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#51: 9 Secrets to Getting More Done at the Office with Less Stress

There's so much to do that it feels overwhelming sometimes. I get it.

We don't have control of everything that happens in our life or at the office, but we can control some things.

If you're a lawyer, i think you'll appreciate this episode in particular.

I've discovered 9 secrets that help me get more done at the office with less stress. When I consistently do these 9 things, I feel more at ease and feel incredibly productive.

Pay special attention to the last secret because this is probably the most important secret of all!

To help you bring more awareness to your habits, I've created a free tracker for you. It's called the Time Tracker (formerly known as the Accountability Roadmap).

Listen in here:



Well, hello there. How are you doing today?

I hope you are having a fabulous day wherever you are. I know that there are stressors that come up out of unexpected places sometimes. So I want you to know that I'm right there with you. It happens, life happens, and no matter how on target you are with your goals, no matter how on target you feel with what's going on in your life, stuff happens and it's easy to think that it's due, railing you, but all it's doing is allowing you to see things clearer, to understand how things are important to you, what things are important to you, and to give you some perspective on things. So if you are in a time in your life when you've got a lot of unexpected things coming at you, I understand and I just wanted to acknowledge you for sticking with it and staying with your goals and being here with me because life is not meant to be easy. It's meant to be interesting. At least that's my theory.

Today we're talking about a topic that I know a lot of people ask me about. They asked me, how do I get so much done? What do I do to complete everything at the office, do the multiple assignments that I have there plus have a coaching business and a podcast and maintain relationships with people and I'm going to tell you that it's not about balance.

Is there really a work life balance? Ummm….no.

I hear so often that there's a work life balance. Well I I tend to believe that that's a bunch of Baloney. I tend to believe that it's more about setting priorities in your season so maybe this is a season of moving your business forward or this is a season of caring for your family. I think there is a season for each part of our life and we may tend to look at it as I'd like to have a balance between work and family and friends and you know, downtime.

The truth? What are your priorities in the moment? No guilt trips. Just truth.

But I think the reality is is that we make priorities and when we are focused on those priorities then that's the season that we're in right now. And you have to trust that if you're in a season where you are caring about your business and you are caring about your career, then your friends will be there for you because they're true friends and they're going to be there to support you no matter what's going on in your life or how long it's gonna take you to get back on track with them. I have a friend right now who is incredibly busy working at a new firm and she's not the best at returning your texts and that doesn't change my feelings towards her. It doesn't make me think anything less of her. I just know that I'm there for her when she's ready to look up because right now she's in the season of furthering her career and that is life. That's how we roll.

So if you are in the impression, that you're doing it wrong because you don't do everything perfectly that you don't manage to balance your family, your friends, your work commitments, your extracurricular activities, your other firm commitments, whatever they might be, I just want you to know that that's okay.

You don't have to be balanced about everything. Not Everything's about balance.

Shonda Rhimes actually wrote an incredible book about this topic and she talks, it's called the year of yes, that's what it is. It's the year of yes. I'll link to it in the show notes and in the year of, yes, she talks about this feeling of guilt when she is not able to care for her children and instead is working on, you know, Grey's anatomy or scandal, whatever show it was at the time. So just recognize that there is always a push and pull between priorities and that it's not you, that that's just the way life is.

Now. There are things you can do to help make some more productive adjustments to your work life. And I'm going to talk to you about some of those today, but I want you to recognize that these are habits that you implement so that you can get things done and then you can use that time more efficiently elsewhere. So I'm going to show you some of the tips that I do in my life to create some focus in my work life so that I can get really clear on the path forward and I can create time like actually physically create time. 

Practice not perfection, my friend.

It takes practice. I'm not always perfect at it. I notice on the days when I'm not implementing some of the things that I'm going to talk to you about today, that those are rougher days, that those are days when I just don't get the things done that I want to get done and that's okay. I am okay with having some rough days so long as I have more good days. Then rough days. I'm going to give you a tool to help you get some awareness around what you're doing, like what some of your habits are and how often that you do them as well as how much time you take doing them. It's called the accountability roadmap. Oh my gosh. I know. That's a really unsexy name. I know. I can't. I haven't come up with a better one yet. So if you've got one for me, DM me @dina.cataldo on Instagram please, because it needs a much of a better title.

These are 9 secrets to getting more done with less stress, not more stress — less stress.

