Are you really busy?

This morning I was running around like a headless chook (as usual),  I’ve managed to do my exercise (tick),  get the lunches ready (tick), tidy the house (tick) dropped the kids on the school walking bus (tick) and now I’m at work and my mind is buzzing.  I have about 20 screens open on my computer (literally), although I have two screens so surely that’s not too bad?  I have every social platform open, plus a few other websites and my personal email.  Then my work email, plus my work messaging system.  Powerpoint, Word and Excel are all open with a least one file on each (Excel has two), and the media player is on because i started to watch a video then got distracted.

There’s pinging and popping coming from several devices and my to do list is buried under a pile of…who knows what…

Phew…I’m exhausted just writing about it.

Suddenly I’m hearing little whisperings in my head….I think it’s Emma.  Yep,  its Emma.

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a seminar at work, led by Emma Grey from WorkLifeBliss on the 7 types of busy.   I loved it.  OK, so first confession is that I was already a fan of Emma’s,  I’ve been following her blog for a long time now and completed her 15min Challenge program.  So I was super excited when I had the opportunity to attend this session through my work.

Whilst there is so many things in today’s hyperdriven culture that we can’t control,  there are also a lot of things that we can…and sometimes we dig our own holes (well…she didn’t exactly say that but that’s totally what I do…I’m a great digger).

Anyway, since that call, “Emma” has been showing up quite a lot in my conscious, reminding me of some of the tips and tricks I should perhaps be following.   Like every “good conscious” does,  she’s sitting on my shoulder reminding me about the importance of being focused,  and not multi-tasking so much…because frankly, pretty much NO ONE is a good multi-tasker.

I remember a friend talking about going for a job interview as a Air Traffic Controller once.   And part of the preliminary testing was giving the candidates four different exams,  then each time the buzzer went, they had to change exams,  PLUS,  there were also some verbal questions which were randomly thrown over the loud speaker.  It is designed to test how well your brain can effectively multi-task, picking up exactly where you left off from an exam 10min earlier.   Needless to say, they failed that test, and I think most of us would.

Right now, Emma is telling me to shut down some of the apps on my computer.  To find that to-do list and change it to a “could do” list…and find those big hitter items which I really actually need to get done…So… now I’ve set myself a timer. 30min on the first task before I moved onto the next one.   Tick.   Next.   Oh my goodness,  i suddenly feel so much better.  All the overwhelm I had been feeling earlier has started dropping away.  I feel like I am back in the drivers seat and in control (and we all know how much I love control).

So, thank you mini Emma, for turning up again and getting me back on track with your little tips and tricks.  Of course, Evil Claire on my other shoulder (who shalt not be named) is now weeping because we haven’t checked facebook in over an hour…she’s not happy…but we’ll talk about her another day….

claire2

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Stop making excuses…

parttimeThis morning I stopped myself mid sentence,  because I was about to break one of my golden rules.

You see… when I first started working part-time,  I felt really guilty when I was leaving the office before everyone else or when I couldn’t join a meeting because it was outside my agreed hours.   I had heard so many stories of other part time workers ending up working on their days off and late at night to catch up on commitments,  that I was determined to set good habits right from the start.   But I found myself constantly trying to explain myself and then feeling guilty (I swear I saw my full time colleagues rolling their eyes at me and I wanted to prove I wasn’t a slacker)

“I’m really so sorry I can’t get that work done,  I have to go pick the kids up from childcare, and then tonight my husband is away and I won’t be able able to get this done until Monday” 

“You’ve suggested a meeting on Wed, but I’m afraid I work part time and I don’t work on Wed,  I could do it if we really have to but in the morning I take my toddler to swimming, so I really can’t do that time”.  

I felt constantly guilty.

Then, someone gave me some great advice which I implemented immediately and it made the world of difference…stop giving unnecessary explanations.  Even when you work full time,  you can’t complete every job or attend every meeting, you have to make choices.   The discussion should not be about whether you work part time or full time, or what your commitments are outside of work,  it is about prioritising what needs to be done in the time that you have available.

And so I did.  Simply as that.  And it changed everything.

