Setting smart goals

27 Dec

When I started this blog it was because I had a gut feeling it’d be a good thing for me to do. And I had a loose goal to publish a post at least once a week until Christmas. My gut instinct was right – I’ve learned loads, got lots out of it and really enjoyed it. But now I’ve achieved my goal of continuing until Christmas, I’m not sure I want to carry on.


Is that because my goal wasn’t very well thought out? Or is it because the pleasure attached to goals is often gained while working towards them, rather than actually achieving them? Probably a bit of both.

There are lots of goals I could have had for my blog. I could have aimed to attract business for my copywriting agency, boost my personal profile, generate advertising revenue, build a following to sell products to, develop a portfolio of writing, become a WordPress expert, work towards a book – the list goes on. The problem was, I didn’t figure out why I wanted to post once a week until Christmas. So now that I have, the impetus has gone.

A popular goal-setting technique is to ensure your goals are SMART. The SMART way says that goals should be:


The more specific you are about a goal, the more likely you are to achieve it. The specifics of my goal were to start a blog giving ideas for tips, tools and treats for busy women.


To keep yourself motivated in the pursuit of your goal, you need to be able to track how well you’re doing. My measure was to write at least one post a week until Christmas.


If you’re to keep striving for a goal (and remember it’s the striving for goals where much of the happiness is), it needs to be achievable. Win the lottery this Saturday isn’t realistically an achievable goal, but writing a blog post once a week was for me.


This is where I fell down. I didn’t think carefully enough about the relevance of my goal and what it would bring me. Why was a writing a blog for busy women? Why was I aiming to write a post a week until Christmas? Where would it get me?


Without a time frame for your goal there’s no sense of urgency. Maybe my goal should have been that I wanted to achieve XYZ by Christmas rather than wanting to simply carry on until Christmas. I unintentionally gave myself a reason to stop.

So if you’re setting goals for 2013, think really carefully about why you’re setting them. The why in goal setting is the beacon you’re aiming for. The motivation to keep you going. Why do you want to exercise three times a week? Because you want to run a marathon? Because you want to have fewer illnesses? Because you want to look better?

I’ll leave you to ponder what you want to achieve next year – Emma Gwillim’s 2013 goal planner is a great way to get started. Meanwhile, I’ll decide where to go, or not to go, next with my blog.

Wishing you a very bright and happy 2013!

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Little free time, but time for everything

21 Dec

My sister-in-law, Emma Silcock, is great at getting a balance in her busy lifestyle. She’s got children aged three and one and a marketing business – she helps companies be more successful by building their brand and being more customer-centric. Emma’s unquestionably busy but manages to find time for everyone and everything in her life, including herself. And she always looks glamorous.

I chatted to her to find out how.

Emma Silcock

What are you juggling in your life?

Having my marketing business, two little people and a messy husband means I’m always on the go and don’t feel like I sit down until after 7pm each day. When I’m not working I always feel torn between doing something worthwhile or doing nothing and just relaxing. I get a fairly even split between the two but not as much of the time off as I’d like!

How do you manage to keep on top of things?

I’m a life-long fan of list making and, despite trying out lots of recommended apps, I always go back to good old pen and paper. You can’t beat scribbling over a job you’ve done, and it’s never quite as satisfying swiping it on your phone! In my previous job I did a course inspired by Stephen Covey, and learnt a system for prioritising according to whether or not things are urgent and important, and it’s stuck with me ever since. I spend time on the most urgent jobs and try to ‘eat a frog’ (metaphorically speaking) at the start of the day to get something out of the way that I’d normally avoid.

What’s your favourite time saver? 

I’ve learnt to make much better use of ‘dead’ time. So, for example, I empty the dishwasher while the kettle is boiling or put clothes away while I’m waiting for the shower to warm up. I make the most of my iPhone by replying to emails while my kids are having breakfast, keeping on top of dull jobs like entering meter readings on my apps and buying presents on it while I’m having a coffee. I take advantage of any time I have in the car by making all my phone calls then, when I don’t get interrupted by my children!

What have you learnt to do much faster out of necessity? 

Well it’s not necessarily faster, but definitely much more effective – I find ways to paint my nails without rushing them and having them smudged. So, when I’m working and am thinking about a reply to an email or what my next PowerPoint slide will have on it, I’ll paint another nail. I can easily do both hands by the end of the day and they’re almost always smudge-free. Working from home has many advantages!

What helps you keep things in perspective when you’re really busy?

