The Balance Code

Systems and Strategies to Simplify Your Life

August 16, 2023 Katie Rössler Season 1 Episode 16
The Balance Code
Systems and Strategies to Simplify Your Life
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this  episode, I'm interviewing Lisa Zawrotny, founder of Positively Productive Systems and host of the Positively Living Podcast. Lisa, a seasoned productivity and accountability coach, delves into practical strategies that help listeners conquer overwhelm, reduce stress, and enhance productivity. 

Emphasizing the power of simplicity, she discusses the significance of creating manageable systems and routines, dispelling the myth that effective systems must be complex. Lisa's expert advice guides us through the process of decluttering our lives, both physically and mentally, creating a sense of calm and control. Her unique perspective on task loops, checklists, and capturing essential information provides valuable insights into developing sustainable habits that lead to enhanced well-being.

Our conversation addresses challenges in maintaining systems and strategies, highlighting the importance of aligning practices with personal preferences and needs. We explore the delicate balance between striving for productivity and allowing for flexibility during times of stress, while emphasizing that even small steps can make a significant difference. Lisa's practical wisdom shines through as she reveals that productivity is not just about completing tasks, but about cultivating a sense of accomplishment and inner peace. By the end of the podcast, you'll be equipped with actionable tools and a renewed perspective on achieving balance, reducing stress, and embracing the art of simplicity in their daily lives.

To connect with Lisa:

Website

Facebook

Instagram

LinkedIn

Positively Living Podcast

Learn More About The Stress Less Space

Get a free Uncover Your Blocks Strategy Session with Katie

Follow The Balance Code Podcast on Instagram

Follow Katie Rössler on Instagram

Check out the podcast website

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Balance Code Podcast, a place where you have permission to step outside the hamster wheel of day-to-day life and learn tools to create more balance. My name is Katie Russell. I'm a licensed therapist and burnout and hidden grief specialist. I support ambitious, goal-driven people who are ready to get off the one-way train, to burnout and start to enjoy life again to the fullest. Oh and, by the way, I'm a mom of three, an ex-pat living in Germany who's still learning the language, and an entrepreneur Living. My Balance Code is what keeps me able to work in incredible ways without burning out. So let's find your Balance Code. Hey everyone, I am so excited to bring you today an interview I had with Lisa Zarotny. She's the founder of Positively Productive Systems and the host of the Positively Living Podcast. Now, I've been on her podcast twice, so I was really, really excited to have her on mine. And she is a productivity and accountability coach, certified in not only positive psychology but also stress management. She helps multi-passionate creatives do less, live more and breathe easier through whole life decluttering and customized productivity approaches. When she's not sharing the wonders of simplicity, self-awareness and systems, you'll find her acting like a rock star, watching movies with their husband and kiddos, or reading with an iced coffee next to her, probably trapped under a cap. I have been online business buddies with Lisa for a few years now. We really relate it through our own experiences of losing our moms and growing a business online while also being mothers, and the whole grief process that takes place because of all of those things. She has been such a dear friend to me in some difficult times and I'm excited to share my interview with Lisa today on our podcast. Welcome, lisa, to the Balance Code podcast. I'm so excited to have you on my podcast because I've been on yours twice now and now I get to, in a sense, return the favor but also put you in the hot seat of time for me to ask you a bunch of questions and you to share all your wonderful wisdom with us. So, lisa welcome. Share a little bit about yourself, who you serve, what you do, where you are in the world.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, katie. Yes, I am so excited because we've had some amazing conversations on my podcast and now we get to spin it around and come at it from the productivity perspective, but maybe not in the way you think. So, hi, I'm Lisa Zaratni. I'm the founder of Positively Productive Systems, host of the Positively Living Podcast, and I'm a productivity and accountability coach. I am located in the lovely Finger Lakes area of New York State. I always think it's important to say I'm not from the city of New York, but rather really the country and the wine country out here. So that is gorgeous. The professional side doing the productivity coaching and helping multi-passionates do less and live more and breathe easier which taps into that, you know, reducing stress that you talk so much about, and that's where we overlap beautifully. On the personal side, I am a wife and a mom of two kiddos that I said. One of them is just about a teen. The other one is well into teenhood and going to be driving next year, except now I feel like I need to be in denial about that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Big stages for you, Big steps coming up right.

Speaker 2:

Yes, and I want to say that I walk my own talk, and when we talk about stress and we talk about burnout and all the things that we can do, I'm continually practicing these things myself and I've also been there. I've been in utter overwhelming, in survival mode. So my heart, you know, is deeply connected to that and to serving others, so that we can either help you get out of it or help you prevent it.