I’m not hiding or pretending to be someone I’m not.   And sometimes, I do have to pull out my family card and lay it on the table.   But mostly,  if I stop and think before I speak…I realise that what I’m doing outside of work is really not relevant or the point.  When work needs to be done by a deadline,  which I can’t achieve,  I work with stakeholders to re-arrange priorities or push out deadlines…not “because I work part time” but simply because the goal cannot be achieved in the timeframe provided.

Of course, I am fortunate enough to work in a flexible work environment where part time work is not uncommon.  But I think this one simple change helped not only to shape my perception, but also change the working culture around me.  Because when I’m not blaming part time work for not getting things done,  no-one else is either.

This one little tip I think has really helped me to drop some of the guilt around working part time,  which, quite frankly,  I carry enough of already…so this morning when I went to say  “unfortunately I can’t do the meeting on Wed because it is my day off”…I stopped myself midsentence and said instead ” unfortunately I can’t do the meeting on Wed….how does Thurs sound? or I’m free on Friday morning, what works for you?”.  Simple.

claire2

I totally need a wife…

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I was lying in bed this morning reading a magazine and drinking my tea (I know…blissful, right!), and stumbled upon an article by Annabel Crabb in Marie Claire about women needing wives.   Now, I don’t get on my soap box very often about women’s issues and I really don’t want to start complaining (which incidentally was the other article I read about in the magazine, but hey we’ll talk about that another day) but geez did this hit a hot button for me.

Oh my goodness, how I could do with a wife!

It really is incredible when you think how much women in the workplace has changed over the last 50 years, yet men in the workplace has not shifted much at all.   Pretty much every woman I know is the one who has made some compromise on her work in order to juggle her children.   And I have never thought about it in the context that Crabb presented.     I do feel sometimes like I am working with one hand tied behind my back (literally, sometimes, like the day I presented a plan during a teleconference whilst simultaneously holding a bowl for my son to spew in…again, a story for another day).

When my husband needs to work late or travel overseas, it is one quick phone call to the household manager (e.g me) and so it is done. Yet, when I had to travel recently for work, it was a major production, there were spreadsheets, child co-ordination systems and incredible pre-planning (on my part).

No wonder women find it so hard to get ahead.

I can’t sit here and blame my husband. I do work slightly less hours and have an incredibly flexible workplace and boss. And at least in part, it is my fault. Yep, I confess, I’m a control freak and there is a part..deep down inside of me…that feels proud when I manage to successfully juggle it all.   Mission accomplished. I am woman hear me roar…all that!

But this morning I imagined a world where I came home to a beautiful clean house with food smells wafting from the oven. The washing done, folded and put away.  Where my children had been picked up from school and cared for by someone I love and trust.   Where if I needed to work late I could just do that, instead of mentally trying to work out when I might have an hour free that I could squeeze in that last bit of work (10pm perhaps?).   Would I be more successful at work?   Would I be happier?

Ok..time to wake up, ‘cause that ain’t happening.   However, perhaps it is time for us to revisit priorities in our house. Maybe it is time for me to let go on some things and push a bit harder on others, and not let the guilt eat at me. Maybe things have shifted a little too much out of my favour.

I don’t have a wife…but I have a husband and a family…who are pretty awesome, and capable and amazing (just like me!!)…so maybe they could do a little more to help even things out so that we are all capable of succeeding.

claire2

My personal cheerleader…

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I’ve talked before about some of the bad managers I have had during my career… like Teflon,  or the manager who threatened to throw her laptop at me (and I haven’t even written about “the aggressor” yet).  But mostly, I have had the pleasure of working under some pretty amazing, influential and inspiring managers.

I believe Managers are the single biggest influence in your workplace.  Doesn’t matter where you work or what you do,  the person you work for has the power to truly engage you in what you do,  or make you walk away from an awesome project.   And it is not easy.  When I was a Manager,  I suddenly realised how hard the job is (I spent so many years thinking “I’m going to be such a good boss, just give me the reigns and I’ll run this joint”), then you realise just how different every employee is, the bureaucracy that Managers often have to deal with and how many ridiculous curve balls Managers are thrown on a daily basis.  And in the social age… the manager role is becoming even more complex, as businesses become more open and collaborative.

