Pinterest – A Database Of Intentions

My contention is that Pinterest is one of the four ways that people find things on the Internet. The default, of course, is Googling (or—fine, Microsoft—Binging). For real-time searches, there is Twitter. For people or entities, there’s Facebook. But if what you want to find are things, objects, then Pinterest is the way to go.

I don’t expect it will come as a surprise to anyone that I know or who has read any of my previous blogs that I am a big fan of the visual.

One of my favourite sources of creative inspiration is Pinterest. Many people call it a time vacuum, and perhaps it is, but a very pleasant and relaxing one.

For someone who is always looking for some creative inspiration I know no better way to while away half an hour of productive time priming my creative muscles at the same time as taking a much needed break from the realities and business of life.

So, my page is focussed around my interests. A snapshot …

  • A board for Quotes (well I am a bit of a motivation Junkie)
  • Aboard for truly great pictures (and I do mean on the REALLY great ones that grab you and forcibly pull you in)
  • A board for all things black and white (classic beauty)
  • A board for textures (this is a very wide ranging one, nothing to broaden the mind more to the beauties of our world and great fodder for powerpoint presentation backgrounds)

And then, of course, the Purpology board. All things purple, and if you have looked at my website you might have realised it is my very favourite colour!

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And you can find the most amazing amount of content, whatever your interests and likes.

Marketing, Cooking, Small Business, Fashion, Infographics, Blogging, Gardening, Allotments, Frogs, Insects, Photography, Stamps, Reading, Celebrities, Gossip, Hairstyles, Skincare, Nail Art, Shopping, Music, Musicians …. the list goes on and on and ON!

To my mind it is a wonderful digital scrapbook, a collection of everything you love and a quirky long term record of your personality and growth.

And lots of people all over the world agree

Pinterest

I love that it is a very slick and beautiful looking site, and with the ability to pin my favourite images to each of my boards my own page is a feast of my favourites

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So whatever your interest is, there is something on Pinterest that would appeal you.

And if you want to swing by my page, I would be delighted to see you 🙂

 

It’s A Funny Thing About Life

So … it has been a strange week, not least because of a very random headhunting experience.

I got a call from a local and high profile individual who had been without an EA for 6 months … first question stored up for the end of the conversation!

I had been recommended to him by my old boss – the challenging yet surprisingly lovely MP who had had 5 PA’s in 18 months before I went to work for him. So much to say about why I fared better than my predecessors but that is for another blog, for now back to the story …

Cue a delightful and brain stretching hour and a half conversation with said individual. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to say enough here to make it obvious who he is but sufficient to say a great mind with a huge amount of knowledge about a range of things I can only wonder at.

My favourite part of the conversation was comparing the dynamic of the Greek gods to the players in any corporate governance situation. Fascinating! Perhaps not to many but I am a classics geek and even 20 years after graduating I never fail to be excited by meeting someone I can talk to about it 😉

Anyway  – lots to be positive about.

Intelligent, clearly passionate about his cause (very far to the left of alternative, even for Stroud!) and thoroughly engaging. I had a nagging concern about the fact he steadfastly didn’t use a computer or email … ‘How could you possibly conduct a (clearly very successful) professional life by phone and text’ the voice in my head was loudly asking!

But he was making all the right noises about wanting someone who could have a  very active and intelligent input in his life and academic pursuits.

All great so far … so why is she blogging about it I hear you ask. And here it is

So, Julie. You seem a bit too smart to be ‘in service’, how do you deal with the resentment?’

Kapow

Wow! No longer any need to ask why he had been without an EA for six months!

Needless to say I don’t think of myself that way – I am a hard working, intelligent, knowledgeable professional who delights in the challenge and on going learning opportunities that my role supporting, enhancing and enabling the goals of the never-endingly interesting brain trust offers.

It is an occupational hazard that any PA/ EA will recognise that you have to deal with those that think you are a glorified typist – being naturally overloaded with emotional intelligence means you learn to spot and avoid such ignorance early on in your careers!

