Podcast

Episode 85 – Tonya Dalton, New Year New Priorities

This show marks the launch of a special series all about you, where we learn about our minds, our bodies, our time, and our life! And what better way to launch into the new series and new year than with Tonya Dalton, a renowned productivity expert.

For those of you that love a good to-do list, get ready to be challenged. Tonya is all about showing us that what we need aren’t tasks, but meaningful priorities!

TRANSCRIPT

Jessica: Hey everyone! Happy 2020! And welcome back to the Going Scared podcast. This is your host Jessica Honegger, founder of the social impact fashion brand Noonday Collection. Join me here every week for conversations on living lives of purpose by leaving comfort and going scared.

Well guys, I know it’s been a couple weeks since the new year, but let’s face it, it’s impossible to plan and dream and create your goal list when the kids are on break. So, I’m hoping that all of your kids are back in school, and let’s just pretend that this is actually January 1, and we are going to dream a little bit. We waited until your kids were back in school before we launch my favorite series ever. We have some incredible experts coming on over the next few weeks. We have experts about productivity, rejection, happiness, health, and mindset. I have not been more excited about a series since we did our Imperfect Courage podcast series. These have been some of my all-time-favorite conversations, and today’s especially was really sticky for me.

So, when I hear the word productivity, I usually think “shmoductivity.” Seriously, I’m just not one of those high to-do-list gals that just gets that satisfaction when you cross through your list. For some reason for me, the word “productivity” has this connotation that pits people against tasks. And I really like people, and so I get a little freaked out when I think someone’s just a crazy task master. But this, my friends, is where I’ve had it all wrong.

What productivity expert Tonya Dalton teaches us is that it’s not about tasks. In fact, she said, “Put your to-do list away. What you need is a priority list.” “We,” she says, “are the ones who get to define what productivity is for us, and there isn’t one size that fits all.” So, one of my big goals for the year is to steward my time for its highest impact, and I was starting with my calendar, but she was like, “Throw your calendar out for now and start with your North Star. Start with your purpose. What are you created for, what’s your mission?”

And I’m telling you, this conversation has stuck with me. It stuck with me so much in fact, that Tonya and I wanted to offer you a mini coaching session along with giving you each one of our books. So, I would love for you to enter to win. And all you have to do is screenshot this episode, head over to Instagram Stories, and post it. Tag Tonya Dalton, and then tag me, Jessica Honegger. All the details are on my Instagram page. So, head on over there to learn more. Wouldn’t it be so fun to kick back with Tonya and I and have a conversation dreaming about your new year?

Tonya believes that too many people feel overwhelmed with all they have to do each day, so she’s starting a business focused on helping women use productivity to pursue their big goals, so they can each day feel leaving satisfied and successful. Her book, The Joy of Missing Out, has been my guide to the new year. And I know it will be your guide, too.

Reframing Productivity

Jessica: Tell me all about how you can share how we can be more productive. And for the person that’s listening that might be like me, and they’re just like, “Ugh, productivity,” reframe it for us, and help us to see what productivity is and how we go about doing it.

Tonya: I like to say that I’m redefining productivity for women because I think we do think it’s about doing, that we find our value through our to-do list. And if it’s not three miles long, and if we’re not checking 100 million things off that to-do list, we haven’t done enough. This is truly why we run around busy all day long, checking all these things off our list, and then slipping into bed at night thinking, “Oh, my gosh. I didn’t do enough. Why didn’t I work harder? Why didn’t I do this? I need to do more tomorrow.” And we feel so unsatisfied. To me, that is the worst way for us to end our days. And it’s because we feel like we are supposed to chase busy, that we are supposed to be doing. And it’s not about the doing.

I like to tell people that productivity is not about doing more. It’s doing what is most important. And what is most important to you, having creative space and open spaces of unrushed time so that you can just create and be in that flow, that really helps you, and that really feeds your soul. And I think the thing is we are all vastly different. And we need to embrace those differences. We need to customize what productivity looks like for each of us by creating our own systems. And that’s really what I walk women through in the book. It’s this idea that productivity has failed you in the past. I know it has because I hear from people that, “Oh, productivity,” or, “I’m doing all these things. I should be productive.” And it’s like, OK, first of all, let’s get rid of the whole should-ing. Right? Just because you think you’re supposed to do something, doesn’t mean that that’s really what you need to be doing.

“Productivity is not about doing more. It’s doing what is most important. And what is most important to you, having creative space and open spaces of unrushed time so that you can just create and be in that flow, that really helps you, and that really feeds your soul.” Tonya Dalton

And let’s really embrace the beautifully imperfect you that you are. Let’s embrace your strengths, let’s embrace your weaknesses, and let’s make it so that it truly does work for you, so that things that are important to you shine. And that is really what you center your day on. That’s really what productivity is. It’s about creating a life for yourself that feels intentional, that feels purpose-driven, that feels really focused on the things that move you towards that life you are looking for.

