Jan is an executive coach, productivity consultant and speaker. She is the founder and CEO of CTC Productivity. CTC is a Twin Cities-based, woman-owned and operated business. With over 20 years of corporate consulting experience, Jan personally understands the unique challenges of leading a busy professional life. With three young children and a company to run, Jan fully understands the importance of maintaining a work-life balance.
The roots of Jan’s business acumen and people-first attitude can be traced back to her formal education. She earned a business degree in Operations and Systems Management with a minor in Psychology from Indiana University Kelley School of Business. CTC is the perfect forum for her to blend her people skills and productivity expertise.
Prior to launching CTC, Jan worked for a number of Fortune 100 companies, including an expatriate assignment in Stockholm Sweden with Kraft Foods, and a consulting role at Accenture, the world’s largest consulting firm. As a consultant, she was responsible for optimizing and streamlining the business processes for Fortune 500 companies, including the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), World Book Encyclopedia & United Airlines.
Jan helps clients all over the country. She is currently a national board member for NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals). Jan was recently named a 2018 Women Who Lead Minnesota Business Magazine Honoree.
In this podcast, Jan and Cindra talk:
· Her top strategies to help us work more effectively in a virtual world
· How to keep the most important thing we need to do top of mind
· The best ways to manage our email
· Ways to leverage technology to help you right now
[tweet_dis2] “The busier you get the more you need to accept the fact that you can’t do everything you used to do.”-linkedin.com/in/janbarnettlehman[/tweet_dis2]
[tweet_dis2] “The value is the ability to diagnose which productivity strategy a person needs.”-linkedin.com/in/janbarnettlehman [/tweet_dis2]
[tweet_dis2] “Make productivity a priority.” -linkedin.com/in/janbarnettlehman[/tweet_dis2]
Jan: Yeah, thank you. This is super fun.
Cindra: We met, I heard you speak a year ago or so we’re both trying to figure out exactly where that was, what timeframe that was but I’m really excited for you to join the podcast today. I have a few questions that have been submitted for you. So we’re going to talk about those. But to get us started, just tell us a little bit about your passion and what you do?
Jan: Yeah, I love, I just love that question. So I, I hate waste and I think, you know, I kind of had this aha moment a couple years ago, like what drives me? Why in the world am I in this profession? And it really is about eliminating waste and, you know, silly little ways but I hate it when my family waste food. I’m an avid recycler right the day to day stuff. But one of the things that just drives me crazy and I, and I see it all the time is the waste within organizations and it typically falls into three areas wasted time is huge. And we, we see that a lot of leaders really have no clue the amount of waste of time within an organization and then wasted talent across the organization. So, managers not taking the time to develop people effectively delegate. So people are just are underutilized. And then third, and one of my favorite areas is really that technology is underutilized. So yeah, so anything we can do to sort of help companies or individuals in those three areas is super fun for us.
Cindra: Well, that’s great. Give us a little sense of like how did you get to where you are now and tell us a story about like CTC productivity?
Jan: Yeah so I think probably what happens with most people as you go to school go to college, you’re like, I really don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Right. But you kind of gravitate towards the classes that you do well in and you’re excited to go to, you’re not blowing them off in mine we’re basically process improvement. So it kind of the Lean Six Sigma concept. And then I went into a profession, I worked either worked directly with Fortune 500 companies or I was a consultant and my clients for Fortune 500 companies so Kraft Foods, United Airlines Securities Exchange Commission system pretty big guys and did many, many years of process improvement work and then 10 years ago started my own business. So that’s kind of the history and the progression and I just couldn’t be more thrilled.
Cindra: Yeah. That’s fine. So there’s several things that I wanted to talk a bit about today. I think just continuing to be productive in this new world. I think is really important, this virtual world. And there’s so many changes that people have experienced the last five months or so, Jan, you know, like I think about for me. I was on the road a lot, I was traveling a lot, I realized I only like filled my gas- my car with gas for the first time in three months. And it was like, feel it, like every day, like what’s happening here. You know, we’ve had to pivot and adjust our business, our world. You know, like people are working from home. So I think a our content is going to be
really helpful for people and so, you know, with so many people who are working from home right now. Like, how have you seen people’s work change?
