Articles Tagged with: Life Advice
The 2016 Gratitude with Attitude List
No time to waste, I have a cheesecake cooling that needs a Fiona taste test. Let’s do this



At then end of the 2015 rowing season – deep breath – I hated rowing. HAAAAAATTTEEEEEDDDD IT. I’d forced myself to do every single soul sucking erg (ie. rowing machine in gym aka Satan’s Sled of Self-Flagelation) throughout an epic year of criss crossing the country delivering sales offices. I was doing ergs sent by Koach Kim at 10pm Perth time / 1 am Sydney time after finishing on site for the day. I did ergs in hot tin sheds while on holidays. I had to ask nice lady gym owner to remove cat firstly off the erg seat so I could do erg and then remove cat entirely from my sight as its mere presence was JUDGING ME and my erg output. I have erged in cookie cutter gyms while muscled men carefully avoid the sweating mess that was me on the erg muttering: “FREAKIN’ HATE THIS, HATE THIS, KILL ME NOWWWWWW”. So yeah, my sparkle was dulled. And on top of that, I had the worst season ever results wise. I hit the pause button on rowing and did a mash up of other fitness classes, one of those being Physicore. Never have 8 counts out / 8 counts back meant so much pain. But I loved it. I can’t grapevine to save myself. When I do burpees, I get tangled up with feet and legs and I have fallen on slow moving gym goers nearby. I dislike jumping as a rule as I look idiotic. But the slow and controlled movements on sliding beds, pulleys that rip your abs apart and donkey kicks that crunch your glutes? LOVE IT!


On my way to Auckland at the end of October, I snapped on the inflight entertainment and discovered this gem of a movie. Beautiful and deeply heartfelt. So much so, I was a sobbing mess several times while watching it. Nice man sitting next me passed me his napkin at one stage so I could try and stem the flow of tears. Yeah, its full of teenage kids and its not miles away from the John Hughes movies of my much younger years but it is just heartbreaking and life affirming all at once because it deals with the truth of “Sometimes, things don’t work out for the best”. Watch it with hankies, Haighs frogs and a love one you can text at the end to tell them how much you love them.



This was a find through Double J, the 2015 release from Kurt filled with sly humour, everyday cuts of real life, guitars sounding like banjos and wisful glances in the rear view mirror of life. I laid on my lounge room floor smoking imaginary cigarettes in the darkness letting this music seep into me. I reckon you should do the same. Even with the pretend cigarettes.


More tears, these of the overwhelmed kind when I exited the train from Milan and saw the Grand Canal in its simmering, turquoise glory in front of me. First time to Milan, first time I lost my shit over a view that will be further burnt into that inbuilt camera part of my brain. I loved Venice’s crazy-maze canals and cross-over alleys and bridges, I loved her galleries (forever grateful to Peggy Guggenheim for secreting artworks out of France as the Germans adavanced), cafes and artisan studios. I loved the second night there, humidity at choking point and thunderstorms rolled in, flash-lighting the Venice while I sat in the open frame of my hotel window near the Piazza Rialto, soaked with rain and grinning like a happy idiot at the beauty of it all. I loved my solo lesson learning to stand up and row a gondola in the canals and then into the open lagoon. I loved finding the spark to draw again simply because I couldn’t not draw what was in front of me. And wine and cheese helps the creative process – who knew? Venice, I’m coming back for you!



I started painting again this year. That was pretty big for me as I’d stoped since Uni. No longer having the time to design in my biz, I was mourning the lack of a creative outlet so I picked up the paintbrushes and stared down the blank canvas. I can’t say any of the stuff I produced was good but I got a real kick out of experimenting, transforming the white page into a carnival of colour – or no colour! I’ve always wanted to live like a Mark Rothko painting, vibrantly and passionately and this year I inched closer. Special love to Nicola Newman for hosting me for a weekend painting retreat where I got my oils on!



I love everything written by this woman, ever. Get on her email List and in the meantime enjoy this (youre welcome).


I have done approximately 3,467 things wrong in building Diva Works this past year. But the best thing I have done was – somehow – trip over the smartest and most amazing woman and entrench them in my business. I don’t even ask them to join Diva as I was so scared they would say no, so I just threw work at them and let ‘em rip. If you want a hot tip in business building it’s this: employ people who are better at stuff than you. And then chain them to something big and heavy so they don’t leave. Never, would I have ever suspected I would have a team a Divas to collaborate with. I’d always fancied myself as a lone penguin. But I’m a nicer, kinder person for expanding. Fiona H, Anastasia, Trudy, Lisa, Fiona L, Celeste, Nicole, Desi, Tracey, Diana, Amber and Roslyn…I’m so grateful I tripped over you all and you’ve become Divas, I love youse all!

fine dining for everyone


Politicians. Everywhere.