Jessica: I love that, how your book walks us through creating our own system. Because I feel like so much productivity people that are out there are like, “Here is my system. Follow it.” And that, of course, is what does not resonate with me. And it’s really interesting. We just had…

Tonya: Or me.

Jessica: Yeah, yeah.

Tonya: It really does. “Here’s the formula of what you have to do in your morning.” I’m like, “Ugh.” That makes me break out in hives. There’s not a formula that you have to do this and then this and then that and then this. Let’s figure out what really fulfills you, and then let’s fill your morning with that.

Turning Time into Impact

Jessica: OK. So, this is a really cool concept that I heard about. I just interviewed Dr. Laurie Santos for our podcast. She has a podcast called The Happiness Lab. She’s a professor at Yale. And she said that there is a high correlation between happy people and people that have what researchers have defined as time affluence. And she said time affluence isn’t necessarily having more time. It’s actually kind of about framing the time that you do have, which is really what you are doing. So, walk us through how can we now … it’s the new year, it’s 2020. We all have opportunities to look at our time differently. And I am such a believer. Time is what we have. Time is our main currency of impact and purpose. So, how can we go about customizing our own systems of productivity?

Tonya: I love that because I love this idea or that term of time affluency. Because what do we say all the time? “Oh, I don’t have the time for this. I don’t have time to do that. I wish I had more time.” Listen. We all have the same amount of time. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, the same 168 hours in our week. You, me, Beyoncé — it’s all the same. Right? Nobody gets that extra … mythical extra hour in our day. It really is in how we choose to look at our time.

I like to tell people that 99% of productivity, really 99% of life is mindset — how you’re choosing to look at how you’re spending your time, how you’re choosing the decisions that you’re making, how you’re choosing what you’re gonna focus on. I think that’s really, really important.

So, for me, one of the things that actually eliminated from my conversation altogether is that phrase “I don’t have the time.” Because I do have the time. I’m just not prioritizing whatever it is that is asking for my time. So, I no longer say I don’t have the time. I just say, “You know what? Right now, that’s not a priority. Maybe later on it will be.”

And when you start thinking about your time that way, that you do have as much time as you really want, it’s really how you’re choosing to spend it, it really changes your whole mindset on how your time feels. It feels like it grows. I think we think of time as being this very, very linear thing, this very rigid structured thing. But really, time ebbs and flows, and it moves. If you think about an hour at the beach versus an hour before a presentation is due, both are 60 minutes, but very, very different feeling 60 minutes.

“When you start thinking about your time that way, that you do have as much time as you really want, it’s really how you’re choosing to spend it, it really changes your whole mindset on how your time feels. … We think of time as being this very, very linear thing, this very rigid structured thing. But really, time ebbs and flows, and it moves.” Tonya Dalton

And so, it really is this idea of how do we wanna feel, what do we really wanna highlight in our time. And so, that really begins with this idea of discovery, and that’s what we go through in the book. The first section is on discovery. What is truly important to you? What is your purpose? What is your passions? What are your priorities? What are the things that you really want to have shine in your day? And let’s really allow that to be what guides us.

Your North Star: A Guide to the Right Opportunities

So, we talk about this whole idea of the North Star, which is your mission, your vision, and your core values. So, your North Star answers the question of your mission, which is not what you do, but why you do what you do. What’s your driving motivator? What’s in your heart that’s lighting your soul on fire? Why is it that you’re doing these things? So, why you do what you do. And then your mission statement says where you want to go. It’s really hard to create a life for ourselves if we don’t know where we’re heading. Right? It’s like jumping in the car without GPS or a map, and thinking we’re gonna make it across the country. It’s just not gonna happen. And then the last thing it answers is how. How are we gonna get there? Your core values.

So, by taking your mission, your vision, and your core values, and allowing that to be your North Star, your guiding principles and your guide for where you want to go in life, it makes it so much easier to filter out the opportunities. Because here’s what happens. We think opportunity knocks once. And if we don’t answer that door, it’s gonna pass us by. It’s never gonna come back. But here’s the truth. We don’t have to open the door every single time it comes knocking. There are plenty of times when the opportunities are not the right opportunities for you. You see, it’s not about saying no more often. It’s about finding your yes.

So, if we use our North Star, if we use that mission, that vision, and that core values, to really filter out “Is this the right opportunity for me?” that makes it easier for us to live a life that feels more meaningful. But here’s what happens. An opportunity arises, and what’s the question we ask ourselves? “Do I have the time? Do I have the time to do this?” And time is not the question here. It’s why do you wanna do this? How is this gonna drive you towards the life you want? How is this gonna benefit you and those around you? And then we can ask the question of, “Do I have the time?”

