Balance & Beyond Podcast

Episode Summary

#38: Reclaiming Time: Strategies for Peak Productivity and a More Meaningful Week

Ever feel like you're running a marathon with no finish line in sight?

That's how Jo felt before revolutionising her approach to time management, and she’s here to share the game-changing strategies that have given her back control of her clock. Our latest episode is a treasure trove for anyone looking to transform their daily grind into a well-oiled machine, whether you're a business owner or just someone eager to cut through the chaos. We delve into the art of task categorisation and scheduling with precision, ensuring that every one of the 168 hours in your week counts. It's not just about working smarter; it's about making space for what truly matters.

As we peel back the layers of productivity, we confront the all-too-common habit of constant context-switching and how it's sabotaging our efficiency. Jo has personally experienced the profound difference that batching tasks can make, and she’s thrilled to share insights that will help you march to the beat of a more productive drum. We also bust the myth that busyness equals importance, challenging you to examine your own beliefs about what it means to be truly productive. By the end of our discussion, you'll be equipped with the strategies Jo has used to expand her business with fewer hours at the desk, and you'll be inspired to reassess your own calendar and mental load. Join us for a journey that promises to reshape your relationship with time—once and for all.

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Episode Transcript

INTRO: Welcome to Balance and Beyond, the podcast for ambitious women who refuse to accept burnout as the price of success. Here, we’re committed to empowering you with the tools and strategies you need to achieve true balance, where your career, relationships and health all thrive, and where you have the power to define success on your own terms. I honour the space you’ve created for yourself today, so take a breath, and let's dive right in…

We all want more time, right? It's the one thing we can never get enough of. We all get the same 168 hours a week, but today I'm going to be sharing with you some game-changing strategies that I'm using in 2024. That has unlocked so much more time, so much more headspace, and is helping me be a lot more focused and productive. Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? Well, let's dive in and talk about what shifts I have made that you can make to help you get the same results. 

In anyone's typical day, we all have a number of activities that we all tend to do and, as somebody who runs my own business, I have a number of different elements. So I have client acquisition, I have servicing existing clients, I have content creation, things like doing this podcast, and what I found was when I spent a lot of time at the end of 2023 reflecting on how I was working, when I was at my best, how was I focused? I noticed that there were particular activities that I would do that would cause me a fair bit of, I wouldn't necessarily say angst, but they were harder to do than I would like. 

And as I looked across my calendar, I often, and I'm sure you're the same, would have all these little pockets of wasted time, where it's 15 minutes here, 20 minutes there, 30 minutes there, and it's often not enough to actually get anything meaningful done. And then you end up spending your whole day, sort-of in meetings, or in my case, various calls, and then doing little bits of admin, or doing things that aren't actually going to move the needle, and then you've got no time left in your day, to do what really matters. 

And for me, I do my best work when I can have some space to think, to plan, to come up with content, topics, and it's really hard to do that in 15 minute increments, and I know so many women in my world who get stuck in this trap of living in their inbox or in this lack or their teams or wherever they are and spending their life trying to get on top of notifications because they don't have the ability to create this shared headspace or this protect and boundary. This time that they need is going to make all the difference to them. 

So, in looking at 2024, I thought to myself what is it that I can do, knowing that I have a certain number of client contact hours that I am obligated to provide and I get to provide If I want to find new clients? It's a certain amount of other activities. I need to do so, while often people say to me yeah, joe, you run your own business. Well, if I want to keep this business alive, there are certain things that I have to do, and so, like you, I've got certain things that I have to fit in my diary. So I'm going to talk you through the process of me deciding how to rebuild my life, and what a game changer this has been. 

Now, the first thing I looked at is what are the categories of tasks that I have to do? I mentioned some of these earlier. And, in your case, you might have meetings that are outside of your control. You might have project meetings, you might have team meetings, you might have corporate meetings. There's a variety of pieces that you already know are there, and then, in my case, the benefit of running my own business is that I have more say over when those are. It's not like I've got a boss. You'd be pretty mean when, if that was the case, telling me that I have to do things. 

