Wendy Ellin, Workplace Productivity Expert at The 25th Hour, Inc.
Wendy Ellin is a workplace productivity consultant, international speaker, and the #1 bestselling author of “Working From Home…How’s That Working For You?” She shares her insights into living a more organized life with irreverence, humor, and a level of passion that motivates her audience to take immediate action to work smarter, not harder.
Wendy talks about the real-life work challenges we all experience, such as email overload, being on time (or not), reasonable expectations for getting things done, and more. Drawing from her 20-plus successful years in the corporate arena, she has developed winning tools and techniques for increasing workplace productivity, and ultimately, regaining peace of mind.
Wendy has shared her productivity tips with The Coca-Cola Company, Cox Broadcasting & Communications, American Cancer Society, iHeart Radio, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Southern Company, UCB Pharmaceuticals, and more. She has been featured in Real Simple Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, ABC TV, NPR Radio, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and on multiple national podcasts.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Workplace productivity
- Many business people operating from a culture of chaos and overwhelm these days
- The new work-from-home paradigm
- A full day’s work done in 90 minutes
- The 3P Corporate Academy
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio brought to you by on pay Atlanta’s new standard in payroll. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:24] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Atlanta Business Radio. And this is going to be a good one. But before we get started, it’s important to recognize our sponsor on pay. Without them, we couldn’t be sharing these important stories. Today on Atlanta Business Radio. We have Wendy Allen with the 25th hour. Welcome, Wendy.
Wendy Ellin: [00:00:42] Thanks. So glad to be here.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:43] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about the 25th hour. How are you serving folks?
Wendy Ellin: [00:00:49] So the 25th hour started out 21 years ago as a personal concierge service. It was a business that I bought from previous owners who were getting ready to just sort of let it go defunct. And I picked it up and thought, okay, I can do this. This sounds like something up my alley. And as it turns out, it really wasn’t up my alley because all I was doing was enabling very busy people, busy rich professionals. Had I was enabling them to live a certain way because I was running their life. And when I realized that and that I had a gift in teaching people how to live differently, I flopped the model of my business. And instead of me running your life, I now teach you how to live your life so that you don’t need anybody to run your life. And I have been going at it for 21 years. Fast forward to March of 2020 when I watched my husband back his convertible up into our driveway like everybody else did when they were coming home. I realized, Wow, there are a lot of people out there that are suffering. They don’t know how to do this work from home thing or the hybrid thing or whatever it is because of the lack of basic organizational skills. So I left town, went to an Airbnb, wrote a book Working from Home. How’s that working for you? Got it to number one bestseller and things have been cranking ever since.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:06] So now early on, the business was kind of triaging people’s situations and then now you’re giving them systems and processes to make their life more productive.
Wendy Ellin: [00:02:17] Instead of me running your life for you and running your errands and doing all the things that you don’t have time to do, I’m now teaching you how to have time to have a life.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:27] So now does that change who the customer was? Did they change on how like you on boarded somebody? Did it change kind of the essence of the business?
Wendy Ellin: [00:02:36] It changed the customer because it wound up being I really do focus now. I mainly focus on the workplace. I care deeply about the way people are operating in their workplace environment, no matter what that is, whether it’s home, whether it’s office, whether it’s hybrid, because most people struggle when it comes to work. And if you’re working and you have a full time job, that’s where you spend most of the time in your life working when you look at your hours. So how can we get people to work in a way that brings them more joy and less stress? That’s all. That’s my that’s my jam.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:09] So how does that work? Like, what is some of the questions you’re asking your prospective client at the beginning of the relationship to kind of get a handle on things.
Wendy Ellin: [00:03:17] What’s not working, what stresses you out, what do you not have in your life right now or in your work that you want to have? And then the answers are anywhere from sleeping better, making more money, better relationships set, not setting a bad example for my kids, getting a promotion, having more time to do what I want to do, not spending 20 minutes every 20 minutes looking for things. I mean, the span is crazy.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:46] So once you kind of get a handle on things, then how do you implement a system or what kind of or do you just hand them your book and say, go here, read this, and it’ll take care of everything?