Having kids definitely gives you a really good grounding and reminds you that there are more important things in life than the things you used to think were the be-all and end-all. When I’m feeling a bit stressed about work I think about the positives of having lots of work on and promise myself a treat when it calms down.

What do you do to relax? 

I get my pyjamas on as soon as the kids are in bed and lie on the sofa either watching some gripping TV  like Homeland (or equally as gripping Made in Chelsea), or I make my way through a book on my Kindle.

How do you create some time to yourself? 

Once or twice a week while my husband is cooking tea I go and have a soak in the bath and take my Kindle with me. The rest of the time I make sure I get a good coffee in each day and have five minutes to myself while no one bothers me!

What magazines do you enjoy?

I’ve always believed that you can’t beat reading trashy, mindless, celebrity-filled magazines to truly switch off. When my brain is too frazzled to take in anything remotely intellectual, poring over which celebs have really gone out like that is the perfect easy read.

What are your top 3 shopping sites? – their one-click ordering makes shopping for pretty much anything ridiculously simple, for last minute clothes crises, and for beauty treats.

If you had a day with nothing on your to do list what would you do?

I would definitely be shopping (for myself of course), having a nice lunch with my husband, and ending with a couple of beauty treatments thrown in for good measure.

Thanks Emma. Love the nail painting tip!

If you’d like help boosting your business’s success, you can contact Emma at

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Top tips for sales shopping

18 Dec

The sales are their way – hurray! Thanks to online shopping, you can bag a bargain without even getting out of bed. But if you’re planning to go traditional and head to the shops, here are my top ten tips for making the most of them without bankrupting yourself.


1.    Work out what you need

Before you hit the shops, take a good look at what you need. Slashed prices make it all too easy to fool yourself into thinking yet more skinny black jeans are a good idea, when what you really need is a blouse to go with that skirt you never wear. Make a detailed wish list and break it down into sections.

2.    Be focused

You’re more likely to make good buys if you’re fresh and focused, so don’t try to buy everything on one trip. With your wish list split into sections you can cover it in short bursts. Plan which shops you want to visit for each trip and what items or types of items you’re looking for at each shop. Then work out the route you’re going to take. It’s more military attack than leisurely browsing but it’s worth it for the efficiency. For details of fashion sales and offers (throughout the year), visit And if you’re on Twitter follow @StyleBarista for insider info on sample sales.

3.    Trade up

The sales are an opportunity to buy better. If you usually shop at Top Shop, add Reiss and Karen Millen to your route. It’s especially worth looking for investment pieces that’ll stand the test of time in shops that are usually out of your price range.

4.    Set a budget

Whether you set a total sales shopping budget or a budget for each item, having some sort of spending limit will help you avoid being rash with your cash when prices are down.

5.    Dress comfortably

Sales shopping is a sport, not a walk in the park, so be prepared. Wear comfortable flat shoes, clothes that are easy to get in and out of and a light coat that you can easily shove in a bag when the going gets hot.

6.    Take help

I prefer to shop alone, especially during the sales, but having someone to hold things while you rummage (or even do shuttle runs back to the car with your purchases) is worth negotiating. If you can’t bear your other half’s pained expression maybe try your mum!

7.    Start early

Sales are starting earlier and earlier, so find out when the shops on your hit list start theirs and get in at the beginning. Also find out what time they open their doors during sale time – it might be much earlier than usual. Get there first thing and you’ll have the pick of the deals, not to mention fewer people to elbow out of the way and a shorter wait for the changing rooms.

8.    Avoid discount fever

A 50% discount is fabulous, but £300 for a coat you’ll never wear is still £300. Before handing over your card, think back to your budget and ask yourself how bothered you’d be if you woke up tomorrow and didn’t have the coat but did have the £300.

9.    Haggle

Don’t be afraid to ask for an even bigger discount. Shops want to clear their stock and you might be surprised by how willing they are to drop their prices even further. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

10. Check the returns policy

Lots of shops only exchange sale items so check the returns policy before you buy, especially if you think you’re in danger of making a sales-frenzy-induced purchase.

Now go shop, shop, shop and tell me what you bought!

Any sales shopping tips to add?

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No time to meet up? Have a virtual get together.

14 Dec

So there are a few people you meant to see before Christmas but time’s running out. Or maybe you’d like a reunion with friends or family who live away but logistics are preventing it.

Why not have a virtual get together?

