Creating True Work-Life Alignment With Lisa Danforth

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TBT 105 | True Work-Life Alignment
Do you feel distant from your business or work? Do you find yourself unmotivated and longing for a goal that seems unreachable from where you currently are? If you answer yes, then this episode will help you gain clarity about the choices you’re making. Penny Zenker interviews business strategist, coach, and speaker, Lisa Danforth to share with us the tips, tools, and tricks that are going to get us in a place to be able to think and act more strategically. At the heart of it is learning how to create a true work-life alignment or balance and fulfillment for ourselves. Lisa examines the choices we make that keep us from living the life we truly want, questioning whether or not we need to pivot and/or change our mindset. There is so much wisdom that Lisa shares with us on this conversation, so don’t miss out!

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Creating True Work-Life Alignment With Lisa Danforth

On this show, we are looking for tips, tools and tricks that are going to get you in a place to be able to think and act more strategically. I’m excited to have Lisa Danforth with me. On paper, she’s a business strategist, coach and speaker, but for real, she helps women, business owners and leaders. If you’re not a woman, she can still help you to identify and create the boundaries that build a bridge to creating a true work-life alignment, also known as balance and fulfillment. That’s what we’re going to talk about. Over many years, she founded and operated two catering companies, so she knows what it is to run a business and to manage that work-life balance. It was called The Wooden Spoon and Hot Betty BBQ, a professional cleaning company as well, and an international wholesale children’s wear company, which she sold for over 35 times her initial opening investment. For the last years, she’s been a business strategist. You can see why Lisa’s got some tips that are going to help you. Lisa, welcome to the show.
Thank you. I can share the tips that work and don’t work, so either.
That’s the benefit of running all those businesses is you know what works and what doesn’t work. What’s the biggest lesson that you learned from building those businesses and selling them?
There are many different things. What it boils down to, it sounds simple but it’s not always easy, is be yourself and be authentic. When we’re trying to fit in and we’re trying to do those things that aren’t in alignment with who we are, we’re constantly struggling. Whether it’s creating a new business, bringing on a team, all the relationships that we need to have within our businesses, we need to be authentic so that we are belonging. As Brené Brown says, “The greatest barrier to belonging is trying to fit in.” People can sense that and then we’re always out of alignment and there’s an incongruency that makes us struggle with every single day.
When you’re building a business to be the best leader you can be is to be authentic. That means to admit mistakes and admit you don’t know everything.
Also, admit when you need to pivot. That’s a big thing. For me, I’ve had five different businesses and when I’ve reached the point where it’s taking more than it’s giving me the fulfillment and the joy is no longer there, even if it’s financially successful to be authentic and this is no longer where I want to be, instead of being defined by what I was a cater for years. I can’t tell you how many people said to me, “You can’t quit catering because you’re the best.” I was like, “Watch me.” It was hard because I had allowed it to define me as well. That’s why I stuck with it longer. When we are authentic with who we need, we want to be, and where we want to go is when we can set the boundaries. It creates the action steps and the productivity that we need to get where it is that we want to be moving.
When we're trying to fit in and do things that aren't in alignment with who we are, we constantly struggle. Click To Tweet There might be a lot of people on this show too who are in the process of building their business. Sometimes in the building, there isn’t the joy. Does that mean it’s time to pivot? When you’re building your business, how do you create that alignment and still be moving your business forward? You’d like to pivot, but it’s not in the cards for you to pivot at that time. How do you continue on but still be authentic to yourself and still be creating that alignment or come to that word balance? That’s what people have in their head that there needs to be this balance.
