Laura Stack: The Productivity Pro (R) Leave the Office Earlier
a news"E"letter from The Productivity Pro - Laura Stack
Number 143:: April 2011

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In This Issue:
Message from Laura
Feature Article: The Productive Entrepreneur: Run Your 1-Person Business Like a 3-Person Business
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®

Over 35 great recordings from Laura Stack, The Productivity Pro®, Inc. available as MP3 downloads for your iPod or CD in your car! Only $7.99 each.

Click here to purchase.  

Words of Wisdom
"The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary." -- Vidal Sassoon, British businessman

"An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew, hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it." – Roy Ash, former director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget

"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."– Walt Disney, American entertainer
Hot Links

How Daydreams Improve Productivity

The One Office Perk You Must Splurge On

Flexible Working Leads to Efficiency

Internet use a mixed blessing for the workplace, local experts say

Laura in the News!
The Wall Street Journal: Going Back to School as an Adult To manage time, productivity expert Laura Stack suggests setting a weekly schedule, adding up hours needed for work, sleep, family care, meals…
Ask the Juggle: Back to School

Stop Making Excuses—and Get Organized

5 Tips for Better Work-Life Balance

Do You Want to REALLY Free Up Your Time to Sell?
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.

April 2011

12::San Diego, CA

14::Boulder, CO

21::San Francisco, CA

22::Denver, CO

25::Tigard, OR

26::Clackamas, OR

27::Salem, OR

28::Vail, Colorado

30::San Diego, CA


May 2011

12::Atlanta, GA

13::Orlando, FL

14::Bellevue, WA

23::Denver, CO


June 2011

5-7::Estes Park, CO

10::Rochester, NY

11::Natick, MA

15::Reno, NV

22::Pittsburgh, PN

24::Denver, CO

28::Monroe, CT


July 2011

20::Denver, CO

25::Denver, CO

27-29::Anaheim, CA


August 2011

1-3::Anaheim, CA

13::Washington, DC

17-19::Las Vegas, NV

20::Smyrna, GA

29::Denver, CO


September 2011

10::Ann Arbor, MI

13-14::Denver, CO

16::New York, NY

17::Pittsburgh, PA

18::Cleveland, OH

19::Louisville, KY

26::Denver, CO


October 2011

5-9::London, UK

10::Clinton Township, MI

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

26-29::Toronto, Canada


December 2011

5-7:: Key Biscayne, FL

15::Denver, 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


March 2012

22-23::Paris, France

25-28::Denver, CO






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

Feature Article:

The Productive Entrepreneur: Run Your 1-Person Business Like a 3-Person Business


While it's wonderful not to have to worry about the drama or indignities of the typical corporate job, as a "solopreneur," you face certain difficulties that larger businesses don't—not least the fact that you have to wear all the hats at once. Obviously, that's not an impossible task; at last count, there were about 20 million single-person businesses in the USA, accounting for a whopping three-quarters of all businesses. This does not, however, mean that it's easy.

If you expect to succeed as an entrepreneur, hard work is a given. Now, we've all heard the business cliché "Work smarter, not harder"—and while that statement does hold a grain of truth, you actually have to do both. True productivity means working hard by working smart, using every business technique you can implement as what the military calls "force multipliers," allowing you to overcome your personal limitations.

In this article, I'll outline five interrelated strategies that can help you maximize your productivity in startlingly effective ways, allowing you to handle your business as if you were three people (or more) rather than just one.

1. Time Management

Managing your time wisely may be the most effective force multiplier there is, no matter what kind of business you run. While the details vary, this technique is as applicable to the sole proprietor as to the CEO of a Fortune 100 company. If you don't set goals, shut down distractions and interruptions, ruthlessly prune away the trivial and, most importantly, have the willpower to stick to your guns, you'll be left behind by those who do. Or run down, more likely.

There will never be enough time to do everything, but there will be enough time to do the most important things, so you have to force yourself to be efficient. Start by creating a personal scheduling and organization system, which can be paper-based, electronic, or some hybrid of both. Once you've got your system in place, put everything into it: schedules, project due dates, special events, business cards, client and networking contacts, notes, communication and meeting notes, category lists, and to-do lists.

