Laura Stack: The Productivity Pro (R)

Leave the Office Earlier
a news"E"letter from The Productivity Pro - Laura Stack

Number 109 :: June 2008

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In This Issue ::
Message from Laura
Feature Article: How Communication and Connection Boost Employee Productivity
Educational Resources
Time Tips and Traps
Ask the Audience
Laura's Blog
Hot Links
Words of Wisdom
Laura in the NEWS
Book Laura
Where in the World is Laura?
Subscription and Contact Information
Reprint Information

Buy Laura's latest book, Find More Time, if you Buy Find More Time at Amazon.comhave a sink full of dishes to wash, three loads of laundry to do, 17 bills to pay, 26 emails to answer, a big stack of novels on the nightstand you'd love to read, and zero minutes of free time. You can't add more hours to the day, but Laura will help you make the most of the time you have and get things done.

Available now from and at better bookstores everywhere.

In Leave the Office Earlier, Leave the Office EarlierLaura shows you how you CAN get more done than you ever thought possible and still get home to your real life sooner.

The New York Times calls Leave the Office Earlier, "...the best of the bunch."

The Library Journal, New York, NY named Leave the Office Earlier one of the "Best Business Books 2004"...

Order this indispensable tool for the overworked and time challenged at and receive 20% off its retail price.

More of The Productivity Pro's Resources


Words of Wisdom

“The glue that holds all relationships together - including the relationship between the leader and the led, is trust – and trust is based on integrity.”

~ Brian Tracy

“No road is long with good company.”

~Turkish Proverb

“We control fifty percent of a relationship. We influence one hundred percent of it.”

 ~ Joyce Brothers


Where in the World
is Laura?

These are all private client engagements with Laura Stack. At this time, Laura does not offer open enrollment seminars to the general public. If you’re interested in bringing Laura to your organization to present a training seminar for your employees on the day prior or the day after one of these engagements below, please contact John Stack for special “piggyback” pricing.



19::Denver, CO
24::Chicago, IL

26::Denver, CO


1::Highlands Ranch, CO

8::Denver, CO

30-Aug 5::NYC, NY


1-5::NYC, NY

7::Denver, CO

25::Denver, CO

26::Denver, CO


18::Keystone, CO

22::Denver, CO

25::Denver, CO

27::Miami, FL


14::St. Cloud, MN

24::Niagara Falls, NY

27::Denver, CO



11::Denver, CO

18-23::Phoenix, AZ



13::Nashville, TN

Visit Laura's Calendar On-line for her complete availability.


Laura's Blog

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Recent posts:


What do you do when you feel your energy slipping away?

Your personal productivity suffers when you’re unhealthy

Bonus resources when you buy Laura Stack’s new book today

Help I feel brain-dead. How can I possibly be productive?

Relaxation and leisure increase your productivity

Being a sourpuss steals precious energy from productive work

Create closure on things that bother you and eliminate frustrations

Completing personal chores and responsibilities more efficiently



Educational Resources from The Productivity ProŽ


Browse the Productivity Store for a variety of resources to improve your personal and professional productivity.


Laura in the News!

The Productivity Family Tree
By Mike St. Pierre

Time Management for Managers

First Paper Planner Designed for Handheld Users
PR Newswire (press release) - New York, NY, USA
"Having our lives run by technology can be emotionally draining," commented Laura Stack, DayTimers expert on productivity and author of the just-released book The Exhaustion Cure.


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Hot Links


57 Time Management Hacks for College Students

Review of Leave the Office Earlier by The Simple Dollar

Review of Find More Time by The Simple Dollar




Feature Article

How Communication and Connection Boost Employee Productivity

One of the trickiest parts of leadership is finding a way to strike a balance between your employees as subordinates and your employees as real, live people. Read on for some important points to keep in mind as you work to build relationships with those around you. Not a leader? I hope you’ll read on anyway. Managing relationships with the people you work with (and for) is as important to your everyday productivity as it is to your career.

Teach people how to treat you. You know how you want to be treated. But do you actively take the steps to make sure it happens? Always think about the precedents you are setting as you interact with other people – whether you work with them every day or are meeting them for the first time.

If you let others speak to you disrespectfully or second-guess your decisions, not only are they going to continue that behavior, but it is only going to get worse as time goes on.

This mindset where you actively teach others how to treat you doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but once you make it a habit you may be surprised at how easy it is to do. After all, it is much easier to gently correct one of your employees the first time they take an inappropriate tone with you than it is to break the pattern of behavior once you have let it fester over time. Nip it in the bud and speak up the first time it comes up.

This is an important tool when you are dealing with subordinates, but it is also goes a long way with your other relationships.

