Laura Stack: The Productivity Pro (R) Leave the Office Earlier
a news"E"letter from The Productivity Pro - Laura Stack
Number 141:: February 2011

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In This Issue:
Message from Laura
Feature Article: Executive Time Management: How Time Management Changes As You Move From Middle Management To The VP/C-Suite Level
Book Laura
Productivity Resources
Educational Resources
Time Tips and Traps
Letters to the Editor
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 Amazon.comTo 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®

26 NEW MP3s added to our productivity store! Shop for a solution to meet your most pressing productivity problems! 

Words of Wisdom
"Work-life balance is a myth. Balance is achieved between two opposing forces. Work and life should be in unison, not opposition." - Simon Sinek, American marketing consultant

"You can't really manage time. You can only manage yourself." -- Anonymous

"You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it." -- Charles Buxton, British politician

"He who gains time gains everything." -- Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister

"Managing multiple projects is like being the parent of a large family that you have to feed. Each aspect of your job can be like another child that needs nurturing. You can't neglect any one of the 'children' and expect to have a healthy family." -- Peter Turla, American time management expert

"Everything requires time. It is the only truly universal condition. All work takes place in time and uses up time. Yet most people take for granted this unique, irreplaceable, and necessary resource. Nothing else, perhaps, distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time." -- Peter F. Drucker, the Father of Modern Management
Hot Links

The Seven Deadly Sins go to Work

Sleep Deprivation's True Workplace Costs

Three Trends Affecting Your Employees in 2011: From health care reform to policies and training, use this checklist to manage your team.

Is a False Sense of Urgency Hurting Your Business?

Laura in the News!
Squeeze more hours into your day:

Empowered Employees are More Productive

Meeting nightmare contest: the winners!

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.

March 2011

8::Tampa, FL

12::New Orleans, LA

16::Denver, CO

19::Tampa, FL

24::Denver, CO

28::Denver, CO


April 2011

1-3::Dallas, TX

5::Nashville, TN

6::Denver, CO

11::Cleveland, TN

12::San Diego, CA

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21::San Francisco, CA

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25-26::Portland, OR

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May 2011

9-12::Orlando, FL

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June 2011

11::Natick, MA

22::Pittsburgh, PN

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July 2011

20::Denver, CO

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27-30::Anaheim, CA


August 2011

1-3::Anaheim, CA

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17-19::Las Vegas, NV

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September 2011

10::Ann Arbor, MI

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26::Denver, CO


October 2011

6-9::London, UK

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12::Colorado Springs, CO

18::Bakersfield, CA

24::Denver, CO


November 2011

11::Dallas, TX

12::Houston, TX

18-19::Phoenix, AZ

21::Denver, CO

27-29::TBD, Canada


November 2011

5-7:: Key Biscayne, FL

15::Highlands Ranch, CO

16::Denver, CO

17-18::Denver, CO


January 2012

7::San Francisco, CA

12::Palm Springs, CA

18:: Salt Lake City, UT


February 2012

3-5::Dallas, TX


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

Feature Article:

Executive Time Management: How Time Management Changes As You Move From Middle Management To The VP/C-Suite Level


By the time you reach the upper tiers of management, you'll certainly be an expert at organizing and managing your work day—but you'll soon realize that things work a little differently at the C-Suite level. In particular, how you use your time and who you give it to undergoes significant changes. Priorities and responsibilities shift; sometimes subtly, often radically. There's much more to do, and the ante is higher: your actions impact the organization in ways undreamt of before.

The modern business environment demands exceptional leadership, so you have to do whatever's necessary to enhance productivity and efficiency at all levels. Not least , you need to be able to juggle multiple projects without getting bogged down, while simultaneously balancing customer, employee, and shareholder demands. You must also be willing to make the organizational changes necessary to facilitate these aims. All this requires a high level of intelligence, energy, and discipline that sets you above the rest of your organizational hierarchy.

To accomplish these ends, you'll also need to employ time management techniques superior to the everyday methods you mastered before you ascended to the C-Suite. If you can develop them, then you can maintain control over your own destiny; otherwise, you're likely to be overwhelmed or, worse, swept aside as success passes you by.

Let's look at ways that you can avoid those fates.

Don't Overdo It

I'll start out with a point that some execs never seem to understand: working long hours isn't good enough. You wouldn't be where you are today if you weren't dedicated to the job and the organization; that should be self-evident. You don't have to kill yourself to prove it.

