Jane’s tried and tested top 10 productivity hacks…

Hey there lovely readers, how’s your year been thus far? Stupendous? Tremendous? Crazy? Lazy? My first half had us spinning wildly out of control before finally settling into a state of gentle chaos – triggering a determined focus on streamlining productivity and restoring work/life balance (roll on holidays!). And I bet I’m not alone.

Thing is, after years spent dedicated to finding ways to do more and be more productive, it’s no secret that we’re all now trying to do the opposite and regain precious time for ourselves.

One area I want to simplify is work. You too? Well you’ve come to the right place baby ‘cos I’ve been sleuthing and here’s my top 10 for snatching back precious moments. Hats off to you if you’re already implementing!

Jane’s top 10 time reducing productivity hacks:

1) Create email templates. If sending similar pitches or responses, creating a basic template for each will save you endless writing and editing. My team love mine so much, they’ve adopted them too.

2) Include talking points when sending meeting invites. Ask others joining the meeting to do the same and your agenda will be all set before entering the conference room.

3) Offer options. When asking someone for a meeting and before asking when they’re available, offer options for times that you are—then let them pick. Chances are one will work.

4) Keep a physical ‘to do’ list on your desk. Great for jotting down interrupting thoughts that can derail your focus. Check in at the end of end each day and prioritise for the next morn.

5) Stay off social media. No matter how tempting, way too easy to wander down that rabbit hole and fritter away hours while the work piles up.

6) Grab a daily snap shot of worldly activity. Use that social media catch up time to pop on over to LinkedIn instead for a quick learning session. While there, share an item or two aligned with your expertise. Double whammy – snap learning while promoting your personal brand!

7) Pop the personal mobile on Airplane Mode. Check in only during breaks (unless crucial to your job). Super for avoiding personal distractions.

8) Colour block your calendar. One colour signalling ‘I’m off the air for this period’ for deadline driven projects, another for critical ‘must do’s’ and items directly related fulfilling your role requirements, another for administration and so on. Stick to the same colours for viewing consistency! Works a treat, so much so, our entire company adopted this approach for quick productivity/billable hour reference.

9) Offer solutions. To cut down on back-and-forth emails, don’t send one without offering a solution to the question you’re proposing. Make it easier on everyone for your people will appreciate it.

10) Download Grammarly. If you’re not the best with punctuation or words—or even if you are and want to take editing out of the equation—this app is genius. You’re welcome!

This one’s a bonus – Say no! If you don’t have time to help with a project this week, don’t offer.

Any fantabulous hints to add to the list? Feel free to drop them into the comments box! Meanwhile, stay tuned for more!

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    Love a good podcast? Five faves right here…

    Happy Sunday lovely readers. Now I have a question – what do you do to make the most of your commute to and from work? Chat with friends (hands free of course)? Argue with talk back radio? Harmonise with the Bieb? If your a public transport queen, are you trawling Instagram? Playing solitaire? Reading? To while away my commute I loved to play Backgammon on my mobile device – until I discovered podcasts!

    Grammar Girl, Good Job BRAINStuff You Should Know, Stuff to Blow Your Mind, We Have Concerns, Serial, WTF, My Dad Wrote a Porno, (Hilarious!), The Dinner Party Download. The list goes on! Head phones in, 20 minute verbal mind snacks, screen stare replaced with window view – heaven.  Podcasts can be entertaining, interesting, inspiring – and they don’t require data! Every now and then I even tap into a serious fix of working girl motivation. Nothing like them for starting the day on a positive note!

    Girls, here’s a pick of the latest, greatest, best podcasts for women. Upload ‘Casts’ or similar app, down load these babies and you’ll be enjoying your commute just that little bit more.

    1. Ted Talks Daily

    We all love a good Ted Talk for a little inspiration and when better to listen to one than before you start the work day? The Ted Talks Daily podcast updates every weekday with the latest talks in audio. Topics for everyone, from spirituality to feminism, Ted Talks has it all. Download one for your commute and spark the best conversation topics! Listen here.