You might not be able to be as forceful and direct with others as you can with your employees, but the basic philosophy holds true for your friends, your family members, and even your boss. You are entitled to certain boundaries and expectations, no matter who you are dealing with.

Communicate and connect. Just as it is important to take a stand for how you would like to be treated, it is also important to build relationships in more subtle ways. Obviously you don’t want to treat work like it is a social situation, but to build strong, effective relationships with others, you can’t keep things 100 percent professional all the time. As hard as it may be to imagine, people do have lives outside of work and it’s critical that you recognize that the world does not always revolve around the workday.

But how do you connect without compromising your professionalism? Chances are that you are a busy person who isn’t particularly interested in spending large chunks of your valuable time socializing and chatting about life outside the office.

Nor should you be. But that doesn’t mean that you never take off your “professional” hat and take an interest in those around you. It only takes a few minutes to show that you care about life outside of nine to five.

Is someone requesting vacation time? Ask them where they’re headed and find out about what they like to do for fun. When they get back, make sure to take five minutes to see how the trip went. You don’t need to pry – just show an interest.

Do your employees and coworkers have families? Those families are the number one priorities in their lives. Shouldn’t you know a little bit about them? The more you are able to show you care about the people you work with every day, the better off you’ll be. Who would you rather work for – a real live person with or a stuffy robot in a business suit?

Establish boundaries. On the other hand, you don’t want things to get too personal. Depending on the culture where you work and the individuals that you work with, there may be a tendency for office relationships to stray too far from the professional and too close to the personal.

The bottom line is that you are there to work. You want to get things done and you want those around you to do the same, whether they are your office peers or your direct reports.

People say it all the time: “I’m just trying to get my work done and all Pat wants to do is chat!” That may be true, but nine times out of ten, it takes two to tango when it comes to socializing at work. If you are faced with an office gossip or someone who just can’t seem to help going on and on about their personal lives, you have probably done something to encourage the behavior.

Perhaps, just to be polite, you make it a habit of engaging people like this by simply listening to them talk or even joining in a little yourself. They wouldn’t keep coming back if you weren’t providing some sort of social payback. If you stop showing interest, they will probably find someone else to bother.

If it is one of your Employees who is the office chatterbox, you’ll need to address the issue more directly. It might never have occurred to the person that they are spending an undue amount of time socializing.

Keep them in the loop. One of the biggest sources of workplace anxiety is a lack of information. Especially in times of change, it is often assumed that decisions made at the top are being communicated down through the ranks. As a leader, the best thing that you can do for your people is make sure they have good, accurate information and that they receive it in a timely manner.

Don’t take for granted that you know what is going on and don’t assume that those beneath you have all the facts. The water cooler can breed some wild stories when people aren’t kept informed. Be open and honest. Others will appreciate it.

When it comes right down to it, connecting with others is all about respect. Respect their boundaries, respect their need to know what’s going on, and respect that they are more than employees – they are people.

If you do that, you’ll help create an environment with the type of work-life balance conducive to everyday productivity and overall satisfaction.

Make it a productive day! (TM)

(C) Copyright 2008 Laura Stack. All rights reserved.


Ask the Audience

All contributors received a free 21-day eCourse on The Exhaustion Cure. We are ready for our next question. Send your query to [email protected], and our readers will help YOU out with your productivity dilemma.

Q: "Readers, I just started a new job as an Executive Assistant. My new supervisor seems to be very high maintenance, but not nit picky nor micro managing. How do I start with getting all the paperwork off of her desk and get her organized? Your help is greatly appreciated. I look forward to hearing from you."

A: There is no substitute for communication. Open the dialog with her to determine the level of organization the exec is comfortable with and where / how organized they want to get to. Offer your assistance, and suggest a workable system. Then you can start exercising Laura's system or the Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen, or whatever other systems will work for them. Most of the time, they'll happily dump everything off the desk, put it in the In Box and work with you to go through it. If you can manage it, get them to stay late or come in the next weekend to get organized together. A couple of hours up front will prevent endless hours of aggravations!
Gary Johnson, Sr. Manager, Internal Audit
EchoStar Satellite, LLC

A: I took everything off of my boss’ desk and sorted it into folders: Signature Required, Action Required, Read, and Other/Misc. These folders reside in an expandable folder on my desk. I put his mail/notes, any paper that he will let me run off with and put it in one of these folders. When he’s in the office and has a few moments, I give him all of them and pick it up later that day when empty. If there’s something that needs a signature or action, it’s placed on his desk in full sight immediately. He knows that any red folder is from me. I have different colors for each manager. Now that they know I’m watching out for the important stuff, most of the other/misc (junk mail) goes into the trash after a cursory glance. I also scan many things into electronic files so that we have access to them without shuffling through papers.
Teri Stuecken, CPS/CAP, CITRMS
Senior Administrative Assistant

