The Tug of War with Time: How to Gain Control Of Your Life with Penny Zenker (Archive)

Penny Zenker

Penny Zenker

Motivational Business Speaker
Strategic Business Coach
Best-Selling Author

Her experience includes building and selling a multi-million dollar TheProductivityZone-3Dbusiness, managing business turnarounds, living abroad for 16 years, and worked 5 years as a Tony Robbins business coach. She will challenge you to think and act more strategically. More at

Interview Transcript

NPC Interview with Penny Zenker

Hugh Ballou:Welcome to the Nonprofit Chat tonight. We have a really, really, really good topic tonight. My co-host on these has been Russell David Dennis. I’m Hugh McPherson Ballou. We have a good time on these, and we introduce great things to the world by introducing great people who have great products and services. We have a long time friend of ours tonight, Penny Zenker. Russ is carrying the heavy weight tonight. I am waiting in an airport to board a plane, so I will be a passive participant in this. We are recording on the cloud. This is going to be part of our Nonprofit Exchange podcast, Penny. This nonprofit chat is something we broadcast out to folks every Tuesday at 7. Russell, would you cue up the introduction and let Penny talk a little bit about herself as well?

Russell Dennis:Thank you, Hugh, and welcome, Penny. It’s always a pleasure to see you. It’s been a good while. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, we have Penny Zenker. Penny is a strategic business coach and trainer. She coaches business leaders and entrepreneurs. She is the author of the best-selling book The Productivity Zone: Stop the Tug of War with Time.Penny leverages her personal experiences building up and later selling a multi-million-dollar business, as a senior executive at one of the world’s largest market research companies, and working with business leaders all over the world as a Tony Robbins business coach. Penny’s proven and practical approaches to help people get results quickly. Time is something that is just difficult to get more of. It’s the one thing we can’t get more of. Penny, tell everybody about yourself today. Good to see ya.

Penny Zenker:Good to see you, too, Russell and Hugh. Always good to be here with you guys. Thank you for having me here. As you cued it up, where some of my experience and background is, Hugh earlier said, “How are you qualified? What makes you the time management expert or productivity expert?” Maybe it’s because I have more challenges than most people, I don’t know. No.

As you heard in the introduction, I started my own technology business back when I was 25. Nobody knows better about time management challenges than an entrepreneur starting off in their business, wearing all the different hats and playing all the different roles. I have seen it from an entrepreneur’s perspective. Then I went to work for a big company, organized very differently. At the same time, when I left my company and I sold it, I thought, Now I am going to go work 9-5. It’s going to be so easy. I am going to take over this role. That’s not what it was at all. Instead of being the CTO of the organization, I took my boss’s job in a reorganization, and then I was responsible for multiple countries, speaking a foreign language, and reorganizing the organization. I have never experienced such a challenge, which isn’t time. At that moment, I thought it was a time management challenge. How can I do all this?

What I’d love to briefly share is a story that shifted the way I thought about time management forever. And hopefully some of our discussion will really be around that. When I took over this position at the market research company, and I was overwhelmed and I was questioning myself if I even had the skills and what was needed to do this job because it was so much different and bigger than what I had ever had before.

It’s when we get overwhelmed, we think we get overloaded, but we are really just overwhelmed. There is a difference between that. One has to do with mental capacity, where the other one is more of a time capacity issue or a physical capacity issue.

I went into my boss’s office and said, “Peter, I can’t do this. I don’t think I am the right person for this position.” I shared with him what my challenges were. He sat there patiently, like a cool leader, listening. Then he said, “Listen. I hired you to make decisions. What you do with the rest of your time is up to you.”

Think about that.

Hugh:That is profound.

Penny:My reaction was at first, “Easy for you to say.” But then I thought about that, and it was so simple. As you said, Hugh, it is so profound. It really made me rethink the way that I looked at everything because it’s true. It shifted my mindset from that point forward to being much more of a strategic thinker than a tactical thinker. When we are in time management, then we are tactically thinking. We need to pull ourselves away and be more strategic. Go ahead, Hugh.

Hugh:People in leadership positions have tremendous impact. What that person said to you, “I pay you to make decisions,” that is amazing. Penny was talking about her journey of being able to think strategically. Penny, that was profound. Talk about it a bit more, and then we will get into some of the substance we want to talk about tonight.

