The topic of work-life balance is often talked about in a way that positions it as a benefit to an employee. It’s something you might feel lucky to achieve. But what if you were to think about work-life balance as a necessity to live a healthy life? In this episode, Brett speaks with Dr Travis Parry, an experienced speaker and author of the upcoming book, The Productivity Myth. He helps people to find balance through his coaching work at the Make Time Institute. In this episode, Brett and Dr. Parry discuss:
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Dr. Travis G. Parry is the founder of the Make Time Institute. He’s earned several degrees in family and social science to better understand goal achievement and family relationships. He helps business owners and executives achieve work/life balance.
Check out the Make Time podcast to hear more from Travis.
Brett Harned: Hey, welcome back to Time Limit. I can't believe we're all the way up to episode 30. I hope that you're doing well. It's early April 2020 here, and I'm recording this from my home office, as I always do. But a lot of people are experiencing this kind of work from home situation for the first time right now, and I know that it can be tough. Actually right now, I'm trying to balance work with my kids being home and doing schoolwork, so I'm balancing internet bandwidth too, because they're on just as many Zoom calls as me.
Brett Harned: Anyway, I think that this episode is really well-timed, or this topic I should say. I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Travis Parry, the founder of the Make Time Institute, and a speaker [inaudible] coach who pretty much helps people to make time in their lives, so work/life balance felt like a really great topic to cover with Dr. Parry. We'll really dig into everything from the myths of work/life balance to really specific tactics on managing your time, so check it out.
Brett Harned: Hey Travis, thank you so much for joining me on Time Limit today, how are you doing?
Travis Parry: I'm doing well, thank you very much for having me on.
Brett Harned: Yeah. So this conversation is pretty well-timed, huh? I think the whole world is talking about productivity and work/life balance in this new world of, for a lot of people, working from home or dealing with a lot of outside stress, so to speak. So I'm really looking forward to digging in on productivity and work/life balance with you.
Travis Parry: Thanks man, yeah. I think there's so much that people are trying to do with less that productivity is key.
Brett Harned: Absolutely. And so because these are hot topics, and let's face it, they were really kind of really popular topics prior to COVID-19 and people working from home and sorting out these new ways of working, but there are a lot of opinions floating around about work/life balance and productivity, just wondering if you can personally define work/life balance for us, how do you look at that topic?
Travis Parry: Appreciate it. It's so interesting, because ... Well, yeah, you're right, productivity, work/life balance, time management, these are topics that honestly extend decades, even hundreds of years before, right? This has led to the industrial revolution and people moving into big cities, we could even go there with sociology, but I'll spare that. I'll talk about why I was interested and kind of what my definition is, so I appreciate you asking the question. When I was 26, I was already in a two, oh, three year career as a financial advisor. It was right before the Great Recession. My father had passed away very suddenly, and I was left trying to figure out, he was a young man, 49 years old, and it was kind of the catalyst to everything that was going on in my life.
Travis Parry: Work was really stressful. My wife and I had been married for a few years, and those first few years of marriage are historically rough. You love each other, but you're still trying to figure everything out, you're trying to make decisions, and so our relationship really wasn't going the direction that I would like it to be going in, our health was not at peak, and having that catalyst of my father passing away, I remember being out in the yard and honestly digging up bushes, and the only thing I could control at that time, things were going on that were just without my control, the recession was beginning, and it was "I can go out and do some gardening."
Travis Parry: And so I literally was was ripping out these bushes that my wife and I both hated, and as I was ripping them out, I had this epiphany that I needed to study stress. It was stress that probably killed my father. He was a healthy man, he was riding his mountain bike, and he died of what they call a widowmaker. The widowmaker is one or two arteries that are clogged that don't appear, you don't have high blood pressure, you're not overweight, and so skinny guys like me die of this. They call it the widowmaker, because right, it leaves the wife behind, it's typically focused on males. High stress, low work/life balance, and that kind of thing.
Travis Parry: So I immersed myself into coaching, into programs, into everything that was out there that I could get my hand on. Brian Tracy, Dale Carnegie stuff, I just started to teach myself. And I had already finished my bachelor's degree, but I made the decision that after going through all these different programs, they were all kind of about their own life, and they had their own opinions, what work/life balance really was to them. And all of these different voices, and they all wanted to teach me about stress and anxiety and how to manage your time better. I finally just made the decision that I was going to go back to school, do a master's, and sharpen the saw a little bit more so that I could understand this for myself, so I could get at the heart of what is causing work/life balance to be out of whack, out of balance. What is that?