Wendy Ellin: [00:03:56] Well, if it’s a one on one that I do one on one coaching and you can’t work with me for less than three months because I’m going to get you to change how you live in very different aspects of your life, your physical aspect, your mindset aspect, your technology aspect. You know, I always say your success is under your mess and we have lots of different messes. Technology mess, a physical mess, emotional mess. So I work with people one on one, if that’s what they’re looking for. Entrepreneurs, lots of entrepreneurs and small business owners. And then I also just scaled my I’m in the process of scaling my business by taking my content of over 21 years and converting it into microlearning bits and pieces and putting it on a technology platform so that everybody in an organization can access this content.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:43] So now is your client the organization? So it’s the HR department, and this is a benefit for the employees rather than individual employees?
Wendy Ellin: [00:04:52] Well, it’s a benefits everybody, but it starts at the individual, because if all the individuals are organized, that as a whole, you’re going to work more organized. So, yes, I am targeting organizations, teams, leadership teams, HR and learning and development to say now’s the time more than ever to offer this to your employees as a benefit so that you can make sure they stay engaged, they stay working with you, and they give you their best work. Oh, and maybe they actually enjoy their job a little more. What a concept.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:20] So what are some symptoms in an organization that they might need your help. What are some of the things that are happening that they’re not seeing this as symptoms?
Wendy Ellin: [00:05:29] Well, here’s the thing. I always talk about this as being the people who suffer in silence. Not many people are going to raise their hand and say, excuse me, I’m disorganized. In fact, when you interview people for a job, most people don’t ever even ask, are you organized? And if they do, you’re not going to say, No, I’m not right. The likelihood of you getting that job by admitting that you’re disorganized is high. So I say, instead of trying to figure out, let’s just assume there are some people in your organization that don’t have these skills. Let’s offer this toolbox to everybody, and everybody gets to pull which tools they need the most. Some people don’t work with paper. They don’t need a system for their paper, but they sure as hell are living out of their inbox of 10,000 plus emails that are stressing them out. So there are so many different issues that relate to people being disorganized. Emails. Paper. Regular clutter. Distractions. Interruptions. Multitasking. Perfectionism. Procrastination. Setting boundaries around your time. Meetings like all these different elements speak to being organized, and everybody’s got issues in a variety of them.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:37] So has this kind of new paradigm where everybody’s working at home, has this just exacerbated things?
Wendy Ellin: [00:06:45] Well, here’s what I say about COVID. Covid didn’t make people organized. Covid shed a light a light on those that are people are suffering more now because think about it, you’re really disorganized and you’ve got a lot of clutter in your house. But in the morning, you get to get dressed and get in your car and go to an office that’s way more organized than the way you live. Now, COVID happens and you’re forced to to work among your clutter and your chaos, and you’re overwhelmed and you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t even know what the best place in your house is to work. So that’s where I come in. I can literally look at a space and go, Oh, this is so obvious to me as the best place for you to work based on how many other people are under your roof, what are the circumstances that you’re living with? Everybody’s got such different circumstances. Is from this whole cove thing. And now fast forward to where we are now, where they’re talking hybrids. Some people are demanding that their employees come back three days a week. Others are really settled in the way they’re working from home. It’s so across the board, Leigh, that I’m saying it’s not where you work, it’s not who you work for or what you even do. It’s how you work. How do you work? How do you set yourself up every day for success? How do you get done what you must get done today and not think about anything else but what you must get done today so that at the end of the day, you feel success versus defeat.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:02] So throughout the years we’ve been bombarded with I don’t I kind of they seem similar to kind of get rich quick schemes. The four hour workweek or the getting things done and these kind of magic formulas and that if you just do these things, then all of a sudden your life is all aligned and everything works out perfectly. How did those systems or do you find people are kind of looking for that magic wand rather than trying to implement just kind of the blocking and tackling that’s needed to do this kind of work?