Jan: Yeah, it’s kind of a mix, it’s you know, it’s interesting. I’m seeing some really senior leaders that typically were in back to back meetings that may be now have a little bit more time they’re sequestered up in their cabin all by themselves. And so they actually have time for more productivity based work, which is great. The vast majority of the employees though within companies, the definitely you’re taking your productivity hits and it comes in a lot of different ways. One is it’s harder to communicate and collaborate when you’re not with your people. Right. So that’s a certainly a big space. The other is people’s ability to focus. There’s the distractions of having young kids at home as well as the mental distraction of worried about your health, your family’s health those sort of things so productivity is, I think, more important than ever. Right now, then I mean it always should be important, but it’s more important now. because the other thing is productivity and employee engagement and job satisfaction are really linked. And so if you can help someone be really productive and they can get their work done in an eight hour day, they’re like super happy. So it’s got kind of a double win there. And so engagement is equally important thing right now, for sure.
Cindra: Yeah and there’s some people that I work with, I’m just thinking about my work with, you know, as, as a coach and some people have said, Well, I actually feel like I’m more productive at home. Whereas some people are really struggling with that. What would you say are you know some of your top strategies on how to, you know, just manage this virtual world that we’re in right now?
Jan: So there’s hundreds of ideas. But let’s think, one is really leveraging technology in a different way is super important. It’s critical that all businesses move their data off of their, their servers and a hard drive and all that into the cloud because what happens then is everybody has super easy access to information. So if you’ve got this young dad, who’s, you know, got whining kids at home, and he’s like, all right, fine. Let’s go to the park and then he gets the emergency email on his phone from a boss that he needs a piece of information.
Now he’s like stressed out because it’s on the server needs to get home log into VPN, all that kind of stuff. So getting the data on the cloud just makes the ability to really work anywhere so easy. So that’s a big one. The others would be giving yourself a break. I think it’s really important right now that anybody who’s in charge of people really reset expectations. And if somebody had in their goals for the year strategic thinking work. And that’s a young parent at home with young kids is not realistic. So let’s shift the expectations. Let’s give them some more tactical work that they can do in between, you know, childcare, that kind of stuff. I think the ability to focus is probably the biggest area that’s taken a hit and new strategies there.
It’s really hard as a mom we know, it’s just really hard. Even if you have somebody taking care of your kids to hear the background noise that there’s a fight and not want to know what’s going on. So, simple things like the wax little earplugs or whatever to drown out, you’ll still hear the baby crying in the crib. But you won’t hear kind of the background noise that’s so distracting. And again, the list goes on and on, but those might be some people should consider
Cindra: Yeah, I think those are really helpful. I’m thinking about myself and my kids have been home and my guess is they’ll you know we’re not. I don’t think we’re going back full time to school or we’ll have to see how that goes when school starts here, but let’s take this first one of, like, or I guess the second one that you said about like giving your employees that break and shifting their expectations or shifting just expectations. How have you seen you know some of the people that you’ve been working with do that effectively?
Jan: Mm hmm. You know, I’ve heard of like organized Audrey actually did a presentation for NSA chapter and I thought was really interesting about, you know, some of the companies, she’s seeing are actually saying, hey, focus on yourself at home first. So, you know, you can then get back to work, engaged and those are great strategies. I’m seeing when I do presentations I speak to a lot of CEO peer groups and I and I talk on kind of all these aspects like the ability to focus the ability to leverage technology and then the engagement piece and I’m really happy to see that many of the CEOs have more questions around the engagement piece. And we talk a lot about things like if you if you do an employee engagement survey and you follow the Gallup Q12 questions. One of the 12 questions that Gallup recommends you ask is, does anybody care about me personally at work? and that is like alive and very important right now Right? so we spent a lot of time with senior leaders talking about strategies around that so like the next time you’re on the video with one of your workers and their kid comes in. You know, don’t let them shoo the kid out of the room right engage like learn. Get to know that family because getting to know somebody on a deeper level will build that trust and so pivoting to really more engagement strategies right now is a super important thing for leaders to focus on
Cindra: I think that’s really helpful it’s like sometimes we think of like work should be separate like you don’t involve like the personal or merge the personal but I think our lives are so different than they were a year ago and I like this idea of when you see the cat or the dog or the cat on the on the video chat route like engage with them.
Jan: Yeah, well it’s, you know, most of us are visual learners. And so, you know, to be honest, I don’t know how many times people will tell me, Oh, I’ve got three kids two boys and I can’t remember it. But like if I were to see on video. Their kid coming in the room, I’ll forever remember they have a toddler, right, because it’s visual it’s, it’s just, it’s like a perfect time to really get to know people at a deeper level.