If you can’t make it to the same room, join one another on screen. From Skype to FaceTime to Google+ Hangouts there are so many ways to meet-up virtually now there’s no excuse not to get face-to-face with friends and family – wherever you are.

Google+ Hangouts are particularly handy because up to 10 of you can video chat at once from your PC, Mac, tablet or phone. You can also look at documents and visuals together on screen – useful if you’re planning something like a trip or event. And, if you’re so minded, you can stream your hangout live so other people can watch it and it’ll be uploaded to YouTube afterwards.


Sound like technical wizardry that’s beyond you? It’s not! Life coach Emma Gwillim is a recent convert to Google+ Hangouts and says they’re really simple. You just follow these easy steps:

  1. Sign up for Google+
  2. Invite the people you want to hangout with to sign up to Google+ too.
  3. Add these people to your Google+ circles so you can find them easily.
  4. Click on the ‘Start a hangout’ button (top right on Google+ currently).
  5. Follow the straightforward instructions on screen!

Some tips for ensuring your virtual get together is as enjoyable as possible are:

  1. Be prepared – grab a glass of wine and some nibbles or whatever you’d usually have during a get together with friends.
  2. Don’t all talk at once – you won’t hear one another!
  3. Be mindful that not everyone feels confident video chatting. Draw those who are less confident into the conversation so they don’t get left out.
  4. Keep those not invited to your hangout out of the room. There’s nothing worse than kids/husband/housemates pulling funny faces in the background when you’re trying to have a catch-up.
  5. If you choose to stream your hangout so anyone can view it, think VERY carefully first. It might make you all feel a bit inhibited and once it’s out there, it’s out there…

What’s your experience with catching up on screen? Any tips to add?

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Happy being busy? She certainly is!

12 Dec

My sister is a very special lady. She’s got six children and works six days a week delivering milk and selling Phoenix greetings cards. Her only day off at Christmas is Christmas Day itself and she’s not had a holiday since 1995. She’s not got a cleaner or a nanny (although our mum is really helpful) and she’s not got time for whiners. She’s always optimistic, never flaps or moans and has a firm grip on perspective. She’s one of the most contented people I know.

Read on for down-to-earth, sound advice from someone who’s truly happy being busy.

Claire Airstone

What are you juggling in your life right now?

I never feel like I’m juggling. I just do what I have to do. I’m lucky that I can be a fulltime mum to six and have more than a fulltime job and fit it in.

What’s a typical day like for you?

My week is very much the same from day to day. Usually I get up 5.30am and am out of house at 6am to start delivering milk. I’m back home for 7.45am and make school pack-ups and breakfast, although a lot of the time one of the kids has already done it. I’m then out of the house at 8am to go and get more milk and drop the older kids off at school at 8.15am. Then it’s more deliveries before dropping Daniel off at his school at 8.45am. I then do deliveries till 1.30/2pm.

After that it’s back home to cash up and do paperwork, open post, pay bills, empty the washer etc. I’m out again at 2.40pm to pick the older kids up. We shoot home so William can get changed and we drop him off at the garage where he works after school and then pick Daniel up at 3.30pm. Next it’s a trip to the bank or after school stuff such as swimming lessons etc. Then I get tea ready and pick William up at 6.30pm. We’re then home for homework and bed.

On Sundays I might not get up till 6.30am and then it’s housework, paperwork, milk bills, shoes cleaned, beds changed and whatever the kids want to do. It’s sometimes my busiest day of the week.

Do you ever feel stressed and overwhelmed by it all?

I feel stressed in an under pressure way to get everything done in its time slot, but not in a way it makes me feel I can’t cope and am going to crumble. I enjoy the challenge of getting it all done. If it doesn’t get done because of one thing or another, so what? I’ll slot it in another time. I prioritise – ie the kids and the business. If it’s getting on my nerves that I haven’t dusted when I wanted to, I’ll get up half an hour earlier and do it if it makes me feel better that I’ve done it. I put everything in perspective and think how lucky I am.

How do you make sure you don’t forget anything? 

I do everything as I get it. For bills, eg credit card bills, I’ve my online banking app, which I use to set up payments before the due date so I don’t have to remember. For insurance renewals I always get lots of quotes straight away to find the cheapest. School trip letters etc I fill in and put back in the bags as soon as I get them.

The only thing I fail on is doing the business accounts! I usually have a couple of weeks of solid graft till really late at night around March time and every year I say I’m not doing it again. Oh and I have forgotten one of the kids the odd time at school and at the swimming baths.

