The Secret to Productivity and Saying No

I recently got a GREAT question from one of our readers. I wanted to share it because my guess is that you have felt (or currently feel) the same.

I bet you are multi-passionate and want to accomplish many great things.

I also bet that you wish someone would just tell you what to focus on and when.

And maybe, just maybe, you sometimes feel like a chicken with its head cut off, running around trying to manage all that you want to do.

By the way, my mom used to say that about me all the time while I was growing up.

She would yell, “Erin, just stop! You’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off!!”

While, no, it’s not a lovely image (and I always HATED when she said it), with some years on me I can see she was kind of right.

I always was doing a lot at once. And it often made me unfocused, uncommitted to any one thing, and frankly unhappy.

But, I also sort of also loved the juggling (and still do… to a degree). So how did I figure out how to put my head back on and act like a regular chicken? I will share in just a sec.

First, let’s go to the question from our lovely reader:

“How do I balance wanting to be super present with my small children with building my biz to the level I want it to be? Right now, I’m in control of my time.  I work MTW 1-6 and most evenings after they go to bed.  They are little (1 & 4), so I’m consciously trying to create a schedule around being with them more often than not.  That said, I do sometimes feel like I’m burning the candle at both ends…”.

If you don’t have kiddos, just replace the children with another priority you love dearly.

I took some time and came up with my answer. You will either love it or hate it, but here it is.

The secret to productivity is that:

You can’t do it all. 

When I say that, how does it make you feel? Relieved or stressed?

Let me expand on that statement.

You can’t do it all… today. 

But you can slowly get there. IF you prioritize and focus. 

To me, the idea that I can’t do it all is extremely and utterly freeing.

It helps me drop the drama in my head about feeling overwhelmed.

It also helps me remember that I am only one single person.  Why on earth would I think that I can and SHOULD do it all?! That’s just crazy.

What isn’t crazy is knowing that my energy is best utilized when I am focused and not spread too thin.

If you are feeling torn between priorities and projects, all of which feel really important, I want you to ask yourself this:

What is MOST important?

Really, I mean it. Don’t be flippant about this. What is the MOST important priority to you looking ahead into the next few months?

And honestly, this is going to be really different depending on what is happening in your life and what you are working on.

Sometimes “MOST important” means making a bunch of money.

Sometimes “MOST important” means feeding your creative soul.

Sometimes “MOST important” means taking care of your kids.

Sometimes “MOST important” means taking care of your kids and then taking SMALL steps towards growing your business, knowing that in a few years your kids will be older and all your small steps will have laid the groundwork for you to start running your butt off when it’s time.

Second, this all really depends on you and your own capacity to hold it down.

By that I mean, you likely know what “TOO much” is for you. And my guess is that you are usually doing TOO much, which means something suffers.

Remember how I said I like the juggling act?

Well, I still do. There is something about juggling a few balls at once that makes me feel really skilled and in the zone. But that’s my secret to productivity. I actually feel MORE focused and productive when I have just the right amount going on.

But, the difference is that NOW I know how many balls I can handle. And if I say, “Yeah, let’s throw another one in the mix,” because I am feeling overly ambitious, I usually end up dropping them all.

So if you are juggler, take time to get real about how many balls you can handle.

This analogy is going south. I’m going to bring it back up north.

Know how much is too much.

Don’t be afraid to play to your edge, but always clarify with yourself first what is MOST important right now.

Know your limits & be real about them.

And remember, you can’t do it all (thank goodness!)… today.

But you can get there if you focus and prioritize.

Now, it’s your turn. Are you a juggler? Do you like that or you prefer to truly only focus on one project at a time? Do you love or hate my answer? What is your secret to productivity?

Can’t wait to hear from you!

With love,


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18 Responses to The Secret to Productivity and Saying No

  1. Laurie says:

    Your funny….and I might add, you need balls to keep up with all the juggling….that’s where you tap into your masculine energy of being grounded in the moments of making decisions.
    Anyway, yes, I agree with you. I raised 3 kids, while running a woman’s organization. They needed to see that I was a whole person as well as a great Mom.
    There is no exact answer, things continue to change. So you tune in and decide (sometimes on a daily basis) which balls to drop.
    I would suggest 2 things
    Read Conscious Parenting
    When you’re with your kids, be there, 100%
    Cheers to juggling and MotherHood and The Greater Good

    • Erin says:

      You’re a mama role model, Laurie:) xo

    • Ashley Chandler says:

      Yes! Thank you, Laurie:) I have Conscious Parenting, and I’m actually about to start reading it. Thanks for the reminder! This question really resonates with me;) I have been better about having a non-negotiable bed time, which has helped me feel more ‘together’, and I’ve been taking better care of myself over all. I truly believe in when I’m with my kids I’m really WITH them. I also have big career ambitions, and we need me to be working financially, so it is something that I consider an ever-evolving balancing act. I like the idea of ‘laying my foundation’ now, so that in a few years it will feel more solid. You’re amazing, Erin!! Thank you for the words. They mean the world to me.


  2. Sherrie says:

    Hello Erin! Your advice is always so perfectly timed 🙂 I really needed to hear this now — focus on ONE thing. I have allowed myself to become so DISTRACTED with social media, the internet, television and looking for the ONE new self-help guide that is going to completely change my life. Ha, all I’ve been doing is making it more complicated and confusing for myself. As with everyone else, I’ve got a lot going on in my life right now and have decided to FOCUS on packing since I’m moving soon — yikes, I haven’t done any of it yet! Thank you so much — sometimes the simplest advice is the most transformative and what we need to hear the most. Have a wonderful day!

