438 episodes

A podcast intended to help busy women find the tools and encouragement they need to better manage their lives, their time, their stress, and their stuff, so they can accomplish the things they care about and make a life that matters.

The Productive Woman Laura McClellan

    • Education
    • 4.3 • 29 Ratings

A podcast intended to help busy women find the tools and encouragement they need to better manage their lives, their time, their stress, and their stuff, so they can accomplish the things they care about and make a life that matters.

    Taking Better Care of Things That Matter

    Taking Better Care of Things That Matter

    Important things can get overlooked in the daily hustle. As we approach the end of this year's first quarter, let's pause, think, and commit to spending just a little of our time, energy, and attention taking better care of what matters.

    Let's take better care of what matters most

    Sometimes things that are important get lost in the day-to-day dealing with the urgent. That’s been happening to me. I realized that the end of March marks the passing of a quarter of the year. Time seems to be passing too quickly, and a few things that matter to me have been neglected in favor of the urgent. As I sat down to think about how I can intentionally make time in the next couple of weeks to take care of those important things, I thought I’d share with you what I came up with, including specifically what I intend to do, along with some alternatives that might spark ideas for you.

    1. Take better care of my body

    * What I'll do: Move my body for 20 minutes--treadmill or stationary bike, or at least a brisk walk outside 

    * Alternatives for your to consider: drink more water each day, get hair or nails done, get a massage, take a yoga or spin class, eat only healthy foods for one day

    2. Take better care of my soul (do something that feeds me, lightens my spirit, brings me joy)

    * What I'll do: Get outside for 15 minutes--eat lunch or breakfast outside if the weather permits 

    * Alternatives you might consider: listen to inspirational music, visit an art museum, work on a craft project

    3. Take better care of my mind (easy when days are busy with work or other commitments to collapse in front of the TV at the end of the day--or mindless internet surfing).

    * What I'll do: Read something that challenges my mind or my perspective -- a book or article written by someone I disagree with, or about a challenging topic I want to learn more about [could also watch or listen to something, but there are benefits to actually reading . . .] 

    * Alternatives for you to consider: take a class (or at least sign up for it), or spend time playing a word game or meditating or listening to some Mozart

    4. Take better care of the people I love

    * What I'll do: Call a friend I haven’t spoken with for a while 

    * Alternatives for you to consider: Date night with your spouse, or adventure date with one (or all) of your children; send a card or flowers to your mom or your sister.

    5. Take better care of my space

    * What I'll do: Declutter and reorganize one drawer, cabinet, shelf, or surface 

    * Alternatives for you to consider: Refresh your yard or a flower bed for spring; clean the baseboards or under the furniture in one room; repaint a wall; buy some fresh new towels for the kitchen or bathroom

    6. Take better care of my future self

    * What I'll do: Schedule annual medical, dental, and eye appointments 

    * Alternatives for you to consider: transfer money into a savings account; gather all your tax documentation; schedule an appointment with an attorney to get a will drafted

    Some final thoughts

    Taking care of business each day is important, but it’s easy to fall into a pattern of just getting through the day just reacting to what comes our way, and before long we realize a week, a month, or more time has passed without our giving attention to what matters most to us. As we approach the end of the first quarter of the year, let this be a reminder to pause, think, and spend just a little of our time, energy, and attention taking care of what matters.

    What do you think?

    What will you do this week to take better care? Post your thoughts and suggestions in the comments secti...

    • 20 min
    Time Anxiety

    Time Anxiety

    What is time anxiety, how does it affect us, and how can we manage it?

    Time anxiety can be managed and its effects mitigated

    I’ve been a productivity nerd since I was in middle school and have read or listened to countless books and articles, blog posts, and podcast episodes, about productivity, time management, and organization. But for some reason I never heard--or at least I don’t recall having heard--the term “time anxiety” until recently when I read a book called In Good Time, by Jen Pollock Michel.

    (As a side note, I recommend this book highly, especially for those who appreciate a faith-based perspective. Subtitled “8 Habits for Reimagining Productivity, Resisting Hurry, and Practicing Peace,” this book offers enough inspiration and food for thought that as soon as I finished reading it I started reading it again with a highlighter in hand. This episode is not about that book, but the book did inspire this episode.) 