“If we use our North Star, if we use that mission, that vision, and that core values, to really filter out “Is this the right opportunity for me?” that makes it easier for us to live a life that feels more meaningful.” Tonya Dalton

So, you see, having this understanding of you who you are and what it is you wanna do and where you wanna go, that’s what really allows you to drive those decisions, to make the choices that allow you to live the life you truly want. So, really, when we have that in place, we can customize. We can figure out, OK, what are the habits you wanna instill? When we talk about your morning routine, which is essentially habits stacked upon one another, what are the things that are really important and meaningful to you? Is it journaling? Is it time with your devotional and your bible? Is it time with a cup of coffee, just staring off at the mountains out on your backyard? What is it that’s meaningful to you? And using that North Star to help guide that decision, that’s really how you begin to customize that productivity, so it fits you and what you really want.

Jessica: I love that. My husband and I, at the end of last year, met with a life coach for three entire days.

Tonya: Oh, it’s amazing.

Jessica: Eight to five.

Tonya: That’s a long time.

Jessica: Yes. And he walked us through a system. I mean, it was a system of how to sort of … By the end, we walked away with what he calls a life plan. It’s called the Patterson Organization.

Tonya: Oh. Uh-huh.

Jessica: Have you heard of this?

Tonya: I have, yes.

Jessica: Because, for me, when I hear you say, “What is your life purpose,” that can sound so intimidating. But he kind of just made it real simple. We looked at our life … My husband and I, it was a couple’s life plan. So, we started off with here’s when we got married. We walked through our life. We came up with these key points in our life, these turning points, these things that either led to personal growth or different directions. And then we kind of identified why was that a turning point, how did you feel during that turning point. And I don’t know. By the end, it went real quickly because he walked us through a ton during those three days. But the life purpose part, it happened in like 15 minutes. And I was kind of freaked out like, “What?” But it was real simple. It was like, “I’m called to activate others to create opportunity for themselves that brings freedom — financial freedom or freedom from poverty.

And it is so clarifying, and that is what I’m gonna use as my North Star. So, I just wanna encourage people. I think that you hear purpose, and you think … maybe you associate with a vocation or a call or something like that. But I think there’s something so beautiful to recognizing what are those things that come really natural to you, what are the things that other people think you’re great at. Sit down with a friend and say, “Why are you friends with me? What stands out to you?” You don’t have to dwell on this for the entire 2020 year. You know what I mean? I feel like people get stuck with step one.

Grow, Change, and Do Things Differently

Tonya: Yeah. They get so bogged down on it because it feels heavy. It feels big, this idea of purpose. Right? Or when you say something like the word “mission statement,” they’re like, “Oh, my gosh. It’s like this is you now and forever.” And I like to remind people that, here’s the truth. You’re gonna change. You’re gonna evolve. You’re gonna grow. Right now, who you are today, is different than who you were 10 years ago. Guaranteed. Without question. It might be different than who you were five years ago. It might be different than who you were five months ago. So, to have this idea that this … your purpose, your mission, your vision, your core values, are never gonna change, that they’re set in stone, is not quite right. It’s really, as you grow, as you have successes, as you have failures and stumbles that you learn from and grow from, you are going to continue to evolve and grow, and so will that direction you wanna go to.

“You’re gonna change. You’re gonna evolve. You’re gonna grow. Right now, who you are today, is different than who you were 10 years ago. … As you grow, as you have successes, as you have failures and stumbles that you learn from and grow from, you are going to continue to evolve and grow, and so will that direction you wanna go to.” Tonya Dalton

I mean, when you were 10 years old, you probably didn’t think to yourself, “I’m gonna start a company that helps women create jewelry pieces so they can have financial freedom.” That wasn’t even on your radar when you were a child, probably, I would assume.

And so, same thing for me. If you would ask me even 10 years ago if I was gonna be a productivity expert, I would have been like, “What? I don’t know.” I was doing something very different at the time. And I grew into this. So, I love what you said there. We have to let go of that heaviness. We have to let go of that weight. And we have to realize that it doesn’t have to be difficult. Just really reflecting back on our past, looking at where we’ve been and where we wanna go is incredibly powerful and uncovering what I like to call your breadcrumbs. That path is there. It’s there all along. And we just have to kinda look backwards to see where we’ve been to figure out, “OK. This is the direction I’m going. And this is where I wanna keep moving forward.”

Jessica: OK. I think I’ve come up with a definition while we’ve been talking, that feels good to the Seven.

Tonya: Yeah? Let’s hear it.

Jessica: Productivity. It’s using your time in a way that aligns with your purpose.

Tonya: Yes. I love it. Yes.