Speaking of to-do lists, they're arguably the single most important element of any effective time management system—especially your daily lists. Keeping the 80/20 rule in mind, focus tightly on the few most important items on your lists and get them done first. Do whatever else you can in the time you have left over. Don't hesitate to defer, delegate, or simply abandon your lowest-value tasks if you need to.

And remember: never let a need for perfection paralyze you. Once you've blocked out a concept for what you want to achieve within the basic framework of your overarching goals, collect the data you require and move forward when you have enough to work with. Take care of the details as they come; you can't plan for everything in advance anyway, so don't let that worry you.

2. Focus on What's Important

In any business context, your truly important tasks should always be the most profitable ones, whatever they may be. Once you've gotten your priorities straight, the real challenge is keeping other things from distracting you. Thus, you have to hone your focus to a keen edge, so you can easily slice through anything that might keep you from maximizing your productivity.

First, you have to give the task at hand your undivided attention, so abandon the entire idea of multi-tasking. It's been proven to hurt more than it helps. Next, if you can, do your most important task at the time of day when you’re at your highest energy level. Some of us are morning people; some of us work better in the afternoon. You know yourself best, so select the appropriate time for you, and lock it down so you can focus.

Banish any tendency toward procrastination, which often pops up when we're faced with tasks we dislike, or that seem overwhelming, or that we're afraid of. Whatever the cause, procrastination is damaging; it blows a task out of proportion and makes it seem harder than it actually is. Even when a task is particularly difficult, all you can do is get started. Break it down into smaller tasks with their own deadlines.

Be sure to insulate yourself from all distractions. According to a recent survey, 28% of the average workday is wasted on unnecessary distractions and recovery of focus. So shut your office door, or find a quiet place to work. Limit your social interaction for the duration of your work period. If possible, turn off your phones and electronics, answering messages only during specific blocks of time. Very little is so important that you have to respond to it instantly.

3. Hone Your Self-Discipline

Wouldn’t it be great to wake up and decide to go to the beach instead of to your office or storefront? How would you like to sleep in every day, and then put in one of those fabulous four-hour work weeks when you get around to it?

Sadly, this scenario isn't anything like the real world. In order to succeed, you need to have the self-discipline to apply yourself consistently to your tasks, whether you feel like it or not. And being human, there will be days when the spirit rebels...and the flesh isn't especially willing, either. But you can't afford to indulge yourself often when you're an independent entrepreneur.

Self-discipline is closely linked to both focus and time management, because neither is possible without it. If you ruthlessly shut out distractions and avoid acting on impulse, then maximizing your time-use comes much more naturally, with high productivity naturally following. Procrastination goes right out the window, because you just don't have time for it. Ditto for perfectionism.

At its most basic, self-discipline is a form of selective self-training that helps you take full control over your life, and that's where its chief value lies. It can take a lot of work to harness the power of self-discipline; but once you've gotten into the habit, then you've set the stage for consistently improving yourself and reaching your goals.

Basically, it all comes down to routine. You have to allocate a specific amount of time for each task, and try to set it in stone. Don’t compromise on your routines, because that's how you maximize productivity. If you do slip, don't get discouraged; just climb right back on that self-discipline horse and keep moving.

If your routine gets derailed and nothing else seems to work, here's a good way to buckle down and get back on track: promise yourself you'll do just a little more work before taking a break. You might tell yourself, "I'll work another fifteen minutes on this article," or decide you'll rest after outlining five action items on next week's agenda. Then, when you've reached your goal, take a look at how you feel about continuing. At that point, it may be easy to keep going because you've hit your stride.

Even if you can't manage to continue, you'll have gotten some work done. Reward yourself for that: take a break, get a cup of tea, or do something else that makes you feel good. Then come back and get started on the next task. Eventually, moving forward with your tasks and staying on point will become easier, and self-discipline will seem less like a yoke than like a tool that frees you to get more done.

