Strategies to Increase Your Productivity

Virtual Lunch

Ever feel like your to-do list is managing you, instead of the other way around?

In the world of trade shows and events, it definitely can seem like there’s no end to the tasks that are demanding our attention. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In this rebroadcast of Virtual Lunch, Sandra Martini shares tips for maximizing productivity, including how to:

  • Reframe the idea of a to-do list
  • Gamify the elements of a project
  • Reverse-engineer the process to complete major projects
  • Build in time to fight fires
  • Plus some of her favorite productivity tools

Here are the links mentioned during the interview:

About Sandra Martini

Sandra Martini
Sandra Martini

Small Business Marketing Advisor and Client Care Expert, Sandra Martini has helped hundreds of businesses across the globe create personalized and leveraged systems through her Extreme Client Care™ process designed to turn strangers into raving fans and lifetime clients/referrers.

Sandy is also the founder of Escalator Marketing™, creating client engagement by nurturing prospects and clients every step of the way.


[00:00:00.550] - Marlys Arnold

You're listening to the Trade Show Insights Podcast Season 16 Episode 14 I'm your host and exhibit marketing strategist Marlys Arnold, bringing you tools to improve your exhibit results on on today's episode brought to you by the exhibit Marketers Cafe. We've got a rebroadcast of our virtual lunch with tips to help you manage your to do list so it doesn't manage you.

[00:01:02.230] - Marlys Arnold

I want to introduce you to today's guest who is a longtime friend of mine. I've actually known her for almost a decade. She's been one of my business mentors, but in case you haven't met her before, Sandra Martini is a small business marketing advisor and client care expert. She's helped hundreds of businesses across the globe create personalized and leveraged systems through her Extreme Client Care Process, which is designed to turn strangers into raving fans and lifetime clients and referrers. Sandy is also the founder of Escalator Marketing, which creates client engagement by nurturing prospects and clients every step of the way.

[00:01:44.710] - Marlys Arnold

And like I said, she's been a business mentor of mine for a long time. So, Sandy, welcome to Virtual Lunch.

[00:01:51.250] - Sandra Martini

Thank you. This is absolutely fabulous. As you are chatting, I've got my notebook over here and I'm jotting all these links down that as Alan was sharing them, saying, this is fantastic. This is fantastic. Oh, my goodness. I love this. Thanks. Wonderful.

[00:02:08.350] - Marlys Arnold

Yeah. It's a lot of fun for me. I just kind of collect as I go through now that I have two weeks in between, I have two weeks worth of things that I come across in the news or wherever. And just compiling all of those links and tidbits are really fun.

[00:02:23.950] - Sandra Martini

It's amazing. And I would have to agree with both you and Adam. I'm a tea girl. Yeah. Everyone else can keep their coffee. Just give me my teas.

[00:02:34.450] - Marlys Arnold

I know Alan spent years managing a high volume coffee shop and still never could convert me to coffee.

[00:02:46.090] - Sandra Martini

Now that's love.

[00:02:48.610] - Marlys Arnold

But he loves tea as well, so we don't have a conflict there. So let's talk about productivity. I know you are so good at this. I hesitate to use the word because it's kind of cliche these days. But you are a productivity Ninja. I think. You find ways to get things done that are so clever. But let's back up a little bit and talk about what are some of the biggest challenges? Why do we struggle so much with this whole concept of being more productive?

[00:03:20.290] - Sandra Martini

There's so much to do. It's never ending. I sometimes say that as a business owner or an entrepreneur that our businesses are kind of like the post office. If things stop, we are in big trouble. So we're always going to have that next to do that next task on our list. It doesn't end. And you mentioned a few minutes ago about gamification and rewarding yourself. And it's so important because if we don't, we can get really discouraged about the fact that the list never really goes down. It's like, oh, great. I did three things today. Oh, shoot. I added five.

[00:04:04.090] - Marlys Arnold

That's me.

[00:04:05.290] - Sandra Martini

Yeah. Same here. We all struggle with this. And particularly when you're a small to mid size business or you're doing something like events management. All of a sudden you've got these lists upon list upon lists, and as soon as you knock one thing off, these other things are added. But then, heaven forbid, there'll be a fire someplace. And now you've got to figure out, oh, wait. I've got to stop all of my plans and go deal with the fire. And then when you add in the fact that we're all humans.

