424 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 • 402 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.

    We Need Each Other

    We Need Each Other

    Today we’re talking about the value of relationships among women of different ages and generations.

    No matter how different our lives and experiences are, there is great value in connecting with other generations of women

    This episode was inspired by a social media post I saw this week. The woman who posted it appears to be younger than me--maybe in her 40s or 50s? I found her when I ran across some short humorous Facebook reels she posted about “rules” for the family Thanksgiving get-together. She apparently also posts homemaking tips and so on, and has received feedback recently from younger women saying she shouldn’t be “telling them how to run their homes” because as an older woman she doesn’t understand the stress and mental health issues younger women today have to deal with. The younger women seemed to interpret this woman’s posts as judgmental, and the gist of these comments was that the older women should just sit down and be quiet.  

    I was saddened and disturbed by this response. I’ve seen it before--younger women dismissing older women as irrelevant and out of touch. The “okay, boomer” mentality. It’s hurtful, especially in light of how many women feel that when they reach a certain age they become invisible, like they no longer count. This attitude, I feel, deprives all of us women, regardless of our age, of something truly valuable, maybe even essential: the opportunity to learn from each other, to expand our lives. I truly believe we as women need each other, and we suffer if we cut ourselves off from any group of other women. 

    As I thought about this woman’s post and the things I’ve read and heard before, I thought I’d share just a few thoughts about this. 

    Every generation’s experience of the world is in many ways different from those who came before. When I was a young woman first making my way in the world, I knew the women of my mother’s generation had lived in a world very different from mine in terms of societal expectations of women, career opportunities, technology, and more. In some ways their world was smaller than mine, just as in some ways mine was smaller than the younger women of today. But still, when I was a young woman, we valued the insight of older women, the knowledge and wisdom that can come from experience. Older women came into my life at different times from whom I learned about being a wife, how to mother my children, how to put meals on the table, how to sew, and later, how to be a lawyer. 

    Even now, in my early 60s, as a woman who married very young, raised 5 kids, went back to college and then to law school in my 30s, and who’s been a professional woman for 20 years, I still value the insight of the women who are older than me, who’ve navigated the post-kids empty nest period, retirement, aging--the things I haven’t done before but they have. 

    Of course, you have no obligation to listen to any particular person--especially a random stranger on the internet, someone with whom you have no relationship, who hasn’t earned the right to speak into your life. But that’s a different thing from feeling it’s okay to tell that person to sit down and stop speaking. 

    And it seems to me there’s a certain level of arrogance in simply dismissing the experience of those who’ve been where you are, whether personally or professionally, as a woman, wife, mom, professional woman. To think that your generation’s experience is so unique that the women who came before you have nothing to offer you is at best a misconception. We need each other. Even without adopting wholesale the advice, example, and beliefs of those who came before us, we still can acknowledge that they do have something to offer. 

    On the other hand, older women need younger women,

    • 25 min
    A Few of My Favorite Things

    A Few of My Favorite Things

    This week I'm sharing some of my favorite things--items that are making my life more productive, more pleasant, or just more fun.

    Having your favorite tools and other items around you each day can bring you joy and improve your productivity

    For this coming holiday season, I thought I’d share some of my favorite things to which you might treat yourself. Some would make good gifts too!

    Kitchen tools

    "Meat masher" tool

    The meat masher!

    Technically, the one I have is called the “Farberware Professional Heat Resistant Nylon Meat/Potato Masher.” It might seem like a silly thing, but it’s a game changer for a very specific purpose: it’s perfect for breaking up ground meat when you’re cooking it. If you’ve ever been aggravated trying to do that in a skillet with a wooden spoon, you’ll want to try this little tool. It can also mash potatoes or cooked chicken that needs to be shredded for soup or tacos. It's safe for non-stick cookware and dishwasher safe. I wish I could describe what it looks like, but I love this thing. There are several different versions by different manufacturers, but the Farberware one I have costs less than $10 on Amazon. 

