190 From Overwhelmed to Empowered with TOP Program Student Steph Hochstetler

From Overwhelmed to Empowered with TOP Program Student, time management, organiation, productivity


If you're feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by constantly juggling work and family responsibilities, trying to squeeze in more hours daily, and sacrificing self-care time, then you are not alone!

Today I am joined by Steph Hochstetler a busy mom and professional. Living in the suburbs of Chicago, Steph is a proud member of her local improv theater and youth program, while also dedicating her time to two nonprofits and a local political campaign.

Steph has been in the TOP Program for 2.5 years and is a GREAT example of an active learner. She openly admits that she has not "mastered" the entire framework but is reaping the benefits of slowly implementing each and every month.

In this episode, you will be able to:
1. Discover the crucial role of time management, prioritization, and organization in achieving Work+Life Harmony.
2. Uncover the life-changing benefits of mastering time management skills.
3. Find out how proactive planning and seeking input can save time and improve task management.
4. Realize the power of commitment to a process and the importance of perseverance.

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00:00:00 - Megan Sumrell - Hey there. I'm really excited for you all to meet Steph today. So as a time management expert, if you've been listening to the show for a while, you probably know I have a signature program called the TOP Program, which stands for Time Management, Organization, and Productivity. Every now and again, I like to bring on a student to the show because it's one thing to hear stuff from me, it's another to hear from other people who are learning this as they go. And whenever I do bring a student on, I do things very differently, probably from other folks in the online learning space. I like to introduce you to people that are not the two-hour, overnight, bizarre instant success because that's not reality. The reality is anytime we tackle learning, something new is we need to prepare ourselves for the fact that it takes time. And that's why I'm really excited for you guys to meet Steph here today. She has been in the TOP Program for over two years and is always learning, still coming back to the basics, but reaping the rewards while she's actively learning at the same time. And she's got a lot going on. So without further ado, here we are. I'm going to introduce you all to Steph. Welcome to the Work + Life Harmony podcast. I'm your host, Megan Sumrell. I'm the creator of the TOP Program and TOP Planner, teaching all things Time Management, Organization, and Productivity for women. I'm also a mom and wife, and just like you, I'm juggling #allthethings while running multiple businesses and a family. Guess what? You don't have to feel constantly overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed out. There is another way. When you have the right systems and tools to plan and manage your time, you can live a life of harmony. This is your show to learn from me and other amazing women how to master your time, planning, and organization, to skyrocket your productivity so you can have Work + Life Harmony. If you're ready to stop feeling overwhelmed, this is the show for you. And if you're new here, I'd love to get you started with my Work + Life Harmony assessment. All you have to do is DM me on Instagram @MeganSumrell with the word Harmony and my team will send it right over.

00:02:17 - Megan Sumrell - Welcome back to work life. Harmony. I have a really special guest today, Steph Hochstetler, which we were just having a very funny conversation about. Correct pronunciations of last name. Steph has been one of the OGs almost inside of the TOP program. I have gotten to know her well over the last several years, and one of the things I always think is so important I'm going to let Steph introduce herself here in a quick second is people oftentimes especially in the world we live in today of the Easy Button and Amazon Prime where I can literally sometimes order something in the morning and it's there, 4 hours later on my front doorstep. Right. We expect everything so instantaneously, and that includes learning. And one of the things I like to be very upfront and honest about is like if you are someone that has never planned, never really been taught these skills, it doesn't come naturally to you, organization and all of that. I am here to tell you, joining the TOP program, the vast majority of people, you're not going to learn at all in the course of two or three days and have your life instantly transformed. It's a work in progress. It's learning, it's sometimes falling off and getting back on. And so this is why I really wanted Steph here today. Because, Steph, I think you are the epitome of someone who is just constantly saying, you know what, I'm not going to give up and I'm going to keep refining and keep tweaking and life throws you curveballs and you are here and you keep showing up and I so appreciate that about you. So why don't we kick things off with just having you introduce yourself a little bit about kind of your family, where you live, all the things that you juggle.

00:03:59 - Steph Hochstetler - Yeah, sure. Well, thanks for having me. As we talked about a little bit, I'm always happy to share my story because it's a long one.

