Archives for category: Diva Life Advice

I’m not entirely sure I should be blogging about the MH17 tragedy on my “mainly marketing with a side serve of hard rock” site but I’ve spent a large part of this week in reflector mode. And perhaps you’ve been too.

I don’t consume a lot of mainstream media as so much of it is filled with carping politicians and non-news stories of Kardashians, Kidmans etc. But when the news broke of MH17 being shot out of the sky, the tragedy was too great to process and so I made even more concerted effort to avoid… avoid…avoid.

Until Sunday afternoon, walking through Newtown, I clapped sight of the newspaper front page and there he was, another person lost to his family, confirmed dead on the MH17. Except I knew him. He’s Jack O’Brien, a trainer at my gym. He often signed me in, we exchanged sleepy hi’s / bye’s and my overriding impression of him was a quietly contained and gentle young fella. He always looked bemused if I arrived at gym already fagged from striding up the hill from my home to the gym. And he was my accountability partner when I could not face another stint on the rowing machine. As he signed me in, I would hiss, wide eyed and unblinking “I have a 27 minute erg to do and if you see me leave before that time is up, feel free to shake your head in disappointment.” I never did try him out in that, somehow telling someone you are going do the bloody thing is all I motivation I needed.

Later on that same Sunday afternoon, crossed legged on the lounge I wanted to know more of Jack and the others aboard the flight. So I grabbed a fistful of hankies and read the deeply personal stories that I had avoided earlier. And it is all so unbearably sad, even for someone like me with a tenuous connection to someone on the flight. I have no idea how family and friends live through this.

In settling into this sadness, I have been brittle with time-wasters and incompetents this last week but on the flipside had long, loving, meandering conversations with family, friends and even strangers and we try to fold this tragedy into our understanding. One of the loveliest, heartfelt talks was with one of my besties, Donna who is back safe in Australia after stints living in and around hot beds of conflict. Over the years I have held my breath and repeated the mantra “please let them be safe and well, please let them be safe and well” when trouble bubbles up close to where they live. I now extend that I hope out further to anyone living in and around conflict.

This is where I want to direct my energy: towards love, hope and gratitude for having the life I do with do much love from family and friends. With the reminder that no one we love ever really dies.

I'm no fan of the Beatles....but there is genuine gold in the sentiment "all you need is love"

I’m no fan of the Beatles….but there is genuine gold in the sentiment “all you need is love”

As a counter-point to this meditative post, I need, we all need some whimsy, so here is a special find from my witty, sweet sister that will lift your spirits.

See you next week.

I recently wrote a guest post for Women’s Agenda and I got a TONNE of comments and emails along the lines of “YES!” and “Thank you, I so needed to hear this right now” and “I’m up for shredding some motivational posters….can we create a meetup for that?”.

So if you are stuck, waiting for some sort of sign or still crafting your business plan for the jillionith time….you need to move it lovely!

Go here to read the guest post and I would love to hear what action you have taken recently to move FOWARD in the comments.  I am a BIG FAN of action takers so let me know what you have doing to get what YOU want!


This is not your normal motivational poster!

This is not your normal motivational poster!

See you next week!


You read that right. Screw the competition. It just doesn’t matter.

As marketers I know you are being encouraged to watch what your competitors are doing: you can set RSS feeds, notifications can pop up alerting you to news stories, you can get data on you competitors social media stats, insider gossip….and all for what? It will paint a vivid picture of what your competitors are doing, but question is, what service or product are you creating of value in the world? Every moment spent agonising over what the other mob is doing is time lost that could have been spent better marketing your own product or service.

Every business I know struggles with this. An event I sat in on recently for one of my large multinational clients addressed this very issue around competition and how you handle it. The CEO’s message was beautifully succinct: keep doing great work that matters in the world. Don’t get so distracted by what your competitors are doing that you abandon your ability to innovate or neglect talking with your customers to see what problems you can solve.

The competition….it just doesn’t matter.

Go give competition the two fingered salute!

Go give competition the two fingered salute!

Go give competition the two fingered salute!

I’ve got some examples about how I’ve given the competition the two-fingered salute in recent times.

