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Leading the way for productivity and well-being

Google productivity expert Laura Mae Martin (BSBA ’10) has written a practical guide for personal productivity and well-being.

If you search “productivity,” you ought to find Laura Mae Martin (BSBA ’10) in your Google results.

Martin is executive productivity advisor at Google and author of the new book “Uptime: A Practical Guide to Personal Productivity and Wellbeing” (Harper Business, 2024).

She began her career at Google after graduating from the Undergraduate Business Program at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. During her almost 14-year tenure at Google, she has worked in sales, product operations and event planning.

Today she coaches Google’s top executives on the best ways to manage their time and energy, and sends out a weekly productivity newsletter that reaches over 55,000 employees. She focuses on best practices for email management, time management, energy management and effective meetings.

She coined her book title, “Uptime,” as a new definition of productivity: “a holistic approach that matches intention to action in ways that are energizing instead of exhausting.”

“A lot of times productivity books are theoretical, big picture and business focused that have you delegate what you have to do to others,” says Martin. “I steered away from that. I wanted it to be practical – exactly what to do and how to do it. And show how you can live well while doing it.”

Google productivity expert Laura Mae Martin (BSBA ’10) has written a practical guide for personal productivity and well-being.

Martin is among the first women to write a book on productivity, something she found hard to believe since society demands so much from women. Her search uncovered that men wrote the top 25 productivity books.

“I’m concluding that females are just too busy being productive to write it down,” she says. “Women carry so much of the mental load.”

Martin, a mother of three working at a high-profile company, can relate to the mounting pressure to succeed and continuously produce results in the office and on the home front.

“People ask, ‘Why did you start doing all of this?’ It was really just to say, ‘I’m going to shrink everything I have to do, so I can do more things that I want to do,’” says Martin. “I really value my time outside work.”

Martin thought about her time at school as she began focusing on productivity.

“I went back to my time at UNC Kenan-Flagler,” she says. “I asked myself what time management tactics did I use then? What are skills I have developed that I wish I knew then?’”

Her time at UNC left a deep impact that still influences her work today. A native of Charlotte, Carolina was always her first choice and she had UNC Kenan-Flagler in her sights. As a member of the DECA Club in high school, Martin participated in mock business-plan competitions and interviews. From the start, she knew she wanted to major in business.

Martin also felt the pull of the UNC Kenan-Flagler community.

“The undergrad program at UNC Kenan-Flagler was smaller. I had a lot of good connections there,” she says. “That’s actually how I got a job at Google – through one of those connections.”

And those connections – with classmates and faculty – endure today, including being part of Tar Heels at Google, which is a big network of mostly UNC Kenan-Flagler alumni.

The connections are so important when settling – or resettling – into a place. Martin’s career has taken her to San Francisco, Ann Arbor, Chicago, back in Chapel Hill and now in Charlotte during her tenure with Google – and each time she sought out UNC Kenan-Flagler alumni in the area and felt their warm embrace.

“It’s been huge for me since graduating,” she says.

She’s also been back to UNC to recruit and give marketing presentations.

“If you met someone who went to school at UNC Kenan-Flagler, you know this is someone who takes their studies seriously but also knows how to have fun, how to support the basketball team. I feel like the type of people you meet from UNC Kenan-Flagler are instantly the type of people you can count on whether it’s for a business network or social network or just getting back in touch with what you loved about UNC and Kenan-Flagler.”

Getting productive at Google

Even with the best laid plans and background, a career rarely follows a straight line. After graduation, Martin joined Google in sales. A personality test revealed she was all wrong for sales, something she already felt in her heart. Instead, she ended up with a role that had her planning events. She was all about harmony, so it was a good fit, she says.

Google gives employees the freedom to pursue an internal “20% project” to fuel their passion. Martin began teaching her co-workers about effectively managing their email inboxes. Soon there was serious demand for her services and she was asked to create her own role and a productivity program at Google. She works one-on-one with executives at Google and runs the scalable Productivity@Google program for all employees.

Google also takes her advice on products like Gmail and Google Calendar to ensure they have the customers’ productivity in mind, too.

“I was really pushing for them to automatically mute chats, so you don’t get messages or pop ups when you’re focused,” she says. “Our products team always thinking like that, and I am another lens.”

And her book is the culmination of this evolution that resulted in Google’s productivity program.

Google productivity expert Laura Mae Martin (BSBA ’10) has written a practical guide for personal productivity and well-being.

“The book was really just a way to take all the work I’ve done internally and make it available outside of Google,” says Martin. She’s also shared her expertise with the media, including The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, and on her website.

Being mindful of people’s time is personal for Martin. She and her husband have three kids under the age of 4.

“They’re big Tar Heels fans,” she says.

They enjoy spending time outside – at the beach, in the mountains, hiking. Martin is an avid reader who belongs to four book clubs. She loves to cook and try new recipes.

So, time is precious. That’s why “Uptime” is of particular importance for her. It’s for anyone who has a to-do list, which is everyone, she says.

Martin wants people to remember that they should recognize themselves as a whole person and not as a separate person at home and another at work or school. Above all, she hopes everyone finds the balance they want and need.