Penny:As I said, that was the base of me shifting my thinking around time. As I got further into that organization, I was able to work with people in various divisions of that organization. Then I went to work with Tony Robbins as a strategic business coach for his organization, and I worked with people all over the world. I really helped them to—I think you said it earlier, Russ—get out of your own way. I helped them to get out of their own way. If cash flow is the number one reason why businesses go out of business… *technical difficulties*

As I started to work with Tony Robbins as a strategic business coach there, the goal was to help companies grow their businesses, double their business and to grow exponentially. They say that the number one reason businesses go out of business is cash flow. The number two reason has to be because of their time management. They would have the cash flow if they managed their time and thought more strategically about what they need to do.

It doesn’t matter what culture or what country. I found myself working on the same set of skills first and foremost with people all over the world to help them to manage the way that they think around time management and where they focus and how they prioritize, to get them to think more strategically about what they are doing as opposed to tactically. Then we could implement the strategies and things like that. But it’s really about shifting the perspective around time and being more of a strategic thinker around that than a tactical thinker.

Hugh:What is your book about? Stop the Tug of War with Time.We used that in our teaser that we sent everybody earlier.

Penny:I saw that. I think it’s the common struggle that people feel is, “I wish I just had more time.” It’s that tug of war with time. What I did was all the people I have worked with around the world, I thought, How can I bring this to a larger number of people than just those few people I have been able to work with one on one? I really want to make a much bigger impact. The way to do that is either through written word, or a video series that I do. I also have a piece of software that goes with this.

It really describes what I call the productivity zone. When you are in the zone, you are focused on ten core drivers that help you to think and act more strategically, like I said about the decision-making aspect. What are the aspects that go into having us be more strategic about how we show up for our time?

There is a framework for the productivity zone. What is in the zone is these ten drivers. What is out of the zone is perfectionism and procrastination. We were talking earlier, Russ, before the show started, about how that is where resistance is. We create resistance through procrastination because mentally we are not interested, we are not clear on what we want to do, we are not motivated, and we are afraid of what is on the other side. We have all this resistance that sits outside, and that is where the stress is.

Hugh:Stress? Stress? We don’t have stress. So, Penny, Russ has written books, I have written books. My first book, I outlined it. I started on the chapter “Getting Things Done.” It was about what you are talking about, planning, that whole space. Once I wrote it, it really helped me do the rest of the book, and it gave me this sense of accountability. Okay, well you said it, now you gotta do it. Writing the book and thinking about being productive, you have to plan it and make use of the time available. Was there a learning experience for you in going through that writing the book process?

Penny:There were a lot of learning experiences as I’m sure you guys have had, too. Some of the things that helped me were principles I explained in the book. For instance, the number one principle is to understand how to motivate yourself and to be in the right space of motivation. When you are really motivated, everything else disappears, and you get things done. One of the things I did first was create the cover of my book, like way before it was even started. I had the cover, so I was motivated to see that it was already done; it was just filling in the pages. That really motivated me and inspired me as I saw it up on my desk and know that it was just about filling it in.

Mine came pretty easily structured. Once you have an outline, and because I am talking about the ten drivers, it was pretty easy because each driver was then a chapter. As soon as I had that, it was clear. And how I wanted to format it. I wanted to have a few callouts. I wanted to have a summary at the end so people could have the top three takeaways of each chapter. And I wanted to have a personal story at the beginning of each chapter. Once I defined the outline and that format, it was really easy to put things in. Easier than people think, especially today with the whole dictate thing. I love that function.

Hugh:I love Siri. I think I sleep with her. She understands me and makes my Southern into real language.

You talked about your ten. I am asking some questions because Russ will do the heavy lifting after I go through security here at the airport. What are those ten? Can you outline those? Russ knows you and has done some research, and he has some profound questions to lay on you. We also have some questions that you and I devised a while back that are launching out there on Facebook and Twitter for people to respond to, and we will talk about those in the interview, too. What are those ten? PZ. Those are your initials.

Penny:I know, isn’t that funny? I realized that afterwards. Productivity Zone and Penny Zenker, PZ.

Russ:Unconscious titling going on.

Hugh:What are those ten?

Penny:I will go through them real quickly. Obviously there is meat below it. The key is understanding how to twist them and make them work for you in the moment. Number one is motivation. Number two is self-talk. Number three is focus. Number four is physiology or self-care. I am going to do them in blocks. Those four together make up what I call Championship Psychcology. It’s where we manage our energy. That is really the determination of what you get done in that time; it’s because how you show up for that time. Those are the four initial drivers: about how we manage our energy and psychology.