Cindra: So when you’re talking with CEO groups about like engagement and how to, you know, continue to make that as a focus during this time of COVID and just how our work is shifting or at home. What are some of the top strategies that you might share with them or talk about related to like engagement?
Jan: Trying to think if there’s more. It’s, it’s probably I think being more available. So, one of the things I hear when I talked to work with the individual contributors in a company is they don’t know when they can interrupt their senior leader. They’re like, I don’t know, like, are they work in the same hours they did before, you know, should I bother them and so one of the things
we’ve been recommending which has been a big hit is start to use your calendar as a communication tool out to the rest of your organization. And kind of indicate this is what I start my day in my day. And one of the things that I’m recommending to senior leaders is put on your calendar like office hours. So, you know, like back when we were in college and our professor had like open door office hours. It’s really important for senior leaders basically to emulate vertical in a virtual world my doors open. Because right now, they don’t know that. Right. They don’t in the office. You can look over the cubicle wall and go the doors open. I can stop in and chat. So it’s really important for senior leaders to say, hey, I’m available. Let’s talk. Let’s chat, you know, here’s this window of time. You’re not interrupting me. I’m here for you. So really kind of opening their, their schedule up to say, please, I’d like to engage with you, helps immensely.
Cindra: Yeah, excellent being available and open. That’s what I’m hearing about like putting those office hours on there and then I’m interested in connecting with you. Right?
Jan: Now, yes, exactly. You’re not starving, you’re not a burden. I want to, I want to talk to you and I’ve reserved this lunchtime for anybody that wants to chat and it’s a balance, one of the big problems that we see. Certainly we saw in the office before is that the interruptions and distractions and we have the same in the virtual world. A lot of people are using chat and popping in and all that, or yeah, it’s really important conversations are happening around like when do I want to be interrupted and when don’t I so don’t use chat when I’m like really trying to focus on something. But here’s this window of time that if you want to pop over and chat with me, that’s great, because that’s where my head’s at. At that point. So identifying effective communication policies like how do we know when to communicate and how to communicate it really important in a virtual world.
Cindra: Yeah, super helpful. One of the questions that was submitted Jan, was this question of, like, how do you keep the most important things top of mind. And I think that has to do with your point of like focusing and there’s so many distractions. So maybe I’ll give you an example for me. I’m writing my second book I’m almost done.
Jan: I can’t get my first one done so good for you.
Cindra: A lot of discipline. Like you know so I put time on my calendar to work on it. But then there’s like this emails that pop up or you know this list of things I gotta do. And so it’s really hard to sometimes like the most important things, the things that are maybe needle movers in your business, right, it’s hard to make those a priority when there’s like all these maybe less important things that need to get done. So what would you say you know to help people think about how do they keep the most important thing, you know, top of mind?
Jan: Yeah, so to two things. One is, well, a couple of different things. It’s so important that the leaders in particular, but everybody really balance and make sure their priorities have time, as well as the priority of others because often what happens is leaders that have direct reports get sucked into responding to emails and answering phone calls and they never get to the bigger
work. So it’s really balancing that and so I’m a huge advocate of everybody blacking their calendar for quiet uninterrupted time to do your most important work and everybody deserves that. Leaders needed as much as any because otherwise you do fall into that trap and understanding that it’s acceptable not to be highly responsive during that time. So one of the things that I do a lot with leadership teams is to facilitate a conversation around what’s a true emergency because if you don’t define what a true emergency is, everybody feels they need to monitor emails constantly to see if a customer email comes in or whatever and you never allow yourself to have that focused uninterrupted time. So that’s a really important definition to figure out and then once you’ve defined that you can say, you know what, there’s nothing in this business that really is that much of an emergency or if it is someone’s going to call me on the phone. You know, not going to send me an email because that’s not the tool we use to communicate an emergency. So you give people the, the ability to or the approval to not look at email constantly. So that’s one big one. The other is turning off all those God awful notifications and pings it is too hard to get distracted and there’s really no reason for them. The only notification. I personally feel should be in your face is something to say you’ve got a meeting in 10 minutes to wrap up. You know, really, truly time sensitive. So the next time you’re orthodontist says, Do you want text notifications about your orthodontist appointment say no you don’t. It doesn’t need to interrupt you like an email is fine. So, yeah.
