Peace and quiet to write: when was the last time you had that for your business?

It doesn’t take much to distract me these days.  *ping*…another message on WhatsApp. *bleep* another request from a child on messenger. *ding ding* another notification on one of my bazillion Viber groups.

The world we live in is uber connected and increasingly noisy and demanding of our attention. Whether it’s your phone, your iPad, your laptop, your watch, your wallet, there’s almost always something pinging away pulling your attention from whatever it is you’re trying to do. My world has become SO much noisier since the pandemic forced us all online for everything, and even more so since I moved to Manila.

On the one hand there is so much inefficiency and old fashioned administration here. Paperwork in triplicate signed by 75 people for the simplest things, long lines and manual processes for the smallest of tasks, and receipts a foot long for everything.  Everyone gets a job which means it could take 3 people to help you purchase a bottle of water: one to zap the barcode on the bottle, one to bag the bottle and attach the receipt, and one to check the receipt.  But on the other hand, you can order and pay for a customised cake via a bakery 10 kilometres away and have it arrive on the back of a motorbike with a bunch of flowers from a florist 5 km away, all via one app, in a matter of hours.  EVERYTHING is done via Viber or WhatsApp. Shopping, school parent groups, medical appointments, social catchups, embassy groups, emergency alerts, driver comms, the list goes on.  And the Filipinos are one of the biggest TikTokking nations in the world and are obsessed with photographing and IGing everything. This country operates entirely on the phone and wifi network. Noone, not even the very poor, is without a phone. In fact I’ve witnessed first hand some communities where food is almost a luxury, and yet there is always a mobile that is connected. Continue reading

Improve your health: write some words

Writing therapy is an actual ‘thing’. It’s not just for us nerdy wordy souls yearning for an outlet for our unsatiated brilliance. It’s actually a form of expressive therapy that uses the act of writing, and then the processing of that writing, as a way to heal.  The premise behind writing therapy is that by writing one’s feelings down, emotional trauma will gradually ease.


Whilst I’ve never formally undertaken ‘writing therapy’ as such, I certainly know that I get great satisfaction from scribbling down thoughts when I’m in a muddle about something. It helps to clear my head and offer the best answer when I see all the ideas in black and white in front of me.  I also remember as a teenager how wonderfully satisfying it was to express my inner most desires and angst in my secret diary, and how I always felt a little closer to the ‘truth’ or ‘real me’ as a result. So I guess that was my own form of writing therapy; nurturing my emotional health through words.

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I want to be a dolphin trainer

Over the years I’ve wanted to be many things: a showjumping champion, a dancer, an actor, a lawyer, a journalist, a food photographer, a dog breeder, a travel writer and tour operator. At one point I even wanted to just be a lady of luxury on a yacht. I’ve often found myself SO inspired by the place I find myself standing, or what I’ve just experienced, or who I’m with, that I seriously have considered big career-altering-life-changing shifts (CALC shifts).  I am able to perfectly envision myself doing that thing daily, and I’m filled with joy and excitement.

My recent trip to SeaWorld – unexpectedly – filled me with that same sense of opportunity and desire.

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Overwhelmed? You Need A Creativity Retreat

I believe that business ownership is a creative endeavour.  But sometimes it can feel more like a task factory, more like a ‘job’ (you know, like the one you ran away from??),  than a creative outlet.

And the problem is it kind of gets worse as you get better and more experienced at what you do, which feels counter-intuitive but it’s often very true.  As you become a business-building machine, it’s easy to lose touch with your passion, your vision, your BIG WHY,  and it’s possible to even lose that genuine connection with the people you love to serve.

What a tragedy!

But it’s all too real for many business owners, especially as they grow from being a solo-entrepreneur or micro-business to one that is consistently driving profit and also supports others, not just the business owner.  The kicker is that your passion and creativity and the way that you express that is what really draws prospective clients in. It’s what people loved about you in the first place.  Heck, it’s what you loved about you too! And if you lose touch with it, then your prospects and fans do as well.

That passion and creativity is why you set up shop to begin with, right? (You didn’t do it because you thought it would be easier than having a job, did you??) So it’s time to reclaim your calling and your creativity.

But how?

Attend a creativity retreat.

It’s SO important to get away from your endless To-Do list, your everyday activities, and reconnect to your creative energy.   Giving time and space to you creativity, and actively working on the projects and ideas, will move you toward the future. It’s the juice that fuels your vision.

Don’t consider this a luxury. It’s a necessary practice for entrepreneurs and leaders. Seriously.

So I urge you to either find the time and place to have your own, personal creativity retreat, or better yet, come to mine!

