How to Banish Pinball Syndrome & Rock Your Pinball Wizard

Photo by Mervyn Chan on Unsplash


It’s the season for magic. It’s in the air.


Magic has been a theme for me lately, what with my discovery of my Nana’s magical kingdom & my upcoming website redesign influenced by my archetypes (one of which is alchemist- bring on the magic of transformation!).


Magic is also something that came to mind when I read Todd Davis’ article Pinball Syndrome, because it immediately made me think of the magical Pinball Wizard by the Who. Yes, I’m a child of the 70’s.



Shiny Object Syndrome

The magic of the season can easily be tarnished by shiny object syndrome. You know the one, the _____ (insert people, objects, demands on our time) that promise big but delivers poorly or not at all (unless you call capturing our precious attention delivering).


Like pinballs flying around without aim or direction, shiny object syndrome can pull you off focus & off track. Whether it be the new bauble you’re pressured to buy or the promise of completing an over flowing to do list, how do you separate the glam from the false glitz, the hollow promise from the genuinely enriching (& I’m talking more than just moola)?


Photo by Jordan Bauer on Unsplash

In short how do you become a pinball wizard, aka in control of those shiny baubles?


Davis has some suggestions. First though, let’s see if you’re a sufferer of pinball syndrome:


  • You’re busy but you’re not accomplishing much


  • You’re bustling … with tasks that give you the charge that comes from getting something done in the moment, but that don’t move you toward your chief goal.


  • You’re too busy to get anything done.


Did any or all resonate? If so you’re likely suffering from pinball syndrome.



But wait, don’t loose hope.


Here’s what Davis suggests to recover (& to which I’ve added a few). May the medicine go down smoothly.

Photo by Jonas Vincent on Unsplash

  1. Praise.  Seriously, pat yourself on the back. Give yourself a high five. This is a wonderful time to reflect on BIG QUESTIONS like these. Kudos for reading this article & reflecting.


A quick sidebar: I’m designing an online course to help you plan for a fun, fab 2018. Interested?

See the form below for how to be put on the (no obligation) mailing list.


  1. Productivity. Stop measuring productivity in terms of busyness. Instead, figure out your overarching purpose, your ‘why’ & then measure whether you’re generally aligned with that or not. This is a super important step towards getting IMPORTANT STUFF done.


  1. Prioritize. Davis says first, and perhaps most important, is to determine what is truly important or what is simply urgent. Do you know what your biggest goals are for the quarter, and for the year? What could you accomplish that would really power the business forward, and make you a star in the process? Get clear on those goals.


4. Plan.  Sit down every Sunday and chart out the week. Decide what each day’s goal will be and have a plan to stick to it. You might need to block out time. Other things can wait. Amazingly, urgent but unimportant tasks often resolve themselves with the simple passage of time, says Davis.


  1. Practice procedures. No matter how hard you try to squeeze out more, there’s only so many hours in a day. You’ll feel like you have more hours though if you stop wasting time trying to find that thingamajig or that whatchamacallit. Put systems into place that bring you ease & efficiency so you can focus on your priorities. Consider systems like: use a social bookmarking tool like Diigo so you can find resources fast, create Google alerts to help you research, using a virtual assistant (full disclosure that’s a referral link as I’ve used the VA company GetFriday for more than a decade now).



And pat yourself on the back again. You’ve come full circle. With a little persistence your pay off can be big & you can kiss those pinballs or shiny object syndrome, goodbye for good. Just remember that productivity doesn’t always equal busyness, that figuring out your priorities is well, a high priority & then plan accordingly, with systems to help you achieve ease & efficiency.




Annnnnnnd take action:


  • Grab your journal & go through the steps above to say goodbye to pinball syndrome & hello to pinball wizardry


  • Fill in this form to be added to the list to get more information on my online course, planning or a fun fab 2018



Todd Davis, who I quoted in this post,  is the Chief People Officer of FranklinCovey, the company founded by Stephen Covey of the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” franchise. His book, Get Better: 15 Proven Processes to Build Effective Relationships at Work was just published


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How Actors, Zookeepers & More Are On Standby 24/7 To Help You


As a little girl I learned a key lesson about magical kingdoms being hidden in plain sight from my beloved Nana (that’s a picture of her as young woman).   Later I learned to look at resources that were right in front of my nose that could help me get out of sticky situations.


Sometimes the solution to a pesky problem is staring you in the face.


Which is all fine & good but you may be saying to yourself, ‘nice story Lee-Anne, but how do I actually do that?’


I’m glad you asked.


Here’s a fun, fast way to practice.


  1. Pick an issue you need some new insight on


  1. Now pick 2 numbers between 1 & 701


  1. Match those numbers to the numbers on this list (which is a list of occupations)


  1. Now imagine two people from those professions meeting you for lunch to give you advice on said issue you need some insight on. Imagine what they would have to say to you. Let your imagination roam. Have fun with brainstorming.


Still not sure how to do this?


How to find resources that are staring you in the face (in this case your imagination)?


Here’s an example.


