Our fourth episode is all about being more productive – you know you need this! Guest Cathy Sexton is a top selling author and speaker that helps businesses not only be more productive, but also look at systems and processes that they have (or don’t have!) in place to keep the place running smoothly. She also coaches business owners and is getting ready to launch a really cool online coaching program!
- Why dual monitors are so awesome
- How to avoid retraining new employees (and have consistency from one employee to another!)
- How to keep from checking your email first thing in the morning
- How to plan your day and actually get things done!
- How to handle client emergencies
- What’s the biggest key when delegating a task?
- Some of Cathy’s favorite productivity tools
Links Mentioned in This Episode
About Cathy Sexton
Productivity strategist, coach and author Cathy Sexton helps individuals and organizations I.G.N.I.T.E. their performance. Delivering high impact principles through speaking, training and special resources, Cathy empowers people to achieve their life and business goals.
Cathy founded The Productivity Experts in 2003 after winning her own battle with workaholism and a stress-induced life threatening illness. Cathy is committed to helping people accomplish more, with less stress. Professionals can now advance their careers, avoid burnout and spend more quality time with their family and personal lives.
Cathy’s Easy Processes are taught through her seminars and her unique I.G.N.I.T.E. programs. Attendees and participants learn how to take control of their thoughts, processes and tools to achieve better results, faster.
Host of “Ignite Your Productivity Radio”, Co-author of “Focus, Organization and Productivity,” “Exploring Productivity” and “7 Point Impact,” Cathy is now working on two more books and delivering remarkable value through her productivity membership website.
Watch This Episode on YouTube
Will: Hey everyone, Will Hanke here from Red Canoe Media, really excited about today’s guest today her name is Cathy Sexton. I’ve known Cathy for quite a while now and she does some great things along the line of helping people with their productivity and getting more done in a certain amount of time, which is always a good thing. Cathy is a productivity expert, author, speaker, radio host and power habits coach; she ignites your productivity and accelerates results by leveraging your natural productivity style. Despite her constant experimentation with new technologies, Cathy’s current favorite productivity tool is using multiple monitors and remains grateful to whoever invented luggage on wheels. Cathy thanks for coming along with us.
Cathy: I’m glad to be here Will, thank you for inviting me.
Will: No problem. I really like your intro about the dual monitors. As you know, I got dual monitors last year for Christmas and what a great tool that is.
Cathy: Well, when I’d first seen people use them I thought, why would I do that? That’s just more craziness but once I started, it’s hard when I use my laptop alone because I’m so used to having the double monitors that it makes it hard to just go back to one.
Will: It’s a great thing, I can’t imagine not having two anymore. I can get a lot done so.
Cathy: It’s kind of like the microwave; when we didn’t have it we didn’t know what we were missing but once we have it, now what would we do without it?
Will: Exactly. So tell me first about your radio show; I know that you do a radio show, tell me a little bit more about that.
Cathy: Okay, it’s an internet radio show called Amazing Women of Power. The radio network is on 24 hours but my show is on Thursday mornings at 9:30 central time and most of the time I’m interviewing guest like you are doing today and it’s based around being more productive in some way/manner. It might be writing a book or it might be if you’re trying to take on speaking engagements so it’s not necessarily a time management type of productivity but different ways that it affects us in our personal and professional lives. The audience is generally, usually, small business owners to working professionals.
Will: Okay, and I’ll put a link in the show notes on how you can get to that but I’m assuming that if they can’t listen to it live there’s a podcast version out or something that people can download as well.
Cathy: There are some podcast versions that are on my membership site so there are a couple of free ones there and they can listen to them there.
Will: Okay and that’s through theproductivityexperts.com?
Cathy: Our igniteyourproductivityradio.com
Will: Oh, awesome, okay. Also along the lines of the radio show, you’ve also done some pretty cool speaking engagements, tell us about those.
Cathy: So I have and one of those, I guess the most exciting that I got was when I got a call from the Case Foundation, which is Steve Case who’s from AOL. Not that I got to meet him but I got to go up and work with a team of his members for his foundation and do some time management Washington D.C, so that was pretty exciting. Last May I got to go down and speak at a conference for the IDA which is the International Dealers Association so Door Dealers Association and just on Sunday I got to speak to the State of Missouri clerk. So all the clerks in the State of Missouri, all the city clerks came to town and they were here in St. Charles and I got to speak a whole day to them, working on their productivity and things like that. It’s been very exciting to meet so many different people and in so many different areas because productivity affects us all.
Will: Yeah that sounds awesome. What do you typically share with them? You don’t have to give me specifics but do you target a specific area like email or, like you said, time management or do you go depending on what they prefer to listen about?