00:04:10 - Megan Sumrell - The older we get.

00:04:12 - Steph Hochstetler - Anybody else? Yeah, there's no quick easy button here. So I'm a partner, a mom. I work full-time. I have my whole spiel, so I live outside in the suburbs of the Chicago area. We've been in the same place for ten years now. I've got two girls finishing up fourth grade and 8th grade, which is horrifying. She'll be fine. I'm having a really hard time with the transition to high school, but she'll do awesome. My partner is a high school football coach and personal trainer, so his schedule varies greatly day to day. We have two dogs, two guinea pigs, and all the things. On top of that. I work full-time in my home office most of the time and typical work-from-home hours, though. I work for a European company, so I usually start a little bit earlier. My day starts 6:30 or seven and then I wrap up in time to pick up kids from school, which is nice. And on top of that, for the last five years have been part of a local improv theater in the area that's been massive. And for the last, I don't know, three years-ish I've been involved with a local youth program and just this last year also helped to start up two nonprofits and got involved very recently with a back office for a local campaign for a local office.

00:05:42 - Megan Sumrell - So you don't have a lot going on?

00:05:44 - Steph Hochstetler - I don't have that much, no. It's not a lot for me. It's just a few things like everybody else.

00:05:51 - Megan Sumrell - Right.

00:05:51 - Steph Hochstetler - I'm not special in any way. There's a ton going on.

00:05:55 - Megan Sumrell - Okay, first of all, everybody is special. And I think one of the things that I so admire about you and that you inspire me too, is really reflecting on where I can give back more because you do so much important volunteer work on so many different parts of your life. And I know that is something. When we first met, when you were considering joining the Top program, I still remember you mentioning how important that was to you, and you were frustrated because you were not having the time that you wanted to be able to do that. So trying to think back, has it been a good three years or so?

00:06:34 - Steph Hochstetler - It was during the early stages or like, fall of 2020. So that was a totally normal time of life, right? There was nothing extra going on. Yeah, I was really struggling.

00:06:53 - Megan Sumrell - Okay, so think back to that if you can. It sometimes it's hard to think back that far. What would you say was your biggest driver in deciding to say, you know what, I need to figure something out, I need some help, and then ultimately deciding to come into the program here?

00:07:09 - Steph Hochstetler - Yeah. So it actually been a lead up of a couple of years. So my learning curve is even longer than it looks like. Just being in the Top program, I had hit a wall. I related to your story a lot that you tell about being on the playground with your daughter and someone asking you what you did for fun and not being able to give any answer. I really related to that. It was so much of the pinball mom, back and forth, working mom stuff, right, where you just feel lost in the shuffle. I was really struggling just to get my work work done, let alone managing life outside of work, and had tried a couple of different programs. But again, I related to your story and related, and the process really kind of clicked. I guess the concept of the Top process worked, clicked for my brain, and certainly six months into the pandemic, it was good timing for a new tool. I was ripe for learning and for trying something new. And again, just the logic of the Top program just really clicked.

00:08:27 - Megan Sumrell - Okay, so let's be honest. See, you've been in this world now for two and a half years. Did you breeze through it in four or five weeks, master everything? And are you rocking it, like, week after week right now?

00:08:39 - Steph Hochstetler - Oh, girl, no chance. Not even close. Not even close. I think it took me at least two months to get to the fourth module of the training of the program itself and being on calls and all that, and it took me at least that long to actually do a weekly plan. I did a lot of time audits.

00:09:11 - Megan Sumrell - Analysis paralysis a little bit.

00:09:13 - Steph Hochstetler - That's right. That's my jam, is analysis paralysis for sure. So lots of planning to plan. So I did a lot of that for, like, two months before I even got to a point where I was comfortable doing a weekly plan. And even then I would do one, and then it would look pretty, and it would be nice, and it would just sit there. I think I just emailed you the other day. This year really clicked. So two years in? Yeah, it really clicked.