Then we go into Winning Strategies. That is the planning, getting that outline together. It’s the process, creating systems, automating things. And then prioritization, knowing what comes first, what’s important.

Then we get into what makes it sustainable. Now we have our psychology and approach. What do we need to do to keep this going? That would be progress. That’s the next one. Understanding measurement, what it is that we are measuring. Then lastly is being proactive in staying ahead of the curve.

I know that is a total quick run-through, and maybe we will touch on a few more in detail. Obviously there is another resource if people want it. There is a chapter for each one of those in the book and software that goes along with that.

Hugh:I muted myself because there was background noise. We have people joining us on Facebook and the webcast. Too bad about the technical problems before. I watched Frank Kern do a webcast for thousands of people, and they had a few snafus today. It happens.

We are talking to Penny Zenker, author of The Productivity Zone: Stop the Tug of War with Time.I love it when people say they are going to manage time. You can’t manage time; it’s going to go by anyway. What are we managing?

Penny:We are managing those three elements. We are managing our energy, which is what I say mostly. It’s how to show up for the time. Let’s face it: Most people know what to do, but they just don’t do it. That’s why I get into the procrastination and perfectionism; there is that resistance because there is something else going on there, and it’s all up here. That’s the biggest thing.

Hugh:Oh my word, it’s the mental trap.

Penny:It is.

Hugh:We have David Gruder next week. He is going to talk more about our mind. We had a chat with him a couple months ago about the shadow inside. There is a lot of synergy to what you are talking about, and what several of our presenters are talking about. What you are presenting is a really good system, wow. We don’t sell things on this show, but if people wanted the book, where would they find it?

Penny:It’s available on Amazon. They can get it on Amazon. Look up The Productivity Zoneor Penny Zenker, and they can find it there. There is a link I can put up if anybody is interested in taking the assessment, which enables them to get a piece of software that helps them actually to rate themselves and do some self-coaching, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and set some actions around these ten core drivers, too.

Hugh:If you will send that to us, we will put that in the notes for the Nonprofit Chat and the podcast. We’re pushing 15,000 listeners on the podcast, so somebody likes what we’re doing. We want to make sure they have access to whatever you mention, so if you mention any links, make sure we have them.

Russell, I know you’re itching to get in here. I am going to go through security as you guys are doing the next bit, and I will see you on the other side.

Russ:Outstanding. I am looking through this. I am now the owner of your book.

Penny:Thank you.

Russ:Technology is good for consuming things, not necessarily good for the checking account. The impulse. I love the idea of the issue of time. They look at it as the enemy. I have heard this saying that time is a gift, not the enemy.

Penny:Right, that’s a good statement.

Russ:Yes, we can get into some of the questions that we have for the week. Our first question is: What is the biggest time vampire of your life?

Penny:Right. I want everybody to think about this question and answer it for themselves. Hopefully, for those who are joining us on Facebook, post what it is. Get really clear on what the biggest time vampire is. For me, my biggest time vampire is my kids. I love them, and of course I want to be flexible to be there. But they miss the bus, and then I have to drive them to school. Whatever I have planned is out the door. Or I have to pick them up from school because they missed the bus, or they have soccer practice. I do a lot of organization to get them to where they need to go and things like that. Things pop up all the time. Somebody is sick. I will include the dog in that. The dog has a problem, and I have to take care of that. We all have time vampires.

What that means to me is something that we can or can’t control. There are things outside of our control that happen that take our time up. But we also have to think about which part is within our control. There is a piece of it that we can anticipate what kinds of things could come up, and we can set things in place, be proactive, so we don’t have that. In the morning, if I could make sure to wake my kids an extra 15 minutes early, then I can avoid most of the challenges of them being late, unless it is a real exception.

I want people to take ownership of the time vampires. It’s like that person that calls and you know every time that person calls they want to talk to you for an hour. You can allow that person to be that time vampire because you don’t have an hour to give them. Or you can say, “Hey, what’s up? I only have ten minutes.” If you qualify yourself in the beginning, not in a rude way, but in a good way, “Love to talk to you. That’s why I picked up. But I only have a couple minutes.” When you do things like that, then you can help to mitigate those time vampires.