Jessica: OK. OK. So, with that in mind … So, now, for all of my listeners who were just like, “Productivity, shmoductivity,” I…

Tonya: I know exactly what you mean.

Jessica: It’s because I associate it with, I think, the people that are out there saying like, “You gotta wake up at five, and you need to drink this amount of water, and you need to blah, blah, blah.” I’m just like, “Stop it.”

Tonya: Walk away from that. We gotta stop letting other people make decisions for us of what our life is supposed to look like. Let go of the Pinterest-worthy life and the Facebook-worthy life. Let’s live the life that really feels good to you.

Jessica: Yes. And so, I love that idea of … So, what is your purpose? And again, this isn’t heavy. It’s fun. And don’t make it a big thing. You could … Seriously, I don’t know whether you’re listening to this podcast in the morning, at night. Take 20 minutes today and just kind of sketch that out real quickly. Run it by a friend. “Hey. Does this seem to kinda match with how you experience me?” And then once you have that, it’s like, “OK. So, then how am I gonna use my time then to reach this purpose?” OK. Walk us through then the second part of your book. We’ve got our purpose now.

Tonya: So, discovery is the first section. And then we have clarity as the second step. So, it really is, “OK. That sounds good. How are we gonna make this happen?” How do we clarify our day so that we are spending it on what matters most? Because we do feel like we don’t have the time. Right? So, how do we structure our day so it feels good to us? And when I say structure, again, I’m gonna say this to you as a seven who doesn’t like structure, probably. It’s this idea of … It’s just like your skeleton. Right? It holds your bones up, and it holds your body up, but you decide, your muscles and your brain decide where you’re gonna move and how you’re gonna move throughout your day. Are you gonna give yourself 90-minute blocks of time to work? Are you gonna give yourself 60-minute blocks? There’s no right or wrong. It’s really what works for you.

So, let’s clarify your day, and let’s really talk about what I … I like to tell you the three big resources that we have, that once we give them away, they’re gone forever. And that’s time, energy, and focus. And yet here we are, handing out our time, our energy, and our focus … we’re free wheel and then we’ve got all of it in the world. If we start thinking about our time the way that we think about our money, we don’t do that with our money. We don’t just stand on the corner of the street, handing out $5 bills to everybody who passes. We make sure that we pay our mortgage, we pay our rent. We make sure that our kids have food to eat. We make sure that we pay the bills, and then we can hand out some money on some frivolous or some fun things. But we do that with our time. People ask for 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there, 20 minutes, an hour, half a day. And we think, “Oh, yeah. OK. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.” Let’s really make sure that we are investing our time, our focus, and our energy.

From To-Do List to Priority List

So, how do we structure our day so that we are focusing on what matters most? So, one of the things we really focus in on this part is throwing out that to-do list. You gotta stop looking at the to-do list as your badge of honor.

Jessica: I was not expecting to hear a productivity expert telling me to throw out a to-do list. I love it.

Tonya: Well, I think your to-do list takes you everywhere but where you really wanna go. Because it’s too long, it’s unorganized, and I mean, quite frankly, it doesn’t tell you where to start. And I like to tell people that overwhelm isn’t having too much to do. It’s not knowing where to start. And if you start your day and you center it around what matters most, if you prioritize your day and you make sure that you’re really spending your time, which we know you have a limited amount of, in ways that feel meaningful, that’s when you slip into bed at night and you think, “You know what? Today was a good day. Today felt solid.” We don’t have nearly enough days that end that way.

“I think your to-do list takes you everywhere but where you really wanna go. Because it’s too long, it’s unorganized, and I mean, quite frankly, it doesn’t tell you where to start. And I like to tell people that overwhelm isn’t having too much to do. It’s not knowing where to start.” Tonya Dalton

So, I like to tell people, instead of doing a to-do list, make a priority list. Let’s sit down and prioritize what you wanna accomplish in the day. Let’s make it manageable and achievable. No more of this three-miles-long list of things to do. It’s really like, “What is it? What’s the minimum I could do today that really will make me feel good?”

I think, so often, we confuse this idea of, it’s quantity — the more we do, the more productive we are. When really, a lot of times, less is really the answer here. And if you think about it in terms of … let’s say you take 50 steps in 50 different directions. Where are you gonna end up? I mean, you might end up in the same spot. You might end up further behind from where you are right now. You might end up in a totally different location. But if instead of taking 50 steps you chose to take 5 simple steps all in that same direction, all things that are important to you, where are you gonna end up? Closer to where you want to be. Closer to that ideal life that you’re looking for. Five is so much more powerful than 50.

