Time management at work with Mike Vardy

Our Relationship with Time Management at Work with Mike Vardy

In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with productivity expert and author Mike Vardy on our relationship with time management in the workplace and how we can look at it differently.

 

A few reasons why he is awesome – He’s a highly regarded productivity strategist and time management specialist, multi-time author with his most recent being the ebook The Productivityist Playbook, podcaster, speaker, repeatedly named a top productivity expert on too many lists to name and you can hear some of this expertise in the Huffington Post, CBC Radio and Linkedin Learning.

 

Connect with Mike on his platforms: 

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • How productivity has changed with the pandemic
  • Why “time management” is the wrong term
  • The relationship between mindset and tactics 
  • Who’s responsibility is it better have a relationship with time – individually or management?
  • Where to start when you want to address overwhelm
  • The trial and error of time management personalization

“If we don’t have a good relationship with time individually or as an organization, time will have its way with us.”

Mike Vardy

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW

Russel Lolacher
And on the show, it’s Mike Vardy. And here’s why he is awesome. He is a highly regarded productivity strategist and time management specialist, multi time author who has his most recent being the book, the ebook productivity playbook. He’s a podcaster, speaker, repeatedly named a top productivity expert on too many lists to name. And you can hear some of his expertise and Huffington Post, CBC Radio, LinkedIn learning, and he’s a good friend of this particular person right here and someone that I well, I have a quite high regard of…. Mike, right? I can call you Mike?

Mike Vardy
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Russel Lolacher
Welcome to the show, Mike.

Mike Vardy
Thanks, Russel. If you start calling me Michael or Mr. Vardy, it gets weird. Michael sounds like I’m in trouble. And no one calls me Mr. Vardy because I almost feel like I’m in trouble if that happens to at this point. Like, it’s not like my daughter’s friends go. Hey, Mr. Vardy, they go. Hey, Mike. Like that’s what it is. So I think both of those Michael, my full given name, and Mr. Vardy those two are like, oh, what I do, what’s wrong?

Russel Lolacher
And, and I’ve got like, here’s my demographic. I’ve got Arrested Development going in my head right now. And I’ve got Janet Jackson rapping in my head. So anybody who has their Mister and their Missus, and their demographic goes that direction, they’ll know what I’m talking about. Well, thanks for being on the podcast. Mike, I am not going to treat you any special. I am going to ask you the same question I asked all my guests, which is, of course, what is the best or worst employee experience you’ve ever had?

Mike Vardy
I’d say the best the best employee experience I ever had, was working at the Victoria Film Festival. I had somebody that worked alongside me initially. And this has been a while ago. And I brought them on board as the box office manager. But I always had in mind that they were going to do be able to fill the shoes of like operations, right. So I was already thinking about leaving at that point in time to start what I’m doing now. And I wasn’t sure that they were going to be able to do it. And they interacted with one of the there was a some kind of gala event going on, I believe or something like that. And someone came in and they wanted to buy a ticket to the gala. But for some reason they couldn’t or they didn’t have a membership or what have you. And they really just wanted to go to the gala. And what this person did, much, probably to the chagrin of who was in charge was they bought the membership for that person in that moment. So they defuse the situation. And they knew full well that this person was not going to be seeing some of the other more, let’s say fringe films that will be showing they really wanted to go to this gala. And at that point in time, I kind of recognized because I didn’t even have to get involved, which is the best part. I just kind of watched it happen. And just that kindness, but also defusing the situation, making everything kind of look, you know, for lack of better term like solid and making it so that other people in line were going what’s going on, like they really kept things going. I’m like, Okay, well, if this person wants to do what I’m doing now, that that action alone took care of it, because they they danced across like a weird line of, we’re not supposed to do this sort of thing, but I’m gonna do it anyway. And they did it with little hesitation, they they solved the problem they came to, you know, they came to the dance with a solution and they weren’t afraid to play the card. So that to me, you know, in terms of just employee, to customer and then employee to, you know, the people around them because the the volunteers Well, I guess not employees, but the volunteers saw how this person reacted. So now all of a sudden, they weren’t just looking to me for guidance about things. Now they knew they could go to this person for guidance. So it was a really, one of those moments where just one simple action had a bit of a cascading effect. Does that make sense?