So what has bubbled to the top in my experience?

My personal favourite leaders are calm and collected (to counter my sometimes passionate rollercoaster riding),  they listen way more than they speak (they need to, with me on their team!),  they empower and trust me (let me loose with an objective and the freedom to achieve it) and most of all,  they make me feel like I’m amazeballs.

That last point is often the most important for me.  That regular reassurance that I’m on the right track.  The constructive suggestions to support my momentum.  The faith that I can do it,  even when I don’t believe that I can.  The willingness to overlook some of my weaknesses because they can see my strengths.    Like your own personal cheerleader.

And it can’t all be about work.  A great Manager knows when to ask how things are going outside of work,  is tuned into your tone on a bad day and gives you the support and space when you need it.   This has happened to me recently and I can’t tell you how much that meant to me, and the commitment I gave back to work in return was ten fold.

Just like everything in life,  it doesn’t always happen this way.  And, as I’ve said before,  working under some bad Managers gave me skills I may never have learnt if I hadn’t been forced into it sometimes.   So I try to see it as a win:win situation,  bad manager = great, what can I learn from this experience, what new skills can I develop from turning this challenge into an opportunity?..and when a great Manager comes along,  I take every opportunity to learn from them, grow and hopefully progress.

If you’re a Manager,  are you helping your team to thrive the hard way or the easy way today?

Social Communication – I’ve finally found my thing!

 

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As I’ve mentioned before,  being digitally savvy has never actually been my thing.  I’m not a socially born millennial and for years I watched in confusion as my sister designed her first My Space page and then kept telling me I should get onto Facebook while I shrugged and said “nah..don’t really get that stuff”.    Over time,  I slowly made my way into the online world and through my marketing and comms roles at work was forced to get my head around all this whole social malarkey.

So then, when I finally looked under the covers, when I started to understand…I had an epiphany…this…this is what I have been destined to do the whole time…and I never even knew it!!

Yesterday, I was trying to dig out tips and tricks about writing effectively for social media, and I was once again reminded that there were so many things I felt like I had been doing “wrong” all my life,  which turn out to be doing it “right”, when it comes to being effective in online communications, proving once and for all that this is where I am meant to be.

For example:

Write like you speak – BAH! totally!  is there any other way? I mean seriously…I’ve always written exactly like I speak. If you meet me…this is is what I sound like!  (yep, all those exclamation marks are required, my voice gets very excited).  I spent the first years of my working life, trying to restrict my writing to a much more formal corporate voice.  Going back over emails and taking out exclamation marks (sad but true) and keeping the tone more serious.

Keep it simple and short – woohoo… gosh I wish someone told my Uni Lecturers this.  Back a long long time ago when I was at Uni,  there was no such thing as social media (I know…now I feel really old).  Words like “simple” and “concise’ were thrown back at me like they were a bad thing. But why keep droning on when you made your point in the first paragraph or the first sentence?  I loved editing others people’s essays, cutting down all the extra information that wasn’t necessary to make their point.  And now,  short and snappy communications are king.

The style should be casual over formal – and guess what,  grammar isn’t so important.  Mum…I’m so so sorry, I know you will be shaking your head at this one.  But I was always a failure when it came to correct grammar and spelling.   And now, in the social world, it doesn’t matter so much.  Sure,  you don’t want to look like you never actually went to school, so a little bit of structure is probably a good idea.  But the days of strict and formal grammatically correct sentences are fading before our eyes.  Woop woop.

Write human to human – Instead of a long formal written piece, a monologue or like someone lecturing at you.. Social is a CONVERSATION,  you write like you are talking to your best friend (tick) and guess what…people can write back!   It completely changes the style of our communications.

And this might sound like a complete contradiction on everything I just said,  but there is one awesome feature about social communications which I love the most-

Be yourself – Can I be anything else??   if you were reading this blog and thinking “but I love formal communications, I don’t like writing like I talk, I don’t think social media is for me”.  You’d be wrong!  because the wonderful thing about the online world, is that you can always find like minded people.  Your Tribe.  So if your style is a little…well…old school… don’t try to be someone your not, just be yourself and someone out there will understand and appreciate it.