So, let’s stop feeling like we have to do more. Let’s focus on doing less. Less, but more meaningful. And that’s why I think the to-do list totally works against you because it tells you that you haven’t done enough. Every day, you leave your to-do list undone and you think, “Oh, my gosh. I can’t believe I didn’t get through those 75,000 things I had listed. I’m no good. I’m terrible. I’m not worthy.” And I think that’s so defeating. Let’s end our days feeling successful with those 5 steps instead of worrying about the 50 steps that are leading us everywhere else.

Jessica: OK. As I’m hearing you talk, I’m loving it. And I’m also thinking, this takes time. It does take time to prioritize. Whereas the to-do list is like “Oh” … you just kinda start doing like what you’re saying. So, how do you go about…

Tonya: Yeah. And I’m gonna tell you. It takes no more time than a to-do list, quite frankly.

Jessica: OK.

Tonya: It takes a little more thinking because you’re basically taking your list and you’re just putting it in order. And we walk through that in the book. If there’s three different categories, and it’s really simple to start clarifying and figuring out what’s truly important and what’s really unimportant.

Three Categories to Organizing Priorities

Jessica: What are the three categories?

Tonya: OK. So, at the top, we start with … We start with the very top, which is Escalate. So, these are tasks that are important, and they’re also urgent. So, this is where people get really confused. They think anything that’s urgent, anything that’s got a deadline automatically needs to be taken care of first. And that’s not necessarily true because urgent just means it needs to be done. Right? It needs to be done because it’s got a deadline. Things that are important are things that drive you closer to that North Star. They’re linked to your goals. They’re things that are an investment in yourself, and they really do work to your advantage.

So, we start our day with things that are important, things that are gonna drive us forward, that are gonna feel meaningful and fill our soul, not just fill our calendar. So, things that are important, but also urgent. So, they do have a looming deadline, but it’s more about the fact that they’re important. So, we start there, and we do a couple things that are Escalate.

And then the next area is Cultivate. Now, this is the area we were talking about earlier when you and I were chatting about this whole idea of, as a CEO of a company that you need time to strategize, you need some open spaces to really think. So, these are things that are important, but they’re not really urgent. So, this is really where you get to do the bird’s eye view of where you wanna go with your business, or thinking about how much do I wanna budget for our marketing this month, or where do I want to put it to for our family budget, or learning a new skill, taking a course, taking a class, doing things like that. But what happens is, even though this is important and this is really where we see giant growth and big steps moved forward in our work life and in our personal life, we tend to push it aside because it’s not urgent. There’s no screaming fire, there’s no alarm bells going off.

So, we push it to the side when, really, this is where we wanna spend the majority of our time. These are the tasks that we’ll do that make us feel satisfied at the end of our day because we’re moving towards being that person we wanna be.

So, that’s the second section. So, we have Escalate, and then Cultivate. And then at the very bottom, we have Accommodate. So, these are the tasks that are the urgent fires that are screaming at us — things like “Gotta return the shirt to Target. I need to pick up the dry-cleaning.” But those aren’t really important, are they? Because it’s not really driving you towards your goals. It’s not connected to your North Star.

And so, because they’re urgent — those are the alarm bells going off, the pings on our phone, the 99% of what’s in our inbox right now — we tend to take care of those first just because they’re, “Oh, my gosh. I gotta get this done.” But because they’re not important, that’s why we end our day feeling like, “Gosh, I didn’t really accomplish much. I didn’t get enough done.” Because those are the tasks that don’t feel good to our soul. They just feel good because we’re checking them off the list.

So, when we start at the top with the things that are important and urgent, then focus on things that are just merely important, and then we end our day with things that are urgent but not really important, that have still to get done, that’s when we feel satisfied. That’s when we feel good. And when we have that structure, we do away with all of that feeling of being overwhelmed. And that is a really incredible feeling, to feel like you are in charge of your day, that you have ownership over your calendar and your time.

“When we start at the top with the things that are important and urgent, then focus on things that are just merely important, and then we end our day with things that are urgent but not really important, that have still to get done, that’s when we feel satisfied.” Tonya Dalton

Jessica: Oh, my gosh. I’m feeling proud of myself right now, because this was my big revelation. I said I’m meeting with my assistant this afternoon. I find that I’m very creative on Monday mornings. So, I freaking hate then cleaning my week and doing all these tactical things or even having meetings on Monday. I’m just like, “You know what?”

Tonya: Yeah. I would say, don’t.

Jessica: Don’t. Talk it out…

Tonya: Don’t. Don’t have meetings on Monday. Yeah.

Jessica: Yeah. Yes. And…

Tonya: But here’s the thing. You’ll read from productivity experts that are like, “Monday morning, that’s your chance to…” Do away with that. Let go of that. If Monday morning is your creative space, you block that off because that’s important time. You can have the meetings Monday afternoon. You can have them Tuesday. It doesn’t matter. The world is not gonna come to an end because you’re not doing what everybody else is doing. Monday is your day. That is your time to be creative. And so, let’s truly make it work for you. And do away with that guilt of “This is what everybody else is doing” or “This is what I’m supposed to do” because this is what “makes me productive.” You know what’s gonna make you productive? Spending Monday mornings being creative.