Cindra: Yeah. Isn’t that so true. And sometimes, at one point, I looked at the research or how many times we look at our phone and it’s something like it’s crazy.
Jan: Yeah, highly reactive world and I don’t you know I don’t blame the younger generation, you know, they grew up with I order something on Amazon and it’s on my doorstep the next morning, so they grew up in this asap environment. So, unless leaders reset expectations to say, hey, our customer response time is 24 hours. You don’t need to drop everything, every time you get an email from a customer, unless it’s an emergency, but otherwise do your focus time. Do your most important work and then look to see, you know, if a customer needs help.
Cindra: Yeah, I think just putting time aside on your calendar for like your most important work. I think is really key. And then right turning off all the distractions, maybe even turning off your email you know if it’s a personal thing.
Jan: I have some clients that have to turn their computer off, like they print off whatever is on their computer, they need. And because they’re just it’s a willpower thing and you can actually strengthen your willpower and improve, but it is definitely a willpower thing. And so the more hurdles you can put in there, the better right and not having the donuts on the counter would help you write, having the willpower not eating a donut. Same thing with this, but the other piece that I want to mention Cindra, I forgot, is you also have to have that planning component and sadly I don’t see enough of that across companies. So, if you don’t take the time to plan then typically email will be a day because it’s just in your face. It’s telling you what it wants you to do. But typically, our most important work doesn’t come through email. So in addition to reserving that focus time that quiet time it’s having a time of day when you back up and you think, Okay, what’s the most important thing I need to get done tomorrow, what are the three
most important things I want to get done tomorrow. One should always be the thing you’re going to do during focus time when you want uninterrupted quiet time. Just so you have a plan and the goal is to come in and do that stuff first if you’re especially if you’re a morning person get that done first, before you do other things. You may need to triage email, look really quick because you might not be able to focus until you make sure there’s no emergencies. But don’t get sucked into the trap of responding to emails just look quickly no emergencies. Great. Set the world aside, I’m going to focus now and then I’ll get back to email after I get my most important work done.
Cindra: Yeah, I think so many people just kind of jump in, you know, they don’t really plan it or think about like what are the three things that I need to get done today and I like this idea of just like three things, because if you got 10 you know, like that’s overwhelming. So one thing that I do is like, what’s the three things I need to do once I get those three things done. Okay, then how would I make my next three things.
Jan: Yeah, perfect. Yeah, three is realistic and if it’s a longer list, then you kind of blow it off and you go home feeling defeated. If you have three and you get them done you’ll go home feeling like I did a good day’s work, even though I still have like 200 emails in my inbox if emails driving your day you’ll never feel like you’re ahead of the curve.
Cindra: Jan. One of the things I wanted to talk to you a bit more about is this idea of like managing your emails and that’s when I heard you speak is like you’re talking about this subject, and so there was a few questions that came in about this particular topic, maybe just to get us started, what would you say are some of the, you know, your top strategies to effectively deal with emails?
Jan: Yeah, so there’s lots of different ways to manage email but the one that we found that works for the vast majority of people and a lot of people just don’t stop and think about it.
But your email inbox should really be like a to-do list, it should only contain things that you really need to act on. So it shouldn’t contain things that you’ve already read and you might want to refer back to later because then you’re mixing action items with reference material. And that’s when things get lost. And also, it makes you feel more overwhelmed because you could have 2000 or 20,000 emails. If you’re going through that strategy. So just the concept of I’m only going to keep things in my inbox that I still need to act on and then having a way of referencing that other stuff and getting it out of there as the second part that’s important. And historically, most of us would create a nice little folder list and we would move our emails over but we just, we can’t keep up. We don’t have time to organize at that level, and nor do we need to, search is amazing. And people just they leverage it on the internet, but they don’t leverage it and email and so a lot of area where we spend time is helping people understand how to use like let’s call it advanced search so when I ask people if they know how to use search, they’ll go yeah I use it all the time. Although I’ll tell you, I did have a client this year. That has been working for 25 plus years and didn’t know you could actually even search in email for basic stuff. Think about the productivity loss for that many years that we’ve had email. But don’t take stuff for people take for granted. People know stuff but for instance, if you go in and you go in
the search field and let’s have Cindra, I put in your email address and you and I weren’t a company together. I would get back any email that you were your he was to you, from you. You are CC your emails in the body of the language or in the body of the email. But if I go in and click on the search field and then go up to kind of the ribbon above and click on in Outlook, click on from and then put your email address. I’m only going to get the emails from you, and then I can click on oh yeah by the way it has an attachment and it’ll shrink the search results. So the more you get comfortable knowing that I know how to search and find stuff, the more you’ll be comfortable with the idea of just loving the vast majority of your emails into a catch all folder you’ll still need to organize certain things. If you’re nervous, you wouldn’t be able to find it. I always say, you know, I would be nervous if in three years I got audited from a tax year three years prior, and how in the world would I remember all the receipts from that year. So I have a 2020 expense folder and I’m diligent those emails go there, 80% of the other ones go to catch all and I’ll tell you the focus time the priority setting and catch all folder to-do list inbox. I think have been the magic weapon for so many of my clients that have gotten huge productivity gains. So I highly encourage people try it.
