Welcome to Thrive 9-5, a podcast all about how you can kick ass in the office and life without feeling exhausted or overwhelmed. Each week I'm sharing simple self-care strategies, mindset hacks, and time management tips, so you can get promoted without burning yourself out. My goal is to help you create success without sacrificing your soul or your sanity. I'm your host, Celeste Harrington.
Hey, Thrivers How are you all? I am feeling pretty good myself. I was going to say that I'm feeling tired, but I had to ask myself, am I really tired? This is a personal dialogue that I'm working on is changing this thought about me being tired, which of course only makes me feel more tired because there's a difference between being physically tired, being mentally tired, and then just telling yourself you're tired.
Telling yourself you're tired will result in more tiredness, I promise. So I'm working on changing that dialogue myself. So I'm feeling pretty good. Thanks for asking, even though you didn't ask, but I'm going to tell you anyway.
So I have been asked multiple times how I get it all done. How do I have a business? How do I serve my clients? How do I continue to work full-time at my job in mental health? Yes, I still work full time. I use my calendar. Y'all, use the tools you have. I teach a pretty unique calendaring system or calendaring method that helps you get more done in less time. And I don't like giving a bunch of action-based advice, like, go do this thing, go use my calendaring method, because you have to have the appropriate mindset to follow through. So today, I'm going to go against my advice and give you action-based advice. I will give you my calendaring tools but with one caveat that there's still some mindset work you have to work on. This is why whenever you start a new exercise routine, or a new diet, or a new habit, or what have you, you usually fizzle out because maybe your motivation isn't there, or the desire to achieve that goal is gone. It's because the mindset piece is what's missing. Your mind is going to continuously change because your thoughts will continuously change. And I've always been taught that life is 50/50 so you're not always going to feel super motivated about your lifestyle change. Sometimes you're not gonna feel that great about it. And whenever you accept that you're not gonna feel that great about it, it makes it so much easier to feel motivated again because you're no longer beating yourself up for feeling like crap because feeling like crap is part of the process. It's quite simple, but we make it complicated.
So with that, I will give you these calendaring tools, but know that you're not always going to want to stick to your calendar. That is part of it. Knowing that you're going to have some resistance when you come up with particular tasks on your calendar is normal. We don't always want to do everything that we schedule for ourselves. Whenever we come up with a task that we feel some resistance towards, I will give you some steps and suggestions on how to handle that resistance. It's just going to be allowing it and accepting it. But before we get there, let's back up as to why I even share a calendaring method in the first place.
So my philosophy is that to-do lists don't work. I have functioned off to-do lists for a long time. And I know a lot of people that do as well. They're usually on random ass sticky notes in your house or backs of envelopes, if you get some junk mail or a bill in the mail if you're not doing web bill pay, how dare you waste paper? But we still get random mail. So your to-do list ends up on the back of an envelope sometimes, sometimes they're in your phone. But the reason they don't work besides the fact that your to-do lists are all over the place is these lists are not organized, they're not sequential, you just add tasks as they arise and usually, they're really big overarching multi-step tasks that require a lot more time and energy than what's just listed on the note. Just listing the item on your note is vague. Usually, it's multiple steps to that task and that is why you don't end up getting things done on your to-do list for all of those reasons. They're out of order, they're vague, and they usually require multiple steps. And so what ends up happening is you cherry-pick off your to-do list the really easy things. And the reason why they're easy is that they're singular steps. For example, fold laundry. If you have laundry sitting in your dryer. This could be just one step. Or it could be two, take the clothes out to the dryer, put them on a surface, like your bed, and then fold them. So it really could be three steps. The idea, if you're catching on, is to break these steps down, so they're simple, singular steps, so your brain doesn't freak out whenever the task is to build a finance deck, and your brain is like, "Oh my god, how do I do that? I don't know. I don't even know where to get started." That's where the overwhelm comes from. You're setting yourself up for failure. You're operating off a to-do list that isn't in a singular step process. So you're kind of creating overwhelm on your own, not the task. The task of creating the finance deck isn't creating overwhelm for you, you're creating overwhelm for yourself because you're not giving your brain an easy way to digest it and get things done. So that's why it's a little bit of thought work, a little bit of mindset, so you can understand where the stress and overwhelm are coming from and how you can simplify it. It does take quite a bit of awareness.
So how do we break this down? Grab your to-do list. If you have your to-do list, we can do this right now on this podcast. Grab your to-do list and look at it. Look at how many of them are singular tasks that are easy. This will be simple, because you're like, "Oh, I can get that done, I can get this done, I can get that done." And what's left are the multi-step projects that probably feel overwhelming or things that you don't want to do. So once you have your to-do lists outlined or in front of you, I recommend getting another piece of paper or Word document on your computer, you can even do it on your phone, but I recommend getting it out in front of you at least to get this process started. It doesn't need to be this complex or broad, you just want to get started so that you can see from a big picture, from a bird's eye view, everything that you're expecting yourself to do and making it more complicated for yourself.