    2. She Means Business

    Carrie Green, author of She Means Business and founder of the Female Entrepreneur Association, shares even more of her experiences on life as a female boss on her podcast, She Means Business. Just like her book, her podcast will inspire you to turn dreams into reality and give you the inspiration to achieve anything that you set your mind to. A must listen podcast for we Career Girls! Listen here.

    3. She Did It Her Way

    Here, Amanda Boleyn chats with a different successful female entrepreneur every week to seek their perspective on the world of successful business women. Filled with women sharing their own personal experiences and providing real insight into what it’s like for a woman starting her own business. Packed with advice, coping tools and first-hand experiences, this podcast will definitely inspire you to kick-start the day with positivity and determination. Listen here.

    4. The Receipts Podcast

    If you’re looking for something that will ease you into the morning, you’ll love The Receipts Podcast. Four women who are up for talking about any topic thrown at them, discussing anything from relationships to tricky situations. The perfect, light-hearted podcast. Listen here.

    5. Happiness Podcast

    stressful day at work? The Happiness podcast is sure to uplift you and help you regain trust in yourself to create the happiness you deserve. The perfect self-help podcast to listen to when your spirits need raising, helping you to destress and remember what is important! Listen here.

    Tell me about your fave podcasts? Drop a comment below and we’ll add them to the list. Happy listening!

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      Chosen my flower-girl frock

      Hello lovely readers, a tiny plea. Let’s just archive this endless rhetoric around Marriage Equality in the annals of history and vote YES ok? ‘Cos I’ve already picked my flower-girl frocks for my gay buddy’s weddings and I don’t wanna have to fight for a refund!

       

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        Finding ‘mindfulness’

        Hello there lovely readers, now put that device down and listen up. Having trouble doing that? Well today’s blog is all about a whole new, rapidly growing industry focused on helping you do so. Remember the days of Eckart Toll’s ‘The Power of Now’ extolling the virtues of conscious awareness’? Familiar with Yogis and meditation gurus banging on about the virtues of meditation for stilling the mind? Same premise, new buzzword ‘mindfulness’.

        Did you know that goldfish now have a greater attention span than we do? Seven seconds while those sweet little suckers have eight!. This due to our febrile attempts to accomplish bigger, greater, more – from the moment we rise, to the second we lay our weary heads upon our lavender spritzed sleep inducing pillows. Yep, time to focus on stilling the mind.

        Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve a whole bunch of chattering monkeys banging away in my head. The same critters who reach a crescendo during post Yoga Shavasana where, instead of focusing on breathing, palm trees and shimmering water, I find myself mentally singing ‘Old MacDonald had a…haeeey macarena!!’

        Seems the only time I was able to quell the monkeys was during time spent wandering around France, no deadlines (other than grabbing a baguette before the village closed for afternoon siesta), no expectations, just me, alone with those busy, busy thoughts. Until the day I looked up to take note of a street name on a wall to mark my way home and discovered a mosaic space invader. My quest to find them all (see Space Invaders) soon brought a whole new world into focus.

        Before I knew it I found myself marvelling at dappled sunlight through the plane tree leaves, the delicate patterns inside the Arc de Triomphe, the Meccano struts of the Eiffel tower; the weight of massive curtain tassels in the Palace Opera.

        I smiled at the pure joy on a little girl’s face as birds alighted on her seed proffered hand. Joined the infectious giggles of twin baby girls, identically attired in white leggings and camel puffer jackets, pushing boats across the pond. (With just a slight distraction as I secretly coveted their impeccably attired mother’s Louis Vuitton cross body patent purse). Tuned into the click of boules. Laughed at the disconnect as a rabble of folk with an assortment of instruments bashed out a tune only they recognised. Cried while listening to the pure notes of a choir in a back street Synagog. Ate a whole bowl of warm, freshly picked market cherries just to feel their burst of sweetness. Sensed the atmospheric feel of impending rain, revelled in the smell of ozone, wet tarmac. Nailed it lovely readers! Mindfulness.

