Reclaim your Va Va Voom

I was talking to a friend today who is going through the menopause. Apart from random feelings of rage and despair, she also feels totally unattractive, even though she is beautiful.  I have a lot of empathy with her. It is very difficult to feel attractive as you age and succumb to middle aged spread. Your body changes. Skin starts to hang rather than spring back and a flat stomach is a distant memory. The interesting thing is though, that I see women far bigger than me, who obviously feel attractive regardless of the love handles. Somehow, despite not conforming to the standard media images of women that we see in magazines, they feel attractive and this somehow radiates from them. So how is it possible to overlook our flaws and feel sexy again?

Esther Perel From Psychologies magazine tells us that attractiveness is a state of mind rather than a set of physical attributes..
“Beauty is a state of mind, feeling sexual is a permission you grant yourself”
So how do we change our state of mind?

It is impossible to feel sexy without feeling confident. So identify all the areas of your life where your confidence is low. The most obvious might be your body, so dedicate some time each week to how you look. This is time for you. Look at yourself in a mirror from top to toe. Which areas need some attention? Hair? When did you last have a new style or colour? Face. When did you last update your make up routine. Can you book a makeup lesson at a department store? How about a facial? What about your body? Freshen it up with a salt scrub and some new body lotion. Remove all surplus body- we are going for siren not cave woman. Hands and feet. Get a manicure and pedicure-at home or in a salon. If you’re still wearing clothes that you have had for over 5 years, get rid of them. Styles change and old clothes look dated. All black trousers are not the me-if they are from the 90s, they look like they are from the 90s! All this is going to be an investment, but it is important. Budget for an overhaul every year. Do an audit and keep your look fresh. Madonna was the master of re-invention and we can all take a leaf from her book! This year I booked a styling session at John Lewis and it was fantastic. I got a new set of clothes and, yes it was expensive, but I have had so many compliments since and I came away with outfits that I would never have been able to choose my self. Investing in yourself will give you a real lift and everyone around you will benefit from that too. Tone up your body by scheduling regular exercise. Give it priority in your diary: walking, running, Zumba…find something and do it! You will feel more toned and energetic. I really recommend a book by Lori Bryant-Woolridge called “The Power of Wow-a guide to unleashing a confident, sexy you”. It is packed full of top tips including having your own signature scent, wearing jewellery, beautiful underwear and being more aware of sensuality all around you.
The other main area where women lose confidence is in their sense of achievement. Women can often lose themselves after years of childcare or putting others’ needs first. Menopause is time for re-invention and feeling successful and valued is an important part of this. It is a great time to re-launch your career or investigate new income streams. This can be a very exciting time. A time to rediscover ourselves. There is nothing sexier than feeling successful and being noticed. Don’t become invisible- reclaim your VaVaVoom, starting right now!


Writing your career story


How do you create a cohesive CV, resume or profile when your career history is long and disjointed? Increasingly, the days of the neat and tidy CV with just a handful of companies, all in the same sector, is a thing of the past. So how can we create a tidy and consistent profile for our Linked In page or CV, when it looks like a random selection of jobs? The answer is to change it from a list to a story. Looking at each role in turn write down:-

A key challenge you faced and how you overcame it. Which skills did you use?
What type of people do you like working with ( and what are the characteristics of those you would rather avoid?)
What type of environment suits you best?
What common themes can you identify? ( helping people, problem solving etc)

Now write the story of your career so far including your strengths and themes and how these have been applied across the range of jobs. Which elements would you like to include in your future plans and which are you determined to avoid?

My career history seemed quite disjointed as I had a marketing career before children and a teaching career afterwards. However there were common themes such as an interest in people and why they do what they do; I enjoy helping people; I am good at identifying and improving inefficient processes (because I have a very low boredom threshold); I enjoy problem solving and can see unconventional solutions. I am good at ideas and not so good at implementation. I strongly dislike routine and repetitive tasks and working with narrow-minded ‘jobs worth’ people. These themes were consistent across my very mixed CV.