I will say that this will make your list appear a lot longer but you're going to get things done way quicker because you're giving yourself the advantage of simplicity. So get out your to-do list and another piece of paper and rewrite your to-do list with a ton of space between each task. Even after the simple singular one-step tasks, just do yourself a favor and give yourself some space to write. So whenever you write your to-do list, and when you see a task that is multi-stop, like that finance deck that you have to build or whatever it is, start writing out the steps that you need to do to complete that task. You can then call this a project. It no longer is a singular task. It has become a project.
And this is why you can think about why you're so overwhelmed like "oh yeah, I'm trying to complete a project. And this is why it's on my to-do list and creating so much overwhelm for me because there's a lot more that I need to do," and then complete the finance deck to check that off my list. So what do you need to do to complete that deck? Maybe set up a few meetings. You need to collect data. You have to analyze that data. You probably need to create a draft deck. Set up a meeting to go through the draft. Talk to stakeholders to see if you're on the right track, and you need to finalize it and even set a meeting to review it with your leadership or your finance people or whatever it is. This is just one example. I like doing housework projects as my example as well. So say I want to remodel my bathroom. I'm not going to put that on my to-do list. I'm going to put it on a larger list as a project and I'm going to list out the singular tasks that I need to do to complete that project. So those subtasks are what you can call them. I need to go on Yelp and see what contractors are getting good reviews. I need to look at a budget and see how much I want to spend on this project. I need to call some of those highly ranked contractors on Yelp or ask around in my neighborhood or my network and see who's had a really good experience with a contractor in a bathroom remodel. I had to look at vanities, right? These are all subtasks, singular tasks, I need to do to complete a bathroom remodel project. Those are the tasks that you want to be putting on your list or getting rid of the list altogether and putting it on your calendar and dedicating time to do it.
Dedicating time to do these tasks is probably the most important part of stepping away from a to-do list style of task management to calendaring because that's another reason that to-do lists don't work, right? They're not organized, they're not sequential, they're overarching, big, ambiguous projects, but also you haven't carved out any time in your day, or your week or your month to get it done. You're just, kind of, expecting yourself to do it. Whenever it is on your calendar, you know that you're going to be meeting with someone from two to three to talk about your finance deck, or analyzing data, or looking at vanities, or whatever that task is. So here's where we are. So far, you've dissected your to-do list, you've identified all of your projects, you've written them down on a separate piece of paper with tons of space in between, and you've identified subtasks for each of those projects. So now you should have a bunch of projects under your big to-do list, with singular subtasks underneath each one. And this is where you're like, "Oh man, I have so much to do." But don't worry because you're eliminating the overwhelm of these ambiguous tasks and making it simple for your brain to get things done. Right? There's no question on what it means to go on Yelp and look up five contractors. That's simple for your brain to do. And you can probably do it quickly. So it's going to be a much faster process for you to do this than it is to rely on a to-do list that isn't working for you. And you're also going to spend way less time beating yourself up because you're gonna get way more done.
Okay, so now looking at your list, you have your projects with your subtasks. The next part of this process is to go through each of those subtasks and figure out how long it's going to take you to do each of those tasks. And don't freak out about this step, like make it simple. Go through each of your sub-tasks, and just write out how long you think it will take you to get done. If you're not sure, give yourself a little extra time, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, whatever it is but don't extend it if it's going to take you double the amount of time because here's what happens whenever we start to implement this process. If you find that tasks are taking you a lot longer than you anticipate, there are probably a couple of things going on. It truly could take you a lot longer so just note that and then next time whenever you go to build your calendar, you know, it takes you quite a bit longer than you anticipated the first time, and you're going to give yourself quite a bit more time the next week you go to do this task. You could also be completely avoiding the task. You could be finding that you have a lot of resistance, or you just don't want to do it and you wind up on social media or Madewell shopping for new denim, or whatever it is. So if you end up finding yourself completely avoiding it, and you are procrastinating like crazy, that's where the mindset piece comes in. What are you thinking about this task? Is it not simplified and broken down enough for you to easily digest it? This is where you have to take that mindset edge to have awareness about you not wanting to do something. And I think we always want ourselves to be motivated to do something but that's just not always the case. This is going to be a little bit of tough love here but sometimes things just aren't going to be super easy, breezy, and you're not gonna be motivated or have a pep in your step for everything that you do. And guess what? That is okay. You don't have to be motivated to work out.
You don't have to be excited to pick up dog poop in your yard. You just don't have to be and that's okay. But what you want is the result of a great workout or the result of a yard without dog poop in it. I love that result. So I do it, whether I want to or not. So if you remember that you want the specific result or you want to avoid the consequences of stepping in dogshit on my way to the shed in my backyard, then I'm going to pick it up, whether I want to or not.