A: First and foremost, I would schedule an "appointment" with her to discuss her access needs. Are the papers some that she needs to have immediate access to or some that she could relinquish to a file system in your area? If they are papers that she needs immediate access to, work with her on her comfort level of storage (i.e. labeled desk trays, desk drawer hanging files, file cabinet). If they are papers that could be filed in your area...make sure she feels comfortable with that system as well so that if you are away for the day she knows where they would be. I read a helpful hind many years ago that stated that we should try to handle each piece of paper only one time. I think with a new storage / filing system in place, handling each paper just once will be a much easier task to accomplish.
Jessie McLaughlin, Fair Coordinator
Spokane County Interstate Fair

A: Congratulations on your new position! Whether you are an established professional Executive Assistant or if being an Executive Assistant is new to you, here are three places to start:
1. Ask questions and check her calendar
    a. Find out what papers, presentations, etc., she will need immediately and within the next two weeks. Make sure that in your zeal to organize, key papers don’t get mislaid or deadlines are missed.
2. Ask how she wants to be organized and/or offer suggestions after review
    a. If she gives you some parameters, incorporate them as much as possible into the new system. It might not be that she doesn’t have a system, but time/lack of an assistant may have caused that system to falter.
    b. If she says for you to do your own thing, establish no more than two systems to offer. Combine elements of the two if necessary.
3. Check her personal filing system and the previous assistant’s filing system
    a. This will give you a clue as to what the precedents were, where improvements can be or whether a total re-do is in order.
Good Luck!
Ellen Madyun
Senior Administrator

A: My suggestion is to start by marking each piece of paper with a Post-It on the upper right corner and then a one word description of the paper. If it’s something that is reference oriented or will be filed, the description will probably be a noun. If it is an action paper, it will be a verb. In this way you can quickly sort out work that needs to be done from papers that she is simply holding onto. Needless to say, toss as many as possible in the recycling bin! It may also be helpful to have file folders labeled with the same nouns or verbs so you’re not left with stacks all over the desk (or floor). Good luck!
Shannon Bodenstein
Loveland, Ohio

A: Your boss may only need a good filing system. That was my problem – in fact, your boss sounds a lot like me many years ago! My PA set up a fantastic filing system for me and firmly made me promise to file everything away when I wasn’t using it (the files were all at arm’s reach, so not a big ask!) If I wasn’t working on something – away it went. I complied because I knew I would find it when I needed it again a lot more easily than searching through the mess on my desk! My desk became gloriously clear, allowing me to concentrate on what I was working on at the time and not become distracted with all the things I could be working on.
Good luck with your boss!

A: The first thing to be done is schedule a meeting with her to discuss her expectations (and, of course, yours). Have a plan (in writing) ready to provide her, explaining what you propose. By getting her organized, it will also help you ensure deadlines are met, meetings are kept, and responses to correspondence are provided in a timely manner. Ultimately, getting her organized will help you do your job better.
Linda F. Johannes
Executive Secretary
Office of the Chief Postal Inspector

Letters to the Editor

I just had the pleasure of hearing you at the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce Luncheon. I was the African American woman who had the beat up copy of "Leave the Office Earlier".
I wanted to formally thank you again for spreading the message of productivity and know that even though you sometimes only get 50 minutes to speak, it is making a difference. I heard you last March in San Francisco at the ADP Meeting of the Minds and bought "Leave the Office" that same day. As you noticed my quiz results were on a Delta napkin because I took it on the plane ride back. I really approached the book as intended, focusing on my weakest areas first and spent almost 4 months plowing through the different areas. Your practical approach to making changes really gave the results oriented, task master side of me the tools and tips needed to creating a balance while increasing productivity. The result of the changes gave me enough energy/motivation to stay in my current company through some tough transitions.
I'm anxious to start working through the "Exhaustion Cure" as I find that some of my challenge today is just getting the energy to do what I've carefully organized myself to complete. Glad you've UP'D yours, hoping to UP mine too.
With gratitude for your mission,

Nikki Canady Penda, CEBS
Director HR Services
UCB, Inc.

Book Laura

Have Laura speak to your company, conference or organization. How do you know if Laura would be perfect for your next event, meeting, or training? View the "Laura Stack Is Perfect For This Group" fact sheet.

Laura Stack: The Productivity Pro (r)
Laura Stack, MBA, CSP

Message from Laura

HURRY HURRY! Day-Timers is offering an unbelievable bargain on The Productivity ProŽ DayTimerŽ. They have a limited number of sets including black genuine leather binder, refill pages, and storage binder. Individually, these items sell for over $120. The bundle price is $89.99, AND for a limited time, they are giving a 20% off introductory price, which brings your cost to $71.99. The pages start July 2008, so gets yours quickly before they sell out. Visit

PUBLIC SEMINAR! Register now to attend Laura’s seminar “Become a Productivity ProŽ!” in Denver, Colorado, on June 19. Print this flier and post it on the bulletin board at work or forward it to a friend who is working too hard and needs to leave the office earlier.

