Tiffany Dufu is the chief leadership officer to Levo, a fast-growing network for millennial women, and is involved with many endeavors related to making the world a better place. Her new book just hit the shelves, and with a title like that, I knew I couldn’t wait to check it out. How could I resist Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less? It’s a memoir and manifesto about “the ability to let go.”
I was eager to hear what Tiffany had to say about happiness, habits, achievement, and all the rest.
Gretchen: What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?
Tiffany: Dancing to pop music all by myself in my bedroom.
In my head I’m in a music video. I used to do this when I was a little girl and I remember thinking that I never wanted to grow up because I wouldn’t be able to do it anymore. But I still do…every night. The only difference is that I used to blast Janet Jackson and now it’s Beyonce.
What’s something you know now about forming healthy habits that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
That the healthy part is forgiving yourself when you break them.
Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?
There is a chair in my bedroom where I habitually throw clothes after I take them off or when they come out of the dryer. I haven’t sat in the chair since I nursed my daughter in it when she was an infant. She’s seven. Every time I look at the pile of clothes (you can’t actually see the chair anymore) I’m unhappy.
Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)
In Drop the Ball I write about my four Go To’s – habits that have helped me to flourish at work and in life. They include going to the gym (building my stamina), going to lunch (building my network), going to events (building my visibility) and going to sleep (building my renewal).
Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?
I used to get about five hours of sleep a night. It wasn’t enough, but I felt sleep deprivation was par for the course for every working mother. In order to get more sleep, I basically had to get more office work done while I was still at the office so that I wasn’t up late at night checking off professional to-dos along with the personal ones.
I implemented three strategies to make it happen. The first was using a device to limit the time I spent at work in ad hoc conversations that were presented as “Hey do you have five minutes?” but would turn into thirty. Whenever someone would stop by my desk I’d confirm how much time they needed and I’d set the timer. You’d be surprised how quickly people can get to the point when the clock is ticking! The second strategy was to schedule meetings for 30 or 45 minutes instead of defaulting to an hour. The third was to ask in person or over the telephone, whenever someone sent me an email meeting calendar invite, “Are you sure you need me in this meeting?” Seventy percent of the time people would rescind their invitation and give me back the time. So often people send calendar invites without being thoughtful about which stakeholders need to be in meetings to achieve results. Unless I’m working on something major, I get eight hours of sleep now each night. And I’m much happier.
Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?
Only an Upholder would need to write a book called Drop the Ball.
[Actually, Tiffany, that is much truer of an Obliger!]
Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits? (e.g. travel, parties)
Yes, my desire to delight my family. For example, I really should steer clear of gluten, but my family loves my buttermilk biscuits. Also, the morning is the best time for me to go to the gym, but on the weekends my family likes to snuggle on the couch and watch Star Wars Rebels. Resistance is futile.
Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you changed a major habit very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?
Yes! A few years ago I was watching a Levo interview with Rory Vaden, author of Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success. Through his interviews with successful leaders he had discovered that all of them have one thing in common: they’ve formed the habit of doing things they know they should be doing, even if they don’t feel like doing it. Our Levo offices were on the fourth floor and I always took the elevator. In fact, I didn’t even know where the stairwell was. That night, inspired by Rory’s video, I found the stairs, and I never went back to taking the elevator up or down.
Do you embrace habits or resist them?
Embrace. They’ve helped me to drop the ball on unrealistic expectations of myself. I can always go back and trace my progress. They make me proud of myself.
Has another person ever had a big influence on your habits?
My father. He’s a ritualist. He eats Kellogg’s Raisin Bran every morning. He reads “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” every Martin Luther King Day. He’s never lost a set of keys.
More on Tiffany Dufu.