  1. My example issue is how to be patient with myself as I’m in the depths of creating my new website, which is at once exhilarating, wildly creative & fun, while also being overwhelming, scary & frustrating.


  1. I picked numbers 1 & 701 from this list.


  1. I matched those numbers to the numbers on this list & came up with actor & zookeeper.


  1. Then I imagined going to lunch with an actor & zookeeper & asking them for advice about how to be patient with myself as I’m going through the process of redeveloping my website.


What would an actor & zookeeper have to say about my issue with being patient?


  • The actor, playing off improv comedy, might tell me to be prepared but to also delight in the huge amount of learning I’m doing & the opportunity to rethink & re-craft my offerings.

Actress Lupita Nyong’o

  • The zookeeper, who deals with cages, which is a type of boundary, might say to keep things simple & not get overwhelmed by trying everything under the sun. To focus. She might also suggest I focus on care & feeding – to make sure I get enough sleep, exercise & good food while I’m working so hard.

Photo Credit: davitydave Flickr via Compfight cc

Get the picture?



Annnnnnnd take action:


  • Go on, pick a pesky problem & take two professionals to lunch to pick their brains for advice, so you can get some new perspective.


  • Then hit reply & let me know how it goes.


  • And don’t forget along the way to discover the magical kingdoms hidden in plain sight.


I can just imagine my Nana grinning with delight for you now.








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How To Get Unstuck Thanks to Magical Kingdoms

Photo Credit: Melissa O’Donohue Flickr via Compfight cc


Are you facing a particularly pernicious problem? Banging your head against the wall in frustration because you’re stuck & stumped? Stay tuned for some ease & how to find a way forward …. using resources that are right in front of your nose. Plus I’ll follow-up next week & share a fun, creative way to practice seeing anew & finding a new perspective.


But first, last week I wrote about Five Ways To See Anew & Find Another Perspective. They are easy tips & techniques for how to move forward when you’re stuck. Check out the blog post or see my quick summary below.


  1. Realize you have biases. We see what we expect to see.
  2. Take a hard look at your assumptions. Assumptions are tricky devils. They are so so difficult for us to see but often obvious to others. The answer? Question question question.
  3. Look in front of you. Look for the resources that are hiding right in front of your nose. You just might find a magical kingdom. More about this in a sec.
  4. Look behind you. Look to history & find the story; as in how the well recognized blue tooth symbol is an ancient king’s nickname.
  5. Look anew. Find an alternative way to use something – which is what I did when I discovered, while on safari no less, a new way (for me) to read magazines.


I also told you that I’d expand on #3, which is all about finding hidden resources, those that are hiding right in front of your nose, in plain sight.


The best way for me to explain this one is to take you back in time.


So relax, get comfortable & join me, in my Nana’s tiny, pink house on a hot, sunny Canadian day.


The old cloudy turquoise polished whorls of my beloved Nana’s linoleum kitchen floor were perfect for sliding my little girl stocking feet on. These same floors witnessed a constant parade of homemade bread, lemon pie & biscuits – all made by my Nana, a prairie farmer’s wife, as tenacious & strong as she was quiet.

In the tiny kitchen there wasn’t enough room to have a table in the middle of the room, rather it was pushed up against side of wall, which is where I was sitting as I watched my Nana walk to middle of floor, bend over, & with her shorts riding up over her knobby knees, seemingly out of thin air, lift up a brass ring & pulled up a trap door hidden in the floor.

As I watched with my mouth agape (wondering if I was going to get in trouble eating with my mouth open) I saw my Nana with new eyes. She must be a magician; all she was missing was a swirling red velvet cape

The trap door led to steep dark red painted stairs, which were chipped with age & worn slippery & smooth. I followed her with my eyes, which were as wide as a prairie sunset. The temperature changed; it got cooler, despite the heat of the day. The smell that wafted up was earthy, loamy & mysterious.


I had discovered a trap door leading to a magical kingdom (aka Nana’s cellar), right in front of my nose.


This newly discovered magical kingdom came to be the site of many happy childhood memories – from playing on the old wooden swing hanging from the cellar ceiling, feeling the coolness of the damp air contrast with the searing heat outside to years later, when I could write, leaving my beloved Nana messages on the old chalkboard. Can I tell you how my heart tripled in size, when every single time I’d come back for a visit (which could span a few years as we lived far, far away) the same message was there, which only then, I’d erase & leave her a new one.


Next time a problem is staring you down, stare right back & look for resources that may just be hiding in plain sight. Who knows, you might just find a hitherto hidden magical kingdom.



Annnnnd take action:

  • You may be saying to yourself, ‘nice story Lee-Anne, but how do I actually do that?’  Stay tuned for a simple, fun, creative way to do just that next week.


  • In the meantime stare down those pesky problems & look for magical kingdoms hidden in plain sight.

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Five Ways To See Anew & Find Another Perspective


Last week I made the case for Why You Need To See Anew & Find Another Perspective.


Because even though you know that today’s problems won’t get resolved by the same approaches you’ve taken in the past …

And even though you know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (Albert Einstein) …

Even though you know all this, you still find yourself banging your head against the wall when that frustrating colleague is late with his report … again.