So let me add that in. And this is nine secrets to getting more done with less stress, not more stress, less stress. So let's get that clear because it's really easy to speed through things, create more stress for ourselves, feel really great that we got a lot done and yet feel really anxious and tense at the end of the day. It's another thing to feel focused and at ease and know that you're going to get it all done and that's what we're going to be working on today. All right.

Are you ready? Okay, let's go. 

1. The first thing that I want to talk to you about is setting an intention before you go to the office.

That's right. We are getting ourselves prepared before we even go into the office with how we want to show up. I have a morning routine that gives me the opportunity to get really quiet and have some time to open up. If you have a great morning routine, that's awesome. If you don't just implement a little thing, all you have to do is when you get to the office, before you leave your car, just take some breaths and then think to yourself how you want to show up and really feel it in your body like it's already happened. You want to feel confident, you're going to get those projects done. It's going to feel really good at the end of the day and you're going to be kind to people.

You can always throw that in, right? I'm going to be kind to people and I'm going to be patient and it's all going to get done. Everything that needs to get done will get done and you just take a few deep breaths. You stay with that and you've set your intention for the day. Now, I don't always think through it that thoroughly, but if you do that with intention and you do it regularly, you will notice a difference in how you show up on the days that you did set that intention and the days that you don't. It is really interesting to watch how you behave when you set that clear intention because everything seems to fall into place. Everything begins to feel smoother, so just recognize that setting that intention first thing in the morning will really set you up for success.

2. The second thing I want to talk to you about is when you get into that office, do you have a morning ritual?

Do you have some things that you do every single day? If so, that's great. You want to get into the rhythm of that. I come into the office, I make sure I have my water-filled, I have some tea. Maybe I stopped to chat with someone really quick and go into my office. I've turned everything on already and then I prioritize what must get done that day. I understand that you've got a lot on your plate. We all do, but what you must recognize is that it's not all going to get done and it's okay and that took me a long time to realize because I felt like everything was on fire all the time that I needed to make sure that I got things done so far ahead of time and sometimes I do. Sometimes I have to send out subpoenas and I have to recognize that those are things that I need to do, but those are all calendared.

Those are all things I understand exactly when I need to do them because I am incredibly organized and we're going to talk about that in a little bit, but make sure you have a morning ritual that includes prioritizing what you have to do that day, not tomorrow or anything like that that day. What are the musts and you can write them down on a to do list. You can make a stack of those files, whatever you want to do, make sure you do it as part of this. Number two, I guess I'm calling it. I also want you to have a an evening ritual. Clear your desk, get your assignments ready for tomorrow, whatever it is, but when you come into the office, you want to feel refreshed. You don't want to feel stressed out. You don't want to have to be worrying about what if I didn't complete something? You've cleared your desk, you know exactly what's going on, and now you're ready for a new day.

So just recognize we're creating space in our office. We're creating space in our work life for less stress. One way to do that, prioritizing and clearing our desk at the end of the day.

3. The third thing that you want to consider is changing up your phone habits, and I'm talking about your desk phone.

One of the things that professional struggle with is being pulled in different directions at all times, and the phone is one of the worst culprits into this. I understand the realities of having multiple things on your plate. However, there's no such thing as multitasking. It's called context switching. So every time we moved from one subject that we're working on to another subject to work on, we're actually forcing our brain to work harder to use more energy to create different connections to move from one subject to the next subject. This makes us tired, it stresses us out and it makes it more difficult to focus. It makes it more difficult to get things done. And so if we're consistently context switching, we are going to hurt ourselves in the long run. One of the things that we have control of, and there's not a ton, right? Like sometimes we don't have control a lot of things, but we can control the things that we can control, right? And one of them is our desk phone. So unless the person who is calling you, you know as a person is who's going to have something relevant to do with the work you're doing right now? Don't pick up the phone.

I know. Don't pick up the phone. It's okay not to answer the phone. Everything's going to be fine. They will get a hold of somebody if it's an emergency.

In fact, you can structure your voicemail so that if it is urgent, they can dial zero and talk to a receptionist or they can dial zero and they will get connected with somebody, but you do not have to talk to that person right now.

I know it feels that way sometimes, but you do not have to do that.

I find that I regret it whenever I pick up the phone and I'm working on something completely different. When I break my rule and I pick up the phone, I regret it because it takes me off into an entirely different direction.

