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Ask Anna Vol. 2: Get Unstuck, Stay Motivated and Think Big Picture

November 13, 2023

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Ask Anna Vol. 2: Get Unstuck, Stay Motivated and Think Big Picture

You’re invited to celebrate a HUGE milestone for It’s About Time! Join me for Episode 200, where I’m putting YOU in the host’s seat! Tune in to hear listener-submitted questions from Robyn, Shannon, Nani and others about getting unstuck, finding motivation and thinking BIG picture.

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Your Questions, My Answers… Celebrating 200 episodes! 

Today, I’m celebrating the 200th episode of It’s About Time by handing the mic over to you! 

Usually I’m the one asking the questions whenever I interview guests on the show, but this week, you’re asking the questions. A few weeks ago I asked my email subscribers and friends on Instagram to submit their burning questions about time management, productivity and just… life in general and I’m so excited to answer them today. 

In this episode, I’m answering your questions about: 

  • How to get unstuck
  • How to find the motivation to get things done when it’s gone missing
  • What exactly a capture system is and how it keeps from losing my mind and 
  • definitely, stick around until the end of the show to find out the winner of the 200th episode giveaway! The giveaway winner gets to spend a full hour with me talking through time management challenges and walking away with solutions in a time management coaching session! I seriously can’t wait! 

And, to continue the celebrations you might have noticed brand podcast cover art whenever you popped into your favorite podcast app this morning! We decided it was time for an It’s About Time glow-up over here, so we’re excited to debut our brand new look that YOU voted on! Thank you so much for casting your vote to choose It’s About Time’s new look. 

Question #1- Lessons I’ve learned over the years.

From Lauren:

“What are some lessons that you’ve learned about time management as someone who has put out 200 episodes of a podcast over several years?”

My Answer: 

For me, three big lessons come to mind

First – good things take time. I decided on September 24th, 2019 that I would start a podcast. I know this because I’ve kept a sentence a day journal since January of 2019. The entry on September 24th 2019 says “Millie girl is 8 months old today! I started asking a lot of questions on IG today about podcast v. youtube. I’m going to start a podcast.” Then 70 days later the first five episodes dropped on December 2nd. 

The path from decision to fruition wasn’t fast. In those 70 days, there was planning, research, more planning, writing, recording, designing, editing. Good things take time and overnight success isn’t really a thing. 

Second – Systems and workflows make life so much easier. One of the things I worked really hard on during those 70 days was mapping out all of the steps involved to create a podcast start to finish. I knew it needed to be repeatable in order to create a consistent experience, it needed to be efficient because I was doing everything myself in the very beginning, and it needed to be captured somewhere so I didn’t have to rack my brain to remember all of the steps each week and possibly forget something. 

So I looked at someone else’s workflow to get an idea of how it’s done. Next, I customized it to make sense for me. Then, I captured each step in Trello, one of my favorite project management tools and created a template that I could use for each episode. 

I can absolutely credit having my systems and workflows in place from the very beginning as the main reason why I’ve been able to put out episodes week in and week out. Plus, having the workflow captured has made outsourcing pieces of it along the way so much easier. 

In addition to the podcast, I’ve found that having systems, workflows or routines in place for other parts of life is just as important. 

Third – planning is everything. From big picture planning – like episode themes for each month, to the guests I want to invite to be on the show, to detail-oriented planning like when within each week I’ll carve out time to work on the show. If I were just winging it, it’s unlikely we’d be celebrating episode 200. Planning is key. This is true with the podcast and with other things in life. 

So – top three lessons. Good things take time. Systems, workflows and routines make life easier, and planning is everything. Thanks for the great question Felter!

Question #2- Navigating feeling stuck

From Elizabeth:

“When you find yourself stuck,  maybe you’re just stuck on a problem, you’re stuck on a goal, you’re feeling a little stuck in life,  what do you do to help get yourself unstuck?”

My Answer:

First – I take a step back. I take a break. Sometimes it turns out that the stuck-ness is just from being tired. And after the break I feel a lot better and keep rocking and rolling. 

Then, I ask myself what’s really going on here? 

Taking a step back enables me to get some perspective on why I feel the way that I do. Am I intimidated or worried about whatever I’m working on? Am I unsure of the next steps? Am I feeling scatterbrained and need to tidy my office and clear out some clutter? 

