Interview with Tara Rodden Robinson

Tara Rodden RobinsonWhat projects are you involved in?

Currently, I’m hard at work writing a book. The Sexy + Soul-full Woman’s Guide to Productivity is aimed at helping women to do more of what they love. For this, they need certain skills in managing all the other demands they face to make time, space, and other resources available for being creative, passionate, artistic, spontaneous, generous, and whatever it is that their hearts are calling for them to be. At midlife, women naturally begin to ask themselves: “What do I want?” and place much greater importance on realizing, or at least pursuing, their own deepest inclinations. The Sexy + Soul-full Woman’s Guide to Productivity is intended to help them do just that.

In addition, I just launched a new podcast–a talk show style program called The Tara Show. The show is a unique blend of conversation, stories, and sound. I, along with my regular contributors and guests, explore topics ranging from leadership, sports, personal productivity, spiritual growth, and much more. You can hear it by visiting

How did you get interested in productivity?

Through my own desperation! I was overwhelmed with all the demands on my time and needed help. I discovered David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, and after a couple of false starts, learned how to practice his methods. It saved my life!

How many meetings do you normally have each week?

It varies. I try to keep some days completely meeting free so I can have big chunks of interrupted time. I also attempt to clump meetings together on one or two days. On average, I’ve got three to seven meetings a week.

What are some of your favorite productivity tips/apps?

I use Remember the Milk to manage my tasks and I depend on Evernote for practically everything else. I’m a Mac user so I use iCal and the other native Apple apps for contacts, email, and the like.

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

How I start my day is incredibly important to me. There are a number of actions that if I don’t get them done early, they often don’t get done at all–like walking the dog and practicing yoga. And I hate feeling rushed! So if I’m going to get all my “chores” done before I start work, I have to be very well organized. I sat down and thought through what I wanted to do, what order made the most sense to do things in, and when I wanted to get to work–from there, I worked backwards to determine what time to get up. By taking the time to think things through, I move at a pace that feels relaxed, yet gets me out the door at the right time.

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

Yes and no. I pay attention to completion. For example, I recently completed a significant work of art: a mosaic that was given as a gift to my church. From the inception of the project to its completion was a rather long journey and when making art, it’s not about checking off tasks so much as reaching milestones in the creation of the work. By staying focused on completing milestones, I was much more attentive to the process and less on product. And that worked very well for me.

Now, in writing my book, I’m using a similar approach. When a project is large and rather amorphous, a product mentality just doesn’t work. What would I put on my task list: “Write book?” No, it’s more about being involved, meeting milestones, and putting together small actions of completion that add up to a larger completion later.

Frankly, I’m wary of productivity metrics. In my view, personal productivity is really about two things–neither of which are measurable and both of which are of inestimable value: reliability and freedom. I practice task and time management so I can follow through on commitments and promises to myself and others–that’s reliability. And I practice productivity so I can have the freedom to do more of what I love with the people I love. Both of these are about relationships–which is all we have, in the end. When we’re old and gray, it’s our family and friends that will matter most, not how many times we got to inbox zero.

What do you think the next productivity trend will be?

Two things. First, social technologies are going to change the way teams work together and how people manage tasks. For example, with new “Twitter-like” communications tools, email will be less and less important as a way of delegating actions and making requests. These new tools require the sender to break action items out from each other, meaning that the sender does a lot more thinking about what’s really needed and does some of the processing that used to be done by the recipient. I predict that this will change the way people work together dramatically by clarifying requests and making follow through more transparent.

Second, there is a significant move toward more “compassionate management.” This more humane and human way of treating employees is long overdue. Younger employees value meaning and purpose, along with autonomy, far more highly than workers of the past. I believe when managers treat people with compassion, workers will experience being valued and appreciated which will motivate them to be organizational citizens: caring, engaged, helpful, collaborative–people who bring their heads, hearts, and hands to work. And that, in my view, is highly productive.

Tara Rodden Robinson is an executive productivity coach, author, and artist. You can learn more about her by visiting her website:

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