Saying Yes to Boundaries and No to Guilt

Jessica: It’s so true. And it’s funny because I’m just starting with a new therapist. I haven’t been to therapy in a few years, and I just was needing to work through some stuff. And she said to me … We were talking about my schedule, and I was like, “I just feel…” She was kinda going that route of …  I mean, this is literally our first time meeting together, and she’s like, “So, do you have problems saying no to people? Do you have issues with boundaries?” I’m like, “No. I can say no, like, ‘No, I don’t wanna meet about that today.’ But then I feel bad.” I wanna get rid of the feeling bad part. That’s why I’m in therapy because I wanna be able to say no, and then not spend my energy. Like what you said, we have time, energy, and focus. And I am thinking, “Man, where do I give my energy to that I need to drive forward instead of spending energy on stupid stuff like guilt or feeling bad?” Any suggestions there? How do we not feel bad for setting boundaries? Because I can set them, but then I feel bad about it.

Tonya: This is the problem. So often we say yes out of guilt. We let people overstep our boundaries, because we feel bad because we’re like, “Oh, but I don’t wanna hurt their feelings.” So, we forget, and we forget to separate the request from the relationship, first of all. That just because she’s your friend, doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person for saying no. Because you don’t think she’s a bad person when she says no to you. It goes back the same way.

So, in the book, we talk about this whole idea of when you’re saying yes, it needs to feel like, “Oh, yes.” It needs to feel really good. And we have a whole finding your yes blueprint that we walk through of whether an opportunity is right for you or not for you.

But truly, when we stake our boundaries, when we lay those out in ways that we don’t allow people to overstep them, that’s really when we can have this time for ourselves. Like you said, on Monday mornings, for you, that creative space. So, I’d like to remind women especially that being kind and being assertive are not mutually exclusive. You can say no in a way that is very kind and understanding. And one of the very, very easy ways to do this is take yourself out of the equation, because here’s what happens. We stake our boundaries, or we say no to something, and then we’re over-apologizing and over-excusing, “Oh, I have all these things going on.” And then somehow, we get roped into saying yes after all because we feel so bad about it.

“This is the problem. So often we say yes out of guilt. We let people overstep our boundaries, because we feel bad. … So, we forget, and we forget to separate the request from the relationship. … when we stake our boundaries, when we lay those out in ways that we don’t allow people to overstep them, that’s really when we can have this time for ourselves.” Tonya Dalton

But here’s the thing. Take yourself out of the equation, first of all. Set it so that your auto-responder comes up or it’s in your footer of “These are the times I’m available. These are the times I’m not,” especially for work things especially. The client phone calls or meetings with your team or things like that. Put that in your footer. Put it in your contract. Put it in every communication that you’ve got, whether it’s your voicemail, like when you’re gonna return phone calls and when you’re not. Really allow people to see your boundaries because here’s what happens.

When people overstep our boundaries, when they invade our sacred spaces and we get irritated, most times it’s not their fault. It’s ours. We have allowed it to happen, and they don’t know they’ve even overstepped. So, here we are, really irritated and frustrated, but we haven’t communicated it to them. We’ve responded to client emails at 11:00 at night. So, that becomes an expectation. Well, of course, she’s gonna respond to my email. It’s 11:00 at night. She always does. Right? Instead of delaying the delivery of that email or doing things like that.

And so, I think that this is one of the things — really making sure that we’re very clear. And in the book, we talk about this whole idea of the sandwich strategy, which is one of my very favorite ways to say no. And really, the sandwich strategy is just like it sounds. Think about what a sandwich looks like. It’s two slices of bread with a filling in the middle. Well, when you’re saying no to someone, the filling, the meat of the message is, “No, I’m not gonna do this,” or “You can’t call me during this time,” or whatever it is. The bread that sandwiches that no is two slices of kindness.

So, let’s say, for example, someone is asking you to join a committee, that kind of thing. So, your first slice of kindness is, “Oh, thank you so much for thinking of me. This is such a worthy cause. I love that you’re bringing attention to it. Unfortunately, I have a lot of obligations going on right now, and I cannot give it the time it deserves.” So, you notice there that I’m not saying, “I’m too busy because I’m not elevating myself.” I’m saying, “Your cause is very important, but I’m not gonna be able to give it the time it deserves.” And then your last little slice of kindness could be something like, “You know, I’m really excited about this, and I can’t wait to see what you’re going to create with the people you pull together.” So, kindness at the front, kindness at the end, but right there in the middle, there is a very, very solid no.