Russel Lolacher
It does. And it’s funny how, huh, people don’t think it’s a reality of what they can do. They can’t do what permission they give themselves until they see it modeled in the behavior of the leaders around them. And we talk a good game. I mean, believe me on this podcast, we mentioned a lot of well, your values are on the poster, so it must be true. But I love hearing stories where people are actually walking the walk.

Mike Vardy
Yeah, and the thing is, is it was like I think it was like two bucks. So it wasn’t like in a break the person’s bag. It wasn’t and they didn’t make a big deal of it either. Because he I mean, they also knew that other members were that potential members were there and all of a sudden that cascading effect of Hey, how come you pay for this person’s so they were very discreet about it too. So they solved the problem in the best way possible. And that that gave me confidence and like you said like, you know people around saw it goes oh, well you know, this person is going to be good and not just situations like this. But imagine if it’s even more of a dire or problematic situation, that all of a sudden the confidence in that person has also grown. So it’s not just the modeling, but the confidence in the leadership, which, um, can be hit-n-miss sometimes. So that was an example in such a small, small institution, a small instance where it just kind of radiated.

Russel Lolacher
So the topic today is our relationships with time at work, because my God, man, we have meeting problems, we have time management problems we have scope creep is a huge problem. Time not being respected. So I guess how do you feel the current employee leadership relationship with time is based on your experience?

Mike Vardy
Well, interestingly, I think that what we’ve gone through over the past three years has really altered the landscape in a way that I think was going to happen to some degree anyway, the idea of remote work, the idea of not so so much, I wouldn’t say accountability, but but measurement on hey, how long have you been here? Versus what are you delivering? There’s no longer this quantitative element, or at least, it’s not as such a big barrier for leaders to say, well, I can’t see them doing the work. So how do I know that I’m doing the work, they need to be in here from you know, 9am, to 6pm, to 8pm, to 10pm. That, that is that that myth has been kind of, you know, compromised, doesn’t mean everybody’s listening to it just means it’s been compromised. So I think the other thing is, is that time moved on during those whole that whole time, that whole period, like it didn’t stop. So the idea of managing time, and that’s why, you know, we you and I, we you know, we meet regularly and we talked about this, this idea of like I told you, I don’t I don’t think time management is an apt term, it’s in the lexicon, it’s what people use, but time will not be managed time has time moves on whether you want it to or not, it has its own flow its own rhythm. And again, it’s very personal, you know, one person experiences time then differently than another. So that’s why I would prefer that people try to forge better relationships with time and nurture those relationships, because like dealing with people, if you are dealing with time in a, you know, rude or detrimental manner, it will treat you the same way, either very obviously, you’re very suddenly and I think people get the same thing and out with people, whether it’s, you know, a customer or whether it’s a colleague, right. So I think some of the things that that we can work on is, in order to the biggest thing people can do right now with time is use it as a proper measuring stick, use it as okay, if you’re having scope creep. Did we break things down enough? Did we? Did we break the project down into small enough particles where we’re giving realistic timeframes to how long it takes to do certain things? Or are we just looking at the whole of it, and not realizing, oh, there’s a step in here that if we broke it out, it would actually be able to get done that much faster, or we wouldn’t get stuck as often. But all of this, oddly enough, take slowing down a little bit, being thoughtful and doing things like communicating clearly, not just via email, or slack, or, you know, Microsoft Office or any of those tools. The same goes for, you know, again, making plans and communicating through meetings and all that stuff, we need to be more mindful and thoughtful about it. Because again, if we don’t have a good relationship with time individually or as a as an organization, we time will have its way with us.

Russel Lolacher
Mindset versus tactics. Now, on the podcast, I’ve spoken a lot on this, and I’ve butted heads with a few podcasts where I’ve actually been a guest on where they’re like, Quick, give me five quick ways that employees can be empowered. I’m like, we have a problem if we don’t get our heads, right. What’s your thoughts on mindset versus tactics? Because I mean, there is still a place for both of them when it comes to time in work.

