Blog, The Hospital Finance Podcast®

Tips to Increase Your Productivity & Stay Motivated [PODCAST]

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In this episode, we’re pleased to welcome Juli Shulem, Productivity Coach, Consultant & Author, to discuss tips to increase your productivity and stay motivated. 

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Highlights of this episode include:

  • Why coaching and productivity
  • How to significantly improved productivity
  • Habits or routines
  • How to maintain focus and avoid getting overwhelmed
  • How to overcome productivity blocks or mental barriers
  • Digital distractions

Kelly Wisness: Hi, this is Kelly Wisness. Welcome back to the award-winning Hospital Finance Podcast. We’re pleased to welcome Juli Shulem. Juli has been a productivity coach and consultant for over three decades. She has written books and blogs on all aspects of productivity in addition to having her own columns in both print and online publications. She has been coaching leaders from companies like Capital One, Visa, Chevron, Bayer, Intuit, Salesforce, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Fidelity, just to name a few. Leaders use her guidance and tools to improve their ability to level up and improve their position and influence. Juli has helped thousands in her workshops, presentations, and with her one-on-one coaching to improve their skill set to positively affect multiple areas of their lives. Coach Juli is a member of the ICF, the International Coaching Federation, the ICF Georgia chapter, ACO, and was previously a long-standing golden circle member of NAPO, the National Association of Professional Organizers, as well as NSA, the National Speakers Association, and National Association of Professional Women, among others. In this episode, we’re discussing tips to increase your productivity and stay motivated. Thanks for joining us today, Juli.

Juli Shulem: Thank you, Kelly. It’s wonderful to be here.

Kelly: Well, great. Let’s go ahead and jump in. So, what got you into coaching and particularly productivity?

Juli: Many, many years ago, I will not say how many years ago, I was fascinated with time management. And I started as a professional organizer, because I realized that a lot of people needed help getting things organized. And that seemed to be an area that I was particularly good at. And it developed into business consulting, because I started working with entrepreneurs, small business owners, and helping them to organize their spaces, and maximize their workflow productivity. And that segued into time and task management, and balance, and structure, and all things productive. And then about 21 years ago, I decided that I can help far more people if I was coaching. So, I started to coach. I got my credentials, of course, and all. And this is just kind of what I do. I didn’t realize this was something that others didn’t just automatically do. It was funny when I was in school, I was that geeky kid who walked around with a day planner back when those were really popular. I just thought everybody organized their time and wrote everything down, and had everything tidied up and turned out, yeah, that was not the case. And I found that this was something I could help people with. And I love doing this. And it never gets boring. Hence, I’ve been doing this for so long. So yeah, this is what I do.

Kelly: Very cool. And I was one of those people too, so we would have gotten along. [laughter]

Juli: Good, good, good. Thank you for letting me know. [laughter]

Kelly: Yes. Well, can you share a success story from your coaching experience where a client significantly improved their productivity?

Juli: Oh my goodness. I have so many. Yes, you know what? I’m going to share one from a client recently. So, I’ve been working with this gentleman who was not really following through on deliverables, not really using his time well. And he was not super thrilled with his days. Let’s put it that way. And we started working on how to really take a look at what he was doing. And what he wasn’t doing. And what we ended up finding is that he A, didn’t really have a lot of motivation, which we worked on. But B, he had no real structure, and no real sense of where he was spending his time, because he wasn’t using any particular systems [laughter] in a stellar way. And so, what we did is put in structure by helping him really, really hone in on how to use his calendar properly. And a lot of people don’t know how to use their calendar well, if they’re even using one, which by the way, everyone should be using one. I kind of called the calendar the GPS of your life. It kind of lets you know where you’re going to be and when you’re supposed to do that. And I helped him to put a really good structure together so he could take advantage of the time instead of wasting the time, which turned out was how he was spending a lot of his day.

So, we flipped everything around in a way that he was able to really benefit from using a calendar, putting appointments in, scheduling when he was going to do work versus when he was going to do other activities. And he noticed over a short period of time that he was wasting a lot of his time. And this process helped him to kind of really tie that together, and make his day, each day work for him. And he ended up increasing his billables by about 400%, which was amazing.

Kelly: Yes, it is.