And I mean exactly that. In Japan, there's an entrenched tradition of working superhuman amounts of unpaid overtime, more to demonstrate company loyalty than to enhance productivity. It also drives high levels of "karoshi," literally the practice of working yourself to death. This isn't unique to Japan; many Westerners, especially at the executive level, have the same problem.

As much as I hate to use a tired cliché, you really do need to work smarter, not harder. Your goal shouldn't be to outwork the other guy. Get a handle on what's really important in your organization, and focus on that; don't just push and push and push until you fall over.

Working too many hours is demonstrably counterproductive, because it results in decreased productivity. Studies have repeatedly shown that a 60-hour work week results, on average, in a 25% decrease in productivity. The productivity numbers just get worse as the number of work hours increases.

The lesson here? People aren't robots. Long hours lead to physical and mental fatigue. This results in slower work, more mistakes, and wasted time. It may also lead to depression, which can spiral out of control if left untreated—which is often the case, because the person affected is too busy to take care of it. In recent years, there's been an alarming rash of suicides at the C-Suite level.

As it turns out, the old forty-hour work week wasn't chosen at random. It was struck as a compromise, as the best balance between productivity and overwork. Now, it may be that a forty-hour week is an impossibility for you, or that you function well with a more demanding schedule. That's fine, as long as you're aware of the signs when you do start burning out, and are willing to do what it takes to short-circuit a drop in performance.

At the very least, you need to stop striving for perfection, stop trying to do everything in one day—and remember that there's more to life than work. You need to enjoy yourself, and your family, while you can.

Incidentally, it's a lot easier to manage your time and accomplish your goals if you feel good. You'd take care of any other tool, wouldn't you? So be sure to exercise regularly, eat right, get enough sleep, take breaks, and give yourself time off to recharge. And for heaven's sake, take your vacations!

Tighten It Up

One of the biggest excuses executives cite for not getting their work done is that people just won't leave them alone. The phone never stops ringing, the emails come in like clockwork, people are always approaching them to ask permission for this or that, and they have to run around and put out brushfires all day. By the time they get around to the big responsibilities, they're tired and distracted, and can't concentrate.

If this describes you, then you need to tighten up your personal availability. To heck with that open door policy; it sounds good, but how are you ever going to accomplish anything? What you really need is at least one layer between yourself and the people below you in the company hierarchy. It's not particularly egalitarian, but it's necessary in an organization with a command structure, so that you can accomplish things with regularity and precision.

Your "dragon at the gate" should consist of at least one hard-nosed, experienced administrative assistant, and a full staff of them as necessary. The idea is to screen interruptions of all types, so their flow is slowed to a trickle by the time they get to you. The only interruptions you should be wide open to are those from your superiors.

You'll still have calls and emails to answer, so you'll need to learn to do so efficiently. Do your best to deal with them in a single block of time, and make your communications short and sweet. Always keep an eye on the clock. Instead of asking the people you're communicating with leading questions like, "How's it going?", which can involve a longer answer than you have time for, get straight to the point: "How can I help you today?"

In addition, you'll need to establish boundaries for meetings, and stick to them. We all know how meetings can wreck productivity by proliferating and dragging on. Don’t let them. Establish stringent guidelines for the meetings you'll attend and how long they'll last.

In general, you need to be vigilant when it comes to your time, so other people won't steal it away piecemeal. In addition to the above factors, set specific times when you're not to be disturbed—and learn to say no and make it stick. If possible, leave enough flexibility in your schedule for crises and emergencies, but not too much.

All this may seem difficult to implement, and it may seem selfish from the outside—and maybe it is. But if you give everyone and everything a minute when they demand one, they'll eat you alive, and you'll have no time left for what truly matters...whatever that may be in your case.

Get Your Priorities Straight

Once you've tightened up your time, establish priorities for yourself and your organization. This will probably require that you first sit back and reflect on both your day-to-day activities and your long-term goals—the kind of thing that overworked executives hate, because it robs time from their busy schedules. But I assure you, this practice will pay serious dividends down the road.