This process has helped me focus on what is important to me and what I am good at and has formed a key part of my plans to develop an online training business. Understanding your career story is a helpful way to understand your achievements and talents, so that you can use them to build a successful and fulfilling future.

Towards minimalism:the 25% rule


I am a naturally untidy person. My desk is covered with piles of paper and my bedside table is a landslide of books. You may think this would make me someone who enjoys clutter and detests minimalism, but I LOVE minimalism and am convinced that this is what I need in my life. The reason for the clutter is my chaotic mind and passion for new ideas, and I believe that minimalism will bring me an element of peace and calm. I am planning to use simple maths to start my journey towards minimalism. I am going to apply a 25% rule. My goal is to get rid of 25% of my stuff (use any percentage you like…are you brave enough for 50%?). The beauty of this system is that it is very simple and can be applied to a whole house, a room, a shelf or a drawer. So, starting small with a book shelf, I count the books, multiply by 0.25 and that gives me the number of books I must get rid off. 32 books x 0.25 = 8. Eight books must go. My goal is to find one area a day to apply this rule to. Goodbye chaos, hello minimalism.

Getting the important stuff done

Great businesses excel in setting goals, creating action plans and then reviewing results. This is a perpetual process: goals, action, refine, repeat. It produces optimum results and is the only way to be a winner in the business world. How many of us apply this kind of system to ourselves? There are too many things to do and it is easy to just feel overwhelmed rather than have a clear system for prioritisation. Without a clear plan, we will just be carried along in no particular direction, day by day, by the seemingly endless and chaotic list of ‘ things to do’. How can we really focus on what is most important when our attention is being demanded from so many different directions at once.

Right now, it is Sunday. Day of rest, right? I am looking around me: the garden has been neglected, the house needs tidying, washing needs to be done, I have family coming for lunch so I need to cook that. None of these things will move me forward towards my own personal goals ( building a business and sustainable income), but I cannot avoid these tasks ( and I do want to spend time with my family). It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the impossible list that we will never get to the end of. These type of tasks always end up at the top of my list and push the more important stuff to the bottom. The best solution is to delegate. This is the standard advice in traditional ‘time management’ books. They were often written by men (sorry men), whose wives take care of all the domestic clutter (kids, shopping, cleaning, cooking) enabling them to focus, almost entirely, on their career. The idea is that they then delegate as many tasks as possible ( usually to their, already over-stretched, wife or PA). Well the trouble with this system is that most of us have no one to delegate to. We are the one ones that others will delegate their tasks to, if we are not careful. I have read dozens of time management books, hoping to find a magic solution that I have missed.

I have found only two systems that are helpful and take account of the huge number of mixed tasks that most of us have to deal with. They are both very simple (which is the only type that is going to work, frankly).

The first one is based on an old fable of how to fit rocks, pebbles, sand and water into a jug. The idea is that the only way it all fits is if you put the rocks in first, then the pebbles, then the sand and finally the water. The rocks represent your most important tasks rather than all the other things that are screaming at you ( eg, steps that will help to build your business). Water represents the least important tasks. Do them last-they have to fit around the bigger things. Each day I take a large Post It note and put it in my diary (I am still a paper-based kind of woman). I write three ‘rocks’ at the top and these are my priority tasks for the day. The rest will have to fit around.

The second technique is the ‘overwhelm list’, which I use when my head is full up with too many tasks that seem impossible. I write every single thing that has to be done, which is currently jamming up my head space, on a big piece of paper. Firstly, I quickly assign each item a R, P, S, W (Rock, Pebble, Sand, Water). I cross off as many water and sand tasks as possible-can’t do it all, so these tasks will have to go. Of the remaining tasks, get rid of anything you can do straight away that is really quick. Schedule the rest in your diary so that you don’t have to think about then until they come up. Highlight 3 rocks and put them in your diary for today/tomorrow, along with a few pebbles to do (but only when you have dealt with the rocks!).