4. Play To Your Strengths

Work is always more enjoyable if you're doing what you're good at. It's easier to focus, keep yourself on track, and maximize your efficiency, if only because you feel more empowered and fulfilled by what you're doing. You've heard the old saying: "Find something you love to do, and you'll never work a day in your life." It may sound trite, but it's true.

That's why I advise you to always to play to your strengths. Determine what you're best at, and then work out the most effective ways to leverage those talents. Now, some people will advise you to focus instead on overcoming your weaknesses before you do anything else. While I understand the desire to better yourself, I think this is terrible business advice. If you're a horrible accountant but you can sell ice to Eskimos, then what should you hone: your accounting skills, or your marketing skills? What would be most profitable for you?

The choice is pretty easy, isn't it? Why should you push and push to go from being mediocre to so-so at one task, when you can work on going from great to superb at something else—and enjoy life a whole lot more? In most cases, focusing on your weaknesses is just a waste of time and talent.

If you're not sure where your strengths lie, sit down and think about the things you most enjoy doing—the ones where you drop into "the zone" and complete your work without noticing time passing. Then seek feedback from others; what do they think you're good at? Take their feedback into consideration and compare it to your own experiences. Where do they jibe? Most importantly, which of your favorite tasks is the most profitable?

That's where you should focus most of your efforts. Even if you love mowing the grass, you should hire someone else to do that. Which brings us to our final topic...

5. Outsourcing

While you should never abdicate responsibility for anything within your purview, it's perfectly acceptable to delegate it to someone else. In fact, it's just good business sense. Even when you're the one and only employee of your company, you can always outsource all the jobs where you’re weak or just don't have time to do because you're too busy making money.

The concept of active outsourcing has been very much in vogue since Tim Ferris popularized it in his book The 4-Hour Workweek, but it’s nothing new—savvy entrepreneurs have been practicing it for decades. And in the Internet era, where a whole world of people is literally at your fingertips, it's easier than ever to delegate your work to others.

In fact, I'd recommend that you outsource as much of your work as you can afford to. This is one of the most cogent force multipliers available to the modern business professional. If you can't keep the books to save your life, hire a professional who can. Hire others to provide IT services, wash windows, mow the lawn, process payments, dust shelves, built your website, submit the taxes, do the payroll, conduct inventory, provide customer service, and deliver items. This can help you control costs, increase your efficiency, and level the business playing field so that it's easier to compete with the big guys.

With all the little stuff out of the way, you can focus on whatever you can do that serves the business the most profitably. Stay within your area of expertise, and rarely (if ever) do anything that someone else can do better or more cheaply than you can.

Don't micromanage, but keep an eye on your staff or outsourcers to make sure they stay on track and provide services in a timely manner. Accountability is a must, and should be ensured by regular reporting. And consider carefully before you select an offshore provider for items that can be serviced that way. While there's certainly nothing wrong with offshore help, some tasks require providers who are immediately accessible, or who understand your culture because they're a member of it. That's when you should go for domestic "homeshore" providers.

In Conclusion

Running the show alone can be a real pain in the tuchus, a lot like juggling a dozen balls at once. But if you're willing to put in some effort, you can learn how to maximize your efficiency such that your solo effort is as efficient as any three-person business. Just take a deep breath, apply the methods I've outlined here, and start pushing forward. Believe me, after a while it gets a whole lot easier!

Make it a productive day! ™

If you enjoyed this article, you can register for the April 22, 2011 webinar on exactly how to do this!

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.

Being truly productive is more than just a matter of buckling down and learning to manage your time well. In order to get anything significant done, you have to feel good enough to do it—which means that you have to take good care of yourself, and learn how to manipulate and ration your energy in order to maximize your effectiveness.

My book The Exhaustion Cure, which was published in 2008 by Broadway Books, summarizes all my secrets on the subject, though I also touch on them in my other books. The basics are pretty much common sense -- although, as has been pointed out many times, common sense isn't all that common. I'm sure you know them already, but a little reminder never hurts.