And I think that’s the main thing. We want our noes to be palatable. We want it to feel really good handing out this sandwich. We want it to feel good to the people we’re getting it to, but we need it to feel good to ourselves. Right? And when you do it with kindness, when you do it in a way that has this structure to it, it takes you out of the equation. It takes all of that over-apologizing or second-guessing yourself out of it because you’ve said no in a very clear way that’s still very, very kind.

Jessica: I think I don’t need to get a therapy. I think that you’re solving my problems right here right now.

Tonya: Love it.

JOMO: The Joy of Missing Out

Jessica: I mentioned your book and the intro, but we haven’t actually said the name of it during this interview. But it’s called “The Fear of Missing Out.”

Tonya: Oh, no. It’s not the fear. The Joy of Missing Out.

Jessica: Sorry. The Joy of Missing Out. I’m sorry. What I wanted to say… What I was trying to say is that the phrase “the fear of missing out” has made its way into our lexicon. And so, you have been … you’re kind of doing the antithesis to that, which is The Joy of Missing Out, which I think is why your book has been so successful because it’s turning that whole idea that we all laugh about it, the fear of missing out, which of course as a Seven — they say that’s like a big fear of mine — into the joy of missing out. So, tell us a little bit about that. Tell us about the concept of “the joy of missing out.”

Tonya: Yeah. Well, I think you’re so right. This whole idea of FOMO or the fear of missing out permeates everything. Right? It permeates the advertising we see, it permeates society like, “Oh, you’re not going to this party? Oh, you’re gonna miss out.” We worry about it. This is why we open the door to opportunity every single time it knocks.

But here’s the truth. I truly believe that we all have joy in our lives, that there are these little pockets of joy scattered throughout our day. But because of the busyness, because of the noise and the clutter in our lives, we don’t see that. We don’t have the opportunity to really quiet ourselves to see these pockets of joy. So, when you think about your ideal day, when you are sitting in line waiting at the coffee shop for your coffee to come and you’re thinking about, “Oh, wouldn’t it be amazing if this was my day?” There’s a lot of amazing things in it. I can imagine there are some incredible things in that ideal day.

But there’s also a lot of things that are missing. The feeling of being stretched too thin, that’s gone. You know, the feeling of saying yes out of obligation and guilt instead of out of joy and happiness, that’s gone. The feeling of having to do so much and the stress of living up to everyone else’s expectations, I can guarantee you, that is missing in your day. And that is where the joy is hidden. By actively choosing to miss out on all that noise and the clutter and the busyness, and really finding the joy that’s right there, right in front of you in your day. So, that to me is the joy of missing out.

“By actively choosing to miss out on all that noise and the clutter and the busyness, and really finding the joy that’s right there, right in front of you in your day. So, that to me is the joy of missing out.” Tonya Dalton

Jessica: I absolutely love that. OK. You’re a passionate lady. I can tell.

Tonya: I am.

Jessica: And you have a really great voice, by the way.

Tonya: Thank you.

Jessica: I love that you have a podcast because I’m like, “You are so articulate, and you have a good voice, like a radio voice.”

Tonya: Thank you.

Jessica: I mean, you’ve grown multiple businesses, to writing your own successful book, to having the podcast Productivity Paradox. And it seems like your passion is very much on display and contagious. Tell us about how you stay in touch with that passion. And I’m sure that there’s times when you have to go back and read your book, and you gotta take your own medicine. When you do that, what can you identify is kind of those places where you’re like, “Oops. I know how I got here. I’m feeling burned out. I’m feeling stretched too thin. I’m feeling resentful about meetings.” What are those actions that usually led you to that point?

Tonya: Yeah. I love this question, because I feel like sometimes I’ll say things like, “Oh, I’m struggling with this,” and people are like, “You do?” And I’m like, “Well, I’m human.” Right? “Yes, I know I should be doing these things, but it doesn’t mean that I’m always perfect.” No one is perfect. And so, there are times where I slip and I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. I’ve worn myself out.” Nine times out of 10, it’s because I said yes to too much. Right? I’ve told myself this story that, “Oh, I can do all these things.” And I have to remind myself of my own advice. When you try to do everything for everyone, you end up doing nothing for no one, and especially for yourself. And so, that’s generally when I find myself slipping where…

Just recently, I’ve been doing kind of an inventory of myself where I’m kinda taking a good hard look at things because … especially with this kind of a crazier season when you’re launching a book, you’re doing lots of interviews and media, and you’ve been writing, and all these other things are going on. And it is kind of a season of saying a lot of yeses to things I wouldn’t normally say yes to. And so, you have to stop and say, “OK. What do I need to say no to?” Because every time you’re saying yes, there’s a no hidden somewhere inside. Right? Every time you say yes, you’re also saying no.