    The first section of the book is called “On Time Anxiety,” and it’s there I first read this term. At one point she says, “Whatever our religious persuasion, today busyness is pushed upon all of us: as expectation, as duty. It’s life’s de facto characteristic. The days run swift and swollen like a river after rain, and time anxiety is one of humanity’s most chronic pains.” 

    This introduction to the concept of time anxiety piqued my curiosity, so I started digging in to read more about it. I thought I’d share with you some of what I learned.

    What is time anxiety?

    Since I hadn't heard the term before, I was surprised to find that there's a lot written about time anxiety. For example, following are some definitions and descriptions I found of time anxiety:

    “Time anxiety is an ongoing feeling of fear and stress about the passing of time. These anxious feelings can range from being occasionally uncomfortable during busy weeks, to completely debilitating for someone who is overwhelmingly stressed. Time anxiety can manifest as a variety of different triggers at work.” [from Time Anxiety: 7 Causes and How to Overcome]

    “time anxiety is the feeling that you’re wasting your time. You’re anxious over time when you think that it’s too late to accomplish your goals. In addition, time anxiety is when you’re obsessed about how you spend your time and whether you’re doing meaningful activities.” [from Time anxiety: what it is and how you can deal with it]

    “time anxiety is the fear of wasting your time. It’s an obsession about spending your time in the most meaningful way possible.” [from Time anxiety: is it too late?]

    “time anxiety is more than just a momentary spike in your workday stress. It’s an emotional specter that haunts your days, causes you to procrastinate on important tasks, and can even lead to burnout.” [from Feel like you never have enough time? Try these 5 ways to cope with the anxiety]

    “Time anxiety is a nagging dread caused by the perception of time passing quickly. It’s the feeling of not having enough time to do everything you have to do and a fear that you're not doing good enough with the time you do have.” [from 5 Tips to Overcome Time Anxiety and Boost Productivity]

    • 31 min
    Boosting Productivity

    Boosting Productivity

    Many of us feel like we need to be more productive. This week we're considering why we feel that way, and some ways we can boost our productivity.

    How can we boost our productivity?

    Probably because I’ve hosted a podcast about productivity for nearly 9 years, I have frequent conversations about productivity. Many--maybe most--of them center on someone’s feeling that they’re not productive enough or desire to be more productive. 

    It’s worth the time and energy to evaluate this honestly, to find that line between productivity that’s adding value to your life and what’s been termed toxic productivity: “Toxic productivity is essentially the drive to be productive at all times, at the expense of all other pursuits. At its core, toxic productivity is simply a new term for ‘workaholic’ with a fresh modern spin.” [from How to be more productive: 10 productivity tips] 

    If we’ve thought carefully about that question and are aware of that boundary, there are things we can do to boost our productivity. As a starting point, it’s important to define what you mean by productivity--you can’t hit an undefined target.

    1. Develop a clear vision

    * For your life right now. 

    * For your days 

    Define what you mean by productivity. If you want to be more productive, what do you mean by that? What would a more productive life look like? 

    At its most basic level, increased productivity just means achieving more results from less effort: “Increased productivity indicates greater output from the same amount of input. . . . Thus, productivity growth is our opportunity to create more from less.” [from What Is Productivity? How to Define and Measure It?]

    What results do you want to achieve? What would need to change in order for you to achieve that vision?

    2. Know yourself

    * “Remember who you are.” Who do you want to be in the world? How does a person like that spend her time, energy, and attention?This is relevant to setting goals or intentions.

    * Physiology When do you have the most energy? When is it easiest for you to focus? This is relevant to scheduling your tasks.

    * Obstacles - internal and external. What throws you off track? What are your “time thieves”? 

    “If you can identify your biggest time thieves, the activities or situations that throw you off course, distract or interrupt you, or the bad habits that keep you from performing better, you will improve your results much more quickly and learn how to be productive on a daily basis.” [from a Lifehack article on How to Be More Productive: 16 Practical Ways] 

    How can you prepare for those obstacles or interruptions so they don’t throw you off track?

