THE COM­MU­NI­CA­TOR No stress yet but Christ­mas is right around the cor­ner

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

IT’S the drive to school on Wed­nes­day and I ca­su­ally men­tion to Lulu that “Sun­day is Oc­to­ber 1st”. “That’s right,” my nine-year-old daugh­ter chirps. “It’s al­most Christ­mas.” “Thanks a lot, Lulu,” I think. Now I can teeter Christ­mas prepa­ra­tions atop my ev­er­ris­ing men­tal list of things I need to at­tend to.

Last July, the week be­fore I jet­ted over to the US to lead a se­ries of client train­ing ses­sions and host a tech con­fer­ence (oh, and visit fam­ily too), I was part of an Im­age Mag­a­zine net­work­ing break­fast in which I was asked to share my tips on how to cre­ate work/ life bal­ance.

I chuck­led re­call­ing that event when, on Tues­day af­ter­noon, I found my­self rac­ing away from Fota Is­land Re­sort (well, as quickly as one can race con­sid­er­ing the speed bumps strate­gi­cally placed on the road out there). I had just fin­ished em­cee­ing a day-long con­fer­ence there which, as con­fer­ences of­ten do, had run a bit over-time. I had 15 min­utes to get back to Cork city to pick up Lulu on time from her af­ter-school care. I was seven min­utes late. Thank­fully, her minder was un­der­stand­ing.

Next, with Lulu in tow, I had to dash over to Su­per­valu to grab cup­cake pa­pers and var­i­ous in­gre­di­ents since to­mor­row was “cake sale day” for Lulu’s class. Back at home, we baked, iced and dec­o­rated (if you haven’t picked up ed­i­ble glit­ter yet, Lulu highly rec­om­mends it) and then I helped her get ready for bed.

Later that night, I spent a cou­ple of hours putting the fin­ish­ing touches on a pre­sen­ta­tion I was to give a group of po­ten­tial clients the next day. They are in Shan­non so I had plans to drive there, af­ter, of course, I dropped Lulu and her cupcakes off.

This brings me back to this Wed­nes­day morn­ing’s school-run and Lulu’s Christ­mas com­ment com­ing on top of ev­ery­thing else. Man, the stress. De­spite what I may have said at that Im­age break­fast in July, here in Oc­to­ber, a cer­tain beloved com­mu­ni­ca­tions colum­nist is feel­ing there’s just not enough hours in the day.

Which is why I’m de­lighted to in­tro­duce you to Car­o­line Lay­cock. She runs the very ap­pro­pri­ately named com­pany, Get More Done At Work.

Al­though she’s based in the UK, Car­o­line is orig­i­nally from Mon­aghan and her fam­ily is still here in Ire­land.

In fact, we met be­cause her ex­tremely wise and thought­ful mother had been cut­ting out my col­umns every week and sav­ing them in a lit­tle pile, giv­ing them to Car­o­line when she came to visit in the sum­mer.

Car­o­line emailed me and we’ve be­come fast friends. She em­pha­sises to her clients in much the same way I do with my own that how we more ef­fec­tively com­mu­ni­cate to our­selves is the first step to­ward how we will more ef­fec­tively com­mu­ni­cate with oth­ers.

Car­o­line of­fers a three-step frame­work for be­com­ing more ef­fec­tive and to - I sim­ply love her lan­guage here - “give the im­pres­sion of be­ing in con­trol”:

Start by tak­ing care of your­self. Make sure you have given your­self the proper men­tal and phys­i­cal ca­pac­ity to get things done. How are you eat­ing? Hy­drat­ing? Are you well­rested?

The night be­fore my em­cee job at Fota this past week, there was a din­ner for the or­gan­is­ers and speak­ers.

It was a great time to meet one an­other over de­li­cious food and a glass of wine. But by 10.30pm, when the Mi­dle­ton Very Rare was pre­sented, I ex­cused my­self for bed. (Okay, I had a sip of the whiskey, but I swear only a sip.)

Our brains are our most valu­able as­set, so I know we have to do all that we can to pro­tect them and nour­ish them.

Car­o­line re­minds us all to take a mo­ment be­fore “div­ing in” to work. First re­flect on what you need to do and in what or­der. How much time will each task likely take?

For in­stance, I know that some­times I put un­nec­es­sary pres­sure on my­self by cre­at­ing “false dead­lines”. Do I re­ally need to do all five tasks today? Or can one of them slide to to­mor­row when I am freer and fresher? Un­der­stand­ing our pri­or­i­ties is cru­cial if we want to be clear on where to spend our pre­cious time.

When Car­o­line says fo­cus, she tells me she means it “like a fa­natic”. She adds: “We now know what needs to be done, so get on and ac­tu­ally DO it.” So, do not let dis­trac­tions get in the way.

Try one solid un­in­ter­rupted hour. Don’t open your email, Face­book or Twit­ter tab on your lap­top or tablet. Don’t look at your phone un­less it’s an emer­gency. Don’t even get up for a cup of tea. Elim­i­nate dis­trac­tions and cre­ate space to do your think­ing and your work. As we say in the States: “Git ‘er done!” In ad­di­tion, Car­o­line urges you to re­mem­ber: Do your most brain­tax­ing work when you have most en­ergy.

Do what­ever you can to set your­self up for suc­cess every day.

Tell those you work with what your pri­or­i­ties are and do tasks with fo­cus, not for­get­ting to re­fresh along the way.

You’ll be giv­ing oth­ers – and your­self – that all-im­por­tant im­pres­sion you’re in con­trol, your brain will thank you for your ef­fort, and PS - don’t for­get the ed­i­ble glit­ter for your next cupcakes. How are you fo­cus­ing your work? Your team? Your­self ? Want my cup­cake recipe? Write to Gina in care of Sun­day­busi­ness@in­de­pen­dent. ie

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