Russ:I think that can create conflicts for people because they say, “What if something happens that is out of my control?” It’s in here. It’s part of the process; we’re talking about planning. That involves contingencies. You have to have a contingency plan. Entrepreneurs, we are eternal optimists. Everything usually takes two to three times more money, time, and effort than we planned for because we plan for everything to go well. I think that’s a pretty common trap.

Penny:What is your vampire, Russ?

Russ:My vampire- I suffer from what I call S to the third power. Shiny Stuff Syndrome. I have to be very careful. I do a lot of communicating online, and I find myself in social media a whole lot because I am writing, posting, responding to people. Sometimes I have writing and other projects to do, so I need to back out of that so I can prepare for my meetings with clients and other things. That can be a real vampire, whether it’s social media or email. There are apps out there you can get that will squawk at you or tell you to get out of there so you don’t get stuck in social media or other things. It’s really easy to get stuck in activities that don’t produce revenue or results.

With the coaching, for you, I know you work with a lot of different people. What are some of the more common vampires that the people you work with talk about?

Penny:One of them you just mentioned: social media is a big one. Different types of office distractions are what people talk about. These open office environments that they are in. Now the studies have just come out to show they really are killing our productivity. That is why people prefer to work at home because they get stuff done at home. Often, when I go in and do workshops in organizations, they won’t talk about this with each other, but in a safe space around these drivers, they are able to talk about the distractions of, “Hey, you know, my desk is closer to the kitchen area, so everybody stops to talk to me at my desk.” They don’t get stuff done. There are those common things. There is the telephone ringing. They pick up their phone because it might be a client. They are constantly binging with their emails and things like that that are interrupting them. Depending on the office environment, there are a ton of different ways that our times can be taken.

Russ:There are times I turn the telephone off or let voicemail pick up. My phone won’t explode at my desk if I don’t pick it up. For the most critical things, I think it’s important to focus on those.

Productivity zone, everybody’s productivity zone, is that a moving target? Is that different for everybody?

Penny:It is. We’re not machines. We’re not going to be calculating how productive we are by widgets. It’s not like we produce ten widgets and have a productive day. We need to be able to feel in control. When we feel stressed, then you’re not in the zone. You need to have some semblance of feeling like you’re in control. I don’t like the word “balance” because what does that mean? It’s like a plane that is 90% of the time correcting all the time. It’s never really on path. Maybe it’s being in harmony. Being able to feel good about what you have accomplished and knowing you are moving forward on those things that are most important. The key thing about the zone is is that you can use any of these core drivers to get back in the zone.

When you get distracted, you have one of those vampires, you can turn off your social media. People just don’t do that. Being more conscious of what helps you to be more productive, and then putting things in place to support you—for example, I go to a personal trainer because I know I won’t go otherwise. I want to be healthy, I want to stay fit and strong, and I know that it’s important to my energy levels and my whole productivity. So I have to force myself by paying somebody to go and work with them. That’s just the way it is. We have to put things in place so we know we’re not living and reaching the things we want to reach. If we are not able to do it for ourselves, then we need to put something else in place, some other form of accountability to help us.

Russ:Accountability is where it’s at, for sure. I have an accountability coach that I speak with every week. That has been marvelous for me. There are other people here at my office, and we keep each other on task with different projects. Accountability is huge for helping stay productive.

Penny:Absolutely. And that is why I created that software. Not everybody can afford a coach. I realize that. Having a coach in some instances can be outside of a person’s budget, so I wanted to have something that would give them some accountability. They could come back to the tool on a weekly basis, assess where they are, and get that accountability coaching because it is key.

Hugh:Penny, our primary audience here are clergy or nonprofit executives and people who work on a very limited budget. That would be an important gift for them. You have been to my workshop in Philly, and Russell has been to two of them. You both presented. It’s great when you have people present who do better than you do in your own workshop. I feel really fortunate having you two guys around me.

In that workshop, if you remember, I ask people what the topics they wanted to deal with most are. The number one in every location was leader burnout. I think that has to do with what you are talking about. It’s not really having that structure. I asked about managing time, which we don’t; we manage selves.

Speak about how the anxiety and this stuff going unbridled, not having accountability, not having a plan, not being productive. How does that contribute to us being burned out?

Penny:Burnout is the ultimate stress outside of the zone. It’s gotten to a point where you are not doing anything about it, and you are just going on until- it’s a stacking effect. Then it gets to the point where physically some people have adrenal issues because they really burn out in the context of mentally and physically.