Mike Vardy
And you got yet to remember I started most of my online career working for outlets that talked about life hacks, for lack of a better term, right so the next web I was there like tn W life hacks editor, I was the editor of life hack.org, the managing editor at one point in time, I, I think that there’s too much emphasis on tactics first, because they are easier to measure than mindset. Again, any, especially the bigger the organization, the more you know, tendrils that kind of has and the more the more outlets and branches. Numbers are the things that are universal. They’re understood that you know, they say numbers don’t lie. There is a lot of truth in that right. So I think that the reason people say you know, here’s five ways to get through your email inbox is fine. But if you You’re spending all day in your email inbox and not getting other things done, your ultimate goal is to get through your email inbox, just so you could say I got to inbox zero, and therefore it was a productive day, I would say, I would downright, you know, insist that you weren’t productive, because you only focused on one area of your work, and it may not have even been the most important area of your work. So I think mindset, again, that idea of slowing down is a big part of it. The idea of you know, being mindful, it’s right in there is because it allows us to make better decisions around things like where our attention will go, what our plans look like for the day, what tactics to use in this scenario, which versus which ones don’t work. I mean, Cal Newport wrote in his book, a world without email, he talked about the nuances of things like autoresponders, and canned responses and things like that, well, then out of office, you know, reply, just done in a blanket sense can send one message to one person, but another message to somebody else. And that, in and of itself, is essentially a tactic that you may have misplaced or misused. It may require several auto responders, maybe those that aren’t in your contacts, maybe those that are your colleagues, maybe there’s a different, but you have to think those things through which involves slowing down. And we don’t live in a world that really likes it when you slow down, because the productivity mindset is to create, you have the power quality to create an abundance. That’s what the definition is, when realistically, the in abundance is a fairly new addition to that definition. Being productive with just about being able to produce didn’t matter, necessarily, the emphasis wasn’t on, make it a lot. It was just produced. So hopefully a balance of quality and quantity. So I think that that’s the thing is tactics tend to vote, there’s a closer avenue to quantitative productivity, whereas mindset is the long road to qualitative. And that’s where I think we we, there’s no immediate ROI on it. So that’s why it doesn’t get the focus it should.

Russel Lolacher
Who’s responsible for all this? Because as much as I know, I’ve got my many lists over here and my list over there in the journal over here. But then there are other groups in the organization who may have asks of me that totally mess up this productivity I had planned. So is it the responsibility of the individual to push back? Or is it the responsibility of the organization to understand workloads flows and so forth? Where’s the push and the pull?

Mike Vardy
Yes. It’s both. It really is both. You don’t mean change, often as a result of conflict? Right. Sometimes that conflict is very covert. And sometimes it’s very overt, right? And what you’ll need to do is if it’s so as if an individual is looking at their list, and they get an email from one of their superiors saying, Hey, can you do this? And they look at their list, and they see 14 things on it already. If the person getting that demand was to reflect back, well, you’ve given me these other 14 things, which, which one is the one that’s the most pressing? You know, a variety of things will happen, you’re opening the door to conversation, either the superior goes, Oh, I didn’t realize that, yeah, put that third or This overrides all thanks for letting me know. They’re not really thinking about all the things they put on your list. By the way, anybody that emails, you is not thinking about your list, they’re thinking about their thing, whether it’s a list, whether it’s an app, or whatever, right. But the other response could be, hey, I don’t care, you’ve got all these things to do at this, there’s so much messaging in that communication. One is one of compassion. And one is one of, you know, just abject dis-mission. Like they don’t, and that sends messages. Like, maybe I shouldn’t be here much longer. Maybe I need to get better about protecting my, you know, my, my boundaries, maybe I need to look at what what I signed up for. And, you know, that’s why quiet quitting is becoming a more of a viral thing. It’s always been kind of a thing, but the you know, the term and the term in and of itself has a whole bunch of problems with it. But so it’s a problem on both sides. Now, if if it’s the organization takes the lead on it, through things like professional development, which, you know, every rock solid organization has a percentage of their annual budget designed for professional development, either for themselves as a leadership team or for the entire industry or rather organization. So it’s up to them to kind of say, Okay, well, what can we learn? How can we get better know what the numbers are going down? Why it’s not always because you’re not making enough stuff or your prices are off. Sometimes it has to do with things that you can’t measure that easily. And that’s where conversations come into play. And really A lot of this comes down to just managing expectations through clear communications, you know, and through that you can figure out whether expectations are being met, whether people are being, you know, kind of violate is not the right word. It’s the word I’m gonna use, but you know, they’re being taken advantage of, or, you know, and there will be some people who are just, you know, coasting, right? So, and there’s never going to be a perfect balanced when we say balanced, I’m using air quotes. Organization, because balanced, you know, if you’re gonna say perfect balanced, there’s no such thing. It’s just balanced, because you’re going to have, quote, slackers, you’re gonna have overachievers, and then you’re gonna have people who just want to go in, do the work, do it well, and leave. And that’s it. And then they want to have balance in their lives overall. So that communication is key. But when someone says, Well, is it my job? Or is it the employers job? I’d say it’s both the employee, the employer has one distinct route that they should take and the employee, frankly, no one’s going to give you the tool you want every single time. So you have to come kind of prepared with a How am I? What’s my framework? How do I try to get things done, and work with the tools that are given to you because that those tools are going to be objective, which is not the same as the way you’re going to work? Which is going to be subjective?