I can’t even….But yet I must. In case you’ve turned away in aghast sometime over the past 5 years, let me bring you up to speed:

TONY ABBOTT: He was the minister for women. Let that just seep in for a moment. A man who was in charge of a portfolio affecting 51% of the population and didn’t even attempt to understand what it means to be a woman in modern Australia. Good news! His portfolio and prime ministership was yanked from him. Bad news! He’s still sniping from the back seat. Someone get him a seat on a long haul flight between Anne Summers and Lowitja O’Donoghue and let the learning of Tony Abbott begin!

SALIM MEHAJER: The bottoxed buffoon and all his local government sycophants look like they almost might get their comeuppance in 2016. He’s delusion enough to think he’s a victim of the tall poppy syndrome. Nah. Us Australians have just had a gutful of dickheads.

DONALD TRUMP: Taps into the most vile and baseless fears Americans have…and says it out loud. Somewhere a village is missing their idiot and we have this clown as a candidate to lead the still-most powerful nation on earth. He won’t win but he’s doing a bang up job of driving deep wedges into the heart of America.


Ah HELL NO! I did one for two weeks for my naturopath Vesna. Love her, hate cleanses. I’ll never do another one for as long as I have breath in my body to bin protein powders. I love food. And wine. And cheese. And dairy. And cheesecake. And sugar. And salads. And grains. And vegetables. And protein. And ripe, juicy strawberries So new food manifesto: Eat well. Eat in moderation. And eat the damn cheesecake!


Fuck them too. Too many people were displaced, injured, killed, had limbs stripped off them, tortured, forced into unseaworthy vessels to make a new life in god-knows-where and had their lives irretrievable derailed by some fool and some cover story about “my religion is better than your religion”. To hell with all of that, terrorists are small-minded, scared and angry people who are just looking to create mayhem and inflect pain as they have abdicated all feelings of compassion and love in their own lives. There are approximately 443,890 terrorists in the world and 7.3 billion of us who aren’t. That is a comforting thought. My long term solution for weeding out terrorists would be to hand Chad over to them, removing all peace loving people first and any stray giraffes and let them blow each other while the rest of us watch movies with Amy Poehler in them and hang out with their nieces making cheese & spinach triangles.


Nope. Or, just kill me now.


I don’t often wish violence on other people but when I do, it’s for the men on dating sites who populate their profiles with photos of them hugging tigers shackled in cages. Please let that tiger bite off the face of that grinning idiot, I silently pray. Let it be so.

And so dear reader, as this year winds down and I lick the last of the cheesecake mixture off the beaters, I also want to thank you for taking time to read my sporadic posts. I know we all have the same 24 hours of Beyonce and I want to send me heartfelt thanks for spending some of that time reading my missives and not dropping it like its hot.

Be kind to you, yours, strangers who don’t freak you out and small furry animals.

Love, Fiona xx


Here’s one of my fav tunes of the year

I just blew up my business!
In the weeks before Christmas, I was a hot mess. And the hot relates to fever, not any heels I might have longed to wear. I was sick in the way people don biohazard suits to be around you. Slumped on the lounge surrounded by empty protein bar and potato chip packets the only food I could stomach, a strong, unyeliding thought kept on permanent rotation: “This needs to change”.


No mystery, about the cause of the illness. I’d worked myself into a frenzy after rescuing major projects that was stalled through a builders bi-polar issues and another’s habit of switching off his mobile at critical times to go AWOL. Or to the golf. On top of these unexpected issues I was handling some 37 other projects that were in various life cycles from concept through to handover. I was trying not to acknowledge the intense workload I was shifting until Lisa, my project manager reminded me on out work in progress calls “You know, you seem to have a lot going ON”

Word, sister.

Over Xmas when I was at my fav Hawks Nest retreat, I really did retreat and thought about how I was living my life. And I knew I could not do another year like the previous. Or in fact another month. My health and vibrancy was at stake and if I continued with the workload I would not be producing my best work. Or any work at all.

So with much angst, grinding of teeth and spending what seemed like an age in the downward dog position, I told The Display Builders (DB) whom I had collaborated with for 9 years I was no longer able to work with them.

I have adored working with DB. I loved working the clients some of who are even now friends or frequent refers of the best charades and tap pas to try. And if you need a trade show stand design, built and managed, I reckon you can do no better in the industry.  Go here to see their amazing portfolio of work and here’s their contact page in case you want to see how they can be help to you. But with all that weighing on me, I still chose me.

The seeds of change actually sprung from a funeral I attended for one of my dearest friends’ mum. She died suddenly. Shockingly and as I sat through the beautiful and heart breaking funeral listening to stores of Belen’s amazing, brave and love-filled life story I through about my own legacy. By working so hard and trying to grow both Diva Works and The Display Builders, what was I giving up I my life? How was I spending my time and was I really producing my best work? No at all coincidentally I was reading “Die Empty” which argues and prods you to produce your best work every damn day  and especially when you don’t feel like it. It’s a clarion call not to put off your passions for “one day”.

