How to use tethered time to increase productivity

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Have you ever heard of tethered time?

I hadn’t, but now it’s going to be a frequent feature of my business, and help me make the massive shift into being a new mom alongside running my business.

I’m not joking when I say that this could change the entire way you structure your days and give a huge productivity boost to your business!

Kimberly Crossland of The Focus Driven Biz shares this incredible concept of tethered time with us in this fantastic interview, and we talk about how to use it while juggling parenting–or even without kids around!

Tune in below or hit the transcript to find out how to make the most of tethered time so that you can be more productive in your creative business!

Visit Kimberly: The Focus Driven Biz | Present + Productive Guide


Erin Flynn: Hey everyone. Welcome back. I’m Erin, and today I’m here with Kimberly Crossland. She is the owner and founder of the Focus-Driven Biz, a company designed to keep entrepreneurs present, productive and profitable. The goal of her work is to inspire meaningful change through the power of a strategic, thoughtful approach to business. In her free time, you can find her looking for a new adventure together with her two toddlers. So welcome to the show Kimberley. Thank you for being here.

Kimberly Crossland: Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here.

Erin Flynn: I am a super psyched to dive in. So random fact, we have actually met in person and worked on projects together.

So it’s fun to now get to collaborate in a way that our businesses have changed too, where we are both shifting to kind of the same types of topics but slightly different takes. So very exciting journey.

Kimberly Crossland: It really is. And it’s so rare to meet an internet biz buddy in real life, and so it’s really nice to have actually done that.

Erin Flynn: When we’re finally out of quarantine maybe we’ll meet up at another conference again.

Kimberly Crossland: Right, right.

Erin Flynn: So let’s dive straight in. You have two little kids and do you run a successful business. What magic potion or magic wand have you waved to make this happen?

Kimberly Crossland: Well, there is no magic to it. It’s just I’ve developed a strategy over the years of doing this. I’ve literally … So the four year old, so literally for four years I’ve worked out in my home running a business, and in that time I’ve juggled everything from a baby who will not want to be put down, and so I will walk on my treadmill to get him to go to sleep, to where I’m at right now where I have the two and a four year old, like you said, and we have decided we’ve just been forced to come up with a routine for our day. And so the way that I do that is I have to first get into my own head about setting priorities.

Kimberly Crossland: And so priorities for me are a really big deal because if I don’t know what I’m going to sit down and do and what I have to tackle to actually get work done and keep the ball moving forward, then when I finally sit down on my computer, I’m not going to actually be able to do anything. I’m going to get caught up in the newsfeed, I’m going to be sipping my coffee because thankfully I can drink it while it’s hot for once. I’m just going to be distracted by all these different things and I’m going to lose my focus. And so having my priorities in front of me, I know exactly what I need to get done is the first step.

Kimberly Crossland: The second step to what I do every week to set myself up for success during the work week, is I go through and I distill each of those big priorities into bite sized tasks. And so having these distilled down tasks is really important to me because if I don’t … I know what I have to get done, but then if I don’t know what specifically needs to happen to make that come to life, then I’m going to get trapped again in the newsfeed, or I’m going to get sucked into something that I don’t need to actually be doing and I get derailed very, very quickly. And I think we’re all like that.

Kimberly Crossland: Once I have those tasks distilled down, then I also have to find out where I can plug things in. And so I really feel like the magic to the solution is something that I call Tethered Time. I have certain things that I have to do when my kids are not around, and that is writing or anything that requires my intense focus and creativity. So you’re a designer, I’m sure that you can relate to needing to have that creative zone where you can just dive all in, not get pulled aside to try and figure something else out or put out another fire. You need to have that momentum and get into that momentum mode. And so when I know that I need that, I’m able to make sure that I prioritize my very focused time where I don’t have those interruptions and focus on the creative tasks.

Kimberly Crossland: But then there’s a lot of other work that can be done when you’re able to receive interruptions. And that’s what I call the Tethered Time where you can tether two things together. And so I will often tether together being with my kiddos when they’re in the backyard, to doing some social media planning. Or tethered together even personal things like a workout with playing with my kids and getting them active and getting our wiggles out. And so being able to combine those two things together has made it so I feel like I can stretch my time quite a bit further, and as I’m understanding where I need to have that quiet creativity and quiet creative mode versus the time where I can do the Tethered Time approach, I’m able to actually put together a routine for my days and color code my schedule, just like we color code our homeschooling right now in quarantine. And you’re able to sort of match up where you need to be and where they can be and then that way you’re able to be present with your kiddos, but still stay productive in your business.

