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Are you the master of your to-do list… or are you a slave to it?

In this episode, Stephanie Ann Ball will show you exactly how you can take back control of your to-do list instead of ending every day feeling like you have more on your plate than when you started. How you can leverage your to-do list to actually get the RIGHT stuff done… AND how you can get the much needed R&R withOUT stressing or feeling guilty about what’s left to get done.


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Our transcript hasn't been proofed, so there will probably be some errors. Sorry about that!

Alyson Lex 0:02
Do you ever feel completely overwhelmed? Like your to do list is so long that you have no idea what step to take next, and you can't get your head on, right? And you're frozen. And you know, you're not growing your business, but you're not sure what to do about it. Stephanie and ball who is an amazing opera singer, and a high performance coach is here to talk to us about how to wrangle that to do list, get our priorities in order, and most of all, cut that overwhelm completely out of our lives. Right, Stephanie, thank you so much for being here with us.

Stephanie Ann Ball 0:40
Hey, thank you for having me. It's my pleasure. Looking forward to chatting with you today.

Alyson Lex 0:45
So let's just start, what do you think is the number one problem with most to do lists

Stephanie Ann Ball 0:50
these days? Yes, great question. So the pattern that I see the most of is most people's to do lists are way too long, too long. We all somehow think that we are the superhuman people who can have 25 things on our to do list and bend time to our will and get them all done. And it's just totally unrealistic, right, because we all have appointments and things that we have to be keeping up with, you know, random things come up that you have to switch your attention and go take care of something quickly. And more often than not, what will happen is, you get a handful of the things done on your to do list and everything gets bumped into the next day, right. So then you go to bed focusing on what you haven't completed instead of what you have completed. And that just sends people into this, like shame spiral where they feel really bad about not being as efficient enough, not being good enough, not being productive enough. And it's just super not fun. Yeah, it's

Jennie Wright 1:50
all kinds of super fun that I mean, I was starting to feel bad about myself just kind of listening to that, because that's how it feels. Now, I you know, we're all, we're all struggling to be at high performance, we're all trying to elevate where we are in our businesses, or what we're doing. And we do have the grace of being able to have a lot of different people to listen to. But I also find that that is kind of sometimes the problem, too, there's so many different ways to overcome this overwhelm. So my I'm really curious to hear from you, Stephanie, how we can overcome that overwhelm, when our to do lists are so long.

Stephanie Ann Ball 2:29
I love that question. Thank you. You're absolutely right, that's part of the problem is there's just this wealth of information out there now. And so many people with so many different tips and different tools, and it's easy to get more overwhelmed, trying to just sort through all of that and figure out what's gonna work best for you. So I really feel like this kind of thing is not a one size fits all situation, right? It's, you have to tune into yourself, you have to know yourself so well, that you understand what triggers you to get overwhelmed, and you understand what kinds of tools are going to work the best to get yourself out of it. So when you do things like you know, I love all of those personality tests out there, they can be a really great key to teach you what kinds of things are going to get to the most overwhelmed. So for example, I talk a lot with my clients about introversion versus extraversion, right. So if you're a person who you're introverted, and you have a ton of zoom calls, that's probably gonna burn you out a little bit, right. So if you know that's coming, then you can set yourself up to plan in some extra downtime for you, at the end of the day, at the beginning of the day, between meetings, if you can, whatever, that's going to help you build in that safety net, to allow yourself to take some more breaks so you can start to avoid that overwhelm. So that kind of thing, really learning how you tick on the inside. So you can put together a personalized plan for yourself.

Alyson Lex 3:56
I love that example. Because I'm an ambivert. So I like being with people, but I have a hard limit. But I'm wondering if there are other other personality aspects that you can kind of close into because I feel like there's more to it than just that, right?