Travis Parry: And along the way, I found that one of the biggest stressors in life actually comes from our own relationships, and in those relationships is money. And here I was, a financial advisor who'd basically come full circle, left the practice to go back to academia to figure all this out, and now I've really come back to the industry, to business owners, to help them figure out what I've learned and the myths along the way.
Travis Parry: There are really three main myths, and I can go into each of those, but really, the first one is the myth of balance, the second is the myth of productivity, and the third is the myth of personal development. Which one would you like me to start with, because we can go into any direction you'd like us to go.
Brett Harned: Yeah, we talked about these myths when we first met. I think dive in, I think this stuff is really interesting and I might just jump in and ask a couple questions along the way.
Travis Parry: Sure thing.
Brett Harned: Cool.
Travis Parry: So the first myth that I really uncovered is this myth of balance, and I used to go out there and teach work/life balance, and it's this trying to keep everything up in the air, and I actually discovered that most people's definition of balance is different, right? So I might talk to you, and you might say "Well, Travis, work/life balance is being able to go fishing." And I talk to somebody else, and it's "No, work/life balance is working 70 hours really hard and then just relaxing on the weekend." So everybody has a different definition, and you'll find that in any article, in anything that's out there.
Travis Parry: So if it's so subjective, then there's not truly a concrete definition of this term. But, I will tell you, the biggest myth that I found is that people that are saying balance is doing everything at the same time. So while it's subjective, we can't just do everything and expect it all to work out. We typically, business owners and professionals, we're spending the majority of our waking day at work. So will it ever really be in balance, if that is your definition of spending time in every single area of life equally? Not so much.
Travis Parry: We have to make decisions, and therefore we make this definition subjective. What I found is instead, the truth behind work/life balance is we feel balanced when we manage our time, and we place our time on our highest priorities. So I could do this exercise with you even right now, Brett, I could ask you "What are the top three things most important in your life?" And I'll tell you, most people I've done this exercise with, and it's usually their marriage, their family, and their health, and some aspect of health. Career is usually up there, but it's usually not number one, right? And I've done this thousands of times.
Travis Parry: But what we end up doing is because we see career as a means to the end, we tend to not give ourselves boundaries. I was just interviewing a guy yesterday for my book that I'm writing, because now I've kind of exposed these different myths, and I was talking to him about work/life balance and what that meant for him, and because he doesn't have family and because that's not a big priority for him, work/life balance is just working and then playing video games, and I thought "Gee, that is his definition of work/life balance. No wonder why I can't come in here and preach to him about what my values are."
Travis Parry: So I encourage people to really dive deep. Dive past time management, dive past schedules and tasks and projects. Dive into values. What are your values? What do you truly, honestly care about? And then prioritize those values, and then create an ideal calendar that will allow you to spend the time that you want to in each of these areas according to what is best for you. Does that make sense, Brett?
Brett Harned: That totally makes sense. I think it's a really personal topic, right? And you exposed that from the very beginning, just sharing your story and how you came down this path in your own career. But then thinking about just in general, how many types of personalities you work with in a day, or know that are even out there in the world, not everyone has the same values, not everyone has the same type of job or the same drive when it comes to career, so it makes sense that work/life balance would really come down to your own motivators, I guess. Is that the word that you used, motivators?
Travis Parry: Yeah, priorities.
Brett Harned: Priorities, that make sense.
Travis Parry: See, priorities are what actually motivate us internally. We get up in the morning, so I decided to write this book, Balanced. And every morning, I get up and I'm excited to get out of bed, and I wrote this down, why is it so important for me to write this book? Well, this is going to help me to spread the message. I'm going to get on bigger stages, I'm going to speak on podcasts like this all over the country. And so getting out of bed in the morning to write this book and finish it and publish it is key. That's the internal motivator, that's what turns the switch on an off for us and why we do the thins we do.
Travis Parry: So I spent the majority of my master's degree studying psychology and understanding what values truly are. And then once we really manage our time according to our values, that's when we're in sync. And no one can truly describe it, you describe it differently, Brett, I describe it with different words, but it just feels balanced, it just feels right. At the end of the day, we feel like "Man," you know that feeling where you come home, you're like "I accomplished stuff at work, I feel good." But then at the end of the day when you're with family or you're doing something fun for yourself or you feel healthy or you exercise, it's that boost of hormones that go to your brain that tell you "Good job." That is the body thanking you, and it's the spirit, it's the mind, that's rewarding you for being in balance. Make sense?
Brett Harned: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, basically what you're saying is that I could achieve work/life balance today and feel completely off-whack tomorrow, just because something changes-
Travis Parry: Exactly.
Brett Harned: ... my priorities remain the same, but what I can control is those priorities and sometimes not much else.
