501 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
    • 4.6 • 467 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.

    Sabbaticals - Time to Rest and Refocus

    Sabbaticals - Time to Rest and Refocus

    Have you ever taken a sabbatical? This week we're talking about sabbaticals--what they are, why you might want to take one, and how to make the most of one. (Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a special announcement.)

    A sabbatical is a time to refresh, recharge, and reflect on how you spend your valuable time...and what you'd like to do in the future

    Can we do a little happy dance to celebrate reaching episode number 500?! 

    Anyway, that’s not what this episode is about . . . 

    A law firm I was a part of in Washington state several years ago had a policy that after a certain number of years at the firm, each lawyer and staff member was entitled to a sabbatical. I don’t recall the precise terms, but I recollect that it was an extended period--perhaps 3 months. Studies indicate that as many as 75% of employees have experienced burnout, so the idea of a sabbatical is one alternative to the near epidemic of quitting and quiet quitting. 

    The value of sabbaticals

    Webster’s dictionary defines a sabbatical merely as “a break or change from a normal routine (as of employment).” A sabbatical is an extended period of leave from work or routine duties, often lasting from several months to a year. The concept originated in academia, where professors take sabbaticals to focus on research, writing, or other professional development activities. However, according to some resources I looked at sabbaticals have become more common in various industries (although still only a small percentage of employers offer them) and can be tailored to individual needs and goals. While the traditional concept of a sabbatical is a paid break--perhaps for an academic year for a professor--workers can choose to take an unpaid sabbatical if their employers don’t offer them.  

    A sabbatical is different from leaving your job; it means you intend to go back to your job, and your employer commits to you that your job will be there when your sabbatical ends.  It’s also different from parental or medical leave, which are usually built around a specific event, such as having or adopting a child or having and recovering from surgery or medical treatments.

    Reasons to Take a Sabbatical 

    * Rest and Recharge: A sabbatical offers a break from the daily grind, allowing you to rest, recover from burnout, and return to work with renewed energy and motivation. 

    * Professional Development: Use the time to learn new skills, attend workshops, or pursue advanced education. This can enhance your career prospects and make you more valuable in your field. 

    * Personal Growth: Explore hobbies, travel, or engage in activities that enrich your personal life. This can lead to greater fulfillment and a broader perspective on life. 

    * Creative Pursuits: If you have a creative project in mind, such as writing a book, painting, or starting a business, a sabbatical provides the time and space to focus on these endeavors without the distraction of daily work responsibilities. 

    * Health and Well-being: Focus on improving your physical and mental health. This could involve exercise, mindfulness practices, or addressing long-standing health issues. 

    * Family and Relationships: Spend quality time with loved ones, strengthen relationships, and create lasting memories. This can improve your personal life and emotional well-being. 

    * New Experiences: Traveling or living in a different culture can be transformative. It can broaden your horizons, improve your adaptability, and provide fresh insights that benefit both your personal and professional life. 

    Taking a sabbatical requires planning and often negotiation with your employer,

    • 32 min
    10-Year Podiversary - Lessons Learned

    10-Year Podiversary - Lessons Learned

    We’re celebrating 10 years of The Productive Woman podcast and I’m sharing some lessons I’ve learned along the way.

    Who we are is more important than what we do...and other important lessons learned in 10 years of The Productive Woman podcast

    This week’s episode is a milestone one. The very first episode of The Productive Woman--a short introductory “episode 0”--was published on July 1, 2014. That makes this week the 10-year “podiversary” of The Productive Woman. And I’m amazed to have made it to this milestone. 

    When I first launched the podcast, I wasn’t sure I’d make it to one year. I thought maybe my mom would listen to a few episodes, cause she loves me, but I wasn’t sure anyone else would. Why would they? I was nobody important or famous, no expert. I was just a wife, a mom, a lawyer, and someone interested in productivity since I was young.  

    I could not have imagined back then that I’d still be at it 10 years later, nor could I have imagined how much I’d learn along the way. 

    Milestone lessons

    1. We make time for what really matters to us. 

    There are lots of things I say are important to me but I don’t take action on them. But planning, preparing, recording, and publishing an episode each Wednesday morning--I’ve made time for that. 

    Our calendar and our checkbook tend to tell the truth about what’s important to us. 

    * Episode 452 - Making Time for What Matters Most to You

    2. Just start.

    I’ve always tended to want to have everything perfect before I do anything--which has led to much stalling and many missed opportunities. When I decided to start a podcast, I signed up for an online podcasting course--30 days that took you from idea to first recorded episode. I spent that time learning about the logistics, equipment, etc., needed, setting up my website and my media host, and so on.