First up, I was on stand at Ozwater 2014 waiting for my client at handover when another trade show provider sauntered up and thinking I was the client (top tip: check the logo of my shirt next time pal, you’ll save yourself some pain in looking like a arse hat) started banging on about whatever the stand cost, his firm could do it for half that amount. Notice a couple of things here.  There was no question to the “client” over what they are struggling with so they can gain a deeper understanding of how they could truly help, no offer of adding more value, no suggestions about how more leads could be achieved, no ideas about improving the post show follow-up ….the pitch was only about savagely cutting costs.  I smiled at the sock puppet, disclosed I was the stand builder and thanked them for being a dick.  Years ago I would have torn strips off them…and then hang around to then tear strips off their stand after hours.  But I got wise.  The competition…it just doesn’t matter.  My clients don’t come to me for the cheapest stand, it is because I offer shockingly awesome service and solid strategy backed up with amazing designs.  And I also believe that is plenty of work for all trade show providers.  Even sock puppets that can only compete on price.

I also stuck up my two fingers to the competition in the Rowing State Masters this past weekend. I got in my can’t-touch-this bubble a few days out from the event, fine tuning my warm up sequence with Nathan The Demonic Personal Trainer, not even looking at the event draw and who I was up against.  On race day I kept it tight, arriving well before my race to do a warm up and sauntering up to the boat just before we launched so I could not buy into the pre-race “What chance do we have in this race” speculation.  Rowing to the start, I kept my eyes in my own lane and I was so focussed on what I had to do in the race, I still can’t tell you how many crews I lined up against.  In the race itself, I was not aware of the other crews, just counting off sets of 20 strokes in my head and making sure each twenty was better than the last. When we crossed the line and I took a moment to pant….it hit me we had just won gold. Cue mass hysteria!  I can’t tell you how different this approach was to previous years of twisting myself into an anxious state scanning the start list trying to determine what crews I had a chance against and then in the race itself, swivelling my head around checking to see our position in the race.  Here’s my new plan: keep my eyes in my lane, focus on only what I can do that will make a difference to the outcome – that is, row like I stole it.

Hands up who doesn't give a stuff about the competition?

Hands up who doesn’t give a stuff about the competition?

Hands up who doesn’t give a stuff about the competition?

Here’s a kicky tune for another mob who could give a staff about the competition.  KISS.  Do you reckon they cared about the musical competition when they formed in the 70’s?  They totally created their own niche with face paint, platforms, a bass player with a tongue that may or may not have been an implant from a cow and some serious brain frying drug addictions.  But the competition?  It didn’t matter!

Want to get some seriously fab tips on creating an AMAZING display that won’t result in hair pulling….yours or someone else’s?  Go here to download your guide.

See you next week!

So this is cheery topic for a Friday! What the hell I am doing writing about suicide when this blog is mainly focusses on displays, trade show stands and my deep and abiding love for rock music?  Because people read blogs and there maybe people – perhaps even you – that have faced or will face giving up someone they love to suicide.  And I want you to know it is OK to talk, think and write about this. The more a light a shone on suicide the less it is covered up, denied and kept in the dark in some secret place to fester.  What prompted this post now is a dear friend is mourning the loss of someone in her tribe and I want her to know even in this confusing, emotional turbulent time there is much love. Always, there is love.

There is always love.

There is always love.

I have two areas for you: the before and after.

Tricky, this “before” phase.  Once you loose someone to suicide, the years, months, days and moments before their death plays like a never ending show reel in your head.  What did you miss? What signs were there that were overlooked?  What clues did they give that indicated they were thinking of taking their own life?  You will torture yourself and twist your brain looking for answers.  In truth, there may have been markers.  Or none at all.  But I can say that whenever we feel someone is having a rough time, take the time to really ask the question “Are you OK?”. Pick your moment in a quiet place free of distractions so it won’t prompt a rushed answer and then really, really listen to the answer. It might open the door to a larger conversation about what is going on with them or they might shut down.  Either way, keep an eye on them.  You don’t have to stalk them, have the solutions to their problems or be up in their face with “How are you’s????” but be a presence in their life so they know you are about as they weather this tough time.  Will this stop them from taking their life?  For those that have made the final decision to suicide, I don’t believe so but for the ones that might be wavering, the lifeline that you throw by those simple words “Are you OK?” might be a step towards removing the suicide option for them.