    3. Cultivate habits that help

    Setting intentions (goals). Write them down: “Today/this week I will . . .” 

    In an article on Boosting productivity published by the American Psychological Association, the authors noted that “Research is showing that establishing a habit of writing about goals can boost performance. 

    "Cheryl Travers, Ph.D., a professor at the School of Business and Economics at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, England,

    • 33 min
    Procrastination and Regret

    Procrastination and Regret

    Procrastination can lead to regret, which can lead to procrastination, and the cycle continues. How can we move past what's holding us back and take action toward a life that matters?

    We can choose to overcome our procrastinating habits and learn new ways of getting things done

    Often in conversations with women about productivity, the subject of procrastination comes up. Many of us struggle with getting certain things done that we need to do, or say we want to do. With procrastination often comes feelings of regret for the things we haven’t accomplished, along with other feelings that are born of the stories we tell ourselves about what this procrastination means about us. 

    Even the most productive of us probably procrastinate sometimes, about some things. I know I do. And I’ve been thinking lately about why we do it, what the result of it is, and how we can maybe replace the habit of procrastination with something else. 

    What is procrastination? 

    One dictionary defines procrastination as “the action of delaying or postponing something”. According to an article in Vogue France, “Procrastination derives from the Latin word procrastinare, which means ‘deferred until tomorrow’. It’s irrational human behaviour because even though we know it’s in our best interest to act now, we delay unnecessarily.”

    Why do we procrastinate? 

    The Vogue article mentioned earlier says, “Research shows that procrastination is tied to being easily distracted, impulsive, and having low self-belief in your ability to follow through on what you set out to do.” 

    We might also procrastinate due to a fear of failure or because we're overwhelmed by the size and scope of the task before us. It all seems too big to accomplish (for us, anyway) or we can’t even figure out how to start.

    Procrastination can lead to regret

    Regret is defined in one dictionary as “a feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done”. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it is: “a feeling of sadness about something sad or wrong or about a mistake that you have made, and a wish that it could have been different and better”. 

    A Psychology Today article tells us that “Regret is a negative cognitive or emotional state that involves blaming ourselves for a bad outcome, feeling a sense of loss or sorrow at what might have been, or wishing we could undo a previous choice that we made.”

    One article from the Berkeley Well-Being Institute points to studies showing that “the things we’re most likely to regret are the things we didn’t do. Regrets of inaction are stronger and persist longer than regrets of action. . . . When we don’t take action, our imagination fills in the blanks about how awesome the outcome could have been. This leads our minds to generate more regret as we compare what currently is with what could have been (Roese & Summerville, 2005; Gilovich & Medvec, 1994).”

    This really resonated with me. When I take a step back and look honestly, I recognize that I get a lot done. Yet it’s easy to dismiss all that and focus on those things I haven’t done and feel bad about it. 

     As one writer puts it,

    “Regret isn’t just wishing events had gone differently; it also involves an inherent aspect of self-blame and even guilt.”

    • 36 min
    Adjusting to Chanage

    Adjusting to Chanage

    This week we're talking about how change of any kind (the good or the bad) can impact our health and productivity--and how we can adjust to make change a positive thing.

    Adjusting to change can be difficult but in can be done

    For those of us who are oriented to routine, change can be difficult. Humans in general tend to prefer the familiar. We like to stay in our comfort zone, which one article describes this way: “a behavioral space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk" -- the operative words here being stress and risk. In our comfort zone, there is a sense of familiarity, security and certainty. When we step outside of our comfort zone, we're taking a risk, and opening ourselves up to the possibility of stress and anxiety; we're not quite sure what will happen and how we'll react.” 

    What happens when something occurs that forces change to our day-to-day life and disrupts the routines that help us keep a sense of equilibrium? We talked about this way back in episode 44, about Surviving (and Embracing) Change, but a recent major change in our life has me thinking about it and digging in again for help in coping.