00:09:51 - Megan Sumrell - It's funny, I think most people who I sell programs, I teach people, I do all that. I think most people who do that would look at me and be like, this is crazy pants that you are sharing with the world the journey of people. Usually people want to just share the instant success life change stories. But Steph, I think you are in the trenches in the way so many women are today. But what makes you different is you didn't give up. You knew that there would be an easier way. I remember early on in the program, you did have some quick wins where you were like, okay, like, just moving some things around, structuring things a little bit differently. But the message that I would hear from you time and time again because I would know when you'd fall off the wagon, I'm like, I haven't seen stuff in the group that much. You come back and be like, you know what? I hadn't been doing weekly planning for a while. I just did a weekly plan.

00:10:48 - Steph Hochstetler - And I'm like, oh, my gosh, yeah.

00:10:49 - Megan Sumrell - Okay, see, now I'm back. So you had seen it, you had felt it, but it was that hump of making this a consistent part of your life, and you never gave up. You kept coming back. And now here you are almost two years later saying, yeah, okay, now this is part of who I am, how I plan, how I operate. What would you say you're seeing as some of the biggest changes in your life from keeping at this and not throwing in the towel and giving up?

00:11:25 - Steph Hochstetler - There's a couple kind of big ones. One is. I say no. Or I quote Megan, and I say I'm not sure. Let me get back to you. Let me think about it, all of that. So I think that's a huge win for me because it's so easy to just say, yes, sure. And just I would say three months ago, I had the realization of how many times during a workday I say, yeah, I'll get that to you today. Yeah, I'll send that to you today. Well, I started keeping track. One day I had a weekly plan. I had it all nicely done. And on Monday, I realized seven times I had promised something today. And I looked at my plan and I thought, well, there's no way that's going to happen the way that I have. Even in my week, it wouldn't have happened. Like, oh, okay, so that sort of thing. And the same with, I think, one of my earlier weekly plans, I was just blocking the promised committed half time and was like, I don't even have enough time for the have to. And these are half to between work and home and all the things and that I didn't have half of the outside stuff that I was doing now. Yeah. So saying no, understanding boundaries and protecting them is a big deal.

00:12:57 - Megan Sumrell - Let's pause on that for a quick second because I really think it's important. So much of productivity trainings and experts and stuff that so much of the messaging out there is telling run, we're going to show you how to get more done in less time. We're going to show you how to be able to do all the things and conquer the world. And I think it's so important that's just not possible. And that a big part of learning for most people, including yourself, as you just mentioned, is it's not about, hey, come join this program. We're going to show you how to take a completely unrealistic list of things to do and stay up late and get up early and knock it all out. No part of it is having the reality check of what can I say yes to? And what do I have to let go? Where do I need to push back? And you can do it from a place of feeling so okay about saying no because, you know, there was no way you could say yes. And so then it just leads to a domino effect of stuff downstream. And I remember that early on when we were looking at your work schedule and all the commitments and responsibilities you had with work and just laying that out and saying what you have on your plate is already too much to fit into a week. Right? And so now you're empowered with information to talk to managers, to talk to coworkers or bosses to help reprioritize workloads. And it's so important to know that is an integral part of learning how to plan and manage our time, is understanding the realities, what's really doable and what's not.

00:14:29 - Steph Hochstetler - Yeah, that has been really important because having the plan and having the time and knowing it's a finite resource, right? And so being able to say, okay, you're asking me for this thing I'm already scheduled and planning to do these five, which is more important, are we? Right? Because there's only so much I can't fit it all in and I will not work 800 hours and stay up through the night. Hey, I'm a middle aged lady. It's just not working anymore. There's no chance that I'm working at all. Crazy hours. I feel asleep at core. I don't sleep at night, so I got to sleep at some point, right? It's just how it goes. That's been just prioritizing and for myself. And then I had a funny story. I wanted to share with you about estimation. So I had said, yeah, I'll write postcards for the campaign. Sure, happy to do it. How long can it possibly take to write 250 postcards?

00:15:30 - Megan Sumrell - Oh, my God. 250.

00:15:32 - Steph Hochstetler - It can't take that long, right? I figured out I can do 25 in an hour if I'm really cooking. Okay, learn that one the hard way. That's a lot of hours. It's a lot of hours, yeah. So it was one of those it was like, oh, okay, estimation actually matters. Doing a test before I say, yeah, I'll take 250, or whatever it is, right. Do a test. Kind of think about what if I've never done it before? And you've talked about this, right? If you've never done it before, get some input, whether it's a test run or asking somebody who's done it or whatever. That's been a big learning this year, too, is having even just hearing you.

