Episode 27 | August 30, 2016

The Productive Woman with Laura McClellan


A Personal Note from Orion

For many women who juggle careers, relationships, family, children, and their own well being, the 24 hours in a day does not seem like enough.  The truth is, once you discover your passions and priorities in life, you can weed out the things that do no serve you and actually drain you from living each day to the fullest.  Once you do this, you’ll be amazed at how much  time you gain in your day to focus on what’s important to you.  There are so many great tools out there that you can use to keep yourself organized, on track, and able to accomplish your goals.  The first step is going to be to figure out what is important to you, and develop the discipline to keep stepping forward towards those goals.  Remember, it’s ok to say ‘no’ to those projects, tasks, or people that drain you and do not serve your ultimate happiness.

 

 

About Today’s Show

‏‏Laura McClellan has been married for over 37 years to the same man. She says, she was a child bride. She is a mom to five, grandmother to seven, and an attorney in a large Dallas law firm. After hours, she hosts The Productive Woman, a weekly podcast about productivity for busy women and facilitates paid Mastermind groups for women seeking encouragement, motivation, and accountability pursuing their goals and making lives that matter. During her spare time, Laura is polishing her first novel, a winner in several fiction contests. Hello, Laura! Welcome to the show!

‏‏Hello, Orion! I am so happy to be here. Thank you for having me!

‏‏Thank you for being here! Today, you’re going to teach us how to be a little more productive and get a little more out of our day in business and our lives, and that’s really exciting to me.

‏‏Well, I’m happy to help.

‏‏Yeah, thank you! Let’s start with you just sharing a little bit about yourself-where did all of this fascination about productivity stem from?

‏‏Well, I’m sad to say that I’ve always been kind of a productivity nerd even clear back in middle school and high school. I always liked reading books about time management and organization, and I just love checklists and charts and stuff like that. My mom used to kind of tease me about it. It just was always an interest of mine, and so I studied and read various books and articles and stuff and learned a lot of things. As it happens, it turned out to be a useful thing for me as I got older and married and had a bunch of kids, and then went to law school and served practicing law, then it really became kind of a survival mechanism to get everything done that I needed to do.

‏‏Do you find that you’re more productive than most people on earth?

‏‏Oh, I don’t think so. I’m able to do what I need to do, but I’m not superwoman by any means.

‏‏Yeah, that’s what all superwomen say. “I’m not THAT amazing!” Well, let’s see about that! What is the biggest challenge you find that people are having when it comes to being productive?

‏‏Well, that’s such a great question, and it varies from person to person, but mostly, of course, who I talk to are women in various stages of their life, and a lot of them, and I say that it’s just kind of funny because I just was reading some applications for my upcoming Mastermind groups and I asked them what their challenges are, and for a for a lot of them it’s just trying to juggle everything, trying to stay focused on the things that are most important and not get distracted by all the stuff coming at them. People coming with requests and just keeping the priorities in order.

‏‏Right, and is it the same with men and women?

‏‏Oh I think. You know I get asked that question a lot since my show focuses on women, but I have a lot of friends who are in the productivity space, and they ask me, “Why women? Why are you focusing on women? Is it different for them?” and I think the principles of productivity are the same regardless of gender or age. I think the challenges in many ways are the same because in 21st century life, there’s just so much information coming at us, so many things distracting us, calling for attention, and I think those things are the same for all. I think women tend to experience it a little differently. Women. From the conversations I’ve had and from what I’ve felt myself, women tend to feel like they’re doing it wrong whatever that means. Whatever they’re focusing on, they sort of feel like maybe they’re not doing it very well, or they should be doing something else, where a lot of times men are able to sort of look at what needs to be done, make a decision, just go for it, and feel okay about it.

The principles of productivity are the same regardless of gender or age. Click To Tweet

‏‏Yeah. That is true with men and women, in general. Not only when it comes to productivity.

‏‏I think you’re absolutely right. Women-I’m not sure why it is. I mean, maybe because we are, and I hate to stereotype because there are exceptions to every rule, but just in general, there seems to be-you know, women are very relational-oriented-relationship-oriented-and we feel like the things that we’re doing affect the people that we care about, and we want to do it right.

‏‏Yeah, I notice that with my partner. I can see things that he can’t see when it comes to relationship and empathy and stuff like that. He’s like, “Really? That just happened?” and I’m like, “Yeah, didn’t you see her/him? Didn’t you see their facial expression?” He’s completely oblivious. I feel like as women, we take it in more than men.