So for me, I was looking at, okay, what are the chunks of work that I have to do? And in particular here I'm looking at work types. So I'm more thinking of this in terms of what are the types of thinking that I'm doing when I'm doing that piece of work. Is that a piece where I am very, is it a very heavy cognitive load? Am I thinking a lot? Am I on the front foot? Is this really engaging? Or is it more of an exercise where I'm sort of sitting back and listening and perhaps reflecting or holding up a mirror, which is what I do a lot of and then, when I have understood, all right, these are the different types of work that I'm doing. This is the type of cognitive load. When am I cognitively at my best? When do I feel the sharpest? 

Because one of the challenges I had in 2023 was not only when I looked at my calendar did I have all these little gaps, but I was doing a lot of switching of tasks. So I would have an hour and a half here of content creation, followed by an hour and a half of or two hours of client acquisition, which is very much switching gears, and then I go into coaching mode and that was really tricky for my brain to constantly be switching contexts. 

And this beautiful concept called switch tasking that I don't know if you've heard of, let me share. You've probably heard of multitasking, but there is this beautiful concept called switch tasking, which is actually more accurate than what multitasking is. And switch tasking is when you were switching between two cognitively heavy tasks at the same time. And by this I mean if you were to write I love going for walks with my dog and then you were to write the numbers in one to 25. And you write I love going for walks and then you write numbers one to 25. That is doing one cognitive load with letters and then it's doing another cognitive load with numbers. 

Now, if I was asking you to say I and then number one, and then the L for the word love, and then the number two, and then oh, and then number three. You've probably done this, which is very often done in a workshop. It's been the context of multitasking but it typically takes you four to five times as long to actually get the same outcome than it does to write. I love going for walks and then one, two, three, four, five, and this is what happens in our day. 

You're going from this email to that report, to this meeting, to this. You know, report writing, and it's effectively going “I”, “1”, “L”, “2”, all day long. And not only are you drastically slower, but the stress that it causes on your nervous system is much higher, because your brain is having to go “Hold on, when am I?” “I”, “1”, “L”, “2”, “l”, “l”, “l.” “What's love?” Oh, that's a four, and this is what it's like on the inside of your body. 

So, it causes a whole lot of stress and it's very hard to be creative when your brain is holding all of these things. And if you've got 17 emails, some of them very meaty and important, all open and you're trying to draft them all because I'll come back to that one, I'll come back to that one. This absolutely kills your productivity and, most importantly, it kills your creativity. You can't get into flow. Those words aren't going to come, your solutions are going to be a little disjointed, which is why you go, “Oh, that doesn't really make sense.” 

So, that's not answering the question. I better come back to that later. Let me go into this other thing, and let me not answer that one properly, and then let me go onto that one. I'll go on to another one. So, we're getting this crazy dopamine hit, jumping between different tasks, in the belief that we've got so much to do. “I'd better jump between all of them.” And it's nuts, and it's causing so much stress, and it's part of the reason why it's really hard to switch off at night, because your brain is used to going, “Right, this one”, “And this one”, “And this one.” And then you lie in bed and it goes, “You need to buy more bananas, and you need to book in the dentist”, “And you didn't finish that report.” And it focuses on all the things that you haven't done.

So, what I have done this year, which has massively boosted my productivity, is I have taken a look at what are the types of tasks that I need to be doing, and I've bunched all of those tasks together. So, I have done things like discovery sessions, for those who want to come and find out more about my programs, and what it is that I do, and if they're a match, and that's a different type of cognitive load to creating content. 

So, I have one day that is just back to back discovery sessions, because I've done so many of these now that I find them enjoyable. They're not a heavy cognitive load and I'm then in that mode, so I'm binding, ironically, that I'm able to get to the outcome of those calls much faster than I used to because I'm in that zone all day long. And then I have other days that are completely clear for content, and so I'm able to get in that zone, I'm able to get creative, I'm able to have those juices flowing, and this is what has been the game changer. 

Now, of course, I know that there are many people who will be listening to this saying, “Jo, but I don't have control over my calendar!” However, I can tell you that you have more control than you think. There are meetings that you can suggest move days. There are team meetings that you're in, that potentially you run, that you can think about, or how do I at least batch, “I'm doing all these one on ones, ones with my team, rather than having one on Monday, and two on Tuesday, and one on Thursday.” “What if you do a run of them?”

So, that is the same type of thinking work, the same type of cognitive load. So you bunch all those together and you go from one to the other, to the other, because you're then doing the same task. So it's less taxing on your nervous system, is less tasking on your cognitive load and you get in the zone. This is how we massively, massively improve your productivity. And so not only am I looking at, “Right, what are the tasks?” “I'm bunching them.” I'm also looking at what is the time of day when I'm at my best to do that type of work. 