I believe that the things that are most important is for them to recognize and- Here is the challenge. Most people say they don’t have the time. They don’t have the time to invest in making sure they are not getting enough exercise and moving their body. They don’t have enough time to get enough sleep. They don’t have enough time for these different things, so they just keep going like the Energizer Bunny until they burn out. The key thing is to take a step back as soon as possible on a regular basis and say, “What’s working and what’s not working? Where must I make the time?” Again, I go to a trainer because I must make that time and because I know it is going to feed my energy and everything else. I know that my brain is like everyone else’s where I say I don’t have the time for that. I have projects I need to move forward on. These people in these nonprofits, they have a big responsibility and a big passion. Sometimes that passion can burn you out because you don’t have harmony with the rest of the areas in your life. It’s taking a step back and getting that strategic holistic look at what is going on so that they can focus their time and energy in the right places.

One other quick thing is: A good question for those people to ask themselves: What is it costing you? Sometimes we just keep going, but if they really think about what it’s costing them, it may be costing them volunteers and people on their team because they are not able to communicate properly. They are not able to lead their team anymore when they are in that stressful state because that energy is transferred. They might be losing possible funding. They might be destroying their relationships with their family. Any of us, if we think about what it’s costing us, then it can create some greater motivation. We are one hundred times more motivated by pain than we are by pleasure. Really to connect to that and understand this is how it’s not serving them, and then it will create some action.

Hugh:Russ, maybe you get this, too, but I hear that often. I don’t have time to write goals. I don’t have time to make a plan. Well, you have time to really upset your whole board and your staff because you are not moving in a step-forward manner, and they don’t know where to play. I would classify that as an excuse, not a reason.

Penny: And the excuse comes from fear. I tell people all the time to write down the excuses why and where you are procrastinating. Everything around perfectionism, too. Why are you working to death? What are your excuses? I love that. Shine a light on those excuses so you can see what it really means.

Hugh:I wouldn’t be a procrastinator if I ever got around to it.

Russ:That brings us to that second question, which is: What do you procrastinate around? My Kryptonite is the telephone. I need more phone conversations because I talk to people one on one. When I talk to them, that is how I get to know them and see what they are doing. I can set some time to make some sales calls. I find myself doing other things, whether it is a broadcast or writing something. It’s really important. My friend Suzy Prudden says that my mind needs a telephone.

What are some things that you procrastinated around and other things that a lot of people that you work with find themselves procrastinating around?

Penny:Isn’t it funny how we procrastinate on the things that are most important? People find this hard to believe about me, but- I do a lot of public speaking. One of the things I procrastinate on is preparing for my speeches. I don’t mean structuring out the slides or anything like that, but the actual preparation. Recently, I did a TedX for Penn State in Erie, and that was the hardest thing for me: set aside time to practice. I kept finding other things to do instead of practicing. Then I had to go back to that accountability. I had to invite people to my house, and I had to burn the boats. I had to do things that meant I had no way out. People were coming, and I had to practice.

I see a lot of people procrastinating on sales calls because of a fear of rejection, because they don’t see themselves as a salesperson. They will procrastinate on asking people for referrals because they feel like if a person appreciated their service, they will just give me the referral. That’s not true. People are just too busy to think about you, so you have to remind them.

Russ:That’s true. I’m my favorite subject. I’m all I think about.

Penny:The administrative paperwork, that is another thing to procrastinate on. Anything that requires organization. Cleaning their desk. Getting through their email. I have had CEOs tell me they have had 5,000 unread emails in their inbox. That is ridiculous. Someone else told me they had 200 voicemails. Okay.

Hugh:I don’t think I’ll tell you how many emails I have.


Hugh:Everything is in spam, and I just don’t go there.

Penny:That’s different. If it’s spam, that’s something else. You can filter things into different places, but this was in their inbox. The first thing that you do is take everything that comes into your inbox and you filter out all that spam. Only good quality content comes to your inbox.

Hugh:I think the wisdom is being able to set some priorities on that. Excuse me, Russ, I interrupted you.

Russ:As far as that email inbox goes, I have to clean out the spam first and quickly so that I can scan through for the important things. Filing it, I don’t always file it, but I have to go through that inbox with the most current stuff and get it out of there. I do that at night before I go to bed sometimes because I get a lot. It’s like delete, delete, unsubscribe, unsubscribe. Even if you sign up for a free report or some valuable information, what happens is those folks email you every day.

Penny:There are some good systems out there that help you to remove those.