‏‏Yeah. We personalize it in a way that I think they don’t. Again, it’s not everybody all the time, but women tend to take it very personally and like you were saying, we see those reactions, we try to interpret them, we’re trying to take care of people, and keep making people happy whereas, in general, men tend to be more okay with being kind of rational about things and just doing what they think is right.

‏‏Right. What are the top reasons you find why people are not productive? What are the top reasons why people are not productive?

‏‏Oh, I think it varies, but I think, these days, what I see a lot is, distraction. People trying to take on too much, not being very good at saying “no,” or weeding out what’s the most important and what’s less important. Trying to carry too much in your head, and instead of writing it down or having a system for capturing whether they are tasks that you need to do or information you’re going to need later, we try to carry it around in our heads. Our brains are meant for having ideas, not for warehousing them so those are some things, but I think maybe the number one these days is just so many distractions-so many sources of information. We’re always looking at our phones, there’s just so much coming at us, and it makes it hard to stay focused on working on things that matter, really, a lot to us.

‏‏Right. What are the principles of productivity?

‏‏Oh, my goodness.

‏‏You just mentioned it. You said that with men and women, they’re always the same principles of productivity so, the way you see it, what are the principles of productivity?

‏‏Well, I guess, if I was going to sort of distill it, it’s understanding that time is a finite resource, and we all have the same 24 hours in a day, and we can’t do everything so we have to make choices about what to do with our time-with those 24 hours that we have. We all have limited resources in terms of time, energy, and attention that have to be allocated amongst the various things that we could be doing. For me, I don’t know, I think the most important key is, taking the time to really think about what’s important to you, and have that as a backdrop for the decisions you make from day-to-day about where to spend your time, your attention, and your energy.

Take the time to really think about what’s important to you, and have that as a backdrop for the decisions you make from day-to-day about where to spend your time, your attention, and your energy.

‏‏Mm-hmm. We talked about all the distractions and people getting A.D.D and having the Shiny Object Syndrome. How do you deal with that? If somebody who is a little bit scattered and a little bit disorganized, how do they deal with their time management?

‏‏Well, I think the process is going to be the same for everybody. It depends on what the symptoms are that a person is dealing with. If they’re just not getting the things done that they want to do because they’re starting things and not finishing them, or it depends on what the issue is, but for example, if an issue that a person is dealing with is that they start things, but they don’t finish them, and they’ve got lots of different things going on, then I think that person is going to need to take some time to do some thinking about what her or his priorities are-what really matters most to him or her. To me, it starts with sitting down with a pad of paper and a pencil or pen and writing down everything that’s on your mind-getting it all out of your head onto a piece of paper that you can look at and say, “All right, these are all the things that I have been thinking about and that I need to do. All right, what’s the most important to me? Where are my priorities?” For me, the number one priority is relationships so I’m always going to value that over other things that that might call for my attention. You have to have those guiding principles to help you choose from among the various things that you could be doing.

‏‏Mm-hmm. I know somebody-a friend of mine who’s got a to-do list of over 2,000 to-do’s, and there’s no way in the world that he will be able to manage that. He’s very creative and he comes up with tons of ideas, but he always feels behind.

‏‏Yeah, I think a lot of us feel that. I feel that way sometimes. I’m very good about-I’ve got my task manager, and when I have an idea for something-whether it’s something I know I need to do or a different project that I might want to do, I always put that into my task manager to evaluate later, and it can add up after a while. You can have, like you just described, hundreds and hundreds of things in there, but again, it starts with taking a step back and thinking really deeply about what kind of person do you want to be, what kind of a life you want to create for yourself, what are the principles that matter most to you in life-whether it’s generosity, relationships, or however you want to define it-and then, with that big picture in mind, the idea of what kind of life do I want to make for myself and the people I care about, have a really clear picture of that in your head, then go back to that list of 2,000 tasks or projects and go through them and say, “Am I really going to do this?” Delete it if it’s not. Make those decisions.

‏‏Yeah, it’s hard. I feel like people get really attached to their ideas. They won’t be so keen on deleting them.

‏‏You’re absolutely right, but the fact is, if you’re not going to do it right now-if you’re not going to do anything about it right now-and it’s distracting you to have all this stuff in there, then you have to weed some things out. If it’s something that’s really meant to be, deleting it will make it go away. It’s going to keep coming back to you. If that’s the case, then make a decision to do something about it.

‏‏Yeah. I love that answer. I really like it Is that. It’s like decluttering your closet-it brings you more joy.