Cathy: Usually I try to find out what their pains are and generally people say I want time management but when I start talking to them it’s either more emails or interruptions, things like that. So more and more often, people are having me speak on my ignite performance which basically stands for inner insight; really understand who we are and what’s going on in our subconscious mind and how that affects our productivity, about getting organized, it’s about interruptions, it’s about our natural productivity style—taking action, time management type thing and then email. So that gives them a little bit of all of them or I can just talk to them about one specific thing and I usually really customize based on what their needs are.
Will: Okay, so let’s switch gears a little bit towards a small business owner. If they were to engage you, how could you help a small business owner?
Cathy: Generally on my small business owners I do one of two things. One, I would be on Primus and help them look at their systems and processes and put some systems and processes to make things easier, as simple as creating checklists, as creating a process that everybody does and follows the same way; it makes everybody’s life easier. Two, just doing coaching which can be in person or on the phone, but small business owners all wear so many hats; they have so many things going on that they sometimes just need that accountability and that need to help them stay in a direction instead of going off in a lot of different directions.
Will: That’s awesome. I know that we’ve talked before about the Work the System book and about having processes in place and I can’t tell you how great it is for myself that I have an intern that works with me and if we’re going to do something new I’ll tell her, okay, open up a word doc, we’re going to go through all these steps and you’re going to type them in so that the next time we come back we’ve got eighty percent of it in place.
Cathy: That’s exactly right, that’s what I’ll tell people, if you don’t have them built that’s the best way to do it you’re training somebody new or you’re creating a new one. But even when we have processes in place and they aren’t documented, by having somebody that you’re training write it, you review it and then they follow it step by step that’s the best way to get all the details in.
Will: Yeah and then next time, this intern may be around for a year or two and then she may go on and I have somebody else come in, now I don’t have to retrain the entire process.
Cathy: Correct and you not only get that so you save time there, you save time training, you get consistency. So we all tend to want to do things differently but there are some things that need to be done consistently, the same way by everybody and it makes it consistent for your customers and just being able to get things accomplished.
Will: Definitely. For a long time I ran my business in my head and I’d get a new client and I had a list of things in my head but that list would usually change sometimes because I forgot steps or forgot things and documenting all those is a terrific way to, even just a checklist of things that need to be done, is a great way to start something off.
Cathy: Correct and you’re right about having it in your head so I tell people, you can’t prioritize and you can’t organize when it’s in your head; it’s got to be out of your head and in some kind of system if it’s electronic or paper or whatever but you have to be able to prioritize it or else we do all the stuff we like to do and not the stuff we need to do.
Will: That’s definitely true. So what kind of things get you going in the morning? What’s the first thing you do when you get into your office? How does your day typically start?
Cathy: Well I really recommend that people know at the end of their day that they are planning what they need to work on tomorrow and to pick those top three things that you want to accomplish today. Start on the very top one and do not open your email, do not listen to your voice messages and wait until you’ve got a good hour or so into that big project that you need and then maybe look at your email maybe mid-morning, maybe before or after lunch and then late in the afternoon. Most of us, our businesses are not driven by email and if we let people know I check my email three to four times a day then they know not to expect a quick response or they know they need to call you if it’s really something important.
Will: Right, I think even Tim Ferris mentioned that in the four hour work week about, he did a little drastic check of my email once a week or something like that, but that’s a tough one; it’s probably one of the first things I do is check my email in the morning.
Cathy: Right, so if you’re going to do that, what I recommend my clients do is to schedule it on their calendar just like they do a meeting. So then they’ll get a pop up to remind them you’ve got to check your email now it’s ten o’clock, ten thirty or whatever and the deal with that is it’s not about just looking at the email, it’s about processing the email. We sometimes look at an email three, four, five times before we ever do anything with it.
Cathy: So the best thing to do is to schedule that time, half hour, forty five minutes whatever that looks likes for you and actually work on the email when you’re there and process them.
Will: That makes sense, that’s really good. I use Google Calendar and I’m sure you have other favorites to use for the scheduling part of it, but I typically set out hour blocks or two hour blocks for each client that I’m working on and so the email thing would actually fit right into that it’s just building that habit might be a bit difficult.
Cathy: Correct it’s about building habits. Another thing that really works a lot of times for people is to color code those calendars so that when you’re looking at your calendar like when I’m working with a client, it’s green. So I know that’s money that’s going to be coming in the door.
Will: Oh, nice.
Cathy: And then meetings are one color, other things, personal is another color so I can easily look at my calendar for the week and say, hey where is my time going? Is it going in the right direction or am I getting caught up doing a lot of things I should probably not be doing.
Will: Oh that’s great; what about things that business owners might be doing wrong right now? What’s probably one of the biggest things you’ve seen them doing wrong?
Cathy: Not delegating.