Russel Lolacher
I know this is a big question, because it’s very personalized. But I’m hoping you can give us some tips on this. How would you recommend an employee sitting here going overwhelm burnout? Where do I even start? How do you set them up for success when it comes to managing their days a little bit better when it comes to time.

Mike Vardy
So if they’re feeling overwhelmed… overwhelm is often a combination of one or all, or a combination of again, through these three things, over choice, over commitment or overload, right. So over choice, I have too many things to decide which well, in that case, that’s a we need to take something off their plate, give them less choices, either by removing things, the deadlines, hey, this isn’t due for a while, you know, and you can hide those things. That’s where software comes in handy. Here, I only want to see the things that are due in the next 30 days great, or I only want to see things that are due for this project fantastic. Like you can do that with different types of software. You can even do that with just, Hey, have a folder on your desktop, that’s next 30 days, and everything you need to work on isn’t there like you can get that simple, if need be. Over commitment is almost done through again, those high achievers, they commit to all these things. And then they they’ve run out of room, they don’t have enough bandwidth. In those instances, what has to happen is people have to you know, that’s where leadership can come in and say, Okay, well, you’ve taken on too much. How do we use some of your load and teach you a lesson at the same time that you know what, you don’t need to do all this? Why did you feel you needed to you needed to do that you needed to do this? Things like that. And then finally, overload, which is a combination of not just it’s often not, you know, over choice or over commitment, it’s a tendency for just the constant barrage, right? So overload is an inability to, you know, kind of function with the capacity that’s being thrown at you. So as far as I’m concerned, the one of the easiest way to do that is to get your email communications and your general organization communications under control. And that can happen from either side of the equation, organizationally, you could say, email us for external only, only use email for external, use our internal comms, whether that’s slack, whether that’s what is Microsoft use? Again, it’s TEAMS, I think, yeah, like you, or whatever tool you’re using, all of our internal communications are done that way. And then you create, like this team task management charter that kind of provide some guidelines. So that way, they know okay, well, this is where I look for these things. The other thing is, you teach people how to batch their communication so that you’re not emailing them or communicating with them every 5-15 minutes, you know, it’s constantly throughout the day, instead, you’re capturing them, and then you’re sending them maybe one, maybe two, maybe three, depending on the scenario. And again, that’s going to be very personalized. From the other side, you could start that as an individual, you could say, you know, what I’m not going to, I’m actually going to start using the internal communication tool, the way it’s meant to be used. And I’m only going to use the you know, I’m going to use email for, you know, attachments and things like that, that we don’t do there. But I’m going to run it by my leadership team, and I’m going to tell them why, hey, instant messaging is for urgent stuff that we need to deal with right away. I recognize that email is for more long form stuff, maybe stuff that’s coming from external that I’m going to start handling it that way. Is that something that you’re okay with like or you know, and have a conversation around that? I remember doing I think it was for a large, really large organization and they were having a lot of trouble with email just onslaught of emails. And I said number one, You know, I shared kind of the dividing and conquering thing. Number two, don’t try to get to Inbox Zero every day. It’s a it’s a losing battle. And then, you know, I kind of said number three, after a certain hour, don’t answer the emails, like, just stop. I mean, there’s a law in France that does, like it’s illegal for corporations to ask employees after a certain time, think it’s 5pm to an end on Windows. Yeah, no weekends. And that, to me is the fact that government has to intervene on that, you know, people can argue, well, the government shouldn’t be here that if the government has to intervene on that, it’s clearly a problem, because they very rarely would intervene in a private sector, even even in a country such as France, which has a reputation for having those tendencies. That takes a lot. So I would, I would argue that those are the things that you that you can do from an organizational standpoint, but also from a personal standpoint to kind of figure out, okay, I’m overwhelmed. I’m feeling burnt. And once you’re in burnout, it there’s other interventions that I’m not an expert in that you would have to Clark either talks about this stuff a lot. He talks about burnout and things like that. And you don’t even know you’re in it sometimes when you’re in it. So if those tactics that I mentioned, don’t work, you may need to go a step deeper a step further.