That wasn't a priority for me that day and when I do that, I'm no longer focused and I don't get as much done and then I can feel that increase in stress as I recognize that I have less time to do what I needed to do that day.

In your voicemail, you can actually structure it to say, your call is important to me. I'm easier contacted via email, so please email me at this address. I do check my voicemails on. I'll give you my example. I check my voicemails on Tuesdays and Thursdays because I'm in court Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays, so please understand if I can't get ahold of you right away or if I can't get back to you right away. So just recognize that there are options, there are things that you can do to structure your day so that you can have more focus.


4. The fourth secret to getting more done with less stress is turning off your email alerts.

It's kind of nervous. It was, I was kind of nervous about trying this when I did it, but it's actually been amazing, so I highly suggest it now to people.

I used to live and die by my email alerts. I would get that little flag at the bottom of my screen and I would instantly click on that email thinking, okay, it's probably something I got to handle right now and it's never something, or I should say 99% of the time it's not something I need to handle right now. For those times when I know I am waiting for an email, all I do is I just keep the window open to a very small extent and I put it down to the corner of my screen. So it's not my main focus, but 99% of the time I'm at my desk, I can just have that window minimized. And then in between projects I can go back and check my email to see if I've missed anything. If there's anything I need to address right away, I can do that.

Most of the time it is not something I need to address right away. So if I have the window minimized, if I'm not paying attention to my email, I'm better able to focus and get things done. I get so much done and then I'll open up my email and I'll see. It's a bunch of back and forth between people that I don't even need to respond to it. Have you ever seen all of those emails where you've got like 20 people cc'd and everybody feels like they need to reply all? Well, most of my emails are like that. So if there's something that needs to be addressed, I can address it, but if not, I can wait until I can focus on it and give it my exclusive attention.

5. Do not disturb signs are our friends.

The fifth secret that I want to share with you, and I am not always great at this. In fact, I'm going to get better at it. If you don't want people knocking on your door or walking in while you're in the middle of a task, have a sign ready. It's okay to say, please don't disturb. I'm completing a time sensitive task. It's okay to do that. I have not set up proper boundaries when I closed my door and I need to do that because it's very distracting when someone opens the door and has a question or drop something off and it's something that I am going to be working on because I know that this is not something I'm really good at, but I do close my door because I think that that's going to be a deterrent for people to come in. Guess what?

It's not. I guess that doesn't mean anything. I guess I, you know, honestly I knock on people's doors too and you know, if people say, come in, of course I'm going to talk to them or whatever it is. So I have to be better about when I'm working on a time sensitive task to actually close my door, but put on a sign and it just says I'm currently working on a time sensitive task. Please come back later. Something like that.

All right, so I'll promise to do that if you try try to do that too. Okay. Sound good?

6. The sixth secret that I want to share with you is to put your personal phone on silent.

It's a huge distraction. When my phone is next to me, I find myself wanting to check social media. I check my voice messages, my text, and I don't need to do that.

But it's like this really easy candy to reach for when it's on my desk. So when I leave my phone in my purse, it's really easy for me to forget about it and I don't have to deal with it during a break. I can go and walk over and grab it. In fact, I highly suggest, you know, getting up and walking around when you can, you know, for like every so often you're supposed to get up and walk around. I'm in a very fortunate position in my office is that I'm constantly getting up and down, walking around cause I gotta get something off the copy machine and go to an office, pick up files, whatever it might be. So that keeps me moving throughout the day. But if you have your phone stashed somewhere where you can't easily access it, you can just get up, take your movement, whatever it is that you're doing, grab your phone, check it and then put it back and then go back to work. It's really easy to do and you keep your focus.

7. The 7th secret is to let your support staff know how they can help you make your assignments easier.

So this might take some extra time on the front end, but it's worth it on the back end. When I am talking to my support staff, they know what I like, they understand what I need so that I can be successful in my job. Then when it comes time for me to, to complete an assignment, they have already done some of the backend work. So something that makes my job easier are, you know, somebody helping me with copies or somebody who's printing out a calendar earlier so that when I go to court, I've already got a calendar prepped and I can review my files earlier. Or for instance, uh, I had support staff who were coming in and to my office when my door was closed and then, you know, saying, “Hey, do you have this file for tomorrow?”