We should always have joy. If the business that you’re starting is not bringing you joy at any level, that’s when we need to stop and look at, “Why is it that I’m doing this?” The clarity that we’re needing so that we can in our bigger why, if you’ve read any of Simon Sinek’s work, we have a bigger why so that we know why we’re saying yes to the things which are essentially adding more work to our plate at the moment so our balance is off, but the alignment is still there. We know where we want to head, so maybe we are working 10 to12 hour days, but we’re consistent in where it is that we’re headed in aligning our choices.
If we look at the balance, “I’m working 12 hours a day. This is horrible.” When we’re clear on our vision of where we want to head and who we need to be to get there is we can connect to the joy. I remember staying up late, 10:00 to 11:00 on some catering nights, doing dishes. I had joy because I knew I was building my business even though I’d probably work at 12 to 15-hour day. I knew that I wanted or needed to do that to get to the level that I wanted to get to. I could have pivoted, but having that clarity about where you want to go and why you want to get there is going to allow you to make the choices that are aligned with creating the balance that works for you.
Here’s what I’m understanding and I love what you’re saying is that a lot of people out there are seeing the word balance as the number of hours worked. That means, “I’m working as many hours that I don’t have the time to work out or I may be sacrificing something else.” What I hear you say is stop chasing and putting judgments on that. It’s about the number of hours worked and that’s what it is about aligning those choices. When your choices are aligned, you’re going to feel more balanced and you can find that joy.
When we are out of balance, it’s easy to stay perpetually out of balance. Imagine yourself leaning back and someone putting one little finger on you. You were perpetually off-balance. When we’re seeking balance, it’s like, “I’m working 8 to 10 hours a day and seven days a week.” We need to get super clear on what it is that we’re working towards. We’re creating the gap where we’re sitting in where we are and we’re looking at where we want to be, which is maybe sipping Mai Tai’s on a beach in a year and thinking, “The things that I need to do to get there is going to be astronomical.” We’re focusing on the gap rather than a goal to get to a place to come from and not get to. When we can sit in the energy of being the person creating an identity-based goal of who we need to be. Sitting in the joy of that success, we can feel the success. We’re not waiting for success to come to us. We all know that when we finally achieve that goal, it moves.
When we’re able to do that, we can make those choices that are aligned with where we want to go, as opposed to highlighting that gap and thinking, coming from a place of lack, “I need to do this. I’ve got to add this program. I need to bring these networking events in.” All of these different things because we’re focusing on the gap. That’s where the balance is and it gets completely out of whack. When we come from the goal feeling, “Who would I be in this moment? What is the choice that I would make as a woman who was making $250,000 a year?” Of these different achievements that we’re looking for, our choices are different when we’re sitting in that success, rather than focusing on the gap and we’re out of balance.
I talk about focus all the time and where your focus is going to dictate the quality of your choices. It’s going to dictate the quality of your experience. If you’re focused on scarcity and the gap, then you’re going to bring more stress to your life. What you’re going to experience and what you’re going to get as results are completely different than if you’re focused on, what it is you’re looking to achieve and why that’s important and all of those things.