And so the same thing applies to work like you don't want to miss a deadline. So you're going to do a particular task because you want to be able to present this particular piece of data in this upcoming meeting, so you want to do the task. So don't expect yourself to be motivated all the time and that's going to make this a lot easier. Like I don't want to do this but I do want this result, or I want to avoid these particular consequences so I'm going to do it. And that should help move us along. Okay, so backing up, you have your list, you have your subtasks, and you just start writing the amount of tiny things it's going to take you to get things done. So now that you have all the time frames written down, know that you don't have to do all this in a week. Right? If you're going back to the bathroom remodel example, you're not gonna remodel your bathroom in a week. I'm sorry, my bathroom remodel took like twice the amount of time that I expected it to. So you are going to identify what you want to get done this week or the next couple of days. I like to do a whole calendaring method for the entire week. If this is new to you -because I've been doing this for a long time- maybe start with just a day, or a couple of days, or a couple of hours a day where you're practicing calendaring until it becomes something that you enjoy. Or if you find that you hate it, then fine, this is just how my brain works, and how a lot of my client's brains work and find a lot of success with this method. So try it out. If it doesn't work, find a different method, not a problem.
So once you've identified how long it's gonna take you to get these subtasks done. And then what you want to get done this week, you're going to like Star or highlight those items or whatever it is, and then pull out your calendar. So probably the most important part is setting up your calendar. So it works for you. You do not work for your calendar. It works for you. So if you find that you are worried about resenting your calendar, not liking how it's set up, not liking that there's not enough space, having an override of personal appointments, things are double scheduled, that is your fault. More tough love today and I'm not sorry. You are in charge of your calendar, you're in charge of managing your time. Because guess what, if you don't do it, someone else will do it for you, and not in a pleasant way. Okay, so this is the most important part for you to take responsibility for how you want to spend your time, which is basically how you spend your life.
Okay, so here are my few steps to making your calendar work for you. Before you add any of those sub-tasks to your calendar, you first start with self-care. You schedule yourself first. So you put your workouts on your calendar, you put your dog walking on the calendar, you put your meals on the calendar, any other personal appointments, like therapy, or working with your coach or getting dinner with your partner or brunch with your friends. You put that on the calendar, and you block it. right? I am drawing a lot of attention to the blocking part. Right? Don't make those fluid things that are blocking your time because they're the foundation to your success. If you're not taking care of yourself, no one else is gonna do that for you either, but your success will also be sacrificed because you'll resent everything on your calendar because you're not part of it. Okay, so schedule yourself first, then check on all of your standing meetings. There's probably already stuff on your calendar for weeks ahead of time, people have standing meetings, weekly, recurring things monthly, quarterly, whatever.
So look at your weekly standing appointments. Just double-check on those. Add in any other meetings that you plan to have that week or need to have that week, and then go through and add your subtasks to that space, whatever space is left, there will be plenty. There are a lot more hours in the day than you think.
So add your subtasks with the allotted amount of time that you identified and how long those tasks would take you and sprinkle them in throughout your calendar. Maybe you can put them around certain deadlines if there are deadlines that apply to those tasks or not. But put them on your calendar, 30 minutes here for this task on Tuesday, whatever, wherever you have space, and then you will still have space on your calendar. I promise you there will still be whitespace on your calendar and leave it. You can even block it and make it buffer time. And here's what you do with this buffering time. This is what a previous mentor of mine taught me about buffering time: you leave it there so you can squeeze in last-minute meetings, in case things take you longer than you anticipated them. Or if you don't ever use it, which is what I encourage you to never do, is to never touch your buffering time. Use it for more self-care. Don't use it to check more email, don't use it to get more work- I mean, you can whenever it's your time, you can check more email and get more work done if you want - but just leave the whitespace there. So you have ample time to have some flexibility. It's just this flex time. And the amount of flex time you have is varied by your job, right? If you're a full-on entrepreneur, you probably have way more flexibility than someone like a lawyer who has tons of appointments with clients or what have you, or court dates, or I don't know what a lawyer schedule looks like, but I'm just guessing. Okay, leave that buffering time for you.