And you still find yourself reacting the same ol’ same ol’ way to your partner when he forgets to bring home the milk like he said he would …. again.


Even though you know it’s important to take another look, to gain a new perspective I can be tough to actually do that.


But it doesn’t have to be.


Here are 5 simple approaches to enlarging your perspective, to finding novel ways to solve pesky problems.


  1. Realize you have biases. We see what we expect to see. Case in point- my kiddo sent me the gorgeous picture of an eye (above). I asked him if I could use it for this blog post & also asked him whose eye it was. Turns out it’s my eye! I was expecting it to be someone else’s so I didn’t even recognize the very same body part I look in the mirror at every morning!


What to do with your biases? Search for the boundaries of your perspective. Put another way ask yourself how your culture affects your worldview. An easy way to realize the effects of culture is to examine your relationship with time. Is time a commodity, something that can be diced, shaved, saved, banked? Or is it a fluid, more liquid concept? Your answer will have a direct relationship with your culture



  1. Take a hard look at your assumptions. Assumptions are tricky devils. They are so so difficult for us to see but often obvious to others. The answer? Question question question.


For example, why do we say ‘the light bulb went off’ to describe when inspiration hits but the picture of the light bulb is always on & the scene is full of light. It should be the opposite. If a light bulb goes off, it should be dark, like this Moen ad, which beautifully turns an assumption on its head.

When you’re up against the wall of a pernicious problem seek out the assumptions you are making. Once you identify them, alternative options arise more easily.



  1. Look in front of you. Look for the resources that are hiding right in front of your nose. You just might find a magical kingdom.


I’ll write more about this next week, how I discovered a really, truly magical kingdom right in front of my face.  In the meantime next time a problem is staring you down, stare right back & look for resources that may just be hiding in plain sight.



  1. Look behind you. If a picture tells a story of a thousand words, our first glance tends to tell a much shorter story. In mere seconds we lock in an opinion, a viewpoint & then we’re onto the next thing.

Case in point. Do you recognize this symbol? You likely said it’s the Bluetooth symbol. What if I told you it is also the nickname for an ancient King who unified Denmark, Sweden & Norway & the Bluetooth symbol is a combination of his initials?

Next time you bump up against a challenge look behind you, behind the problem. Dig deeper beyond first impressions, look for options, for alternatives. Look for the story.



  1. Look anew. Find an alternative way to use something.


Case in point. We’d been on safari with our camping clan (yes that’s us & yes that’s a lion walking between the tents). My dear friend Sarah, who’s not too keen on safari camping especially after the lion visit, pulled out an IPad & started to read some magazines. That & some vino kept her mind off said lion.

I was gobsmacked.

Because I prefer reading books in print (not online) I made the mistake of assuming magazines had to be read the same way. Not so. Since that safari I’ve had a subscription to Texture, which gives me access to hundreds of magazines every month. Now that’s my kinda bliss – bite size learning, on the go & always accessible. It only came about though because I saw someone using an alternative way to read a print magazine.

Stop the head banging

So the next time you find yourself banging your head against the wall with a pesky problem, practice gaining a new perspective by: realize your biases, take a hard look at your assumptions, look in front of you, look behind you & look anew.


Need a practical way to practice? In two weeks I’ll share a super fun, easy, creative way to do just that. In the meantime be thinking of a pesky problem that you need to see anew with some new perspective.


Annnnnnd take action

  • Practice looking for assumptions you make, especially the next time you face a problem
  • Look in front, look behind, look anew
  • Check out some of my other blog posts on finding a new perspective
  • Share your results! Leave a comment below & let me know how it went.

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Why You Need To See Anew & Find Another Perspective

Photo Credit: Frank Reitz Flickr via Compfight cc


Even though you know that today’s problems won’t get resolved by the same approaches you’ve taken in the past …


Even though you know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (attributed to Albert Einstein) …


Photo Credit: RLHyde Flickr via Compfight cc

Even though you know all this, you still find yourself banging your head against the wall when that frustrating colleague is late with his report … again.


And you still find yourself reacting the same ol’ same ol’ way to your partner when he forgets to bring home the milk like he said he would …. again.




Even though you know it’s important to take another look, to gain a new perspective …


It’s tough to actually do that.


Photo Credit: Amy McTigue Flickr via Compfight cc

It’s harder than trying to put a pair of pants on a 2 year old who doesn’t want to get dressed.


It’s harder than staying cool & collected when your teenager gives you ‘that’ look – the one that manages to convey with a raised eyebrow & a slight sneer, that you know nothing & you’re ridiculous.


Yep gaining a new perspective it’s haaaaard.


And ….



It doesn’t have to be.


Next week I’ll share 5 easy ways to take another look, create a new perspective & to shed some light on tenacious, sticky problems.


But first, before we take another look, a peek at possibilities, a gateway to novel solutions, let’s talk baggage. Yours, ours & theirs.


We all come with baggage.

CC licensed prof use


And yet while other people’s baggage is often easy to id, seeing our own is elusively difficult.