Usually when I pause, take a step back, and ask myself – What’s really going on here? The perspective I get enables me to figure out the next step forward. 

And that’s step three, I identify my next step. 

Question #3- Steps to reclaim your motivation

From Robyn:

“What is something you do to help get your motivation back when you’re feeling in a lull?”

My Answer:

I take a step back and check in with myself on two specific things: my sleep and my nutrition.

So after checking in with those two things – my sleep and my diet –  I reconnect with my “why”. My Vision & values. 

In my book, Time Management Essentials, I talk about the importance of getting clear on your vision and values in Chapter 1 – it’s that important. 

Your vision and your values are the fire that get you started and the fuel that keeps you going when the going gets tough. 

When I’m feeling unmotivated, I look at my vision board. 

Oh yes – I’ve made a vision board every year since 2018. After I set goals for the year, I pull images that represent my goals and how I want to spend my time and I arrange them using Canva – a graphic design tool. Then I print my vision board and hang it up where I’ll see it every day. 

It’s awesome because I’m able to look at each of the items on my vision board and ask myself “How am i doing?” When I’m feeling unmotivated, reminding myself of my vision by looking at my vision board is usually the spark that keeps me going. 

Question #4- The Ins-and- Outs of a Capture System

From Shannon:

Could you explain your “capture system” again and how you keep track of items that come up from school, work and home that need to be handled? 

My Answer:

A capture system is a dedicated method for capturing ideas and information. And capture tools can take many forms. While a sticky note and an online task management system are both examples of capture tools, some tools are going to be more effective at capturing your ideas and to-do’s in a way that keeps them easily organized and accessible when you need them. 

One important clarification – your to-do list is not a capture tool. Instead, the notepad, journal, app or scraps of paper where you keep your to-do list is the actual capture tool. 

In most cases, it’s smart to have at least three capture tools: a high tech capture tool, a low tech capture tool, and a physical inbox. I go into more detail about how to choose your high tech, low tech and physical inbox in chapter 8 of my book, time management essentials but here are mine:

My high-tech capture is Asana. If you’ve been listening for a while, then you know that I used to be a huge fan of trello. I still love Trello, but as my business has become more complex and my team has grown, I’ve found that Asana’s functionality is a better fit for us now. 

My low-tech capture is a notebook. But y’all it’s not just any notebook. It’s this sugar paper notebook I found at Target a year or two ago. The paper quality is amazing, the spiral binding is gold and the cover is blue and white striped. I’m obsessed. I check for them every time I go into Target and buy all of them to stock up. I’m going to be devastated if they stop making it. 

And my physical inbox is an inbox tray I keep in my office. 

So that’s the what – now here’s how it all works together to keep me sane. Whenever some random thing pops into my head, it either goes in the notebook, or into Asana. If I’m in the middle of something and trying to stay focused, it goes in the notebook, and then I’ll put it into Asana later. 

And then, whenever I put something into Asana, it goes into a specific place – either My Tasks, or a specific project board. If something doesn’t really have a place, it goes on a board I’ve created called Scratch Pad so it has a home. A home that isn’t in my head, or a random scrap of paper that I won’t be able to locate within the week.

What I love about Asana – and most digital project management tools have this function – is that I can assign a deadline to that task and assign it to myself so I can revisit it at a certain time. Instead of ordering the Amazon gift immediately, I’m able to batch order things on Fridays. If I need to remember to find crazy socks for the girls for a school spirit week, I can put it in my Asana and set a reminder to make it happen. 

Honestly I could dedicate an entire episode series to the benefits of having a capture system, but for now I’ll stop here – and again, if you want to dive into tackling mental clutter with a capture system and other awesome tools and strategies, be sure to check out Chapter 8 inside of my book, Time Management Essentials for even more details. 

Question #5- Implementing the Capture System

From Tammye:

“I have my plan for the day. As soon as I get to my office, I start thinking of things I forgot to add to my list. I start doing those things so I will not forget them and maybe get to my list midday, which throws everything off. How do I start my day with the plan I’ve already created without interruption? Is it possible for me to be organized or is this how it will be for me?” 

My Answer:

Oh Tammy – your story sounds so similar to mine years ago while I was still working in communications. I genuinely believe that if I’d known then what I know now – my life and my career might look a lot different. Now, I didn’t supervise 18 people like you are, Tammy, but I was juggling about that many different clients and projects at a time. 