The “after” phase of suicide is all about those left behind.  I am going to give it to you straight here.  You will never be the same.  There will be big, yawning holes punched through your life.  Nothing with draw these holes closed.  Physically you will be in shock so expect to feel achingly cold, you will not want to be touched or held, any sort of well meaning conversation will grind against you. The nights are the worst.  Your mind puts the show reel of their life on full rotation as you seek out what you missed in the hope you will find the answer to unlocking the mystery of why…why did they feel they had no other option but suicide.  When sleep finally does come, you have a few precious seconds each morning where you forget they are dead until your brain snaps back from the fogginess of sleep and reminds you they are dead.  Dead.  And you tumble back into the pit of despair.

Here’s the thing about the holes that now puncture your life….this is where the light gets in.  After some time – and I can’t give you exact timings (sorry), this is your experience, and your experience alone – you will laugh out loud at something.  You’ll enjoy eating ice cream in the sunshine.  You will hum a favourite tune in the car.  You will accept a dinner invitation.  And you will remember your loved one with less ache and more softness. That’s the gift of suicide. You learn unconditional love. After the hurt, and white hot anger, the devastation and by the slowly stitching your life in a new pattern, all else fades and you are left with love.  The cliche is true, life does go on.  You won’t be the same, nothing is going back to the way it was but you do get through it with a new understanding of love and compassion for both yourself and others.

If you are facing more challenges than you feel you can face yourself, can I please recommend these outstanding organisations:  Beyond Blue and Lifeline. Both these organisations are also a good place to find support if you have lost a loved one to suicide.  Please don’t try to go through the aftermath of suicide alone.  As one of my BFF says “Be like a bundle of sticks….we are stronger together”.  Word.

One of the best ways for me to cope with challenging times is with humour and so let’s finish with a “up” vibe with this clip from  The Colbert Report doing Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”.  Best bit?  Jeff Bridges doing the booty bump on the stairs. The Dude gets down!

See you next week…and go hug someone!

I’ve found recently that the subject of “having a balanced life” has come up for a bunch of my marketing clients. And then I was only asked last night how I achieve balance. Errrrrrr….I don’t. And I don’t seek too.

Here’s why. A few years ago when I swapped Melbourne’s lane ways for Sydney’s Harbour, I decided I was going to make the most the city swap with a full tilt launch into getting my life into balance. I was seduced by the claims of self-conferred gurus extolling the virtues of a life in balance. How serene I would be, how unrushed I would feel and how I would float from one obligation to the next. Most probably in a white lace dress from Laura Ashley and patting a white bunny. As I carefully and lovingly placed my business and my personal life on either side of the scales I waited for perfect alignment.

What tosh.

After nearly making myself blind with anxiety trying to spend equal time on all my interests, I gave up and here’s why you should too:

1. Most of my marketing clients are female and they have the full buffet of interests and demands on their time: kids, partner (or no partner but dating. Or not dating. Until George Clooney dumps his latest broad and comes-a-calling), a career, friends, family, activities, running a household and finding time for themselves like sneaking a look at Who magazine while on a flight to somewhere.  With all of that and more on the table, how could you ever hope to achieve balance?!? So let’s make a pact right now to give concept of balance the two-finger salute.

Go give balance the two finger salute!

Go give balance the two finger salute!

2. We’ve been sold a pup and a very mangey one at that. The “life in balance idea” goes that if you get all your stuff into perfect alignment, suddenly you will be calmer. Happier. Less harried. And less prone to eating only processed cheese for dinner. Look, I’m not here to tell you desiring all those things and self-improvement is not valid, they most definitely are. But the image of the scales is instructive here. To get either side in line, you have to use equal measures. Who do you know that have an equal amount of interests and commitments at any one time? No one! Life is fabulously messy and it can be dirty and as unyielding as a feral donkey so why would you take on the mammoth and ultimately exhausting task of trying to tether your interests to some out moded concept of balance?