As a proven expert on the basics of time management, you know that you'll need to focus on the big, important stuff first, while pushing the less important items to the bottom of the stack. One way to strengthen your focus on what's important is to refer back to the classic four-quadrant Time Management Matrix. You remember the one I'm talking about. It goes something like this:

Quadrant A: Important and Urgent
Quadrant B: Important and Not Urgent
Quadrant C: Urgent and Not Important
Quadrant D: Neither Urgent Nor Important

That concept still works in general at the uppermost levels; however, like so many other things, your emphasis on what's important must change when you transition to top-tier management. The key here is to shift your primary focus from Operational Time to Strategic Time, which means that you should start to pay much more attention to items traditionally belonging to Quadrant B. Here's how your priorities should be ordered henceforth:

Priority 1: Strategic Goals
• Long term planning
• Values clarification
• Relationship building

Priority 2: Operations (Tactical)
• Everyday management
• Development and refinement of systems and processes
• Most customer service

Priority 3: Time Sensitive
• Deadlines
• Crises
• Pressing issues

Priority 4: Trivial items
• Time wasters
• Micromanaging
• Busy work

All that should really matter to you are Priorities 1 and 2. Of these, you need to spend the lion's share of your time on strategic issues, planning and implementing the things that make the company the most money over the long run. Priority 2, Operations, should be delegated as much as possible; these are the things that you should oversee, but not have a day-to-day hand in managing. Priority 3 issues are the kinds of brushfires you shouldn't handle at all, and as for Priority 4 items, just jettison them altogether.

Once you've got that straight, hammer on the big stuff first, and think deeply about what it will take to clear the path from here to there, so that everything comes easier and quicker. Now, you can't plan for everything that you and your organization will face, but you'll still need to develop an understanding of all the big picture possibilities, and have at least generalized procedures in place to handle whatever obstacles, challenges, and problems may arise.

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

This is a basic tenet of time management, but it's more important at the C-Suite level than ever before. At your pay scale, you shouldn't be doing anything that someone at a lower pay scale can do. So focus on those high-value tasks that you do best, and leave everything else to others. This is the very heart of delegation.

As you consider your schedule, ask yourself these questions about each of your tasks:

1. Is this the best use of my time right now?
2. What's the impact of this task?
3. Am I the best person to perform this?

You shouldn't be running around putting out brushfires all day; your time is too valuable. This is one reason why it's critical to hire good administrate assistants; not just to bar people from wasting your time, but to help you stay organized and prioritized. Good lieutenants like these are invaluable, so pay them well and treat them right.

When you do assign a task to someone else, remember to delegate, not abdicate! Don't just dump work on someone and walk away. Keep an eye on their progress, but at the same time, give them room to work; avoid micromanagement at all costs. Empower people within their positions, and trust them to do their jobs with minimal oversight. If they don't perform, then make changes.

You accomplish this level of efficiency by building effective systems and organizational structures that can function with or without your input. Once you've done this to your satisfaction, you can stop drowning in detail, focusing on other matters that require your attention while everyone else takes care of the infrastructure. Sure, keep an eye on the systems, but don’t obsess over them. Let other people handle the day-to-day details. Give them the power and privilege to make decisions at all levels, and keep them well-informed so they can.

In Conclusion...

Needless to say, I could write a book about how to maintain a good C-Suite time balance—and I'm sure it's been done. However, I feel that the topics outlined above provide at least a general framework to help you understand and adapt to the time management changes you'll encounter as you move from middle management to the top ranks. It all boils down to taking care of yourself, tightening access to your time, organizing your priorities, and shedding the tasks that other people can do just as well. All this is critical if you expect to maintain an enjoyable life and avoid killing yourself from overwork. Work is an important part of your life, but it shouldn't be all of it.

You can do this. You're already an expert at managing your time. Just adapt these concepts to your new circumstances, and after the initial transition phase, it'll be smooth sailing from then on.

Make it a productive day! (TM)

(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.

As we discuss executive time management in this issue, it’s always a good remind to review the basics of good time management. If you're headed for the C-Suite or have recently made the transition, these things are probably engrained in your consciousness; but it never hurts to be reminded, just in case you're feeling a bit rusty.

Here are some of the things that you should be practicing already, in no particular order:

• Maintain daily to-do lists to keep you on target.
• Focus on the most important topics on those lists, and do them first.
• Practice purposeful abandonment: if a task is of minimal significance, let it go.
• Delegate the things that can be done by someone else less expensively.
• Quit micromanaging and trust your people to do their jobs.
• Get rid of the clutter on your desk, so you're not distracted by it.
• Organize your files, both paper and electronic. It should never take more than thirty seconds for you to find the file you need.
• Use your technology constructively, so that it benefits you; don't become chained down by it.
• Be proactive rather than reactive.
• Find the time of day when you work most effectively, and work hardest then.
• Stop being such a perfectionist; just get the work done on schedule with the resources you have.
• Make decisions quickly and authoritatively.
• Break large projects down into manageable chunks, and get moving.
• Take breaks, but don’t overdo them.
• And above all, FOCUS. Shifting your attention from one project to another, or breaking off to get a cup of coffee or deal with a brushfire issue, can be incredibly costly. Even if it's just a tiny thing, it takes you a while to get concentrated on your task again when you return to it.

