Archive for May, 2016

So overwhelmed it wasn’t funny (but sort of was)

shutterstock_94764160“Just checking you’re right to send me the article today about mums of teens being overwhelmed,” emailed the editor of a magazine last week, the day my promised article was due. I was 10 days off a huge book deadline and I’d completely forgotten to write the story.

While I was madly typing the article, there was a knock at my door. Now what? I wondered, throwing the door open only to find my 5-year-old standing there — his cousins having brought him home from the bus stop (which is only three doors up), after I’d forgotten the time due to my overwhelm over the overwhelm article.

I made him some afternoon tea and bashed out some words in record time, submitting the story before the deadline. I’d had three months to write it, and it took 30 minutes.

Parkinson’s law says work will expand into the time that is available to complete it. I can report that work also contracts into the available time, if you find yourself having messed up the arrangement.

It did make me question the time I take to write these posts each week, which is something I’ve questioned before — often mid-afternoon on Sunday, when I sit down to write them and muck around on Facebook or read the news or watch something on Netflix instead. I’ve tried getting organised and setting them up on Fridays but that time during the week tends to be snaffled by priorities more directly linked to client work.

I don’t mind writing on Sundays. I just mind when I allow it to take forever to get motivated. That’s why my overdue overwhelm article was a gift.

Half an hour is my new limit for writing this post, and you have my permission to get in touch and let me know if you notice any drop in quality!

Meanwhile, what about you? Are you able to contract the time you’re spending on certain work tasks and give yourself the gift of more time for other things? Fun stuff, preferably…

Would love to know how you go playing with the stretchy ‘accordion’ of time this week!

This is how scared I was

shutterstock_22476220I had another radio interview last week, this time about flexibility in the workplace and related things, and it was great fun. There’s a sense of being enveloped in the cosy, sound-proofed acoustics of the studio, and a feeling of camaraderie with the announcer while you have the chat.

If only I could go back and tell my decade-younger self this, before my very first radio interview ever, with 2GB in 2005, not long after my first book, Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum, was published. I was absolutely petrified. It was only a phone interview from home, but I was so nervous about it, I begged my best friend to come over and be in the same house during it. I even lit a candle in an effort to stay calm. It was a pale blue, votive candle from Dusk called “Ocean Breeze”. Whenever I catch a similar scent, years later, I get palpitations!

I tried to ‘prepare’ for the interview, even though the topic was my own book—and surely I knew the subject matter. I had notes spread out (about what, I can’t remember). I was shaking. It was as though I was sitting a test and the radio host was trying to catch me out, which is the opposite of the vibe he was actually going for, which was more along the lines of a relaxed chat.

Ten years and countless radio interviews later, I love it so much that I considered doing a volunteer radio announcer’s course a couple of years ago, but didn’t make time for it. It’s on my bucket list.

If we keep showing up, we grow into the things that scare us

Which brings me to television. When I was phoned about last week’s interview with the ABC, for a split second I thought they meant television. I had palpitations. I wouldn’t be able to take my best friend onto a TV set and you probably can’t light candles around all those cables and lights. Gah! Panic, panic…

The idea of it grasped me by the collar and swung me so far out of my comfort zone I was on the verge of saying ‘no’. Then the producer clarified that we’d meet in the radio studio, and I was instantly relaxed again.

With Book #3 coming out in February 2017, there’s a chance of television in my future, and this is something I’m prepared to conquer. But even the thought of it makes me sick at the moment and writing this here is confronting.

Breathe. Breathe.

Keep showing up.

Show up again.

And eventually the comfort zone expands around the scary things.

Is your lifestyle stealing your legacy?

1068459On the weekend, my 83-year-old dad sang a solo at the very last service of the tiny country church that his grandfather helped to build 150 years ago, in the village of Kangaloon in the Southern Highlands of NSW. It’s the church where my great grandparents met, and are buried. She was the organist. He was a wild Irishman. They eloped.

Watching dad sing as I sat beside my daughters made me feel quite emotional about the way life had come full circle. My girls’ great-great grandparents had been at the first service in that building. Their great-great granddaughters had driven interstate to be present at the last.

It also made me think about legacies…

Maybe it’s this time of life, but I meet a lot of people who say they’re struggling to figure out their ‘purpose’ in life. They feel defined mainly by their relationships with others, or perhaps by a career that no longer feels quite ‘right’. There’s a real sense of trying to figure out ‘what I’m here for’, and a creeping concern that ‘what I want to do when I grow up’ will be a question that’s never answered.

Sitting in the building my great grandfather built, surrounded by his descendants—his legacy seemed quite obvious. Often ours aren’t so clear.

Knowing your ‘purpose’ can be a difficult thing to articulate. Figuring out the legacy you want to leave seems more tangible. It’s also something that can be portioned into steps. What legacy do you want to leave in 2016? Longer term, what do you want to build or make or create or do that will create a ripple effect in the world that goes beyond you?