3. Once I kicked balance to curb, I have found a super power. I can bend time. And I reckon you can too.  The act of bending time comes into play when you decide what you will devote your attention to and discard the white noise that is distracting. We all have the same 24 hours, right? So you have the freedom to decide how to allocate your time.  I’ll give you an example from my own life.  Right now I am committed to doing a 45km marathon row of the Hunter River at the end of July.  (And flat out trying to stage an alien abduction to get me out of it) To get the necessary training up to even function over that distance, I have parked some of the other things I like to do (brush my hair, extreme baking) so I can swing over extra time to get this rowing training done. I guess I see time as like an ever-expanding container where I can drop things in and take things out as I need to do.  Sure, the container can get pretty jammed up and look very close to splitting but it holds together and I know that even when I am pushing too many things to get done, it will only be for a short period of time and the stretching of time will soon snap back to something more manageable.

I am going to leave you with a comment from a one of my recent dates.  (Hey, I date and I vote!) He asked “Do you even have time for a partner?!?” after I described what a typical week look liked for me.  I thought for a moment and then said in absolute truth “ I will always make time for the things that are important to me, I will create space for that”.  So ditch the concept of balance and instead embrace life in all its beautiful messiness and trust that you will find – and make – time for all the important things that matter to you.

I recently tripped over the delicious Kathleen Hanna ex of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre being her bratty best with her new outfit The Julie Ruin.  Check out this slice of awesome with bonus points for female lead guitarist with kicky solo!

See you next week (and share this post with someone you know that is struggling with balance)!

Greater than any income I could derive or creative project realised is the gift of the outstanding people I have met through working in the 3D marketing field in trade shows and exhibitions.  I am so lucky that these people have also become embedded in my life as enduring friends and part of the Diva Council.  But today on ANZAC day I would like tell you my story of how the exhibition industry delivered me one the best gifts of wall, one of my best mates and Vietnam Vet, Kevin.

My mate Kevin & I.  I am pretty sure that is his feather boa.

My mate Kevin & I. I am pretty sure that is his feather boa.

Many years ago when I was a newly minted designer, I was fortunate to find myself working on many installs with this bloke Kevin.  Even the early years of knowing him, it was a dream to work him. He was always calm, ready with a quick, witty one liner and had SO much knowledge and experience to draw on.  Being one of the few females in the industry, I did get my ego knocked about quite a bit from the put downs and the brush-offs.  Kevin never behaved like this; it was always with respect and taking the time to explain his methodology so I got a pretty awesome lesson in understanding how stands got built, from an actual builder.

Shuffle forward a couple of years and we were on site at the Murray One Visitor Centre in Khancoban and our friendship really galvanised.  There must be something in saving the Pickled Parrot restaurant from burning down (true!) and having a night with the Swedish gym team (kinda true) that really bond you with someone.  About this time, the fabulous Gary who was one of the fellas who gave me a start in this industry, mentioned in passing that Kevin was a Vietnam Vet.  Apparently he did not yap about it much but since the watershed of the 1987 “Coming Home Parade”, he was more relaxed in talking about his time both training and in country.  Still, whether he was more up for chatting about it or not regardless of my curiosity, it was a moot point.  You can hardly work with a bloke on site and while you are passing paint tins and scrambling to meet show opening “Hey Kev, what was Vietnam really like?”

I had always had a curiosity about those who had served in wars. I am one of those lucky ones where no one in my immediate family had served in any theatre of war and has not been affected by the loss of a loved one in foreign lands or have to cope with the return of a member of my circle from a war zone and fitting back into life.  My Mum, who binges on history had always taken my sister and I to war memorials, with our bookcases filled with war biographies and stories and the ANZAC day march on ABC was a mandatory watch each year. So while I knew about wars, I had heard no first hand accounts and experiences.  And that is where the curiosity lie for me.  What is it, within what had been fairly ordinary men and women that makes them rise beyond any measure of bravery and determination, to face crushing odds and even years of living amid squalor and blood, to see their mates die, to subsist on rations, to continue to fight day after day, to maintain dignity and a moral code when held in prison camps…what is it, that allows ordinary people to do the most extraordinary things even under the most hellish and fucked up situations?

