Productivity and Leadership Success Story
Jim is a medical director at a large city hospital, with his time split between leading a team of physicians and working with his own patients. Work was fulfilling, but he often felt overwhelmed, with his attention divided among too many administrative demands without a defined structure. Sometimes, Jim felt as though he were at the center of a tug of war between meaningful work and necessary tasks.
We identified three areas where Jim could benefit from making strategic changes: eliminating email overwhelm, creating focused time for productive work, and modifying his team leadership tactics.
Jim’s inbox was overflowing. With more than 1000 unread messages, it often seemed like nothing ever got resolved, and email overwhelm kept him up at night. Modifying Jim’s time, effort, and email systems so that he could focus on high-priority messages was crucial.
Two tweaks immediately reduced the backlog of non-essential inbox items. First, Jim implemented the “Rules” function in Outlook to flag email that could bypass the inbox altogether. For example, subscription newsletters he enjoyed, but which didn’t need to be addressed immediately, could be directed straight to a “to read” folder so Jim could review them at his convenience and not distract him from more urgent or important messages. With a few simple keystrokes, we also moved obsolete messages out of the primary inbox into folders for each appropriate prior year. These two solutions meant that most of Jim’s inbox was timely and pertinent.
We also addressed Jim’s email mindset, which had hampered his productivity. Previously all emails felt equally vital. With grit, Jim let go of the sense of urgency in replying to non-critical emails and adopted a new mantra: “If it becomes important, it will come back again.” He also applied the 80/20 Rule, recognizing that his replies did not have to be perfect and that he could achieve 80% (or more) of the desired results with 20% of the effort.
Finally, Jim curtailed trying to process email “on the fly,” batched email tasks to improve efficiency, and identified dedicated time in his schedule for complex replies.
Email wasn’t the only area in which time blocking proved advantageous. Jim felt pressured to accomplish all of his administrative tasks daily, even on the two days each week dedicated to seeing patients. Resetting the expectation that he could squeeze everything into each day, Jim instituted a planning hour each weekend to ensure that the upcoming week prioritized the right responsibilities. By no longer expecting that he could do it all every day, and by asking what would happen if he did not get something done, Jim had a much better sense of his relative priorities.
Time blocking also helped change Jim’s mindset. By analyzing how long patient charting took, he recognized that he needed to be more strategic in noting only essential information. He also saw that spending an hour on charting at the end of each patient workday ensured he completed this routine task, freeing up time for vital project work. With a more realistic sense of how much work could fit into his week, Jim carved out specific blocks of time for duties he’d previously worried about but rarely completed.
Jim’s revised schedule included his fixed meetings with others, as well as two-hour blocks on non-patient days to focus on “deep work.” Scheduling time to prepare for consultations, update patient charts, and address complex email issues meant that Jim now had confidence that these obligations would be tackled. With everything accounted for, Jim knew he had buffer time on non-patient days to address physician management issues and other unanticipated events.
Time blocking his week meant not only that could Jim accomplish his professional goals, but also guaranteed time for his personal priorities, like quality time with his family and maintaining an exercise routine — meaningful experiences that made his whole life more fulfilling.
Jim relished time spent with his team members but wanted to improve interactions. First, Jim instituted best practices for successful meetings. The meeting agenda now included a final five minutes to summarize and create action items. This way, everyone was on the same page regarding key discussions, takeaways, and decisions. Jim also kept running documentation, capturing ideas to prompt discussion at future meetings, and logging each person’s commitments and assignments to help maintain accountability.
Jim’s revised schedule gave him confidence that he was always doing what he was meant to be doing, so he could give undivided attention during daily encounters. More time flexibility for patient rounding and having daily check-ins helped build camaraderie among his team. This kept him in the loop, making it easier to collaborate as well as to anticipate obstacles and address them before they became problematic.
Ellen Faye — with insight, expertise and a strong sense of empathy — provided clear, practical tactics to improve my business efficiency. Her observations and advice combined productivity precepts she’s honed over her career with hands-on activities. As a result, my work days are better defined, my business is closer to achieving its goals, and I sense a greater balance in my personal/work life. Thank you, Ellen! Larry Siegel – Marketing Executive Vice President
Ellen has taught me ways to approach my mountains of paperwork, my time management issues, my project planning, my business decisions and so much more. Every session with her is incredibly productive, with each minute oriented towards my success! Jackie Pantaliano – Owner, ImPRessions Public Relations
Ellen helped me shift my thinking and learn to make optimal choices about my time, my workload, and what is important. She has been the perfect person to help me. Ellen has taken me by the hand and the heart and has guided me in a most empowering way. Marilee Tolen RN, Wellness and Marketing Coach – Marilee Tolen Inc.