Our baggage is based on lots of things, which all come together to form a very unique perspective – yours. Your perspective is as unique as your fingerprint. It’s a powerful potent combination of:


  • your age
  • your gender
  • the language(s) you speak
  • your family culture
  • your organizational culture
  • where you live
  • your ethnicity
  • your religious/spiritual beliefs
  • your physical abilities & more


All of the above intertwine to create your culture, which Gerd Hofstede beautifully defines as the collective programming of the mind that divides us into groups.


How can we break free?

Given that we have a strong tendency, even an urge, to look at things the way we always have & given that our culture tends to keep our perspective locked in tightly without us even knowing it, how can we break free?


Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight cc


Next week I’ll demonstrate 5 simple approaches to enlarging your perspective. Stay tuned- they have to do with my discovering a mystery eye, light bulbs, a magical kingdom, Bluetooth & a real live lion.


Annnnnnd take action



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Resilience Is About How You Recharge Not How You Endure

I’m the Queen of suck it up. I can put my nose to the grindstone & buckle down with the best of them. Hours can pass without my noticing my shoulders are aching, my back is sore & I need to go to the bathroom. I work hard, really hard.  That’s why I need an image like the one on the wall beside my desk.


When I was a full time university student, I also worked full time (to get enough money for the former). I recall holding a meeting in the bathroom one time because deadlines were looming.


I started my business when my first kiddo was a baby. I recall with immense gratitude when the dual telephone ring was invented. I could tell by the ring tone if the caller was for my business or not & didn’t have to clench my stomach in knots when picking up the phone, scared it would be a business caller & my baby would be crying in the background.


I was born with a sense of urgency. I’ve always wanted to learn MORE, do MORE, reach out into this big beautiful world & experience MORE. Not surprisingly, until recently, I had an odd relationship with time- I always saw it as a commodity & one that there was never enough of.


This sense of urgency, of putting my nose to the grindstone & sucking it up has served me well. I put myself through university – I was the first one in my family to get a university degree let alone a Masters degree – & I’ve made a wonderful life rich with experiences in my adopted home of Kenya, while creating a business I love, serving clients that are working hard to effect social change.


And yet …


Last December, when I was doing planning for this year, I came up with 3 themes that I wanted to reflect on for the upcoming year. My relationship with time was one of them. I have a handy reminder by my desk & it’s been uber helpful in rolling over in my mind how I relate to time.



As I age, I realize there are benefits to breathers & breaks. It’s not lazy to kick back on my patio, to meditate, to draw, make a collage or even (Gasp! Confession time) watch my beloved reality TV shows or hit the dance floor. It’s rejuvenating.


I work hard at creating blank time – aka time where I don’t have to do anything or be anywhere. It’s a hard won habit as I still have to squelch the urge to fill my hard won blank time.


Turns out I’m not alone in my thinking. Research backs me up.


You don’t have to endure or suck it up. Rather recharging amps up your resilience.


When you hear the word resilience what do you think of?


The dictionary definition is “speedy recovery from problems” & “elasticity.”


Let’s focus on what it takes to have a resilient attitude in the first place.


  1. We have a problem Houston. Our attitude for starters. We often take a militaristic, “tough” approach to resilience and grit.” (Re)enter my notion of sucking it up. Put up, shut up, grit your teeth, bare down.


  1. Following close on the heels of our misplaced attitude is focusing on the wrong thing. It’s not so much our hectic schedule, it’s our lack of recovery time.


Why can’t we be tougher — more resilient and determined in our work – so we can accomplish all of the goals we set for ourselves? Based on our current research, we have come to realize that the problem is not our hectic schedule ….; the problem comes from a misunderstanding of what it means to be resilient, and the resulting impact of overworking.



  1. The very lack of a recovery period is dramatically holding back our collective ability to be resilient and successful.  What gets in the way of recovery periods?


Lack of sleep

Juggling too many plates, that are too full & spinning too fast

Expectations of our self being higher than Mount Everest (seriously would you ever hold anyone else to your personal standards?)

And yes, the ‘continuous cognitive arousal from watching our phones’


  1. What do we mean by recovery period? The key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again.


Turns out it’s a bit of a mathematical equation. Try hard, stop, recover, rinse & repeat. And the more time you spend in the trying hard zone, the more time you need in the recovery zone. Why? Otherwise burnout can come knocking, & who wants to open that door?


  1. Taking time to celebrate. I do training for individual, team & organizational effectiveness in a variety of areas but one area I notice that teams & organizations consistently miss is celebrating. Check something off the list & it’s onto the next thing without taking a breath to pause, reflect, assess & celebrate.


In my experience working with clients in & from more than 80 countries, celebration helps build endurance & resilience & who doesn’t want that. When was the last time you celebrated for no reason?


  1. The link between resilience & humour. Years ago Rock.Paper.Scissors Inc. used to give out awards fro the strategic use of humour in the workplace. (Strategic is key; no laughing at)  It was my favourite time of the year when the nominations came in.