I got my answer.  In 2006 I had relocated to Sydney and Kevin and his wife Rosemary were due in for the 3RAR reunion on ANZAC Day.  The buggar ended up being that Rosemary could not make it due to a virus but I carried on with the plan of watching Kevin march in the Sydney parade and then – god help me – join him and his mates from 3RAR for an afternoon knees up at a pub at The Rocks.  About 3 hours into the march, I caught sight of him.  My mate Kevin, who was my Tensing Norgay when I worked the motor show circuit, marching proudly with his mates in 3RAR company with a chest full of medals.  I can see it so clearly now, I am even tearing up remembering how proud I was of him and how it just shifted my whole perception of him.  I was no longer just aware of the help and service he had given me over the years of working together, I saw and understood the larger sacrifice he made for our country by fighting some crazy war. His own life, dreams and hopes had been put on hold or even dramatically altered while he fought in Vietnam.  And then afterwards, when there was no official acknowledgement of their service and few support services, Kevin just had to find his way back to some sort of “normal life”.  When placed in an extreme situation like a war, it calls forth the very best of the human spirit like bravery, resilience, hope and love in order to endure and make it through another day or even the next hour. I would like to think that we all have these qualities within us; it should not take a war to bring those qualities to the forefront.

So what ANZAC day means for me is the deep and abiding gratitude for the men and women who have served their countries and while I can argue and bitch about politics around going to war, my support and love to those and their families is unwavering to those who have actually been through it.  And I think that the term “hero” needs to be reclaimed from the sportsman who boots 6 goals in an AFL game, from someone who runs a marathon or donates a sizeable proportion of their income to charity.  While these efforts are commendable and admirable, the “hero” resides in the men and women who have served in war.

I think that this is the only choice I could make music wise to mark this day.

See you next week.

You know it, I know it, it’s that time of year where we kick off the heels, pour a glass of something and reflect on the past year.  Now while I am fully immersed in my gratefulness, it does not mean that it is all white light beams and halos.  And here’s where the attitude comes in.  There are a (more than a couple) of things that got my goat and I dish on this as well.  Hold tight, my gratitude with attitude list looks a little like this:

1. Family, friends and the Diva Council

I am never going to win the lottery, that’s not my style of luck. The luck I have is better, richer, deeper.  I am lucky in being able to draw the very best type of person into my life.  With both the friends and family I have in my life I have a limitless supply of love, support, strength, cheer leading, seriously funny types that push me forward and keep me honest.  The Diva Council has been in operation for a few years now but this year, its ranks were bolstered by the prowess of Denise Duffield Thomas, Nathan the demonic personal trainer, Elizabeth Carabetta, Kelly Surtees, Betty Means Business and Angela Raspass, for starters.

There are also others on my Diva Council that I have never met but provide that fire for my inspiration furnace. Seth Godin, Patti Smith, Pearl Jam, Danielle Laporte….I am richer for having fell into their genius work.

2. My suppliers with super powers and killer client list

I thought about doing a separate shout out for my suppliers and client but they are tightly bound.  Diva Works is me, Fiona, but without my suppliers to chew over a juicy idea, find a way to consistently deliver kudos winning projects, then I would not have the fabulous clients I do.  Two weeks ago I celebrated 2012 with Diva’s suppliers and some members of the Diva Council in Melbourne and I am still basking in the glow of gratitude for having these people in my life.  For my clients, I am humbled by them having faith in me and my team to deliver on the promise of a simple 3D drawing.  My clients definitely pass the champagne, cards and prawn test.  If you can’t imagine having your clients around to your pad for a night of cards, champers and prawns, then you have no business doing business with them.

Diva Lunch 2012

Diva Lunch 2012

3. I freakin’ love cheese and 2012 saw me go nuts with the goats cheese. Yeah, about 6 years after everyone else, but like the proverb says, when you are ready, the right teacher shows up.

4. Lovin’ Asana, the on-line project management portal that keeps my in the flow.  And from ripping out tufts of hair. (Not always my own).