Here's what it all boils down to:

• Eat right.
• Get enough rest.
• Exercise regularly.
• Stay hydrated (coffee doesn't count!).
• Pace yourself.
• Declutter.
• Reduce or eliminate energy drains like smoking, caffeine, alcohol, workaholism, procrastination, perfectionism, etc.
• Watch your mental as well as your physical health.

That's a very, very basic list—and do I hear a resounding, "Well, duh?" in the wake of it? Truth is, I feel the same way. But somehow, people let the obvious get by them too often...maybe because it is so obvious. Despite the reasonable nature of these cautions, and our full knowledge that we can't be productive entrepreneurs if we don't have the energy to get out of bed, many of us forget these items in the hustle to get the important things done.

But that's just it. If you don't keep on top of your health, there's likely to come a day when you can't get the important things done, because you just don't feel good enough to do them. Don't let this happen to you! Take care of yourself, so you can keep taking care of business like the super-entrepreneur you are.

Laura Stack: The Productivity Pro (r)

Messages from Laura

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Monthly Microsoft Outlook webinar: Friday, April 22, 2011.

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

Topic: Module 4: Creative, Powerful Calendaring: New Appointments, Recurring Meetings, Sharing Calendars, Permission Levels, Converting Appointments to Meetings, Compare Multiple Calendars, Change, Cancel, Reschedule, Schedule for Others, Process Meeting Requests and Responses for Others, Track Reponses, Navigating, Changing Views, Calendar Options, Label Colors, Appointments by Category, Create New Personal Calendars, Auto-Converting Email into Appointments, Schedule Task Pad Items, Printing Calendars, Emailing Calendars to Others Not on Outlook .

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:

Friday, April 22, 2011.


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

Topic: The Productive Entrepreneur: Run Your 1-Person Business Like a 3-Person Business.  While it's great not to have to worry about the drama or indignities of the typical corporate job, the "solopreneur" faces certain difficulties that larger businesses don't—not least the fact that you have to wear all the hats at once. Obviously, that's not an impossible task; at last count, there were at least 20 million single-person businesses in the USA, accounting for a whopping 75% of all businesses. That does not, however, mean that it's easy. Running the show alone can be a real pain, much like juggling a dozen balls at once. But it can be done. If you're willing to put in a little effort, you can learn how to maximize your efficiency such that your solo effort is as efficient as any three-person business. Among other things, this class shows you how to:
• Manage your time wisely.
• Play to your strengths.
• Stay focused on what's important.
• Hone your self-discipline and force yourself to work—even when you don't want to.
• Outsource and delegate items that can be done more cheaply by others.

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

Laura's Blog

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Recent posts:
Office Productivity: How to Turn an Unproductive Day Around

Five Things to Do at Work Every Day to Boost Productivity

Slipping the Electronic Leash

The Productivity Minute

Recent videos from Laura:

Get a Move on and Make a Decision

Do Things in Order of Importance

Create a Process to Simplify the Task

Can Money Buy Time

Complete the Task in Less Time

Laura's Demonstration VideoView Laura's Demonstration Video

Letters to the Editor

Hi Laura,

I just started reading this book (SuperCompetent) and I've already learned several tricks that will help me! Thanks for putting this together!

One specific point I wanted to elaborate on was one you made early in the book. It's about how jobs change over time, and how it can be useful to review job expectations when you have an annual evaluation. I plan to do this for myself, as my job has changed dramatically over the last year.

As companies do more with less, and as the available talent changes, I think it's critical that both managers and the people they manage review job responsibilities frequently. I can imagine a lot of people might be surprised to find they are not working on the right tasks even though they are busier than ever.

Daniel F.
Inventory Management Specialist

Laura in the News!
4 Time-Saving Tips to Start Your Day

3 Easy Ways to Stress-Proof Your Mornings

Rock Your Next Meeting

Is Office Clutter Costing You A Promotion?

Ten Tricks To De-Clutter Your Office
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:

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:

© 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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