Laura Stack: The Productivity Pro (R) Leave the Office Earlier
a news"E"letter from The Productivity Pro - Laura Stack
Number 151: December 2011

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In This Issue:
Message from Laura
Feature Article: Time Management Skills and the Extreme Work Week
Book Laura
Productivity Resources
Educational Resources
Time Tips and Traps
Laura's Blog
The Multimedia Minute
Hot Links
Words of Wisdom
Laura in the NEWS
Where in the World is Laura?
Subscription and Contact Information
Reprint Information

Book Laura

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.

Productivity Resources

Buy SuperCompetent To be successful in the business world and reach your full potential in life, it's not enough to be simply competent. Our modern, super-competitive world is full of opportunities for the go-getter, but to take advantage of them, it's essential to become "SuperCompetent." The SuperCompetent person is one that companies fight to get, fight to keep, nurture as team players, and see as future leaders in their business growth. Available now from and at better bookstores everywhere.

Buy The Exhaustion Cure at Amazon.comThe Exhaustion Cure. A holistic approach to increasing your get-up and go, from the productivity expert whose previous books showed people how to Find More Time and Leave the Office Earlier. Available now from

Buy Find More Time at Amazon.comFind More TimeYou 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

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.Available now from

More of The Productivity Pro's Resources

Featured Educational Resource from The Productivity Pro®

Five years after publication, in partnership with, professional voiceover talent, Aze Fellner, has recorded the audio version of my bestselling book, Leave the Office Earlier: The Productivity Pro Shows You How to Do More in Less Time and Feel Great About It.

You can purchase the audio book via any of the links below:




Words of Wisdom
"Man -- a creature made at the end of the week's work when God was tired." -- Mark Twain, American humorist.

"Accomplishing the impossible means only that the boss will add it to your regular duties." -- Doug Larson, American journalist.

"Many feel, with some justification, that a 40-hour week would be career suicide. This schedule is seen as 'part time' in many professional-managerial jobs, and tends to spell a less-prestigious and less upwardly-mobile career path." -- Joan C. Williams and Heather Boushey, researchers, Center for American Progress.

"New Incentive Plan: Work Or Get Fired." -- Jold American office joke, often used on signs and posters.

Laura's Blog

Subscribe to feed:

Increasing Personal Productivity: Great Productivity Podcasts

Organizational Skills: Email and Productivity

Increasing Productivity: Telecommuting and Your Family and Friends

Hot Links

The Internet is Killing Your Productivity

Tech Firm Implements Employee Zero Email Policy

Windows 7 Tips, Tricks & Techniques

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.


January 2012

7::Foster City, CA

8::Orlando, FL

10-11::Orlando, FL

14::Denver, CO

18::Salt Lake City, UT

20::New York, NY

25::San Antonio, TX


February 2012

1::Dallas, TX

2-5::Dallas, TX

10::Deer Valley, UT

14::Denver, CO

17::San Antonio, TX

24::Denver, CO


March 2012

1::New Orleans, LA

8::Dublin, OH

9::Cleveland, OH

12::Grapevine, TX

14::Grapevine, TX

16::Denver, CO

20-April 2::Paris, France


April 2012

13-15::Tempe, AZ

18::Cedar Rapids, IA

19-20::Anaheim, CA

20-21::Washington, DC

20::Denver, CO

23::Dallas, Texas

24-30::Durban, Kwazulu-Natal, SA


May 2012

2-5::Kuala Lampur, Malaysia


18::Denver, CO

24::Denver, CO


June 2012

15::Denver, CO

19::Denver, CO

21::Pewaukee, WI

26-28::Louisville, KY


July 2012

27::Denver, CO


August 2012

19-22::Minneapolis, MN

24::Denver, CO


September 2012

19::Denver, CO


October 2012

21::Denver, CO

26::Denver, CO


November 2012

16::Denver, CO


December 2012

21::Denver, CO


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


Feature Article:

Time Management Skills and the Extreme Work Week


Let's face it: despite the management cliché claiming otherwise, you can't just "work smarter" if you expect to compete in the modern workplace. You'll also have to work harder, and probably longer. In today's high-pressure office environment, the real go-getters generally put in half again more hours than their 9-5 co-workers; and in many cases, management expects and requires them to do so. Indeed, some professions now view a 40-hour work week as part-time, at best—which means that if you limit your hours to the traditional number, you also limit your opportunities for advancement.

As a result, many white collar professionals end up working a minimum of sixty hours a week in order to meet their job requirements. And that doesn't include drive time, work-related calls and email, required reading, and any time spent thinking about work issues. Add it all up, and the 60-hour week may expand to 70 hours—or more.