Hugh:I’d love to talk about that. We keep adding things. We add email, text, cell phone, but we don’t take anything away.

Penny:That’s true.

Hugh:Are we up to our third question yet?

Russ:Yeah, we are. Penny, how do you prioritize your work? Another portion to that is how do you define what is urgent? I have trouble with that. Sometimes I have to back up, look at what is most important, and take things off the list.

Penny:Totally. I find that is one of the biggest challenges people have. I am pretty good at that myself, but I find that a lot of people get- Look at the nature of an entrepreneur. We are born with a certain sense of urgency. It’s a gift and a curse at the same time. We have to respond quickly because that is just in our nature. A potential client calls, so we have to get back to them. It takes real discipline to be able to really define and say what is really urgent. Is it really urgent that I get back to this person or that I check my email—I forget what the latest statistic is—130 times a day? It’s ridiculous. Don’t quote me on that, but the number is a ridiculous number of how many times people check their email. It’s making planning a priority. A lot of these drivers are intertwined. I pulled them out so we can get some awareness out of them, but in setting priority, we need to understand that balance between what is important. To me, what is important is strategic. I brought that up in the very beginning. My whole mindset works around what is strategic and how we can think and act more strategically. Thank you, Peter Hoffer, for that, my mentor who taught me that. So I am always thinking, Is this going to further my most important goals? And that is how I stay. I try to do those things first. I am very clear on my list of things that needs to be done that those are the most important. It will be my multiplier in my long-term strategy. I call it having the multiplier mindset so that I know I am working on my multiplier.


Penny:And then to be able to look at the things that are urgent but not as important. How do you handle those? Can you delegate some of those? Can you automate some of those? Can you be proactive so that they don’t show up any more?

Hugh:Comment on two things. There is a book by Hummel called Tyranny of the Urgent.Do you know that book?

Penny:I don’t know that book, but it sounds good.

Hugh:The other one is Covey talks about the quadrants. Urgent, important, not important, not urgent. And how we segment our work. If we ignore stuff, then the not important becomes urgent, and there is the tyranny.

Penny:Yes, yes. The Covey matrix is called the Eisenhower matrix. I like to have people use that to build awareness as to what they are doing throughout the day. If we took that matrix and they just identified at the end of the day what percentage of the day did you spend in each quadrant, it gives you some awareness. As you start to build your task list, you can look at those quadrants. Which of those things are from the important quadrant? Which of them are in the urgent quadrant? And so forth. It gives you a greater awareness.

It’s almost like when people are asked to do a food diary because they need to have greater awareness as to what they are eating. To most people, it sounds ridiculous. I know what I am eating. If you have to write it down, it gives you a different level of clarity than just having it in your head. Oh my goodness, I only had one glass of water the whole day, and I am supposed to have had eight. Did I really have five chocolate chip cookies and that carrot cake? Oh, I thought that was yesterday. That was today. Did I really have eight cups of coffee? Oh, I did. When you have to write it down, it’s a rude awakening.

it’s the same thing if you look and really log what you are doing with your time, it’s a rude awakening. I have had some really big Ahas in working with people and having them see that so they could clearly from that point decide what I can delegate. They could clean the situation up, but they have to recognize it fully first.

Hugh:Absolutely. In one of John Maxwell’s books, he sits down in his thinking chair at the end of every day. He spends fifteen minutes thinking about where the time got lost and making notes as to what he can do better. There are affirmations and corrections. I suggest to clients I work with who have a similar pattern. We do what we call daily valuable deliverables, something that is a baby step that leads us to a bigger plan. It’s a daily discipline.

I am of the opinion that we learn from ourselves. You have referred to some of these things during this interview. Writing down what you eat, we are what we eat, and we are also what we think and we are what we do. That is a good idea. Write it down and look at it. That is some of the same discipline as writing down your food. If you feel bad, it might be what you ate, but it might be how you created some stress in your stomach because you didn’t plan your day and then work in the plan. Am I rambling, or am I hearing what you’re saying?

Penny:Absolutely. You are picking up what I am putting down. Yes.

Russ:Writing things down is a question of accountability. Once you have it on paper, it’s real. Saying things to my accountability coach just adds to that. You know what surprises me is how much better some things sound in my head than when I am telling somebody else or writing them down.

Penny:We can lie to ourselves when it is in our head. When we get it on paper, it’s hard to lie to ourselves. That is why I like to have people get it on paper.