        Thing is, we can’t just pootle off on sojourns to escape the everyday busyness of life as we know it today.  We also know we can’t keep clinging to the pretty roundabout horse, losing our sense of inner harmony without consequence. Ask Arianna Huffington (author, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, now owned by AOL) who experienced first hand the detriment of trying to do too much for too long and, after recovering from collapse, now advocates for getting off that goddamned horse. So too Lisa Messenger, founder of the Collective, Camilla (of the Flowing Caftan genre) and so many more.

        So what to do to regain our balance? Well darlinks, you can actually app your way to work-life balance and, being queen of apps, I thought I’d build you a little toolbox of said helpers to get you started:

        Eight fabulous apps for stilling the mind:

        Antisocial: On average, people touch their smart phones 2,617 times a day. This app tracks how much time you spend on your device and helps you become more mindful about your usage.

        Buddhify: Eleven hours of meditations designed to squeeze a little peace into every part of your day, from the start of day until you hit the hay.

        Bloom: Keep your workaholic tendencies in check by turning your most-loved picks and music into mini-movies that you can schedule to appear during your day; along with pre-made reminders – ‘time for a glass of water sport!’

        Thrive Away: Arianna Huffington’s new organisation ‘Care of Thrive Global’ comes with an app that allows you to take a proper vacation from your inbox. Thrive Away let’s senders know your not at your desk and automatically deletes all new emails while you’re relaxing.

        OffTime: blocs apps, filters out notifications and sets up auto-replies to stop your smartphone gatecrashing your creative concentration or special moments with loved ones.

        Pocket: If you’re prone to falling down internet rabbit holes, this beauty puts articles, tweets, videos – pretty much anything – aside for viewing when you’re not on the job. Save links straight from your browser for the commute home.

        Pause: Set a time, pop in those ear buds and do what you’re told by this audiovisual app aiming to bring mindfulness to your day. Big circles, slow motions, my personal fave!

        Habitbull: Habits can both enhance or damage your life and this sweet little app will help you make or break a few more. It deploys an army of strategies to keep you across your habits, from generating graphs to displaying progress and encouraging you to set specific goals

        Enjoy!! And if you’ve any you’d like to share, please drop a line in the comments.


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          Magical moments…beautiful words

          As you know, my lovely readers, I’m rather partial to curious expressions, particularly those that capture the essence of something quite extraordinary in one single word. This week? Rain.

          I love getting caught in the rain, don’t you? The wind driven kind that renders your umbrella obsolete. Squalls that result in straggly hair, running mascara, clinging shirts, squelchy shoes. Downpours that inspire an urge to jump in puddles, splash along gutters, swing from lamp posts singing; well I don’t quite go that far (unless fuelled with fortification). But I do lift my face to capture raindrops on my tongue, pause to inhale the earthy fragrance of damp soil, wet Tarmac, the essence of ozone. Mindfulness, being in the moment, call it what you will, just one of life’s little indulgences.

           

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            Why thank you!

            Hello my lovely readers, I bet you’re just starving for more career hints huh? Well, although this post applies to all areas of our lives, today a focus on ensuring you are memorable when in the job market. We’re talking the power of a ‘Thank You’.

            Call me a nag, but while coaching my clients to build targeted personal branding, social media marketing and job search strategies to land their next job with speed, the one thing I tend to hammer home is the simple art of sending a ‘thank you’. Post network meeting, after an interview, in response to skills endorsements on LinkedIn, a network connection, a favour. ‘Thank you.’ So easy, so oft overlooked, yet oh so valuable.