Productivity: Sharing Our Best Selves

And so, I needed to stop and really realize, “What have I been saying no to when I’m saying yes so much?” And I think, for myself, just like for most people, most of the time, when I’m saying yes to everyone else, the thing I’m saying no to is time for myself, really recharging my own batteries and making sure that I’m giving myself that white space that I need, just like you were saying, I need that space, too, to be creative. Giving myself time to do the passion projects and the hobbies that I truly love. I’m saying no to those because I’m saying yes to everything else.

And so, recently, I’ve been stopping and saying, “OK.” So, each week I do the podcast, and then we do a couple of blog posts that are tied to the podcast. And then we do … For a while there, we were doing a TonyaTV episode, a video episode that was tied in every week. And then we did it every month. And right now I’m like, “You know what? We’re gonna put a pause on the videos.” There’s lots of videos we’ve already created. I need to say no to that for a while so I could say yes to time for myself. I need to say no to trying to do all of those things so I can say yes to Tonya. Because I think that’s really important. I need to make sure that I’m recharging myself, and that I’m giving myself that space. Because I think, so often we feel guilty even saying that, like giving yourself space like, “Oh, what a luxury.”

But truly, when we give ourselves time to be our very best selves, we can give our best selves to everyone else. It makes me happier, which makes me kinder and nicer to my kids, more patient with my husband, happier with my team and my employees. It makes me more likely to smile at strangers on the street. All of those things bleed into everyone else’s lives when we take care of ourselves. So, that often is the thing that I have to remind myself of. Take care of yourself so you can take care of other people.

“When we give ourselves time to be our very best selves, we can give our best selves to everyone else. It makes me happier, which makes me kinder and nicer to my kids, more patient with my husband, happier with my team and my employees. … Those things bleed into everyone else’s lives when we take care of ourselves.” Tonya Dalton

Jessica: And you were in last year a big launch year launching your book. And I think there is that time, too, where you’re like, “OK. This is the cost of doing this, that opportunity cost.” So, you are saying no to a lot during that time maybe in the personal areas of your life because you’re saying yes to a successful launch. And then there comes a time where that … you kinda have to almost put a bow on it, which is weird with a book especially because it kind of always lives. But you almost have to actually put a bow on it, evaluate that and be like, “OK, now I’m moving into this next season.” At least that’s how I had to do for my book. Okay I wanted to ask you this.

Tonya: It is a lot. Yeah. I call it a container. A time when you’re in, and a time when you’re out. And you choose those times of when you start … I call it a container of time even for my blogs because when I’m in, I’m fully in all the way, but I also know that I’m not gonna stay in. I gotta get out of that container. You have to get out of that container.

Jessica: I love this. You’re changing my life. I seriously think I could ditch my new therapist and meet with you once every…

Tonya: Just call me.

Jessica: Oh, yeah.

Tonya: Just call me. We’ll chat.

Jessica: This is so good. This is so good. You are just reframing productivity. You’re reframing this whole idea of fear of missing out. Instead, it’s the joy of missing out. I think everyone is going to run and get your book after this interview, for real. I mean, it’s so good. And I know it’s been wildly successful, and I can see why. But I’m telling my listeners right now, as someone who doesn’t just love to sit down and be intentional about planning, I’m totally changing my ways. I really am. And I just love how you said we’ve got time, energy, and focus. And truly, I wanna live a life of impact. And you know, I’m just building in my four hours of going with the wind. Then I can at least have that.

Tonya: Schedule in that un-schedulable time. Right?

Jessica: Schedule the un-schedulable.

Tonya: Yeah. Schedule in plans … a block of “I don’t have anything planned.” And that feels so good because then you really can go wherever the wind takes you. But you don’t feel guilty because you know what? That’s what that time was planned for. Feel good about having unstructured time. I think it is so important. That goes against what everybody else says as a productivity expert.

Jessica: I know.

Tonya: It’s true. Yeah.

Jessica: It’s true. I’m standing up. I’m standing up. I’m taking control. I’m taking charge, taking charge.

Tonya: I love it.

Jessica: Don’t forget. Screenshot this episode, post it in your Instagram Stories, Tag Tonya and me, and you could win a free mini coaching session with us, along with each one of our books. I spent time over the break digging into some of the activities that she recommends, and I promise you, coming up with your North Star, and your purpose, and your vision, and your values, all of these things are what help you live a life of stewardship, live a life of impact. I would like to invite you on this New Year journey with me, so head on over, spread the word about this episode. I know it’s going to help so many people.

Thank you so much for tuning in to our first episode of 2020! And like I said, we have so much in store for you over the next few weeks. Today’s episode is produced by Eddie Kaufholz, and our wonderful music for today’s show is by my good friend Ellie Holcomb, and I’m Jessica Honegger. Until next time, let’s take each other by the hand and keep going scared.