Russel Lolacher
I got a question. From our relationships at work community on Facebook, Kiersten Bree asked, “how do we set better boundaries with our work time, especially with to do lists that can never be totally cleared up so that we feel better about the time spent at work versus home and leisure?” Thoughts?

Mike Vardy
So my thought is, the way I’ve done it in the past is, there’s a couple of ways. One is I use daily themes to kind of organize and structure my days, right. So like, today is Thursday, as we’re recording this. It’s my training day. So things I did today was I read a book, I did some learning about a certain platform that I use for sending tweets, like I spent some time really filling my brain with that stuff. But then I also, you know, watched a documentary here at home and I so I won’t just apply learning to my business stuff, I’ll apply it to home stuff as well. So when you’re choosing like a daily theme, it shouldn’t be like, you know, reports, I mean, you’re not probably going to fly but file a bunch of reports for home. But finance, you might like you might want to have a financial day where you focus on that. And again, it’s a very personal choice. And it all depends on the way your week flows as to what days you might choose for what. But another thing that that I and I worked with an architecture firm on this, and they were there was a particular person who was like, I never feel like I’m ahead. I never feel like I’m going to get my To Do Lists done, which I said, Well, you never will like your To Do lists will be done when you’re done. Like that’s essentially what it is. So now that you know that, she goes, yep, I always do other people’s things. And then I never get to my stuff. And I said, Okay, so in your task app, or your bullet journal, or whatever you’re you’re using, create, like at the end of every task, ask yourself this question and then answer it. Is this a task for me? Or is this a task for someone else, if it’s a task solely for someone else, indicate it with some kind of indicator, maybe maybe like two people or an E for Everyone or a for anyone, whatever. Or if it’s for you, and you know, it’s for you signify that with like your initials next to it. So that way, your brain doesn’t need to look at the overwhelming list of things. But it can now look at the the signifier, the identifier, what you’ve coded those tasks to be, and say, Oh, these are mine, I’ll do mine later in the day, let’s say post lunch when everyone else has already had their stuff taken care of. So from like one to five, my focus will be on my stuff. So let me just look at the Envy tasks from that point onward. But in the mornings, you’re focusing on the other things, you’re focusing on what you’re, you’re spending more time in email, you’re spending more time dealing with what everybody else wants. And by virtue of doing that on a repeated basis, you should be able to, you know, keep the dogs at bay, you go to lunch, and then you can get your stuff, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to do their stuff in the afternoon, it might mean that you check email a little less, you might do you might create some boundaries around that. But now all of a sudden, it’s like my stuff gets focused. So that way, when you start your workday, you’re not going okay, what am I going to do today? The question becomes, okay, well, what do people want from me before? lunchtime today? Boom, and you focus on that? And then after lunch, like, Okay, what did I want to do today? Once you once you own that, then just like we were talking about having a relationship with time, that’s some give and take right there. Not just with time, but with the people around you. And you’re creating this relationship where you know, and time knows what you should be doing at this very specific time. Not in the very specific sense. You’re gonna have some broad strokes in there, but by knowing that your brain starts to create that pattern, it’s Though it knows, hey, it’s one o’clock time for me to focus on my stuff. First and foremost, oh, Russel gave me something No problem. I’ll deal with that quick, where do I go? Now, all right back to my stuff like, it just becomes more fluid, less friction, more flow, when you have boundaries, it’s weird constraints help, because they create boundaries, but you need to have them, you need to kind of be like Goldilocks and like, make sure they’re just right. And the reason that that worked for this person is they were in a role that was very much an assistant role. You might want, if you’re a CEO, or at a higher, you might flip it, hey, the mornings I do my stuff in the afternoon, I’m all yours, right? So you could that’s that’s a way to do it. But you don’t have to create such solid boundaries, that it’s so rigid that you don’t have any room to breathe. And then by the way, when you do that, I guarantee it’ll fall into place with home stuff, right? Because if you do the afternoon stuff for you, and then you cut your cut off at the knees at five, then you don’t answer those emails after that. Or you try it with one person and see what happens. Or two people or a group of people, you do some experimentation, I would bet. Most of the time, those emails that get sent to you after work, they can keep till the next morning, when you’re gonna give into other people’s demands and do what they want you to do to start off the day.