    I intended to launch the first week of January. But week after week I kept finding reasons why I wasn’t quite ready. 6 months went by, and I hadn’t yet launched. But then I heard a message about starting and iterating, and finally took my iPad into my walk-in closet, recorded that first short episode, promised I’d be back the next week with more, and was off. Lesson learned: don’t have to wait until we feel ready; just start, and improve as you go. 

    * Episode 412 - Don’t Wait 

    3. There's no right answer

    When it comes to productivity and making a life that matters, there’s no one right answer that works for everyone. Productivity is a very personal thing, and what works for each of us depends on our individual situation--life stage, health, values, goals, priorities. 

    * Episode 405 - Take It or Leave It: Productivity Advice that Might or Might Not Work 

    4. You are not alone

    No matter how I might feel, I’m not alone. (I’m not the only one.) That might be among the most important things I’ve learned in 10 years of hosting this podcast and mastermind groups. Believing that I am the only one struggling with certain things causes me to put up walls that separate me from others. When we let those walls down, we find that we’re not the only ones--and we can start to share ideas, encouragement, and accountability. 

    5. Lean on others

    We need each other.

    • 35 min
    Productive Living: Getting Unstuck, with Britt Frank

    Productive Living: Getting Unstuck, with Britt Frank

    This week's episode features my conversation with Britt Frank, licensed neuropsychotherapist, trauma specialist, and author of The Science of Stuck, talking about getting unstuck, achieving our goals, and making a life that matters.

    Britt Frank offers wise advice on how to get unstuck and move forward

    I'm excited to share with you my conversation with licensed neuropsychotherapist, trauma specialist, and author Britt Frank, as part of our Productive Living series.

    Who is Britt?

    Britt is a licensed neuropsychotherapist and trauma specialist and author of The Science of Stuck (Penguin Random House), named by multiple publications as a must-read. Her newest book, The Getting Unstuck Workbook, helps readers apply the material in The Science of Stuck. Britt received her undergraduate degree from Duke University and her master’s degree from the University of Kansas, where she later became an award-winning adjunct instructor. Britt is a contributing writer to Psychology Today and her work has been featured in Forbes, NPR, The New York Times, Fast Company, Psych Central, SELF, and Thrive Global. When she’s not hanging from the ceiling practicing aerial arts or spending time with her family, Britt is a featured wellness expert on podcasts, blogs, and television.

    How Britt got started

    Britt didn't start her career out knowing exactly what she was doing and with a perfect plan to go about doing it. In her life, she had many struggles, everything from eating disorders to addictions. She also bounced between different corporate jobs, having no idea of what exactly she wanted to do. When she learned what she now teaches, everything changed. She became passionate about talking about our minds and brains and all the tools we can use to simplify things, get unstuck, and have a more meaningful life. Britt's life experiences really add to the value of her work.

    A typical day for Britt

    As an entrepreneur and an author, Britt's days can get pretty wild. When she is in the middle of writing a new book, she will begin her day at 5:00 am, writing until about 9:00. From 9:00-10:00 she will focus on working out. Beginning at 10:00 she will focus on therapy for the rest of her work day, ending at 5:00 pm. In the evenings, from 5:00 until 8:00 she focuses on all the admin work of her practice, emails, and other things she missed throughout the day. At the end of the day, she will relax and spend time with her husband and dog.

    Productivity tools Britt recommends

    Britt is not opposed in any way to high-tech gadgets that help with productivity, but she is a fan of old-school pen-and-paper organization. There is also brain science that supports the use of pen and paper, which allows our brains to absorb information better. The digital world moves much faster than our brains do. Whenever Britt tries to move her calendar and other agendas onto her computer, things tend to fall to the wayside.

    She uses color coding in her planners to help manage her various roles (speaking, writing, and therapy) and appointments for each one. She likes to cross things off her list as she accomplishes each task. Britt uses a paper planner with a daily, weekly, and monthly section. She goes through the monthly section first, highlighting any speaking engagements she might have, book manuscript due, or any other important event. She wants to see at a glance what is most important so she can prioritize. She then goes through the weekly section to break down her tasks for each thing that needs to be done. In the daily section, she decides what needs the most attention and prioritizes accordingly.

    The problem of stuck

    When Britt talks about the problem of being stuc...

    • 47 min
    Preparing for a Productive Retirement

    Preparing for a Productive Retirement

    No matter your age or stage of life, preparing early for your retirement can ensure a smooth transition when the time comes and the chance to focus on what will be most important to you during those years.

    Planning ahead can help you achieve a fulfilling and productive retirement--whenever you're ready!