Speaker 1:

You and I met and bonded in the online world over the survival mode of losses that we experienced and the grief around it, and so what you're going to be talking about today actually, you know, if you, listener, are going through a phase of loss, of hidden grief and things like that, these are going to be strategies and systems you want to listen to. If you're in a place of super stress, overwhelm, burnout, you're going to want to listen to these. If you're not in any of those but you want to be preventative, you're going to want to listen to these. So let's dive into what are systems and strategies and way we can be more organized so that we instantly feel less stressed.

Speaker 2:

So the first thing I want to say is that when you say the word like systems, right, it can sound really big, and I want to encourage you to think that a system can be really simple and really small and very doable. For example, a system could be having one consistent place where you gather up your mail from the mailbox and you set it so that everyone knows where it is, where it belongs, how to find it if something were to come in, what to do with it. That's a system.

Speaker 1:

Yes, it's so funny because I was like she's going to use the mailbox analogy. I know her so well, I know it's going to be the mail. I love that analogy because we do. We think systems in A plus B plus C plus D plus E and it's like no, literally grab the mail, put it in that you know that is a system. So let's look at that in the context of work-life balance in our personal homes. What are systems that you know are tried and true to going like ha? I instantly feel better.

Speaker 2:

So I want to dig into that idea that that was one example and explain from the productivity side of what that actually means and how you can use it in different ways depending upon the kind of overwhelm that you're experiencing, whether it's like I have too much on my mind or too much on my to-do list or too much, you know, in my physical space, wherever it happens to be, and I'm a big proponent of decluttering, right Of understanding what belongs in a space. But even before all that, when you have the overwhelm and that is clutter it can be physical, mental, you know anything like that the first thing you need to do is to capture it so you can process it. And I bring this up the term is actually used in David Allen's system of getting things done, and it's this idea of when you have stuff all over the place, you have stuff rolling around in your mind that keeps you from being present and constantly reminds you of what you have yet to do, which, of course, is a trigger for guilt and shame and frustration adds to the overwhelm right when you're like I can't shut my mind off. And what do we say to do about that? We say do a brain sweep or a mind sweep or a brain dump or whatever you want to call it, but it's taking it from the brain to a safe space. That's the same idea that the male was an example of, that. That's a physical example of OK, it comes in, instead of oh, it's on the counter now it's on the couch, oh, it's over there I think someone left it on the hood of the car, you know, instead of that, it's one consistent safe spot where you're capturing it. So if you take nothing else away from our conversation today, especially if you're feeling so overwhelmed the idea of capturing so that you can process whatever it is on your own terms when you are ready and when you're able.

Speaker 1:

And I love that you talked about the brain dump, because often you know you and I have talked about this before our to-do list in our minds seem like mountains, but as soon as you write them down, you sometimes can cluster them into like, oh, I can get these three things done at the same time over here, or it's important to create that space for those types of things. So it sounds like you're saying you know, having the space for our thoughts which gives space for the emotions to write, absolutely Having that dump and then looking at some things that maybe create clutter in your home and creating systems for them. Laundry room is a great place for this. Oh my gosh, I am like the worst at washer dryer pile up, pile up, pile up and all these clothes need to be folded now. Great, there's a big chunk of my time Instead of and I know Emily Lay likes to talk about this a system where you're regularly wash dry fold, wash dry fold, wash dry fold. You know things can still be running, but a system like that in our homes makes us instantly feel relaxed when we complete them.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and what I love is that you're talking about a system in a different way and sometimes I will use these two words almost interchangeably and again it helps open up the idea of what a system actually is. Well, that can involve a habit, and what you're talking about, you know, is having the habit of and actually let's dig in deeper here to this task of laundry is understanding a task loop. That means what makes the task you know, what you're, how you're starting and how you're ending and what makes the task complete. And I think that's so important, and I actually really hate this for myself, because laundry does like to pile up somehow, and so it's one of those things where I'm like I'm sorry, but I have to tell you this because it's how it works. A task loop for laundry is take the dirty laundry, wash it, dry it, fold it or hang it up, put it away. That's the full task loop. Yeah, yeah, okay, it's not, no, no, it's the task loop. And so to that point though a joking aside, kind of joking, I really yeah, not my favorite, but it is what it is. Adulting zero to five would not recommend, but this is what it is. That's the full task loop, and so when you start to think about what full task loops are, it could be the same thing when you're talking about going to the grocery store and bringing on the groceries and putting everything away and getting the bags back to your mudroom or garage or car or wherever you keep them. That's the full task loop that's going to not only complete what you needed to complete, but set you up for the next time.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so I hear you saying finishing tasks. Yeah, all the way to completion. This isn't our work lives and then our personal lives, because we just use home examples, but in your workplace, if you've got five, six things to open up on your desk, just how many tabs you ever have on your laptop or computer, that's unfinished work and that creates a subconscious stress. I've got this, I've got this, I've got this. Things are not getting completed. How do we start to slow down and actually finish the tasks versus oh, I forgot this, I need to go do that and move on to the next thing Squirrel.