Russel Lolacher
So going down the path of personalization is very trial and error?

Mike Vardy
Yeah, I would say with anything. I mean, when you think about it, the food you intake, right, like, like the food you eat different foods react differently to every single person, right? You know, my wife cannot do dairy or gluten. She, it’s pretty clear. She’s She said, look, look what happens when they say she just doesn’t and it doesn’t, I don’t react that way I have, you know, but I also can’t eat everything I used to eat when I was in my 20s. So things change, things evolve. And that’s why you need to experiment, there’s gonna be some things that are timeless, right? Things that you won’t need to experiment with too much. In fact, the things that we do tend to experiment with, we shouldn’t like sleep time. Like, if you’re a natural night owl, you should be at the very least leveraging that by saying, You know what, I’m gonna do my high energy stuff later in the day. But the last thing you should be doing is, you know what, I need to become a morning person. That’s like fighting biology, like it like your biological clock, you can do it, it won’t be pretty, and it won’t necessarily stand the test of time, either. Good news is as as we age, and Dr. Michael Bruce writes about this in the power of when our circadian rhythms do adjust earlier a bit. But I can tell you as a night owl myself, I’m still not going to bed to one in the morning. So yeah, there it is trial and error. But make sure you’re experimenting on the right things like hey, I want to cut off email. So at 5pm, but I know my boss is like hardcore. So I will maybe answer their emails but nobody else’s. Or maybe I won’t answer theirs for two nights and see what happens. Or three days like those are the kinds of experiments I’m talking about. Not you know what I need to do, I need to get up first thing in the morning, or I need to it’s New Years time to take that yoga class. And like, there’s we tend to make massive extreme tripe massive, extreme experiments, because they’re sexy. And they you know, and there’s, but the small ones, like, let me just not answer that email from that one person on that very particular project. Because like, Mike, that’s so narrow in scope. But yeah, but it when it works. It’s like, you know, what, if I don’t eat cheese anymore, what would happen? Oh, wow, okay, I guess maybe I shouldn’t eat you. And by the way, that doesn’t just go for people with dietary restrictions, either somebody, I mean, I quit soda pop for a year solid. And I’m, I’m no longer you know, addicted to it. Because of it. I don’t know that ever was I just kind of just it was a habit, right. So that’s the thing is, I think if you start doing stuff like that, and realize that trial and error is going to be part of the process. In fact, it may very well be the process, then you’re going to be in a much better place than if you just go you know what i This needs to be one and done. That’s where we get back into life hacks and things like that, that aren’t that aren’t consistent or sustainable.

Russel Lolacher
And back to the relationship metaphor, don’t get too married to them either. I mean, as much as you’re personalizing it, as you said, say that demanding boss that you had to tweak your productivity to help them maybe you get a new boss, who’s way more laid back. Suddenly you have more time and less demands. You should be reassessing and auditing as you go as well.

Mike Vardy
Yep. And and again, that goes with things like energy levels, like testing the waters letting people know hey, you know what, I’m not at my best in the morning. You know this. So I’m going to focus on that stuff later in, you know, the day cool with that, like that communication piece is so important because, number one, you’re not only creating that communication pattern with your colleagues, you’re also telling yourself that stuff and you’re advocating for yourself which will also improve your Relationship with time. Because if it all goes well then time knows. And you know, right? If it doesn’t go well, time knows. And you know, but when there’s so much uncertainty and ambiguity, that’s when you run into issues because there’s no trust there. And if there’s no trust there, if there’s no trust in a relationship, how solid and good is that relationship going to be?

Russel Lolacher
Doesn’t matter if it’s your spouse, your best friend or your organization. Absolutely. Or with yourself.

Mike Vardy
Yeah. Or your time.

Russel Lolacher
Or your time. Yeah, look, are you pulling it back. Nicely done. So we’ve got we bought the flowers, we bought the chocolates, we showed up to our date, we’ve done all the tactics have this relationship work? And are we ready to commit to this relationship? As I’m pulling this, this metaphor is working for me? So what’s the mindset we need to have? I’m hearing curiosity a lot when it comes to testing the waters and personalization. What other ways do you think people should be thinking differently to have better relationships with their time.