Travis Parry: Exactly. And then it's the whole "Well, Travis, what is an ideal calendar? Well, an ideal calendar is that. It's ideal. But every single day, we don't know what's coming. We have no idea. And there are things that are way beyond our control. And so I teach people time management techniques. These aren't hacks, these are principles where they set up their calendar, and they put things that are really hard and can't be moved, and I consider those kind of the rocks.
Travis Parry: And then you also have to be flexible like water. Here we are, we're talking some Chinese ideas here, but truly if you can figure out in your life what are those things that are permanent and what are those things that can be moved and you can be flexible with, then you can manage the day to day. I look at an ideal calendar over about a three month period, a 90 day, like a season. And every season, I try to reorganize and rebalance my calendar. So right now, and COVID-19 and everything that's happening with it, I won't get too political about it, but it is shaking everything up. Everything's been turned upside down, right?
Travis Parry: So with that, it's actually a really good time to reevaluate your ideal calendar. What do we need to do as business owners, what do we need to do to manage projects? How can we do these things different? And this is a great time to re-prioritize and really dig deep on your values, what's really important and how can I make this happen during this crisis?
Brett Harned: Right. So you've mentioned the ideal calendar a couple times, and I want to mention that we're going to share a link to a download of your article, Restoring Work/Life Balance, where you actually talk about creating an ideal calendar to get on track. I'm wondering if you might just, kind of at a higher level, talk through a little bit more on the details of the ideal calendar. What makes up the ideal calendar, and what's a good process for me creating one and then reassessing like you're talking about now?
Travis Parry: Yeah, thank you, appreciate that. And that'll be available, travisperry.com/podcastgiveaway, and I know you'll include that in the notes.
Brett Harned: Yep.
Travis Parry: But the article I wrote several years ago, actually, when I was going through the master's program. I wrote it for financial advisors, but it works for anybody who has time to manage, anyone who really needs to be able to keep their own time accountable. So the ideal calendar, and there's five basic steps to get that started, but I'll be really high level on this, and that is you look at the things that you normally do, all the tasks, all the responsibilities that you have in your work life, and when it comes to a work ideal calendar, then you prioritize all those tasks. Where are you spending your time? Is it project management, is it sales, marketing, is it financials? What you're doing as a business owner or project manager with your time, and then you actually go through and prioritize.
Travis Parry: I teach a system of how to do that, but essentially, you look at every single task and you compare it, until you break it down into top three to five priorities. I've found that most people are, they find the things that they're comfortable with and they call those the things that they like. But those aren't necessarily the things that are bringing in money, those are not necessarily the things that allow them to be really productive at work. And you want to make sure that you're doing the things that you like plus the things that are really important. That's the sweet spot, that's what I call the sweet spot.
Travis Parry: So some people, they may have tasks that are really high priority to them that don't make a lot of money for them or for the company, but they really enjoy doing. And it might be writing a blog, it might be producing content online, but they enjoy doing it, so they consider that one of their top priorities. So I work with them in a coaching program to help flesh that out, but most people can take the article and get the gist of it and realize that "All right, in my 45 hours a week or 50 hours a week, where am I spending it? Where's the best way to spend it?"
Travis Parry: And then putting it to a calendar, a Google calendar, an Outlook calendar, whatever you're using, whatever your CRM and software might have a calendar for, and creating different categories that go with the tasks that you work. For example, for me, Mondays is pretty much just setting up for the week, reaching out to people, doing what I need to be doing out, setting out blog posts, timing when I'm going to produce those throughout the week.
Travis Parry: Tuesdays and Thursdays is when I do my coaching time with my clients, that's my client time. And then Wednesdays is typically some marketing, and then Friday it's recording a lot of the different pieces that I'll produce there on the next Monday, like the podcast and everything else. When you have your time figured out like this in an ideal setting, then when a task, a project, an email, or somebody calls you and you need to figure out where this goes, you already know where it's going to go. And it may be "Well, I record podcasts on Fridays, and those are full until two months out," then you know where it's at, instead of reacting, instead of trying to in the moment prioritize, you've already got it pre-prioritized out. That'll help you on the macro to really fine tune and have a system that works with you to be productive.
Brett Harned: I like that. That really kind of jives with a lot of what we're talking about at TeamGantt lately, and that is just really around the need for a plan. Right? You have to have a plan in order for your project to go well, to create some level of expectancy. Now, we all know that plans change. I don't think I've ever worked on a project where the plan hasn't changed even just a little bit, so it sounds like the idea of the ideal calendar is get yourself on track to chart out all of the things that you have to focus on, try to compartmentalize them and then shift as you need to, because obviously life is going to happen, but at least having them on your calendar means that you're giving yourself some structure and the time and place to focus on those things. Is that where you're going? Okay.