Speaker 2:

What Bright, shiny object syndrome? Yes, so part of that would be, you know, understanding what kind of distractions you have. But even beyond that, if we step back for a moment and say, oh okay, we just had this conversation about tasks and task loops and what that means to actually close one, I think it's identifying each and every time you go to do the thing, whether it's laundry or working with a client or whatever it is. That what's the full task loop? And it may be a simple and again, this is a system is having a checklist. It involves all these things. It's not finished until I've checked off each of these items and then do something fun after. But it's not even about slowing down so much as it's about clarity of what's involved. Because if you think about, you know an opportunity that you have to do a project, like, let's say, a craft project, and it gives you the list right Like do this, do this, do this, do this, and then, ta-da, you've a finished product. Well, that's the same idea with your tasks. You're like, okay, grab the dirty laundry, collect that from everyone's rooms or maybe they collect it right, because we're working together as a team here and then you do the wash cycles and set the timers and then dry and everything's packed away. And maybe you have, you know, set baskets for everyone or something that says okay, and now you take this to your room and pack it away, or I do this. Those steps, which can be the easiest checklist you can keep anywhere that's convenient, right on your wash, or even there's some great, by the way, and I'm going. This is another thing I wanted to mention today was some really awesome whiteboard like like they're magnetic whiteboards, not even thick whiteboards, they're like a thin magnet, about as thick as an actual magnet. I have those up on our fridge, so it's like the surface of the fridge almost. It's very, very thin, but it's a whiteboard, and that becomes our command center. You can use those same kinds of things you know anywhere. You need to make notes and keep track of things. So, yeah, it's about an understanding of what's involved, because as soon as you have that and have it in front of you, you can check off each line item. Think of having you don't have to think about it as much, which is brilliant, and then, when those things are checked off, that task is done.

Speaker 1:

But, lisa, I'm so stressed that sitting down and even creating those, those, the checklist and things, feels like another task of mine to do. List, what do I do? How do I get past that?

Speaker 2:

That's a great question, katie. I completely understand that and I have been there Each and every time that we have the situation where you're like I do need to have some checklist going on. This is in business too, because, by the way, those checklists become your SOPs, your standard operating procedures. That's super important. Here's what's going to happen. Don't overthink it. Grab whatever paper or pen you have. It can be on anything. It would probably be good if you had one notebook dedicated to household tasks, things like that, just to keep it easy. You're like, oh, that's the notebook and you can grab it fast. But honestly, this could be a post-it note. At this point, you are going to need to do the thing at some point, whether it's an hour from now or two days from now. You are going to need to do laundry again because it keeps coming back. You are going to be doing things in your business. The next time you do, you grab the paper and you're documenting. This time what you're doing. You're not thinking, oh, what's the checklist? What do I have to do? No, you're doing the thing and you're like oh yeah, that's right, I have to remember to have this really cool sheet that you can put in the washer that collects color fibers from the fabric so that they don't like discolor something else. I love that, and so that is something I like to remind myself to do when I'm doing laundry with lots of different colors, or maybe some new shirts with colors. Anyhow, the point is, you're doing the thing, while you're doing the thing, you jot down a list, and here's the brilliance, and this is the takeaway that I want you to understand. When I said things can be really simple and really quick, I mean it so you could be doing a thing. We'll keep using laundry as an example, where you make that list, you document it and you forget something, and that's fine, because the next time you do it you will catch that you will start really simple and you will develop that checklist, that process Now this is actually what it's called the process and that will develop and maybe become more complex, not necessarily over time. So, starting imperfectly, documenting as you go and understanding that little extra effort of making a note and paying attention will prime your productivity for the next time. So much more. It'll be worth just that little extra effort.