Cindra: Really good points. And so, Gary asked this question like, how do you stop your mind going to the email when you know it’s not the most important thing that you should be doing. And I think about like how email, how many times, kind of feels like other people’s agendas instead of like what we really need to do so. What are your thoughts on that, like, how do you know really turned like when you said you know when you sit down at the beginning of your day. You kind of check in. But then, you know, turn it off or close it. But what if that’s hard for you?
Jan: Yeah, it’s, it’s a mindset shift. And again, that’s where that having that plan, writing down what your top three things you’re going to do is a good strategy because when you especially I actually write it on a post it note, like I that’s my, you know, I do digital for everything, but my top three going to post it note. And when you write something in your hand right cements it in your brain. You’re making a commitment to yourself. So there’s, there’s a lot of sort of Psychology around it, but it really is that combination of recognizing that you can’t always be at the beck and call of everybody else because more often than not, the stuff that you’re going to do is, again, maybe somebody at a leadership position is helping really a broader group of people versus just one person. So it’s changing your mindset. I think a lot of my clients say, you know what Jan you’re giving me kind of approval to close my door and do this work. I’m like, yeah, like you’re not being selfish, you’re really being smart, you’re really working in a smarter way to help a broader amount of people, but it takes more discipline to say no to the emails and all the interruptions.
Cindra: Yeah, how much time do you think is lost just on distractions and maybe, it’s even more, you know, happening right now, during this virtual world?
Jan: Yeah, it’s, there’s tons of studies on it, but the average that we can keep coming back to is, if we look at all the different studies is if you’re focused on something and somebody asked you a question and you’re, you know, your executive functioning needs to shift to kind of think a
little bit about that. By the time you come back to what you’re doing. You’ve now lost 20 minutes. So you’ve lost the time that you’ve spent helping that other person, but you’ve also now taken a 20 minutes step back to regroup. And so that’s why we’re a big advocate of, you know, for stuff that requires deeper thinking you don’t want to be interrupted because you know, you just, that’s where you’re going to lose the big chunks of time. If you’re just working on email and you’re sort of responding and somebody interrupts you might lose a minute or two, but not quite as big of a hit. But, it’s all these together that really save that. But it’s been interesting center. One of the fun things that I’ve had time to do during COVID because we’ve had a little more availability right time to do is we’ve really been looking at a lot of our metrics and that’s when I really identified there’s so much time loss within organizations like it is super easy. You give me a willing and interested participant, super easy for me to give you 10% time waste reduction and that’s like more than a month, a year like it’s its massive and it’s all for silly tactics like that. If you’re doing if you’re losing 20 minutes constantly throughout the day. That’s hours in your day. Right?
Cindra: Right, yeah. For sure. Hours in your day that you aren’t necessarily doing the things that are really important or are really going to help you, you know, be your best and for me I think about reaching your goals and reaching the vision for yourself. So let’s kind of go back to what we’re talking about related to email Stan and so what do you do, like, what are your strategies. Unlike okay when you know maybe these emails are coming in, but it’s not really what you should be focused on what do you do to make sure that they don’t just kind of suck you in?