There’s lots of brain science to back up why humour is so strategic but for now, simply know that your brain is on fire when it’s reacting to humour. As anyone who’s learned a second language knows, it’s really tough to decode humour in another language. Our brain is igniting the part of our brain that we use for strategic & innovative thinking when we’re decoding humour.


What’s more we learn to laugh before we learn to walk or talk. Laughter is universal. So go on, provoke, prompt & promote the strategic use of humour.



  1. Keep your head up & focus on your goal, your vision. For example here are Richard Branson’s 8 tips for living your best life.  Think of them as passwords to a life well lived. Check them out & rank them in terms of importance to you.


  1. Keep your head down. Take “Strategic stopping” breaks. Focus on the details, on “internal recovery.”


“Internal recovery refers to the shorter periods of relaxation that take place within the frames of the workday or the work setting in the form of short scheduled or unscheduled breaks, by shifting attention or changing to other work tasks when the mental or physical resources required for the initial task are temporarily depleted or exhausted.


Here are some examples of internal recovery, strategic stopping breaks:

Meditate for 5 minutes



Take a look at the clouds in the sky- describe what they look like

Ask / answer a question – my oldest kiddo who’s now at university & I take turns asking & answering each other questions on Facebook messenger. Recent examples include: What does your hairstyle, including facial hair, say about you? What’s something I don’t know about your childhood?


  1. Take time for “external recovery breaks”


External recovery refers to actions that take place outside of work—e.g. in the free time between the workdays, and during weekends, holidays or vacations.”


Here’s some examples:

Take an online course (I’ve just started a drawing course on Creative Live & am loving it)

Read – check out these free books on kindle

Work towards social change – pick up a kid’s social change book & read to a little person in your life

Explore your community with new eyes. Check out a cultural celebration – here’s a picture of us attending the Hindu Holi celebration (festival of colours or love, where people throw powdered colours at each other with wild abandon).

Remember the old school paper fortune tellers? Grab a colleague or friend & play. Here’s one I’ve made for you to download.


So from the recovering Queen of suck it up, I bestow upon you, 9 strategies to build your resilience & they all have to do with how you recharge.

  • Examine your attitude & ditch the militaristic approach
  • Create recovery time
  • Incorporate humour & celebration
  • Keep your head up & focus on your vision
  • Keep your head down & focus on strategic stopping breaks both with internal & external recovery periods



Annnnnnnd take action:



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10 tips for uncluttering your life, not just your stuff – Part Two

Photo Credit: hellotidy Flickr via Compfight cc


Don’t pass go, stop & chop first.


It stands to reason that if we have less stuff in the first place then we have less stuff to organize, clean, schlepp etc. It’s a basic formula but one we tend to forgo.


Based on a recent personal experience of getting my beloved’s side of the bedroom organized (possible for the first time in 28 years) I learned how important it is to purge first, organize second.



But my real ah ha moment was yet to come.


When I was out walking our mutts one lovely Nairobi morning, I realized this principle of decluttering first in order to get organized applies not just to our stuff, but also to our time & our work.


Here are the second batch of tips for uncluttering your life, not just your stuff (see last week’s post for the first 5).



Take a breath, even if it’s cramped at first, because you’re about to create some breathing room, some more space. Ready?


  1. Create a not-to-do list – I’m obsessed with to-do lists. They help get flotsam & jetsam out of my blender brain so I can contrite. However they can be overwhelming so I also create a not-to do list.


  1. Delete stuff you’re not using on your phone – quick, take a peek at your phone screen. Is it cluttered & overflowing with apps, clean, mean n’ organized or somewhere in between? A study found the average person touches their phone 2,617 times a day! Note to Self podcast about the Bored & Brilliant project.


  1. Take 5. Or 10. I’ve recently started using the Simple Habit app to practice meditating. I love the sense of accomplishment I get when it adds up how long I’ve meditated in total, how many days in a row etc. Spiffy, simple.


  1. Avoid the temptation to fill. When you’ve created that space (on your phone, from your not to do lists etc.) … avoid … the … temptation … to … fill … it.


  1. Gently remind yourself. Life intrudes – that report is due tomorrow & you haven’t started it, your laundry baskets are only slightly less full than your email inbox, you’re aiming to get up early & exercise tomorrow, the fridge has to be filled & meals cooked etc etc. So make sure you create a reminder of your decluttering strategies.


As a oh-but-I-am-tempted-to-fill-the-space kinda person, I’ve created a simple reminder that I hung on my office wall. Inspired by Lara Wellman I took a 3 panel picture frame (you can use a smaller one or bigger one as you wish), put some nice paper in the frames (as opposed to pictures) & then wrote on the panes of glass with whiteboard markers. See below for a shot of mine.