Wendy Ellin: [00:08:34] So here’s what I say. I’m not looking for 100%. I’m 80% organized, and I want my people to be 80% organized. And when I set the bar lower than 100%, people are more inclined to do it because 100% is not attainable for me or anybody else, and it’s also not sustainable. So I say, let’s try for 80%. In the five workdays that you have, I want you to err on the side of of staying organized more than not, which would be at least three out of the five days, maybe four, maybe five. Right. And so I’m also all about not taking on every single tool at the same time. Let’s just focus on email, if that’s your thing. Let’s get your email inbox to zero and keep it that way. Let’s keep it that way for five days. And then let’s move to keeping you that day for ten days. And when you start to feel like you’re seeing the benefits from having an empty inbox and you’ve got this system down, then let’s add the next system which is blocked times on your calendar. Right, or whatever, whatever. I do a productivity assessment in the beginning of working with people and that I do the same exact assessment three months later to see what where the numbers changed. Right. Some people just have different issues that they’re tackling that are stressing them out. A lot of it falls into email. And you know what? Here’s what I say about email. It’s never going away. It’s never going away. And we have no control over the emails coming into our inbox, but we do have control over it once it comes in.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:00] Now when you’re working with folks, how important is kind of developing these processes or rituals or kind of repeatable activities that, you know, okay, at 7:00 in the morning, I do this at 12:00, I do that and like I have it, it’s kind of like it’s in my calendar, it’s locked in. I find that people they break promises to themselves all the time, but they show up for appointments.
Wendy Ellin: [00:10:27] Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Totally. Right. Nobody is willing to take care of themselves when it comes to this. And I always say, if you’re going to stop every time somebody emails you or asks or calls you or pings you to give them a response, you’ve basically checked off everybody else’s to do list but your own. And as I say, how’s that working for you? It doesn’t work for me. I want to check my own off, but I really believe in routines. I have a morning ritual that that that really, really sets me up for success every day. Do I do it every single day? No. I’m 80% organized, so I do it 80% of the time. And that works for me. And and all bids are off on the weekends like I do what I want to do on the weekends I sleep in, on the weekends. I’m not I’m not rushing to get up and to sort of look at the time when I get up, I get up unless I have something to do or go. But but I really believe that a morning routine or rituals are important and we all have one up. Brushing our teeth is a morning routine and an evening routine, and it’s a ritual. And we don’t think about it. We don’t think about it except if we miss it. I remember a couple of weeks ago I said to Marty, Oh, my God, I forgot to brush my teeth last night. Like I distinctly remember that that stuck out in my mind, but I don’t think about it otherwise. But if we could, if we could employ some of these routines and habits that set us up for success in other areas of our life, like the way we operate, life would look very different and feel different and that’s the key. Leigh It’s a feeling great what it looks like, but how does it feel so that stress is a feeling.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:03] Now let’s share some actionable advice for the listener. What is some maybe a template ties version, a generic morning ritual? What are, what are? What’s a morning ritual? What are some of the elements? What should it look like? How long should it take? Things like that.
Wendy Ellin: [00:12:20] Okay, you can do a 30 minute ritual. Here’s what I do. I get up in the morning and the first thing I do is meditate for 10 minutes. I literally get my mind quiet, right? I kind of a little envisioning what my day is going to look like and I set myself up for success. That’s 10 minutes. Then I drink a cup of hot water, a glass of hot water with lemon, which just gets my metabolism going before I put coffee in my body. Right. It’s sort of like coats it before I load the coffee in, then I move my body. Now that could mean a 30 minute walk outside some yoga stretches on the bedroom floor, but I do some kind of stretching when I get up every morning. Then I write in my gratitude journal, which is one of the most important things. I focus on what’s working. I focus on what I’m grateful for, because when I focus on what I’m grateful for, more of that comes into my existence. That’s number four. Number five is I meet with my home team.