            You see, the human brain is programmed to compress experiences into three phases: The beginning, the peak and the end. In the case of a networking conversation or job interview, we tend to put more focus on creating a fabulous first impression, yet how we follow-up can play a critical role in how we’re remembered afterwards. In this era of e-communication, a thoughtful thank you note matters more than ever and costs us nothing but a couple of moments. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of a post-interview thank you.

            Five steps to crafting the perfect thank you note…

            Put it on paper

            It’s easy to send a quick thank-you note via email right after you leave an interview or network chat however if your inbox is anything like mine, that email is apt to get lost in the pile of electronic communications, especially if it’s not urgent. Why not cut through that clutter by sending a small paper note? Writing on paper will also have the benefit of forcing you to be more thoughtful about what you’re writing.

            Make it personal

            A thank you note can be forgettable or memorable. Instead of a generic “thank you for your time,” why not tell the person what you specifically appreciated about your meeting. Were there particular qualities in the encounter that stood out in your mind? A moment that demonstrated why you would want to work there? Something you’d like the interviewer/networker to know you took away from the conversation? Assume others are also sending a thank you note, and personalise yours, so it stands out as unique. Oh! And if you’re sending more than one thank you note, take the extra time to make each one unique for we can easily sound disingenuous if our recipients compare notes and realise we took the easy way out and copied/pasted.

            Be real but be neat

            Writing out your note in longhand is a small window into your personality. Penmanship may be a dying art, therefore ensuring your writing is legible and neat will help put your best (type)face forward. I pride myself on my handwriting however when in a hurry, have been known to write in brail. Hurried chicken scratch writing won’t reflect well on you. Take care especially to make sure your signature is readable, so they know who sent the note.

            Anyone you missed?

            A thank you should not be reserved for the people with the loftiest titles. Who else helped you? A receptionist who worked on the meeting’s scheduling? Current employees with whom you privately chatted to get a sense of the workplace culture? Take a moment to thank these people as well. Such sweet gestures can often lead to these connections putting in a good word for you. Sometimes it’s people on the periphery that can make all the difference in a close decision. Case in point – the first person my old boss used to turn to for an opinion on someone he’d just interviewed was our Receptionist, followed by the Personal Assistants.

            Still in doubt?

            I recently read a debate between recruiters in a LinkedIn group where one had asked the question ‘What methodology do you use to help make the decision between two perfect candidates?’ The overwhelming response was ‘The first one who bothers to send me a thank you for the interview.’

            Oh! And thank you for reading this post! Have any fabulous ‘thank you’ outcomes of your own to share? Why not drop them in the comments box?

             

             

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              Let’s talk Bucket Lists baby

              Hello lovely readers, on a lighter note, dated a guy recently and talk turned to Bucket Lists where we discovered that No.1 on his list might possibly be solved with No. 72 on mine. Talk again turned to Bucket Lists over a luncheon I was hosting yesterday where my guests found themselves revisiting their own. For each accomplishment, the perfect excuse for a toast! I wrote the below post back in 2015 and, given we’re all determined to continue making the most of what this life offers, thought I’d inspire you by re-sharing: 

              What’s the one thing you dream of achieving?

              And what are you doing about it? I’m talking Bucket Lists ladies and gentlemen – have you developed yours? And are you steadfastly ticking those goals off?

              A friend recently gifted me a fabulous little book for recording my Bucket List and, list lover extraordinaire that i am, I did exactly that. Rewarded myself by reliving and recording the goals I’d already achieved, then noted the things I’m planning to do next. A smattering below – four achieved, two in the queue – a tad of guessing for you…

              • #34 Learn to dive
              • #96 Sing at Burning Man
              • #53Learn a language
              • #16 Dance at Rio Carnival
              • #66 Explore Europe
              • #70 Skydive

              “What’s one thing you dream of achieving? You know  – what’s on your list?”