And I said, you know, it would make it really easy for me is if you just wrote like a post it note with the files that you don't have. And then when I come out, I'll come in and take a look at it and I'll see what files you're looking for and then I'll check my office. But it's distracting for me when I have someone coming in who wants me to rummage through my files to grab files for tomorrow when I'm currently working on a project that's due in like an hour. So that is one way that I have been able to communicate with my support staff and say, “Hey, I need a little extra help in this area. Can you help me do that?” Or “Hey, this is really distracting for me when you approach it in this way, can we try a different way?” So those are kinds of things that maybe you want to think about so that you can make yourself more productive at work and then not feel all stressed out when somebody like just barges in and says, “Hey, give me your files.” All right. That's not really what happened, but that's what it feels like when it happens.

8. What are you listening to while you work? It matters.

The eighth secret that I really like, it's something that I've started doing recently because I've recognized that what I was doing was not serving me. I've kind of experimented with how I can be more focused at the office and this is one of them. So I used to listen to podcasts at the office, like when I was doing some work and I needed to get things done. I felt that I could listen to a podcast and also complete my work and I could complete my work. But I recognized that when I stopped listening to podcasts and I either had something silent, like some kind of a white noise thing going on, or I listen to binaural beats, which I'll explain in a minute, which I'll explain in a minute.

I recognize that I was more productive. So basically what I recognized was going on is that my brain was context switching. I didn't see it going on because it felt very natural to me. And I know that's because that's just a habit that I've gotten into and I just didn't recognize it. 

“I recognized what was happening is that part of my brain was trying to pay attention to the subject matter of the podcast and the other part of the brain who was trying to pay attention to the subject matter of my file.”

And I recognize that that was making it more difficult for me to complete my tasks. You know, like when you read a paragraph of your book over and over again, like there's just something in your ear and you just can't get it moving so you can read the full paragraph, like your brain just isn't doing it.

That's what was going on. So I recognized that I needed to switch to something else and binaural beats as something that is really beneficial. It basically helps soothe your brain. So this is a really good way. If you're feeling stressed out, if you're feeling anxious throughout the day, you can use binaural beats in a lot of different ways and there's tons of free ones available. And I'll link to some of those in the show notes. Science has shown that they can reduce stress aid focus, and even help you sleep. So if you're not sleeping really well, you can listen to some of these before you go to bed and it will help you get into a better state and we'll get you more relaxed.

When I listened to binaural beats, there's different kinds of binaural beats so you can get ones that help you relax, ones that help you focus, ones that help you sleep, you know, all of those different things. So you could just Google binaural beats for sleep, for focus, whatever it is, and you'll get a bunch of different versions that will pop up the binaural beats or this repetitive sound. And it sounds really beautiful. It doesn't sound obnoxious to me. So when you're getting that repetitive sound, your brain gets in a groove. There's different theta waves and gamma waves and all of that. I won't get into that, but your brain gets into a groove and it will help you focus more on the task at hand. So I highly recommend binaural beats and I will link to some in the show notes.

9. The last secret, and this is really by far the most important secret. I've saved it for last. Ask yourself: how have you slept?

And that's to get the full amount of sleep that you need every single night.

I know it sounds hard. It sounds really hard, right? I have trouble with it sometimes and I find myself pretty disciplined, but when I have the sleep that I need, it is night and day between how well I perform and how relaxed I am when I perform in all areas of my life, hands down. I actually experimented with this because I wanted to see if I could get by with less sleep than I was getting. I have learned that I need at least eight hours of sleep to function at my best, to feel cheerful in the morning, to be able to communicate clearly with people, to feel like myself. And one time I experimented with going down to seven hours a night and I just did it for three days in a row. Not even kidding. You did it three days in a row. And I came to the office and I was talking to my coworker who is just a sweetie pie, and she said to me, are you okay?

You look like you have a dark cloud over you.

“I was like, are you kidding me? What?” But I felt it too. I mean, there was no denying it. The seven hours of sleep per night were killing me and that was just after three nights. II remember when I was doing trials and I was getting even less sleep. I'm sure that that was probably exactly how I was during my trial stunts. So recognizing years later how important sleep was instead of messing around with it, staying up late veggie thing on TV and all of that. Recognizing just how important it is to show up in your life as your best and how sleep is required to do that. That is something I wish I really understood earlier on and there it's hard for a lot of people because we're not really aware of it.

We kind of look at sleep as an afterthought.