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something that’s coming up for me in a year or so--and something I’ve heard about from other members of the community: retirement. As I’ve been researching it, I’ve concluded, based on a lot of what I’ve read, that preparing for a productive retirement involves thoughtful planning and proactive steps to ensure a fulfilling and engaging post-career life.  

    What constitutes a “productive” retirement? I think it’s one in which you have a purpose--whatever that purpose might be--and that you take regular action to accomplish that purpose. I love the way the writer of one article put it: “Productivity in retirement doesn’t mean work — it means purposeful activity. It’s about finding joy, fulfillment, and energy in what you do each day. Essentially, your clarity, intentions, purpose and passions translate into productivity.” 

    That same writer goes on to say, “Retirement isn’t about choosing between relaxation and productivity, leisure and responsibilities, freedom and structure. It’s about embracing all of these in a way that enriches your life and brings you deep satisfaction.” And I think that’s going to be different for each of us. 

    Whether you’re nearing retirement or just starting to think about it, or even if it’s years in the future for you, it’s my hope that today’s episode will provide you with valuable tips and insights to ensure your retirement years are both enjoyable and productive. Let’s look at some areas to think about.

    Financial Planning:

    I’ve read about studies that show that “only 53% of women feel financially confident about their ability to retire at their target age, compared with 66% of men. What’s more, 74% of women surveyed report having no financial plan in place to reach their retirement goals, compared with 58% of men.” But it’s important that we as women think about our financial planning for the future, since women face some specific challenges in this area: women tend to live longer than men, face higher healthcare costs, often are the caregivers earlier in their lives and/or are more likely to work part-time jobs, which can mean lower contributions to Social Security, etc. Whatever your age, giving thought to your financial future is important.

    * Budgeting:  

    * Create a detailed budget that includes your retirement goals and anticipated expenses. This will help you manage your money wisely and avoid any unexpected financial surprises. 

    * Consider working with a financial advisor to get a clear picture of your financial health and make informed decisions. 

    * Savings:  

    * Maximize contributions to retirement accounts like 401(k)s, IRAs, and other savings plans. 

    * Take advantage of catch-up contributions if you’re over 50 to boost your retirement savings. 

    * Investment:  

    * Diversify your investments to ensure a steady income stream during retirement. This might include a mix of stocks, bonds, and real estate.

    * Regularly review your investment portfolio to make adjustments based on your changing needs and market conditions. I appreciate what a class="Hyperlink SCXW214298038 BCX4" href="https://www.kiplinger.

    • 35 min
    Productive Reading: Slow Productivity, by Cal Newport

    Productive Reading: Slow Productivity, by Cal Newport

    In this latest episode of our recurring Productive Reading series, we look at Cal Newport's latest book, Slow Productivity.


    Slow productivity - a more humane and sustainable approach to getting things done

    In the past, we’ve talked about the lessons and key takeaways I found in books about productivity-related topics that I’ve found helpful and thought-provoking, including books by authors like Gary Keller, Charles Duhigg, Brené Brown, Courtney Carver, Jeff Sanders, James Clear, Michael Hyatt, Maura Nevel Thomas, Joshua Becker, Greg McKeown, Cal Newport, Dominique Sachse, Laura Vanderkam, Nir Eyal, Dr. Anna Lembke, and most recently a fascinating book called Switch Craft, by Elaine Fox, Ph.D. This time I’m sharing some of my most important takeaways from Slow Productivity, by Cal Newport. Quotes below are from the book

    Who is Cal Newport? 

    The book cover flap copy says:

    “Cal Newport is a professor of computer science at Georgetown University, where he is also a founding member of the Center for Digital Ethics. In addition to his academic work, Newport is a New York Times bestselling author who writes for the general audience about the intersection of technology, productivity, and culture. His books have sold millions of copies and been translated into over forty languages. He is also a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and hosts the popular Deep Questions podcast. Newport lives with his wife and three sons in Takoma Park, Maryland.”

    Why did I read this book?  

    I’ve read other books by Cal Newport and featured his prior book, Digital Minimalism, in an earlier Productive Reading episode, TPW366. In the last couple of years, I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about the ever-increasing pace of life and the stress and pressures many of us feel about being productive, so when I saw the announcement of this book’s release I pre-ordered it immediately.

    The book is subtitled: The Lost Art of Accomplishment Without Burnout

    Newport says that our current definition of productivity--especially as it applies to knowledge workers--is “broken.” The book is aimed at redefining productivity for knowledge workers. Knowledge work is defined as “The economic activity in which knowledge is transformed into an artifact with market value through the application of cognitive effort.” 

    This includes office workers like computer programmers, accountants, and so on, as well as lawyers, artists, business owners and executives, marketing professionals, educators, and research scientists.  