Jan: Yeah so well. A lot of people will again get distracted in different ways. And so, there’s a whole category of emails that we get that fall into the definition of grey mail. So it’s not spam. You know it stuff you’d like if you have the time you’d like to read it but it it’s not your most important work. And so it’s really important if you’re easily distracted or if you’re having to spend too much time managing your inbox that you set up rules or filters within Gmail to have let’s say newsletters and all that, I call it like see priority work like you’re not going to get trouble if you don’t get it done. But you’d love to do it. So setting up rules so that what’s happening is as those emails are coming to your inbox, they’re really skipping your inbox and going to a folder. And then you’re at the park with your kids on the playground. That might be the time you pull up that folder where all those emails went and read up on all the newsletters or blogs or that sort of work because it’s you know, maybe at that point, you’re not in the game to do strategic thinking. But it’s, you know, a great productivity thing to catch up on reading so getting those emails to leveraging technology to have it be automated so you’re not maintaining saves you time and then not having them in your inbox in your to do list it stops you from being distracted. So again, your most important work is really in your face.
Cindra: Absolutely. And so what’s the best way for us to kind of manage this email box that we have and with different folders or maybe rules, give us this kind of like a sense of when you see the people that are most productive and really you’re doing the most important things first, and keeping that front and center. What do they do?
Jan: Yeah, all these strategies, I would say. So it’s again a catch all folder so they can quickly just move emails out half the reason people leave a lot of emails in their inbox is they’re not in the mood to file it. They’re like, I’ll just figure out where that goes later, so it’s having a good organizational structure that’s realistic. It’s having the discipline that when you’re done with something to get in that habit of moving it, also getting in the discipline of being realistic and going, you know what, I would love to do whatever this email is, but I just, I’m not going to get to it- delete. So just accept the fact that the busier you get, the more you need to accept the fact you can’t do everything you used to do. And you might deploy you know delegation strategies, things like that. So, if you can’t keep up with the volume of emails I often tell people you might not be an effective delegator so that’s when you need to make a decision. So I just tell people backup and take a bird’s eye view of your email. And see, like, what’s coming and going. And, you know, is there a piece. Is there a responsibility I can give somebody else and redirect all those emails to that person. And then they can loop us in when they need us. So there’s lots of different strategies around there.
Cindra: Awesome. I think about and maybe I’ve heard you talk about this, let me know. I think I’m cutting it to you at least you know that I heard you talk about, but I think what you said is, like, just looking like touch your emails once and or something like that and it was that you that said that?
Jan: It may have been. Most productivity strategies, I’ll be honest, have been around for a long time. I think the, the value is the ability to diagnose which productivity strategy, a person needs and so the idea of touch it once is a pure kind of productivity strategy and for paper or email or anything. So yes, that’s a good strategy like don’t read the emails on your phone and then go back later and read and respond like you can triage and look. And again, look for emergencies, but otherwise don’t even bother opening them. Just wait till you have time to actually sit down and then address the emails and then when you’re reading it responds in because a lot of people think, did I respond to them because they remember reading it, but they don’t remember that they didn’t respond. It gets very confusing.
Cindra: It does, especially if you’re looking at things on your phone, right. Yeah, late at night and then you think maybe you responded, but you didn’t.
Jan: Touch it once is just a great organizational productivity strategy in many areas.
Cindra: So Jan, you just said something about like priority or C priority. And that got me thinking like, do you have an A, B, and C priority. Or like tell us more about that and like, how do we find out what our what our priorities really are?
Jan: Yeah. So yeah, so see so it’s like 20 years ago center you and I both got to our C priorities, like right the world just wasn’t quite as busy. The information wasn’t quite as voluminous and but we just most people don’t get to their C priorities but people don’t accept it. And so it’s that having that discipline to recognize. Again, this is not something I’m going to get in trouble for kind of start off by having a definition of these things, I would call an A priority over B priority. A
priority is certainly anything that has, like, you know, a hard deadline. And again, you’ll get in trouble if you don’t get it done. But I would also give A priorities to process improvement type work. So things that somebody is not asking you to do it but you know that if you sat down and thought through a strategy on how to leverage the challenge on your team and start to coach and develop people that you’re going to get years back in your day because then you can start taking work off your plate and giving it to others. So the A priorities are probably the stuff that have, you know, deadlines, but they’re really process Improvement related strategies as well. And if, again, if you don’t have the discipline to put everything on hold and take time to focus on that, it’s never going to happen. So you’re always on that hamster wheel of catchup.
Cindra: Absolutely. So Jan, I know that you have, you know, gone through changes, just like we have in the last five months or so, something that we didn’t expect to happen as speakers as business owners. So give us a sense of, like, what have you been doing during this time to, you know, deal with the changes that you’ve had to deal with?
