Carson Tate is a business coach, professional organizer, productivity expert and "spiritual butt-kicker."

More specifically, she's the founder and managing partner of Charlotte, N.C.-based Working Simply, a consultancy focused on providing customizable tools, processes and training to increase workplace productivity.

Her goal is to help people work simply and more fully. And she stressed she's talking about more than "a clean inbox, a manageable to-do list, a realistic calendar and efficient systems and processes."

"Working simply," she explained, "means unlocking your potential, your purpose and all of you, so that your work is a reflection of the authentic you."

From Busy to Productive

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Tate has some big goals, starting with "yanking you out of the busyness club that has become so popular, harnessing the productive power of your brain and holding you accountable for the choices you make."

She explains her philosophy in more detail in her new book, Work Simply, a step-by-step guide to making work simple again by using the productivity style that works best for you.

The book suggests that most of us fit into one of four productivity styles: Arrangers, who think about their projects in terms of the people involved; Prioritizers, the definition of “goal-oriented”; Visualizers, who possess a unique ability to comprehend the big picture; and Planners, who live for the details.

Tate holds a bachelor's degree in religion and psychology from Washington & Lee University and a Masters in Organization Development from the McColl School of Business at Queens University of Charlotte

We caught up with her to learn more.

Sobel: How did your education prepare you for this career?

Tate: I've always been interested in people — what drives us, why we do the things we do and how our thoughts and beliefs construct our reality. As an undergrad, psychology allowed me to explore and learn about people through a scientific lens and religion allowed me to explore and learn about people through a philosophical, spiritual lens.

It was through the combination of both of these fields of study that I began to develop a holistic, integrated understanding of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and drive.

Then, after working in corporate America for a few years, I wanted to learn more about people within the context of organizations – how do they support, drive and derail organizational change and how do their beliefs inform and shape the organization’s culture.

Sobel: You've described procrastination as a high performance, efficiency tool. Can you explain?

Tate: Procrastination empowers others to solve problems. When you pause and do not immediately respond to an email, text message or voicemail you create the space for others resolve problems. Procrastination helps you cull your to do list. When you continuously procrastinate about a project or task this is a sign that the task or project may not be as important and/or no longer aligned to your goals.

Procrastination aids us in initiating the work at the ideal time. High performance procrastinators wait to be inspired — versus forcing it — and use other projects to stimulate their thinking.

Finally, procrastination shows us what has real meaning, purpose and interest for us. It shows us what we fear, do not want to do, what does not have our attention or interest and does not deeply resonate with who we are. This is very important information.

Sobel: You say time management doesn't work — and note that too often we approach our work in an unsystematic rather than deliberate way. Can you share your thoughts here?

Tate: Time management is inherently limited in its effectiveness in changing behavior in today’s multifaceted, dynamic work environment and always on culture. Time management does not consider the broader context of our work and the need for a comprehensive overall strategy that is not myopically focused on increasing one’s perception of control of time and increasing time available to pursue activities.

Time management is not what impacts productivity. Rather it is our work strategies that impact our productivity.

The way we approach our work is often unsystematic, rather than deliberate and rational, and even though it is unsystematic, patterns can be detected. It is these patterns, which are the result of an individual’s cognitive style, that when identified, can provide strategies that actually improve your productivity.

By aligning productivity strategies to the way you think and process information, not only will you improve your efficiency, you will also find it easier to implement and sustain any changes you make.

Sobel: Tell me more about your concept of the four productivity styles.

Tate: I would suggest that we think about it this way. You have a right and left hand. Which had do you use to write with? I use my right hand. Now, I can write with my left hand, however I prefer to use my right hand. It is faster, easier, not mention the text is much more legible. It is the same thing with Productivity Style.

We have all four styles within us and use all four styles. However, we each have a preference, just like my preference for my right hand, which is our preferred Productivity Style.

By identifying your Productivity Style, you are able to select productivity tools, strategies and methodologies that are in alignment with the way you think and process information. As a result, you not only improve your efficiency, but it is also easier to implement and sustain the changes you make.

Sobel: What is the No. 1 productivity concern of people today – and what advice can you offer them?

Tate: The number one concern is to find more time in the day. Daily calendars are packed with back-to-back meetings and commitments, inboxes are bulging at the seams and to-do lists are overflowing.

The first step in taking back control is to acknowledge that you have a choice and can chose to do something differently. The next step is to start saying no, which is so hard!

So I recommend that you remember an anagram for the word POWER — Priorities, Opportunities, Who, Expectations and Real. Here’s how it works:

  1. Priorities: When that voice in your head tells you that you should complete this task, lead another project, attend another meeting or make cupcakes from scratch, evaluate that message. What's the priority? How does this should align to your priorities, the organization’s strategic priorities and/or your families’ priorities?
  2. Opportunities: What opportunity does this create for you? Is there something that actually needs additional attention in your life? This could be shining a light on something that you need to address.
  3. Who: Who or what triggered this "should do" response? Was it an old script from childhood? Was it an ad in a magazine? Was it your colleague?
  4. Expectations: Whose expectations are these really? Your manager's? Your mother's? Your spouse's? Your child's? Society’s?
  5. Real: Get real. What is this really about? Are there real priorities driving this should? Or are you taking on societal expectations that are not aligned with your priorities?

Title image by Kristin Vining Photography/all rights reserved.