There are some biz babes and bros I know who literally check themselves into a hotel room, turn off their phone, and stay there for a couple of days.  Writing, filming, creating.  Or the really lucky ones jump on a plane and go somewhere exotic, away from everything they know.  This is awesome if you are highly self-motivated, not easily distracted and have the time to research what’s going to work.

With a group or guided experience however, you get the benefit of structure, expertise on hand, peer support, and collaborative energy. Being around other people on a similar mission often makes it easier to get into the creative flow. (Being given a gentle nudge by a coach when you get stuck also helps!)

Regardless of what way you choose to go, your creativity retreat should include these components:

Physical Separation

Remove yourself from all distractions – clients, employees, kids, housework, day-to-day activities. Creativity and writing require a high level of focus that is often impossible in our normal environment.

Go somewhere different, away from what is ‘normal’. It doesn’t have to be the other side of the world, unless you have the means and the inclination of course.  A mountain or coastal retreat works well because of the natural inspiration the surroundings offer.

Separation also means technological separation. Where possible, don’t be calling in to the office or home to see how things are without you; and ask ‘your team’ to respect the same boundaries.  Being far away isn’t useful if you keep being interrupted by phone calls, texts, updates, etc.

Creating physical space away from your norm will allow the creativity to flow more easily.

Creative Inspiration

Your retreat should incorporate things that support your creative side – and everyone is a little different on this front.  Some people need the beach, others may need an adrenalin fuelled activity, still others might love the funky vibe of an urban neighbourhood.

Moving your body definitely helps to improve focus and creativity, so ensure your retreat includes regular breaks for yoga, stretching, walks, swims, dancing.

Other inspirational activities may be listening to mantras or music, trying something new, colouring in, listening to an inspirational speaker, cooking in a new style.

Enough Time

Habits and patterns are hard to break.  Unwinding from your normal routine takes time.  Don’t expect you can go away for an afternoon and slip into super-creativity-retreat-mode.  To really gain the full benefit of an intense creative time, you need sufficient time. I recommend a minimum of 36 hours, but take 2 or 3 days if you can.

Tangible Results

Before you go on your creativity retreat, set some specific outcomes, but be sure to have a flexible mindset that allows room for new ideas as well.  My retreat participants spend up to two hours with me planning what they want to achieve and why.  This is then condensed into a formal Retreat Plan that they pledge to follow by signing it on night one of the retreat – accountability always works best!

If you don’t have a plan, and are simply interested in ‘going with the flow’,  you may find yourself floundering.  Time is precious – don’t go wasting it.

Setting yourself a goal to complete X amount of blogs, or write your book outline, or create 6 months worth of Facebook posts, means you will come out the other end of retreat having accomplished something! You will have a body or work that can make a real difference to your business and carry the retreat experience forward.

Do you need to get out of your rut and shake things up?

Perhaps it’s time for a creative, entrepreneurial retreat!

WeetBix and God – a story made in heaven

There was a moment at the breakfast table recently, when my daughter randomly said: “So, who actually IS God?”

“Well…..” I responded, taking a sip of coffee, buying time to find an appropriate and easily digestible answer before her WeetBix got soggy.

“You see…he’s not a HE but she’s not a SHE. God is a feeling, a spirit, a moment in time, an expression, a sensation, a comfort, a joy, a leader, a teacher. God is the creator of all living things… if that’s what you want to believe.”

She mulled it over between mouthfuls and then said: “So does God still exist? Like, wander around and stuff. Didn’t Jesus actually wander around and eat breaky and live on the earth? And isn’t God supposed to be his dad?”

Hmm. Tough one.

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How to write like a somebody when you feel like a nobody

Are you sick to death of everyone telling you how to stand out in this online world? Do you ever wonder whether anyone is actually going to bother to listen to your advice anyway? I used to feel the same way.

I have never been an introvert but, after many years of successful corporate life, somehow I lost my nerve when it came to promoting myself and my own business.  I knew what I was offering was valuable and I had the credibility and know-how to back it up, but I didn’t understand why people would read my writing and marketing tips when the web was completely flooded with information from people I deemed more authoritative than me.

Why would anyone listen to me?

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Key things to consider before attending a writer’s retreat

Whether you’re a business-owning 40 something (ahem) like me, a fresh university graduate, a middle-aged career-changer, or a retired widow, a writing retreat could be just what you need to start that book, finish your online course content, or finally get those blogging ideas out of your head and onto the page. It isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but it certainly is mine….and it’s also exceptionally useful, productive and necessary when you lead a busy life and need dedicated time to get things done.

There are people I know who are mystified as to why I would want to run away and ‘just write’ for the weekend. They can’t fathom why I’d have to ‘go away’ to do that when I have a perfectly great work space at home. They also don’t really understand when I say that I actually just want to write ALL day, like 8 hours per day, almost non-stop, only breaking for coffee and chocolate.