Jan: Yeah, well I’ve gotten my virtual speaking certificate that many of us may have gotten through NSA, so I definitely have a ton of virtual engagements. I just had a two-and-a-half-hour CEO presentation virtual and 100% of the attendees said that they would recommend it to others. So I’m like wow ok I obviously can keep being engaging you know when I’m not there in the room so I feel very good about that and starting to see the calendar pick up you know with speaking engagements virtually in particular. The other is we pivoted like every company, you know, what’s everybody worried about what are they focused on. And so our big pivot is helping people work more productively in a virtual world. So again, a lot of the same strategies where focused time can be harder at home than it was in the office, leveraging technology, but I’m noticing I can get people’s attention if I’m trying to solve that problem right now on helping employees be productive and engaged in this remote workforce. So that’s a big focus. And then the other has been just honestly enjoying this time to do a lot of those projects that every one of us delays and doesn’t get to, so we’ve been doing a lot of workflow automation, where we can set up things like within our CRM. So when I get a new customer, I can now check a box, it’ll send out the w-9, you know, all the stuff I normally need to remember to send and so we’ve been yeah we’re practicing what we preach.
Cindra: What have you been doing in terms of a mindset perspective, you know, is there any strategies, you’ve been using just to stay positive and hopeful and optimistic about, you know, the world and business and how you can help people during this time?
Jan: Oh, that’s such a good question. You know what, I’m typically an optimistic person. So I haven’t really struggled there and I think you know I think in it with any business, you have to be bullish in thank you know what, I’m always going to be in business. I can always there’s work for me. Whatever. So you can stay focused and stay engaged. So I don’t know if I can speak to that because I don’t struggle with it personally but I would, I mean, I do have a number of clients I’ve you know recommended. But, you know, want to meet with a therapist or, you know, vitamin D, you know, anything you do to kind of build up your optimism and your
you know, if you’re an extrovert and you’re feeling alone in the virtual world, you know, what can you do to get in front of more people and get engaged and you know there’s some strategies there. I wouldn’t call myself an expert on that side.
Cindra: For sure, for sure. Well, I was just curious. What you’ve been doing. One of the things I just heard you say is like that you’re relying on your optimism right, and you want to be resilient during this time. So how can people reach out to you follow along, you know, getting the resources that you might have about the topics we talked about today, related to productivity?
Jan: Yeah, no, that’d be great easiest is probably just go to our website so ctcproductivity.com my nice little light. On my wall there CTC stands for circle the customer. The idea being that we’re really ultimately helping clients and every aspect of life. Some of our clients want more time in their day to sell more widgets and somewhat more time in their day to hang out with their kids so ctcproductivity.com is where you can go, go to the blog and sign up for our blog. So you’ll get our newsletter any updates and things we have going on. We’d love to connect with anyone on LinkedIn. That would be fabulous and have them reach out to me.
Cindra: Okay, that sounds wonderful. So, I’m going to do my best to kind of summarize what we talked about.
Jan: Good luck.
Cindra: So I think just like this idea of that the world is changing and will probably continue to change. Right. So how can we still be productive in this virtual world and I think what you said about, like, just like leveraging technology during this time giving yourself a break. Maybe shifting expectations. And then just like working on your ability to stay focused. You talked about you know how employers could actually shift expectations right now, get to know people like in terms of who they’re working with and improve engagement that way so that there’s more of a personal connection. You talked about this importance of like having quiet time to do the most important work and putting it on your calendar, turning off emails and notifications and then this idea of like I felt the gray mail was really helpful. Like the things that are like C priority like that you know what, like I love to do. I’d love to look at all these like newsletters I get, but maybe doing it at a time where I don’t need to be doing my most important work and make time where I can just like maybe on the weekends or I’m just chilling right with whatever I need to do so. And then I liked what you said about like this. A, B, and C priority just continuing to keep the most important stuff top of mind.
Jan: You have good notes. It was really good.
Cindra: I always like to do that at the end because not everyone’s always taking notes as they’re listening.
Jan: Yeah, that was great.
Cindra: So Jan, what kind of final piece of advice or thoughts, would you have for people who are listening or watching on Facebook, where we are right now?
Jan: Yeah, I would just say make productivity, a priority. I mean, the more you can invest in looking at smarter ways to work and it’s just going to pay back year after year. So, we’d love to help if anybody’s interested. Individuals whole companies but productivity should always be an A priority for you.
Cindra: Awesome nicely said thank you so much for today. Jan: Thank you. Appreciate it.