00:16:17 - Megan Sumrell - Say, that's been a big learning. You now know you're not going to do that again. Right. And unfortunately, it's faced a lot of us do learn the hard way, myself included. But now you know, or if I.

00:16:27 - Steph Hochstetler - Do, I'm going to plan right. And then in my head, that's the other thing, that planning in my head. Oh, it won't take that long. It won't take that long. Well, cool. Two days before they needed to be in the mail, I figured out how long it actually takes. All right, well, this will shift my plan a little bit, but yeah, so that is huge. And you say it all the time. I have my own version of it that I read somewhere, but structure is freedom, and discipline makes today hard, but tomorrow easier. My goodness. No, it's a meme somewhere that came.

00:17:09 - Megan Sumrell - Up in my discipline makes today hard, but tomorrow easier. And I think that can be applied to even, like, when you're learning how to plan, learning how might be hard, but it makes your next, tomorrows and years and all of that ahead that much easier. Yeah.

00:17:27 - Steph Hochstetler - I was listening to I think it was a book. I think it was The Keeping House While You're Drowning or whatever the title of that book is. I know that's not exactly right, but it's something like that. And she said something like, what can I do? If my friend was struggling, I would want to do something for her to make tomorrow easier. And that's what planning is.

00:17:52 - Megan Sumrell - That's beautiful.

00:17:53 - Steph Hochstetler - I love it because that's how I think of planning. It makes it easier for me to be with my kids and not worrying about the 850 things I have on my list, because I know that they're scheduled, and if they're not scheduled, then they're in my queue, and I won't forget about them, and I'll get there. I still forget about stuff, but it's a lot easier to follow through and do the things I say I'm going to do.

00:18:22 - Megan Sumrell - So when you're thinking about where you are now and then looking back, and then now looking ahead, what are you excited about when you think about your future and what you are still learning and implementing?

00:18:35 - Steph Hochstetler - That's a really good question. I know I have just scratched the surface. Right. If I think about what planning looks like, I just did a yearly plan, annual planning. This year was the first year that I truly, truly did it. I kind of gone through the motions the previous year and to think about both for work, right, planning out, and I'm the person for our team that looks at all the channels of work and says, okay, we've decided we're launching four things in June. That's probably not feasible. So being able to leverage what I've learned in the Top program, project management wise and all of that, I've gone through project management training. It didn't quite click until I went through the Top.

00:19:26 - Megan Sumrell - And it's different because I've had it as well.

00:19:28 - Steph Hochstetler - It is different. Yeah.

00:19:29 - Megan Sumrell - I had the PMP certification and some principles are the same, but it's just different still at the same time.

00:19:36 - Steph Hochstetler - Yeah, it is. And when I think about how our team works and what we do and all of that, the concepts of Top and prioritization and all of that, really, again, it takes that book, project management concepts and makes them real and brings them to life. So, yeah, I think the potential is what's most exciting.

00:19:59 - Megan Sumrell - And so now you're doing more volunteer work than before. Yeah. And how does that feel?

00:20:05 - Steph Hochstetler - It's amazing. So in the Use program that I'm a part of, every time you take on a new role, you have to fill in a new form. And I have filled in, I think I'm up to nine in the last nine months. Each one takes a different amount of time, and I'm not doing all of them at the same time and whatever. But the reason I got involved with leadership in this program was to affect change from a diversity perspective, mostly so that my daughter, who's part of the program, would see herself in the leadership. And right now that's not the case. Most of the leaders look like her grandpa, which is awesome because he knows a lot and that's really cool and he cares a lot, but she doesn't see herself as often in those leadership. And that is what is important to me. And every time a new opportunity comes up, I think of it through that lens and being able to say, yes, I'm going to take that opportunity. No, I'm going to say, no thank you to that one. It's huge and the amount of time, it's crazy fitting it all in, but I don't feel like panicked and overwhelmed most of the time anymore, where it was the reverse before.