5. So grateful I live in a county with very restrictive gun laws.

6. New York and Hawks Nest.  So very different, so very awesome.

Love NYC!

Love NYC!

7. My Mixmaster.  I finally feel like a grown up with a heavy-duty mixmaster that…would whip up tasty treat if only I could stop tasting the mixture and get it in the oven.

8. I love, LOVE marketing.  Such a rich area to work in where challenges provide so many opportunities to innovate.

9. The American voters.  Big thanks for not putting in the dude who ties his dog to the top of the SUV to go on holidays.  No matter what your politics, I think we can all agree that the fool that treats his animals so poorly is not fit to hold any form of office.

10. My pad and pen / pencil.  After so many resources on-line and in the digital form. I still love sketching and drawing out ideas on crisp white, thick paper.

Ok, time to throw down the attitude list:

11. EEAA, our industry body.  Through the knock down and rebuild of Australia’s largest exhibition centre, the EEAA has been, I don’t know, brushing it’s hair?!?  I am really freaked out that those that will need to work in the new centre have been so rarely consulted on the shape and function and that the EEAA are OK with this.

12. Tony Abbott = angry sock puppet

13. I don’t like hating on someone else’s art but Brad Pitt’s furniture line and Yoko Ono’s line of fella clothing was epically awful.  File under: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

14. Yep, tried red wine again & nope, still not a believer

And I deliberately missed one off my gratitude list and saved it for now.  I am grateful for you, dear reader.  In these crazy busy times, I am very grateful to have your read my blogs and receive emails and calls me letting me know that you like what you read.  When you could be doing anything else like figuring out if a packet Lime and Black Pepper chips exceeds your daily salt intake (it doesn’t) or if now is the time to mulch (it is), I am so lucky to have a slice of your valuable time on my semi-regular blog and you take the time to provide feedback.

For the final tune of the year, I gift you my very favourite song of the year. Ah no, it was not released this year but I just found myself humming it during the best and worst moments of 2012.

Feel free to add your own gratitude / attitude in the comments below. Much Diva love and  a happy, healthy and sparkly 2013 to you and your tribe.

Back from Frakenstorm Sandy this week, I was head first in a series of meetings with my marketing clients.  Apart from the normal witty banter and the discussion of projects, what I am hearing over and over is from my marketing managers and coordinators is: “I need more time, I am under the pump, I am just overwhelmed”.  Ok, so you could take this as a good thing that marketing is ramping up and budgets are being resuscitated but while I think that this is correct to some degree, I am also seeing that the “busyness” of work life has reached a critical point and we need to get some sanity around this.  I might not be so concerned if my marketing clients look energised by this fast paced activity but they look worn out, grey and in need of a lounge and a sherbert.

Get on the lounge with a sherbet!

So here is my lifeline for marketers and in fact anyone else that feels like they are on the hamster wheel that is cranked to ELEVEN.  Some of these tips are Diva tested, others are in the experimental stage:

1. Asana

I only got on board to Asana train these past few months but I can tell you now it has given me back brain space.  It is on online cloud based project management tool that is FREE. If you are anything like me, I strut about with a whole heap of ideas and to-do whirling about in the grey matter that is set to repeat every 3 – 4 minutes.  Using Asana, I can do a brain dump into individual projects, assign others to complete tasks and place dates against the list.  You can even tick stuff off as DONE!  This is freakin’ GOLD and has given me back a sense of control of the 58 (that IS NUTS) current projects I am running.  Go here for Nathalie Lussier’s introduction into Asana.  Promise, this will help you claw back time and give you a greater sense of control over the projects and events you are running.