Stephanie Ann Ball 4:17
Yes, 100% I love that. You can get so detailed with this stuff. It's so much fun. So another really good one is this concept of if you are like a high level super visionary thinker, and you love to think in big picture terms, you're the person that looks at problem and you can see the entire forest before you and figure it out. On the other side of the coin, you have the people who are super detailed, right, we see things and we can immediately go Okay, I know that I need to tackle these 18 things. Sometimes those wires can kind of get crossed and if you are a detailed person and somebody hits you with the project and they give you like one giant piece of information. It's so easy to go oh my god. What do I even do with this? How do I, what do I? Where am I supposed to start? instantly? That is super overwhelming, right? And on the other side of the coin, if you're a really visionary, high level, high level thinker, then if somebody comes to you with, I need you to do these 25 things for me right now. It's like, Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, I can't cancel. So being able to understand how you think how you process information, and look at it and go, Okay, this is the piece of information. This is going to be the easiest, simplest way for me to process this. How can I make this work in my language? Do I need to take it up and look at it from the high level? Or do I need to take some time to break it down into smaller pieces and smaller chunks, so I can get it done without freaking myself out?

Jennie Wright 5:51
Okay, I like the non freakout version of things. I'd like to work in that space, that sounds kind of nice. I know that part of not getting overwhelmed, might be that we need to make time for that rest and relaxation, that self care that everybody talks about. But when we're feeling overwhelmed, or for our to do lists are so long, how do we do that without feeling guilty? about making that time for ourselves?

Stephanie Ann Ball 6:15
Oh, for sure. That's so huge. And that's another big problem that a lot of my clients come to me with, right? It's like this concept of self care. Yeah, you have to take care of yourself, and you have to put yourself first but with so many other people and things calling for your attention, how do you do that and still feel okay about it. I am a huge proponent of the concept of resting with intention, so you can operate with excellence. And I think it's very easy to confuse self care and taking breaks with taking a whole lot of time, it doesn't need to take a whole lot of time, it goes right back to that thing about understanding yourself and understanding what is really caring for yourself and is really going to refill your cup. So if you only have two minutes to get a quick break in and hit that reset, you know what to do, you know, you have to meditate, you've got to take a quick walk around the block outside, something like that, whatever it takes to really truly refill your cup and make you feel cared for. And there's some science behind that, right, it's like you have to, if you're getting super overwhelmed and your stress response is starting to get fired up, you have to do something, to let it complete itself. So you can get your parasympathetic nervous system kicking in and let yourself unwind. That's all that stuff about that fight or flight thing, you have to let that complete itself or you're going to stay in a heightened state of stress for a long time. And that's no good. We don't like that. So when you think about it, you did, it's almost like you have to put that at the top of your to do list, right? If you're not taking care of yourself, it's going to be so much harder to unstick yourself. So it's better to make that a daily practice. And just treat it like your top priority. So you can get in the habit of doing that. So you can stay ahead of getting overwhelmed. That's the best gift that you can give for your friends, your family, your projects, everything.

Alyson Lex 8:13
One thing that I've kind of recently learned is that fight or flight is a thing. But freeze is your third option. And I think that that's where people really get stuck because I tend to fight or flight, right. But I know there's that freeze where you just kind of like stuck, just you know I either avoid or I push through. But freezing and imagine sitting at your computer trying to work all day every day. You're just frozen with indecision. I think that that's awful. It's just terrible. You mentioned something about the the prioritizing other people or other deadlines are things that happen above your own self care. What happens when you prioritize other people's stuff other people's deadlines or emergencies or urgencies ahead of your own. And we see this a lot when it comes to client work versus building your own business. How can we balance that out too?

Stephanie Ann Ball 9:24
Yes, great question. That's so hard, right? And I actually just went through this myself not long ago. So this is something that even I have to pay close attention to. I'm a person, I'm wired. I want to help everybody. Let me help you. What can I do for you? And sometimes it is to my own detriment. So you can help. But you can't help to the point of where you're giving so much that you're not allowing yourself to receive anything back, right? That's when it starts to get imbalanced. So, for me, it's very, very helpful to think about that. That kind of a longer term capacity. So say I look at, okay, this is my schedule for the week, this is my schedule for the month, I know that these are the things that I want to get done for myself. Now, how much time do I have left over to give to other people. So I do my best to plan it out. I've, this is something new that I've started implementing recently. Because back in the fall, during the holidays, who I gave, gave, gave, gave gave, and by New Year's, I was like, Okay, I gotta take three weeks off. And now that I know what my limit is, I can say, Okay, I only have the capacity to do this many meetings this week, I only have the capacity to do you know, XYZ, cocktail hours with friends, whatever, I can send this many connection emails, XYZ, so then I still feel like, I'm serving the people that I love. But I'm making sure that I have looked at my own needs first. So I can do that. So then I still get to do both. And it's much more fun, and I feel better.