Your coaching, although delivered in my office, goes far beyond that one location. I find myself referring to “Ellen-isms” in my day-to-day activities, no matter where I am. While I initially contacted you to help me in my home office, the benefits I have since received are evident in all areas of my life and I am immensely grateful. M.P. – Nonprofit Assistant Director and Entrepreneur
I’ve been coaching with Ellen for over two years. She has been amazingly helpful in a wide array of areas. I originally hired her for productivity, which she helped with tremendously. Later when I was facing challenges with business planning, financial modeling and complex problem solving, she turned out to be a genius in these areas as well! Richard C. – Attorney
Ellen has been a tremendous guide in helping me start a new business. Her business skills and keen sense of what is necessary to make things happen are just part of her outstanding coaching capabilities. She also helps you define your purpose, goals, and strengths, and then creatively suggests how they should be presented in an appealing way. Her computer skills are top notch and up to date, and her energy and enthusiasm about making your business successful are inspiring and motivating. Donald Friedman M.D. – Retired Physician
My day with you was transformational. Not only did you help me with clarity, you helped me with a long term strategy for my business. Your help in creating a concrete plan made it easy to see how I could prioritize and fit all of the pieces into my business for the next year. Cris Sgrott – Owner at Organizing Maniacs, LLC
Ellen came prepared with a wealth of tools and exercises to help us get clear on our big picture and to develop a plan of action for our priorities. She was an objective voice that helped us to hear one another, work through challenges, and to stay focused on the items that were most important. We planned for a two day retreat – thanks to Ellen’s talents as a coach, productivity expert, and facilitator we completed our agenda on the first day. Shannon Tamme – Gateway Organizers
As the Executive Director of a growing nonprofit organization, I am tasked with making important decisions in a rapidly changing environment and with limited resources. When I needed a sounding board and a safe space to talk through urgent decisions, I began working with Ellen Faye. Ellen brings a vast toolkit of useful techniques, planning tools, and research informed advice to our sessions. She’s also supportive and a careful listener, who listens for and reflects back to her clients their own wisdom, with new clarity. Reaching out to Ellen was a great decision. She is a wonderful resource for nonprofit directors. A.S. – Nonprofit Executive Director
Ellen is great at helping me think though the pros and cons of a situation, what my role might be, and how I can best resolve challenges. She understands how to motivate people with different personalities and agendas, and knows how to support me in guiding them to reach our goals. Laura Neuman-Howe – Missouri Environmental Fund, Director
Your recommendation for me to stay focused on our mission made all the difference. Now that the Board and Executive Team are on the same page, we are making so much progress. K.R. – General Manager
Ellen, you show leadership in many ways. And one of them is recognizing it in others and telling them so. Not just me. I see you doing it all the time, now that I am paying attention. And it’s contagious. I find myself handing out compliments more readily, too, under your influence. Hazel Thornton – Organized for Life, NAPO 2107 President’s Award Recipient
Ellen recently gave an all-day training to our employees during a company retreat. As the evaluations have come back in, people are raving about Ellen and the quality of her content! She kept our team members engaged and actively participating for over six hours! Wow. I would highly recommend her for any leadership, client management, or communication training. Mindy Godding – Partner at Abundance Organizing
Ellen’s workshop was engaging and relevant! We all struggle with the push/pull of work life balance while meeting our obligations within the confines of a finite number of hours within a day and days within a week. Ellen’s style and approach encouraged the attendees to think differently. Participants walked away with applicable tools and takeaways that could be applied immediately to help improve both productivity and general organizational skills. I highly recommend this workshop and the use of Ellen’s expertise, no matter the industry, as her principles and guideposts apply universally to us all. Sarah E. Ginnetti, MBA, MHA – President, Connecticut HFMA Chapter, 2017-2018
APDO was thrilled to host Ellen as our closing keynote speaker at our conference in London, March 2017. “The Magic of Motivating” not only gave insight in how to motivate, set goals, and inspire our clients, but also how we can keep motivating ourselves while running our businesses. Ellen is a great speaker, who keeps her audience engaged every moment. I couldn’t recommend Ellen more! She’s excellent! Ingrid Jansen – President, Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers. United Kingdom
Finally something new! I have attended dozens of conference sessions. Yours is the BEST I have heard. So filled with information. So easy to understand. You certainly raised the bar for our attendees AND our profession. Anne G. – Association Leader
No surprise that your feedback is STELLAR! You DID a great job. The feedback shows just how valuable your workshop was. K.G. – Professional Development Director
Your workshop was the highlight of my conference experience. The main reason was because I had an unexpected gift which resulted in a shift in my thinking. By going through your exercises, (experiencing them, and practicing them) I identified the pillars of my business! Rather than the negative of what am I NOT doing, it is a HUGE POSITIVE: These core values are my map to guide my focus. I left feeling enlightened, energized and lifted! D.M. – Small Business Owner
Anonymous speaker evaluation feedback
- Brilliant, Ellen is fueled by her personal passion to convey to others the possibility of them too being highly productive.
- Last night Ellen empowered the crowd.
- Awesome presentation! You had me thinking in different ways which is so important.
- Great presentation! Full of wonderful advice and tips. Thank you!
- Thank you for an excellent workshop! I learned so much and I’m excited to keep growing.