    My Always Pan

    This is a premium skillet with a non-stick ceramic coating. It's designed to replace a fry pan, sauté pan, steamer, skillet, saucier, and more. The pan comes with a wooden spatula that fits into the built-in spoon rest, as well as a steamer basket. It comes in tons of pretty colors, and I love how easily it cleans up. The manufacturer currently has holiday sales going on. Check the pan out here.

    Countertop suction slicer and grater

    This is another somewhat silly thing to be so happy about, but I love this thing. It attaches to the countertop by suction to keep it in place while you use it, and then you turn a handle to grate or slice your cheese, potatoes, or whatever else you might otherwise use a grater for. Faster than doing it by hand (and you don’t risk scraping your fingers on the grater) and quicker to set up and clean up than a food processor. I first learned about this in a cooking video on Mandy In the Making YouTube channel. I don’t remember where I bought mine (I think it was on QVC.com, per Mandy’s recommendation), but will link to a couple of places you can look to see what I’m talking about. Less than $30 and comes with 3 interchangeable barrels for fine shredding, coarser shredding, and slicing. Find examples on Amazon or QVC.


    * The Magnolia Table cookbooks, volumes 1 and 2. I bought mine at Target. Here is a link to Volume 1.

    * a href="https://amzn.

    • 40 min
    Productive Conversation

    Productive Conversation

    The holidays are coming up and with them gatherings with friends and family who may not share the same views we do. In this episode we consider how to have productive and grace-filled conversations even when we disagree.

    It's possible to disagree while still showing love and respect.

    This week's episode was inspired by the Editor's Letter, written by Editor-in-Chief Stephen Orr, in the November 2022 issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. In his Editor’s Letter, Orr talks about how we as people are becoming more and more siloed into smaller and smaller groups, segregated not by race but by ideology. As he says, “Everyone is algorithmically subdividing into tighter and tighter slivers of the media spectrum. What you read and watch is not what everyone else is experiencing. The ideas and concepts you’re absorbing daily may not exist outside your proverbial bubble.” 

    His opinion is that with the vast expansion of media and social media outlets, it has become easy for us to hear only what we want to hear, only what affirms what we already believe. Since that’s all we’re hearing, we can come to believe, without consciously recognizing it, that it is the only truth, the only rational way to think. It’s not a far step from there to believing anyone who believes anything else is wrong--and not just wrong, but worse. . . . We become isolated ideologically. 

    It’s not particularly insightful to note that this is having negative impacts. In a Psychology Today article, social ethicist and communications expert Melody Stanford Martin says it this way: “In our present political climate, many of us are experiencing a breakdown in our ability to engage the ‘other side.’ When these channels of communication fail, it can represent a significant loss to our relationships, our families, our communities, and even our democracy.”

    As I read Orr's Editor's Letter and Martin's article, I thought of recent Twitter threads I've seem in which dozens, maybe hundreds, of people proudly talk about how they’ve disassociated from family members solely because of what political party or candidate they support.

    How to talk to people you disagree with

    Orr asks the question:

    “How are we supposed to avoid talking about the important topics of the day without triggering the elephant in the room into full stampede mode?” 

    His answer: “approaching any edgy topics that arise with grace, as in the dictionary definition of ‘courteous goodwill.’” I agree. Following are a few thoughts to keep in mind as we consider conversations--whether at holiday gatherings or elsewhere--with people with whom we disagree.

    First, and maybe most important: Relationships matter more than being right.

    In the context of conversations at family gatherings, Orr says, “What matters most is not necessarily winning the argument or changing a person’s mind but realizing that the person you’re talking to is someone you love--or someone who is loved by someone you love.”

    Seek to understand.

    As Orr says in his Editor’s Letter, “the key is to be able to listen and try to understand where the other person is coming from.” 

    Melody Stanford Martin agrees: “Our goals in difficult conversations should generally be to 1) Protect the relationship with that person, and 2) to increase your understanding and increase the chances that you will be understood.” 