TBT 105 | True Work-Life Alignment

True Work-Life Alignment: When we are authentic with who we need, who we want to be, and where we want to go, then we can set the boundaries.

When we’re sitting in that stress of needing to do more and adding more to our plate and throwing us even further out of alignment, it’s virtually impossible to think about the future because you’re trying to survive. “My life is out of balance.” It’s this perpetual, we’re making choices from where we’ve been rather than where we want to be. It completely keeps going to repeat itself over and over again. When we are hijacked by stress, when our amygdala doesn’t know whether it’s the email or the saber-toothed tiger, we’re making choices from a place of stress. That’s never a time to be creative. That’s never a time to be making those choices and it’s impossible to look towards the future. We are looking, “Where’s the exit? Where can I go?” It’s caveman days.
We’re in our reptilian brain, that fight, flight or freeze mode. We hear that it’s about work-life alignment because balance is BS. I understand that you have some tips. Now that I get that, I think some people can see it differently. I’ve been looking and searching and fighting for balance. You’re never going to find it because it doesn’t exist in the way that people are looking for it. I understand that my focus is on alignment. Three things can help people to find that alignment, find joy, and be in a better place in their life. Let’s talk about that.
The top one is slowing down to gain clarity. The sad thing is many people that I speak with, work with, and talk to because I love getting out and speaking is, “I don’t have the luxury to slow down.” My thing is that’s like going down the highway at 150 miles an hour saying, “I don’t have time to stop for gas. I’ll be at AAA.” It’s slowing down in order to speed up. It’s like archery. After we need to step back, aim to catapult forward and hit our target. We need to slow down and be able to gain that clarity of where it is that we want to go and who it is that we want to be, we need to be to get there. It’s not a luxury. How do you determine what your goals are? How do you determine how to prioritize your actions so that you can be productive? Gary Keller asks, “Why do we have goals?” Everyone’s like, “To make money,” whatever it might be.
His thing is that a goal is to be appropriate at the moment so that we can make appropriate choices, which I love. To be appropriate is to move us closer to the success that we seek. I want to say success, according to what success is to you, not what others want, need, or demand from you. To be appropriate, we need to know where we’re headed. Creating a business is no different than driving from Vermont down to Texas. I’m going to take my GPS and I need to know where I’m at. I need to know where I’m going so that I can create a map. Clarity is how you’re going to get it. Slow down and take some time to figure it out. There’s a ton of tools on gaining clarity. I’m certainly happy to answer any questions about that.
Let’s share a quick tool because I think they get that. There are those excuses that come up that say, “I can’t slow down. I can’t gain clarity or where I think I have clarity.” I’m 100% in agreement. Clarity is critical. People think about it that’s why planning is clarity. It’s a part of that process. Connecting with the why every day about why you do things is helping you to get clarity. Those are tools too, but what’s the tool that you recommend most to help people to put that into action?
I’ve got to say everyone is different. One thing that I can say can make someone spill it and other ones are like, “I don’t know.” One of the things that I love to do is when I’m sitting down with a client and we’re mapping, one of the first things that I do is I sit down and say, “We’ve had our time together. We’ve been coaching, and then you’ll give me a call three years from now and I answer the phone.” You’re like, “Lisa, you wouldn’t believe what the last three years have been like.” Sitting down and imagining where you would like to be in three years. It’s even a year at the end of 2020 and sometimes it is hard to envision it out too far, but to talk about literally out loud.
I love using my app on my phone. My notes can record and transcribe. It’ll have it all down then I can send it to my email, but I’ll sit there and talk through, “In three years, I can’t believe it. I thought all I wanted to be making was this, the clients or the impact. This is what I’m doing. This is where I am.” Talking it through and connecting to it, emotionally. We do things because of our emotions and because of our feelings. We can be thinking we need to do something, but it’s the emotion that compels us into action. Talk it through to play around with it and see what connects. You’ll see there are certain things. You’re going to start going down this path and talking about it and you’re going to get excited.
Authenticity creates the action steps and the productivity that we need to get where it is that we want to be moving. Click To Tweet What comes up is not necessarily what you thought. That’s your assignment to help you to gain greater clarity. Whether you think you have it or not, whether you have goals written down or not, this can help you with the process and it can further deepen the process is do that. Turn on your phone onto a record and pretend like you’re talking to a friend that you haven’t seen for a year. Tell them about all that you’ve achieved, how excited you are about it, how you got there, why it was important and what’s different in your life. That is a great exercise and I’m excited to hear back from people. Hopefully, they’ll let us know what that did for them.
To add to that quickly, then turn that up a notch. What would it look like 25% more? Play around with it. We get into action because of our thoughts. We need to be thinking about what it is that we want to do. Don’t get focused on the, “How am I going to do it?” That’s not going to stop it right there, play. The second tip that I truly recommend is looking at your identity and looking at your self-image. We will not do anything inconsistent with who we believe ourselves to be. I like to say, we all know someone around us, whether it’s a friend, a colleague or a family member that’s not living up to their full or true potential because of their belief about themselves. Same thing as for us. We don’t see it quite as well. Looking at what is our self-image because our image defines our actions of what we’ll do or what we’ve simply won’t do. We might start doing something, but we create this goal and we might do 1 or 2 actions to move towards it, but then we fall back.
We sabotage when we stop because we don’t see ourselves in that place. “I’m not a million-dollar earner.” We don’t think about it. It’s unconscious, but we unconsciously sabotage ourselves.
Once we’ve set this goal and we don’t follow through with the habits that we want to follow through on, then we lose belief in ourselves and then we stop. One thing to say, “I’m a person who wants.” Another thing for a person to say, “I am this because we live into who we believe we are.” Those habits, you need to start slowly and small to create the habits for the identity that you are moving towards.
As it relates to work-life alignment, that can go across various aspects of that identity. You’re speaking my language. I love this stuff. Let’s help people understand. What is it that’s going to be that action for them to get more into their work-life alignment with that identity and with those habits?
After we put things on our plate, we feel, “I should be good at this. I should be good at that. I should add this. I should want this.” We don’t look at what our identity is. Our identity creates our habits, and our habits define our identity, our self-image. One of the things to look at is, what are 1 or 2 habits that you could implement that would lay the foundation for that image, that identity that you want and need to be that person that you want to be? This comes back to a goal is a place to come from, not get to. As a healthy person, my choice would be the salad and not the pizza. As a person who is looking to increase my sales by 50% is going to be picking up the phone and making those sales calls and not watching cat videos on Facebook.