I could go on, but you know the drill—or at least you'd better. I can't imagine a truly SuperCompetent , C-Suite level individual who hasn't internalized most or all of these items at a visceral level. Maybe you haven't articulated them in a while, but I expect you'll recognize them—and it's always good to see them written down occasionally.

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Laura Stack: The Productivity Pro (r)

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Monthly Microsoft Outlook webinar:

Monday, February 28, 2011. The Inbox/Outbox/Sent Items/Drafts. Remove Attachments, Automatic Formatting, Notes in Messages, “Out Of Office Assistant,” Opening Others’ Folders, Add Reminders to Flags, Set Reminders for Others, Distribution Lists, Junk Mail List, AutoName, Tag Your Comments, Stationery, Emailing from Another Office Applications, Message Options, Find Related Messages, View Multiple Folders at the Same Time, Resend a Sent Item, Use Sent Items to Set a Reminder, Attach a Previously Sent Item.

Date: Monday, February 28, 2011

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

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:


Monday, February 28, 2011.


Executive Time Management: How Time Management Changes As You Move From Middle Management To The VP/C-Suite Level. By the time you reach the upper tiers of management, you may think that you understand how to handle your time—but you'll soon realize that things look a little different from the C-Suite level than they did before. How you use your time, and who you give it too, undergoes significant changes. Priorities and responsibilities shift; sometimes subtly, often radically. While basic time management standards should still inform your approach to your job, the ante is higher now: your actions impact the organization in ways undreamt of before. More than ever, you have to focus on those high-value tasks that you do best, and leave everything else to others. In this course, I'll show you how to:
• Tighten up your personal availability and accessibility.
• Prioritize your organization's operations and projects.
• Strengthen your focus on what's important.
• Delegate with maximum effectiveness.
• Maximize your organizational efficiency.

Date: Monday, February 28, 2011

Time: Watch the recording at your convenience or “live” at 12:00PM Pacific / 1:00PM Mountain / 2:00PM Central /3:00PM Eastern

Cost is $29 and includes the recording. For more information and to register click here.

Laura's Blog

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Work Life Balance: Planning for Chaotic Transition Periods: Productivity Minute Video

Productivity Minute Video: Work Life Balance: Limit Your Childrens Activites to Manageable Levels

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Letters to the Editor


I enjoyed your article on “being busy.” I am so tired of hearing how busy everyone is, as if that continual statement somehow makes them more important than everyone else. People—especially women—need to focus on accomplishing, being productive and let go of the “I’m so busy” line. It is wearing thin and does nothing to impress people.

Janet Boulter
Business Advisor


I sat in on your recent Daytimer webinar on finding a balance between electronic and paper organizers. It was an issue that I’d had for a while – I was so bothered I wrote Daytimer for advice about a year ago – so I was thrilled to see your webinar scheduled.

Afterward I commented that it was exactly what I needed – I found an excellent balance between outlook and my planner. I was thrilled. But now, having had time to really utilize what I learned I’m absolutely ecstatic. The truth is I never opened the task feature in outlook, a program that I’ve used for a decade. But that tiny button has given me a new level of organization! It’s like a personal assistant, popping in to my office from time to time with reminders about the things I need to do. Now I will say I was an extensive user of flags on e-mails for the same purpose. But I couldn’t track progress unless I forwarded myself the e-mail with additional notes in the forward. But the task feature, it’s an entire history of every action, contact and issue! Not to be dramatic but it’s really changed my life ... organizationally speaking.

I just wanted you to know what a difference you’ve made. Thank you so much.


Audrey RL Wyatt, author of the award-winning novel, Poles Apart.

Laura in the News!
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3 Easy Ways to Stress-Proof Your Mornings

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Reprint Information
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.

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

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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:

© 2011 Laura Stack. Laura Stack is a personal productivity expert, author, and professional speaker who is dedicated to building high-performance SuperCompetent cultures by creating Maximum Results in Minimum Time® through increased productivity. She 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). To have Laura speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401. Visit to sign up for her free monthly productivity newsletter.
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