              A question posed by Sebastian Terry a ‘professional list-ticker’ key note speaker, motivator and adventurer. And has that guy kicked some classy goals! For example:

              • #23 Deliver a baby
              • #27 Minister a wedding
              • #43 Volunteer at an Orphanage in Uganda
              • #58 Skydive naked
              • #79 Live with a tribe for one week
              • #98 Crash a red carpet

              The more adventurous items mostly ticked, Sebastian’s list now has a more philanthropic core and, as Ambassador for Camp Quality, Alzheimer’s Australia and Make-A-Wish, he’s already helped to raise more than $200,000 for them (originating from #4 – raise $100,000 for Camp Quality).

              Thing is, everyone has at least one thing they have to do before they die. Some even have a list. But how many goals and dreams on this list are actually achieved?

              According to a UK poll, 53% of us want to travel the world (with one in four hankering for a safari trip and one in five busting to trek Peru’s Inca Trail), 31% want to learn a new skill, 30% a road trip and 24% a new hobby. Something you’ve been itching to do but never got around to?

              One day I would like to…

              My Mum often pre-empts with ‘one day I will…‘ but never does. I say to her it’s never too late! A 92 year old man recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s just skydived; an 85 year old woman made history as the oldest person to scale Mt Kilimanjaro; a 91 year old debuted her flying skills and piloted a plane. Makes a bus trip around Tasmania look like a mere doddle now doesn’t it?

              So what about you? Whether your goals are as tame as mine or as adventurous/philanthropic as Sebastian’s, why not commit them to paper…then commit to action. You might even indulge yourself with a My Bucket List book to record your goals. Still easier said than done? Dr Alice Boyes, author of The Anxiety Toolkit recommends the following:

              1. Surround yourself with people who are actively pursuing their bucket list
              2. Make a list of goals you’d like to achieve this year
              3. Mix big and small goals, and include harder and easier variations
              4. Put a little time aside each week to work on your bucket list
              5. Let your bucket list reflect your own personality, quirks and interests

              Oh and did I tell you, Sebastian has a website and app 100things where you can share your goals, communicate with each other and do things together. He also organises trips to help you achieve the more challenging – trip to the Antarctica anyone? Now go for it!

              What’s on your bucket list? What are you most proud for accomplishing so far?

              Bucket List

              And no, I didn’t satisfy that #1 with my #72…not this time 🙂

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                Dear Kent…

                My lovely readers, humour me as I bring a piece of my soul to the blog today. You see, ten years ago on this day, the man with whom I’d spent 30 years of my life died. His Spirit continues to speak to those whom he held most dear, and I feel the need to respond. Raise a glass and giggle, cringe, relate or let my thoughts simply wash over you as we drink a toast to the late great ‘Telly’.

                Dear Kent…

                A heart attack, swift and sudden. Sadly, you didn’t go out in a blaze of glory in the sack as you’d always hoped. A relief though! Might have been a tad awkward given you’d just met your new love. A beautiful woman, shame you didn’t get to explore her potential.

                What a life we had ‘eh? Franz Josef flirting at 19, married at 21, growing up together; years of pure joy, the last few not so as I found my voice and you fought for yours. The search for mutual ground too hard, a sad parting, both of us mourning the loss of our closest friend. Me. You. Twelve months later, you died.

                Impressed with your timing? We lost your sister Beth in 1977, Poppa ’87, your Mum ’97 and you, at the tender age of 52, in 2007. Smarty pants! Does this trend only apply to blood relatives? Much too young; should have seen our older friends scrambling to reform their drinking, smoking and dietary habits!

                We promised we’d never go to sleep on an argument and I’m sad that we didn’t fulfil that agreement. But hey! While this earthling struggled with her guilt, her fears; courage won, desires lost, you sir moved on to that ethereal place. I know this for we felt you all around us.

                Bloody cigarette smoke for god’s sake! None of my neighbours indulged yet after you passed you heralded your presence by filling my home with the damn stuff. I’d pat the sofa and make space for you, and you’d stay awhile or for a fleeting moment; the only time Patou our little Burmese miaowed. She was blind, but didn’t need sight to feel the spirit. Those visits are rare these days, but that’s ok.