Mike Vardy
So don’t think about productivity as efficiency and effectiveness. That’s a big one, speed and quantity things, things that productivity isn’t that the term productivity is probably not the best term anymore, either. Because number one, it means different things to different people. I remember when someone subscribed to my newsletter, and they’re from Poland. And they said, I really love your work. But I was hesitant to subscribe to the productivity as to because productivity were, you know, when I grew up, was a bad it was a measuring stick determining how well we were treated by our government. I’m like, Yeah, I never thought about it that way. Because if they didn’t produce enough, then that was a reflection of what they would get, how they were treated, all that stuff. I think that the mindset needs to be and I’m hearing this more about like the term like slow productivity, which, again, I think is going to backfire to on some, I think it’s going to appear like oh, so really just be lazy, that’s what’s gonna happen is it going to flip to like, Oh, they’re lazy, or they’re, they’re not confident or competent enough, or they’re, it’s a rebel, it’s a rebellion against, you know, Taylorism, and things like that, which goes way back. Productivity, at its core is about the active linking of your intention, and your attention. So if you start to think about it that way, stop using the word to do maybe, and start thinking about things like intentions or even tasks right to do doesn’t have a lot of power behind it. If you have tasks, there’s a little bit more meat on the bone intention, maybe even more meaning behind it. I think that when you start thinking about it that way, it’s like, well, I intended to do this, how am I going to pay attention to it, which is the key, because if you intend on, you know, showing your date, a good time, but you don’t pay attention to that, then all of a sudden, is that relationship going to even have a chance to bloom or, you know, come to you know, whatever, whatever you want to get out of the relationship, it’s gonna be much harder if you’re not paying attention to it. And so I think that, that if we start thinking about the things that we’re trying to do, needing and wanting to do as intentional, like, these are intentions, how am I going to pay attention to it, then we repeat that pattern again and again, then we get things like speed, quantity, efficiency, and quality will get better, too, because we’re doing it over and over and over again. If we start there, then I think everything else starts to start to build off of that. How do I pay attention to this big book project? Well, maybe I need to break it down into its smallest steps, because I’ve never written a book before. Okay, why am I doing this? My intention is to write a book. Oh, that’s why I like those kinds of things. And yes, initially, they take more time to do and they take more energy to do and things that you might, you might feel backlash from, well, shouldn’t you be doing this instead? And it won’t be from others necessarily all the time. It could be internally. That’s where that’s where the battle begins is the battle between like, I just want to do what I’m, you know, supposed to do? And the other is like, Well, no, we are doing what we’re supposed to do, we’re just going to try to do better. And that’s where the battle begins. So and where often ends. So that’s, that’s the mindset. If you can shift productivity away from efficiency and effectiveness, realize those are byproducts and go towards intention and attention. You’re already going to be a good few steps down the road. Just keep going.

Russel Lolacher
You talked earlier about leaders coming in and being able to help their staff going, why are you doing this? Why are you doing some like, I’ve never seen an organization that’s able to do that because the leaders are too busy. They’re also slammed and have no time for anything to help anybody else work their time management. So where do we want to get to it? What’s your Utopia, Mike?