Juli: And only that, but he got so good at delegating and knowing what he was supposed to do. We put plans into action. He scheduled the night before, all the things that you know we hear about doing all the time. They actually work if you do them. So, I helped him to pull all this together, and he got so on top of everything, and everything was working so beautifully in his life, his boss noticed, his wife noticed, that he came to me a couple of weeks ago and said, so now I’m bored because I’ve got all this extra time. [laughter]

Kelly: What a good problem to have.

Juli: Everything’s going so swimmingly. I love this, it’s a good problem to have, right?

Kelly: Yes.

Juli: And so now he’s so excited because all the things that kept being put up on that back burner, you know how we always say, well, when I have time, I’m going to do this. Well, now he’s there. And he’s thrilled.

Kelly: Yes.

Juli: So, this is what I love to be able to help people with, is get to that point where you’re really managing your days. You’re really managing your life, and you have time and spontaneity because you’re not always putting out fires.

Kelly: Yes. That sounds fantastic. That’s a great story. You know, how do you stay motivated and productive in your own life? Are there any personal habits or routines that you find particularly helpful?

Juli: Well, the key word is what you just said, which is routines. And yes. I do practice what I preach. So, I have always had a lot of structure, and I plan ahead. I keep an ongoing task list, and I figure out what I’m going to do each day. That’s not to say that it’s so rigid that if something new comes up that I can’t pivot, which I always put in buffer time, and I always make sure that if I’m going to pivot, that the new thing I’m going to be doing is more important, has a higher priority than that which was already on my calendar. So, I’m really careful about planning ahead. I have lots of routines, if you will. So, my morning routine is pretty set, you know, work out, take my dog for a walk, and when you’ve got an animal that has to be walked, that pretty much puts structure right there, you have no choice. So that has always been something I found that, when I know what my plan is, I just have to be the Nike commercial, as I say, and just do it. I just work on doing what I want to be doing, or what I plan to be doing. And I’m just real excited about what I get to do every day. I love my work. I love my clients. I love to see their success. So, for me, I get to get up and do what I do. And this is fun. So that keeps me pretty motivated.

Kelly: I bet. That’s your passion.

Juli: It is.

Kelly: Yeah. And how do you help clients overcome productivity blocks or mental barriers? Are there any common patterns or issues that you’ve observed?

Juli: You know, I’ve noticed that the majority of people come to me telling me that they’re overwhelmed. That’s probably the most common word and challenge that I hear out of the people that contact me. And that can be a very big productivity block, because when you’re overwhelmed, you just kind of feeling like your taffy and you’re being pulled into a multitude of directions, and that can be really, really unsettling. And oftentimes, at that point, many people don’t know what’s a priority? What do I do first? I’ve got 16 things. They all have to be done today. Where do I start? And that can be really debilitating. So, what I do with my clients is kind of, first of all, figure out, where is the overwhelm coming from? Where are they stuck? What’s causing them to be stuck? Because that kind of paralysis, mental paralysis, if you will, can be really debilitating in that you just don’t move forward on anything. And a lot of times people try to multitask, which, by the way, can’t be done. Our brains cannot multitask. So, they start a whole bunch of things, and then they have a lot of stuff in their visual arena, either that’ll be a gazillion tabs open on their computer, they have papers and stuff all over their desks. Well, that can very much cause someone to just become so overwhelmed and so, really, stuck, again, to use that word, but it really does describe how my clients tend to present in many regards.

So, I help them to really kind of dive deep and see, where is this coming from? Why is this happening? Has this been going on for a long time? How long? What has been something that has helped you to get past it in the past? Maybe it hasn’t been solved. And we get to discover that. So, a lot of times it’s really that not planning ahead, tends to be the main culprit, I’ve found with most people, where they’re not figuring out how long something’s going to take, for example. Time estimation, big problem for us humans, we underestimate generally how long it’s going to take to do something by about 50% on average. So, if you think something’s going to take you an hour, you’re probably better off planning an hour and a half for that. And you will be more likely to be on task. So really being able to schedule the time, plan ahead, and also allow for those unforeseen situations that will come up, because we all have interruptions and things that come into our day that we weren’t expecting that we have to account for.

Kelly: Definitely. Yes. And that all makes sense. Yeah.

Juli: Yeah. That’s a big question.