So, what are you waiting for?  Dive in and see what you find under the covers today…

Being fair doesn’t mean being equal

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I was watching an interview on TV today about women working from home instead of in the office once they have had children (revolutionary topic!?!?).

It reminded me how fortunate I am working for a company which has provided a flexible working environment which has changed from working full time in the office, to full time at home and pretty much every combo of them both in between throughout my career. Whilst I have been afforded this luxury, I know that not every workplace can be this flexible and on the flip side, there are some employees who exploit the flexibility provided to them. Making it a very tricky subject.

In the interview today they also talked about how other workers often look unfavorably upon women with children being given flexibility that they don’t feel like they are afforded.  Like the non-smoker who curses the smokers who get extra breaks, there are always those who will strike out with “..that’s not fair”.  Infact, I remember watching some of my colleagues coming into work at 9.30am and leaving bang on 5pm while I slaved away into the evening,  thinking “i’m never going to be one of those people”.

There is a great sign up at my kids school is says “Being fair doesn’t mean being equal.  It means everyone is getting what they need to succeed“.   I love this statement and annoy my kids with it all the time now.  Because it is so true.

As a Manager,  you need to work with everyone in your team individually.  To understand what is important to them, what do they need to lift them up higher and make them fabulous?   And what one person needs, is not what everyone needs.  And those needs can change dramatically throughout someone’s career.  Great Managers execute on this for their team because they know they will reap the rewards ten fold.

Now I am that person who sometimes comes in at 9.30am and leaves by 5pm.  I work from home a lot and walk the dog in my lunch break.   And I am 100 times more productive than I ever was when I was sitting at my desk for long hours wasting time judging my co-workers.

We need to stop comparing ourselves with others.  It’s not whether you have children or don’t. whether your a woman or a man. If the person in the seat next to you (or working from their office at home), isn’t getting the same as you,  that’s OK…infact, that’s just how it should be.

From cynic to superstar

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I love those moments when the light suddenly comes on, when the epiphany happens on something key.

I get to see this quite a lot with my work around social. People who suddenly realise the cyber world that lurks beneath the surface, like an explosion of connectivity and community…there are people all over the world, having conversations, giving their opinions, sharing work and ideas.   It wasn’t that long ago I was one of those people who didn’t understand. Sure, I had a Facebook account which I tinkered with but using social for work seemed like a waste of time, something I couldn’t possibly squeeze into my already bulging days.

So I understand. Then piece by piece my world started to get more social, it didn’t happen overnight in fact it happened little by little …but suddenly, here I am, connecting with amazing experts across the world, working on great new projects and helping others to navigate this new world.

This week someone that I coach, who was a relatively social novice but keen to learn, has suddenly discovered LinkedIn.   Sure, they had a profile before, it lacked a photo, any detail or quite frankly anything human but it was there….wasn’t that enough? But when they started to dig deeper, to add in more, to give more of themselves, the social world return in spades. From 18 connections to over 400 in a matter of weeks. They were BLOWN AWAY. How had they not realised there was this whole new world they could engage in?!?  And now they are telling everyone!

Because those who have come from the cynic to becoming an active user are usually also the best advocates. Telling everyone who will listen that they should get onto this.

It works that way in customer service to. Give someone good service in the first place, great. But take someone who has complained and fix it for them and then take it up a notch…well, that’ll be a customer for life.

Like when I bought my Dyson. Never lose suction, my butt, five years (yes five years) after we bought it, it started losing suction. I was pretty harsh,  telling everyone about the crappy vacuum and don’t believe their “never loses suction” story. When I finally decided to ring Dyson, expecting a lame response, they blew me away with their concern. They asked me all sorts of questions, never asked me for a receipt, sent me a new airfilter for free…and guess what, it worked (it appears perhaps we should have been washing the filter every few months, woops).   Now here I am telling everyone how great Dyson are.

So the cynics are always my favourite to work with. The ones who don’t believe social will help them, who are comfortable in their current ways of working and don’t want to try something new. Because if I can challenge them, push them over the edge, they will become my greatest advocates…and it reminds me too, to always be open minded and be willing to try something new, because you never know when the next lightbulb moment is going to be.