Mike Vardy
Where I’d like to get is, You know, when a leader comes in, they need to get there, they need to have an understanding of their expectations in the first place. They need to prioritize, they need to know some of this stuff. Because if they don’t, then you’re right, they can’t help the people that they’re trying to help. By the same token, people who are in the organization that are maybe not in the leadership roles, they are probably at the point. And that’s who I’ve helped mostly is those people who are at the point where I’m not getting the help I need, I need to get a bit of an edge, or a bit of even just a bit of a leg up or just I want to stay afloat. And that’s often the people that I end up talking to, because they’re the ones that are they don’t have anybody else to fall back on. Like, if those tasks don’t get done, no one does them. And so leadership, like everything travels downstream, right? Whereas with leaders, I’m not saying they don’t want that stuff to get done, but because they are, and I hate that term busy, or that, like there’s a lot of demands on them. And they don’t, they don’t they’re not good with boundaries. And I wouldn’t say they in general, but you know, there are some that are not good with boundaries, both creating their own and then respecting the boundaries of others be as a result, I think what happens is where I would, where I’d love to see is that leaders, you know, kind of went into it with, Okay, we have all this technology that’s gonna speed things up. But are we speeding the right things up? Like how, like, these tools should help us slow the right things down. And that will allow us to make more thoughtful a sound decisions around what we should be doing it all living according to our values. And they’re simple, and that and the idea behind this isn’t that you have to make it challenging to do, you could very easily I mentioned the whole idea of like self serving and serving mode, like your name in everybody else’s name, you could legitimately put beside a task. If you’re a leader, this is a value. So it’s if we do this task, it leads up to our values and just put like a V. Or if you’re really concerned about money, hey, the each of these tasks has a three, one to $5 rating. This one’s a $1 task, this one’s a $3. This one’s a $5 task, okay, this is the one that we need to focus on. Like you can create shorthand and code, almost like little mental flashcards that our brain can go, Oh, I’m going to focus on these three to four to $5 Bill ones, not the $1 ones, I’ll outsource that, or, you know, we just won’t do that, right, and then passing that on to the people that are in the organization. But for the shared value stuff, if you value, you know, if you value the bottom line, Hey, everybody, you need to put $1 figure what you think, is beside this task, or I’m gonna give it to you, and then you know, oh, this is a $1 tasks is gonna be way, way down the line, you can create these little simple symbols, or signatures or filtration, you know, units, whatever you want to call them, to kind of force your function down the path that you want it to go. I think if people started to think more in those terms, as opposed to let me check off as many boxes as I can today. Let me go through all my emails, as many as I can get to inbox zero. And I’ll be back tomorrow to do the same damn thing again. And that’s kind of where we’re at. And there’s no reason for us to be there. It just takes it is it’s, it takes effort. It takes, you know, a level of bravery to a degree. And I mean, I make it sound like it’s this massive undertaking. And it can be but it’s like anything, what do they say? How do you steer a culture shifts slowly. Like, that’s what big organizations that’s what happens. And I think that it doesn’t take much to get started. It does take a lot to keep it going.

Russel Lolacher
I’m going to finish with my favorite question for you, Mike Vardy, which is what’s one simple thing people can do right now to improve their relationships at work.

Mike Vardy
Um, I would say the one thing they can do is to, if they, let’s see, let’s use a tactical piece, I’ll give them a tactical piece talk, send an email to your colleagues that you contact the most the ones that you’re going to top your top three, and ask them how frequently you would like they would like to receive emails from you. Daily, like based on whatever and you can create whatever that whatever that sounds like to hey, you know what, Russel I know we worked a lot together, but I don’t want to disrupt you when you’re in flow. So let’s let’s figure out when we can, when I should send you an email or instant message or et cetera, so that you can keep doing what you’re here to do. I keep doing I’m here to do but we know we’re on the same page. That right there is a win win. It’s a win win. Whether you get it exactly what you want out of it, it’s still a win, because now you understand, you know, I mean, and having that certainty is super important because people are just by default, the default is, who cares, let’s just email, I got something on mine, let’s email it. If you do that, that shows some thoughtfulness and care. And again, you’ll hear from them what they want, you’ll they’ll hear from what you want, and whether they follow through or not, or whether you follow through or not, there’s now a relationship. If you want to make it great, you’ll fall through and whatever they want. And, and they’ll do the same for you. And then just build from there, hey, let’s go to colleague number two colleague, number three, I would start with three colleagues and then expand from there that I think is a tactical one. And I think it embodies the the mindset one, two, which is, what’s my intention, not just for me, but for my organization to deliver quality to put great stuff out there to the world, for our customers, for the people. Okay, how do I pay attention to that? I know like, what’s some little things that I can do, that will make a big impact? If you think about it that way, then I think you’re going to be in a much better, you’re gonna have a much better, much better relationship, not just with your colleagues, but with again, with the time that you have and both of those, both those things I’ve shared, take care of that.

Russel Lolacher
That’s Mike Vardy, helping us have a little better relationship with our time at work. He’s an internationally renowned productivity expert. You want more from him, go to productivity.com. Sign up to his workshops. The man has books, there is a cavalcade of content from that man to help you a little bit better. So thanks again, Mike, for being on the show.

Mike Vardy
Thanks for having me.Russel. Had a great time.

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