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.
Favorite Productive Gifts for Yourself & Others
In this episode we’re talking about a few productivity-related things I love that could make great gifts this holiday season.
How about a few ideas for productive gifts?
As we're in the midst of the holiday season, I've been thinking about gift-giving. I thought I would share some productivity-related gift ideas that might be perfect for someone on your list--or for you!
Tools and gadgets
What I use: Fujitsu ScanSnap
2. Wide-screen monitor
What I got recently and am loving: LG 34WN80C-B UltraWide Monitor 34” 21:9 Curved WQHD (3440 x 1440)
3. Instant Pot
What I use and love: 6-quart Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1
4. Planner and/or notebook & nice pens
Resources I can recommend:
* Planner: Happy Planner
* Fountain pens, notebooks, and paper: Goulet Pens
* Planner supplies, inserts, and more: Cloth & Paper
Apps & programs
2. VPN (virtual private network) to provide a secure connection to the internet) - I use Encrypt.me
3. Password manager - I use LastPass
4. Recipe manager - I use Paprika
Services & subscriptions
1. Audible - access to lots of audiobooks, fiction and nonfiction, plus other materials; can listen while driving, folding clothes, etc. I listen while I’m getting ready in the morning
2. Calm - for all the reasons I’ve talked about before, can help you sleep better, manage stress, etc., all of which boost productivity. Great gift for someone you love who has trouble sleeping.
3. Meal service - I use Hello Fresh
4. Storyworth - one question a week emailed to the person. They answer by replying to the email. At the end of the year, the answers are bound into a book.
5. Cleaning service
* Tickets to a movie or show (I haven’t been to a theater since before COVID, but plan to go see a movie called Redeeming Love in January, hopefully with my daughter, who also loves the book)
* Spa sessions - massage, etc.
* Museum pass (art, history, technology, . . .)
* Season tickets -- sports team, theater, ballet, opera . . .
* Plan a series of local outings--what do tourists come to your area to see?
* Coaching (in a business or personal area) or mastermind group
* Retreat or conference that will help you move forward on an important goal
See links below to a couple of articles with great ideas for experience gifts for all ages.
* Atomic Habits, by James Clear
* Lightly - How to Live a Simple,
Giving Thanks and a Life That Matters
In this episode of The Productive Woman, we're talking about the history of Thanksgiving, what it means to give thanks and be truly grateful, and what I am most thankful for this year.
Giving thanks for what matters most
This episode will be published the day before Thanksgiving here in the United States. This year my husband and I will be hosting a family meal on Thursday. My mom and stepdad will be here, my youngest sister and her husband and son, and three of my five kids will be here, along with five of our grandchildren. I thought I’d share some thoughts about Thanksgiving--both the holiday and the practice.
The holiday--a brief history.
Those of us in the U.S. know what it’s about, but it’s been a long time since I looked at the story behind it.
According to an article on the History Channel website, “Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States, and Thanksgiving 2021 occurs on Thursday, November 25. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.” (The article goes into the history of the original colonists and the indigenous peoples who helped them survive.)
I’ve learned that Thanksgiving is not solely an American holiday. According to Wikipedia, “Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in the United States, Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia. It began as a day of giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. A similarly named festival holidays occur in Germany and Japan. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and around the same part of the year in other places. Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated as a secular holiday as well.”
My childhood memories of Thanksgiving center around home and school. At school we learned about what was often described as the “first Thanksgiving feast” shared by the colonists in New England and the nearby indigenous people to celebrate a successful harvest. At home, Thanksgiving was always about food and family. My mom would cook a turkey and the trimmings. When we lived near extended family, we’d often gather together, with all the moms in the kitchen cooking up all the traditional foods, and then the family would gather around the table to share the meal.
Saying No (and Yes) in "No"vember
In this episode of The Productive Woman we're talking about using "No"vember as a time to consider when and how saying no (and yes) is a healthy thing to do, and how it contributes to making our life better.
Knowing when to say no or yes
I’ve seen a few posts (including the great quote above from Life on Purpose Movement!) and articles recently referring to this month as “No”vember, meaning a time to think about things to say no to in order to make your life better. It got me thinking about some things we can choose--this month or any month--to say no to as part of our intentional pursuit of a meaningfully productive life--a life that matters. Saying no isn’t about depriving yourself, but about making space for things that really matter. So we’ll also look at what we can say yes to instead.
1. Destructive Comparison
As I’ve quoted before, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I’ve seen it attributed to writer C.S. Lewis and former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. Joyful, happy people are more productive-and many studies show that.
One of the negative effects is that comparison--watching others too closely--can lead to envy, which can drive us to pursue goals we don’t actually care about. We see someone with a certain home or car or job or life and something in us, maybe unconscious, thinks we need that too, and without really being thoughtful and intentional about whether it’s something that actually matters to us.