    “The knowledge sector emerged as a major force in the mid-twentieth century . . . the old notions of productivity that worked so well in farming and manufacturing didn’t seem to apply to this new style of cognitive work.”  

    As a result, uncertainty about how to measure productivity led to “using visible activity as a crude proxy for actual productivity.” What that looks like, he says, is “If you can see me in my office--or, if I’m remote, see my email replies and chat messages arriving regularly--then, at the very least, you know I’m doing something.” In other words, the more I’m doing, the more evidence there is that I’m doing something, so busyness became the proxy for productivity. This is what he calls pseudo-productivity. His goal:

    “My goal is to offer a more humane and sustainable way to integrate professional efforts into a life well lived. To embrace slow productivity, in other words, to reorient your work to be a source of meaning instead of overwhelm,

    • 41 min
    10+ Ways to Manage Stress

    10+ Ways to Manage Stress

    Stress is something we can expect these days in our hectic lives. But there are ways to manage it without letting it interfere with our productivity or our health.

    Stress is a part of life but it can be managed in a healthy way

    Stress is a fact of life for most of us. As Dr. Karen Swartz notes in a talk posted on the Johns Hopkins Medicine YouTube channel, “stress is universal,” and even good things cause stress. Whatever its source, though, stress has a direct impact on our emotional and physical health, and of course on our ability to be as productive as we want to be. Thus understanding what stress is, what causes it, what effects it has, and--most important--what we can do about it is crucial to our ability to make a meaningfully productive life.

    What is stress? 

    Put simply, stress is our body’s response to events that occur in our lives. 

    What are some of the sources of stress in women? 

    Results of a 2023 survey by the American Psychological Association include reports by women of the following sources of stress: health and finances at the top of the list; family responsibilities and relationships are reported as “key stressors”; career responsibilities and job insecurity; 

    What are the symptoms of stress in women? 

    According to an article on Healthline, “Women may experience stress differently from men due to a combination of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors. Hormonal fluctuations, social and cultural roles, and biological vulnerabilities can influence these responses.” 

    Another article cites a 2023 survey by the American Psychological Association that found that “women tend to report higher levels of stress and experience more physical and emotional symptoms than men.” The APA website includes an article that notes “some research suggests women are more likely to internalize stress—leading more readily to both physical and mental disorders—while men tend to externalize it in the form of aggression or impulsivity.” 

    Chronic stress can result in a multitude of symptoms in women, including emotional, cognitive, and physical symptoms. Those symptoms can include:

    Emotional symptoms can include: 

    * irritability and mood swings 

    * anxiety or worry 

    * depression 

    * feeling overwhelmed or helpless 

    * decreased interest in activities 

    * decreased libido 

    Physical symptoms can include: 

    * headaches or migraine 

    * difficulty sleeping 

    * fatigue 

    * changes in appetite, such as eating in excess or loss of appetite 

    * muscle tension 

    * back pain 

    * weakened immune system 

    * increased blood pressure 

    * heart problems 

    * digestive issues, such as stomach aches or nausea 

    * menstrual irregularities or changes 

    * skin issues, such as acne or rashes 

    Examples of cognitive symptoms include: 

    * difficulty making decisions 

    * forgetfulness or brain fog 

    * racing thoughts 

    * difficulty focusing or staying on task

    What impact does it have on our productivity? 

    • 39 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
467 Ratings

467 Ratings

nicallday ,

Like getting advice from a good friend!

I am a big fan of this show. I enjoy a good balanced productivity podcast and this feels like getting advice and counsel from an wiser, more experienced friend.

bellpwrr ,

Free Medicine 😊

I recently gave birth to my baby girl and was feeling quite overwhelmed . My maternity leave allows me to have a lot of free time which is not really my own . My free time is filled with getting my six year old son through the challenges of first grade, my husband who has a challenging career in the food industry , completing my MBA online and nurturing my new baby girl . Most days I find myself feeling unproductive as I need time to just sit and complete preparations. This podcast provided a fresh prospective on how to cope with my anxiety . It was helpful knowing that I’m not alone and that it is possible to have good days . Thank you for the insight !

Cariwac ,

My go to for motivation and celebration

Laura celebrates women. Laura motivates women. I started listening to this podcast near the time I was faced with having to go back to school at age 50. I needed to find a way to do it all. Two teenagers still at home, full-time job and going back to school to get my paralegal degree. The Productive Woman podcast helped motivate me, but also gave me tips on how to be more productive, when faced with so many tasks. Fast forward to working at my dream job, I still look forward every Wednesday seeing that new episode notification. This podcast has truly inspired me to be all that I can be. Thank you Laura.

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