  3. Amanda says:

    As a former chicken with out a head and juggler of too many balls in the past, I have to say I LOVE THIS. Once I gave my self permission to let go, reprioritize and take the time to plot my course, things started…flowing. Thanks for this reminder, Erin! Good luck to you and your fabulous company on finding that perfect person to join your team!

  4. Aleesha says:

    I find that my limits change from time to time depending on my mood and emotions. I love this post since I do forget to check in with myself at times. I get caught up in all the tings I need to do. Since I’ve been learning to listen to my gut more I have realized that I can’t do everything at once. Life has a way of changing things and making me take breaks.

  5. Steve says:

    Hi Erin
    Love the ideas and how you are always coming back to the goal and to be fair with yourself. As they say “put your goals in concrete and your plans in sand”, yes things change so embrace the moment, enjoy your kids (or other important parts of your life) and be flexible about today. Remember our challenges are there to help us reach our full potential.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

    • Kim says:

      I really like that saying, Steve. While reading Erin’s post I kept thinking of a saying of Lao Tzu I have in my office which reads “Nature does not hurry yet everything is accomplished.” That helps me a lot when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

  6. Marj says:

    I love your answer; it’s so simple , , , if I could just prioritize! I always prided myself on being a multi-tasker. Then I retired and decided it was crazy to go at that pace and I became a “sequencer” instead, with one activity following another. Several years into that mode, I’ve realized that it’s nuts to leave home at 8:00 in the morning and get home late in the afternoon after a series of responsibilities, activities, and even fun stuff. So I find myself just skipping out on some things. That doesn’t really solve the problem because then I feel a bit of guilt. And I’ve lost “myself” in the mix. Sometimes what is MOST important is something I’m in charge of but it’s not necessarily where I want to be with my life right now. I’m actually writing an article about this dilemma. I may need to quote you 🙂

  7. Tresa says:

    Hi Erin,
    Thanks for the tips from you and your readers. My children are all grown up. I wanted to share this ….call me crazy but, I am currently working full time at a job I don’t love and I was bored so I created an online retail business website with literally no instruction. I designed a logo which is in the last phase of being trademarked in the United States which I will then design jewelry and products. Well that wasn’t enough so now I am going to college to finish my degree. I am one of those who can’t sit still really. I like the juggling act or I am bored. But I have never been busier and I still find time to be with my family and have some free time if I didn’t I wouldn’t be writing this. I am grateful for the blessings I have been given. 🙂

  8. Randi Lynn says:

    I find this interesting. I’m a mother of 3 that are almost 5, 5 , and 6.5. I nanny on the weekends and some days as needed during the week from home. My children are in school full-time. My husband is extremely helpful. However, I feel like I’m drowning and nothing is ever done. I’m constantly dropping the ball or missing out on something. Any time spent with my children is just constant correction or directions mode while I’m trying to clean or prep something else. I’ve tried minimizing what we have in our home, the kids have very few outside of school activities, and yet I can’t keep up. I feel like a complete failure as a mother. I’m trying to start an easy direct sales business and have had very luck. I feel exhausted even though we live a very healthy lifestyle (plant-based, no wifi at home, no screens after family dinners, in bed by 9:30 and asleep by 10 until 6am, exercise most every morning, drink lemon water etc). My Grandfather is dying of cancer at 81 and knocking off more things on his to do list than me!!

    • Randi, you sound like an amazing superwoman who just has too much on her plate. I love the guidelines you have for your life and the healthy lifestyle you have chosen. Maybe you have an inner critic that is beating you up. Direct sales businesses are a great way to feel burnt out and beat up. Although some people are successful at them the majority 97% don’t make money from them so please be kind to yourself and realize that if you want to be successful at direct sales that it takes years for many to find success in that field. Find your inner mentor that I commented on and listen to her advice.

  9. I love Tara Mohr’s excellent advice from her book for women “Playing Big” of asking your inner mentor. Your inner mentor is yourself only 20 to 30 years older, wiser, happy and fulfilled. Calm yourself and see her in your mind’s eye and ask her advice. The answers are within us. We are wiser than we give ourselves credit for. You may be surprised by her answer but finding that inner mentor will lead to a successful and happy life… one that isn’t just a race to the finish line.

  10. I let myself get crazy at times with my task list and trying to figure out how to juggle it all. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to really let go of my pursuit of perfection in everything and only focus on giving my best to the most important things. So, now my bed sometimes goes unmade and the house may not get cleaned every week, but it’s OK. Thanks for the reminder that it’s OK to have a few balls in the air, but we don’t have to keep them all up all the time.

  11. Pamela Joy says:

    You are wonderful! I have been thoroughly enjoying all your Shrink Session workouts, all the affirmations, etc… I love the way you express and communicate.

    Working for you sounds so great and fulfilling. I LOVE to provide excellent customer service (I am a breakfast waitress and LOVE it!). I am the opposite of tech savvy, and have no interest in becoming so, so I won’t be applying for this job. But I envy the gal that gets it, and wish her the best with her new adventure.

  12. rosalind says:

    Erin, you are right I both love and hate this! I feel relief and “duh” to hear someone else says that I can’t do it all. However I put a lot of pressure on myself to be better than others and be the best if not *perfect*- so there is a large degree of letting go with this for me as well. I love the advice on how to prioritize and learning to recognize your limits.