00:21:22 - Megan Sumrell - So if I were to meet you on the street for the first time today and hear everything that you juggled, I would instantly think, oh, my gosh, she must not have any time for herself. Can you answer the question today? What you do for fun?

00:21:34 - Steph Hochstetler - I do well, and I'm really lucky I found improv.

00:21:38 - Megan Sumrell - Improv? Yes.

00:21:39 - Steph Hochstetler - Yeah.

00:21:41 - Megan Sumrell - That sounds terrifying to me. I love that.

00:21:43 - Steph Hochstetler - You know what? That's why I signed up, to be honest. That's why I signed up for the class. It sounded awful, truly. And if you think about trying new things and getting comfortable, being uncomfortable, for me, there was no better training program than going through improv because you never know what's happening next. And so you kind of have to get comfortable being uncomfortable with the uncertainty. I mean, I still struggle with that, for crying out loud. I'm plenty anxious. I'm plenty anxious. And the other thing I really love about it I mean, it's ridiculous, right? We're grown up humans making stuff up, right? Playing pretend. It's ridiculous. So I laugh a lot, and then yeah, so improv is huge. It has also kept me human. That's the other thing I love about it. You have to feel to do it in a reasonable way. So that's the other part of it that I really like. But, yeah, just playing with the kids and having more time and all that and having quiet. I'm more aware now of when I need quiet and making sure I've got it. It's easier to do.

00:22:54 - Megan Sumrell - You're just such an inspiration. I don't know that much about the organization that you're working for, but would you like to take a couple of minutes to just share about that and let people know where they can learn more?

00:23:04 - Steph Hochstetler - Well, sure, I'd be thrilled to you.

00:23:07 - Megan Sumrell - Yeah, please do.

00:23:08 - Steph Hochstetler - Yes. So since 2019, girls have been able to join the younger ranks of Boy Scouts of America. So we now call it Scouts BSA, because it is more than just Boy Scouts, although I've learned, being involved that girls have been involved at older ages since the 60s. So that was also something fun that I got to learn. But the younger ages, the Cub Scout level, and then the younger Scouts levels. So it's a tremendous program. My brother is an Eagle Scout. My dad's been a Scout leader for a number of years. And you can see as an observer, kind of the impact of the program. But now being more involved from a leadership perspective and having the younger girls involved, and I watch with my Cub Scout. Right. That's what drives me to support the program and be a part of the program and hopefully influence part of the future of the program as well. She was so afraid the first time we camped out. She was terrified, but she did it. She earned her Whittling chip, which they get a pocket knife. She was terrified, but she did it. And that's why I stay involved. So you can go to Scouting.org and find more information. You can go to Beescout.org and find a scouting organization near you, whether it's the younger the pack level for the younger kids or the troop. There's also a venturing program which is focused on outdoor stuff. There's ships, which is I didn't know that either, but that's really cool. So, anyway, it's really amazing to be part of this national program but have a very local impact.

00:24:57 - Megan Sumrell - I love everything that you're doing, Steph. Thank you. You have such a full plate. Thank you for taking the time to.

00:25:03 - Steph Hochstetler - Be here today and just be very.

00:25:06 - Megan Sumrell - Honest about sharing your story here with the top program. It is a treat. I have loved watching your journey and I will continue to just look forward to seeing all the changes that are coming as well. Thank you so much for being here.

00:25:19 - Steph Hochstetler - Hey, pleasure, Megan. And thank you and your team, everybody, your encouragement has been massive, so I'm really grateful for everything that has come through Tops and the connections to other folks and all that I've learned. So keep trucking, just keep pushing is all I had to say about that.

00:25:41 - Megan Sumrell - Thanks, Steph.

00:25:42 - Steph Hochstetler - All right. Thank you.

00:25:46 - Megan Sumrell - Getting on top of all things The Pink Bee, organization, and productivity doesn't have to stop just because this episode is over. If you want one-tap access to all of my training and current top podcasts, go to the App Store or Google Play and download The Pink Bee app. It's one word ThePinkBee. It is jampacked with simple yet powerful tips and strategies to get you out of overwhelm and into harmony. And if you have a question you want me to cover on a future episode, go to iTunes and ask question in the podcast review section. And while you're there, don't forget to leave a five-star review.

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