‏‏Yup! It’s exactly the same thing. There are lots of people out there-professional organizers and different people-that teach about organizing your space, decluttering your closet, getting rid of clothes you don’t wear, and all of that kind of stuff. Well, in 2016, we have more digital clutter than anything else, and the same principles apply. If your mind is constantly being distracted because of all this digital clutter, all these things on your list or whatever, then it’s time to give some thought to deleting some of that stuff. You’re not saying you’re never going to do it. You’ve just made a decision, “I’m not going to do it right now, and I’m going to take it off the table so it’s not there to be continually distracting me-”

‏‏Right.

‏‏“-so I can focus on what’s really important to me right now.”

‏‏Yeah, and dealing with the apps and program clutter, it’s super important because it’s not going to go away. It’s only going to get worse in the future. They’re only developing more apps. The social engineers are getting better and better at making those apps addictive. Let’s say you have a million apps in your phone and you want to get rid of them, how do you choose? How do you manage your time with those apps-Facebook, Twitter, social media, and all that?

‏‏Well, I mean, if you’ve got dozens and dozens of apps on your phone, and you’re finding yourself distracted and spending more time than you want to looking at your phone and messing with things, there are a couple of things you could do. You could take everything off your phone and then just delete everything, except the things that come with it so, the phone app and whatever those things that you use every day, you can either take it off entirely or put everything into a folder so you just have a pretty clean screen, and then when you need an app, pull it out of that folder, put it on your home page, and it’s there. Anything that is still in that folder after you set the time-a week, a month, or however long-delete it. You don’t need it because you’re not using it.

‏‏Right. For me, myself, I still find difficulty because I think, in the bottom of it, there is some sort of an addiction. I developed a Facebook addiction that is getting better, but I can’t avoid Facebook. I can’t take it out of my phone because I use it for marketing-

‏‏Sure.

‏‏I’m a coach, but also a marketer-you have to be both.

‏‏Yes.

‏‏So, I’ll have to communicate with my group, and I’ll have to communicate with some people on private messages and all that stuff. How does somebody like me deal with that without deleting the app?

‏‏Well, yeah. I mean, I’m in exactly the same situation. First of all, I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family, but I also use it from a business perspective. I have a private Facebook group for listeners of The Productive Woman, and, of course, I’m going to interact with those people, but you’re absolutely right-it is addictive. There’s something about it. When we look in there and we say, “Ooh, I’ve got an alert,” or “Oh, somebody has left a message for me,” we get that little hit of dopamine that makes us feel good, and you can be stuck in there for hours. I think what you have to do is, make a decision ahead of time about how much time you can spend in there. Let’s say, in Facebook-what do you need to do in there to maintain the relationships and do the marketing that you need to do? You don’t have to be in there all day to do that. Make a decision ahead of time of when you’re going to check, and then close the app other than those times. If it’s an important part of your business, those times may be four or five times a day, but you can get it done in five minutes each time and not an hour-and-a-half.

‏‏Right, and it goes back to discipline.

‏‏Yeah.

‏‏What do you do or tell your clients to do to develop that discipline?

‏‏Discipline is a habit. You have to develop a habit a little bit at a time, and in order to keep yourself focused on it, you need to know why you’re doing it. You have to have a really good “why.” Why do you want to spend less time in Facebook? Because-and it’s going to be different for everybody-maybe it’s because you want to have more time to do some other specific thing. Remind yourself of that “why” and work on developing the habit. For me, I still struggle with this because my phone-I use an iPhone-and it’s my lifeline and my connection to the rest of the world. For a long time, it was never more over than two feet away from me. It would never be out of arm’s reach, it was on my bedside table, and I would wake up in the night and check emails and stuff because I’m a lawyer by day. I was not getting enough rest. I was distracted all the time because this thing was just always talking to me so I turned off almost all the alerts and I put my phone somewhere else at night. I had to do it a little bit at a time. I’d leave it in a different room on the weekend. Leave it in my bedroom while I went to the kitchen and did some things or something like that. Gradually, it built up my ability to not have that in my hand all the time and not be looking at it all the time. I persuade myself that nobody’s going to die if I don’t respond to their email within 30 seconds after I get it.

Discipline is a habit. You have to develop a habit a little bit at a time, and in order to keep yourself focused on it, you need to know why you’re doing it. Click To Tweet

‏‏Mm-hmm. I love your perspective on discipline-that discipline is a habit. When I think about discipline, for me, it’s more like restriction. It’s more like being caged after being disciplined. It’s like being in an army. When you change perspective and you’re like, “Oh, discipline is just a habit I can build,” for me, personally, I can deal with that. That sounds good.

‏‏It’s a matter of realizing that it’s your choice. You get to choose how you spend your time. You can choose to do whatever you want, but some things are going to have better results for you than others.

‏‏Right. Yes, please.

‏‏No, that was all I was going to say about that.