And I kind of already hear you complaining about how you just have so many back-to-back meetings and you have no breathing room, y'all you can say no to these meetings. You are an empowered employee, and you can say no to them. Also, are you blocking your time when you don't want meetings? Is there a way you can shorten it and handle it over email or slack or whatever other messaging tools you're using with your company? So how can you ask yourself these empowering questions so you can challenge the current culture of back-to-back meetings, this just isn't working. You have the power to do that. Okay, so what's next you have your self-care, you have your standing meetings, you have your subtasks sprinkled in, you have your buffer time, email, emails what's last? How the hell do you stay out of your inbox, your Slack channel, or instant messaging, or whatever. You guys know I'm obsessed with the Cal Newport book Deep Work. And he talks about how email is just like the most terrible thing on the planet or instant messaging sounds a terrible thing on the planet for deep focused work is highly distracting. A lot of people just do a lot of shallow service level work with an email. I mean, ever think about a go on vacation email that ends up just handling itself. Like very rarely are there really hot things that just haven't figured themselves out while you were gone so technically, email isn't that important. It will all work out, I promise. So what do you do to stay out of your inbox all damn day? Well, why don't you turn off your notifications? Sorry, I don't have anything pinging or bringing or beeping at me ever, never, ever, ever? It's extremely distracting. If I'm going to get anything done on my calendar, I need to not be distracted. I highly encourage you to do that as well. It's really good for your brain to not have things pinging at you. So to stay out of your inbox, you have a schedule in boxing time. So in boxing times, when you check your damn inboxes you check your Slack, you check your email, you check your phone, whatever it is, I usually have in boxing time three times throughout the day morning, afternoon, and before I'm about to close up shop, so I can just check on things. I can make sure my inbox is handled, I can make sure no one ping me and fly, and check my text messages unboxings wherever you are receiving more information. These inboxes are also where you're receiving more tasks, more things to do. So instead of staying in your inbox as you can stay there all damn day and think you're getting a lot of work done. But it's like these quick little tasks that are distracting you from actually getting your true work done.
So by scheduling time to be in and out of your inbox, you will only do those quick little tasks that take you a few minutes to get done. If a bigger project lands in your inbox or your slack or your text wherever you're getting work, information from, make it a new project and do this task all over again. Make it a project, identify the sub-task, give yourself a deadline. Look at the amount of time it takes to get those sub-tasks done and put them on your calendar. That's it. I know some of my favorite people that work in intense jobs other than tech or startup where you have these urgent things to get done and we get wrapped up in the energy of that someone else thinks it's urgent and so you think it's urgent and then you drop everything else in your calendar. That might happen sometimes, maybe not. Maybe for an ER doctor, it's probably more important. I like to think about things. I don't know. I can't remember who quoted this but "the urgent is important." So you can ask yourself, how important is this? You can ask the sender, how do you want me to prioritize this? They might think it's freaking important but you have other things to get done that might be equally important that they might not be aware of. So you kind of have to have that open communication, that you can agree on how to prioritize your time and your work. Maybe there are times that you need to shift your day. Thankfully, you have all this buffering time that you have squirreled away so you can do that. Instead of getting wrapped up in that urgency, take a moment and ask yourself, how can you set yourself up for success? How can you still make this work for you? And also that urgency is probably temporary, it's not going to last forever so what can you do to simmer down quickly?
Remember, you are in charge of your time. Remember, if you don't safeguard that someone else is going to use it and steal it for their advantage. So if your time is protected, if your time is blocked, if you have already had all your self-care meetings taken care of and your time is secure, then those things that are coming in barking at you that are urgent, won't be as bothersome, because you still have that light at the end of the tunnel, like, Okay, I can get this done, but I still have my time blocked. I like dinner with my partner, or my workout, or whatever is scheduled this evening or tomorrow morning. Or that's why it's really important to have yourself on your calendar. That way, you know, you're always taken care of. And you made that happen, no one else.
Okay, I have a worksheet actually, for this entire method on my website. I will drop the link to access that in the show notes below. I highly encourage you to check it out because it helps you organize this entire system. And I didn't invent this, right? I learned some of these systems through Kara Loewentheil. Both Kara and I started to enter Brooke Castillo. So these calendaring methods have been around for a long time. And I know I mentioned Cal Newport. I think it's really important that we use our time in a way that's beneficial for us and that way we are more satisfied at the end of the day because we didn't think that we spent our time serving others and then spending and setting up our own time. So this is all about empowering you knowing that you get to spend your time however you choose, right, because calendaring is conscious. Conscious time spending that's how I like to look at it.
Okay, so grab that worksheet from my website. There was also this whole podcast. I also taught a Crush Your Calendar Masterclass, which is also on my website. So if you click the link in the show notes, you'll get access to that masterclass, there is a fun nice video recording, and a workbook that you can follow along so you can implement this to your calendar starting now.
Alright, y'all I hope you have a fabulous day and you can find success without sacrificing yourself. See you next time.
Thanks for joining this week on Thrive 9-5. If this episode hit home for you, because I know it did, join Thrive Weekly, a newsletter for people just like you who are looking to do success differently. The link to subscribe is in the show notes below. You can also follow along on Instagram @Celeste__Harrington and as always, subscribe to the Thrive 9-5 podcast so you can stay up to date as new episodes drop each week. I'll talk to you next time.