So what did I do?

This created a pause for thought … I have a son just finishing his first year in a 4 year Physics degree, an 8 year old with an expensive teddy bear habit, more animals than you can shake a stick at and a house that doesn’t pay for itself.

So I thought about all of the options and decided that there will be other opportunities and the right thing will come along at the right time. So I was bold, and I was brave  and I turned down the proper face to face interview with his exec team that he offered me … 3 TIMES!

The moral of my random story this week – believe in yourself and never EVER sell yourself short.

I (we all) deserve to work for/ with someone who values and respects what we do.

Don’t settle!

EVER!

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Make It A Happy Monday

Do you get the Monday morning blues? Many People do! Would it surprise you that they are a myth … herd mentality? Check out this research if you don’t believe me.

Now I have often been called a little contrary and perhaps I am about to prove it, but I love them! And you can too, it is all a matter of perception.

Here are just a few of my thoughts, perhaps they will help …

#Monday

Feel like you need some inspiration and perhaps a few giggles? You really should visit Twitter and explore #Monday, it will have you motivated and smiling in no time. If you want to start your motivation high early visit #ThinkBIGSundayWithMarsha, lots of people post all manner of positivity and if you post something she will repost it. Great vibes and brilliant exposure to a huge (and similarly chasing the positive vibe) audience.

Wipe That Slate Clean At Work

Do you feel you didn’t perform quite to your potential at work last week, do you want to make some real headway with a project, impress the boss, build a bridge with a colleague? What better day to let go of last week and start afresh?

Set Some Personal Goals

Do you want to spend time on your relationship, find more time to play with your children, read more, catch up on West Wing, tackle the growing dandelion issue in your garden or write that blog … pick any one with the intention of focussing on that one thing for a week. Small steps are the route to changing your life for the long term, and Monday is the day to start!

Work On Yourself

Not much different from the personal goals but with a more inward looking focus – pick something you wish you were better at. Any attribute will do … patience, ambition, speaking out, confidence, more focus? It doesn’t matter what it is, pick something and make it your focus for the week and eventually it will become second nature.

Turbo Boost Your Productivity

New research by Red Letter Days for Business shows that first thing Monday morning is the most productive time of the working week for most people. It might surprise you to know it is Thursday that most people say they are least productive. So embrace today, get your head down and start ploughing through that to do list.

Feeling Bad About Neglecting The Gym?

It would probably not surprise you to know that people report that starting the week off with exercise, healthy eating, good stress management, and a positive attitude keeps them on track throughout the week. Want to kick start those best intentions? ‘The Science of Mondays‘ suggests today is the day!

There Are Seven Days In A Week

Someday Isn’t One Of Them

Start today

Make It Count 🙂

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Need Fabulous Artwork?

They say a picture speaks a thousand words and in the case of business websites and social media it is very true.

This will be a quick blog and is really just a quick tip pointing you in the direction of one of my very favourite websites.

Over the years I have spent so much time trawling Google for artwork for presentations and the like that I am putting together, then spending more time trying to find out the copyright status/ finding versions that are big enough and of good enough quality. Who has time for such things?

And then I found Pixabay, what a revelation! The website is slick and wonderfully intuitive, the photos are plentiful, of great quality, free and largely copyright/ attribution free.

I’ve spent time exploring sources of artwork on the internet and have yet to find a competitor that comes even remotely close to beating it.

Searching is made easy with the tags but if you are wanting some inspiration I recommend having a wander through the unsorted and regularly updated photo stream on the home page, it is one of my favourite relaxing time wasters and often the source of lightbulb moments of inspiration.

So herewith some of my favourites, and apologies if you are familiar with my powerpoints, marketing material, social media, website or client work because you will definitely have seen some of these before.