‏‏So, discipline is an act of freedom?

‏‏Mm-hmm. Absolutely! It’s creating a structure and, maybe, putting some limits on certain things you’re doing because there are other things that you want to do more or other results that you want more. If you’re not getting the results that you want for your day or for your life with, say, how much time you’re spending on Facebook, then you can make a choice to confine that Facebook time to certain periods of the day so that you can get the results that you want in other areas.

‏‏Yeah, that’s great. What do you do to keep yourself productive? Do you have a little ritual in the morning or at night?

‏‏I have my routines that I do each day. I’m kind of a routine-oriented person. I like predictability, which is interesting because every once in a while, I get bored with my own routines and I decide to change things, but I have certain things. I get up in the morning, I do certain things, and then I check-I look at my calendar and I think about what’s coming up for the day, what needs to be taken care of, I check my email, and deal with the things that I need to do. I’ve recently, in fact just today, released and published a new episode of The Productive Woman where I talked about how I have recently been experimenting with using a bullet journal, which is a notebook version of a to-do List-slash-journal, and people who listen to the show know that I’m a tech nut. I love my iPhone and I love my digital task managers and stuff, but I’ve been trying out a bullet journal just because a lot of people talk about it, and I really like it because I’ve developed a little ritual in the evening before I go to bed of creating my page in the journal for the next day, deciding the two or three-no more than five-most important tasks that I want to get done the next day, and writing them in there on that page and kind of getting everything set up so that when I get up in the morning, I know what I’m going to start my day with. Those kinds of things are really important to me-to kind of have a routine in place and decisions already made for the routine stuff so that I can use my brain power on the creative stuff that I need to do both for my job as a lawyer, for the podcast, and different things like that.

‏‏Hmm. I want to go back to the advice you gave before when you said, “Find your why,” and I really loved it. It actually reminds me of an exercise I did at a Tony Robbins seminar-The Dickens Process. It’s where you look at your life now and if something will not change, if you keep doing the things that you’re doing, what will life look like in a year, three years, five years, and then ten years, and then you go there and you intensified a feeling, and it’s excruciating. It’s a visceral feeling of what life would be like if nothing’s going to change, if we’re not going to grow or improve, and you go there and you feel the pain and then the “why” becomes really strong enough, but then when he reverses it, where he’s saying, “Imagine that you have this new habits. Imagine that you change yourself. What will life be like in a year, three years, five years, or ten years? You actually see the bright future, feel it in your body, and feel it in your heart so, that’s a great process to do to really feel what would life be like you I’ll keep not being productive or organized or just letting my time go? What would life be like in a few years from now? And then when you feel the pain of what’s going to happen if nothing’s going to change, and then you go to the pleasure of what will happen if things will change, that can definitely lit a fire under your ass to become more disciplined and more productive, especially now with your new definition, for me, of discipline, which is more connected to freedom.

‏‏Yeah. I think that’s such a great exercise to do, and it’s something I really recommend. There’s a big difference between being busy and being productive. We can be busy, busy, busy doing stuff all day long and really never accomplish anything because we have no objective in mind, and so, in my opinion, to be truly productive, it’s not about checking lots of stuff off your to-do list and it’s not about getting lots of more stuff done, but it’s about getting the right stuff done. The only way to know what the right stuff is for you to know where you want to be, where are you trying to get, what kind of life are you trying to create for yourself, and what kind of person do you want to be. If you have that image in your mind of who this person is that I want to be and what I want my life to look like, then it becomes much easier to decide-should I do this thing today or should I do that thing? If I want to be the kind of person who is active, energetic, and well into my old age, then that’s going to help me decide should I go work out today or should I lie on the couch and watch TV? One of the things that I recommend doing is, projecting yourself into the future-the future that you want-and just journaling this. Writing what’s your ideal day, what did you do today, what time did you get up, who was with you, what things did you do all day, and how are you feeling. Get that image in your mind of that “you” whether it’s a year from now or five years from now, and then sit down to write a letter to yourself from that self-from your future self. Telling your future self, telling your current self, “Here’s what I’d like you to do so that we can have this life three years from now. This is what you need to do today.”

‏‏And it’s nice to go back to that letter.

‏‏Yeah.

‏‏I have a vision board, and I have a letter like that on my vision board.

‏‏Nice!

‏‏It’s really nice. I like reading it every once in a while.

‏‏Well, it’s all about having a destination in mind. You can’t plan your route if you don’t know where you’re going.

‏‏Yeah. Unless you just like driving forever.

‏‏Exactly. Exactly!

‏‏Can you give me a case study of your clients like where they were and what happened to them after they got more productive with your guidance?