Travis Parry: Totally, that's exactly it. Because it's your target, this is ideal, this is what you want to accomplish in an ideal world, in an ideal average week. But you and I both know that ideal doesn't happen every day. So what you don't want to do is beat yourself up when you come home. You want to look at those things that you're able to feel like "I accomplished," and just focus on that. If we come home and now, for a lot of us, coming home is walking through the door, leaving our bedroom closet, because we're trying to make this work right now. For me, I've been working at home for 12 plus years, it's second nature.
Travis Parry: But I come home, and I just focus on the good things that happened. Because if I bring the stress, or the distress is what we call it in psychology, where there's eustress, good stress, the distress, which is the bad. If I bring the bad stress from work to home, it's going to then germinate in my family, and they're going to complain about things too, and then all of a sudden we're, what we call in our family, we're flushing down the negativity toilet, we just go in a bad direction.
Travis Parry: So if I come back out and realize "Okay, here's the two or three things that happened today that were just phenomenal" and focus on that, I'm not trying to Pollyanna it, but I am trying to focus on "Here's what happened," and in bite size forms, explain to m family, to my spouse who loves and supports me, and so that they can continue to do that. Because otherwise, it's really, really easy to not feel fulfilled at the end of a workday. And I will tell you a story of a guy, Jeff, he's a mortgage broker, and man, back in the boom of real estate in 2010 in his area up in northern Utah, he was just killing it. He and his business partner were doing fantastic, and they figured out how to basically find those who needed a loan for their first time home or second home, to refinance even, who had perfect credit, or thereabouts, and they wanted to basically have a better process, instead of going through two months of trying to get loans closed, they figured out how just to serve that population, and they got loans closed in as little as two weeks, and that was average.
Travis Parry: And because they were able to do that, they created such a buzz around those people who had similar credit histories, and they were busting at the seams, 1500% growth in one month, okay? And that's not because of economic changes, it was because of their business model, because other mortgage brokers weren't figuring this out. And I came in, was coaching him and trying to help him. He was working 80 hour weeks and he was dying, and so I was teaching him this, how to use the ideal calendar. And what he found is that by the end, he's like "Travis, this is all really good, this is going to help me be super productive," he said, "But now I'm tempted to not go home. I'm tempted to work those 80 hours and still be productive."
Travis Parry: And this is the second myth, this is the myth of productivity. The myth of productivity is that while we can learn these skills and these time management tricks and hacks and even principles of an ideal calendar, if that's all we're doing, if our focus is just on productivity and we don't have balance, and we don't have priorities, and we don't have boundaries, this is the second truth, is boundaries. If we don't have boundaries to keep us from being a workaholic, then that's exactly what'll happen. We'll justify our values, we'll justify our priorities by just focusing in on our work ideal calendar and we won't build the boundaries around it and say "Okay, now here's time for my personal life." My family, my spouse, health, my spirituality, my mental improvement, fun and recreation, those things that we are working for. You follow that?
Brett Harned: Yeah, absolutely. It's funny, because I'm sitting here thinking what are my priorities, and I have to say, personally, I feel like I could put myself in a place where I start to feel guilty about what my priorities are. So earlier you said a lot of people don't put career at the top, and right away when you said it, you actually said "I could do this exercise with you," and I had a minor panic, like "Oh no, what are my responses?"
Brett Harned: But I thought about them while you were talking, and I think I put career second. It was family, career, and then health, which I don't know if that's the right order. I also feel like there's part of society that makes you feel like if you're serious about your career, then it is a priority. But that doesn't, the way that you're explaining this, those things can shift. I think that's a really important thing to take away from this, is we all have a number of priorities. It doesn't mean that that priority has to be number one every day. I think what's hard is turning work off and shifting priorities, and I assume that you get that a lot from your clients or have had conversions around that.
Travis Parry: That's it. That, to me, when I'm helping people achieve balance, it's not about what I'm going to shame you into doing. And so many, especially on social media, we can look at any big influencer or marketer on LinkedIn or anywhere else that are telling you "Here's what you need to do to be successful," but they're only talking about business success. They're not talking about life success. And so we get this focus that in order to be a good man, a good provider, a good husband as a male, then we need to be out there killing it. We need to be successful. Otherwise, our identity's gone, and I actually just released a podcast today on my own podcast where I talked to Dr. John [Shinner 00:24:53], who's a consultant for the Pixar Inside Out movie about emotions, and he talks about this man box culture that we almost get chained into if we're not careful as men, because we don't know how to control these emotions.
