossed off the to-do list don’t have anything to do with your North Star then what good does it do?
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. 🙂
I think the world has started to get more on board with the Joy of Missing Out (JOMO) movement, particularly in the past few months because of the ongoing pandemic. I want the JOMO trend to continue to prosper so people put their priorities first and live better lives. If there’s any silver lining the pandemic has brought to life, it’s that people have a clearer focus on what’s actually important in life. That’s a gift.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!