What are your favourite time savers? 

I’ve packed in spending hours ironing as I can’t fit it in. I spend one and a half hours on a Sunday ironing the school uniforms for the week and then I’ll iron what we wear when we need it. Luckily, for what we do we don’t need to be dressed up in workwear. My biggest time saver is being organised and three steps in front of myself all the time. Don’t whine – get on with it!

What’s your favourite part of the day?

Picking the kids up from school and gathering everyone in. Then we all go upstairs about 7.30/8pm and settle down doing our own thing shouting to each other from one room to another.

Do you have any tips for splitting yourself between all your children and your husband so everyone gets a share?

We have quite a unique life I think. We are a team and I’ve always taken the kids everywhere with me, even when working, so we spend a lot of time together. Now they are older and have their own interests they book their time slots and days for their friends coming and taxi services – first come, first served. They accept this and it’s very rare that one of them can’t do what they want. If I can’t manage to fit a request in, whatever it may be, we’ll book it in ASAP. Sometimes we have a queue on for homework help but it all gets done. I do get time with them individually too so no one gets left out.

I’ve always been happy with the idea that if the kids ask to go somewhere with someone then I’m happy to go along with that, but, otherwise, it’s my job to be with them and that’s what I enjoy doing. There’s plenty of time to do my things when they’ve all left home.

My husband works very hard too but as we work together we’re in contact throughout the day, even though we don’t see each other much. He’s not a modern man though, he’s a worker and that’s all he does, but it works. At least he doesn’t interfere. I see to the kids, house and really when I think about it now bloody everything. I must be really stupid – he owes me big time!

The only tip I have is to be totally committed to what you’re doing.

How do you manage to create time for yourself?

It annoys me greatly the phrase me-time and whingey, whiny women moaning they don’t have any. In the next breath they’re going to the gym after dropping the kids off at school, then for a coffee and their nails doing followed by dropping the kids off at their parents because they’re away for weekend. What more do they want? I don’t crave me-time. If I ever want to do something I could but I’m happy doing what I do. I had six kids because I wanted this life I’ve got. I’m very lucky and grateful.

What don’t you worry about now that you used to?

There’s no point in worrying about something if it’s out of your control. It’s a waste of energy and time. If you’re worried about something you can change then get on with it and change it so you’re not worried anymore. Having said that, since my husband had a nasty accident, I worry about accidents happening all the time and when I hear a siren I freak out. I think that might be post-traumatic stress though as I have random flash backs. I know what it is so I just get on with it, but I worry just the same when the kids aren’t with me. Maybe that’s just a mum thing though.

What do you do to relax?

I’m relaxing now actually doing this. I’m in bed, my husband’s snoring, the kids are settled and all is quiet. Is this what you call me-time? Yeah I’m having me-time. Sometimes I just browse the internet looking at nice dresses as I don’t have time to go shopping. I like doing that but if I get too tired that’s when I start clicking and buying things I regret in the morning. Then it’s another job to do sending it back.

I never go out without doing my makeup and hair and I find that relaxing. Although with working outside all day in all weathers sometimes it’s a huge waste of time and at 6am when it’s pitch black no one sees my effort anyway.

Just be happy with what you’ve got and think about others who are in much worse situations than you. Don’t be selfish. Don’t keep wishing and wishing and not do anything about it. Take responsibility for your own life. Stop whining that you’re too busy and get on with it. A lot of people would love to be in your shoes. If all else fails eat lots of chocolate.

Can you recommend a product for busy women?

I couldn’t be without my iPhone – it makes my life so much easier – and online shopping!! I’ve done a lot of my Christmas shopping whilst waiting for the kids to come out of school.

If you had a day with nothing on your to do list and no one to look after what would you do?

I’d seriously hate it. I wouldn’t know what to do. That’s not good is it? I’m never on my own for long. We haven’t had a holiday since our honeymoon in 1995 and we’ve never been able to have a day off never mind a holiday with the kids, so that’s what I really would like to do.

The last two years we have managed to take them to London and stay for a night after we finished the milk deliveries on Saturday. We loved it but I think my friend went on holiday abroad for a week cheaper than what it cost us for a night in London with all our brood! I’ll keep buying the lottery tickets and delivering those milk bottles.

See? I told you she was special.