Look the part

Personally, I have never thought too much about looking the part, or how I am perceived by others. I am usually preoccupied by what I am doing rather than what people think of me. I like to think that I don’t judge or make assumptions based on looks, clothes or the car someone is driving and, I suppose, I have thought that judgements are not being made about me. It has taken too long to realise that I am quite wrong. Firstly, I do make subconscious judgements all the time ( even though I don’t want to) and secondly, I am being judged and categorised by others. Now, I could rebel against this, because It is wrong to make assumptions based on looks, clothes and cars- and haven’t we always been told it’s wrong to stereotype? The truth is that stereotyping is a psychological process that we all use to simplify a very complex social world. We need to be able to quickly categorise people (starting with ‘are they a danger to me?’ ) in order to process and manage the world we live in. It is extremely difficult to disengage this core part of human nature. So yes, I am being judged and I am judging others. With this in mind, it is important to understand what image we are projecting (on a simple visual level). How would I be instantly categorised and is it in line with who I am and how I want to be perceived? It has taken me many years of denial to come to the conclusion that if you want to succeed in our society, if you want others to buy into what you have to offer, then you have to play by the rules and look the part.
So, how do you want to be categorised? Are you still wearing the same clothes that you did five or ten years ago, even though your story has changed? How do you want to be seen today? Artist, entrepreneur, super organised? What would people, with the characteristics you wish to project, look like and can you build a mood board of these looks? The disappointing truth for me was that I looked like a slightly tired, bland, forgettable middle-aged stay-at-home Mum. What I actually want to portray is energetic, successful female entrepreneur. It is quite exciting and refreshing to realise this. I have already started my re-vamp without any guilt about getting new clothes, a new haircut and a manicure. I am now convinced that this is vital for success, not merely a self-indulgence. Here’s to looking the part!

How to be productive in a chaotic world

It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain focus and achieve our goals in this crazy world. It was difficult enough just trying to juggle work, family and other commitments, but now our attention is constantly being targeted by social media, the news and people trying to sell stuff wherever we are. It feels chaotic, as if someone has been inside your head with an egg whisk. It is difficult to think with clarity and find moments of calm. These constant demands can lead to only being able to deal with what is right in front of us, right now, and ignoring the more important and strategic activities which have the potential to change our lives in the future.
Here is a really simple way to deal with overwhelm and keep focussed on the most important things.

When you feel overwhelmed do a ‘brain dump’ and write everything down on a piece of paper. Get everything out of your head and onto a piece of paper. You will see three types of things on this list.

1. Mundane but unavoidable (MBU) tasks which have to be done (collecting the children from school, grocery shopping etc). These tasks use up your valuable time but won’t make a positive difference to your life. You can’t avoid them, but you need to do them as efficiently as possible. Don’t use headspace storing them: schedule them and move onto something more important. Highlight all these items on your list and then schedule them so that you get a reminder when they need to be done. This simple technique makes a huge difference to the feeling of overwhelm. You can clear space in your head because you know these tasks are now all scheduled and will pop up when required- you don’t need to hold them in your mind.

2. Chief Actions (CA) that will make a difference to your future. These are not usually urgent, so they get pushed to the bottom of the list, even though they are more important than the MBU tasks. These are the tasks that support your goals for the future, such as developing ideas to build a business or increase income. They are usually not straight forward and can be outside your comfort zone, which is why we often avoid them. These are the most important things on your list. Highlight three of them and make sure that these get done as a priority. Each time you find yourself being distracted or diverted ask if what you are doing right now supports any of these three Chief Actions and re-direct your efforts.

3. If it is not a mundane but unavoidable (MBU) task or chief action (CA) then does it need to be on the list at all? Can you just cross it off and not do it? Be radical: cross off as many tasks as possible. Life is far too short to do everything, so be selective.

In a chaotic world we all need to find simple techniques to keep us on track and heading in the direction we want to go. Good luck in finding clarity and successfully pursuing your goals!