“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

~Abraham Lincoln

I’m in week 7 of my helping hiatus, and through awareness and deliberate action, I got what I wished for, which is more time. I’m celebrating that win, because I’ve definitely felt more focused and productive. At the same time, I also have to share the honest downside of having more time. And I’m guessing it won’t surprise you, but what I have to say about it might.

Watch the video below, or read the transcript that follows, and tell me if it’s ever happened to you.

Hey, Michelle Cederberg here, sharing lessons learned through seven weeks of what I’m calling my Helping Hiatus. And yes, it’s exactly as it sounds. At the beginning of April, I decided I needed to take a break from helping people, which sounds terrible, but it’s for good reason.

I found myself so busy in my schedule, but I also noticed that I wasn’t driving my own agenda forward. I wasn’t getting stuff done that I needed to get done. I realized it was because I was giving away my time to other people and other projects that weren’t necessarily aligned with what I needed in the moment. I’m a helper by nature. If somebody asked me for my time, I’m generally going to say yes.

But I also had to be reminded of the wise words I say to my audiences, “If helping someone else is hurting you, it’s not helping.” So I needed to reset.

The last seven weeks have been very interesting and educational. I share all the videos on my YouTube, so you can check those out. This week, I’m sharing a win.

It’s an awareness I had because I have now created time in my schedule. Yay. This week, I’m in the office all week before another stretch of travel, and I only have two meetings a day, or two priorities a day that take me away from my work. And they’re things that I want to be doing, and need to be doing, so that’s great. But yesterday, I realized that I wasn’t using the time between my meetings as well. As it goes, if you have more time to do something, you’ll generally take more time to do the thing.

When I was really busy, I’d be trying to fit in all the necessaries between all the meetings, because it was the only time I had. I hate the saying, but it’s true, “If you need something done, ask a busy person.” Well, I’m trying to change the narrative on that one truth, so I can use my time better. I reinitiated in my work life what I call First Thing Focus, and that’s to sit (before I’ve even checked my email) and determine what I need to get done for the day. I make a list.

Grab a piece of paper (it doesn’t need to be big, because this is not a master list), it’s a today list of what you need to get done, and right down your priorities for the day. Mine’s usually three to five things. And then, Morning Momentum says, I will start on the first one without digging into to email. Sometimes I’ll take a quick look to make sure there are no fires, but I’m a professional speaker, so there’s usually no fires that can’t wait for a little while.

Then I will let science do the talking, and I will work for as long as my brain can handle it. Do you know how long that is? Typically about 90 minutes – a peak period of work called your Ultradian Rhythm. At the end of that 90, your brain is going to get distracted. It needs fresh air. It needs some food. That’s when you take a pause, 15 to 20 minutes – tech-free, fuel, movement – a proper break. Then you will come back to the work at hand, focused and clear and productive. Using your time wisely like that allows you to have about three or four of these peaks and pauses throughout the day, so you can come through the day being wildly productive.

Here’s the thing, wasting time is the same, or maybe even worse than giving your time away to other people who have asked for it.

At least with the latter, you’re helping someone. They feel good, you feel good. But if you’re just scrolling or allowing distractions in so you’re not getting work done, then I would rather that you help somebody, or I would rather that you take a nap because that’s essentially what your body needs. When we are distracted, it’s because our ultradian wave has hit the low point. You need to take pause.

We usually pick up our devices and allow distractions like that in, but that’s not giving your brain the recovery that it needs. Get up, walk away, get some fresh air, or at the very least, put your head down on your desk and take a 15-minute nap. No judgment from me. If someone comes into your office and gives you a hard time, you just look them square in the face and say, “Hey, I’m sleeping my way to the top in a respectable way.” I’m joking, but I’m not. Sleep is as good as a proper break. So there you have it. A few ideas around using time well.

If you’re wondering about my t-shirt, it’s from my friend Claire Kumar, who has a site called Inclusivetees, where she sells T-shirts to get you thinking, with some thought-provoking sayings on them (and really bright, colorful designs). To me, productivity is personal. We need to create our own space and environment so we can work well through each day. Go check them out!

Until next time, I’m Michelle Cederberg, reminding you that in order to Ignite High Performance, you do need to use your time well. Having lots of it doesn’t matter if you don’t. Until next time.

I’m booking 2024 speaking engagements across North America RIGHT NOW – keynotes, workshops, even 1:1 coaching… If you’d like to chat about how to bring me in to your organization to help your team eliminate burnout, increase engagement, and ignite high performance, pop me an email at hello@michellecederberg.com. I’d love to chat.

In fact… I’ve got a NEW KEYNOTE and you can learn about it here: MichelleSPEAKS_2024

Don’t forget to join me on my social channels below.

Resources Galore!

1) Hey, I’m super excited to share a great product that I can’t wait for you all to see. It’s my new Success-Energy Equation mouse pad. Remember the equation? Some of you have seen it. Links to purchase are below. SO FUN!

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3) Buy my new book via my website and I’ll send you a signed copy!

4) Sign up for my socials below, because there’s all sorts of interesting stuff coming down the pipe.



Michelle Cederberg, Health and Productivity Expert, MKin, BA Psyc, CEP, CPCC
Hall of Fame Speaker, CSP, Certified Coach & Best-Selling Author



Using science-based strategies to eliminate burnout, increase engagement, and ignite high performance


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