Thank you! Due to your support, The Exhaustion Cure: Up Your Energy from Low to Go in 21 Days debuted at #3 in Healthy Living on on May 13, 2008. The response was so large that we are extending our special offer. Buy the book at Amazon and email your receipt to [email protected] You will receive a special link to download bonus resources from Mark Sanborn, Dianna Booher, Chris Widener, and Roxanne Emmerich!

Laura's Demonstration VideoView Laura's Demonstration Video

Time Tips and Traps Offered by Subscribers

Special article: Bully Free At Work: Surprising Facts You Need to Know About Workplace Bullying Stress

Stress is the result of unmanaged exposure to workplace bullying. The fear, uncertainty, doubt and emotional devastation that result from being bullied plays out frequently in a target’s emotional, mental and physical abilities.

According to the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute, the top health consequences are:
• Severe anxiety (94%)
• Sleep disruption (84%)
• Loss of concentration (82%)

These consequences result in a loss of productivity on the job. Many people ask “How is Workplace Bullying different from working with difficult people, and what exactly is workplace bullying anyway?”

Workplace bullying is repeated, deliberate, disrespectful behavior by one or more people toward another for their own gratification, which in turn harms the target.

• Bullying is deliberate, not accidental.
• Bullying is always disrespectful with intent.
• Bullying results in gratification for the bully, where the target feels severely disrespected.

Difficult people are not necessarily out to harm another; they are out to protect their own needs. Therefore, if you can reason with a difficult person in order to show good will for their needs, they may change. A bully will not change. Not understanding this creates unwanted stress.

Workplace bullying occurs in every country of the world, and one out of six people will report having being bullied in their lifetime. Statistics would be even higher if employees were more aware of what workplace bullying actually is.

As a result, the top consequences for an organization are:
• Good morale (a positive culture) is traded for a fearful culture where people become hesitant, less free and less open.
• Teamwork will deteriorate into group-work or individual efforts.
• The agreeable, cooperative and supportive environment becomes hostile, secretive and dead.

So, how can workplace bullying be stopped and prevented? The first step is an educated workforce: knowing what workplace bullying is, how it occurs, and who is likely to be the targets. In addition, systems and accountabilities need to be put in place to protect and create the kind of workplace culture that is respectful. The second step is to empower employees to create and enforce workplace-bullying policies that protect a respectful workplace, and hold a bullying culture accountable to becoming a respectful culture.

We know that people want to be treated with respect. Workplace bullying demeans the individual and destroys the trust needed to do high quality work.

Workplace bullying can be stopped, but it must not rest only on the target’s shoulders to stop this behavior. Stopping workplace bullying is everyone’s responsibility. Upper management must use their authority to ensure that a respectful workplace exists.

We want to help you eliminate bullying from your workplace. It is a top contributor to workplace stress. Together we can make the workplace a welcoming environment for you and your co-workers alike. To Receive Your Free Weekly Tip to Stop the Stress of Workplace Bullying Click here

Valerie Cade is a world-wide authority and speaker on Workplace Bullying and author of Bully Free at Work ™ and she can be reached at [email protected]

Reprint Information

All Articles (C) 1999-2008 Laura Stack. All rights reserved. This information may not be distributed, sold, publicly presented, or used in any other manner, except as described below.

Permission to reprint all or part of this article in your magazine, e-zine, blog, or organization newsletter is hereby GRANTED, provided:

1.   The ENTIRE credit line below is present,

2.   The website link to is clickable (LIVE), and

3.   You send a copy, PDF, link, tearsheet, etc. of the work in which the article is used when published.

This credit line MUST be reprinted in its entirety to use any articles from Laura Stack:

Š 2008 Laura Stack.  Laura Stack is a personal productivity expert, author, and professional speaker who helps busy workers Leave the Office EarlierŽ with Maximum Results in Minimum Time(TM). She is the president of The Productivity ProŽ, Inc., a time management training firm specializing in productivity improvement in high-stress organizations.  Since 1992, Laura has presented keynotes and seminars on improving output, lowering stress, and saving time in today's workplaces.  She is the bestselling author of the books Find More Time (2006) and Leave the Office Earlier (2004).  Her newest productivity book, The Exhaustion Cure (Broadway Books), hits bookstores in May 2008.  To have Laura speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401.  Visit to sign up for her free monthly productivity newsletter.