This week I talk with author, speaker, and executive career coach Elizabeth Pearson about developing systems to manage how we communicate with others and why this is important to our productivity and peace of mind.
Managing business communications is a key element of a productive professional life
I’m excited to share with you my conversation with author, speaker, and executive career coach Elizabeth Pearson as part of our Productive Living series.
Who is Elizabeth?
Elizabeth is an executive career coach who helps women navigate job changes, succeed in male-dominated fields, and launch their own companies. Elizabeth has contributed to Forbes, Entrepreneur magazine, Yahoo, and HERMoney.com and has been an expert guest on national networks including NBC News. She has been a keynote speaker for women in business talks at Meta, Oracle, Marriott, Northwestern Mutual, Amazon, and many more. Elizabeth recently released her first book Career Confinement: How to Free Yourself, Find Your Guides, and Seize the Fire of Inspired Work, and is the host of the Working Moms’ Guide to Sanity Podcast.
How Elizabeth got started
Elzabeth’s professional background is in corporate sales, where she spent about 15 years in consumer package goods sales. Then one day, like a lot of women, she wondered whether this was all there is. She seemed to have everything she could ever want but it still didn’t seem like enough, no matter how hard she worked to convince herself. She was a working mom who was secretly suffering, going through a sort of spiritual bankruptcy. Elizabeth was angry with herself for not feeling as fulfilled as she thought she should, but also recognized that her dissatisfaction came from suppressing an entrepreneurial spirit she had had for many years. Elizabeth finally decided to make some major changes by moving her family to central California and leaving her safety net behind to follow her dreams. She is now an executive career coach helping women at all stages of their lives and careers.
A typical day for Elizabeth
There really is no typical day for Elizabeth and she enjoys it that way. However, a usual day for Elizabeth starts between 5:30 and 5:45 in the morning. She walks to Starbucks first thing (a 3-mile round-trip walk), listening to an audiobook or music along the way. Once she’s back at home, she’ll get the kids off to school, shower, and get ready for her day. Regardless of the work that goes on during the day (client meetings, interviews, or writing), she tries to be wrapped up by 4:00 and focuses on family and personal activities. She enjoys watching TV, writing or journaling, cooking, and spending time with her daughters. In the evenings after getting her kids to bed, she tries to be in bed herself no later than 8:30 or 9:00. Sleep is incredibly important for Elizabeth and she strives to get as much as possible. It’s one of the most important things that contributes to her productivity.
Productivity tools Elizabeth recommends
Elizabeth uses a mixture of pen and paper and technology to manage her busy days. She makes a daily to-do list because she enjoys checking boxes and crossing things off.
She uses habit trackers to see where she is spending her time, which is something she writes out and color codes on paper.
Elizabeth likes to use calendar blocking to set aside time to do specific things, like creating social media posts (specifically LinkedIn, which she likes to treat as a personal website where she represents herself and her brand.) Elizabeth encourages women to regularly post on LinkedIn, write articles and posts, and optimize the website to the point where they can be recognized by industry leaders if they are looking to fill a position.
Managing our in-box
“the overwhelming nature of email overload often stems from the illusion of productivity rather than true accomplishment. People feel productive when they constantly refresh their inbox, however the brain’s constant shift between tasks, known as ‘attention residue,”‘ can reduce productivity by up to 40%.”
Any time we’re focused on something and our email alert goes off, it immediately distracts us from what we’re doing. When it comes to email management, Elizabeth recommends the following 5 tips for getting to the elusive” Inbox Zero”
- Apply the Two-Minute Rule: If an email can be addressed in two minutes or less, respond to it immediately. This prevents small tasks from accumulating and taking up unnecessary mental space.
- Unsubscribe, Filter, Archive, or Delete: Ruthlessly unsubscribe from newsletters and promotional emails. Use email filters to automatically sort incoming messages into categories or folders. This will help you prioritize and address emails more efficiently. Once you’ve addressed an email, archive or delete it if it’s not needed for reference.