Kelly: Yes. So, with the rise of digital distractions, how can we maintain focus and avoid getting overwhelmed, as you talked about a lot, by technology?

Juli: Right. This is a big one. Actually, I did a research project on this when I was getting my master’s in industrial organizational psychology because this was a big issue. It still is, obviously. And one of the things that came out of the research idea was that if our technology was not near us when we are doing our focused work, we got more done in less time. So, what I help my clients to do, which is something you and I just did before we even started recording this. Put your phone on airplane mode or turn it off, get it out of the way. Reduce the distractions because the interruptions are really difficult to overcome and to recover from. Many times people don’t realize that an interruption can take up to 15 to 20 minutes, or even longer, sometimes up to 30 minutes, to recover from, to regain the same intensity and speed at which we were working on prior to the interruption, and that’s not including the time it takes for the, whatever the subject of the interruption was, if it was a phone call or whatever’s coming in, or responding to somebody.

So, interruptions really kind of take us down a few notches in terms of productivity, because we stop what we’re doing and then we have to kind of, well where was I? What was I doing? And we have to get back into that flow again. So, by avoiding the digital distractions from the beginning, you’ll have a far greater chance of succeeding and getting things done that need to be done. And sometimes what I have people do is find a different place to work. If you’ve got a specific task that you need to do, and you don’t want to be interrupted, where can you go, especially if you’re in a home, if you’re working from home? Is there another room in your home that might be more conducive to the work that you’re going to be doing? And might lend itself to a more serene environment? Find out what that is because those places can be magical for you.

Kelly: Totally agree. [laughter] Yes. And speaking of digital distractions, since so many of us are working remotely now, can you leave us with any final tips on how to maximize productivity and stay motivated?

Juli: Yes. I love doing this because this is what I do. So, I’m just going to tell you what I do. So, I’ve been working from home long before it was popular. So, I’ve been doing this for over two decades now. And I love that I can be in my home office. Now, one of the things that I set up in my home office was, it’s really an office. There’s no TV in here. There’s no stereo system, really. There’s nothing that kind of draws my attention. And when I’m in this room, I’m working. This room symbolizes to me, this is what I’m doing here. I’m doing my job. When I am off and I’m not working, I walk out of the room and close the doors. So, there’s a very definite division between where I work and my life, the rest of my world. So, I keep that really clear distinction between where I’m spending my time and what I’m doing in that specific space.

Similarly, when I just mentioned, maybe finding a different area to do something else in, there might be there’s another room in my home like my dining room area. That’s a place I can actually do a lot of creative writing. So, when I’m needing to come up with a new blog post or write something for my next book, that’s a space that I can work from. And it’s not populated. So, there’s no distractions there. So, staying motivated, the best method I have come up with and that I use on a regular basis, I’m going to go back to what I said earlier, which is have a definite plan. Have an idea of what is it you’re going to be doing tomorrow? This week? This month? And why? A lot of times people are kind of going through the motions, I’ve found. But they don’t know why they’re doing it. Know your why, what is driving you, and when you know what that is, and you can tap into the things you need to do toward that goal, the rest just kind of happens.

Kelly: Yeah, those are some great tips, Juli. Thank you so much for joining us today. And for sharing, I mean, all of these great tips and information to increase our productivity and stay motivated.

Juli: My pleasure. Thank you for giving me the opportunity, Kelly.

Kelly: Of course. And if a listener wants to learn more or contact you to discuss this topic further, how best can they do that?

Juli: Oh, there’s so many ways, and I would love to talk with anybody who’s interested. My website is Coach Juli, and Juli is spelled J-U-L-I. So, it’s I can be emailed easily at I’m the only person with the name Juli Shulem on the Internet. So, if you just Google that, you’ll find me. And I’m on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook. So please, yeah, just look for me and connect, and I’d be happy to have a conversation with anyone who’s curious about more.

Kelly: Great. Thank you for sharing that. And thank you all for joining us for this episode of The Hospital Finance Podcast. Until next time…

[music] This concludes today’s episode of the Hospital Finance Podcast. For show notes and additional resources to help you protect and enhance revenue at your hospital, visit The Hospital Finance Podcast is a production of BESLER | SMART ABOUT REVENUE, TENACIOUS ABOUT RESULTS.


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