There is another exercise I have people do around distractions. The reason we are not getting to what is important is all of these excuses and distractions. I have them track their distractions and categorize them. I have a link that people could go to to download that worksheet.

Russ:That is what I need for my Shiny Stuff Syndrome.

Penny:Here is the thing. Most people will download the sheet—and you know you are one of them—and you won’t do anything with it. You won’t actually take the few minutes that it takes to write things down. That is why we don’t get results. We don’t have the discipline and the mental capacity to use the tools that we are given. Again, it comes back to the mental side. Why is it important? Get connected to how much more you can do. Get connected to how much more relaxed you would be if you could just remove some of these things.

Hugh:Penny, when you do that, you find you have more free time because you really put things in order and you eliminate the things you shouldn’t be doing.

Penny:Right? How awesome is that?

Russ:One of the things in what you were saying I noticed about myself over the years is I would find myself learning more things. As I got overwhelmed, I picked up this tool or that tool. There is remarkable stuff out there. Next thing you know, I have all of these tools, and I am sitting there trying to think, How am I going to juggle things, manage ‘em, make ‘em work? I am overwhelmed because I have this pile of tools, and my productivity is not where I want it to be. I am getting more and more tools and more and more stressed. Am I just so wacky that I am on my own planet?

Penny:You’re like everyone. I think you said it, Hugh. It keeps being more and more and more, and nothing is going away. It comes back to the discipline of just saying… I don’t like to use a ton of tools for the same reason. There is too much. A) We have to get away from the “I need a new tool because it will fix everything.” All it does is start us back over, and two months later, we say, “This isn’t working. I need a new tool.” All the tools work. I guarantee you, all the tools work. It doesn’t matter what tool it is. If you use it consistently, it will work. It might not be perfect, but it will work.

Hugh:I have a tool called a pen and paper.

Penny:I would say go through your tools and remove most of them. It reminds me of an IT group I was working with. They wanted to bring in this document management system. It was all about choosing the tools. I said, “Hold on a second. If we are going to put in a new document management system, how are we going to use it?” First, let’s think strategically how we are going to organize ourselves versus what are the bells and whistles of the system that don’t matter. That is what we need to get back to. What do we really need to run our business? What is it that we are looking to do? What are the options available? Choose one of those tools and be committed enough to it to follow it through.

Hugh:That is real discipline. I am going to let Russell take us out here. I am going to board a plane to Florida to go to CEO Space where it is not raining today. Penny, this is awesome stuff. Russell will take us to the end.

Russ:Thanks, Hugh. Have a good trip. Give everybody my best down there.

Penny:Me too.

Russ:Let them know they are in my thoughts.

It’s important: getting down and using a tool that is going to work. I have a specific set of things that I like. I use Evernote. I do everything in Evernote. Funny enough, it was a tool you introduced me to.

Penny:I like Evernote, too.

Russ:I have clients that use the Microsoft suite. They use Google, and they don’t want to do anything different. That is how I got a pile of tools. That doesn’t always work. But I stick to Evernote; that is really my tool. Even if I am using their platform, I organize things with Evernote.

Penny:Perfect. Then you have a system that works for you.

Russ:I have what works for me. I love it. I wish I could convince everybody that I am right and they should use mine, but that is crazy. Everybody works a little differently.

Penny:Everybody does. There are going to be different tools that are for some and other tools that are better for us.

Russ:You mentioned it very early in the show, but I’d like to spend a little bit of time on it. Our fourth question is talking about the difference between being overwhelmed and overloaded, and how we can separate those and manage each of them.

Penny:Like I said earlier, most people think they are overloaded. They get to this thing where I am at capacity and I can’t take on any more. I even hear myself say, “I don’t have the time.” The truth is I am not being resourceful enough to find ways to make it happen. Either the motivation isn’t high enough, or I have some kind of fear of what it is going to take away from me. So I get overwhelmed with all the things I have to think about. A lot of the times, what I am working with people around is how to get off overwhelm. Make a plan. Don’t keep everything in your head. Go back to how you prioritize things. People get stuck because everything is a priority. Then they go into overwhelm. Sound familiar? We have all been there.

Russ:I have a mantra for myself that I came up with. This is a processor, not a storage unit.

Penny:That’s good. I like that.