- Implement Time Blocking: A study published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication found that individuals who schedule specific periods for email checking experience a 25% increase in task completion rates, leading to higher job satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.
- Use Templates and Canned Responses: For common responses or queries, create email templates or canned responses. This can significantly speed up your email replies while maintaining a professional tone. Less is more. Quit thinking that one-line email responses are rude — you’re not helping anyone by sending wordy responses.
- Delegate and Collaborate: If an email requires action from someone else on your team, delegate the task and make sure to clearly communicate your expectations. Collaboration tools can also help manage tasks collectively.
Any time we say yes to an email, we are saying no to something else.
Managing Zoom meetings in our day
Elizabeth considers meetings to be a huge drain on our time, energy, and productivity and feels it affects women more than men at times. Online meetings often require us to be “camera ready” with hair and makeup done at all times, even when working from home.
Why there’s a Zoom “drain”:
- Increased Screen Time: Prolonged exposure to screens not only contributes to eye strain but also disrupts the work-life balance by blurring the boundaries between work and personal life. The lack of physical separation between the two spheres can make it difficult for employees to mentally detach from work, ultimately leading to burnout.
- Cognitive Load and Multitasking: Virtual meetings can be mentally taxing, requiring individuals to pay constant attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues, navigate screen sharing, and chat functions, and manage technical glitches. Additionally, the temptation to multitask during meetings is stronger when working from home, leading to decreased focus and reduced engagement. The resulting cognitive load and constant switching between tasks can deplete energy levels and contribute to burnout.
- Back-to-back meetings can feel like a prison: So many people find themselves in nonstop meetings without as much as 5 minutes to use the bathroom or eat a meal. Instead, they are forced to arrive a few minutes late to a meeting in order to grab a handful of nuts and water.
How can we get out of Zoom jail?
- Bring back audio-only conference calls: Businesses were successful before video conferencing, and they can be once again.
- Encourage Self-Awareness and Boundaries: Employees should be mindful of their well-being by setting clear boundaries between work and personal life.
- Calendar blocking
- Assess your comfort levels with video meetings
- Opt for alternatives such as phone calls or email when appropriate
- Promote Efficient and Focused Meetings: Employers should consider implementing “no-meeting” blocks or designated Zoom-free days to provide employees with uninterrupted time for focused work.
Elizabeth’s new book, Career Confinement
Career Confinement refers to people who feel they are in jail and the bars represent situations they feel they can’t escape. These are all limiting beliefs and mental blocks that Elizabeth can help us move away from.
She was inspired to write this book after speaking with clients in all different stages of life, all dealing with stuckness. She wanted to create a resource of assistance for those who can’t afford an expensive career coach. This book allows proactive, self-motivated people to help themselves. Elizabeth feels there are a lot of women who are hearing their inner voice saying, “I don’t really love this and I want to do something different”. This book can allow those women to get out of their current situation and help them move on to something better.
What does it mean to make a life that matters?
For Elizabeth, this means having a life that is fun. This can mean a lot of different things to different people but for her, she truly wants to have fun experiences in a non-resistant and non-judgmental way, all while being present and radiating that fun and joy to the ones around her.
What do you do to get back on track on a day when everything gets away from you?
Elizabeth often has these kinds of days and when they occur, she will lean on meditation and exercise. These are the two tools she knows will work for her. She also holds crystals and sage-sprays her office, two additional tools that help her stay calm and restore balance. The one thing Elizabeth will not do is lean further into work.
Elizabeth’s last words for the listener
Get the support that you need. You don’t have to do it all yourself. Lean on the people around you and do a little bit less. No one can help you if you don’t ask.
What do you think? Questions? Comments?
Connect with Elizabeth
- on her website
- on Facebook
- on Instagram
- on TikTok
- on LinkedIn
- Elizabeth’s LinkedIn course
- buy Elizabeth’s book
- listen to Elizabeth’s podcast
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Royse City, Texas