2.  Chuck anything – and anyone – superfluous.

Yeah, I get asked a lot about how I get through my workload.  No secret.  I don’t watch TV.  I read a lot of work based material but it is usually only a scan to pick up the news I need.  I live in a one bedroom apartment which controls the amount of crap I can bring in and then have to manage.  I have outsourced cleaning of the car and home.  I have a personal trainer so I don’t faff about at the gym leaning against the vending machine pretending that counts as tightening of the abs. I don’t watch cute cat videos on youtube. I have a regulated filing system so I know (mostly) where everything is.  When I travel, I don’t queue.  I am a member of Qantas Valet, the Qantas Club, Budget Business Club and Accor Awards so I am assured of smooth passage.  When flights are delayed, I don’t bitch, I get busy attacking the to-do list.  I have a calendar that all appointment both personal and business goes onto and if I start feeling like the week is starting to get overloaded, I start culling.  Now I am not sharing all this to show you how AMAZING I am at scheduling but to show what I give up and what I streamline in order to get what I really need ie. more time to spend doing things I love.  Here’s the thing.  We all have the same 24 hours and it is up to you, YOU on how these hours are spent.  You will have to get selfish about how you spend your time.  You may upset people that you have been accommodating to the past but you can’t afford to extend this luxury to them in the future.  No doubt, my scheduling is made easier by not having kids but don’t give yourself a pass on this even if you have kiddies.  If you really looked hard at your schedule I am positive you can find areas you can chuck.  If the whole idea of being so strict with your time sends you into a meltdown, just chill.  Think of it as scheduling the things you can and know about so you can free up space to…be free and spend more time doing the things you love!

3.  Time blocking

So – deep breath – this is going to be a new one for me.  I have always been available on email and phone for both suppliers and clients.  I will interrupt stuff I am working on to take calls and then get caught up solving that query, then I jump down a rabbit hole of distraction so when I come back to what I had originally been working on, sometimes 12 hours later I have lost the source of inspiration or have no idea where I was going with a particular idea.  At the tail end of 2013 I can see that I am getting burnt out and I want to change this for 2013. I will be trialling time blocking.  I have come to see that multi tasking is making me dumber and since I work in the creative field, I need to allow quite time to come up with the genius stuff.  I am going to try restricting the answering of emails to twice daily blocks.  When I am designing and doing working drawings, distractions are the devil so I will be secluding quite time for myself and hitting the do not disturb button on the smart phone.  I know this won’t be perfect and I will have to negotiate how this works when I have installs going in and need to be available to take queries on the positioning of last-minute graphics, if extra power is required for the client machine and where the hell the forklift key is?!?  But I have to give this a try, I think some of the best work I have done has been realised in the past few years and I want to keep dialled into that muse rather than running my brain down to slo-mo.

4. The great big no.

Ooooh, doesn’t that word just make you feel tighter.  We really aren’t allowed to say this often but I think it is key to claiming back your time.  So many of us are conditioned to say yes because that is who we are, we are obliging folk.  But what is yes have made us a prison?  Rather than be the first with the hand up, sit back.  Or, sit on your hand if you can’t trust your “Yes, me!” impulse.  If the outright no is too confronting, when given a request, buy some time.  Exhibit A: “My schedule is pretty stacked right now, I will take a look and get back to you”. The good thing about this is that you are already setting the expectation that you are not able to assist and you are giving yourself some time to see if you can really agree to the request.  Do not fear the “No”.  It is not a dirty word.  Unlike French Bulldog and Coldplay that are dirty, dirty words.

Alright, I am keen to hear from you if you have any other time-saving tips and techniques you might have so please leave your suggestion in the comment section below.

Now that you have given yourself some time back, we need to go to spin a tune.  When I free up myself enough time, I will be donning the sequined hot pants and lace tights and grooving to this (next life: I am coming back a female drummer).

See you next week!

So yah, I have been finally KO’d by the virus that has been going around and I am day late with my regular musings.  I am existing in that zombie world delivered through Nyquil – we can’t get over the counter here in Australia but I have some contraband left over from my trip to the USA and HOT DAMN, it is GOOD!  Since I am spending most of my awake time staring off into the middle distance, googling “cheesecakes” and trying to decide what my favourite Ryan Gosling movie is (current: Crazy Stupid Love), I also tripped over this fun compile of hacked digital road signs.

Since I feel like a Zombie trapped inside a Kleenex factory, this is apt.

See you next week when I emerge from the Nyquil fog!  Any virus busting remedies that involve cheesecakes, please feel free to share in the comments section.