‏‏Well, I mean, I can give an example of one of the women who is in one of my current Mastermind groups. We’ve been working together for a couple of months now-almost three months. When she came to the Mastermind group, her goal for the three months was, she really wanted to start a kind of a lifestyle blog that is kind of targeting people who live, say, in a small apartment in the city and how to make that beautiful and comfortable and all those sorts of things, and she’s very talented at that. We do these Masterminds by video conference so we could see her apartment behind her, and it was just really peaceful and pretty. What she’s been able to accomplish in the two-and-a-half months or so that we’ve been working together was, she got that blog launched. She had wanted to do that for a long time, but just never could get herself going. However, working together and talking through the steps, breaking it down into the small steps that she needed to do, and having somebody to be accountable to-this isn’t me saying this-this is what she told me and she said that it made a difference for her. I mean, her blog’s just beautiful. I am really excited for her and the things that she’s doing.

‏‏Hey, congratulations to you both!

‏‏Well, I mean, she’s the one who did it, but sometimes having somebody to talk to, to brainstorm ideas and solutions for the things that are blocking you, and just to hold you accountable can make all the difference in the world. That’s something I recommend to people who feel like they’re stuck, who just can’t make any progress on whatever that goal is that they’ve had in mind for ages-it’s really important to them and they really want to do, but they just can’t seem to get any traction-get somebody to be accountable to, join a Mastermind, get a coach to work with, or, even just an accountability partner who will listen to you, hear what it is that you want to do, and hold your feet to the fire a little bit. It can make a huge difference.

Get a coach to work with, or, even just an accountability partner who will listen to you, hear what it is that you want to do, and hold your feet to the fire a little bit. It can make a huge difference.

‏‏Right. I definitely believe in coaching and accountability. I still have and had numerous coaches-whether it’s one-on-one-I had a time where I had four coaches for four different things-

‏‏Yeah.

‏‏And I love it. It’s just saving time.

‏‏Yeah.

‏‏We’re talking about time management-you save time.

‏‏Oh, absolutely! I mean, I just came off of a three month stretch where I was working with a coach on some particular things that I wanted to make progress on related to my business. It was just hugely motivating to me to know that every week I was going to sit down and talk to her. We did a video conference, and she was going to ask me, “Okay, you set this goal last week, did you accomplish it?” Well, sometimes, I got it done like the hour before our meeting, but knowing that she was going to ask me that was just the extra boost that I needed. It’s not like I think I’ve got all the answers and now, I’m just here to coach other people-not at all. I work with coaches and I work with people. You always need to be learning. You always have something to learn and some area you need to grow in. When you stop doing that, things kind of grind to a halt in your life.

‏‏When you don’t grow, you die.

‏‏Yeah. That’s exactly right.

‏‏Exactly right. For your client, I’m going to be attending a conference tomorrow. It’s called BlogHer. It’s a conference for women bloggers-

‏‏Uh-huh.

‏‏It happens once a year so, maybe for this one, it’s too late. It happens here in LA. I don’t know where she’s from, but maybe for next year, she can just come and join other bloggers like her and learn a lot about their marketing behind it, the mindset behind it, and just make new connections and have a great time.

‏‏That’s a great idea! Having just having a group-well, it’s like you and I met at Podcast Movement.

‏‏Oh my God, yes! That was fun!

‏‏How motivating was that to be there with like-minded people whom you could learn from and just hang out with and who speak the same language? I think that’s such a huge boost for anything that you want to do like that.

‏‏Yeah. I got so inspired after that. I got a second wind for my podcast. I got focused on my mission and why I’m doing that and, maybe, even if I can inspire one or two people that are listening in and make their life better and make their day better, I’m good.

‏‏Yeah. That’s exactly how I feel. I mean, I started The Productive Woman a little over two years ago now, and for me, it’s knowing that that if I can have help one person feel better or feel like they’ve learned something or feel like they’ve got a little bit better handle on what they’re trying to accomplish, to me, that’s what it’s all about.

‏‏Mm-hmm. So, Laura, my life is pretty crazy. I travel so much. Recently, I went to Podcast Movement, and the last four days, I was in two different states. I came back home and tomorrow, I’m going to BlogHer and in two weeks, I’m going to Portland, Oregon for World Domination Summit, and I feel like I’m dropping in balls left and right. There’s so much to do! Plus, having my business and I’m planning a wedding-I’m overwhelmed. Help!

‏‏Well, do you have a place where you capture all these things you need to do? A to-do list or a task manager-whether paper or digital?

‏‏Yeah. I’m using an app called Todoist. I just recently bought something that’s called a Passion Planner-I don’t know if you’ve heard of it.