If you’d like to buy greetings cards from my sister (they’re lovely and a great price), you can visit her site here. And if you’d like to set up a milk delivery from Airstone & Co (they cover the Barnsley, Huddersfield and Sheffield areas in the UK and deliver to schools, nurseries, homes and businesses), please email my sister, Claire Airstone at

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Original vintage artwork – will you give it or keep it?

7 Dec

Still looking for Christmas gifts? Or maybe putting up the trimmings has highlighted a few gaps in your home décor? The Deco Press offers a gorgeous selection of original antique and vintage advertising art from the art deco through to mid-century periods.

All the artwork’s original and almost everything’s a one-off and between 60 to 100 years old. Alice Bagley-Harrison, who launched The Deco Press, sources images with an emphasis on striking typography, beautiful designs and iconic brands. They’re perfect for an unusual present or a quirky talking point in your home or office.

To give you a taster, below are a few of Alice’s favourites from the artwork she currently has available.

If you like what you see, head over to The Deco Press Facebook page where the full range of The Deco Press images are for sale. If you ‘like’ the page and mention in your order you’ll get a 20% discount. Keep an eye on too – it’s due to launch next year.

Hermes Lady

Hermès Lady

Film Complet "La Furie du Desert" - American stars - French style

Film Complet “La Furie du Désert”
American stars French style

Claire Maffei - gorgeous 1940s French film star who featured in Mon Film

Claire Maffei – gorgeous 1940s French film star who featured in Mon Film

Spido cars - Delarue-Nouvelliere design

Spido cars – Delarue-Nouvelliere design

Louis Vuitton luggage

Louis Vuitton luggage

Ducretet gramophone

Ducretet gramophone

Bagsy the Film Complet one! Which one’s caught your eye?

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The good girls’ and not-so-good girls’ guide to Christmas

4 Dec

Santa Claus is coming to town and he’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. What will you be this festive season? For a bit of inspiration, here’s my guide to Christmas for good girls and not-so-good girls.

Who can give me a guide for bad girls?

Father Christmas (1)


Good girls

Start discussing options with your family in the autumn so you have a feel for what everyone wants to do over Christmas and New Year. Then take time to plan a schedule that ensures you see as many family members as possible throughout the festive period. Spread the visits out so you have quality time with everyone and try to include older family members in particular – they often feel lonely at this time of year.

Not-so-good girls 

Christmas is a great time to practice saying no. No I don’t want to visit great aunt what’s-her-name on Christmas eve. No I don’t want to go to a family party on the night I’m supposed to be seeing my best friends. And no I most certainly don’t want to go and stay with your parents for three nights from Boxing Day. Try it. Half the people inviting you will probably be relieved because they don’t want to do it either. And, with any luck, the other half will have ‘be more forgiving’ as a New Year’s resolution.


Good girls 

Listen carefully to what people say they like or are interested in throughout the year. Then when you see something they’d like – buy it, especially if it’s in the sale. Buying when you see spreads the cost and time, instead of rushing in December. And it means you’re more likely to buy gifts people will appreciate.

Not-so-good girls 

You know all those unwanted presents you get? Put them on one side. When it gets to December, get them out again and decide who you’re going to give them to for Christmas. Just be careful not to return an unwanted gift to the person who gave it to you.


Good girls 

Choose age-appropriate gifts that will help with your child’s development. And consider buying gifts you can play with as a family, for added festive fun.

Not-so-good girls

It’s a well-worn cliche that kids would rather play with the packaging than the toys. So why are we still buying them presents?! Wrap up a couple of cardboard boxes and let them at ’em. Less time shopping, no time trying to encourage them to play with presents they’re not interested in and more time to put your feet up.


Good girls 

The office party is a minefield of potential misdemeanours so tread carefully. Have plenty to eat before you start drinking, alternate between soft drinks and alcoholic drinks to avoid overindulging, and be mindful of your rank. It might be hilarious to play strip poker with your team on the night but will they still respect you the next day?

Not-so-good girls 

The office party is a treasure chest of opportunity and a chance to take advantage of your rank. So book ‘meetings’ with your hairdresser and beautician on the afternoon of the do, put the champagne on expenses and prepare to pull the cute guy looking for a promotion. And, while the free wine is flowing, remember to let it slip to your boss’s boss that your boss constantly takes the credit for your work and always leaves work early.


Good girls 

Cooking for Christmas starts with baking the cake in the autumn. This is also a good time to start thinking about what else you’ll serve. Don’t limit it to just the big day. As it gets nearer the time, plan your meals for the whole festive period so you don’t have to think about it, or go shopping, during the celebrations. The week before Christmas do as much preparation, and freeze as many dishes and meals, as you can.