Travis Parry: So right away, this is where a lot of people, and it's very natural to feel this way, Brett, is to double check our values and our priorities and go "Wait a minute, where am I? How am I doing?" And that is honestly a natural thing to do. So what I will typically have people remember is that you nailed it, these are all priorities. But what priority? Most people have never put their priorities in order, and so the exercise that I take them through is to prioritize these values which then become their priorities, and they will change. If I was to do this exercise with you, those, what you just told me might change a little bit. Because I'd have you define these first, and as you define them, you'd actually create natural boundaries between one priority and the other, and that actually might just change just by walking through that.
Travis Parry: So what I found to be the best way to help people with boundaries is my third and final myth, and that's the myth of personal development. You see, as you were mentioning, Brett, I have a hard time creating these boundaries, we talked earlier, you're married, right?
Brett Harned: Yep, married with two daughters.
Travis Parry: And how long have you been married to your wife?
Brett Harned: Going on 16 years.
Travis Parry: Boom. So in those 16 years, you guys have figured out boundaries on a lot of things, haven't you?
Brett Harned: Sure. Never thought about it that way, but yeah, I think so.
Travis Parry: Yeah. So I've found, when I was doing my master's degree, I actually went to work for a personal development company, because I wanted to figure out everything about psychology I could, and this was outside academia. And they focus loosely on some academic principles of positive psychology, and that's kind of where personal coaching came from, is positive psychology that was used in sport coaching and then into success in productivity and time management in business world.
Travis Parry: So I love that stuff, I ate it up, and that's probably why I ended up doing a master's in psychology, because of a guy named Brian Tracy. Ever heard of him, does he sound familiar to you at all?
Brett Harned: I don't know that name, no.
Travis Parry: He was big '80s, early '90s, and I kind of picked him up late '90s and just kept followed him, he's one of the kind of like T. Harv Eker editions of motivation and sales and time management, love, love, loved his stuff. There's a lot of big names out there, and I actually found myself working for a company that was selling the coaching for all of these big name guys and gals, and we would get their leads from their book sales, and from there we'd call people and discuss with them what's going on in their work life, and we'd oftentimes sell them coaching packages that ranged all over the place.
Travis Parry: I found that on the sales floor, as I was helping people, that the sales process was simple. They almost sold themselves into this idea, because they needed the help. However, after the coaching, I found something interesting. Because I wasn't tied into the founders, the company, I knew them well, but I didn't have stake in the company. I was a salesperson, and I began coaching. And while I was doing that, I realized that a lot of these graduates of the coaching programs were coming back for more.
Travis Parry: Most of them were not successful at the very first coaching program. Most of them were just not in a place to really come back and say "I'm a good, solid example of what the company sold me in the first place." And I started kind of scratching my head, I'm like "Wait a minute. I've already spoken to you. You're already an existing client, how did things work for you?" And on my own started compiling some research, and found that there was a variable, a factor, that post of the people who entered programs and didn't finish or didn't become successful, and that was their marital relationship. Either A, they did not have one, or that relationship was rocky or to supported.
Travis Parry: So I began thinking about this and really hypothesizing on, well what is it, what is it about this relationship? And at that time, my wife and I had been married for close to eight, nine years, and I realized that at the end of my master's program, I was having this kind of wonder and theorizing, there was an article. Are you familiar, Brett, with Maslow's hierarch of needs, kind of motivation, different motivational points in life?
Brett Harned: High level, yeah.
Travis Parry: [crosstalk] Okay. And most people are. Most people go "Oh yeah, Maslow's hierarchy." That was created in the 1950s. At the very top of Maslow's pyramid was something called self-actualization. And Maslow says basically you need food and water and shelter, and then you have these other needs that might be relational, but at the very top is this idea that you've kind of achieved it. You've hit it, you've found your life calling.
Travis Parry: Later, he explained that no, we actually don't really hit that very often. We hardly ever get to the top. Well, in the 2000s, fast forward, just a little bit of research here, very high level, psychologists, evolutionary psychologists, these were not family people, these were individual researchers, found that Maslow was kind of right. He was partly right. They revised his theory.
Travis Parry: And you'll never hear about this, because it's not popular yet, and I don't know if it ever will be. But the very pinnacle of the pyramid that they revised, and again, these are psychologists, they look at individuals, not at families. They found the number one motivator for people and their motivations and priorities in life is being a parent. Number two was having and keeping a spouse, a mate, someone that completes you, or however you want to mention it. And I thought at the exact same time, I'm getting there, but it's not complete.
Travis Parry: Personal development is a field, it's a billion dollar field, multibillion dollar field of people trying to sell us this idea of self-actualization, but it doesn't ever really happen. It only happens when one has solid, good relationships, and in fact, I just saw an article this morning about how good health is more aligned with relationships than anything, that your reduction of stress and good stress can come from good, healthy relationships, therefore good health. And I tested this, I decided I was going to do a PhD, I wasn't just going to take this for one little article. But then I did my PhD in family relations and found that that's true. When couples are aligned, they have the same goals and values, which we've been talking about, when those are the same and where they're more closely aligned than those who aren't, when there's that separation, they're actually happier individually, their marriage is better, and they achieve their financial goals at a higher success rate.