Erin Flynn: I love that idea of Tethered Time. I’ve never heard of that concept before, but I think that makes so much sense. Because so often we feel like we need to have just eight hours of work or something like that, which just doesn’t … Well first of all, most people aren’t productive for eight hours anyhow, but second of all it just doesn’t make sense to try and fit that into a day. Especially with young kids at home and knowing that some of these tasks don’t need the same level of attention or creativity that other tasks do. Like for me, you write design or creative writing, things like that need really focused time where I’m not distracted by anything else. But things like you said, social media scheduling, that typically is a very low level task that you can listen to … If you don’t have kids you can listen to music or have Netflix on or something like that. And you don’t have to have that same focus, so why not combine that with something else and schedule your days so that it makes sense for your life as opposed to trying to be like, “I need absolute quiet for eight hours,” which is just never going to happen.

Kimberly Crossland: Yeah, exactly. And I think if there’s something that this pandemic has shown us, it’s that we really can get a lot more done than we think we can in a shorter amount of time. And I think that so many different meetings are not valuable. So I do advocate for meetings when they make sense, but I actually read a study by Dropbox … Oh gosh, I hope it was Dropbox, but they did something where they called Meetinggedden, in or an Armameetinggedden. So play on meetings and Armageddon. And they said for two weeks, no meetings, unless you have to meet. If there is something you cannot get done without meeting, then meet. But otherwise, no meetings whatsoever. We’re not going to do standups, we’re not going to go out and just have a lunch meeting, we’re not going to try and have brainstorming sessions, we’re going to really limit our time on our meetings.

Kimberly Crossland: And in doing so they found that productivity skyrocketed. And I think that … I’ll get you the link to that for the show notes if you’d like, because I think that is a really fascinating study. Because of our time management, we so often believe that we need to have those eight hours, like you said, in the day. And if we don’t then we’re going to completely derail our productivity, and it’s just not the case. And I know especially working moms and working women can relate to that. I think we’re all very good with time management and being able to reign in that time and really understand where you’re putting your focus is so critical, and when you can do that, you can get so much more done. And it feels so, so, so good.

Erin Flynn: Yeah, that’s so true. And meetings, so disruptive. So much of the time when it could have just been, the whole joke, another meeting that could have been an email. And most of the time that is actually the case.

Kimberly Crossland: Exactly.

Erin Flynn: So let’s talk about … So you described Tethered Time. How has your business … We’ve known each other since before your first was born. And so how has your business changed over the years adapting to life as a mom and an entrepreneur and trying, you’ve already mentioned how you kind of mesh that all together, but what major changes have you had to make in your business?

Kimberly Crossland: I’ve had to learn how to give myself a lot of grace, because as glorious as this magical strategy seems, and how easy it is for me to say it, there are plenty of days that things don’t go as planned. I have plenty of days where childcare calls in sick or forgets to wake up on time. Or I have plenty of days where we’re on quarantine, and I have no option for childcare. And so being able to first of all give myself grace that okay, things might not be going as planned and that’s going to be okay. We’re going to roll with the punches. It’s going to be all right. Or, also to be able to have that flexibility in your world where you can adjust and just go with the flow, like I said.

Kimberly Crossland: And so there have been days where I’ve found my kiddos are feeling very … They’re not me being on my computer on my phone, let’s just put it that way. They don’t like that. And I’ve got to really lean into that because they’re young and they’re feeling a lot. And we did not grow up … I’m really learning this. We did not grow up in a period where our parents were on the phone a lot. They were not sitting, staring at their screens while we’re there trying to get their attention. Our kids are. And that’s such a new thing and we’re in a new phase of parenthood where business, especially our own business, where we are constantly rattling off our to do’s or goals and what we want to get done, it is a constant distraction to have that phone next to us. I have had to go put it in another room cause I will reach for it just out of habit. And so being aware of my own habits, giving myself grace to put that phone away, giving myself grace to be on my phone when I really do need to be on my phone, that’s been a big learning curve.

Kimberly Crossland: And then also just figuring out that it’s okay to take a step back. Fires might happen and they will get put out when they get put out in my business, but my kiddos take my first priority all the time. Family always first. With that said, I also really adopt Mr. Rogers philosophy. Mr. Rogers was so fantastic for so many reasons, but he said one time that when he was a preschool teacher, he actually brought in a sculptor and he said, “You know what? I don’t want you to teach these kids how to sculpt. All I want you to do is sit and sculpt. And he said that was the most creative he’s ever seen those kids. Because they were watching him do something that he loved, something that he was passionate about. His gift. And in watching that he was able to actually inspire these kids to do something that they loved.

Kimberly Crossland: And it wasn’t necessarily sculpting. They were just more creative and more artistic, and they came up with more ideas. And I think that that’s such an important lesson for us as moms, as parents to understand that when our kids see us working and enjoying our work, that is such a strong lesson to them that you can do what you love, and in fact you should be doing what you love. Follow that passion without it being this big woo woo term. Follow that passion, because I’m doing the same thing. And here’s what it looks like. And yeah, there’s tough days. Yeah, I get stressed out. And you know what though? It’s okay, and I ultimately love what I’m doing, and here’s why. And I think that the more we can demonstrate that, I’ve really tried to focus on demonstrating this for my kids, the more that they’re going to learn the power of work, the beauty of work, and more importantly the beauty of fun work and enjoying what you do.