TBT 105 | True Work-Life Alignment

True Work-Life Alignment: Our identity creates our habits, and our habits define our identity, our self-image.

The more that we do that and the more that we cast the votes towards that identity, we’re creating the habits that allow us to define what does alignment looks like to us. The aligned action for where we’re headed is choosing to pick up the phone. The aligned action is, “I don’t want to go to the networking event, but this is who I am and this is the goal that I want. I’m going to go and do it. I may only walk in and stay for five minutes, but I’m going to get myself there.” Once you’re there, you’re probably going to stay for longer. There are many different avenues. Get the ball rolling so that you’re aligning your actions to the goals so that you can be appropriate and step forward in aligning your actions with who you want and need to be.
I love talking about identity, but for some people it’s like, “That’s too heavy. That’s too deep. That’s too much.” I like what you said about bringing down into what it is aligning our choices. The goals that we set and our choices. It’s the actions that we’re taking those habits. When we take actions that are going to align with what’s important to us, our health and doing the thing that’s right for us versus the easiest thing. The problem is we default to what’s easy.
Even if it’s not creating the success we want.
That makes the connection for people to understand that’s how we reinforce the identity that we want to be at that level of reaching that goal that we might not be fully stepping into that, but that’s how we do that is through our actions and our choices.
We’re aligning it. How many of us have said, “I’m horrible at the time, at productivity, at math, at writing?” Therefore, we live our thoughts at the beginning of an action that directly impacts the outcome of the activity and the action that we’re about to take. We are looking at what is my belief? Do I believe I’m horrible at writing? If I know I need to do it, then what are the skillsets that I need to get myself more adept at it and then aligning my actions to where I want to go.
What I love is there’s the tool. Let’s use that as the tool for everybody is what’s the thought that happens before you take action. Is it empowering you to take and make the right choice and the best choice? Is it giving you the easiest direction? One of the things that I might suggest here is I had a client do this where he has a jar and he puts money in the jar every time. It’s a disempowering thought. That way, he can see what it costs him. You’ll see in terms of your results, but it’s fun to see it as the jar piles up for you to be able to see in terms of money and what it costs you.
That’s fun to say it out loud. It’s helpful to say it out loud. “I’m not going to go to the networking event because I don’t feel like it. I’m going to sit on the sofa and have some popcorn and watch a movie.”
We need to slow down to be able to gain clarity of where it is that we want to go and who it is that we want to be. Click To Tweet That’s a good one. How does that make you feel?
That will make you uncomfortable. It makes you look in the mirror when you say it out loud. This is where we get tripped up. It’s simple, the look can kill you, why do we smile? It’s not easy. That’s where we get tripped up and that’s where we need to shift our identity and how we’re showing up and aligning our actions.
The interesting thing about those choices is that when we make the choices that are good for us, we feel good afterward. This is a way to know if you’re not making good choices. We feel bad after we make an easy choice, but doesn’t get us the result we want. We beat ourselves up and then we do it again.
We keep doing the things that we don’t want to do and we keep getting the results that we don’t want to get. We can’t figure out what’s going on. Our brain releases a chemical when we check something off from our to-do list. Have you ever written something on your to-do list after you’ve done it to check it off?
I haven’t, but I know people who do that.
It releases a chemical in the brain that makes us want to do more. It’s putting on your sneakers to go out for a walk and saying, “I’m going to do two minutes,” but feeling that dopamine and you’re like, “I’m going to do half an hour.”
What’s the third thing? Let people know where they can talk to you further.