Wendy Ellin: [00:13:08] So I literally get in. I meet my husband Marty in the kitchen. He’s eating a bowl of cereal and I’m drinking coffee and we talk about our day. What does your day look like? So today I had a 10:00 call, 11:00 meeting, 1230 to 130 meeting, 2:00 with you. I have a 3:00 and a 4:00. Those times that I’m on a call, Marty is overseeing the dog. Ruby and Marty are upstairs doing their thing. But when I’m done with this call, I have a half hour window that if Marty needs me to oversee Ruby or go for a walk, I can do that. So we’re literally talking about what is our day look like? What are we having for dinner? Do we need to take something out of the freezer? That’s what I say. Meeting with your home team. So that’s number five. And number six is then I get busy with my mitts, my most important things. So I have six things meditate, hydrate, move my body, gratitude, home team meeting and get to work. Boom right there. Now.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:08] Now how? I think the pandemic has been very eye opening for a lot of people because a lot of people always in their head, they said I was going to achieve all these great things. I was going to write more. I was going to do all this stuff more. If only I had time and and I had access to these to do this kind of work. And then the pandemic came in. You had lots of time and people still didn’t get stuff done. How, you know, sometimes having a blank sheet of paper is worse than having, you know, clear direction.
Wendy Ellin: [00:14:42] Sometimes. Yeah. Listen, everybody has must dos on their calendar every day, right? Even if it’s you must go to the grocery store because you have an empty refrigerator or you must go get dog food because the dog has to eat. There’s always some must do’s. So I always focus on the must do’s first, and then after the must do’s, I throw in the could do’s. So the first question I ask myself is what must get done today? Then the could do’s or where we’re talking now, where you could actually start a new book or you could actually start a new knitting project, or you could actually declutter a room or a space. Right? Then the last one is, What will I get done this week? So those are the three things I ask myself every morning What must be done today? What could be done today? What will be done this week? Because we all come into the day with this laundry list of all these to do’s, and we think we can get them all done today, but we can’t because we only have 24 hours, not 36, but we act as if we have 36 and we schedule ourself as if we have 36. And then we’re always disappointed at the end of the day that we didn’t get done what we set out to. But you know what? I only get set out sometimes to do three things in a day. It just depends on the day. And so it’s really about being realistic about what you can and can get done in an actual day.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:56] Now, how important is it in any type of system to have some sort of an insurance policy or something that catches you when you inevitably fail? So you don’t turn one bad afternoon into a bad week. That’s a bad month. That’s now something you used to do back in the day.
Wendy Ellin: [00:16:13] It’s important. But let me just say this about a system. No system works unless you work it. So if you don’t work the system, it’s not going to work for you. Right. So if you set up a system and you don’t work it, you don’t whatever the system is, I have a system for my email. I have a system for my paper, I have a system for my calendar. But I work them every day. I’m literally doing what I say I’m going to do in order to get what I want. And so there’s that. You’ve got to work the system. There’s no system out there that doesn’t work. That works with no effort on your part. Right. You go to Weight Watchers. It’s a system for losing weight. You don’t work the system. The weight doesn’t come off.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:49] Right. But it has group dynamics that help keep you compliant and accountable, like.
Wendy Ellin: [00:16:54] Right. Well, that’s the cool thing about Wendy Allen’s Academy, which is this program that I’m that I’ve just launched for organizations. It’s got a whole accountability element built into the program. You actually have an accountability partner that you’re going through this learning journey with. It’s called a learning journey and it’s built on a platform of learn, do inspire, learn the system, set it up and do it and then inspire others. Talk about what’s working to other people. It’s really very cool.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:23] So now do you think that having some sort of accountability in any process or system like this is a must have? Not a nice to have?
Wendy Ellin: [00:17:31] No, it’s a must have. In fact, that’s why one on one people work with me because of the accountability they get, like, I will hold you to do what you say you want to do. You get to decide what that is. You get to change it whatever you want. If you decide that you want to do this and a week or two later you decide something else, I’ll go with the flow, but I will hold you to whatever you commit to doing. And I do it in a way that doesn’t make you wrong for the way you live. Because I want it for you if you want it. You know, I always tell people I can’t want this for you more than you want it for yourself, because otherwise I’m swimming upstream and that’s just not an easy path to take for me or anybody.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:05] So if somebody wants to learn more about the three PE corporate academy, get a hold of your book, you know, have a conversation with you or somebody on your team. What’s the website.
Wendy Ellin: [00:18:15] Wendy? Cnn.com. Wendy, Eli, CNN.com. You can find anything relating to me or how to contact me from there. Easiest way.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:24] Well, Wendy, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Wendy Ellin: [00:18:28] My pleasure.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:30] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you next time on the Atlanta Business Radio.
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