Russ:I try to record things and organize them in a way that I can come back to them later. That is why I love Evernote. There is that emotional component. Overload is having too many things to do. With leaders, they can create that by overfunctioning or taking on too many things. How have you seen that impact some of the people you are working with, as far as having an overfunctioning leader and underfunctioning employees?

Penny:Typically, I find that when there is an overfunctioning leader, the employees are underfunctioning. I call that the accountability effect. The leader feels nobody is accountable, and it’s really because they are in their perfectionist, micro-management mode. They are trying to do everything; therefore, the others kind of get apathy, like the leader will do it anyway. That is often what I see. The people who are taking on, who are in that perfectionist stage, meaning they can’t lose control of something, need to be overloaded. In most cases, they have teams or potential resources they could reach out to to be able to help them to delegate, but they don’t want to delegate because they do it better, or the other person doesn’t know, so it would be easier for me to do it than to teach them. Again it’s a very tactical, short-term thinking versus how much time they could free themselves up over time so they can do the more strategic work. So I find that that is where the overfunctioning gets caught up.

There are plenty of people. I am a single mom. I am involved – I have two kids who are somewhat coming into their teenage years, very active in sports, got a lot to organize with them. I run my own business, and I am involved in other community affairs and activities. And, and, and. You want to have a relationship. Part of it is spending time in our relationship. We manage all of these things in our lives. It doesn’t have to be an overload; it’s just how we approach it. It does come back to setting the priorities.

Not every day are you going to get to everything that you feel is urgent and needs to be done. You need to have some criteria. We didn’t talk about that in terms of prioritizing, but you need to have some criteria about what determines what pops to the top of the list. When you get clear on what that criteria is, and it depends on the circumstances of your life, those criteria could be around values. Or if you are looking for sales opportunities, you can’t go after everything. You can overload yourself if you take on too big of a region. If you strategically approach it, you are being more resourceful, changing that overload, and not creating overwhelm. Does that make sense?

Russ:Yes, breaking things down into smaller chunks helps me. I have three to five things, no more than five. Three things that I absolutely must get done. And then stick to that. Add more of course throughout the day. But the most important three is where I would look for myself. Where do you find the most resistance to people who are in that cycle?

Penny: You just said the top three things. It’s the excuses. People say, I have more than five. I can’t do to the top three to five things. I have ten or twenty things, and there is no way around it. What I find is that most people are in an overwhelm place. What happens in our brain when we get stressed and in that overwhelm is that our brain starts not to work effectively. We go into flight or fight or freeze mode, which means we don’t have access to our logical decision-making mode. That makes us more anxious and more in that emotional space. The most important thing is to take a step back and to get a broader perspective. That is why I talk about the ten drivers so that people can take a step back and see where they are in all of them and which one is the biggest hindrance for you right now. Maybe it’s you don’t have the time so you don’t do any planning. Then you are in urgency mode so things fall apart, or you haven’t planned accurately so you need more resources than you thought, or it takes twice as long. You know what I’m saying. It’s really getting to take a step back and to be able to see it from a logical perspective.

Russ:I think that is critical. Get that other perspective. That is where people like you and I and Roy, my accountability coach, come in. We get to cluster things, and we get overwhelmed. Somebody can bring an outside perspective. It could be an accountability buddy. Go out and hire a coach, or get an accountability buddy. This has been a marvelous hour. We have come down to our final couple of minutes. I am really looking forward to your book. What are some closing thoughts that you want to leave our audience with for themselves and for their teams?

Penny:As a closing thought, what I would urge people to do is understand that it’s not about time. There have been studies at the University of Pennsylvania where they studied stress and time. Basically, the outcome was the people who were given back time weren’t any less stressed or happy than the people that they actually gave more to because it’s how you show up for your time. I would say look at how you are managing your energy, how you are showing up for the time. Look at your excuses. When you say I don’t have the time or whatever your excuses are, challenge them. Is it really true? What does that mean? I did this the other day. I heard myself say that I didn’t have the time, and I looked at it and said, “Wait, that means it’s not a priority for me.” Then I need to question myself as to why it’s not a priority. If it’s not a priority, get it off my calendar all together. By challenging ourselves, you can be your own coach. I’m not saying you don’t need a coach. Everybody should have a coach because it’s better to get the outside perspective. But when possible, be your own coach and challenge yourself in those excuses so that you can really get to the root of what is holding you back.

Russ:Thank you. That is marvelous. Priorities change, and things change. There is a time to let go of things. Penny, I thank you very much for coming.


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