If history serves as a guide, things will probably get better as the new information-based economy settles more firmly in place. But that's cold comfort for those of us caught up in the current workplace hamster wheel. We have to deal with the state of affairs as they exist today, and figure out how to adjust.

If you expect to have a life outside of work—or if you just want to survive the extreme work week with your health and sanity intact—then you need to buckle down and put some realistic systems and delimiters in place.

Plan Your Work, and Work Your Plan

True productivity requires careful planning, persistence, and unremitting time management efforts, no matter how many hours you work in a given week. An extreme work week just means all that on steroids. To win through, formulate a logical battle plan, focus on your primary goals, and attack your overcrowded schedule head on. Schedule everything, including your breaks if you must, and do your best to stick to your plan. But since you can't account for everything in advance, remain somewhat flexible as you navigate your way through your week. If necessary, drop or push aside those things that matter least—and make sure you understand the difference between what truly matters and what does not.

If you ever have trouble getting into the flow, take a little time to center yourself. Meditate, take deep breaths, or pray: whatever works for you. At the very least, spend five minutes clearing your head, visualizing your successful completion of the week's requirements, and then go for it. Stop occasionally to assess your progress; then, if you must, reweave the frayed threads of your focus and get back in there.

Speaking of focus: the only way to really push through a tough week is to put your head down and bull on through. Tighten your concentration to a keen edge, working on just one thing at a time. Resist the allure of multitasking, and cut yourself off from unnecessary social interaction. You don't have time for it. Nor do you have time for smoke breaks, playing on the Internet, or perusing social media. Those things will absolutely shatter your focus, forcing you to stay at the office longer than necessary just to catch up. Take brief breaks occasionally, and make sure you get away from your desk for lunch—but don't waste time!

Don't let negative self-talk spoil your battle plan, either, especially self-pitying thoughts like, "No fair! I don't deserve this. I shouldn't have to work like a dog." True or not, such thoughts will only drain your energy, dragging you down until you can't get your work done at all. Focus on the now, telling yourself you really can do it. If you resent your long work weeks, or if they cause you physical or psychological damage, then find a way to do something about it later. Otherwise you'll shoot mortal holes in your workplace productivity here and now.

Just put your head down, focus, and get to work, so you can get everything done and get out of there ASAP. That way, you can go home and give the best part of yourself to your family and friends. Once everything has settled down and you've recovered a bit, spend a little time reviewing your extreme week, so you'll know what to revamp for next time.

Who's the Boss Here, You or Your Email?

Computers, handhelds, the Internet, email, and all the encumbrances they bring with them have obviously made us more productive. So much so, in fact, that said technology represents one reason we work harder than ever: simply because we can. But the very same technology also allows us to waste time more creatively, even when we think we're actually working.

A quick example: when you hear your email alert ding, do you immediately stop to check your email? If so, big mistake. Sure, it may only take a couple of minutes to answer a message and get back to work, but then you have to spend a while recovering your train of thought, and just as you get back on track—ding!

Social media offer just as many opportunities for diversion, if not more. Too often, we respond to Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn immediately whenever something changes, and we otherwise fritter away bits and pieces of our time we could use for something productive. Let's say you spend just ten minutes per workday Tweeting—a minute here, a minute there, stolen on the sly. Not only have you derailed your train of thought repeatedly, as with over-attention to email, but over the course of a year you'll have wasted 67 hours—roughly the equivalent of one of your more extreme work weeks. Imagine what you might have accomplished instead.

So stop answering to your little electronic masters—in fact, stop treating your productivity tools as masters at all. They exist for one reason: to help you get your work done, not to take over your life and actually hinder your workplace productivity. Remain bluntly practical about their use. Close your email client, send your calls directly to voicemail, turn off those disruptive alerts, and deal with your electronica once or twice a day at most. School yourself to avoid the Internet and social media altogether. Stop paying so much attention to your Blackberry, and put solid barriers between your work usage and private time—or you may never get any rest.

Take Care of You

Energy is the key to maintaining your productive edge in any workplace environment, extreme or otherwise. A number of health-related factors influence and inform your personal energy supply, often interacting in unexpected ways. The most critical include adequate sleep, good nutrition, and regular exercise. Let's take a look at each in turn.

More than 400 years ago, Shakespeare pointed out that sleep "knits up the ravel'd sleeve of care," and I doubt anyone would dispute his statement. We've all stayed up too late now and again, or suffered from the bane of insomnia. However it happens, too little sleep can have a variety of negative effects, from simply leaving you feeling wrung-out to contributing to obesity. Believe it or not, lack of sleep causes an overproduction of ghrelin, a natural appetite stimulant, while inhibiting the production of leptin, an appetite suppressant. In other words, too little sleep makes you hungry, potentially resulting in weight gain, which negatively impacts your energy levels.