‏‏I’ve heard of it, yeah.

‏‏It’s pretty cool. I started it, but then I feel like I’m running out of time. I planned like three weeks, then I had to go travel, and I forgot about it.

‏‏Well, I think when you’re in a phase of life where you’re traveling a lot and you have a lot of commitments that you need to deal with, planning the wedding, and all those sorts of things-to me, the first step is to, again, take that step back, think about what’s most important right now, and what can I take off my plate for this season. Not to say, I’m never going to do it, but for now, I’m not going to do A, B, C, and D. Some of those things you may just delete from your list, some of them you may defer until later, and some of them you may need to get some help with. I mean, if you’re planning a wedding-are you working with a wedding planner or somebody who can help you with some of that logistical stuff?

‏‏Yes, I do have a wedding planner. It’s in a remote location so she’s more for there-for organizing stuff there, but everything on this side of the planet, I’m responsible too.

‏‏Yeah?

‏‏Yeah.

‏‏Well, can your fiancé help?

‏‏Yeah, he helps, but still, there’s a lot to do.

‏‏Yeah, there is. I would say, make sure you to just get everything written down so you’re not trying to remember things because with your traveling and all the stuff that you’ve got going on, try and remember it all and to keep it in your head is a recipe for disaster. You’re going to end up not sleeping well, you’re going to worry about forgetting things, and you’re not going to be able to enjoy. I mean, planning a wedding should be a fun experience.

‏‏Should be!

‏‏It should be. It absolutely should be and it can be so, get yourself a place where you, whenever you have an idea of something that needs to be done, write it down and then schedule time a few minutes each day and then maybe a little bit longer period of time one day each week where you just kind of go through your list and say, “All right. Have I got everything here? What needs to happen next?” because you can only be doing one thing at any given moment. You don’t have to do all that stuff, you just have to do one little bite at the time.

‏‏Right. So, multitasking is not ideal?

‏‏It is not possible. It is physiologically impossible to multitask. If you’re trying to do multitasking in the sense of doing two or more things at the same time, your brain is actually just shifting among these things very quickly. It’s not a good thing for your brain. It’s not a good thing for your focus. Our brains don’t work that way.

‏‏What do you do to quiet your brain?

‏‏I try to do some meditation. I love the Headspace app.

‏‏Hmm. Yay, another app! Just kidding! No, I agree. It sounds good.

‏‏Because it’s a hard thing for me to do-to quiet my mind. It’s really easy for me to just be gone a million miles a minute thinking of the next thing I’ve got to do, and the thing after that, and the thing after that because I have a lot of things I want to accomplish. There are a lot of things I want to do for the listeners and for the women in my Masterminds and stuff so I have to practice being quiet. I have to, and for me, the Headspace app is a really useful tool for that. I just do a little 10-minute meditations that are guided by this guy with a really cool accent, and I can do that, but it’s a practice.

‏‏That sounds wonderful! I started doing meditations. I am doing going to a center nearby. It’s called Naam Yoga. I had a whole podcast with my teacher, Renata, about it. They do those beautiful meditations where they sing the mantras and they do sound meditations like live sound baths, and it’s just so amazing. Now, when I travel so much, it’s hard, but as we’re speaking, I’m downloading Headspace.

‏‏Yeah. I mean, really. It’s got like a free 10-session thing that you can try and get you kind of exposed to what it does. I was kind of skeptical because I have never been one for meditation and that sort of thing, but I felt the results of just spending that 10 minutes of quiet, of following these guided meditations, and it calmed me down. It gave me some space in my head to be a little bit more at peace. The other thing I do is, when I’m really feeling kind of wired up and stressed out, besides doing one of these meditations is, if you can get outside and go for a walk somewhere and in nature-that can make a huge difference. Leave your phone behind and just go for a walk in a park somewhere or even a cemetery-it’s very quiet and usually, they’re very pretty. I’ve got one that backs up to this apartment where I am right now. There’s a really pretty cemetery back there. Just going for a walk-hear the birds sing, let your heart rate slow down a little bit, and just get away from the digital noise-can make a huge improvement in kind of your peace of mind.

‏‏Wait, what? You told me to leave my phone behind? What?

‏‏I did!

‏‏No!

‏‏I know! Do it! Just for 15 minutes.

‏‏Yeah, that sounds great. How do you keep productive when you’re traveling? Because you’re traveling a lot too.