                And what’s with the boating knots huh? Jenny and Ross continue to untangle those suckers from their timber louvre cords over permanently closed windows. Keep at it though for it amuses and keeps you close in their hearts. We’ve since travelled Europe together, a coin in the Trevi fountain for you; candles lit in remembrance in every goddamned cathedral. Citing your ‘It’s beer o’clock somewhere in the world’ as we supped first drink of the day. Religiously toasting you at sunset as you asked me to, knowing you’d be thinking of me too. Oh! And Rossie’s now a granddad! I know right? Makes the coolest one! A total bruiser that kid is too!

                You’ll be chuffed to know I sold your beloved Bay Cruiser boat the ‘Sea Imp’ to the Tasmanian Maritime University where they restored her to her former glory just as you’d hoped to do. Funds went to your nephew. Wasn’t what our wills requested but I knew that’s what you’d want. The gesture thwarting his attempt to sue me for our house. Bless!

                And dear sweet Bret, fellow skipper who helped you sail Sea Imp to Brisbane. The man became my rock during the tougher times and, 17 years my junior; poor devil consistently fought the ‘cougar’ label on my behalf. We made a good team for five years before finally casting off our own anchors. Reasons, Seasons, Lifetimes. He’s happily married now.

                You’d also be proud of me for finding the courage to live on the coasts of Italy and France, our favourite countries, for six months. Alone. To grieve, write, reconcile; each evening, finding a spot to observe that sunset and think of you. Without fail, there was always a yacht on the horizon. Cheeky man, we always knew you were sailing the high seas.

                More candles lit, plus one for John Mac, another for my friend Moo whom we also lost in the year of my sabbatical. Putting a flame to a candle for you in London’s St Paul’s Cathedral with your cousin David and Helen, my long-standing moroseness finally lifted, and I was ready to come home.

                Ten years on, so many frogs kissed, a few with whom I fell a little in love, one providing my ‘forever person’ benchmark. Ironically a cheeky, fun, loving, true gentleman. A replica of you, my Tarzan, sans the habits that tore us apart and that Tom Selleck look you totally rocked.

                Poppa Lyons passed, but not before we witnessed the septuagenarians renewing their wedding vows. The love in the room was palpable that day. So too our beloved mentor Trevor, ‘Mon Capitaine’ now with you on the high seas, Beverley and Heaton as well.

                Knowing how much you loved your technology, you’d be seriously annoyed to know you’re missing out on the rapid advancements in this space too. Watson, IoT (Internet of Things) the font of all knowledge and connectivity; movies, TV programs and music now streamed directly to our ‘smart’ devices. Phone books, maps, nah! Remember how I’d call you from random parts of the city where I was usually hopelessly lost asking for directions? Google Maps is now our friend. Minuscule button phones now pocket-sized computers driving our connectivity and with apps catering to our every whim. The Dick Tracey wrist watch on steroids. Everything you imagined and would now be relishing.

                Social Media too! Web sites where we talk, share imagery, create discussions and obtain instantaneous global awareness and opportunity to help or intervene. Suspect you’d have been king of Facebook!

                A female Prime Minister, a Black American President, Donald Trump currently in the seat (yes seriously!). Gay Marriage legalised (given you championed LGBTI rights, you’d be furious to know our Government is holding back). Items and artificial body parts being 3D printed, genetic re-engineering, artificial intelligence rapidly advancing, the first driver less car due for release next year.

                But most importantly dear man, you continue to be loved; our close mutual NZ and Aussie friends and family remain a huge part of my life, the stories we share now legendary as we toast yet again, the anniversary of your departure. We miss you, sir. Your humour, your compassion for the underdog, the love you bestowed upon your closest and dearest. And the love you had for me, for us. In memory xx

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