Word of the Week – CommonSense

No need for the dictionary this week. This is a word that has featured repeatedly in my week for one reason and another – I thought it might throw up some interesting results on my weekly internet wander.

How to Develop Common Sense

Before we visit some lack of common sense I thought I would start on positive note, how to learn about and develop your own abilities.

Everyone has lapses in common sense. The more we’re trained to think one way (by our workplace, family, culture, etc.), the greater the chance that sometimes we allow sloppy or auto-pilot thinking to take the place of common sense. Common sense isn’t a one-stop-destination; it’s a way of thinking that needs constant nourishing and application.

 Common Sense Day

Did you know they have a ‘Common Sense Day’ in America – 4th November. Perhaps we could use one here too 🙂

If you want to know a little more about some of the history behind this, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense on Radio 4 is definitely worth a visit.

Common Sense Morality

Who would you trust more, someone whose moral principles are absolute, black and white, or someone who carefully considers the rights and wrongs of specific situations before leaping to judgment?

I spent a lot of time considering this article, and have to admit to being slightly troubled! I suppose in essence I have a problem with anyone saying that massive and universally applied generalisations are better than an intellectual application of our brain power to individual situations. How can anyone believe that the inevitable sacrifices of the first are preferable to the ‘dangerous’ implications of the second. Generalisations such as the laws of the land are obviously necessary, but when the exceptions that prove the rule arise we must apply individual consideration.

As someone who has (quite proudly TBH) been called a ‘Lefty Intellectual Guardianista’ in the past I have yet to find any argument, intellectual or otherwise, that comes close to persuading me that considering all of the options and angles to a situation before reaching a considered decision is in anyway a bad thing. If only there were more of it I say, and bahhhhh humbug to the following …

It can only work if we refuse to make ad hoc exceptions, no matter how intellectually justified they appear to be.

COMMON SENSE is a new project that supports the implementation of European Union marine policies

Marine ecosystems are integral to key environmental functions which support life on Earth, including climate regulation, prevention of erosion, and absorption of carbon dioxide. However, many marine environments, including some of those in EU marine territories, face increasing challenges.

I happily admit to having a slight bias here – I’m married to a renewables guru and I work for a company led and almost completely staffed by climate change warriors. As a parent I firmly believe in humanity taking it’s responsibility towards the planet (and it’s other inhabitants) much more seriously for the sake of the future of our children.

We should all be supporting  fight to protect our planet and combat climate change, especially  in the UK where we have a government who seem intent on leaving it to the rest of the world and damaging our country, our SMALL island, with Nuclear and Fracking.

For anyone who feels the same way this is a great website.

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One Genius’ Lonely Crusade To Teach A Computer Common Sense

One for all the geeks and nerds out there. And as the devoted mother of a Physics degree studying/ Dr Who loving/ Star Trek obsessed/ bow tie wearing fully fledged geek that is absolutely not said in any kind of derogatory way 🙂 The passion and determination of someone with a vision!

The experience taught him a lesson: If computers were to reach true artificial intelligence—tackling big problems entirely on their own—they needed more than just raw speed. They needed something beyond brute force. They needed a common sense of their own. So he decided to build it.

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http://commonsense.org.uk/

You know what I REALLY like about this? It applies to blind people, deaf people, uneducated people, disabled people, displaced people, refugee people, institutionalised people … if only the world was more like that vision of ‘No-Limits’ fairness eh

“The real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight. The real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of information which exist. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, blindness is only a physical nuisance”

And now for the Anti Common Sense

There are no words …

“The government’s decision to ban councils and other public bodies from disinvesting from trade or investments they regard as unethical is an attack on local democracy.”

How much common sense do you really have?

Common sense really involves taking the information you have and turning it into more information. Making logical assumptions and decisions based on the knowledge to hand.

Not rocket science is it … well have a go at this quiz and see how you do 🙂

 

And following a mention of Thomas Paine earlier

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Syllable Of Recorded Time

Minutes are simply notes taken during the meeting to remind everyone what was discussed, decisions that were made and actions that were agreed upon.