[00:04:39.970] - Sandra Martini

So we've got people in our world that need caring and taking care of, we've possibly got pets. We've got all of this stuff that doesn't have anything to do with the business, necessarily. And it all needs to happen and get done. I was talking with somebody earlier today, and she looked at me and she said, do you know what I feel like? Sandy and she has two little girls, and I said, what? She said, I am momming in the margins.

[00:05:09.850] - Marlys Arnold

Oh, wow.

[00:05:10.750] - Sandra Martini

And I was like, oh, all right. We need to change that. We need to put things around a little bit. And that is, I think, where so many people are, especially with the pandemic, where a lot of people who maybe weren't necessarily working from home before are now or did. And or suddenly, children that would be gone for 6 hours at school aren't gone anymore. So now there's all these new distractions. So I like to celebrate when I think of productivity. Even the smallest piece of a project for me is a celebration because every little check I love technology, and I'm a paper girl.

[00:05:55.690] - Sandra Martini

So I love that feeling of going check. Yes. Depending on my mood, it's either a firm check. It's a little heart to celebrate it, or it's just a smiley face. Those are like my three. Yeah, you're done. And I don't have to play with you anymore for right now.

[00:06:13.990] - Marlys Arnold

That's clever. Yeah, I do the check marks, but I had never thought about doing the smiley face of the heart because it's true, though, because I know I get caught up in things, and I'm just like racing to it is somewhat of a game for me. It's like, how many things can I check off today? But I don't ever take time to actually celebrate that. It's more like the celebration is just I survived and I made it through, and I checked off 16 things today. I know one of the things you talk about is replacing the to do list, the whole concept of the to do list. So let's talk a little bit about how we just kind of reframe the whole thing.

[00:06:55.810] - Sandra Martini

We do. And gamification is one way to do it another way. When I think of to do it feels so heavy for me. It's just that that phrase, it just feels like you just put like a sack of cement on my shoulders. So I don't think of it as to do's. I think of it as a success list. I think of it as my future development list. Everything I'm doing, I assign instead of to do. Sometimes it's as simple as. Okay. Well, these three things that I'm going to knock off today, they're going to move me this much closer to that thing, whatever that thing happens to be.

[00:07:36.430] - Sandra Martini

So if you're financially motivated and some are some aren't if you are, then one of the things you can say is this is my list that's funding my future. So this is my funding my future list or that cruise that I want to go on around the world. Yeah, this is that list. So I have a client who she has one goal. She's a solopreneur, doesn't have a husband, no children, no partner, just herself and her dog. And her goal is to retire to a cruise ship where you buy your cabin and you just travel around the world.

[00:08:14.170] - Sandra Martini

And that's what this cruise ship does. So it's for active retirees to travel on the world. So she has priced out without will cost her for what she believes is her life expectancy and her list. It's not her to do list. It's her world cruise list. Wow. And so when she looks at that, she doesn't have this feeling of heaviness. Instead, she has this feeling of getting closer. I did this and that's getting me this step closer. So it's a type of gamification, and it's also very reward focused, right?

[00:08:51.730] - Sandra Martini

What is something you want? And it doesn't have to be that far out. I held an event a few years ago back when in person was all the rage, and it was a small event. And what I told myself was I said, you know what? If I can have ten people sign up to this event, and if I can get really great reviews at the end of it, I'm going to buy myself this one particular necklace that I want. Typically, I would never spend that type of money on a necklace for myself, just not something I normally do.

[00:09:27.970] - Sandra Martini

So ten people signed up. I got the reviews. I'm looking through them, and I was able to go out and get that necklace. So it doesn't have to be the world cruise or something 10, 20, 30 years down the line, it can be something as little as how am I going to reward myself today? Some weeks, it's you know what? If I get everything on this list done and it's a Monday, I won't come in the office on Friday, I'm going to go do X. I'm going to go play on Friday or do whatever it happens to be.

[00:09:59.890] - Sandra Martini

So it's a way of turning that to do list into something that feels motivating to you and not another. Oh, goodness. I have to do this. Even when it's our own businesses or our own projects that we're excited about. There can still be things on that list that are, like, heavy. Instead, turn it flip the energy around to say, how is this going to motivate me? How is this going to make me so excited about that? Whatever that happens to be and everybody's that is different. So that's an easy way to kind of flip the to do list around.