‏‏Well, there are a couple of things that I do. All the work that I need to do is-all of my devices are synced so that if I have the actual work I need to be productive on, I can do it from wherever I am. I try to be pretty organized about the process when I’m traveling. I pack light. I went to Podcast Movement with just a carry-on and my computer bag. I don’t take a lot of stuff with me that I have to keep track of or schlep around, and I just try to plan for the trip-put an out-of-office message on my email and on my office phone, and I just say, “I’m not going to be checking voicemail at this number while I’m out, but leave a message and I will call you when I’m back in the office,” and like I said, I put an out-of-office message on my email so people know that I’m not going to be responding immediately. I have my routines that I do for when I travel to try and stay as much as possible at peace about it, and get the things done that I need to be done, and still be able to be present at whatever event I’m traveling to.

‏‏Right. It sounds to me like you put boundaries on your time. How do you do that? What type of time boundaries do you keep?

‏‏What do you mean by time boundaries?

‏‏I mean, not allowing people to take up your time.

‏‏Well, this goes back to having that big picture vision of what you want your life to be and what kind of person you want to be. It’s interesting because I’m actually working on the outline for an episode of the podcast about this. I sent a newsletter out to my mailing list on Monday where I talked about having a list of things I don’t do. One of the boundaries I have is, there are certain things that I don’t do. If friends invite me to, say, a party-you know one of those sale parties? “Come to my thing, I’m hosting a party, and I’ll give prizes if people come and buy stuff.” I don’t do those. I don’t go to those. I don’t host them. I’ll buy something to support what you’re doing, but I don’t go. I try not to reply to emails late at night anymore. I mean, I check my email before I go to bed to see if there is anything that’s come in that really truly is urgent, and if not, I’ll wait and deal with it in the morning. Those are some of the things. For me, it’s a matter of always reminding myself, “What am I here on this planet for? What kind of person do I want to be?” I want to have the time and the energy to be generous with the people I love and the people I care about, which includes the people who listen to my podcast so a lot of other things get set aside because I can’t do everything.

‏‏Correct. I love that you’re talking about prioritizing by listening to your heart and by your own personal values. I studied with Dr. John Demartini, and on his website, there is a value assessment where he asks a series of questions. After that questionnaire, you actually know exactly what your priorities are-if it is your body, your relationship, or your career. It’s just a nice thing to know about yourself. If something is number 13 or 14, let’s say, you prioritize relationship, and that’s your top four-relationship is your top four-but money can be on number 17 or whatever, you won’t be excelling in life in the things that are not a priority on your values-like, the priority values.

‏‏Yeah.

‏‏What you do is, you link. Let’s say, number 17 was money and number one was relationships so you link how money can help your relationship, and then you move it higher on your value scale.

‏‏Hmm. It’s very interesting.

‏‏It’s very interesting. It’s amazing. It’s an eye-opener. It’s called The Value Assessment on www.drdemartini.com.

‏‏I have to look for that.

‏‏Yeah, and it can be a really good tool for your clients too.

‏‏Yeah.

‏‏To help them find what their personal drive is. There are so many other ways and systems. I just find the system to be extremely beneficial.

‏‏Yeah.

‏‏Mm-hmm. What are your best digital task managers?

‏‏Well, I’ve tried a couple of different ones, and I don’t think there is one that is the best. It depends on what you want to do with it. I don’t believe a tool is the solution to anything, and I like the tools. I like playing with them. I have used OmniFocus for a very long time, but last year, I started using Nozbe, primarily, for my law practice because OmniFocus is Mac-only, but I’m one lawyer at a very large law firm, and I have to use a Windows-based PC there so OmniFocus didn’t work. Nozbe is available on all platforms, and so that’s the one I have ended up using. There are just lots of things I really like about it. I also like Todoist a lot. I played with that. It’s got a really clean and simple interface so there’s not a lot of distractions when you’re looking at your list. Any number of them can work. It just depends on what you need it to do and what your aesthetic is. Some people just aren’t going to like the look of one apple over another. The best app is the one you’ll use. The best tool is the one you’ll use.

‏‏That’s a good advice. How do you deal with productivity? How can someone deal with productivity issues when they’re going through an emotional time?

‏‏There are two things I guess I could say: The first one, on a practical level, is to be nice to yourself. If you’re going through an emotionally-challenging time, just put everything aside and take care of yourself. The reason I say that is because I have to go back to-what does it mean to be productive? What is productivity? I used to think when I was younger that productivity is all how much stuff you get done. I don’t believe that anymore. I don’t think being truly productive is about checking the most stuff off your list. I say this on the podcast all the time. To me, the productive woman say-this is true for men-but the productive woman is the one who orders her life in such a way as to maximize her positive impact on the world.

‏‏Powerful.