It doesn’t sound like rocket science does it? Well you would be surprised how many people stuggle with this relatively simple task and ask me for advice.

I’ve never met a busy person who wasn’t fighting a battle to minimise the amount of time they spend in meetings, who understands the importance of them but resents the time they take out of their precious 24 hours.

The secret with minutes is to find the balance between containing enough detail to be an accurate record but not to take any more of their time than necessary in the reading of them!

Don’t be too sparse with the context and detail though … if someone goes back to them in 6/ 12/ 18 months time to track the route to a decision they need to be able to understand it with potentially no memory of the events.

So here are a few of my thoughts and tips on how to streamline and improve your process.

My Number ONE rule?

Go out and buy a digital Dictaphone, immediately!

I regularly minute 7-8 Hour Board meetings (definitely more of a marathon than a sprint) and would not consider doing them without my Dictaphone to hand. The reasons:

  1. It means I can RELAX! If you miss the 4th bullet point reeled off in quick succession, don’t understand one of the technical terms or get distracted by an email notification that popped up on your laptop screen you know you can go back to it on the recording.
  2. It means I can LISTEN! It is important to understand the broader context and interactions of the attendees of a meeting to get the minutes right, to do that you have to really listen.
  3. It means I can be REMOTE! I have the software downloaded on my laptop so if for some reason I can’t be in a meeting, a colleague needs me to transcribe their minutes or a remote client wants me to transcribe an interview/ meeting it can all be done by simply sending sound files.

Shorthand?

I did try to learn how to do it once, and actually quite enjoyed it. The symbolic nature of it brought back memories of learning Greek at Uni.

BUT I quickly realised that it is a long studied and hard won skill, and if you don’t then use it regularly you will lose the speed and accuracy, which is after all the whole point.

It is definitely more difficult than riding a bike – it looks great though …

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So I use my laptop – and it is fabulous typing speed practise!

You can try and write them if you want to – depending on how long the meeting is your hand will start to ache at some point, your writing will inevitably become illegible and you will only have to type it all up after the meeting. Why not just take a laptop in the first place and just have finishing touches and formatting to do after the meeting is over?

I have a copy of the last meetings minutes open so all the formatting and attendees etc are largely right, why needlessly waste time formatting after the meeting if you don’t need to.

A couple of things to always keep in mind

They don’t need to be long or complicated. As with many things in life it is quality rather than quantity and all of the attendees will thank you for a succinct, readable and to the point record.

They do need to record clearly and simply what decisions were made at the meeting and who is going to carry them out.

There will be things that should be left out – private side discussions, inappropriate comments, complete irrelevancies. A great minute taker will instinctively know where this line is without having to be told.

Things to have with you

Make sure you remember your laptop charger if the meeting is going to go on a while, I am terrible for forgetting this important detail.

Always have a hard copy of the agenda next to you and have a good sense of attendees and timings before the meeting starts. I am often called on to let everyone know when we are overrunning, who is coming in next, email colleagues during the meeting to update them on timings/ overruns. Another GREAT reason to have a Dictaphone, it is difficult to concentrate when interruptions happen.

Format

I’m not going to go into this hugely because I have always found that everyone likes their minutes done differently.

As with any other document you should put some thought and care into the formatting, keep it consistent throughout, use headings/ bullets to make it easier to read, use a sensible font like Arial 11 and don’t be sloppy.

The minutes are no less important a document of record than the papers that are sent out before a meeting and it is no less important that they should be an enjoyable read – certainly not an excuse to forget about good grammar and readable sentence construction.

Whenever I start to do minutes for someone new I always seek feedback – enough information, too much information, fonts etc. Tailor them to the audience!

What should you write down?

One of the most difficult things about taking minutes is knowing what to write down and what to leave out.