Most experts recommend 8-9 hours of sleep a night. Start there, and experiment with what works best for you. If you just can't sleep, try the methods I outlined in this month's tip to help you drop off.

Your diet has a significant effect on your energy levels. First of all, don't skip any meals, especially breakfast, so you won't suffer a blood sugar crash that crashes your personal productivity. When you do eat, limit your portion sizes, and avoid overindulging in starchy and sugary foods so you can keep your weight under control. Carrying around even a few extra pounds can negatively impact your energy budget, and thus your productivity. As for liquids, be sure to stay hydrated; drink plenty of water, while limiting your intake of caffeinated beverages like cola and coffee. Not only do they keep you awake, damaging your efforts to get enough sleep, they can dehydrate you, and the caffeine can make you jumpy and ill if you drink too much.

Exercise also acts as an effective foil against the stresses of the extreme work week. It can help you control your weight, work off frustrations, and otherwise keep the blood pumping and your energy levels high. It doesn't take much exercise to make your body happy: as little as 20-30 minutes per day can keep you on an even keel. At the very least, take a brisk walk early in the day or at lunchtime. I'm a big fan of what I call "subversive exercise," i.e., sneaking little bits of exercise into your day. Taking the stairs rather than the elevator, pacing around the office while using a speakerphone or a headset, or doing leg lunges while reading a report or article can help you stay fit and energetic. If you can spare the time, consider establishing a more formal workout routine, too.

Needless to say, the relative importance of each leg of the sleep-diet-exercise health triumvirate varies from person to person; no single prescription works for everyone. But you need all three to some extent, so it's up to you to juggle them to see which mix works best for you. Just remember: while you can get by for a while without an ideal balance of these factors, if you ignore any of them for too long, your productivity at work will eventually fall apart.

The Bottom Line

The 40-hour work week has become a rarity in the modern office. It doesn't seem to matter that working 60 or 70 hours a week is counter-productive, given the drop-off in alertness, the high levels of exhaustion, and the need to redo tasks flubbed due to both factors. At the moment, many of us just have to deal with what our bosses hand us, on pain of unemployment.

If you find yourself in this situation, don't despair. You can survive the extreme work week with your personal productivity intact, as long as you take good care of yourself and leverage your time management skills to the utmost. Follow the pointers I've outlined here, remain positive, and you'll make it through.
Make it a productive day! (TM)


If you enjoyed this article, you can register for the December 16, 2011 webinar on exactly how to do this! 60-Plus Hour Workweek Webinar. Dec. 16, 2011.


(C) Copyright 2011 Laura Stack. All rights reserved.



Time Tips and Traps

To be featured in this section of our newsletter and get a free eBook with our thanks, send your productivity tip or trick to [email protected] with "Tips and Tricks contribution" in the subject line.

Dear Laura,

One of the most difficult things I find to deal with is what falls in the, "Do you have minute?" category of interruptions. These can end up being great time consumers, which can last up to three hours in my experience — interruptions that have nothing to do with your current project or your company focus. Your energy is drained, your mind cluttered and you end up with a loss of clarity for the task you are working at. At times people do need a listening ear so it is hard to determine when that is and when it should be deferred to a time outside your office productivity hours. This is especially difficult when a colleague is also a close personal friend. But time spent cannot be recovered so I found a few things that worked for me in situations where the interruption was not project related or was not beneficial to productivity in general.

  1. A simple, "Please do not disturb!" sign on an office door (or cubicle entrance) can achieve wonders. I found that if I put a, "Please do not disturb" sign with a qualifier below it such as, "Meeting project deadline. Business excepted." helped greatly to deter those who would just want to stop in and chat. If there was a work related concern or question that could and needed to be handled quickly, most people felt free to come in. This worked wonders and I only use a sign when I am working on a project with an impending deadline. I found a plastic sheet holder with a grommeted hole for hanging at an office supply store so I can change my sign easily. A suction cup holder with a hook is all I need to hang it for a day.
  2. Take over the conversation as a means to eliminate some interruptions. For days when I have no immediate deadline but still want to be productive and work on projects, emails, review materials, plan or create, etc. I found that interruptions were a killer to most of these. Even when you say you are busy some people may not take it as a fact. I noticed that for the most part these people don't want to listen to me or get my input. They want to talk about their latest discovery, problem, complaint, etc. I thought if I gave them a bit of time they would get finished and leave. That was not always the case. They might move on to something else like what they found on an internet site about some relevant topic that you don't really have time for now. (They could easily email a link to be read at a later time.) I discovered, almost by accident, that if I would jump in and change the subject and start talking that they would quickly lose interest. This works with some people since they want to talk, not listen and often they will leave when they feel you are going to put them in the listening position.
  3. Leave the office and work someplace else. This can be invigorating as well as productive. Some coffee shops have wifi access and can provide a pleasant, quiet environment at their slow times of the day for working on those emails that just need answering or for thinking and planning while enjoying a nice "café au lait." A meeting with yourself at a quiet coffee shop might be a good way to get things done without interruptions.