Cathy: For a lot of reasons; one, because they feel like they’re the only ones that can do it right and a lot of times, just like on Sunday when I spoke, one of the ladies came up to me and she goes, ‘I want to thank you for telling me how to delegate, everybody has told me all these years to delegate but they never told me how to do it.’ So the biggest key when you’re delegating is that should be the first question you’re asking yourself when you’re looking at paper coming across your desk or when you’re looking at an email, can I discard it, first and the second is, can I delegate it? And so when you’re looking at delegating always put a timeline on your delegation even the minor tasks because otherwise they just get lost in the shuffle. You can say hey, this has got a variable time element on it, but always give them a time element and always have them recite back to you what they think you said.
Will: Oh, interesting, okay.
Cathy: Because we know in our head what we want, we can see that visual end point but we have to be saying it to them in a language that they understand.
Cathy: So my analogy of that is that if I give you a jigsaw puzzle and I don’t give you the top of the box, it’s going to be much harder. Some people it’d be a challenge; they’d love it. But most of us would say oh wow, I don’t want to do that. So it’s kind of giving them the top of the box so that they know what that end product looks like, have them relay it back to you so that they understood you the same way and then schedule something, especially if it’s a big project, some times that you’re going to check in with them on how it’s going and if they need help.
Will: Okay and does that change whether it’s a retail establishment versus a business that works purely virtual?
Cathy: No, I don’t think it really does.
Will: Okay and are there any tools that you used to maybe help delegate or set up reminders and things like that; what kind of tools do you use for that?
Cathy: For the reminders, let’s go back to when you were talking about virtual or in-house. One thing that I use for virtual is I use Basecamp which I know you use but that’s just a great way for me, when I work with interns, they put their to do’s out there and then if they need me to do something the create a to do for me. If they’re ready for me to review something, something like that and then also using Skype; I use Skype a lot for virtual. And then for tools for following up I use a, what I call a tickler file system, so it’s a one through thirty one and a January through December so if I’ve given somebody a project that’s due on the thirtieth, I might put a not in there to check with them on the twenty eighth; where is it?
Cathy: So I don’t have to keep in my mind, okay I’ve got to check with Jane because she’s working on XYZ project, I’ve got something that’s going to trigger that for me.
Will: Interesting, that’s pretty cool.
Will: Let me ask you this; give me three tips that business owners can use today to start helping their productivity to move in the right direction.
Cathy: Okay so the first thing is, and I kind of mentioned it, at the end of the day we’re already in work mode so if you’re going to stay working another hour you know what you’re going to work on so that’s the time to plan tomorrow. So we’re looking at tomorrow and we know what those top three things that we need to accomplish tomorrow so that when we come in the next day we already know what to start working on. We don’t have to rethink through our day; what was I doing yesterday? What’s going on today? You’ve already determined that, so that’s number one.
Will: Yeah I think that’s a great tactic.
Cathy: And then, having only one project on your desk at a time and I know that we tend to have piles and things like that but there’s a saying, out of sight out of mind, so we keep it in our space but in sight in mind. So when you lay something on your desk and say, hey I’m going to do this later, our subconscious mind doesn’t know later today, later next week, later next month and you have a pile of ‘laters’ so your mind is constantly trying to remind you. So put those piles to the side or behind you and only work on one project so that when you get interrupted you go right back to that project versus picking up something else and working on that.
And then, we kind of talked about it earlier but, having systems; if you can build systems with everything you can do. When we think about anything we can do well, well there’s a system behind it and I know you canoe and things like that but you go fishing, you go canoeing there’s certain things you need to do to get the right outcome! You’re going to cook a gourmet meal; you have to do things in certain processes; so when we look at that, and really in the long term, that saves us so much time.
Cathy: Even the people that are very creative and not really process oriented, if they create processes around the things that have to happen then that would create more time for them to be creative.
Will: Yeah and you know I mentioned earlier about processes, do you think just pulling up a word doc and starting to document them, is that a great way to do it or do you have a tool that you use; what do you think is the best way?
Cathy: I think to get it done, that’s the best way to do it. I do have a form, if there are more than just one or two of you in the office, I would create a form that says who is responsible for this and it’s not the person, it’s the position and how often you do it and it’ll just give you a little bit of added information and then everything is consistent so all your procedures are done on the same type of template and the same process.
Will: That’s awesome. Okay so let’s talk about after hours; after hours for me is ten o’clock at night and by that I mean I’m always checking my email, always checking to see what’s going on with anything and if somebody contacts me at eight or nine at night, it’s likely that I’ll reply to them at eight or nine at night. What are your thoughts about that?