    In that quest to understand, ask questions--and listen to the answers. This helps us to understand why they believe what they do. Signals that you’re listening, that they’re being heard.

    • 34 min
    Productive Reading: Tranquility by Tuesday, by Laura Vanderkam

    Productive Reading: Tranquility by Tuesday, by Laura Vanderkam

    This week features the next installment in our recurring “Productive Reading” series, this time talking about key takeaways from Tranquility by Tuesday, written by Laura Vanderkam.

    Laura Vanderkam's latest book, Tranquility by Tuesday, offers inspiring and actionable ideas about how to enjoy your life!

    This week we're continuing our Productive Reading recurring series. In the past, we’ve talked about the lessons and key takeaways I found in books such as Gary Keller’s The ONE Thing (episode 133), The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg (episode 147), 3 books written by Brené Brown (episode 166), Soulful Simplicity, by Courtney Carver (episode 182), The Free-Time Formula by Jeff Sanders (episode 211), James Clear’s wonderful Atomic Habits (episode 230), Free to Focus, by Michael Hyatt (episode 250), Attention Management, by Maura Nevel Thomas (episode 271), The Minimalist Home, by Joshua Becker (episode 324), Effortless, by Greg McKeown (episode 349), Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism (episode 366), and Life Makeover, by Dominique Sachse (episode 403).

    This time I’m sharing some of my most important takeaways from Laura Vanderkam’s newest book, Tranquility by Tuesday. (Spoiler alert: I really loved this book!)

    Who is Laura Vanderkam?

    The book cover's back flap copy describes her this way:

    “Laura Vanderkam is the author of several bestselling time management and productivity books, including The New Corner Office, Juliet’s School of Possibilities, Off the Clock, I Know How She Does It, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, and 168 Hours. Her work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Fortune. She is the host of the Before Breakfast podcast and the cohost, with Sarah Hart-Unger, of the Best of Both Worlds podcast.”

    She also was our guest a few years ago on episode 217, when she and I talked about being intentional with time, and her book Off the Clock was our TPW Book Club selection in August of 2018.

    Why did I read this book?

    • 45 min
    Clean & Tidy

    Clean & Tidy

    Clean & tidy space is a platform for a productive life. This week we’ll talk about how to best keep up with all our stuff so it doesn't get out of hand and overwhelm us.

    Keeping our space clean & tidy sets the stage for peacefully productive life

    For most of us, an important part of our life is making a home. This is true whether we live alone, with roommates or a spouse, whether we have children, whether we have a job or career outside the home. No matter our stage of life or circumstances, wherever we might be, making a home is to one degree or another part of our role in life. 

    One element of making a home is taking care of our space and the stuff within it. That is pretty much a never-ending task, and one that we can sometimes struggle to keep up with, when we’re fitting it into life with other roles, whether it’s raising a family, maintaining a career, or all of the above. I’ve had some conversations recently with women who’ve expressed a certain level of stress and even guilt over the condition of their homes and lamented their seeming inability to keep up--or their frustration with having to spend the better part of their weekend digging out from the mess.

    What’s the difference?

    Clean - a space or object is clean if it’s free from dirt, unsoiled and unstained. When we clean our homes, we’re eliminating dust, dirt, etc., and putting the space and the items within it in an unsoiled condition. Cleaning is about removing dirt, dust, grime, and the odors that come with them. 

    Tidy - a space is tidy if it’s arranged neatly and in order. When we are tidying a space, we’re bringing order to it and arranging its contents neatly.

    Space can be clean but not tidy, or tidy but not clean; they are two separate processes.

    Why does it matter?


    * Health--As one post puts it: “Dirt and dust promote illness.” We can’t protect ourselves or our families from all illnesses, but there are things we can do to reduce the chances of getting sick. Creating a clean and healthy environment is on that list. The article’s writer points out that “dust is a very common cause for colds, coughs, asthma attacks, breathing and respiratory problems, and various types of allergies. This can be minimised and even prevented completely by reducing dust accumulation in your household.” 