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I confess to telling untruths about my family…..

For the past few months I’ve been telling myself some stories about my family. And unfortunately, a number of them have been negative and frankly untrue.

“Master 4 is just that way at the moment, it must be the testosterone…”

“That’s just Miss 7’s personality, it can’t be helped….”

“That’s just the way we parent, it’s all we have time for….”

“Maybe we’re not meant to have a smooth ride….”

“I can’t help it, I don’t know any other way right now…”

And so on.

It’s not great. It’s not cool. And I’m not really proud of it. But I’ve thought it, felt it and said it.

What happened on our recent family jaunt up the east coast was very interesting however; my thinking about my family shifted markedly. Master 4 isn’t THAT way, or any other way in fact – his behaviour was just that way in that moment. And Miss 7 isn’t this type or that type of kid, she just behaved that way as a result of the knowledge she had at that point in time and the triggers around her.  We aren’t any type of people or family, we have simply been behaving a certain way as a response to the pressures, emotions, events around us. And over the last 6 days, we moved from behaving in a very particular way, to behaving in a vastly different way.

IMG_7732Days away from the home, properly disconnecting from work and renovations, and genuinely connecting with each other did amazing things for our behaviour and interactions with each other.  And it didn’t take much to do it. In fact, there was no plan for it to happen, not even a conscious thought or hope that it might happen, but happen it did.

You see, we had a very busy year last year with a number of high stress points and challenges.  We also had some amazing celebrations which I guess in many ways added to the rollercoaster of emotions.  My husband (Simon) and I both spent a lot of time travelling, which in and of itself is not stressful (in fact we both love it), but the planning for it to occur with two children to look after, was.  We also lost two dear pets rather suddenly, undertook a bunch of renovations on our home, and dealt with some rather ordinary family health issues. My business ramped up enormously which, whilst fabulous, meant I had to (and wanted to) find more hours in the week and therefore had to lean more heavily on my already slim support systems – something I’m not very good at doing (it’s in my 2016 plan to figure this bit out!). I also felt the pressure to be there for an increasingly demanding school and after-school activity regime and all that’s involved with that.  My kids needed me more as their emotional requirements changed, and yet I felt less and less available.  My parents also needed to lean on me more and yet I didn’t know how to make that work, given distance and time. My head was elsewhere and everywhere, trying to be everything and everyone. And Simon was the same. He was asked to lead a high profile and extensive project which would see his responsibility and time requirements increase, and along with it, his stress levels. He barely got home to see the kids before bed and was gone before they woke. “When’s daddy coming home?” was a nightly question to be faced with, and “I don’t know” was often the unsatisfactory answer.  They needed him, and didn’t get him, so they needed me more. And I simply didn’t have the reserves.

teaching fishingAnd so our weekends were a blur of trips to Bunnings, maintaining the house/garden, running to activities, a hurried visit to friends, late night working sessions and too many wines (under the guise of having a life and enjoying ourselves!), all masked as ‘family time’.  We were often tired and restless and resented the kid’s need to be with us constantly and got antsy about having no time to get anything done. And we spent too many moments saying “go and amuse yourself please, just for an hour or so,” and then got grumpy when the kids were fractious, fighting and hanging off our heels. No fricking wonder!

Craziness. And not at all the vision I had of my ideal life.

So it was a lovely surprise when driving home last night that Simon and I both reflected on the amazing change of behaviour our roadtrip had created in our family.  We didn’t know it would happen, we didn’t do anything special. We didn’t even try. We simply relaxed and enjoyed each others’ company. Importantly, we were present.

Lucy learnt how to backflip in the pool and catch a wave on her boogieboard. Simon helped her and she beamed.

Ollie learnt how to catch a fish and play cricket on the beach. Simon helped him and he glowed.

We walked, we swam, we cooked, we rode, we found crabs and jellyfish and squid and stingrays. We lay still and watched the clouds. We talked, we shared, we read books, we watched ballet, and we moisturised each other’s warm skin. And it was heaven. It was how I remember it was when I was 7. THIS was my family. THIS is who we are. IMG_7678

They need us just to be present. They need us to connect deeply when we talk with them, to laugh loudly when we’re learning, to give all of our body when we’re playing.

We’re full to the brim of this goodness right now. I know it may not last as the school year starts, the workloads increase, and the challenges arise, but for right now it fills me up and I’ll hang on to it for as long as I can. What I do know though, is that we are not any particular type of people, we behave in certain ways at certain points in time, in response to events and people. My aim is to respond more regularly with presence.

And with presence comes more positive and powerful stories…..