What makes Maura Nevel Thomas a Productivity Expert?
(Hint: It’s because I know more about this topic than anyone else you will ever meet.) But it’s a valid question, and personally I think that credentials are important in any business. So if you’re reading this page, I assume you’d like to know something about my background, so here goes…
Productivity Teacher & Researcher
For more than a decade, I have been teaching and studying the components of peak personal productivity – what it takes for people to achieve at their highest potential. You can read here about my accomplishments since I started my business in 2003.
It’s what happened before I started my business that makes me perhaps more experienced and qualified in this topic than anyone else on the planet.
Before I started my business, it was my job to study, understand, internalize, and articulate all aspects and methodologies of personal productivity and effectiveness that existed, everywhere in the world. I got paid to go to every training, read every book, see every speaker, and understand everything that worked, and why – and everything that didn’t, and why. This gave me an education equal to multiple PhD’s on the topic (and there is no academic PhD program in personal productivity.)
For details about how this came to be, read on…
Almost my very first job out of college was for a company called Time/system International. In the U.S. it used to be called Time/Design. Time/system sells the world’s best paper-based planners and accessories in 45 countries, and in the U.S. we also offered training on the planners. The Time/system planners and methodology were created in Denmark in the 80‘s, as a result of studying the most effective executives, capturing the habits that made them successful, and designing a tool that supported and conformed to those habits. In the 80’s and 90’s, Time/system was very popular in Europe, with millions of users worldwide. I started there in 1993 as a receptionist through a temp agency, but I loved the product and the concept so much that I quickly found a way to make myself useful and was hired on full time. The U.S. affiliate was rather small, with a year-round staff of about 12 employees, and during my almost decade of work there, I held almost every one of those 12 jobs, traveled overseas often to collaborate with international counterparts, and I also completed my M.B.A. during my tenure there. For the first few years, a co-worker was a gentleman whom some of you may have heard of, named David Allen, many years before Getting Things Done was published. He was delivering for them what I learned as the Time/Design process. There are some similarities in my Empowered ProductivityTM System to the GTD methodology, and these similarities have their roots in what I learned during my time at Time/Design. Over the years, our teachings have diverged quite a bit, but I feel fortunate to have received the early part of my education in productivity from both Mr. Allen and Time/Design.
Dr. Valerie Young, whose doctorate is in adult education, was later in charge of curriculum development at Time/Design. I had the pleasure of working more closely with Valerie, and I was somewhat involved at various levels in revising and refining the methodology and curriculum over the years. I learned so much from working with Valerie, and it considerably helped me to internalize sound productivity principles. She was the first to plant the seed in me about the importance of focus.
My last role at Time/Design (Time/system) before I left was as Director of Marketing. In this role, it was my responsibility to articulate the methodology and how it differed from other products and training. I was therefore tasked with learning and understanding what everyone else in the world was selling and teaching with regard to time management, effectiveness, and productivity. So I read every book, attended every training, saw every speaker, and could articulate the strengths and weaknesses of virtually every product and methodology that had a customer base at the time.
This gave me quite a unique foundation from which to create my Empowered Productivity System, taking the proven techniques and my rich understanding of the global productivity field, and assembling the best and most useful into a comprehensive system. Over the years I have also learned to adapt that system to new and evolving technologies as the 21st century has moved us farther away from paper as a primary PIM (Personal Information Manager), and into tools like Outlook, iCal/Reminders, Google Calendar, smartphones, tablets, and the thousands of task, calendar, note, communication, and contact apps and software that exist today.
This continual study has enabled me to recognize that many traditional “time management” principles are no longer applicable to today’s information rich, technology-driven, “always on” environment. A quote by Nobel Prize-winning economist Herbert Simon has guided my work over the last several years. He said:
“What information consumes is rather obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
Thinking about, researching, and studying this ‘wealth of information’ has led me to discover that what matters more than time management now is attention management, and this discovery guides my teaching and the constant refining and updating of my Empowered Productivity System.
It’s the dictionary definition of “productive” that is at the foundation of my work:
productive: adj. achieving or producing a significant amount or result
My almost two decades of work in the productivity industry allows me to bring unique experience and perspective to assist my clients in achieving their significant results, in a way that is energizing rather than exhausting, lowers their stress rather than raises it, and helps them turn chaos into control.