    * We can reduce the stress we experience from carrying in the back of our mind the knowledge of the long list of chores accumulating because we’ve put them off for so long. 

    * The article I mentioned above points out that “a dirty home ages quickly.” When dirt and dust accumulate, things can wear out and age more quickly. Carpets and rugs come to mind: regularly vacuuming them prolongs their life.


    * Less stress--as we’ve discussed before, women are affected differently by clutter than men are; studies have shown that women in cluttered surroundings produce higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone)--article linked below for more info. NOTE: This applies just as much to our workspace as it does to our homes. 

    * More restful and welcoming environment--for ourselves, our family, even unexpected guests 

    * Keeping things tidy makes it easier and less time-consuming to clean 

    * Less time is wasted looking for things we need when everything’s got a place to live and it is always put there when not in use.

    Besides making our life more peaceful and productive,

    • 39 min
    Productivity with Purpose

    Productivity with Purpose

    Purpose for our productivity, and productivity with purpose, make for a meaningful life.

    Productivity with purpose and a meaningfully productive life

    I’ve been publishing this podcast for 8 years, and reading, learning, and thinking about productivity for over 50 years. When I decided, back in 2013, that I wanted to launch a podcast, the reason I chose the topic of productivity was my lifelong interest in the subject. Before I ever recorded an episode--or even thought about launching a podcast--I already had shelves full of books about time management, organization, and all things productivity-related. I had tried dozens of different planners and calendars and organizing systems.  

    I've been thinking lately about why it’s been such a thing in my life since I was in middle school. And the bigger question of why any of us think about this--why I’ve been talking about it for more than 8 years, and why you listen. Why do we care about productivity? 

    All that got me thinking about purpose in connection with productivity: What is the purpose of this podcast? But more than that, what is the purpose of productivity? 

    What is productivity?

    From the Oxford Dictionary:

    “the state or quality of producing something,” or “the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input”

    By this definition, a productive woman is the one who produces something; the one who gets the most output per unit of input (whether that input is time or energy or something else). 

    In a Harvard Business Review article a few years ago, the writer defines productivity this way:

    “the amount of value produced divided by the amount of cost (or time) required to do so.

    By this definition, a productive woman is one who produces the most value for the cost or time invested.

    Of course, here at TPW we have our own definition of what a productive woman is: A productive woman is one who orders her life in such a way as to maximize her positive impact on the world around her. To me, this definition actually builds a purpose into the productivity. We’re managing our time, pursuing our goals, and organizing our space all with the purpose of making the most positive impact on our world--whether the world within our 4 walls or the world at large. 

    We as women have an impact on others. Each one of us, no matter where we live or what kind of life we live, has an impact. Our choices, our behavior, our very presence, impacts

    * the people in our immediate circle--spouse, children, parents, siblings;

    * the people in our close circle: friends, co-workers, clients;

    * the people in our extended circle: others in our church, business acquaintances or patrons, those we meet as we go about our life (such as the grocery store clerk, postal worker, customer service agent on the phone, kids’ teachers);

    * even those in our remote circle: the people who interact with the people we interact with).

    What does purpose mean?

    From the Oxford Dictionary:

    “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists” and “a person's sense of resolve or determination”

    Career coach Rebecca Fraser-Thill writes in a Forbes article:

    “We feel purpose when we have a sense of direction and are enga...

    • 36 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
402 Ratings

402 Ratings

Makenzie Oliver ,

Well created

Thank you for a well created and simple podcast to fuel our days!

dorothyholla ,

A new “must listen” in my rotation!

Laura is a wonderful podcast host with a knack for finding interesting stories, digging out helpful tips, and supporting women in the world of business, entrepreneurship, and LIFE!

Niikki Burla ,

A must listen!

Laura hits the trifecta…she’s a phenomenal host, brings in incredible guests, and covers great topics that are relevant to her listeners. I’d highly recommend! -Nicole Kalil

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