[00:10:37.390] - Marlys Arnold

Well, and another thing that I know, I used a tool that I used a few years ago when I wrote my book. Let's try that again. Exhibit Design that Works. It feels like a Monday. Yesterday was a holiday. So today is a Monday, right? But when I was writing my book, I had a chart and I called it Eat an Elephant a Bite at a Time. And so I had a chart that was literally an elephant that was broken out into pieces. And so I did a 90 day sprint of working on my book.

[00:11:08.710] - Marlys Arnold

And every day I had to eat a bite of the elephant. And so it became a game for me. It's like, okay, what's the task that I can cross off today? So it wasn't like I had to look at? I have to write this whole book. It was okay. So today I design my book cover or I interview one person or whatever it was. It was just a task a day and not this massive overblown task.

[00:11:37.150] - Sandra Martini

Yes, I'm vegetarian. So Eat the elephant always makes me cringe a little. So I always think of it as the elephant puzzle. Same thing. I take the elephant and I break all those pieces like a puzzle, and I say, okay, and I've got today's piece. I got to get this done. And when it gets done, it goes, okay, that piece is done. It can go on now. And my goal is to create the whole elephant. So it's the same exact thing. It's just taking those big projects and breaking them down. So they feel not just doable, but just exciting to tackle to get manage.

[00:12:17.950] - Marlys Arnold

Exactly. And I like your idea of the elephant puzzle because I wouldn't really want to eat an elephant either. Well, let's talk about chunking things down. You talk about a time chunking method. So tell us a little bit about what that involves.

[00:12:35.210] - Sandra Martini

Well, our brains like to get into a flow, so they like to do something and keep doing that something. For example, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I know that I will be working with clients or doing an interview like this today, because that's what I do on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So when I wake up Tuesday morning, I don't have to think about what should I start with? Where should I go? What should I do? None of that. My brain is already in client mode. On Mondays, I know that I'm writing.

[00:13:10.010] - Sandra Martini

So since I know I'm writing on Mondays, when I wake up, I'm already thinking about that first thing, whether it's a chapter in the book, a blog post, something one of my client needs, whatever it happens to be. I know that Mondays, it's all about writing. And I know that on Fridays are all about admin, money, numbers, metrics, all of that, any big decisions that need to be made planning for the next week. I know all of that's happening in there. So again, when I come into the office, I don't spend time saying, Well, I'm in the mood to X.

[00:13:49.790] - Sandra Martini

No, my subconscious has already been trained. It's Tuesday. You're working with clients. I already know I'm in a more extroverted frame of mind. I'm very, very introverted as a person, but I know that on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I'm always more extroverted because I know that I'm coming in with that energy because I need to be working with people, whereas on the other days, they're more heads down doing stuff myself. So I'm in my little introverted place and I can stay there all day because of the type of work that I'm doing.

[00:14:22.970] - Sandra Martini

So when we chunk, what we're essentially doing is we're telling our subconscious, this is what I'm doing today. Okay. Every Tuesday, you know that this is what we'll be doing. So when you get up Tuesday morning, your brain while you've been sleeping, it's been already preparing for, in my case, those calls I'm going to be having or those things on Monday, those things I'm going to be writing. So when I sit down at my desk Monday morning, I don't stare at a white screen. My subconscious has already gone to work, and I just start because it knows it's a writing day.

[00:14:57.470] - Sandra Martini

So what we find is that instead of trying to constantly switch between types of tasks, we're sticking with the same now. These are all different clients. These are all different writing projects using the same parts of the brain. So the brain gets in the flow, and that makes it so much easier to be uber productive on those days, giving yourself that jumpstart.

[00:15:22.550] - Marlys Arnold

Well, that's true, because you've got that framework of this is what I'm focused on for the day and not constantly shifting gears like so many of us do throughout the day. And of course, unfortunately, you have that ability that you can do that framework of a day at a time in the events world. We don't always have that ability, and we're dealing with a lot of firefighting and interruptions and things. So talk a little bit about that. I know you talk about boundaries and how to try to I don't know if you say manage the disruptions, but how to better deal with them.

[00:16:01.670] - Sandra Martini

Well, way back when in a former life, I used to manage logistics for some of former President Clinton's events at the White House. So in that world.

[00:16:14.510] - Marlys Arnold

No pressure there, right?