Annnnnnnd take action:



  • Delete stuff you’re not using on your phone & then breathe a sigh of relief



  • And when you’ve created some space …. Don’t…. fill …. It (this from my partner as I was (still am?) in the habit of creating space only to fill it)


  • Create a reminder – make a frame with some pretty paper, & use whiteboard markers to write your reminder


  • Let me know how it’s going by leaving a comment via the spiffy workflowy app (seriously, this is an amazing tool- try it out right now)




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10 tips for uncluttering your life, not just your stuff

Photo Credit: Brett Jordan Flickr via Compfight cc

Does the name Marie Kondo ring a bell? She’s the Japanese de-cluttering guru that people are gaga over. (If you don’t know her work check out this summary of her approach by Cate La Farge Summers.)


Like me, you probably spend a lot of time organizing, cleaning & schlepping stuff from one room to another, from one floor to another etc.


One of the key things Marie lays out in her book is the importance of purging our stuff. This is a key first step that many forget. We tend to jump straight to the organizing of said stuff. (Hang in there for a personal example below.)


It stands to reason that if we have less stuff in the first place then we have less stuff to organize, clean, schlepp etc. It’s a basic formula but one we tend to forgo.


Sounds obvious but I see it over & over. We go straight to organizing without purging first.


Don’t pass go, stop & chop first.


I swoon at the thought of getting organized. Seriously, it helps me relax so I can power onto my work more effectively & efficiently.


Not so my crazy, creative, big picture, mountain top beloved. Years ago when we first started dating & I was making some lists, he leaned over my shoulder & whispered ‘don’t those make your head hurt?’ I was seriously confused. I had not a hot clue what he was talking about.


Twenty-eight years have since passed & he’s introduced me to universes I didn’t know existed because we see the world in very different ways.


And to this day I go to his office every few months & help dig it out.


It’s been a significant challenge to figure out what organizing strategies work for his working & learning style (which is so different from mine). Hint: magazine folders, each labeled with a picture of the publication inside, has worked like a charm for more than a year now.


Can I resist the temptation to say that our brains interpret pictures 600,000 times faster than text? Nope.



Recently I embarked on a massive challenge (in my eyes only, as this wasn’t an issue for my beloved).


Challenge: I wanted his side of the bedroom tidied up a bit.

Context: Let me set the stage for you – his side often looks like several suitcases vomited their contents onto the floor while a pack of toddlers decided to see just how tangled they could get the many electrical cords lying amongst the detritus.

Solution: I decided to switch out his chest of drawers for a wardrobe (& yes he knew & yes he agreed). No need to hang, fold or other pesky details. Just open door, push stuff in, close door & be done.

Outcome: My goal was to tidy up his side of the bedroom without causing him any pain or consternation aka to do it in a way that worked with his organizing style. It worked! The floor is visible, he likes his new wardrobe & I am breathing easier.


Learning moments from a wardrobe,


So why am I telling you this rather personal story?


He always says that not every moment is a learning moment but I beg to differ. I was fascinated to notice that when we started he was organizing his stuff without purging it first. I gently asked if he really needed his 3 decade old address book on the middle shelf of his new wardrobe (aka prime real estate space).


We’re still working on rewinding & purging some of this stuff first but you get the point. Purge first, organize second.


My ah ha moment


When I was out walking our mutts one lovely Nairobi morning, I realized this principle of decluttering first in order to get organized applies not just to our stuff, but also to our time & our work.


Here are 10 tips for uncluttering your life, not just your stuff


Take a breath, even if it’s cramped at first, because you’re about to create some breathing room, some more space. Ready?

  1. Core desired feeling – I’m a huge fan (& close friend truth be told) of Danielle LaPorte’s work. She has created a unique process for figuring out how you want to feel- what she calls your core desired feelings (CDF). Your CDF’s in turn help your prioritization, your work, your ambitions, your choices etc. My CDFs are spacious possibilities – I’m at my best when I feel unrestricted, & when I have space to create.

It’s been a learning process to figure out that when I’m grumpy & not at my best, it’s almost always because I’m not feeling my CDFs. In order to start uncluttering your life I recommend you find out your own CDFs. Here’s how to do just that.


  1. Pay attention to your pain points – this is the opposite of #1. Where finding your CDF’s is asset or strength based, this one flips the mirror & asks you to find what’s not If you know what’s not working (what’s uncomfortable, tiresome, frustrating etc.) you can start to take action on relieving those pains.

Here’s an example. I’m embarrassed to admit that after 20 years in business for myself I was spending ages looking up people’s contact info. It was a slow & frustrating experience. After realizing this was a big pain point for me, I did a technology audit on my business, where I made a list of other things that weren’t working well. Then I worked with a professional to help me find solutions to those pain points. Voila a new contact management system.

So pay attention to what’s cramping your style. Jot it down. Make a list.


  1. Five bucks for Fiverr – back to those pain points, if there’s something driving you nuts or an itch you need to scratch, check out Fiverr. It’s a portal of things that vendors will do for $5.00 USD. I’ve had many an infographic designed beautifully by the Codeville, a vendor on Fiverr. Sweet, easy, efficient & effective. High five for fiverr.

Here’s an example. I had my CV put into an infographic.