TBT 105 | True Work-Life Alignment

True Work-Life Alignment: Those of us who don’t have the structure in our lives are constantly short on time, on money, and the emotional feeling of success.

The third thing is taking your clarity and understanding of what your choices are or time chunking. What I like to do is either Friday afternoon or Sunday evening, I’ll sit down and I will time chunk out. I color code and time chunk out my weeks on my Google calendar. I’m working on my CRM or Customer Relationship Management. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the days that I’m working with my clients. Mondays and Fridays are admin, all of these different things. When I know where I want to go, then I gained clarity on the action steps that I need to have. I make sure that the color coding and time chunks how you want to do it in my calendar are aligned to the prioritization of the actions that I need to take.
Often, the urgent gets put to the front burner and the important gets put on the back. When we have clarity and we can look at our calendar and say, “I’m not working on that,” It allows us to say no to adding more to our plate so that we know that the actions that we’re taking are moving us closer to our goal. I keep a little scratch pad beside my computer when either an idea pops up or I need to reply to an email. I take it out of my head and I pop it down. If there’s the time at the end of the day or the end of the week, then I will go through and do it. I’m prioritizing my actions to achieve what we want. I don’t know about you, but a lot of the people that I work with are entrepreneurs. We tend to be somewhat creative. They’re like, “I don’t like structure.” My thing is structure equals freedom. How many people do you know that have the structures in their lives and they have the freedom to do the things that they want to do? Those of us who don’t have the structure in our lives, we’re constantly short on time, on money and the emotional feeling of success. Take some time, slow down, fill up your gas tank, gain clarity, figure out what the prioritization is that you need to do, what you need to do to be appropriate at that moment and time chunk it out.
I feel like I’m listening to myself. I’m smiling because we use a lot of similar phrases, but that goes to show you the best practices. They don’t need to be created here. It doesn’t have to be something new. These things work. This is good stuff. Thank you for sharing your wisdom in such an inspiring way. Tell people where they can reach you.
You can go to my website, or LinkedIn is where I do most of my social media, @LisaDanforth. I like to keep things nice and simple. If you want to email me, it’s
People are always looking for some tools and some things that may support them, electronically or by paper. What are your top two tools that you can’t live without?
My top one is my CRM, my Customer Relationship Management tool. What I love about that is it helps me to look good, to be honest with you. When I meet people, whether it’s out networking or maybe I’ve met with someone who said, “I would love to meet with you, but we’re selling our house. I can’t even think about it until June.” I go home, I write down all of the details of the conversation. I answer all the contact information into my CRM and then create a task to follow back up. I’ve taken all of the information out of my head. I’ve plopped it into my notes so when it’s time to pick up the phone, instead of, “Who was that I was supposed to get back with in June? I can’t remember.” I got all of the information. Maybe she was moving to Southern Vermont, but she was traveling to France, in between and whatnot. I can come back in and I’m picking up the conversation and I’ve had all that information right at my fingertips. It may sound awful, but I haven’t thought about it well much for months. What I did do was set myself up for success so that I can serve her at the level that she needs to be served by utilizing my CRM.
A goal is to be appropriate at the moment so that we can make appropriate choices. Click To Tweet You have that reminder because you already put that task in to remind you in three months that you need to make that call. What tool is it that you use for CRM?
I use Pipedrive. It’s $15 a month. Less Annoying CRM or LACRM is another one. I don’t like it quite as much because it’s not as visual, which for me, it is more compelling and that’s $10 a month. If you want the crème de la crème, Nimble is the one that connects all of the social media and all that.
There are many great tools. I use HubSpot. It’s free and it also provides me with a lot of integration with other tools and things. There’s a ton of different tools out there. The key is I wanted people to know what you’re using, why you’re using it and what’s great about it. Is there anything else that you’d want to share as a tool that you think would be beneficial for the group?
I love this tool. It’s called Asana. It’s a project management software. It’s free. You can bring people into a project that you have. You can have different workspaces. I have my private workspace. I have my business workspace. I’m on the leadership team for the eWomenNetwork, Burlington chapter. We’ve got that workspace. Everything is separate and you can break things down into activities. Let’s say each January you start a five-day challenge. You can copy it each year and put your notes in. You don’t have to be reinventing the wheel every single time.
You can use templates. There are project templates you can use in Asana. It’s good.
You can assign dates and pins. What I also love is each project has its email address. If you go into my contact list, I’ve got several Asana emails. When an email comes in, I can start typing, Asana, it’ll have the list. I’ll click on the appropriate one and it will immediately drop it into that project that I can go through and sort. It’s easy and it’s free. There is a paid version, but you don’t need huge. You don’t need that.
I think that’s another key thing. There are lots of great free tools and I want to put out there. I do ask people, “What tools are out there?” For readers, you’re going to get some great tool ideas, but remember that it’s not about the tool, it’s about the process that you create in using the tool. Don’t go tool happy and jump from this tool to that tool because you think it has a few more features or whatnot. It’s not working, not because of the tool, but because of the way you’re using it.