    Any kind of change--even a good change, even a change we've chosen--can disrupt our routines

    * New spouse, new roommate, new baby 

    * Illness 

    * Houseguests 

    * Spouse retires or is ill or injured 

    * At work, a company merger or change in personnel or change in your role, moving to a new facility;  

    * Kids returning from college or in crisis of some kind 

    * Most of us experienced it when COVID kept everyone home 

    * A parent comes to stay (or is hospitalized and needs to be visited)

    Whatever the change, even when it’s a change we’ve chosen, it disrupts our schedule and the routines we rely on to give structure and form to our days, leaving us feeling off-balance and stressed.

    In my case, the major change we're currently navigating in our house is one we specifically chose, but it has required changes to the day's routines and “interruptions” to my normal way of doing things as another person in our household requires attention in the mornings and evenings when I normally would be following certain routines. This change also brings with it additional tasks and appointments and errands that have not been part of my days or weeks for many years.

    On the other hand, if we're experiencing a change that's not one we’ve chosen, the stress might be compounded by the circumstances of the change--worry, anxiety, etc.

    “According to health psychologist and Stanford lecturer Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., our negative perception around change can be more debilitating than the actual stressor itself.” [quoted in How to thrive when dealing with change]

    “the human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. When you experience changes or challenges (stressors), your body produces physical and mental responses. That’s stress.” [from a Cleveland Clinic article, Stress]

    Effects of ongoing stress (from the Cleveland Clinic article mentioned just above):


    * Aches and pains 

    * Chest pain or a feeling like your heart is racing.

    * Exhaustion or trouble sleeping 

    * Headaches, dizziness or shaking 

    * High blood pressure 

    • 41 min
    Productive Focus

    Productive Focus

    Our ability to purposefully focus on what matters to us plays a key role in creating a more productive and meaningful life.

    Strengthening our "focus muscle" can help us prioritize what is most important so we have time for what really matters

    In a recent social media post, Mike Vardy, founder of The Productivityist and host of the A Productive Conversation podcast said: “Time management is a misguided concept. It’s not about managing time but about managing what you can command, like your tasks. Don’t waste your time trying to manage the uncontrollable.”  

    When I read that I thought it was a profoundly wise observation. Although we talk about time management as an element of productivity, time can’t really be “managed”; it simply is. We all have the same amount of time in each day, and nothing we can do will change it.

    What we can manage is our use of time. We can manage our energy and we can manage our attention, and by doing so we can make the best use of the time available to us. 

    Of course, this isn’t to say that it’s easy to do this. In particular, managing our attention--our focus--both in the moment and in the big picture seems to be a challenge for a lot of us. Mike’s comment and some conversations I’ve had recently inspired me to look at the subject of managing and maintaining our focus.

    What does it mean to focus?


    Oxford Language: noun - “the center of interest or activity” and “the state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition”; verb - “pay particular attention to” 

    Merriam-Webster: noun - “a center of activity, attraction, or attention” or “directed attention” (I like this, because it implies our ability to control it, to direct it) or “a state or condition permitting clear perception or understanding”; verb - “to concentrate attention or effort” 

    In terms of our discussions about productivity, focus means the ability to direct our attention and energy at any given time toward a particular task or topic or person--toward whatever we want to accomplish at the time.

    Why does it matter?

    As author David Levitin has written in his fascinating book The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, “Attention is the most essential mental resource for any organism.” 

    The inability to focus and pay attention inhibits our ability to accomplish what matters to us and make the contributions we want to--to show up in the world the way we want to. When we succumb to distractions, we don’t get things done--or at least not the things we need or want to do. 

    Cal Newport, in Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, talks about a state of distraction-free concentration that uses all our brain power to focus on a single task and...

    • 37 min

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5
29 Ratings

29 Ratings

Els8771 ,

So useful!

This is a very insightful, helpful & useful podcast that has become one of my regular listens.

Marj_D ,

Highly recommend

Thank you Laura for creating this free resource. I’m a long time listener from Australia. I love your warm, engaging delivery and up-to-date, practical content. I really relate to this as a professional and a wife and mother. A lot of productivity content seems created by males, and lacking the family-life balance aspect. You’ve helped me get back on track when I’ve felt overwhelmed. Thanks again!

Georgy McD ,

Episode 326

Thanks as always for a great podcast Laura! I’m currently listening to episode 326 about planning your year, I’m going through the steps now 😄

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