Brett Harned: Okay. So that applies to one cross-section of the world, right? What about all those people out there who are happily single, not married, not worried about being tethered or in a relationship, or children for that matter?
Travis Parry: Yeah. And that is a subject that's brought up all the time, what about the non-married population? Well, if you look at the world, and I've studied these trends now for years, if you interview someone, they're actually going to admit, "Yeah, I would like to be a," most people would like to be a parent, that's research, and most people would like to have a mate. So whether we call that a legal spouse or legal marriage, that's a whole different topic. But there are some who choose, like "I want to be happily single," and that might be the choice, but that is very rare.
Travis Parry: Research, and this is the thing that most of us, we want to understand people, but research is based in averages. Research is an average population against another average population. And so when we're looking at this type of research, it actually is the majority of people. The majority of people do want this, whether they admit it, or whether they want to come out and say that at certain periods of time because of social norms or cultures, is another question. But in reality, most people want this. And there are some, depending on political spectrum, will actually fight against the institution of marriage, which is a whole other topic. I'm not really going there. What I'm really saying is that in order to create those boundaries, the person in your life that is going to help you with that the most is your spouse.
Travis Parry: If you're not married, can you still have accountability? Yeah. But it's typically going to be a coach, it's going to be someone who is at, somehow not connected to you as a child or a parent, it's going to be someone who's kind of on the same level. It could be a coworker, but that could get dicey, that could be weird. Most times it's a coach, and that's where this personal development field has just gone upwards and onwards, and I see it continuing because people haven't figured this out.
Travis Parry: There's a book out there that talks about the institution of marriage and how people who are married are happier, they're healthier, they're wealthier, and so a lot of people have asked "Yeah, but that's just cross-sectional, that's not directional," and that's why I did the research that I did, is I really wanted to focus on "Well what is it at the center, what is at the core?"
Travis Parry: So if you find someone who has similar values, and they're a good coach for you, accountability partner, a mentor, then that's someone that can help you. My idea is to help those who are married business owners, married professionals, to teach each other as spouses to then coach each other. That way, you essentially don't need someone like that the rest of your life. You following that?
Brett Harned: Yeah, absolutely, and it feels like that plays very well into the work/life balance idea and having someone there to keep you accountable and on track and to help you prioritize, I think that absolutely makes sense, as someone who is married. Lots of really interesting ideas here. The research you're talking about is fascinating, if you can possibly share any links to articles or thinks that people might be interested in, I think that would be awesome to share in our show notes.
Brett Harned: I kind of want to bring up our last question. So when I do these interviews, our show is called Time Limit, the idea being that people are stretched for time, they're stretched for resources, and really, at the end of the day, having to make things work within those constraints, and your site and your video blog are full of really good tips for productivity and work/life balance. I'm wondering if you can give our listeners any tips about things that they should be doing to stay productive. I think the ideal calendar is absolutely the best example. Is there anything else that you think is a little more lightweight that people could be doing every day to stay in work and focus?
Travis Parry: Yeah, I got something I've been thinking about I wanted to share with you, and I do want to echo what you said before about this idea of the couple development, is what I call it. And I'll include some links for those who are interested, and there's a book called The Case for Marriage I was referencing, I'll include that link in there as well. But that really does help people on the work/life balance, just want to kind of reach back to that just a second, on the work/life balance, because if you think about it, those who are overworked but don't want to be, right, that's who I'm talking about, those who are overworked but don't want to be, they want to be with their family, then they can be classified as workaholics if they're working more than 50 hours and that's where they go to relieve stress, et cetera.
Travis Parry: So in every addiction program I've ever seen, when you have someone to help you, smoking cessation, Alcoholics Anonymous, anything, anything that's out there that's addictive, when you have a support, when you have someone helping you through the process, then you are much more likely to succeed. So regardless if that's your spouse or somebody else, find someone. Get help. It needs to happen so that you can create those boundaries.
Travis Parry: One thing that I also help people do on the micro, kind of this maybe quicker thing to be thinking about just on productivity is create a half an hour to an hour every day to do what I call processing. Processing is, if you think about on your computer, your computer has probably an amazing processor, right? Something that can just cruise through data at super fast speeds. The reality is, though, Brett, how much information can the computer process at one single nanosecond?
Brett Harned: I don't know. I don't know the answer to that question.