“The most important thing to understand is that there is a huge difference in energy and outcome between seeing other people’s success and using that vision to inspire you, versus beating yourself up mercilessly because you’re not where they are. If comparison makes you feel worthless and demoralized, unable to get what you want and “deserve,” and you resent others for what they have, it’s time to stop comparing or shift your approach to it.”-from When Comparing Yourself to Others Turns Destructive)
The alternative is to practice being aware when we’re comparing ourselves and remind ourselves, out loud, that the other person’s life is not mine; she’s walking her path, and I’m walking mine. We can (as the article notes) learn from others and be inspired by the possibilities their achievements demonstrate without condemning ourselves for not being where they are.
2. Unexamined activity (things we agree to do for reasons we don’t like)
It often happens around the holidays that we find our schedules full of events, activities, deadlines--whether at work or at home or outside the home. If we have kids at home, we often find their school scheduling concerts or programs or events. Churches often plan holiday programs that members are expected to participate in or attend. Maybe it’s family things--parties or meals with extended family, or gift exchanges. Maybe we are decorating our home or doing extra crafts or cooking or baking.
If they all have meaning for us--bring us joy or contribute in some way to our relationships or our well being--and we’re doing them intentionally and by choice, then these are good. I’m not suggesting that anybody has to stop doing anything that’s meaningful or important to them. I just think “No”vember is a great time to pause and reflect on our calendar and make sure it’s reflecting our values and what matters most to us.
Another blog I read quotes an unknown source for a reminder we all need sometimes: “It’s okay to say no (if you don’t want to do it, if you’re already overscheduled,
Countdown to Year-End
It's nearly the end of the year (if you can believe it). Let's look at a few things we can do in the coming weeks to enjoy the year-end holidays and end the year on a productive note.
Proactive and productive steps to take during the countdown to year-end
By the time this episode is published, there are only eight weeks--8 episodes, counting this one--left in this year. I’ve spent some time thinking of a few areas we can focus on during these remaining weeks to help end the year on a productive note.
1. Spend 30 minutes or so this week looking ahead to the fast-approaching holiday season
Here in the U.S., we have Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and other year-end holidays coming up. Think about what you want the holiday season to be like--festive, busy, family time, quiet and peaceful? Will you travel or host guests? What memories do you want to make, and with whom?
Start brainstorming a list of steps to take to prepare to create the holiday season you want to have. Don’t forget to identify who’ll help--you don’t have to do it all yourself!
Identify at least 2-3 things you can do ahead of time so you can relax and enjoy the time without last-minute stress. Gifts to send to far-away family? Cookie baking? Shopping for non-perishable meal ingredients?
* For more ideas, check out Episode 159 (10 Things to Do Now to Prepare for the Holidays).
2. Evaluate your health--physical, mental, emotional
What can you do in the next few weeks to take better care of yourself?
* Physical - Adjust your sleep routine; get some movement in; research healthier versions of your favorite holiday foods. For myself, I will be looking at scheduling day surgery to fix my knee.
* Emotional - scheduling in some me-time--self-care, time to rest and recreate (reading a good book? Working on a craft project just for fun? Attending a concert? Massage/mani/pedi?). What feeds you? Plan time to do that.
* If holidays are tough for you, what can you do to be gentle with yourself? See below for links to a couple of articles that offer suggestions that might help.
3. Inspect your space
Where are the areas that frustrate you or bug you each time you walk past them? What would improve those areas? What needs (or you’d like) to get done to prepare for holiday guests?
* Start a list of projects, small and large, and look at when you’ll work on them.
* Definitely start a list of 5-minute tasks, things that need to be done around your home or office that can be done in just a few minutes, and keep it handy, using bits of time to knock out one or two each day.
* Decluttering always helps. What areas can you spend time purging of unused, unloved, and/or broken things?
If year-end is a busy time for your work, like it is for mine, take a little time now to declutter and organize your workspace so you can be as efficient and effective as possible. At home, if you’ll be doing holiday cooking, definitely a good time to declutter and organize your kitchen, making sure you have (and can find) the tools you need to fix those meals and treats.
In episode 159, way back in 2017, we suggested:
Clean out the refrigerator and pantry well before it’s time to do holiday cooking; non-perishables that you won’t use could be donated to a food pantry.
Declutter kids' rooms and find things to discard or donate. This might be a new holiday tradition of choosing g...
Personal Retreats: Getting Away to Move Forward
Have you ever gone on a retreat? In this episode of The Productive Woman, we're talking about how getting away (even for just a short time) can help us move forward toward more productive lives.
Getting away for a retreat can be the perfect opportunity to move forward toward your most cherished goals
As I’m recording this, I recently hosted the first-ever The Productive Woman planning retreat. Four women from the TPW community joined me at my home in Texas for a few days of quiet thought and planning for the coming year. It was a great experience for me, as I “retreated” right along with them, spending time thinking about and working on my own plans for the coming year.
As I’ve been reflecting on the experience, I’ve thought about the value of getting away from time to time--stepping away from our day-to-day lives for a short period.
