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Pamela Slim: Finding the Focus to Develop Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

Pamela Slim

At Freedom, we love our users – not just because they use our product, but because they’re cool – cool people working on cool stuff. Academy Award-nominated screenwriters, bestselling authors, editors, journalists, developers, illustrators, designers, academics, coaches, podcast hosts, comic book writersstudents, and entrepreneurs – the Freedom community is packed with curious, creative, and passionate go-getters. We love to share their stories, advice, and process because how better to learn about productivity than from the productive?

Meet Pamela Slim.

Pamela Slim is an author, community builder, consultant, and former corporate director of training and development at Barclays Global Investors. She focused her first decade in business on creating and delivering training programs for large companies such as HP, Charles Schwab, 3Com, Chevron and Cisco Systems.

Since 2005, Pam has advised thousands of entrepreneurs as well as companies serving the small business market such as Infusionsoft, Progressive Insurance, Constant Contact, and Prezi. Pam partnered with author Susan Cain to build and launch The Quiet Revolution and the Quiet Leadership Institute.

Pam is best known for her first book Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur, along with her follow-up Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together (2014). Both published under Penguin/Portfolio.

In 2016, Pam launched the Main Street Learning Lab in Mesa, Arizona, as a grassroots, community-based think tank for small business economic acceleration.

With so much varied experience under her belt, we sat down with Pamela this week to learn a little more about how she beats distraction to find the focus to do it all.

How did you know that you wanted to be an author and speaker and what were your first steps in making this your career?

I never set out to be a writer or speaker. After being a management consultant for 10 years in Silicon Valley, I felt called to a new mission: helping unhappy corporate employees start successful businesses. I started my blog, Escape from Cubicle Nation, in 2005, with the intention of sharing useful content that would attract ideal coaching clients. Little did I know that it would blow up and attract my publisher, Penguin/Portfolio, who asked me to write a book of the same title.

I was very passionate about the topic of my book, so speaking became a great way to connect with larger audiences and inspire them to give entrepreneurship a chance.

The more I wrote and spoke, the more I enjoyed it. After a few years, I was ready to add “author and speaker” to my core skill of “business coach.”

At what point did you realize that tech was taking a toll on your productivity, time, and relationships? When did you know that you had to do something about it?

When my kids were little, I was still working from home, and often tried to squeeze work, email, and social media marketing in between cooking dinner and bath time.

One night, I had my laptop on the counter while cooking, and was running from the stove to email. Apparently, in my distraction, my son was calling for me and I was not paying attention. Suddenly, he walked up to me with his Nerf water gun and said “Mommy, if you don’t turn off that laptop and listen to me, I am going to shoot you.”

My heart sank and tears welled up in my eyes. That moment changed me.

Escape from Cubicle Nation a book by Pamela Slim

How do you prioritize what gets your time and attention each day?

I have a master list of big projects (no more than 3 in a given quarter), then time devoted to coaching and following up with my clients. Each morning, I review my appointments, scan any urgent client emails, then make sure I am doing work on some of my big projects.

It is not always possible to finish everything in one day, but when I approach my list with calm and prioritize – I feel much better.

How do you stay focused and motivated on a daily basis? Do you have a routine, ritual,  or process that helps to get into a productive flow?

Every morning when I come into my office, I pause for a moment and touch the building, then close my eyes and take a nice deep breath. This is a teaching my Navajo husband Darryl shared with me that reminds me to feel gratitude for my life, and for the work I am about to complete with my clients.

Once inside, I turn on all the lights, fill up my water cup, plug in my desktop fountain and salt lamp, and light a candle.

If I skip any of those steps, I feel off-balance and ungrounded.

How do you optimize your environment for productivity and focus? How do you incorporate Freedom into your schedule?

I love to have a very clean office (no stacks of paper!), and a bright, vibrant environment. I have lots of art and photos on the wall, and love good-smelling candles. When I am writing, I put on instrumental music. When I am doing administrative tasks that don’t require huge concentration, I like to blast danceable music and sing loudly (as long as I am alone in the office). I am an all-senses kind of person!

I use Freedom when I need to get in the flow of my own creative work (writing or designing programs), or when I need to get in the flow of reviewing client projects.

What is the most difficult or challenging aspect about your work or working process? Do you have any strategies that you use to help overcome these challenges?

The most difficult part of my working process is holding space for so many different kinds of business challenges when working with my coaching clients, then switching my focus into my own creative flow while doing my own writing and projects.

I often get really energized and excited by the client work, that often involves having multiple browser windows open and shared video screens, so I need to stand up and walk around before shifting gears into my creative work.

"Body of Work: Finding the thread that ties your story together" by Pamela Slim

What resources or tools do you use daily and have found most beneficial to your working process?

I use a little cube timer that a friend gave me that has 5, 15, 30 or 60 minute increments on it. You tip it over to the block of time needed, and it helps you to cut out other distractions and sprint to get things done. For some reason, it is more effective for me than my phone  or computer timers.

I also take short breaks where I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths to get my head to stop spinning, and become more grounded on a particularly busy or stressful day.

What projects are you currently most excited about?

I am working on a new book, one which I have been researching and testing for the last 5 years. It feels like my most important book to date, and I am really excited about it. It will bring together so many parts of my professional experience and expertise, and I think it will help a lot of people in different industries grow their businesses in a way that is easier and more connected than the transactional business culture that has left many people unsatisfied.

I am also working on a big new online learning portal for our Main Street Learning Lab, where we will not only serve small business owners, but also help cities and municipalities develop their entrepreneurial ecosystems.

What do you do outside of your work routine that helps you stay healthy and productive?

I walk in the mornings, and make sure to get enough sleep at night. I am working on better eating habits and getting back into a group sport, like the martial arts that I did for 15 years. I miss the fun and focus of group sports, where I find stress melts away, and my creativity increases.

Where are you currently based?

I live in Mesa, Arizona.

To learn more about Pamela or her work, you can visit her site at