Improving Productivity Without Sacrificing Life Balance

(This blog article was first published on The Burn In by Nathan Orr, November 7, 2018)

As workplaces continue to adapt to the shifting technological and social trends of our environment, the work-life correlations between employee happiness and employee productivity have taken center stage.

With recent studies confirming that a good work-life balance results in higher employee engagement and output, the leading challenge employers face now is discovering how they can create a comfortable and productive working environment.

This is what Making Minutes! has been helping companies achieve for over 15 years.

Founded in 2003, Making Minutes! is a workshop series that teaches productivity and life balance skills through live and virtual presentations. From coaching the employees of Fortune 500 companies like Williams Sonoma to presenting life balance instruction for high school students, Making Minutes! offers workshop sessions to any audience seeking a more mindful lifestyle.

Their goals are centered around helping people make the most of the time they have available to them, boasting that 95% of their participants manage to eliminate enough wasteful habits to free-up an extra hour of their days. To share his insights on the challenges of balancing healthy work-life habits, and the active movement toward mindful living, we spoke with founder and CEO Tom Drews.

A Shift for Workplace Wellness

When asked why he believes people are now becoming more inclined to consider their mental well-being alongside their workplace practices, Drews explained:

“I liken it to spiritual evolution. I don’t mean religious. To give an example, I was first introduced to meditation 30 years ago, and since then perceptions about it have really changed. It takes time for things to catch on, and I think right now people are becoming more and more aware of themselves.

“You see it in business too. I found over the past 5-10 years companies are becoming much more interested in getting their people to be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled. They want their people to stick around and be productive, and they understand that to do that they need to live good lives.”

The Making of Making Minutes!

Before Making Minutes!, Drews first launched a workshop in 2001 that helped participants develop stronger presentation skills, called What Works!

The workshops themselves didn’t broaden their teachings into work-life balancing until after Drews trained a Webex sales team and was asked if his business offered time management programs, as well.

“That was really the beginning of Making Minutes! Working with Webex helped me hone a program I could teach. Not long after I landed a contract with Google, Genentech, several others, and it just kept evolving.”

But for Drews, teaching time management was just one step closer to talking about what excited him most.

“I first became interested in philosophy my senior year in college, and afterward a lot of things I did lacked passion for me. I always envisioned being in front of people, and in 2001 I started What Works! But even then, my interest was still philosophy.

“Our breakthrough was with William-Sonoma. They came to us and wanted to create a positive cultural change, not just make more productive people. They wanted people to be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled. That’s where my interest really came in—finding how we can help people live better lives.”

A Making Minutes! Workshop in Action

Every Making Minutes! workshop begins with a quote from Peter Drucker, who said: “It’s more important to do the right thing than do things right.” For Drews, this summarizes the core of what the workshops are really about.

“They’re about finding what’s important for yourself, eliminating waste, and helping others do more of what’s important to them. It’s not up to me to say what it is that’s important for people, or how to best spend their time, that’s ultimately what we’re trying to help people figure out for themselves.”

Since workshops vary depending on the personal goals and beliefs of the participants, a discovery process is held with every client before their workshop. During this process, Drews spends time learning about the organization and its challenges. This process can last two to three weeks, and really helps to hone in on the issues that will be addressed during the workshop itself.

“I learn what’s important to them aside from just their business and productivity concerns. Then I customize the workshop based on their needs.

“That way I can learn as much as possible. I talk to people in groups, send out questionnaires to learn about everyone’s personal time management challenges, and what they would most like to get out of the workshop experience.”

Then, when it comes time for the half-day or full-day workshop (which commonly contains 15-25 people), time can be used most efficiently and effectively.

Taking Six Mindful Minutes

Studies show the human mind wanders 46.9% of the time, and roughly 80% of thoughts tend to be negative. It’s also becoming widely accepted that people can retrain their brains to think more positively.

Because of this, one of the most popular exercises in the workshop involves the Six Mindful Minutes—an exploration of questions that participants are invited to reflect upon to maintain a healthier mindset.

“I liken it to mindful productivity or a mindful life design. Really, the whole point is there are different kinds of mindfulness. For example, people who meditate experience a form of mindfulness, while the idea of ‘being present’ is another.

“The kind of mindfulness I’ve incorporated into Mindful Minutes is learning to take 5-15 seconds to stop yourself before you do something and ask yourself important questions.”

The Six Mindful Minute Questions Being:

  1. Is this the best use of my time?
  2. Is this the right time to do this?
  3. Am I the right person to do this?
  4. Is there a better way to communicate this?
  5. Is there a better way to do this?
  6. Is this the best way for me to think?

“Thinking can be a conscious choice, rather than just getting caught up in the flow of what’s coming at you. But we often don’t take the time to consciously stop and ask ourselves to wait and think. Once you know what’s important to you, these mindful minutes become much more relevant and impactful.”

To reinforce and keep these Mindful Minutes fresh in people’s minds, Drews designed specialized stress cubes based off the workshop. The cubes contain a different mindful minute question on each side and are given to workshop participants as a visual aid for keeping a healthier mentality. As an exercise, Drews asks participants to keep these cubes on-hand throughout a day and see how it affects their thought process.

“The cube is helpful to solidify what I think is the most important thing. We already have most of the answers; we just need to remember to keep them in mind to empower ourselves and make conscious choices that are in-line with our values, visions, and goals.”


Reflecting on what Making Minutes! has achieved, and continues to strive for, Drews was happy to conclude that despite his success he’s “in no way shape or form saying I have all the answers or manage to live this way all the way around. I am definitely a work in progress.

“We tend to teach what we need to learn the most, which is why I teach this. I find I have a constant need for it, a constant need to remember to stay aware.”

Changing one’s thoughts for a more fulfilling mentality is a concept that has enticed many, with classes and workshops like Making Minutes! guiding others toward their personal and professional goals. But what are your thoughts on mental re-training, and the latest perspectives on employee wellness?

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