Erin Flynn: I think that’s so valuable. And I think that’s something that can be lost so much, especially maybe in a more traditional job because your kids are going to see you go away. And then no matter how hard you’re working, they don’t fully understand. They just know that you leave for the day or something like that. But as entrepreneurs we get to actually demonstrate that. And that’s so cool. And of course, if you have a traditional job you can of course make attempts to do that too. But as an entrepreneur, working at home, if your kids are present, you can really demonstrate that passion and that drive in a way that could be so educational and so inspiring without you having to be like, “Sit down, okay Timmy, it’s time for you to learn how to type.” It doesn’t need to be done in that traditional learning sense. They just are sponges that absorb it.

Kimberly Crossland: Exactly. And then as we’re in homeschooling mode, I have two preschoolers, but we’re still homeschooling. I’m teaching them language and letters and numbers and counting and all that. And I’m finding that I don’t have to revert to the same things that I … I don’t really necessarily remember when I was two, but the same kinds of concepts. We can get really creative. So like yesterday we sat out … Here’s my entrepreneurial spirit coming out, but we actually drew in my front yard, a city on the sidewalk outside. And I said, “Okay, you have to go earn money so that you can come and buy your snacks.” And we had fun of it. So I had a library and I set up books, and for every book that they read, I would read it to them, they would get a rock, which is a dollar. And then we had a little fishing pond and every fish that they caught, they were able to go and get money for that fish so that they could buy something. And we just had fun with this concept of making money. We worked on numbers. That’s not something we would have necessarily done in a classroom in a very traditional sense. And so I think that there’s beauty in being able to teach our kids through different modes of learning, I guess.

Erin Flynn: Yeah, that’s so cool. And I think anybody listening to this, if you do have a traditional nine to five and maybe you’re trying to become an entrepreneur, you can still kind of take some of these as examples in sharing your work, if you’re passionate about it, or your side hustle, if you’re passionate about it, with your kids. Because I think that just makes it so much more valuable to everybody. Your family, even if they may be little tiny children can appreciate, “Oh, mom’s working, she’s doing something like really cool.” As opposed to she’s just on her phone. It’s a totally different way of showing them what it is that you’re doing.

Kimberly Crossland: Exactly. Yeah. It’s a nice way to reframe it. And we’re on our phones regardless, like you said, of whether or not we’re an entrepreneur working a nine to five, or whatever we’re doing. Especially nurses I know are going out, and they’re definitely not nine to five hours, but they’re working really hard and coming home and talking to their kids about, “Here’s what I did to take care of people today.” Passing that on to children is just amazingly powerful.

Erin Flynn: It is. So, I know that these are like really weird times with quarantine and everything like that, but in general, how do you juggle things? Do you get support? Do you send your kids to childcare? Do you have someone in home that helps? How do you kind of manage that when you’re doing your creative time versus your Tethered Time?

Kimberly Crossland: So a year ago, we’re going to jump all the way back a year to answer this question. A year ago I had my mom coming two days a week. I’m very fortunate to have her close by. And then I’d send my youngest to daycare, my oldest to preschool. And that was working very, very well. Well then in August, my poor mom was out for a run and broke her foot. A horrible, horrible injury. It’s called a Liz Frank injury, if you’re familiar with … Cam Newton had it. So if you’re a football fan. But it’s basically you break the top bone of your foot, and it takes forever to heal from that. She’s still healing, and here we are in May, and she’s still healing. And it took her off the grid for childcare for quite some time, because she can’t chase two kids with … Two young children with a broken foot, obviously.

Kimberly Crossland: So in that time, that’s when I started to adopt these strategies, because like I said … Well this is before quarantine. So I started to learn how to be flexible, how to give myself grace, how to schedule my time and set those priorities. Well, it happened, and obviously she wasn’t coming over, nobody was coming over, there was no school. And so we again, just learned to lean into every single day, find the opportunities where I could work. I will often get up, I’m most productive in the morning. I love my early morning writing sessions, and if I can get some fun writing out, creative writing where I have to focus on it, in the mornings, my day is just set up for success. And so I actually enjoy waking up early, and so I’ll get up early, get that writing done before the kiddos wake up, and then when they wake up, I feel like I’m in a better head space to be with them.

Kimberly Crossland: We make breakfast together, spend some quality time together, making cities in the front yard or whatever we end up doing. And then as they start to need to wind down, I’m able to go back into either my Tethered Time mode where I’m watching them in the backyard just having their independent play and getting some work done, or they end up napping and I’m able to get work done that way as well. And then I shut down at about four o’clock in the afternoon. So not a lot gets done after that.