Speaker 1:

I completely agree with you and I love that you were saying like, document as you go, because then you're knocking out the project that needs to get done and prepping for the time you have to do it again. Exactly there you go. So I'm also thinking about clients who are awesome at maybe the startup of this. Like I'll make the checklist and then two months later I'm back to putting out fires, constantly in stress mode, because I can't stick to it. I struggle to stick to the systems and strategies in place and I know a while ago we've had this conversation about that it's easy when real life hits, to fall back into old patterns. What is the advice that you have for people who are going through that? Like, I'm a great self-starter but I cannot follow through with it.

Speaker 2:

So if it's not following through because life is lifeing you hard, right, which can happen or if it's not following through even though you made the list and then you tried it, like a week later, to me, those are potentially two different things that we want to address, right. So if life is lifeing you, that's going to be a different kind of go mode, and I often recommend thinking about the. It's like a generator philosophy, and what I mean by that is when the power goes out, we get the generator going and we don't power up the entire house. Not every light in every room is on. We power up the essentials. So it's an opportunity for you to step back when you're in overwhelm and think what is essential and the rest I release, I let go, I hit pause, it's okay, because I am human and I need to address this. So that's like that's one type of thing. The other is, if you tried it and you're like, ah, look at this gorgeous checklist and the checkboxes and I've got it in a Google doc and it's even color coded and how do you like me now, and a week later it's languishing in your Google drive, that would potentially be because you have made it beautiful but not functional, okay, and maybe overly complex, because you get excited and don't, we do this all the time. We're like it's going to be the best thing ever and I have this planner and I've all these stickers and it's awesome, and oh my goodness that you set it before. I love that you said it. Let's repeat it, which is when something feels like another thing on your to-do list that you're not going to do that. This is a human response where it's like oh my gosh, I didn't have the energy as it was. I definitely don't have the energy to keep this up. When I talk about habits and I work with clients and we discuss what kind of changes small changes can be made, and I'll make a suggestion, because we do co-create together. This is not all on you. We're talking back and forth and I'm based on how I know them. I make a suggestion of something I can see on their face immediately. If it's like a yeah, I guess that's a hell. No, actually that's not happening. That is so not happening. You're like, well, thank you. You just gave me my answer, which is this is never going to happen. You can put it on your list all you want, and it's going to be there forever because you're not doing it. So, being very real and understanding and compassionate with yourself and going, okay, yeah, that's not happening. But the minute that I say, and sometimes it's the tiniest step, well, could you do this? And the minute they go, oh, yeah, I could totally do that, that feeling, you hear that difference in that energy. That's what you want to seek out. That's how habits are created and developed and you can grow into them. That is how you can find that system, even in the overwhelm, because even when we are in survival mode, there's some little thing that we can manage to do. And when we're very selective and intentional about what that is and how we're applying it, and if it means something to us, we can make it happen. So but yeah, again, it's being very selective and it's making sure that it aligns with you and how you work, because if you try to do something on principle, you might as well make that artwork on the wall, because it's not going to be functional.

Speaker 1:

As you're sharing this and thinking about how many clients I've had or even I've experienced this myself like you download the app the app that says it's going to make your life easier, because it's going to help you with this or that or meal planning or these things, and then you don't use it after the 24 hours of playing with it on your phone and getting it all set up, I find that systems and strategies that mean you need to add on a more complex system you're not going to follow through with, because, like we've said again we'll say it again if it feels like more things on your to-do list, you're already spent. So it's more about the knocking off the things on the to-do list that is going to create that simplicity and that feeling of like instant relaxation. Right, like that's done.

Speaker 2:

Right, and the thing is is that it's not. There are many apps and many task management and project management. You know software out there that I love and I use. But the key is knowing your situation first, knowing what you value, what you need to get done. It's that prioritization and it's that understanding and that clarity of what you need to get done and how best to do it which is part of that process. That's why I said a checklist, because that's the easiest thing in the world to do. That can literally be done on a note pad that you got for free at the doctor's office, that's sitting in your drawer in the kitchen. It's like that you can grab and you can write down a list of things to do, not necessarily your to-do list, but like an ordered list of we have to do this, this, this and then this, and when you have that and keep repeating it. It's that concept that helps you, that gives you the guidance you need, that takes away the oh wait, what do I have to do next? Because as soon as we start having to think about what's the next priority or what's the next step, we start to get caught up in that overwhelm and that is a huge trap that can lead to procrastination, and let's see what's on Netflix instead you know, back in the beginning, you brought up decluttering and one thing I really learned from you and value is often when we think of decluttering, it's a lot like telling a kid to go like, clean your room.

