Interview with Lisa Zaslow

Lisa ZaslowWhat projects are you involved in?

Gotham Organizers focuses on helping people make the most of their time, space and information. We work with people one-on-one; give talks and workshops on productivity and organization; and help companies streamline processes and systems.

How did you get interested in productivity?

Before starting Gotham Organizers, I had a career in corporate human resources and consulting, focusing on performance management and compensation. I was always interested in how to motivate people to do their best work. I got a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology to learn more about the interactions between people and organizational systems and structures, and how that impacted performance.

While I was interested in large-scale organizational change initiatives, these projects can take years to develop and implement and I grew frustrated with the glacial pace of change. When I realized I could make a dramatic difference in a person’s productivity in just a few hours working individually, I decided to strike out on my own.

We can quickly clarify someone’s goals and priorities, map out a plan to achieve them, and analyze personal and structural barriers to performance, re-booting a person’s productivity and passion for their work.

How many meetings do you normally have each week?

I love variety – every week is different. One day I’ll work with an architect to re-structure his schedule so he can spend more time meeting potential clients and referral partners; another day I’ll give a workshop for an entertainment company’s employees; another day I’ll re-vamp a real estate company’s filing systems to cut the time people spend looking for information.

I try to keep one day a week client-free so I can focus on my “important but not urgent” projects, as Stephen Covey would say.

What are some of your favorite productivity tips/apps?

I am a big believer in the basics. For all the wonders of technology, if you’re not clear on what you want to get done, no app will help you. Take time to set your big-picture goals, and plan your month, week and day.

Spending 15 minutes in the morning to decide the most important things you want to accomplish during the day is a great investment in your productivity. Then use whatever tools work for you to track what you’ll do, when – could be an old-school paper planner (I still swear by my Filofax), scheduling software or apps.

What’s the most recent adjustment that you’ve made to your personal productivity routine?

Like everyone else, I am tempted by the dopamine hit that email provides and can be lulled by the siren song of the internet’s infinite information and interaction. To avoid being sucked into an online black hole, I’ve been experimenting with starting my day with a quick check of email on my phone, just to see if there’s anything urgent. Since it’s harder for me to read and respond to email on my phone than on my desktop, it’s easier for me to limit my time on it. Later in the day when I am ready for a break, I can go back and watch the funny video my friend Hillary sent and catch up on the latest gossip trending on Twitter.

Do you measure your productivity? If so, how do you do it, and what is your metric?

These days, so much work is knowledge-based and intangible, making it hard to measure productivity, and to really get a feeling of being productive. I wrote a blog post about this when I realized I felt more productive after making a fruit salad than I did after hours of working at my computer.

I focus on achieving a few key goals each day. Accomplishing them makes me feel productive. There’s always more to do, so it’s important to give yourself credit for what you do get done.

Working with a timer at my desk keeps me aware of how much time I spend on different activities. (Beep! Ten minutes just went by while writing up these responses. Good to know.) Using a timer is a simple, effective way to ensure that certain tasks don’t hijack your whole day.

What do you think the next productivity trend will be?

I hope that technology designers will start creating products that are based on the latest research from neuroscience. Thousands of years of brain evolution can’t keep up with the lightning speed of tech change. Just because you can fit 12 live feeds on a screen, it doesn’t mean it’s possible for someone to absorb all that information. Our old brains can only do OTAAT – one thing at a time. We are drowning in distractions. Tools and techniques that can help us focus will be the next big thing in productivity.

Lisa Zaslow, founder of has been helping organizations and individuals be more productive and organized for over 10
years. Clients include corporations, government offices, not-for-profits and
small businesses. Her expertise is regularly featured in the media, including Inside Edition, Fox and Friends, The New York Times, Entrepreneur Magazine, Real Simple and many others. Follow Lisa on Twitter @GothamOrganizer and

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