These are a few of maybe not so new tips that you might find helpful for dealing with "people" interruptions.

Roderick Oickle



Thank you,
Kathie Pasquarella Trinity Health

Laura Stack: The Productivity Pro (r)

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The 2012 Productivity Pro®, Inc. Webcast Series

Get ready for a productive 2012 with twelve ALL-NEW monthly productivity webinars with Laura Stack! Bring Laura into the privacy of your own office, conference room, or home office for a dose of monthly personal productivity training!


At just $39 per seminar (volume discounts available), you can experience the most innovative productivity ideas from Laura Stack, The Productivity Pro®, guaranteed to skyrocket your productivity and boost profits.

Don’t worry about attending “live” if you’re booked that day--your purchase includes the recording. You can participate in the webinar or watch the playback from anywhere with an internet connection. You can dial in via phone or listen right from your computer speakers. .

Who Should Attend?

  • Managers seeking to improve employee and organizational productivity.
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  • Professionals lacking a travel budget to attend training events in person.
  • Leaders requiring scalable solutions to develop team members around the world.
  • Individuals wanting to hone their productivity skills and competence.

For full descriptions and to register for the personal productivity series, visit 2012 Webinars

Outlook 2010 Webinar
December 16, 2011

Time: Watch the recording at your convenience or "live" at 10:00AM Pacific / 11:00AM Mountain / 12:00PM Central /1:00PM Eastern

Topic: Using Other Software with Outlook.  Writing Letters in Word with Outlook Contact Lists, Printing Labels and Envelopes with Outlook Address Book, Mail Merge, Creating Mass Merged Emails, Emailing Directly from Other Microsoft Office Applications, Using Public Folders, Plug-Ins for Outlook, Scheduling Meetings with Doodle, iCal Feeds for Outlook, OneNote Integration, Text Messaging with Outlook, SmartPhones, iPhone/Droid/iPad Productivity Apps for Outlook, Business Card Scanner, Mozy Backup of Outlook Data, Xobni, Windows Live File Sharing and Calendar Publishing, SharePoint Online, Emailing Directly from Windows Explorer

Cost is $39 and includes a workbook with screen shots and detailed step-by-step instructions and recording. For more information and to register click here.

Monthly Productivity Webinar: What Are You Working On? Where Should You Spend Your Time?


DATE: January 27, 2012.


Time: Watch the recording at your convenience or "live" at 10:00AM Pacific / 11:00AM Mountain / 12:00PM Central /1:00PM Eastern


Topic: What Are You Working On? Where Should You Spend Your Time?  Productivity, in its most meaningful sense, is all about reaching high-value goals in every area of your life, often in the shortest amount of time. Everyone has “too much to do,” and nobody cares how many things you crossed off your list or how “busy” you were last week if key projects are falling through the cracks. At the end of the day, all that matters is results. That means you need to be very sure that your time is not only accounted for, but has real value. In this webinar, we’ll learn to separate the wheat from the chaff. You will discover what you’re really supposed to be working on.

  • Why Do We Have So Much to Do?
  • To-Do List Triage.
  • Beyond the To-Do List.
  • Tracking Down Timewasters.
  • Your Productive Value.
  • Chopping Your Day Down to Size

Cost is $39. For more information and to register click here.



The Productivity Minute

Recent videos from Laura:

Productivity Minute Video: Are the Boxes on Your Calendar Bursting With Meetings?

Productivity Minute Video: Vacation in the Summer Sun

Productivity Minute Video: Time Management Skills: The Fine Art of Putting Things Off

Productivity Minute Video: The Art of Self-Discipline

Laura's Demonstration VideoView Laura's Demonstration Video

Laura in the News!

Laura Stack on Why You Need a Vacation - Everett Potter

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All Articles (C) 1999-2011 Laura Stack. All rights reserved. This information may not be distributed, sold, publicly presented, or used in any other manner, except as described below.

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© 2011 Laura Stack. Laura Stack is the president of The Productivity Pro®, 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. Her books include SuperCompetent (Wiley, 2010); The Exhaustion Cure (Broadway Books, 2008); Find More Time (2006); and Leave the Office Earlier (2004). Her newest book, What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do: Reduce Tasks, Increase Results, and Save 90 Minutes a Day (Berrett-Koehler), hits bookstores in May 2012. To have Laura speak at your next event or to sign up for her free monthly newsletter, visit
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