Organization woman


Productivity consultant helps professionals, business owners manage time, tasks, e-mail


Leslie Shreve

Productivity consultant and chief executive officer

Focus Consulting, Baltimore

Salary $90,000

Age 40

Years on the job Five

How she got started After 14 years in contract management, purchasing and supply chain management for major health systems, Shreve said, she needed a change from the stresses of those jobs.

She discovered there were full-time posts in professional organizing, something she had a passion for. She began working with a friend in residential organizing but quickly found that she missed the corporate world. Shreve found a niche in helping executives become more productive and began lining up corporate clients. She started her company five years ago.

"People need help in task management, time management and e-mail management. It's not about being organized; it's about being more productive in your workday."

Typical day Shreve works regularly with 20 to 30 clients. She spends about half of her week with clients at their place of work. She spends the rest of her time consulting with virtual clients and working in her home office. She also delivers presentations and workshops on office productivity.

Shreve said her job includes setting up a system that gets the clutter off the desk and off the desktop for her corporate clients. She implements an electronic task management system so clients can prioritize and consolidate "to do" lists. She also works on time management and ways to set up computer filing and paper filing systems.

She relies on Outlook and other e-mail services, which she says can work wonders if they're managed and used properly.

"Narrow the focus to one trusted system so you can manage your day," she said. "Clutter is unmade decisions."

Most sessions with Shreve last about three hours. During the consultation, she shows clients strategies for managing time better.

Computers, files and e-mail aren't turned over to Shreve to sort. Instead, she walks the clients through the steps so they know how to run the system on their own.

The No. 1 culprit for lack of organization, she said, is paper management.

"Usually, about 75 percent of what's on somebody's desk should either be filed or tossed."

Typical client "They are all goal-oriented professionals, business owners or leaders."

What she charges $120 per hour.

E-mail Shreve pushes to reduce e-mail in the inbox to zero. Not everyone can get to zero, she said, but they get the idea.

Advice You can't be productive until you get your time management under control. "Protect your time more. People are too reactive and not proactive."

Where to start Shreve said some people are afraid to begin prioritizing tasks because it's too daunting. Start with something small, then keep going, she suggests.

The good When her clients begin to understand and use the task management system. "Seeing the light bulb go off in people's heads."

The bad Shreve always has been productive and organized, so it's sometimes hard for her to step out of what is second nature for her and break it down for others to understand, she said.

Philosophy on the job "Don't just keep up. Get ahead."

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest

Special to The Sun

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