With all that churning through me, last week I told DB of my decision to depart their business.

Yes. Excellent.  Cue the feeling of ease and surety. But no, I sobbed on the lounge like a girl with a pink frilly dress on, scoffed a box of Lindt chocolates, washed down with gulps of champagne direct form the bottle and then messaged the ladies in my mastermind to wail “What did I just do….WHAT DID I JUST DO?!? I think I have blown up my business!!!”

I’d really love to tell you that’s find making change easy as slipping on a pair of kicky heels.  But even change that was so needed was freakin’ so HARD and I avoided it look too long.  I was giving up the known and secure of DB to step fully into my own business and the unexplored. The ladies of the mastermind rallied beautifully and sent such heartfelt supportive messages backing my decision. There were directives to become more of a pleasure slut where I looked for ways to bring more joy into my life daily. So currently I’m on a bender of “Orange is the New Black”, dance classes (!!!!), indulgent trips to Adelaide with some best buds to see fashion and spending time with my family even if it’s just eating a Cornetto to in chez Jefferies on the Jason recliner with my 4 and 9 year old nieces.

The following day after parting ways with DB, I crawled out from under the Lindor wrappers and this happens:

I had kinda skimmed over lovely comments from my lady mastermind because I was embarrassed to read them…I just didn’t feel “worthy”. So I printed them out, escaped to the hairdressers. And this time, I read them. Really read them, hearing their collective voices say these things to me and yeah, I was a teary mess in the salon chair.

But hark, what is that…I start listening in the the convo in the chair beside me with nice old lady tell the hairdresser about how this year will be a good year for her, she just knows it. That she is working really hard with her budget as she is on a payment plan as she threw all her life savings at getting her son off the drugs and now he’s doing well and she’s really looking forward to getting the $32 swim cap she is saving up for because she loves swimming in the retirement home pool and does not want to ruin her ‘do.

Nice old lady does not have $32 for a freakin’ swimming cap…are you kidding me?

I mull on this. I read the words of my lady mastermind again. I grab my purse, turn my chair towards her and say –

“My name is Fiona and I could not help but her your story. I’m one of Victoria’s PleasureSluts (if you say if quickly it does not sound at ALL freaky weird) and right now, I am totally scared out of my tiny mind about taking the next step in my business. But. I have a bunch of ladies that barely know me but believe in me so hard, I have to do this. I will do this. And what I know is that as they believe in me, I believe in you and we would like to gift you that swimming cap so you can be a pleasureslut too.”

Cue more tears, grasping of hankies and hands and her looking slightly concerned that she has been labelled a slut.

My Diva mojo was restored with the love and support of family and friends.  And a swimming cap.

All in on Diva Works, my 3D marketing business and heartfelt thanks for reading this pretty revealing and honest post of mine. Change is hard but honesty is easy.


Oh and feel free to share in the comments section below how you might have used 2015 as a catalyst for your evolution, I am really digging on other people’s stories of change and saying no….to say yes to life.

Through this turbulent time of change I kept returning to this song as a rally cry. I’m using it to fuel the drive to do my best work.

Fiona xx

Suicide. Yep, we need to talk about this.
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.


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!

Why you need to give balance the two finger salute!
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.


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)!

The best gift I have ever received from the exhibition and trade show industry. (Aka My ANZAC tribute to Kevin)
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.

The modern marketers lament: I need more time. Here’s 4 ways to claw back your time.
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!

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!

Warning: Zombie Ahead
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.

What rowing has taught me about 3D marketing
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:


 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.


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”.


How to slay your nemesis. For real. With bonus info graphic.
At a recent catch up of gals in Melbourne, my favorite marketing maven was seriously torn up over other co-workers undermining and back stabbing ways. This grieves me, not only as my gal is in pain but it is such a common and even daily problem than we can all face: the rise of the nemesis. There you are, kicking goals in your job, looking the goods, delivering outstanding work and yet, the niggle of the co-worker undercover assault remains as a drone in the background to your brilliant career.

So, what to do. Firstly, I will direct you to this awesome post by James Altucher on “how to deal with crappy people”. The summary goes like this: “if you get in the mud with pigs, two things happen. One, you get dirty and two, the pig gets happy”. While this is excellent advice based around “don’t engage with the mo-fo’s”, I was curious to see if I could apply my skills to designing a plan that might offer you some other solutions and strategies for nailing this nemesis like the bitch that it is.

Behold, the info graphic!



So yah, this info graphic is in jpg form but if you would like your own PDF copy to hang on your wall next to the Def Leppard poster, please email me and I would be happy to scoot it across.

Please share any other strategies in the comments below you might have to deal with these spirit suckers as we can all benefit from each other’s time in the hell pit with the nemesis.

And you will need to add this butt kicking tune by Janelle Monae to your arsenal. “You dance up on them haters”. Word.

See you next week.