Erin Flynn: I think that’s totally okay because who … Even if you go to an office every day, you’re not productive. Let’s be real here. examine. People do not sit there for eight hours and just bang out productivity. It doesn’t happen. So I think that that’s such a great way to balance things.

Erin Flynn: But I guess my question then would be outside of quarantine, what would a typical day be like for you and your kids and running a business?

Kimberly Crossland: Yeah, so then I would have … My mom would still come two days a week and she’s usually here, she likes to get here really early, we have our time to talk and then I head into my office. Those days are a little bit more distracting because … And that’s through nobody’s fault, but mostly my fault because I like to be close to them still. But I’ll go out periodically, check in with them, bring them snacks or we’ll make lunch and still have lunch together.

Kimberly Crossland: And then on the days that they go to school, they go to school two days a week. Next year it’s going to be three days a week for my oldest. And when they’re in school that’s when I really schedule at that time to get, again, creative or to hop on podcast, record videos, do this work that I really can’t have the background noise or interruptions for and so really try and schedule my weeks around their schedule in that way.

Erin Flynn: It’s nice that you have that flexibility where you can schedule things in. For example, podcasts, interviews, or maybe you are working on something that you really want to bang out and get that focused time to have two days a week to kind of count on, in a normal world. Where you can say, okay, Thursday or whatever your day is, I’m going to do X, Y, and Z because I’m going to have peace and quiet. And I think that when you … No matter what kind of business you have or what your life circumstances are, if you have kids or you don’t have kids, if you can set aside a day a week that you know this is my creative day, it makes so much of a difference, because you just show up that day and you’re just like, “That’s it. I’m writing, or I’m designing or whatever it is today.” That’s it, period. You don’t open your emails, you don’t mess with all of those other things. This is the time. And I think anybody can try to do that, and if they could work that into your schedule, it just makes such a difference in your focus for that day, and let the other days be the days where you deal with all of those email fires and things like that.

Kimberly Crossland: Yeah, exactly. There’s studies that show that … I mentioned meetings earlier, and there’s studies that show that if you do go to a meeting, it’s about 15 minutes before the meeting and 15 minutes after to really get back into that head space. You’re breaking out of that head space and then breaking back into it. That’s an extra half hour already. And so on these days when you can cut out that head space, I have to frame my mindset around what I’m going to do. When you just know, like you said, “Okay, Tuesdays I’m going to podcast, Thursdays I’m going to record videos or schedule meetings,” or whatever it is. You know exactly what’s going to happen going into today, the night before you can already start planning for what’s going to happen, and it just makes it so much easier.

Erin Flynn: All right, so we are getting short on time, but I know that you have a really cool Present and Productive Guide. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Kimberly Crossland: Yeah, so in the Present and Productive Guide, which by the way is completely free on my website, you can get the five steps that I use to plan out my work week all the way from the prioritization matrix that I use to set up my work week, down to the color coded routine. I actually have screenshots of my schedule in there and how I align it with my kiddos schedule. If you sign up for that it’s, like I said, set completely free and I have that five step process, and that is on

Erin Flynn: Awesome. We’ll make sure to link that in the show notes. I’m very excited about it. I’m going to go download it after we’re done chatting and go check it out, because it sounds really cool. Besides the guide, what else … Where should we follow you? Anything else cool coming up you want to tell us about? Tell us all of the things,

Kimberly Crossland: All of the things. Well yeah, right now I’m actually geeking out over the fact that I just launched my beta round of a course that’s all about business building. And so I talk a lot about mindset with the kiddos, so there’s also a lot of mindset stuff that has to happen in the business, but also there’s tactics that need to take place if you’re going to grow. And so in this new course I’ve merged those two. So when you do sit down at your computer and you have time to focus, you know exactly what needs to happen, you have your strategic mode where you know the big overarching strategy that needs to take place, and then the tactics that need to go into implementing that. So it’s really a marriage of strategy and tactics in one area. And that is all happening now. The workbook will be available Evergreen, so anyone can buy at any time. And then we’ll continually have courses popping up or live workshops where you can access Q&A and we can just dialogue about what’s going on in your business and where you’d like them.

Erin Flynn: I will make sure all of those are linked in the show notes so everybody can come and follow you, and thank you so much for joining us. This was such a cool conversation. I loved learning about how you balance things, especially with two small children at home while running a business, which just sounds horribly daunting, but you make it sound totally doable.

Kimberly Crossland: Thank you. Yeah, I love talking all about this, so thanks so much for having me on.

Erin Flynn: Awesome. All right, everybody, I will pop all of those links into the show notes for you and we will see you on the next episode.

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