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Inspiring Conversations with Leslie Shreve of Productive Day

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leslie Shreve.

Hi Leslie, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
It all started back in 2004—one year after starting my business. I realized I was still dragging around my big ol’ Franklin Covey planner from my last corporate job and I was also still carrying around my 1998, brick-sized, cell phone. And they both had to go. I wanted to operate more efficiently and productively, and planner-free.

So I bought my first “PDA” (Personal Digital Assistant) from Verizon in late 2004. Then I ditched the planner and decided to maximize the use of my old familiar friend, Microsoft Outlook®, a system I’d been using since the early ’90s after I graduated from college.

Sure, I’d been using Outlook for email and the calendar, but what about the Task list?! It was a total stranger to me, but I started to use it in a new way and THAT was the year my system was born. As I developed the system and it started to take shape, I realized I had a repeatable system, and I’ve been teaching it now for almost 20 years.

There are three other pieces to my past that brought me to where I am today as Founder and CEO of
Productive Day, and the creator of Taskology® The Science of Getting Things Done. What are they? Well, that’s the rest of the story…

The first piece of the background puzzle is made up of my innate characteristics, talents, strengths, and traits. From a very early age, I had been described by others as efficient, prompt, and productive. Report cards from teachers continuously displayed words and phrases such as “good progress,” “excellent progress,” “prompt” and “efficient.” Here are some of the actual lines that showed up repeatedly on grade school report cards when I was 9 and 10 years old…

“Leslie uses her time wisely.”
“Leslie continues to work efficiently.”
“Excellent record of daily progress.”
“Leslie makes efficient use of her time in school.”
“Leslie is using her time wisely to complete her tasks.”
“Leslie is quite responsible for the performance of all tasks.”

Fast forward to high school and our senior yearbook had a special page for the graduating class called “That will be the day when…” Every graduate was listed with a special entry representing what they were best known for. My classmates knew I wasn’t a procrastinator, often turning in assignments early. So, here’s what mine said about me… “That will be the day when Leslie hands anything in late.”

Another piece of the background puzzle was my upbringing. I was raised by two EXTREMELY productive parents. Daily, they exemplified how to get things done and they empowered me to do anything and everything I put my mind to. They taught me how to be capable, confident, dependable, industrious, purposeful, thoughtful, and productive.

What my parents modeled and taught me made a huge impact on my life, as did the environment in which I grew up. I was raised on a sizable piece of property in northern Baltimore County until I was 17. I mention this not to impress you, but rather to impress upon you that there was no shortage of things to do!

I LOVED working alongside my parents, getting things done, and learning everything they had to teach me. Although, I do recall moments when I’m sure I would have probably preferred to play instead of helping with cutting grass, fixing fences, tending horses, shoveling gravel, digging in the vegetable garden, or chopping wood. But don’t get me wrong. While my chores and “helping out” was part of my “room and board,” there were plenty of chances for me to play and have fun.

So, I LOVED where I grew up. I loved the skills my parent taught me and the work ethic they instilled in me, and I loved the feeling of empowerment to get things done. But what I appreciated the most were THREE practices my parents modeled REALLY well, and I continue to practice these every day…

1. Planning and execution.
My parents had NO challenges with planning and execution. Whether it was planning a weekend project, our next vacation, home improvements, or their next party, they made a plan, planned their time carefully, and executed efficiently—realistically and on time.

2. Finishing what you start.
My parents always finished what they started. They regularly modeled what success looked like on the other side of the effort, and the feeling of success I felt in finishing what I had started always encouraged me to keep finishing ANYTHING I started.

3. Celebrating a job well done.
My parents always took the time to stand back and admire a job well done, whether I did it, they did it or we did it together. They modeled how to appreciate the completed job and the efforts that went into it with enthusiasm. This continued to lead me to be inspired, motivated, and looking forward to the next project.

So fast forward to 2003, just after starting Productive Day, I noticed that these 3 things were absent FAR too often on professional workdays everywhere. Understanding this early on helped me to solidify my PASSION—efficiency, productivity, and progress—and my PURPOSE to help professionals reach ultimate efficiency, productivity, and progress so they could get things done faster and easier—and with a LOT less stress.

Now, here’s the third piece to the background puzzle. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to work in corporate, just like my Dad. He had worked at Black & Decker for more than 30 years and I wanted to be just like him.

As a small girl, I remember he also started his own business on the side (Shreve & Co.) and he let me help him in his office from time to time, entering receipts in the ledger and keeping his business checkbook balanced. These were perfect little tasks for me and I always enjoyed helping him make progress, no matter how little or how much I could do.

After high school, I graduated from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business. I returned home to Baltimore driven, excited, and motivated to start working, and I landed my first job at B. Green & Co. in Baltimore two weeks after graduation.

This first job placed me into operations—specifically material management, purchasing, and contracting—and while I was there for only 2 ½ years, I stayed in the same career for 13 years, mostly working in health systems, such as LifeBridge Health in Baltimore, MD and at the corporate offices of Bon Secours Health System in Marriottsville, MD. I loved my career. I was great at it. But then something changed.

Gradually, I became aware of not feeling like I was making a difference. I wasn’t as excited about my day-to-day job as I used to be. I was getting restless—maybe even bored. And being good at my job wasn’t good enough anymore. Being great wasn’t even enough. And while I loved the people I worked with, this feeling I had was BIGGER than all of that.

I discovered I wasn’t feeling… FULFILLED. I wanted to do something completely different. And I really wanted to help people in a new way.