[00:16:15.890] - Sandra Martini

It is no pressure at all. And I will share that on September 12 of 93 94, we had a plane crashed onto the White House lawn. Now people may remember that it was above the fold. Of course, every newspaper in America back then. What a lot of people don't know is that we had an event happening on that exact lawn 7 hours after that plane crashed. So I had literally left the White House at like, 01:00 in the morning. My phone rang and it was, oh, no spin around.

[00:16:59.450] - Sandra Martini

Of course, there's nothing I can do because Secret Services and all that fun stuff. Right? But now we're in this huddle about. We have 1000 students coming in on buses for this event because it was the launch of AmeriCorps. So we have them all coming in. What are we going to do? Because these kids are coming from North Carolina, Virginia, all over these places, and we can't hold the event. That lovely piece of tape that I put down where the President was going to stand. It doesn't matter anymore.

[00:17:32.090] - Sandra Martini

Nobody cares. So what are we going to do? And it was okay, how do you manage things in that moment? So I completely get the events world and having to put it all together and figure it out. And the way that I manage myself when I'm managing events, if that makes sense is I hold a vision of the end result. What is the end result that we want for this event? Just one result. Is it everybody's happy? Is it everybody's informed? What is it? Whatever that end result is, I say, okay, what is the easiest path to get us from here to there?

[00:18:11.990] - Sandra Martini

And then I do a little NLP neural linguistic programming. I don't want to call it a trick that feels weird, but a little thing an exercise where I go outside because I find I typically need a lot of room, and I will stand right here and I will look into the future. So looking in front of me and it might be down the street away. And I'm looking there and I'm saying to myself, okay, we're having this event. That is the end result, whatever the that is.

[00:18:46.010] - Sandra Martini

And I stare at it and I say, how am I going to feel when the event's over and we've accomplished it? We've not only accomplished it, we have just knocked this baby out of the park. How am I going to feel? And I take that energy? Okay, I got it. And I walk as quickly as I can to that end spot, and I stand there and I bask in that energy. And typically I have somebody beside me when I'm doing this, and then my eyes are closed and I take a step back and say, okay, what needs to happen just before the event closes, that we know it was a super success.

[00:19:20.570] - Sandra Martini

One step back and I tell the person and they're writing this down for me. Okay. What's the step that has to happen just before that? Just before that? Just before that. And I get all the way to what do I need to go in the office and do so then we type up this massive pages long list. And once that's done, okay, now what can we group together knowing that we can't spend a day on writing or a day doing this? Can we spend 90 minutes on this type of activity and 90 minutes on this type of activity?

[00:19:59.270] - Sandra Martini

90 minutes is kind of the minimum and the maximum and everybody's time frame might be a little bit different. Mine is a little shy of 90 minutes of where we can focus on a task enough to get into flow without doing it for so long that we get out of the zone of it, and we're looking for that next thing. Okay. So I should be focused on creating all the things that need to be printed for the next 90 minutes and then go take a break.

[00:20:32.550] - Sandra Martini

Have launched do something else, then come back. Do I need to do more of that, or can I now switch to everything I need to be doing on the phone? Everybody, I need to be calling and double checking or emailing. So keeping those chunk times now instead of, like, 90 minutes chunks instead of doing your day chunks. And then the most important thing is save an hour every day for oh, my goodness, that just happened. We don't know what that's going to be, but it's going to happen.

[00:21:09.570] - Sandra Martini

So save an hour. And I like to save that hour between kind of, like, 1230 and 130. That tends to be late enough for something to happen and still early enough to do something about it. Your timeframe might be a little bit different depending on what you're doing. And I always have at least an hour's worth of tasks sitting there so that if I don't have the emergency, that's okay, I can do this. I can do this particular task. So it's not like I'm wasting the hour just sitting there tapping my fingers going, Where's the fire? I've got a backup.

[00:21:52.530] - Marlys Arnold

I love that, like, schedule at times for emergencies and then celebrate when you don't have to use them.

[00:21:59.070] - Sandra Martini

Yes. Huge celebration when I don't have to use them and doing something else instead, that gets me still further along to completing the elephant puzzle.

[00:22:08.850] - Marlys Arnold

Yeah, I love that because I know that so many times that does happen where you've got this thing that comes up and just totally disrupt your day. But if you've got that chunk of time that you've got reserved and like you said, you could shift it around, like if the emergency happens and you have to do it earlier in the day. But yeah, I really like that idea of carving out that buffer. I guess you could say for the crises.