‏‏That’s what being productive is. It’s not about how much stuff you check off your list, how many awards you win, and how much money you make-it’s about ordering your life in that way so that you feel that you have had a positive impact on the world around you. In order to that, you have to be the kind of person you want to be, and part of that is, you have to take care of yourself. The reality is, if you’re ill, if you’re caring for a sick child or a sick parent, if you’re going through a trying time in your relationship, if you’ve just lost your job or you’ve just moved across the country, all those things are stress-inducing, and I am a big believer that you need to give yourself some grace in times like that, and just cut everything to the bone. Do only the things you absolutely have to do to not lose your job or whatever things absolutely have to be done-everything else can wait.

‏‏Mm-hmm. That’s amazing. I love how compassionate and open you are. You’re really a walking example of what you preach. Just before we started-you just finished a training session. Even though you are a hard worker, you still have that beautiful, warmth, and compassion, and you take very good care of yourself, and I appreciate that.

‏‏Well, thank you. I try. I haven’t always done that. I’ve learned a lot of things as I’ve gotten older that I wish I had known when I was younger. I wish I had known that it’s okay to be nice to yourself. I wish that I had understood what I understand now about productivity and what it has come to mean to me. That it’s not about necessarily being driven to accomplish huge things. Sometimes, the most productive thing you can do is, take a day off. Because if you don’t take care of yourself-whether physically or emotionally or whatever way-you can’t have any sort of positive impact on the world around you. You can’t. It’s so cliché, but it’s true. The analogy everybody always uses is-when you get on the plane, and they go through their safety stuff, and they tell you if the masks drop down, put your own on first before you try to help anybody else because if you pass out, you can’t help anybody.

The most productive thing you can do is, take a day off. Click To Tweet

‏‏Yes.

‏‏And that’s true in life as well. If you’re not able to be kind to yourself and extend grace to yourself, you’re going to have nothing left to give to anybody else.

‏‏That’s amazing. I love that! So, when people want to find more about what you do and your Masterminds, where can they go?

‏‏Oh, I think the easiest thing is just to go to the website, which is www.theproductivewoman.com. There you’ll find all the episodes of the podcast, but there’s an About page that tells you a little bit about me. There’s a Work With Me page that talks about the Masterminds. I do have some new group starting up in September. We’re recording this at the beginning of August and those are paid Masterminds in there-for women only, sorry guys! Maybe someday I’ll do them for guys, but all that information is on the website: www.theproductivewoman.com, including how to find me on Twitter, my email address, and all that stuff.

‏‏Yes, so we’re going to have all that information on the show notes as well at www.stellarlifepodcast.com. Before we finish this extraordinary episode, what are your three best tips to living a stellar life? You already gave us a lot of beautiful tips, but let’s give them three more.

‏‏Whenever anybody asks me about my top tips for whether it’s productivity or whatever, the practical one-the number one-if I can only tell you one thing, it’s write everything down. Give your brain a break. Get everything written down in a system that you trust so you can use your brain for being creative. Number two, if we’re talking about living a stellar life, it’s to do the work, take that step back, and spend some time thinking about what kind of life do you want to live-not the life you think you ought to want to live, but the one you actually want to live. What kind of person do you want to be? Not what do you think other people want you to be, but who do you want to be in the world. Think about those things, and let those be your guiding principles, the touchstones, for the decisions you make from day-to-day. I think the third one would be the same thing I say at the end of every episode of The Productive Woman which is-extend grace to each other and to yourself.

‏‏Oh, beautiful! Thank you! Thank you so much. I appreciate you.

‏‏I appreciate you. It’s an honor. It’s been fun to talk to you.

‏‏Yes. Thank you so much, listeners. Go out, find out your whys, be productive in the best, most delicious, fun way, and have a stellar life.

Links and Resources:

About Laura McClellan

A lawyer by day and a lover of the written word since childhood, Laura has been published both in professional publications and inspirational magazines and has been a contributor to the popular Stepcase Lifehack blog. In 2012 she committed to pursuing her lifetime dream of writing a novel, and she’s currently polishing her first women’s fiction manuscript in anticipation of submitting it (by request!) to her dream agent. Do No Harm is the story of a disgraced Seattle obstetrician whose efforts to fit into her new Texas home are stymied by family conflicts, cultural differences, church politics, and ghosts from her past. Laura is member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a team member at My Book Therapy, the women’s fiction category winner in the 2012 Phoenix Rattler fiction contest, and winner of the 2013 Olympia fiction contest. She hosts a weekly podcast, The Productive Woman, whose purpose is to help women find the tools and encouragement they need to manage their time, life, stress, and stuff so they can accomplish the things they care about most, and make a life that matters.

 

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