TBT 105 | True Work-Life Alignment

True Work-Life Alignment: If you are ever at a crossroads of what your decision needs to be, slow down and listen to yourself.

It is the habits that we have. We need consistent habits that reinforce us, as a person, who uses the CRM. Stay consistent with our clients potentially.
Is there anything else that you wanted to share with our audience before we close out the session?
Other than stay authentic, trust yourself, trust your gut, you know what you need most. If you are ever at a crossroads of what your decision needs to be, how to be appropriate at the moment, slow down and listen to yourself. I’ve never known anyone who when they do that, that their choices are wrong.
Thanks, Lisa. I appreciate you being here.
Thank you. This was a lot of fun.
It is my pleasure. Thank you for being here because you’re an important part of this process. We would love to hear your feedback, especially when you put these things into practice and hear how they worked for you. Another great thing is when something works for you, share it, like you’re going to share this show with your friends to tell them that you learned a couple of great tools. You learn some great tips. That’s what this is all about. Help us to grow the community so that we can better serve you. We will see you in the next episode. Thank you.

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About Lisa Danforth

TBT 105 | True Work-Life AlignmentOn paper, Lisa is a Business Strategist, Coach, and Speaker.
For real, she helps women business owners and leaders identify and create the boundaries that build a bridge to creating true work-life alignment, aka, Balance & Fulfillment. In the process, her clients learn to flip the self-sabotaging stories they’re wired to tell themselves so they can create more impact and income with less overwhelm and more joy.
Over the course of the past 27-years, Lisa has founded and operated two catering companies: The Wooden Spoon & Hot Betty BBQ, a professional cleaning company, an international wholesale children’s wear company which she sold for over 35x her initial opening investment, and for the last 4-years as a Business Strategist.
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