So I quit my job.

I left a well-paying, secure corporate job with great health benefits and a fabulous retirement plan. I wasn’t married so there was no second income and NO backup plan. But I didn’t mind the risk.

I wanted to start my own business and I knew I could do it. So, I left it all behind in 2003 and I never looked back—not even ONCE—because I knew I had made the right decision.

As I began working with new clients, I quickly discovered that they were not operating as efficiently, effectively, or as productively as they could be.

They were…

• Forgetting important tasks and follow-ups
• Working reactively instead of proactively
• Buried in email with no way to keep up
• Losing important information
• Wasting time looking for things they knew they had, but just couldn’t find
• Spinning their wheels and falling behind
• Missing deadlines and opportunities
• And so much more

As a result, professionals were feeling FRUSTRATED and often overwhelmed.

They were fed up and STRESSED OUT.

They were tired of WORRYING about what they were missing, losing, or forgetting.

And they were tired of feeling DISAPPOINTED when things slipped through the cracks.

My clients—like most professionals—didn’t know whether to blame their circumstances on disorganization or poor time management skills—which are the two most popular suspects—or something else.

But I knew it wasn’t all about disorganization or poor time management.

Professionals can certainly “get organized” so they can be clutter-free and find a file or a paper in five seconds or less, which is great. And they can start a routine of time blocking, which is also great.

But if professionals are STILL not able to…

• Keep track of all of their tasks
• Plan and prioritize action on tasks and follow-ups
• Keep up with the endless email that pours into the Inbox
• Make efficient use of time and use it wisely
• Get enough time to work on their most important projects

…then they STILL won’t be EFFECTIVE, they will STILL be STRESSED out and they won’t be able to make very much PROGRESS very quickly.

As I worked with client after client during the first few years, a repeatable process revealed itself. Soon after, I created and trademarked Taskology® The Science of Getting Things Done. Then my Mission became apparent: to help C-level leaders, executives, directors, managers, business owners, and professionals learn how to increase workday efficiency and productivity, gain more time, lose the stress and make more progress using a simple, logical, and easy-to-use system for workload management with a workday strategy that really WORKS.

And before you think,
“She doesn’t understand what I’m going through…”
“This all comes so naturally to her…”
“She doesn’t understand my challenges…”

Not so fast.

In my years in corporate, I did MANY of the things I advise clients against today and I had suffered because of it. I had decreased my efficiency, productivity, and progress without even knowing it.

Here are a few examples…

• I used paper for my to-do lists, whether spiral notepads, steno pads, or post-it notes.
• I used all sorts of planners, including the Franklin Covey planner.
• I used the papers and files on my desk as reminders of things to do.
• I kept my email Inbox low, but the emails that were left in the Inbox were ALWAYS reminders of things I needed to do, but couldn’t do right away.
• I had a “pending pile” of papers and files sitting on my desk as reminders of things I was waiting for from other people.

As a result—even though I was quite efficient and fairly productive back in my corporate days…

… I wasn’t managing tasks and priorities as strategically as I could.
… I was losing time I didn’t know I could keep or save.
… and I didn’t know I could manage my email any better.
But all of these things are things I didn’t know.

And I didn’t know that I didn’t know, just like many professionals today.
Personally, I wish I had then the system I teach NOW.

The bottom line is this: I get it. I DO understand.

I was just as overstretched and stressed out as most professionals are today. I was sometimes frazzled trying to juggle everything I needed to do. And from time to time I definitely felt overwhelmed.

I just didn’t know that my systems and processes could have been BETTER. I didn’t know that I could have been even MORE productive than I was.

Many clients will say this to me, too, after learning Taskology. Some say, “You don’t know until you know.” And it’s true.

And if you don’t have any awareness that something could be better and you don’t have anyone to show you how to make a change, you stay STUCK right where you are.

So, here’s my message…

Even if you’re doing your BEST and you think you’ve got it dialed, stay open to change, growth, and improvement.

You may not know exactly how much MORE efficient and productive you could really be.

In summary, the powerful combination in my background consists of my innate talents for being efficient and productive, learning from parents who modeled productivity daily, and valuable corporate experience in operations and management.

On top of this, I have experience owning a business since 2003. I have experience using Microsoft Outlook® (and similar systems) for the past 30 years.

And I have a track record of helping hundreds of clients from more than 30 different industries increase their efficiency and productivity by up to 300% in as little as 4 weeks, gain 1-2 hours BACK in their workday—EVERY day—and make more meaningful powerful progress on the projects and the initiatives that matter the most to them—and to the future of their company.

This unique combination allows me to identify with, support, and advise motivated leaders and professionals in ANY industry, no matter what their levels of expertise, experience, education, background, work environment, or unique challenges.

My passion is productivity. I love what I do. And I will do this for as long as I possibly can to help as many professionals as I possibly can.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Over 20 years, not everything can be smooth, but I have never had second thoughts about what I’m doing, so they were just bumps in the road.

The biggest challenges have just been raising awareness, gaining more business, and having the ups and downs of revenue, when you really want things to be more steady from month to month.

But even when I had slow times in the past, I always enjoyed every day—and still do!

We’ve been impressed with Productive Day, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
This is all part of my story.

The only additional thing I can say about what I do is that I do NOT curate and share a bunch of productivity tips, tricks, shortcuts, and HACKS.

Taskology is an A-Z, step-by-step system that includes your entire workload, including the management of tasks, time, email, and information. It’s a simple, logical, and easy-to-use system with a workday strategy that really works.

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