Paula Hersey: A penguin’s guide to life management

2ce3d69When we asked CCTC President and Board Chair Paula Hersey for tips on time management, she said “get a bigger watch.”

In her case, a bigger watch is a very well-thought out schedule. If anyone needs a well-thought out schedule, it’s Paula. And it works.

In addition to her position here, she is on the Cape & Islands Workforce Investment Board, is a member and past president (among other positions) of the American Businesswomen’s Association, a Cape Cod Makers board member, and a Community Leadership Institute Alumni. She also helped found Geek Girl Camp.

In the last Start Up Weekend, she was on the winning team. “I didn’t have an idea to pitch but wanted to work with someone who had a great idea,” she said. “Kate McMahon had an idea to revolutionize obituaries.” Along with Kathleen McMahon, Rodrigo Passos, and Evan Wadsworth, Paula formed The Undertakers and created a minimal viable product (startup weekend speak) for an application for funeral homes, called AfterBook.

The idea was to aggregate someone’s life and celebrate it through all the social channels and deliver it to the funeral homes,” she explained. “It wasn’t all technical. There was a lot of market research, graphic design, a business plan – as a sole proprietor, being part of a team again was exhilarating. And to win the whole darn thing was pretty cool too.”

Connecting with others on projects is one of the things Paula does best. She’s connected to some of our biggest non-profits and many community businesses. “I had based my business model – Penguin Digital Design – on referral-based business only. When folks choose me as their vendor, we have a connection to someone we each know.”

It is not an accident that Paula knows so many people. “My mentor Felicia Penn had told me early on that if I wanted to succeed on Cape Cod I couldn’t just join an organization. I had to participate. I took that to heart. Being part of an organization opens up a lot of doors. When you take a leadership position, your visibility is so much higher than being a member.”

From the outside, it looks like Paula is heading in eight different directions – and she is. But she heads there methodically. She uses an app called Wonderlist to keep things in order, and says “if it’s not on the calendar it doesn’t exist. Google Calendar is on every device I own.”

When planning her week, she stacks days with specific kinds of work. If she has a meeting on one day, she’ll schedule her other meetings for that same day. “If I start off the day with a meeting, I’m really not going to get into a project that day. The creative process doesn’t work that way.” If she has meetings on Tuesday, she writes proposals on Wednesday, does development on Thursday and works on her own business (marketing, invoicing, etc.) on Friday.

Mondays are set aside as development days. She turns off her phone and doesn’t open email. When she’s in development mode, she blocks out all interruptions – and there are a lot of interruptions. “Instant gratification isn’t fast enough for people anymore,” she said. “If you email, an immediate response is expected. Texting, phone calls, all of those are distractions. It’s not real work. I don’t pay my mortgage by distractions.”

As busy and involved as Paula is, she makes a conscious effort to turn the business off when she gets home. “You need down time. I do a lot of walking to clear my head. The weekends are for David and me. We’ll take a day trip somewhere.” She says getting exercise is high on her list. Last year she took up biking, riding the 62-mile Last Gasp Bike Race from Sandwich to Provincetown.

Not that business doesn’t constantly intersect Paula’s personal life. She takes a genuine interest in people’s livelihoods, and her down time is often influenced by what she’s learned about her clients. When Blue Hill Observatory became a client, she and her husband David went to check it out on the weekend. “I had heard of it but I’d never been there. We climbed Blue Hill up to the observatory. It was fascinating and a gorgeous hike. And that’s in our backyard, 40 minutes away.”

She knows about a lot of places like this – many of which you’ve never heard of. “If you ask questions, people will tell you about stuff,” she said. “If you keep yourself open to what’s out there, you learn so much more. All these different non-profits, they make Cape Cod run. Like Cape Cod Theater Coalition. I had no idea there were that many theaters on Cape Cod.” She rattles off another rich list of organizations and businesses, including National Marine Life Center, Brewster Conservation, and Flyers Boat Rentals in Provincetown, making it sound like she’s a walking insider’s guide to Cape Cod.

Which she is. (Just don’t call her on a Monday.)

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