Jennie Wright 11:02
Okay, I get that, that sort of alliance with how I feel about these kinds of things as well. And I've done project management, I've had to teach myself project manager because of the jobs that I've done. And I kind of get a little bit of a high from having 12 plates in the air and only two hands to play. It gives me a little bit of a rush, I'm not gonna lie. But at the same time I go through these moments where if I'm ultra tired, and I've gone past that, you know, there's like that line, right? Where fun is no longer fun? It's a little much. How does, how do we employ time management? What does time management really mean? to sort of make that all work? How are we going to? How are we gonna make it all kind of come together?

Stephanie Ann Ball 11:51
Yes, I love it. So time management, to me is really about energy management, right? It's like, Okay, I have one hour to get these however many projects done. And I know that this is going to take a little more energy a little more brainpower, I know that this is going to be a little easier. And I know that this one is going to totally wear me out. So if you know how much energy something is going to take, you can strategically plan it within the time you have available to get the most taxing stuff done during the time where you're going to have the most energy. So this is like a quick story, I'm going to start talking about opera. So it's like when you're singing in an opera, there's a million things going on, right, you're standing on your stage, and I'm singing and I gotta pay attention to the conductor. And I have to pay attention to all the other characters on stage, I have to remember where I'm supposed to be walking, I have probably have a crazy costume on with a cape, and some heels, and like a hat and gloves, or whatever. So I have to make sure that that's out of the way. I'm like getting energy from the audience, I have to be singing Well, you got to remember the words you have to have good diction you got to be it's like 18 levels of different things that you have to pay attention to, and still deliver a good story. So it is so key to be able to know what is going to take the most energy, like if you have a really taxing Aria a really long song that's coming up. Okay, I know I have to focus on this section here. And then I have to very quickly Remember to run really fast to the other end of the stage. So I get there, right? So it's this combination of knowing how to pace your energy and also being able to shift your focus in and out of different things very quickly. So so much of it is about being aware and being present. And that's why like people talk about multitasking. Tell multitask, no, no, no. If you're the kind of person who loves to be doing 1812 different projects at once, totally. But get in the habit of shifting your focus back and forth, and staying super present for the one you're working on at the moment. That's how you get control of your energy and your focus. And boy, you can get a million things done like that. So fast, super efficient.

Jennie Wright 14:12
I feel like I do nothing now compared to running across the stage, wearing heels gloves. I had a cape, singing an aria and pulling, you know, checking and making sure that I'm still playing in character with the rest of the players. Yeah, my stuff is easy.

Alyson Lex 14:27
I mean, I would crash into people, I probably lead out some curses into whatever microphone I've got unless you're just projecting. So the whole theater Can I mean, the heels, I break an ankle, I but like that is exactly how sometimes your day feels. You feel like you're running back and forth across the stage spinning around. And that's when I'm on if I'm off, like if I'm not in flow or in beta or whatever people want to call it then I don't have the ability to manage that. So So is it kind of zone you get into? How do you? How do you encourage that zone to happen, especially if you have a bunch of different stuff. Jenny loves the 12 plates. I don't like the 12 plates. I like two plates one for each hand. But I usually have 12. So how do you get in the zone where you feel like you've got this handled?

Stephanie Ann Ball 15:26
For sure, you know, something that I love to do. This is one of my little tricks that I love to use. On those days where I know I'm gonna have a million phone calls, text messages coming in clients meetings, whatever. I have a ton of post it notes in my desk drawer. And, yes, we love them.

Alyson Lex 15:45
I love post it notes so much, I cannot stop myself from buying them. I'm just I just had to fangirl with it.

Stephanie Ann Ball 15:52
Right? So I take my post it notes and I right at the top. What am I working on right now, question mark. And then I'll write the thing, the one thing that I'm supposed to be doing at the moment, checking emails, whatever on the poster note, and I stick it up on top of my monitor next to my camera, so I can always see it. And the second something comes up, if I get a phone call, and I have to switch my focus, I'll shut my eyes for like two seconds, take a couple deep breaths, switch my focus and switch out the post it note. So that's my favorite way to just move in and out of things without getting bogged down. Because you know how easy it is to like, if you get a phone call, while you're in the middle of something else, and you're interrupted, then you're still kind of thinking about all your emails, or whatever you were working on. While you're taking the phone call, then you got to go back and be like, Well, wait a minute, what was I supposed to be doing with this email? Did I miss something on the phone call and all of your focus just gets all jumbled together. So if you compartmentalize it with an actual external thing that can remind you where your focus is supposed to go, that helps you move in and out really fast.