Cathy: Well for some of us, we’re maybe evening people or late night people or not morning people so those people tend to work; I really don’t have objections to people working at night, my whole thing is, making sure that you’re giving your family quality time and you’re giving yourself a break and not working 24/7 and staying up. Now the biggest problem with what you do is we teach what we allow, so if we allow and we answer phone calls at eight o’clock or on the weekends, people are going to call us at eight o’clock or on the weekends because they know you’re always available. Another thing that you can do in most email programs is you can reply but you can change and have it sent the next morning; they don’t need to know you’re up at three o’clock in the morning answering emails but I think it’s more about understanding who you are, when you can get your best time done and sometimes we as small business owners need to work late at night just to get things caught up. So I don’t think that’s a problem but the biggest key, and coming from a reforming workaholic, it’s so important to keep family time and that you get that relaxation time and that you aren’t working constantly all the time because you need to be able to revise yourself.
Will: Right and I’ve heard somebody say, and I think it’s Dale Furtwengler, that when two people are interacting one of them is always teaching the other one how to act.
Cathy: Right, correct.
Will: So, me answering the phone at eight o’clock at night or something, you’re right. I’m teaching them that it’s okay to call then.
Cathy: Right, right.
Will: So along those lines, how should we handle emergencies on say in my case a server goes down or maybe it’s an emergency in the client’s mind but in reality it’s not, how should we handle those?
Cathy: Well I think that you do set up a process for that type of thing and maybe it is that you have them email you and put the priority flag on it or that they text you and that you monitor things because in your position you’re right, if somebody’s server goes down that’s critical and it really depends on what kind of service; are you a twenty four hour service or are you an eight to five, I’ll deal with it—send it to me but I’ll deal with it at eight o’clock in the morning. So it really depends on the business.
Will: That makes sense so, what’s one thing that people don’t know about you?
Cathy: What’s one thing that people don’t know about me? Most people don’t know that I’m one sibling of seven.
Cathy: So I grew up here in St. Louis and I have five sisters and one brother so a lot of people don’t know that and a lot of people don’t know that I’m a quilter and I think my cat just decided to come and join us. For some reason when I’m on Skype or this type of thing she usually pops in.
Will: Cats are big on the internet so that should increase the overall viewership I would think.
Cathy: Yes, right.
Will: So tell me, how can small business owners get in contact with you?
Cathy: Well they can visit my website at theproductivityexperts.com, they can email me at Cathy with a ‘C’ so C-a-t-h-y at theproductivityexperts.com ([email protected]), my membership site or check out the radio station, it’s ignite your productivity radio and call me at 314-267-3969.
Will: Okay awesome; tell me a little bit more about the membership site, what’s behind the scenes on that?
Cathy: Okay, behind the scenes is basically over one hundred, I don’t want to call it coaching programs but kind of like coaching programs or articles and things just to help us not only in productivity which, there is a lot more in productivity than anything else, but leadership, health, self-improvement, self-development; so people who are really into self-development, it really gives them a lot of things. All of my radio show archives are there so they have access to them and we’re in the process of transcribing them, so they can have it either audio or transcribed.
Cathy: And I’m getting ready to launch a really big program that’s going to be a part of the membership site and so with that program, we’ll have access to the whole membership site.
Will: Okay, you’ll have to let me know about that when it goes live.
Will: Okay tell me about a couple of the current projects you’re working on.
Cathy: The one big project that I’m working on right now is I’m taking my coaching and I’m creating an actual online coaching program so people who don’t feel like they can afford to work with me on a one to one basis or want to try out a little bit of coaching, it’s going to be an eight week program, they’ll have homework and exercises to do but they’ll also get a couple of one on ones with me during the process. They’ll also get group calls so you’ll be able to hear what other people’s issues are and where they’re struggling that might affect you or might help down the road. So I’m really excited in taking what I helped so many individuals with and that I’m going to be able to help so many more people.
Will: That’s awesome, when do you think that part is going to launch?
Cathy: I hope to have it up and running by November; end of the year the latest but November is my goal at this point.
Will: Okay and is that going to be a short window of time where people can take advantage of that or you said it was an eight week course, is there a hard start and stop date on that?
Cathy: No there’s not; that’s the cool thing about it, anybody can start at any point in time, so when they’re involved in the calls they’ll be able to hear people that have been maybe down the road and they’ll get the advantage of that. Another thing is that when I launch it, I’ll be launching it as a pilot program first so those people who might be interested if they let me know they’ll get a deep, deep discount because I’m going to launch it as a pilot first and then really roll it out after that.
Will: That’s awesome; that’s a great way to work the kinks out and everything and the early adopters get a significant discount
Cathy: Yes, yes.
Will: That’s terrific. Well Cathy I really appreciate you spending some time with me today, I always learn some great tips from you and I really appreciate your time.
Cathy: Well thank you very much and I’ll come back anytime.
Will: Alright. Thank you my name is Will Hanke with Red Canoe Media and I really appreciate you joining us today on Navigate the Rapids and we’ll see you next week.