We look at it as something that, oh, it's like a nice to have. No, it's not a nice to have. It's a must have if you want to have a good day, if you want to have a productive day, we feel like if we cheat sleep somehow we're going to gain in productivity time. That's just not true. And we're less productive when we have less sleep because we can't focus. We can't actually have a clear head when we're not fully rested. So it's important. This is so extremely important. And I know that there's a lot of work being done around expressing this by people like Arianna Huffington and you know, people who are really big proponents of sleep. And I have to agree, I mean without your rest you might as you're useless. So I just want you to recognize how important sleep is. And there's a few things you can do to get better sleep.

If you're having trouble sleeping, try this.

One of already mentioned, which is if you're having trouble sleeping, you might want to try binaural beats because those will help get your brain into a better state and may help relax you to a place where you can fall asleep.

Journal to clear your thoughts

A lot of times we have trouble getting to sleep because our thoughts are so busy. We're thinking about all of the to-do's. We're thinking about all the things we did wrong earlier in the day and how we needed to do better and what we could have done and what we should have said and what this person should have said and how dare they. And we have all these stories in our head and until we practice reminding ourselves to shut those voices down, we are going to have some trouble sleeping. Now we can start teaching ourselves how to shut those voices down. But it does take some discipline.

You do have to like recognize that journaling is something that's important to kind of create that white space in your brain. If you want to get it all out, get it all out in a journal and once you dump it into a journal, it's much easier to clear your head.

Sit quietly (aka meditate)

Another thing you can do is, you know, just sit quietly and recognize your thoughts. You can call it meditating, you could call it sitting quietly. Whatever you want to do, but all you're doing is just sitting there watching your thoughts. And then when you see yourself thinking, you released that thought so you're not clearing your brain completely, but you're just recognizing you're having a thought and you're just saying, no thank you to it. I'm going to sleep. And the better you get at this, pretty soon you'll be able to have a thought and you'll just say stop thinking.

You'll just, you'll get a thought and you'll say, just stop thinking and it'll be much easier to go to bed.

Watch when you drink caffeine

A couple of other big culprits caffeine if you are drinking tea or coffee after about two or three, especially if you're in your thirties, that is something that is going to affect you like when your thirties and on up.

I think caffeine has more of an impact on you and it's really messing with your, your state before you go to bed.

Turn off the electronics before bed

Another thing that we all tend to do, even I do it still sometimes is, you know, be on your phone, be on your computer, watch television right before you go to bed. Some people have televisions in their room, which I highly recommend you don't do it. But if you are watching television, if you are, you know on your phone, whatever it is, turn off your screen time an hour before you go to bed, the lights from your screens are actually messing with your eyes and that is keeping you up at night.

There's a lot of science that's backing this up. I've heard some people say, well I have to have the television on because the hum of it puts me to sleep or I have to have the radio on because the hum of it puts me to sleep. No, you have created a habit that is unsustainable. You have created a habit that you've got to get out of because having that television on, having that radio on, you're going to wake up in the middle of the night, tell me that hasn't happened. If that's something that you do and it's going to interrupt your sleep and you need to have sustained to sleep in order to be productive and feel your best the next day, so please, please, please consider what I'm saying. If this sounds like you would, all the sleep is just, it's a non negotiable and it's something that if you want to get more done, if you want to be more productive and to have less stress, if you did one of all of the things that I mentioned today, just do this one and you will be squared away.

Okay. Well I hope that was helpful. I hope you got some helpful tips on that. If you want to get a little bit more awareness around some of the habits that you have or some of the ticks that you have that maybe you weren't aware that you were doing so often, I'm going to put the accountability roadmap tracker, whatever you want to call it, come up with a sexier name for me please. Ah, I'm going to put it in Dina forward slash 51 and you can download that for free. It's really handy tracker. It's given me a lot of awareness around some of my habits and I've actually created massive shifts in my habits. Once I saw where I was spending my time, because it's a big eyeopener, let me tell ya.

Thank you so much for spending time with me today. I look forward to speaking to you soon. I've got a couple of great guests coming up, so I can't wait to share them with you were talking about some artsy things, which I'm really excited about. We're going to be talking about boundaries and all kinds of things. So, feel free to stop by Instagram. Say Hi, suggest any guests that you might want to hear or any topics that you might want to hear more about. Go to Instagram and DM me @Dina.Cataldo.

All right, I'll talk to you again soon. Bye.

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