By Janine Vanderburg, President/CEO, Joining Vision and Action


How does our changemaker team at JVA stay on task and accomplish so much for our clients? You’ve already heard from Collin and Nora; here are some favorite changemakers productivity hacks from the rest of our team.

Jill Iman, director of research and implementation science

In her role, Jill directs our research and evaluation work, and she also makes sure our products and services reflect the latest thinking and best practices. And she manages her team across two time zones. Her secret? Detailed lists.

“Write it down! I write everything down…to-do list the night before, to-do list the day of and detailed to-do lists for big projects (so instead of “write report,” it’s broken down into something that feels more manageable… “write descriptive demographic section, write outcomes section, write methods, etc. …)”

Erin Shaver, senior grantwriter

Erin rejoined JVA last year after an extended maternity leave and hiatus that included moving to Alaska. The mom of a third grader and a kindergartner, Erin has several things she does when those grant deadlines are looming.

“I don’t do push notifications for ANY APPS on my phone. I find that even for things like Facebook, in fact NOT using the app, but just going to Safari, and forcing myself to log in and out is that extra step that makes me not get distracted by it as much. So basically opposite of an app!

I have two albums that I always listen to when I can’t write/am stuck/need to get words on paper. They have been the same for years:

Devotchka “How It Ends” (local Denver band!)

Rodrigo y Gabriela, self-titled

The first songs I jam out, but by the end of each album, whatever I need is usually written. Something about the mix of instrumental to vocals and diversity of songs on each of these records seems to do the trick.”

Rolfe Larson, senior consultant for social enterprise and strategic and business planning

Rolfe juggles his significant client load at JVA with being a dad for his 9-year-old daughter. How does he stay on task?

“When I’m on deadline, I turn Wi-Fi off on my computer and completely turn off my phone.  Usually for two- to –three-hour blocks, then I take a walk, give myself five minutes to review emails/texts/voice mails for any crises, and go back at it!”

NOTE: I do this as well. But because I’m too often tempted to jump back online, I use, which prevents me from going online for a set session.

Aaron Schonhoff, quantitative research guru

Most days you’ll see Aaron poring over and crunching data to help our clients solve complex problems and to evaluate their impact. His tips?

“When I find myself having a mental block, my favorite tactic is to divert my thinking to something unrelated for a few moments. However, I often do not have much time, so I cannot allow myself to go down the rabbit hole of email or social media. So, I go to the wikipedia homepage to the article of the day. I read the summary at the top and often learn something new.

If by chance I am feeling lethargic while working, I simply get up and walk around for a few moments to give my eyes a break from the computer screen and to raise my heart rate a bit.”

Alaine Anderson, digital strategist and implementor

Alaine, the newest member of the JVA team, is technically savvy in digital marketing and provides us with her expertise to create and strategize across all platforms, including social media, email marketing, analytics and the website. Her tips?

Lists. Lists. Lists.

Not just any random assortment of items, all the projects, together. Seeing everything in one place allows me to sort my projects by importance, distinguish how much time I will need to devote to a project, and the projected timeline for completion.

I use one pen to originate the list and then a different colored pen to go through and make notes or star items of importance. As the list gets longer and I start crossing off more items, I remake the list. It’s therapeutic to see how much smaller the new list is, even as I am still adding new projects as they come in.


With any important task, time is of the essence. When I plug in my music, I tune everything else out and really drill into the work. It can’t be just any music, it must have a beat and it must not have words. Classical and techno are usually my go to. Nora provided an excellent infographic to use if you are confused about what’s appropriate for the type of work you do. 

Dealing with Emails

Emails come in with new projects and it’s not always reasonable to keep a handwritten version of those projects. As these new projects come in I always flag ones that have items that require my attention. As I complete those projects I remove the flag. This way the important emails are all sorted in one location and can be reviewed without having to scroll through all of my incoming emails.

The Clock Out Rule

It is easy to get wrapped up in work and not know when to shut off your brain. I have set up the ‘Clock Out’ rule for myself. Once I leave the building, I am done. The only exception is if I know a high-priority item needs to be completed during off hours.

Stress is a real killer and if you allow yourself to get too wrapped up in work you’ll be living in stress constantly. Sometimes it’s good to know when to turn it off and relax. I’m lucky to work in digital marketing where nothing I do is a life or death matter. The work will still be there the next day. This mental break after hours allows me to come to work refreshed and ready to power through my projects.

Lisa Cirincione, senior grantwriter

Lisa is legendary for her ability to put together highly technical and compelling government grant proposals that result in million dollar-plus awards for JVA clients.

“I always use the Focus view in Word when I’m writing.”

Christy Bergman, chief strategy officer

Christy balances her JVA role with being a mom of a preschooler and also serving as a partner at SVP Boulder. Her productivity hacks for getting her most important work done?

“Turn those things off (email, etc.) or commit to only checking at the top of the hour, move to a different location in a building, get up and walk around for five minutes (just saw another article on the importance of this in the New York Times). Do emails at beginning and end of the day only, etc. “

What are your most important tips? We love to read comments!