[00:22:39.570] - Sandra Martini

They'Re going to happen. So we might as well plan for them.

[00:22:42.150] - Marlys Arnold

That's true. Well, I know Sandy has put a lot of great articles up on her blog about productivity, and I've got those already in the YouTube. If you're listening to this on the podcast, it'll be in the Show notes, and Alan's going to put those up on the LinkedIn feed right now. So you'll have those there. But Sandy, tell us, do you have any favorite tools that you like to use to be more productive?

[00:23:11.970] - Sandra Martini

You know, I do my favorite, and it's funny that I say this because it's not on my desk at the moment, just because the battery needs refreshing. But I have a Polder timer, so you can use any kitchen timer. But I like to set my Polder timer. And the reason I love it is it's shaped like an hourglass, and it has digital sand, so if you're not using it, you can stand it up one way, and it's just a clock. It's 132. Now, if I want to use it as a timer, I flip it over and I say, okay, I want 90 minutes.

[00:23:51.570] - Sandra Martini

So digital 90 minutes, and then the digital sand runs through it. I've always liked those kind of hourglass clocks. So this way I get to actually see okay, look at that. And as I'm working, I'm sitting here and every once in a while I'll glance at it and I'll see the time running out, and it's like a quick jumpstart for me. So that's one of my just real simple. They're like $10 on your online platform of choice. And then the other thing that I love is Evernote.

[00:24:29.850] - Sandra Martini

I adore Evernote, because wherever I am, it's there. So it's on my ipad, it's on my laptop, it's on my phone. My grocery list is on Evernote anything that I need or that I might think of that someplace. I might be on the couch at night, but I don't really want to go back in the office, so I'll just grab my phone, grab evernote, and jot it down, and I know it'll be waiting for me in the morning. So I have found that that saves me so much time, thought, paper. I don't have any postits in my office. Evernote is my big Postit, if you will. And then that polder timer. There's just something about it that you see the sand going down to know I've got the timer and it allows me to go offline so I can turn off my WiFi while I'm writing, for example, and still manage everything nice and easily.

[00:25:33.750] - Marlys Arnold

Yeah. I think that's really cool, that sometimes it's a low tech tool that can really be helpful to help us get the job done I actually put together, and I know Alan will put this up in the LinkedIn comments as well, but I put together a list of some of my favorite business tools of productivity,organizing, virtual meetings, all different kinds of things. So I've got a lot of different things that I use. But when you were talking about Evernote, I use a system called software called Plutio. It's kind of a cross between Evernote and Trello, and so I do that, and I keep all the boards and put things up in there. But yeah, there's so many great tools out there these days for people to use. So, Sandy, thank you so much for being here for Virtual Lunch. We really appreciate all the wonderful tips that you've shared, and I do want to share just one other link.

[00:26:30.570] - Marlys Arnold

This is the link to Sandy's website where you've got all the specific links for the articles. But if you go to the homepage here, scroll down to the bottom. She's got a free ebook on Overcoming Overwhelm so you can sign up and get a copy of that. So I did want to make sure to mention that. Sandy, thank you again. I really appreciate you carving out some time in your day to be here with us for Virtual lunch.

[00:26:53.970] - Sandra Martini

Thank you so much. Thank you everyone for joining us. And Alan, thank you so much for all of the amazing link work. Look at you go.

[00:27:06.670] - Marlys Arnold

You can find all the links mentioned during our interview in this episode Show Notes at And if you'd like to join us for an upcoming virtual lunch, you'll find info on that at

[00:27:32.990] - Marlys Arnold

If you enjoyed today's episode and would like more, you can subscribe to the podcast and automatically receive future episodes on your chosen device. Simply search for Trade Show Insights in Apple, Spotify, Stitcher or virtually anywhere else that podcasts are found. Then click the subscribe button. Trade Show Insights is protected by the Creative Commons Copyright License. You may feel free to share this recording with colleagues or embed it on your own blog as long as it's shared in its entirety and is not used for commercial purposes. To learn more, please see the link in the Sidebar of the Show notes at

[00:28:14.570] - Marlys Arnold

Well, that's it for this episode of Trade Show Insights. Be sure to check out our Show notes and archives at You can also connect with me using the social media links or the contact page on the site. I'm Marlys Arnold. Thanks for listening and be sure to join us next time for more tools to improve your exhibit results.


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