Jennie Wright 17:01
is really cool

Alyson Lex 17:02
off that I use the post it notes to remind me of something that I need to do next. And I stick it right in the middle of the computer screen, so I can't get distracted. But I like that focus on it now. aspect. That's really cool. Yeah, I've

Jennie Wright 17:17
never really used the post it notes exactly like that. But I do I do like that it's a good idea. So this is what you do. And I have a feeling that going through the process of doing opera and being involved in the stage productions. And having to follow the conductor and all the different things has allowed you to become pretty much a master at this. But I do probably feel that you may still occasionally get overwhelmed, because you know, you've had to change. So you and I spoke months and months and months and months ago for a year ago. And it was pre pandemic, right, you had just gotten back from like one performance, your husband was going on another and then you were going on another, you know, you were like traveling and doing performances. Since the pandemic you've probably had to pivot a little bit has that means you feel overwhelmed, because you're not doing the thing that you're normally meant to be doing or that you're normally doing. Did you feel overwhelmed with that pivot? Did you feel overwhelmed with that change? And how did you deal with it?

Stephanie Ann Ball 18:14
Yes, great question. So I mean, that's huge. I would say that I am a master at practicing this every day. Like that. Right? Like this is not the kind of thing overwhelm isn't the kind of thing that just goes away, and you're suddenly never overwhelmed again, and it's wonderful. I don't think you know, hardly anybody, particularly people in the business world get to a place where it's just that all the time, right? Yeah,

Jennie Wright 18:44
I call myself a student of Yes. So I'm never a master, I'm a student of I might be really good at what I do. But I'm still a student of and that reminds me that I'm still in the practice of improving or getting better or learning more. And that keeps me out of the I should be better than this. I should knew I should be able to do this mindset. And then I don't get so hard on myself if I don't.

Stephanie Ann Ball 19:06
Yes, I love that. Yes. Because it's like there is there's so much to learn. I'm still learning more techniques and tools every day. So you're right for me this, this has been a wild ride. Because I was man, I was going so hard. I was traveling almost every other week, for about 18 months, I was on this long stretch of travel where I would go and do a show. And then I would come home and then I would go and work with a consultant client and then I would come home and then I would go do another show and just repeat the cycle. And so by the time the pandemic hit, I remember my last live performance in front of an audience was March 7 of 2020. And so almost exactly a year ago, and I came home everything immediately shut down. We kind of arrived home in the middle of it and the grocery store shelves were empty and it was crazy. So there was all this stress and madness and chasing me across the country. But I remember going, ah, I can take a break now. So at the beginning, I was so happy to just be in my house and I was getting all these projects around the house done that I hadn't had time to do. And it was kind of nice. But then, when it was very clear that this was going to go on for much longer than any of us had hoped it would, I kind of went, Okay, well. So now what now what am I going to do? I am a person who is an extrovert. So I have, I enjoy my own company. But if I don't have the energy of a lot of people, it makes me extra tired. And I lose focus. And I get really rundown. So that's been the biggest challenge for me is finding ways to regained my energy levels when I don't have that buzz from a crowd or more than one person in my house. So having to plan lots of extra phone dates and things like that. Because that's when I noticed that I get the most overwhelmed when I start to lose focus, and I get a little extra tired. I can't think clearly and I can't prioritize work very well. So I'll start doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. And then I get frustrated. And then I'm like, Well, wait a minute, what was I supposed to be doing here. So that's been the biggest challenge for me is taking care of my own energy levels. So I can stay clear headed enough to come up with a plan for this kind of crazy time where we aren't really sure what's gonna happen next.

Alyson Lex 21:35
Well, and so at the time of this recording, we are like a year and two days after your last live performance. So we're a year in two days into our two week quarantine. It's been the longest two weeks of my life. But I know over the last year, you have accomplished some things in your business that are very exciting. And so clearly, you've pushed through some of that. And I really like where taking care of your energy levels helps with your focus. I like that point. So clearly, you've done that. Tell us what you've accomplished this year, what what you're excited about.