  1. Getting organized in Google era; I once saw Douglas Merrill speak (the former CIO of Google) & I bought his book of the same name on the spot. It’s been an inspiration for how technology can bring me ease & efficiency (one of the workshops I teach is how to use technology in this way & more). A sanity saver of mine is using technology to get stuff out of my blender brain & into a portal. In other words I make sure to get the whorls of to do’s, ah ha’s, what if’s & must remembers into a place where I can refer back to them.

Workflowy is one of the tools I use for that very purpose. It’s super easy, & because it works in the cloud, it’s across all my devices (phone, laptop, tablet). Want to see how it works? You can because it’s also shareable. Here’s the link. I’ve made it editable so please add a comment if you wish.


  1. Know your boilerplate; say what? Boilerplate text is text you type over & over. It may be how you open your emails, how you respond to LinkedIn invites, a particular email you write incessantly etc. It can be URLs you use all the time, even pictures. Make a list of them (bonus: you can keep your list in workflowy) & then for the sake of your mental health get a text expander.

Text expanders do just that- you ‘teach’ the program what an abbreviation stands for & when you type that abbreviation it expands it into text (or picture or URL) you want. Important note: the abbreviation has to be something you don’t normally type or else unwanted text will keep being inserted. Here are some examples of text expanders: TypeIt4Me (this is the one I use, it works on Macs), FastFox or Breevy (both are Mac & PC compatible).


Here’s an example. One of my abbreviations is thankq. When I type thankq the following picture is automatically inserted.

Bonus: text expanders work across all platforms, so you use them in email, word, excel, on your blog etc. Cool huh!



I’m well aware that 4 of my 5 suggestions involve tech so I’m also aware that your head might be spinning a tad.


So there you go, let’s pause for now.


Take a break, try some of the above & next week, inspired by figuring out how to sort out my beloved’s side of the bedroom, I’ll be back with 5 more tips for uncluttering your life, not just your stuff.


And know that I’m hard at work on my website redesign. It’s coming along nicely, as is my reboot for my social media strategy. I can’t wait to share it & engage with you. Stand by.


Annnnnd take action:


  1. Figure out not just what you want to do but what your core desired feelings are
  2. Id attention your pain points
  3. Resolve a pain point with fiverr
  4. Get stuff out of your blender brain & into something like workflowy– click on the link & try it right now by leaving me a message
  5. Get a text expander & save tons of time & hassle
  6. Let me know how it goes in the comment section below. I’d love to hear, as always.





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How do you say this word? → refuse


I was recently visiting dear friends in NYC. I’d originally met them in Nairobi but now they call New York home. We were having a wonderful evening on the rooftop patio of their new apartment in Brooklyn.


We’d taken the ferry over from Manhattan to discover their little oasis. The breeze off the East River whispered through the tall grasses planted on their rooftop garden. We were indulging our palates with salmon from home, beer & my partner’s beloved extra aged Gouda cheese.


As we left the patio to go back to their apartment, my friend, a non-native English speaker, commented on this sign we passed.


So how do you say that word again?


Does your pronunciation rhyme with shoes & the words means to deny or not accept.   Or does it rhyme with chartreuse & means waste or garbage?


My friend thought it meant the former & wondered what a room for denying or not accepting would be for.


Tangent: the mind boggles at the opportunities – a place to:

  • practice saying no, setting kind but firm boundaries
  • stomp your feet & act out your inner two year old on a bad day
  • practice tricky workplace negotiations
  • imagine scenarios of what would have happened if you’d said no to x, y or z


Your perspective depends on your culture including your language, where you are in the world, your literacy level, your context, your mood & even your last meal.


Say what?!


Yes when you last ate can completely affect your perspective.


In a study of roughly 5000 Israeli parole hearing cases, the ‘strongest predictor of a judge’s decision was how many hours it had been since the judge’s had eaten a meal,’ says Robert Sapolsky in a recent NPR TED radio hour called ‘How much agency do we have over our behavior?’


In other words how hungry or sated the judges were had a huge impact on whether they granted the prisoner parole or not. It was the biggest factor in their decision, yet they were completely unaware of it affecting their decisions.


Robert Sapolsky says ‘when we put people in positions of making moral judgments about behaviour, we see the more emotional parts of brain activate before the [logical, rational] cortical parts.’  He goes on to say that ‘free will is the biology that hasn’t been discovered yet.’


Putting it another way we have waaayyyy less agency than we think.


So are we victims of our biology? Should we throw our hands into the air in exasperation (or into a bag of cookies & indulge)? Do we despair our lack of control?


Nope – not at all. Rather it’s a time to enlarge your heart & your perspective.


Because we all want to belong, we all want to make a contribution here’s to holding people accountable AND recognizing the hidden currents that may be affecting others behaviour such as mental health, poverty, racism, sexism, & yes, hunger.


After all a hungry belly has no ears ~ Greek saying.


As a learning & development expert (aka training) I always make a point of asking clients if the participants I’ll be working with have any access or inclusion issues. I want to know if there anything that they know of that will affect the participants’ learning.