So, I tend to be the most creative, and the sharpest early or in the morning and come at that sort of, three, four o'clock, if I've scheduled that time to be doing creative work. I will often find myself procrastinating, or find myself doing administrative tasks, because I'm looking for that dopamine hit rather than actually being in the zone and being creative. So what I've done this year is I've stacked things that don't require a lot of creativity to be bunched in the afternoon and again I'm batching them. So I'm doing all of this task together and then freeing up the mornings. 

I'm looking at when is the time when I'm at my best, and when I used to run a team, for me it was about All right. Well, when am I again? The afternoons? It was often great for me to stack my one on ones back to back to back to back, because that was when everybody was a bit slouchy and it was a three o'clock low. So when you put all of those things together Now, you're operating in a way that is better for your cognitive load. 

It's more productive, you're not switching between tasks and life becomes so much more enjoyable. And so this has been the game changer for me. This has been about understanding the types of work I'm doing, when am I at my best to do those and how do I batch all of those tasks. And I'm finding that I am getting so much more done and, importantly, I'm getting it done without the cognitive pressure, because I'm focused on that task and this is what I'm all about. I'm all about efficiency, I'm all about getting things done with the least amount of effort and if I can get more done in less time with less stress and actually enjoy it. I'm all about my goodness. That is worth sitting up and taking notice of, don't you think? 

And so, this is what I would really encourage you to do is to take a look at how you are spending your time. What are you doing when you like little things? When are you jumping into your inbox? I mean, I teach a lot of time management strategies, and my preference is that people only jump into the inbox, or the slack, or wherever it is that you are a couple of times a day, and you have those set times. And the first thing you should not be doing in the morning at nine o'clock, when you're at your door, your phone number is not connected when you have the full day ahead of you is jumping into your emails. 

If you weren't already aware of this, your inbox is somebody else's to-do list. Let me say that again your inbox is somebody else's to-do list. So when you spend your day in your inbox, you are spending your day at the whim of everybody else, and no wonder. Probably the only time you get to the stuff that is important for you the stuff that is in your to-do list might be at 9pm or 10pm at night on the couch because you spent your day answering emails, because you have the belief that if you are busy, that busy equals important and you have to be responsive. 

So all of this comes down to weeds in your garden, and that is one of my favourite things about time is we all get the same 168 hours a week, but where you actually spend your time is a direct reflection of your beliefs about time and what that says about you. So if you're always behind, if you're always in your inbox, if you're always reactive, if you're in firefighting mode, that tells us a lot about what you believe about yourself and what you believe about time. And as you weed this garden of understanding how time actually works, how to collapse time, well then you get a lot more control back. 

And even if you don't have as much control of your diary as I do, don't let that belief stop you from actually doing this work and investigating how can I break some of these beliefs so that I don't have to be in my inbox all the time, because this is what I love doing is weeding people's gardens in their beliefs about time, and then you would be amazed at how we magic up 5, 10, 15 hours a week out of thin air from women who have busy lives, big jobs, children, family responsibilities, activities, and yet we can still find the time? 

So, as always, I am being my best guinea pig. I am going first and I promise you, making these changes has been game changing for me. I was blessed to grow my business by 25% last year while working less, and I've got a lot on this year. We are growing, we are expanding, and yet this isn't taxing me because of the way I am using my time. 

So my challenge to you this week is perhaps take a look at your calendar. Take a look at how often are you switching your tasks, how often are you not working at a time that's optimal, and how often are you holding huge amounts in your head that is exhausting, that is taxing your nervous system and leading to you being knackered and not living your best life? That is your challenge. Have fun looking at that calendar and may we all have enough time every single day. Take care. 

OUTRO: Thank you for joining us today on the Balance and Beyond Podcast. We're so glad you carved out this time for yourself. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend who might need to hear this today. And if you're feeling extra generous, leaving us a review on your podcast platform of choice would mean the world. If you’re keen to dive deeper into our world, visit us at to discover more about the toolkit that has helped thousands of women avoid burnout and create a life of balance, and beyond. Thanks again for tuning in, and we'll see you next time on the Balance & Beyond Podcast.

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