Why it’s important
* Creating a meaningfully productive life requires intention and attention, which is sometimes hard to come by in the midst of our daily lives. Getting away can help, whether to plan a specific project or to create a life plan or yearly goals.
* There is value in solitude, as we talked about in episode 366 discussion of Cal Newport’s book, Digital Minimalism.
* Clarity. Time spent thinking deeply about what’s important to you can lead to a clearer vision of what you want and what you need to do to get it.
* Restoration. Time away from day-to-day stresses and obligations, perhaps spend time in nature, sleeping in, taking naps, or just relaxing by the pool or in your space.
* Perspective. Taking a step back, especially with a change of scenery, can help you see things in a new way.
* Community (if you're getting away with others) -- someone to brainstorm with, perhaps hold each other accountable.
Options to consider (there are lots of different ways to do this and all have potential benefits):
* Alone or with others (small or larger group)
* Timing--a few hours to a few days or more. Although a longer period is good as it allows more time to wind down and focus, even a few hours--a half-day at Starbuck or the public library--can make a big difference
* “Themed” or general retreats. By themed I mean for a particular type of activity--writing, a friend does an annual quilting retreat with the women in her family, wellness-focused, spirituality, etc.
* Guided or self-designed
Retreat center (often beautiful locations with gorgeous nature surroundings--ocean, lake, forest, desert--that can contribute to getting the focus you need; might have programs to help guide your time; might include meals) -- I googled “retreat centers near me” and “where can I go for a retreat” and came up with several possibilities
Hotel (privacy, away from home, room service, maybe other amenities, like a pool or spa) either near home or at a destination
Air BnB (can be less expensive; lots of types of locations to choose from, again, either near home or at a destination)
Trade homes with a friend nearby or in another state or country (I think of the movie, The Holiday, in which Cameron Diaz in Los Angeles and Kate Winslet in England trade homes for the Christmas holidays, and the change in location does them both good)
Retreats or getaways I’ve done:
* Years ago when all the kids were home,
Productive Living: Wardrobe Wisdom, with Geralin Thomas
An organized closet and a functional wardrobe can be a part of our meaningfully productive life. This week Geralin Thomas shares wardrobe wisdom as she and I talk about building a wardrobe that is versatile, organized, and stress-free.
A little wardrobe wisdom can help us be more productive!
Geralin Thomas is a professional organizer and a career coach for professional organizers and teaches three classes for the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals. Her business, Metropolitan Organizing, established 19 years ago, is based in Cary, North Carolina! She has published two books (one has been translated into 8 languages!) In addition, she appeared regularly on the Emmy-nominated TV show, Hoarders, where she and team members compassionately decluttered and organized some of America’s messiest homes. Geralin loves lists, puns, the oxford comma, and alliteration as much as she enjoys going behind the "seams" for "clothes calls" with clients who not only have the right to "bare" arms but bare their souls as well!
When not working, Geralin, and her husband of 33 years, Bill, enjoy their empty nest where they dote on their spoiled six-pound Papillon, Pip, and their two grand-dogs, Sally and Minnie.
Geralin has been a professional organizer for the past 19 years but is no longer taking one-on-one clients and going into people's homes. Instead, she is now coaching organizers who have their own small businesses. She teaches them how to start their business with a focus on decluttering closets and wardrobes and helping women build better, more sustainable wardrobes with pieces that suit their lifestyle, budget, and the image they want to project.
Using systems to keep our closet under control
Even those of us who are very organized in our everyday life can struggle to keep our closets organized. Maybe this is because we have more clothes than we have space for, or because our closets become a catch-all for things other than our clothing. Regardless of the reason, Geralin and her "wardrobe wisdom" can help us turn our closets into a space that serves us instead of one we dread looking at.
When Geralin first starts with a new client, she begins by asking them about their goals, likes, and dislikes. She reminds them to control what they can control--start with the things that can be done, analyze the situation, and then strategize about what's working and what isn't. This is where productivity begins. So for example, items most often worn should be the most accessible. If rickety doors on the closet should be replaced or old boxes or storage containers need to be thrown out, do those things right away so the closet is more inviting and accessible.
Geralin also likes for each item in the closet to have a "permanent address", meaning that when you are out shopping for an item, think about where it will live in your closet.
She also thinks it's important to have a system for your various items, such as scarves, belts, shoes, jewelry, tote bags, even receipts and tags (for those who like to consign).
For clothing items that need attention or repairs to be wearable, Geralyn refers to them as "MIA's", meaning mending, ironing, alterations, or stain-removal. These items need their own spot in your closet too.
There also needs to be a system for your dirty and clean laundry. Will you launder your own clothing or have it sent out? Do you prefer to hang or fold your clothing? Do you want to organize by color, function, or season?
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!
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 😄
Wonderful warm wisdom
This has become my favourite podcast of late. I love the wisdom so freely given, the content, inspiration and the warmth of Laura; it feels like I am sitting down to a conversation each day with a wise and dear friend. Thanks!