Here are some of the responses I’ve received over the years:


  • one person had just come back to work after being on leave because they’d been kidnapped
  • one person had just returned to work after having brain surgery
  • some groups need specific times to pray
  • some want lots of physical activity while some want none (one was very specific that there be no jumping)
  • some have had issues with incarceration, abuse, addiction, gender based violence etc.
  • one group was going through a huge change process & were stressed to the max
  • one group had experienced a massive mistake that cost the lives of several people
  • while another had members who’d survived a terrorist attack


Of course not all groups I work with have such significant access & inclusion issues but I always take for granted that at least one person in the group has issues with trauma, mental health, poverty, racism, sexism etc.


I don’t need to know who’s gone through what.

I just know that people bring their whole, complicated, messy, beautiful selves to the training & it’s my job to make them as comfortable as possible so everyone can lean in to the learning.


So tomĀto or tomĂt0, refuse (rhymes with shoes & means to deny or not accept) or refuse (rhymes with chartreuse & means waste or garbage) our perspective is affected by more than we can know. This has a big affect on access & inclusion issues – how accessible learning is & how included people feel for example.


Go feed your belly so your ears are open & in turn, widen your perspective.


Take action now:

  • What are some access & inclusion issues you’ve noticed & how do they affect your perspective? Hit reply & let me know.

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It can be hell in the hallway

Photo Credit: giovanni_cardona Flickr via Compfight cc


… one of my favourite sayings is “God doesn’t close one door without opening another, but it can be hell in the hallway.” My sister Hillary. You, our nation, our world is experiencing a black Friday. Our hope is that Sunday is coming. But it might well be hell for a while. – message to Hillary Clinton from her pastor.


Regardless of your religious/spiritual beliefs, talk about a punch to both the gut & the soul.


Never before in history have we been so close & yet so far apart.


It’s a matter of perspective.  For example, for the first time technology has the power to call together or wrench us apart.




Building alliances instead of adversaries

Building alliances instead of adversaries has been on my mind a lot as I’m thick in the middle of redeveloping & redesigning my business & my website (hang tight for fab new site coming in next few months).


We need tools to help us belong so we can breathe & then beam (showering our powerful gifts on the world). Yet world events (& some world leaders) conspire to entrench multiple, deep, intractable divides which has resulted in trauma for hundreds of thousands of people.


Most of us have experienced some form of trauma. It’s part of the topic of the next learning & development roundtable gathering where we’ll be talking about how to serve people who face multiple challenges. (Haven’t heard of the roundtable? Let me know you want to join here & I’ll add you to the mailing list. Know that we meet face to face & we Facebook live our meetings so you can join in virtually too).


The Body Keeps the Score

It’s also the focus of the book I’m most recently reading ‘The Body Keeps the Score; brain, mind & body in the healing of trauma.’ The author, Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD, says that research shows that children who were separated from their parents during the Blitz ‘fared much worse than children who remained with their parents & endured nights in bomb shelter & frightening images of destroyed building & dead people.’ If that’s not a case for the incredibly important nature of attachment I don’t know what is.


It’s a matter of perspective. There is a time to seek allies & there’s a time to challenge adversaries. There is a time to cocoon & a time to be bold of action. There’s a time to pull up the drawbridge & hunker down & there’s a time to open that same drawbridge & journey forth.


As we make our way through the ‘hell in the hallway’, let’s stay connected & attached. And let us follow Rainer Maria Rilke’s wise words:


Being patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves… live the questions now. Perhaps you will gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.  – Letters to a young Poet


And speaking of questions, take action & uncover some wicked questions.


What are wicked questions? Questions that are designed to increase innovation & uncover assumptions. Here’s an example: in an effort to decrease the rate of drinking & driving a group asked themselves how they could increase the same. That wicked question led to the invention of a machine that was installed in bars that simulated your eyesight after 1, 2, 3 etc. drinks. Et voila- drinking & driving decreased.


What’s a wicked question for our current hell in the hallway? Here’s one: How is it that we are simultaneously unique individuals, part of cultural groups & universal in our humanity?


Need some more examples? Here are 6 wicked questions every leader must ask by Doug Williamson (additional notes by me):

  1. Are We Really Clear Headed? Hot tempers can get the best of us. The situation will look different depending on how you’re feeling in the moment.


  1. Are We Using The Right Lens? As the creator of Life Lenses™ this is one of my favourites – take in the view from the balcony (Mountain Life Lens™) AND the dance floor (Carrot Life Lens™).


  1. Have We Been Totally Honest? Self-deception is deceptively easy (pun intended). Check out your musings with a variety of diverse colleagues & friends.


  1. Has Our Culture Evolved With The Times? Take some time to examine your work culture, your family culture etc. & how it’s influencing your thoughts & behaviour. And know that the best way to learn more about your own culture is to immerse yourself in another.


  1. Have We Banished Complacency? Hang out in your head & reflect, then get up off the couch & take action. Rinse. Repeat.


  1. Are We Breaking New Ground? Check out my creativity assessment if you need to amp yours up.



So while “God doesn’t close one door without opening another … it can be hell in the hallway.” If you find yourself in said hallway, seek connections & attachment, pay attention to trauma & its effects & ask yourself some wicked questions.



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