I’m a week out from starting the 4 am giddy up for  the new rowing season. I often parrot the line “god, I don’t know” when asked why I continue to row, how I manage the early morning training sessions and then devote slabs of weekends to what is essentially a 4 minute or less race.  But the truth is, I do know what compels me to row.  I love it and the lessons delivered enhances my career as a designer and project manager in the area of 3D marketing.  Here’s what I have gleaned:

Photo by Peter Wilkinson

 1. It’s not about you, it’s about the crew.

Straight up, I am not a single scull rower and I don’t particularly love a double or a pair.  No, I am much more at ease in a 4, quad or 8 where more personalities are in play. I love the feeling when a crew is in sync, swinging along with blades cutting through the water simultaneously. This fluidity can only be achieved through the crew feeling what is happening in the boat and continuously making small adjustments to keep course and technique. It is not only about what you are doing in the boat, it is how you gel as a crew and tackle issues such as balance and leg push that get you vital headway in a race.  This is the same in the exhibition industry where as a solo operation, Diva Works would have limited achievements but when I bring in my suppliers and partners, the projects I can take on and deliver are so much greater. I am in the ridiculously lucky position of always having rowed with gals better than I and in the exhibition and display field, my good fortune with having the best partners and suppliers has also held.

 2. Little adjustments can have a big impact.

God love Koach Kim, my patient and endearing rowing coach these past 6 years.  Never to shy away from a challenge, he has worked with me to refine the dropping of my outside wrist, the rocketing into front chocks, leaning too far back, not lifting my hands at the catch…anyway, the list of stuff to fix is long and impressive. By trying correct this unwieldy long list of stuff, I am finding that rowing is becoming easier and I am not wasting precious energy in doing all the whacky stuff that were hallmarks of my rowing style.  I’ve also used this focus on small adjustments into how I encourage my clients to work on their trade show a presence.  By stripping away too much copy on a stand, reducing the amount of widgets on display and thinking about the numerous ways to engage a visitor and continuing that conversation post show, my clients are getting better results with their trade show presence.  Whatever is working well is kept and what is dated or not serving a greater purpose is turfed.

 3. There is no finish line.

Oh yah, with 2 silvers and a bronze in the 2012 NSW Masters I was riding high with my chest puffed out. Coming back from regatta with the sound system cranking Foster the People, I was happy in the knowledge there was not another moment I could have found in my stacked schedule to do more training. Then a thought occurred to me: could I have used what time I had more efficiently to achieve an even better result? Ah crap….yes.  So with a wonderful 3 day break from doing any training at all, I came face to face with Nathan, my new demonic personal trainer who has set a kick arse regime in place for the next season.  Just like rowing where crossing the finish line only means you need to carb load for your next race, trade show success only means that you have something further to build on and the next event is coming up fast.  Exceeded your ROI?  Congratulations, let’s step it up again next show. Have gathered record leads on the stand? You’re so brilliant, let’s actually follow all those priceless leads up. Celebrate you success for sure, but stay hungry and agile.

4. The brain is your built-in self limiter.

I get 400 meters from the finish and I hear that internal voice tell me I can’t make it. I have a god awful training session where nothing I do is right and I kick myself for ever thinking I could row. I look at a brief for a sales office and match it against the budget and think it can’t be done, that the task is impossible. Both on an off the water, the grey matter can work against you. But it is precisely at these moments that a spark within is lit and the internal resistance is galvanized. Yes I can make the last 400 meters, I will have a better training session next time and hell yes, there is a clever solution to this low-budget brief. Never give up and keep striving for the better result or solution.

Beyond these 3D marketing lessons that rowing had taught me, I was gifted something even greater: enduring friendship. I landed in both Melbourne and Sydney at different stages of my career knowing no one and I have had the good fortune to fall in with some of the best people I have ever met. Perhaps it is only being clad in lycra at 5.30am that strips away any ability to yourself seriously. Whatever, I look forward to more life and 3D marketing lessons delivered via a fiberglass hull and the tapping down of the outside wrist.

Photo by Peter Wilkinson

Do you have a lesson leant about business, delivered from en entirely different source?  Please share in the comments below.  Now it’s time to relive the barnstorming glory of the Masters and Foster The People’s “Helena Beat”.