Travis Parry: One. It can only process one thing at a time. Now, it might have a dual processor, so therefore the computer can process more things at once, but typically it slows it down. The processor itself can only process one bit of data at a time.
Travis Parry: Back in the day, before Mac was huge, I had an old Commodore 64. I'm dating myself, okay? I turned 40 this year. I'm allowed to do this now, I've been told. And I remember creating programs for computers back before that was cool, and you could only create one line of code at a time. The computer reads one line of code at a time.
Travis Parry: In our minds, we tend to think that we're so amazing, and because our brains are these supercomputers, that we can try to do more than one thing at a time. Now, let me just debunk this really quick. When we're talking about multitasking, we're not really multitasking, we're switch tasking. We're going from one thing to another, if it requires high level of energy. I'm not talking about walking and chewing gum. That doesn't require a whole lot of energy, your jaw goes up and down, and you can walk. Make sense?
Travis Parry: But when we're talking about high level things, like creating an email and trying to talk to another person at the same time, how many times have we done that and we go back and realize "Oh man, I totally was writing what we were talking about," or "I have no idea what I was reading when I was trying to multitask on someone else." Do you find that as an issue in work throughout the day, Brett?
Brett Harned: Oh, absolutely. I think in this day and age of Slack and email and trying to focus, it can be really difficult. And context-switching, particularly for a project manager who's working on several projects with several people and clients, the same thing happens. It's very hard to stay focused and do one thing really well when you've got multiple things constantly being thrown at you.
Travis Parry: Exactly. So I'm a big advocate of not multitasking as much as we can, yet our society is still wanting that, even though that we know fundamentally and academically, it does not work. Psychologists will tell us we can't actually do this, but we still want people who think they can. It's bizarre. So when I'm talking about project management, trying to get things done, here's the thing that I do ever single day for last 12 plus years that's helped me to stay ultra productive, and that is have a half an hour to hour a day where I just do processing. And what I mean by processing, I go through all of my emails, all of my tasks, all of my voicemail, my text messages, my LinkedIn message, everything that collects some place, we call these collection points or contact points. You need a contact where somebody's trying to contact you about a bit of information.
Travis Parry: Instead of trying to do everything at once, I've trained myself through other coaching and other training a long time ago, how to basically do one thing at a time. I know it's novel, but if we can do that one thing at a time, we can actually do it much faster and much higher quality. If you don't believe me, anybody out there listening, all you need to do to prove this wrong is write the ABCs all the way to Z, and then write underneath it a line, and then do numbers one through 26. And this is a technique that a coach of mine, Dave Crenshaw, taught me, and he wrote The Myth of Multitasking, fantastic book.
Travis Parry: But on the other side, then I want you to try, just draw that line again, this line across your page, and put an A up top and a one below, a B up top and a two below, and see how fast that you complete that task, and then gauge your handwriting. I guarantee you that you will either A, have worse handwriting and maybe forget some of the letters, or you will do it a whole lot slower because it's a more difficult task to do. So to put that myth to bed, he wrote an entire book about it, and I've found that as we process each day, we take one email at a time, we ask ourselves these basic questions.
Travis Parry: The very first question is, and this is gold, the very first question is do I actually want or need to do this? That should be number one. If that is a no, get rid of it or ask someone else to take care of it. If it's not in your top priorities as a business owner, I'm talking business productivity now, or project manager, and get rid of it. Or ask somebody else to do it if it needs to be done by someone else.
Travis Parry: So that's one. We spend a lot of time, we waste a lot of time doing things that we shouldn't be doing on project management, someone else should be doing it or this isn't my expertise. Or somebody asks us for our time and we're one of those yes people, "Yeah, yeah, I can do that," but we really don't want to. Who is it serving when we're doing that to ourselves? Really no one, because they're going to get second-rate help, and you're not going to really want to be doing it, and therefore you're not actually doing your job, or you're working on your business, therefore it's not helping in your work/life balance and productivity.
Travis Parry: So then the second step is if I know I need to be doing this, then can it be done in five minutes or less? If the answer is yes, then get to it right away and don't do anything else. Send that email, finish that last item on the report and get it edited. Whatever that is on your to-do for that day, then do it right away, if it's making a phone call. Where people get caught up is that they start to "Oh yeah, this can take five minutes," but then it's actually half an hour. And I think, Brett, you mentioned that to me in your emails, like "Ah, we go over budget or we spend more time." That's a common problem, isn't it, in project management?
Brett Harned: Absolutely, yeah. I mean, among all of the issues or challenges that come up with project management, I think keeping things on track and within the constraints of a project is certainly a tough one.