Keep these two central points in mind:

  • Don’t try to write everything down – it takes forever and is really not useful. Minutes are not a word for word description of what was said, try to capture the essence.
  • Concentrate on what has been decided and who is going to do it.  The purpose of minutes is to record decisions and actions agreed by the meeting.

Actions

Perhaps the most important aspect of taking minutes!

Always note the person and their action, I like to colour them red so they are easily picked out when scanning through.

It depends on the length of your meeting (my last minutes were 7 hours/11 pages long) but I always put a collated list of actions for each of the directors at the end for very quick reference.

DON’T procrastinate

As tempting as it is to get ne with the things that have been stacking up whilst you were trapped in a meeting room, don’t wait too long to finish them off. The fresher your memory the quicker the job will be.

The final steps

A quick sense/ typo check is never a bad idea – and if you can get someone else to cast fresh eyes over them before sending them out all the better.

If you have put a collated list at the end of the minutes then paste it into the body of the email that you send them out in for quick reference, it is after all the little thoughts and touches to make everyone’s life quicker and easier that make for a great PA/ VA.

And if all of this sounds like a complete drag, Click Here

Delegate

Word of the Week – Fiddle-Faddle

It is time for my word of the week internet wander again.

My 8 year old daughter was tasked with finding the word today using the well loved OED I was given on my first day of secondary school … she found me a really GREAT word!

Leroy Anderson – Fiddle Faddle

Let’s start this week off with a rather fabulous piece of music, I wasn’t expecting that!

I have long had a fascination with watching conductors (and a wee bit of a crush on the brilliant John Wilson) and this chap, Alim Shakh, is wonderful to watch

Hate tax havens? Try imagining a world without them

Tax evasion is actually for the ‘greater good’ because it keeps the costs of taxes down? Seems like a fairly self serving argument tailored for those rich enough to participate doesn’t it?

“However wicked tax evasion is and however distasteful some tax avoidance may be, people should imagine a world without tax havens and see if they really want it.”

I’m really not sure I agree with a single thing in this article, but part of this whole exercise is about expansion beyond usual boundaries and bias. The proper consideration of an argument should never be dependant upon you agreeing with it.

Never mind the Trollope, Doctor Thorne gets the Fellowes treatment

This is a world of politesse, “fiddle faddle”, “tomfoolery” and “taking amiss”, where passionate intent must be read into phrases as innocuous as “Good day to you, Madam!” and “Come this minute and make up a hand of whist!” Leanly plotted and crowd-pleasing, it ticks all the Sunday night boxes.

Sounds like just my cup of tea, even without marvellous Maggie!

Melt In Your Mouth Goodness

Popcorn and peanuts is not a combo I have ever tried, sounds delicious. Canada might be a tad too far to go so I might try this recipe for the family movie night tonight.

He did not dilly-dally or fiddle-faddle, or rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic

Cricket – just the word immediately brings back childhood memories of whites, grass stains,  bored Sunday afternoons spent with my parents colleagues and buffets overloaded with chicken drumsticks.

Interested in good governance? You can find insights in such a variety of places.

The solution is simple, wonderfully simple. Whether it is achieved is another matter, and probably boils down to whether England’s supporters care enough to make it happen.

Fiddle-Faddle’s Sentimental Tour

Free book anyone? In search of the amusing, picturesque, and agreeable certainly seems like a pleasant way to pass the time.

And just because, even 20 years beyond graduation, there is not much that I like more than a little bit of profundity in the original Latin.

Seria cum possim, quod delectantia malim Scribere, tu causa es lector.
Martial

Flim-Flam

So many good words here 🙂

It is all fiddle-faddle. Rubbishy nonsense; talk not worth attention. A ricochet word, of which we have a vast number, as “flim-flam,” “helter-skelter,” “wishy-washy,” etc. To fiddle is to waste time in playing on the fiddle, and hence fiddle means a trifle, and fiddle-faddle is silly trifle or silly nonsense.