Speaker 1:

And they're like five years old and they're like, oh my God, this room is so huge and I got all this stuff. You know like, how do I? Where do I start? Yeah, so you know. I remember you teaching me, like, find that small, like the bathroom. What's the small room? That's like less stuff. Go, declutter that. That's that small one, right, that's that like. So when she talks about decluttering, it's like, oh, I can hear like the oh God, yeah, I don't know, I need to declutter. Don't look at the whole house, don't look at the full. You know all the things like. I've even gone and decluttered my car and felt amazing afterwards, right, like, let me get. You know all the kids are, let me vacuum, and it's like, whoa, I feel instantly better and I didn't realize it was impacting me to have all this around me. So I want to bring back decluttering in that, because it's a crucial part of being able to feel more relaxed instantly and feel less stressed. We constantly are seeing the clutter and whether or not you are actively going. I see clutter. I see clutter. Probably not unless you're like someone in our, someone else in my home right, like I'm looking all this clutter you you're subconsciously going. I see clutter. I see clutter, I feel stressed, I feel weighed down. I have all of this around me, so start small with that. That's the biggest thing You're really good at going like, let's start small. Why are you doing the? You know, like I'm going to do the basement. Stop, stop right there. No, you're not. No, no, because that's why you keep putting it off and doing it Next weekend, next weekend, next weekend. So, starting small. I love your strategies, your systems. Everything is about simplicity. Start small, then move forward to the bigger things, because the ball starts rolling and you're motivating it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's habits, it's muscle building and it's true when you go to declutter and if we're talking physical clutter in this example and it has such an impact on you, starting small also means decluttering your desk at the end of the day and doing what I refer to as going back to neutral, and that means that it's ready to go when you come back to your desk in the morning and everything's set and ready to go. That is a boost to your productivity and it doesn't take more than five minutes potentially, unless you had a day where you pulled out every paper you had. You know, like the shows where someone's like trying on everything in their closet. You know like, ok, unless you had some kind of project that was like that. Most of the time, it will only take a few minutes to set everything back, close out the tabs, you know whether it's digital or physical, all of those things you think of. Setting the space back to neutral and that means you're ready to go again. And you're right, it's little things your purse, cleaning out your purse and your wallet. Why does that? Why does the car run better when you clean it out? I don't know.

Speaker 1:

Right, like everything works better.

Speaker 2:

Everything works better, including you, and even the decluttering. This is why I said, when you have lots of stuff on your mind or maybe lots of stuff on your task list, and it just feels like a mess if you pull that all together and capture it, please understand that's not your to-do list, that's your to-choose list, it's your capture list. That's safe, and then that's, in a way, that's kind of a technique I use called reverse decluttering, which is where you're putting something in a safe spot and then you're only pulling out what you need. But again, it's how do you keep it? You're right, as simple as possible, and trust the process, because you will get better and better at it and you will also have a different like. It's almost like a threshold, if you will, where the better you get at it and the more that you do stuff, you're like oh no, I'm tackling that now and you will find more energy for it because it will be a win and you will get excited and you'll be ready to go and be like OK, I know how to do this now and you'll get to the next one. It's right now when you feel so weary and tired and overwhelmed that it feels insurmountable, but that's why it's little steps to get there.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I agree with you and I can speak to the fact that it is a muscle that you can strengthen and the decision fatigue goes away, I promise. But you have to strengthen that skill. Lisa, if people have questions after listening to today or want to work with you or listen to your podcast, how do they find you? Where do they connect with you?

Speaker 2:

So my hub, positivelyproductivecom, has all the different ways you can connect, but, of course, right now you are listening to an amazing podcast I'm so excited to be part of, so proud of you, katie, and I'd love it if you just hop right on over to Positively Living and join me there and we'll keep these conversations going. And, lastly, if you like a little bit of stress management, a little bit of fun and a lot of goofy and you hang out on Instagram, I'd love for you to come play with me there. I'm at positively underscore Lisa.

Speaker 1:

Excellent. I'll make sure all of those links are in the show notes. And Lisa I love having you here. I love how the randomness of our conversation still comes to the direct point, which is, hey, there are ways to decrease stress in your life and you can control it. You can.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. I love that and I love being part of this conversation with you. Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. If you have a moment, please leave a rating or review so that others can find this podcast who are looking for support just like you. Let's connect on Instagram at katiewrestler or at balance code podcast, or check down in the show notes to find ways that we can work together and see other offerings that I have for you at this time. And, as always, here's to finding our balance code.

Strategies for Stress and Organization
Task Checklists and Overcoming Procrastination
The Power of Decluttering and Simplifying
Decreasing Stress Through Conversation