That capture system that I just talked about? Creating something like that could be huge for you. That way, as you think of things, you have a set place to put them. You get them out of your head and you store them somewhere else – like a low-tech notebook or a high-tech task management system. The thing is – whenever you think of things and you just start doing them, you’re not able to prioritize them alongside the other things that were already on your list. 

Instead of just jumping in and doing the things you forgot to put on your list, consider stopping first to  jot down the things you remembered and prioritize them alongside your original list. Where do the new things fit in with your original plan? Then, once you’ve prioritized the new stuff with the original stuff and integrated your list, you’re able to create a more strategic plan for getting things done. I hope you’ll give that a try and let me know how it goes! Wishing you the best, Tammye!

Question #6-Dealing with Disorganization

From Gloria:

“How do I deal with a boss who is more disorganized and has more time management issues than I do? Help Anna!”

My Answer:

That’s a tough one, especially when your boss’s habits are impacting your ability to get things done. Time management issues can come in a lot of different shapes and sizes. 

I’m going to bet that your bosses’ time management shortcomings are resulting in some unnecessary fires and emergencies, possibly causing you to be late, or to be unsure of deadlines or priorities.

This is rough – and when this is the case, the best thing you can do is… well – your best. If your boss is causing last minute problems, and this is a consistent issue – what can you do to get ahead of it and almost expect chaos before it happens. How can you be organized for yourself to counteract some of the chaos? 

One thing I found in past roles was that when I took the initiative to create a system or a workflow for myself, I could adapt it to my bosses’ craziness. 

And finally – if your boss’s bad habits are consistently impacting your ability to do your job, and that is impacting your health and wellbeing by causing anxiety or prolonged frustration – it might be time to start looking for a new opportunity. You never know what better fit could be out there waiting for you. 

You are so capable, you are so skilled, have so much potential – and I would hate for you to waste it somewhere that you can’t truly shine and be your best self.  

Question #7- Keeping a Big Picture View

From Nani:

“How do you recommend balancing keeping a big picture view of your moving projects with not getting overwhelmed by everything you’ve got going on? I’ve heard some productivity experts recommend creating a bird’s eye view version of everything you’ve got going on and coming up, which sounds like a good way to keep myself from feeling like I’m forgetting about something. However, I’m not sure what that practically looks like and I’m curious if you’ve set up anything like this! “

My Answer:

First things first – I want to define moving projects. Moving projects are what I call anything in your life that is a project… something that has multiple steps and usually a specific endpoint, that is currently in motion. 

Fun fact about overwhelm: overwhelm is usually a result of the variety of the different projects on our plate, not the number of hours we’re working. And when all of the different things we’re working on are swirling around in our head it’s even worse. We feel like we’re stuck in a tornado of things to do. 

So instead of riding out the tornado, I encourage my clients to make a list of all of their moving projects, and to keep it visible. For some of you your moving projects are going to look like a list of your clients, or the events you’re planning, or the weddings you have coming up to photograph, the houses you currently have on the market, or the renovation projects currently underway in your home. 

When you can see all of your moving projects in one place, you’re able to have a bird’s eye view, a big picture of the big things that are on your mind and taking up your headspace and your time. 

So what does this look like in real life? 

Well – it can look like keeping a list of your moving projects on a dry erase board, on a piece of paper taped to the wall – written on a post-it note, wherever as long as you can see it. 

But – if you have a lot of moving projects, it can be overwhelming to see them all in one place. 

Here are a few things you can do to keep the overwhelm in check after you’ve created your moving projects list. 

First – make sure it truly is big picture. The more details you add, the most overwhelming it’s going to feel – so keep it high level. In last week’s episode I talked about how important it is to break projects down into smaller steps to make them more manageable – that is not what we’re doing here. So instead of being super detailed, stay broad. The purpose of this list is to be a quick overview, memory jogger of what’s on your plate.

Second – Identify the projects that are closest to being finished. What can you do in the next few weeks to wrap these up and get them OFF your plate so you can reduce the number of your currently moving projects. 

Third – What can you cut or pause in order to put more energy toward the moving projects that are close to the finish line? The more spread out your energy is… the less progress you’re going to make in any one direction. 

Keep those moving projects big picture, don’t get bogged down in the details for this helpful overview list, and look for opportunities to reduce your moving projects so you can direct more of your energy and brain space to fewer projects. 

Resources Mentioned:

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