The next bit is figuring out what is currently getting in the way of achieving this.

When we say ‘yes’ to other people’s demands—when we soak our precious time in other things—our legacies lie dormant.

Whether it’s watching TV that we’re not really loving or scrolling mindlessly through Facebook or obsessing about what others think or focusing on the empty half of the glass, we make decisions every day that can stop us doing something that makes the world better. That could be making a tangible ‘thing’, or it could be creating better relationships, or volunteering, or standing up for a passionate cause, or paying random acts of kindness. It could be better listening or teaching or guiding or protecting the environment or any number of good things that leave a positive mark on the world.

I wondered on the weekend whether my great-great grandchildren will gather somewhere, sometime and say, ‘My great-great grandmother did this…’ If they do, it will be because I figured out my legacy, but it will also be because I said ‘no’ to things that so easily bring it down.

What about you? 

When you let yourself down

Seb MDCAfter dragging my 5-year-old through yesterday’s Mother’s Day Classic for 5km (4km of which were pure whinging), I told him how proud I was that he made it, and asked if he was proud of himself too.

“No,” he said. “I’m disappointed in myself, because I let myself down by saying I would do something that I didn’t want to do and it was a huge marathon and I’m never going there again.”

Okaaaay, then. It reminded me of the time I dragged his sister around the same event, also whinging, only to discover when we got home that she had a 40-degree fever, poor kid!

The point is Seb vocalised his annoyance in a way that lots of us fail to do as adults. He didn’t blame the rain. He didn’t blame me. He knew he’d had the choice to stay at home with his dad, and he knew it would be a long way. But he took 100% ownership for the situation he was in when he found he didn’t like it.

When we find ourselves doing things we don’t want to do…

  • Staying back late helping someone with their work because they were disorganised
  • Being on a Committee because we couldn’t say ‘no’
  • Staying in a job or in a relationship that isn’t working because other people expect it of us

… Rarely do we say, “I’m disappointed in myself, because I let myself down by saying I would do something I didn’t want to do…” Yet that’s exactly what has happened. Taking ownership of the situation can shape our lives, one ‘yes’ or ‘no’ at a time. It puts the ball squarely in our own court, and give us back the power we pretend to have lost when we whinge about everything and everyone else—anything other than accept responsibility ourselves.

The first step to changing our situation is owning it. It’s amazing how many choices we have when we get in the driver’s seat.

Embracing the YONGI

shutterstock_60964402“I was going to comment on that post,” I said to friends over dinner. “But it’s my YONGI.”

They put down their forks. “Your what?

“It’s an acronym I invented for my Year Of Not Getting Involved.”

No unnecessary drama. No buying into controversy. No asserting valid views in fruitless threads on Facebook. No reading the comments. No writing articles that are likely to stir people up. It’s a blanket ‘no’ to ‘involvement’.

It hasn’t been easy. There have been times when I’ve been so enraged by something I’ve read that I’ve typed a killer comeback, only to delete it to honour the YONGI. There have been times when I’ve really wanted to say my piece or point out what seemed to be the glaringly obvious, wrestling with the ‘enter’ and ‘delete’ keys… until YONGI prevailed.

Not saying what you want to say online when people are expressing views that differ wildly, and in some cases offensively, from your own can be quite excruciating. It’s not just about ‘not feeding the trolls’. It’s about not getting involved in perfectly reasonable yet slightly heated conversations with friends and their friends, triggered by real issues that do matter.

Normally I’d jump in with bells on. Always have. YONGI doesn’t mean I’ve stopped thinking or being interested. But as the YONGI experiment goes along, it starts to get easier to remain aloof from forms of ‘debate’ that pit people against each other, usually via sensationalist journalism, and get nowhere.

YONGI was kickstarted by unsubscribing from a women’s website that I’ve followed for years, and written for several times. It had spiralled into a clickbait frenzy of tabloid-esque meh. Each time I clicked on another article, against my better judgement, I realised allowing myself to be stirred up by this stuff was chipping away flecks from my life.

Unsubscribing was liberating, but as YONGI took hold and I became more selective about what I read without entering ‘the conversation’, I realised I was gradually curating a personal online space that it’s a pleasure to occupy again. I absolutely love intelligent debate. I love a good ‘argument’ about a meaty issue and that sense of having your eyes opened in ways you hadn’t previously considered. I’m just NGI this year using any methods that feel like bashing your head against a brick wall.

The extra space allows me to pour what would otherwise have been wasted energy and brainpower into tackling problems closer to home. It means I’m more focused and creative—it’s only May and I’ve co-written a script for a musical and co-written a book so far this year, while working on other things, which is a much higher-than-average creative output for me (thanks YONGI). It means I’m less annoyed with the world and more enamoured by it.

We have access to more information than ever before in human history, and I had to get better at sieving it and interacting with it. There’s gold in there if we let the grit and grime wash through. YONGI for the win!