Stephanie Ann Ball 22:16
I am excited, I did do some fun things. So last year 2020, I launched my book, on your life becoming your favorite self, so you can bring your best to the world, which had been a project that I was working on for so long. And it was this thing where people kept coming to me and asking, so what does singing opera have to do with high performance and staying organized and being productive. And it took me a minute to explain it well, but eventually I said, Oh my gosh, everything. Literally the reason why I can teach these things is because of all of the stuff that I learned as a performer. And so I sat down and I put it in a book. So that was a super fun project to get to see come to life. And I also founded the illuminate your legacy Academy, which is a project that has been on my mind for many, many years. And it's just a place where I can take all of the stuff that I've worked with my private coaching clients and put it into an online format. So it's easy for people to access and lots of self guided courses and handouts and all kinds of tools and fun things. So that was my pivot was bringing the tools that I teach people into a place where I can get it out in front of more folks. So that and a handful of online performances that actually turned out to be really, really fun.

Alyson Lex 23:42
That is awesome. And I know that we can get that book on Amazon, I will link that in our show notes. But where can we find out more about the academy?

Stephanie Ann Ball 23:54
If you go to illuminate your that's where everything is?

Alyson Lex 24:01
Well, that's easy. We will put that link in the show notes as well or just go to illuminate your legacy COMM And where can we connect with you?

Stephanie Ann Ball 24:12
Yes, best place to connect with me on Instagram. You can find me at I am Steph a ball.

Jennie Wright 24:20
Also very easy to find. Right? literally, literally. Yeah, absolutely. Oh, Stephanie. This has been awesome. You know, we met a while ago and I really enjoyed when we first met and we you know, we had talked about a couple things back then you were trying to figure out how to build your list and do all these things. It was like pre pivot time. But you were you know, I think I think it just kind of naturally happened for you. So your last performance was March 7 or eighth. You said I officially in my own life, went into my own quote unquote, like, you know, went into hiding practically on March 3 2020. I still haven't come out of it. So At the time of this recording, but it's been it's been a, it's been a hot minute, since all this started. And I'm excited for what you're being able to do, I think it's given you a great opportunity to move some things forward. So I just want to say thank you so much for participating with us today and being able to create something of value for people who are listening who might be experiencing the same kind of problems.

Stephanie Ann Ball 25:20
No, it's my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me, this has been a lovely conversation. Absolutely. And I

Jennie Wright 25:25
have a couple of takeaways. So I love to sort of wrap up our episodes, Alison, and I do this now. And we think it's a great way to connect the dots from what the people on the podcast, say to the sort of the action items that people can take and move forward from. So the first thing I want people to think about is understanding yourself. If you feel the need, take one of those personality tests to determine how you operate, and then build your business around that versus trying to fit a square peg round hole. I think we've all tried to do the square peg round hole thing a couple of times, and it doesn't really fit. To understand your personality type and build your business around it, that's going to make things a lot more easy for you to kind of figure out. The second one is instead of thinking of this as time management, think of it as energy management. And how much energy will each ask which each task require versus how much time it'll take. Taking a look at that is going to make it really easier like a much easier way to take a look at what's going on and not feel that overwhelmed by all the potential tasks that you might have going on. The next one is this post-it notes the trick that you and Alison seem to know that I have to learn, which I think is awesome. And that is writing what you need to focus on the right at that moment. And stick it to the top of your computer or your monitor as a visual reminder of what needs to get done. And where your energy and attention should be at that moment so that you're not getting deflected away, which happens a lot. We have so many distractions, but remaining that focus to complete the task, which I think is fantastic. And then I have one bonus takeaway, which I think probably should be following Stephanie on her Instagram account so that you can get all of these great tips because I see her Instagram and she's lots of fun and checks out her books, I would recommend that you do that as well. I just want to take a moment to thank everybody who has been listening to today's podcast. If you're enjoying this, please take a look at following Alex and I on this podcast the System to THRIVE wherever it is that you're listening to podcasts nowadays, as well as leaving us a review. We'd love to understand and know what you think about the show and how you'd like to see us improve it or topics that you'd like to see us talk about. Make sure you go and do that. So I want to say thank you once again, and we'll be back again soon answering another big question.



Episode 164 – Real Talk About Numbers, Scale, and What It’s REALLY Like To Grow a Business with Tara Newman

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