Travis Parry: So this is something that we all can relate to, and I am kind of this overachiever, like "Yeah, I think I can get it done in five." It's probably 10, okay? So we've got to watch that. The third thing is, if it takes more than five minutes, we have to ask ourself then, does it have a deadline? And this is where it comes to projects. I am a big believer in deadlines. If your projects don't have different stages with deadlines, it will never get done, ever.
Travis Parry: I'm writing this book, I have a deadline by May 21st, that I'm actually going to get the electronic version published, and so I'm going to announce that and I'm going to get that out to everybody. But then I've got a hard publish date where I'm going to have the actual manuscript out and it's three months from then. So as I'm thinking about these different projects, these things won't ever happen unless you have deadlines. So if it doesn't have a deadline, or it doesn't take longer than a half an hour, then you put it in a task list.
Travis Parry: Task list is kind of the gray zone, it is the no man's land, and I actually use it as such. I throw tasks in there all the time, I'm like "Hey, that would be really good to do," but it doesn't necessarily help me to get a project done, to hit a deadline, to do these things that I've already decided are my goals that need to happen. Those are the things that typically are fun to do, but not necessary. Does that make sense?
Brett Harned: Yeah, so you use a task list kind of like as a catch-all for things that you could do, where do you put the things that you must do?
Travis Parry: So the things that I must do, I use, again, my ideal calendar and Trello.
Brett Harned: Got it.
Travis Parry: Trello's a great project manager, I love that software tool, because you have different phases and it can have deadlines and you can interact with other people. I also use OneNote for projects when I want to take all the notes on different things, and it's fantastic. There's a lot of software out there, it'll continue to change, but find something that'll allow you to have deadlines, allow you to work towards it.
Travis Parry: Now, this goes back to my ideal calendar. If you don't have an ideal calendar setup and you have something that takes longer than a half an hour, but it doesn't necessarily maybe even have a deadline and it's not part of a project, then where are you going to put it? Where you going to put it? If you don't have that ideal calendar setup, it's more difficult to say "Okay, open my calendar and find a place for this." For me, it's so simple. Oh, this is a blog idea? Friday. Boom. Oh, this is an organization idea for business? Monday, boom. Oh, this is a coaching thing I need to do, or marketing thing? Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Very, very concise in my mind where and when, so that those things actually get done, they don't slip through the cracks.
Travis Parry: Now, going back to the things that make us slip through the cracks, those tasks, those dirty things that are in no man's land? I go back, and when I have extra time, spare time, time that I'm at an airport or I'm, back when we used to use those things, remember those, where we used to fly around, and on a bus or waiting for something, but now I'm at home all day. So what we do is when we have spare time, that's when you pull up your task list and say "Gee, what's something on here that I'd like to do?" And I guarantee you, nine times out of 10, most of those things, you're like "I don't really want to do that anymore, doesn't really fit my vision," and you end up just kind of deleting a lot of them out, but there may be one or two, like "Oh, that was actually a really good idea, that makes sense now," and then you find a time to either do it right away, or put it on your calendar, put it back into your system.
Travis Parry: So I do that at least half an hour in the morning, half an hour in the afternoon, some days when I'm just really flying through things I'll just do half an hour, but most people need to have an hour a day where they do processing, and that should be one of their highest priorities on their ideal calendar. If it's not there, then what they'll do throughout the day is they will be processing and they will constantly be multitasking away their time and wasting 15 to 20% of their day on average. That's what they do.
Brett Harned: Yeah, that totally makes sense. That absolutely fits with how I work, sitting down with my to-do list before I hit email or do anything every day, just to make sure that my priorities are straight. Hey, this has all been super helpful, Travis, thank you so much for joining me. Really looking forward to your book, you'll have to let us know when that's out, even though you dropped some of those dates already in the interview. Maybe we'll be able to circle back and have another discussion about the book when it's out.
Travis Parry: I would love to, man. Right now if people are interested, I mentioned that link before and you'll have that in the show notes, but travisparry, with an A, .com/podcastgiveaway. If they sign up for the giveaway, which includes an article, a 45 minute training, and a free call if they're interestd, I will put them on my book launch list, so they can always be up to date on those deadlines that are coming out from that project.
Brett Harned: [inaudible] Great. Well, thanks so much Travis, have a good rest of your day and we'll talk to you soon.
Travis Parry: Thanks man, appreciate it.
Brett Harned: Okay, that's all for this episode, folks. I hope you picked up a tip or two to help smooth out your workdays. I'm going to try the ideal calendar to see how that helps me. Remember, if you want to learn more about the ideal calendar and the other tips Travis mentioned in the interview, check out the show notes on teamgantt.com. And if you have a minute, please rate the podcast wherever you listen. We really appreciate it. Thanks again, and we'll see you on the next episode.