Not-so-good girls

Three words – Marks & Spencer. No peeling, chopping, stuffing, basting or whisking. Just prick, prick ping in the microwave, wham bam in the oven or open and pop on a plate. Why do it yourself when someone else has already done it way better? Just make sure you decant the food onto your ovenware and crockery while no one’s looking so you can claim it as your own.

So which will you be?

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Discover your sparkle & achieve your goals

1 Dec

It’s that time when you may be starting to think about the goals you want to achieve next year and the resolutions you want to keep. Fancy a helping hand? Emma Gwillim is a brilliant coach who specialises in helping working women to work out what they want in life, remove what’s holding them back and achieve their dreams.

Sound good? Check out Emma’s group coaching programme – Discover Your Sparkle. I did it earlier this year and found it so useful. In fact, it’s what prompted me to start this blog!

Emma also offers a range of other coaching options, plus freebies to help you get started without her; for example the great goal-getting guide she’s just released.


I caught up with Emma to find out more about her work (and sneak a cuddle with her gorgeous new baby).

How does your coaching work?

The life design coaching I offer is custom-fit, designed to suit the different lifestyles and preferences of the women I work with. Often, ‘traditional’ one-to-one coaching, either an intensive breakthrough session or over a 3-month period, is many women’s preference – they get that laser-focused attention and accountability that pushes them to take action. But that’s not right for everyone. Many women find the community and support they find in a group programme to be the right fit for them and the most effective. I’ve also created an ebook for women who prefer to work independently and have the gumption to go solo! And I’m looking to introduce group ‘retreats’ next year.

Who is your coaching for?

I specialise in helping working women to create their best life by design. I call them the ‘ambitious nurturers’ – women who want to make their mark in the world, who want to actualise their potential in an authentic, loving way.

How can busy women find time for it?

I may sound blunt but it’s about wanting to make the time for it. Do you want to invest your energy in fulfilling your potential and creating your best life? If the answer is yes, then there’s no greater motivation to finding the time. From there, there are options available to fit – whether you have a weekend or the odd evening free, or can commit to regular ‘you time’ each week, there’s something to suit even the busiest of schedules!

What kinds of goals or challenges do your clients have?

I’m often inspired by the heart-centred goals many women have. While everyone has their own unique offering, what I call that ‘inner sparkle’, there are common themes – women wanting to make a difference in their world, whether that’s in a big, game-changing way or closer-to-home, women generally seem to be searching for more meaning. Often, confidence is an issue that many women focus on, particularly when they’ve been in a masculine, corporate environment.

What are the most common things that hold people back from reaching their goals?

A lack of confidence I’d say is the biggest nemesis. Doubt and a lack of self-belief seems to hold women back from going for it, whatever their dream is. I’ve definitely been there myself… And see it in many of the women I’ve coached. It’s chronic!

What are the three most important things busy women can do on a daily or weekly basis to be happier?

I’m still a work in progress myself but I can share the three little weekly rituals that keep me on track.

1) Get organised – I find nothing more stressful than feeling like everything is out of control ,so I take time each week to get clear on what little tasks/admin I need to get on top of that week. I’m a pen and paper girl so I write a list of the ‘stuff’ I need to get off my mind – be it paying bills, sending birthday cards or just dropping stuff off at the dry-cleaners that’s been waiting for weeks. I have a little hit-list and seeing the back of it is rewarding!

2) Take time out – I’ve got a real hippy side so, as often as I can, I aim to have 10 minutes each day to meditate. It doesn’t always happen (and even less so now I have a new baby), but I know those precious ten minutes work like magic for me, making me feel calmer and more focused on what’s important.

3) Treat yourself – I look forward to my little indulgences and they definitely make me happy. A hot bath (with the posh bubbles), a bar of chocolate or a glass of wine – simple pleasures!

Thanks Emma. I’m all fired up to get goal-setting for 2013 now!

What about you? What do you dream of for the next year, three years, five years…?

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Remember just one password

27 Nov

You know when you’re in a rush to buy something online or log on to a website? How annoying is it when you get the response ‘password incorrect’? Aaaaagggghhhh! Short of using the same password for everything (not at all advisable for security reasons), what can you do? I’ve recently come across a really safe option. You only have to remember one password, but you can have a different password for every account or log-in. Hurray!

I’m not talking about writing them all down and hiding the paper under your mattress. I’ve stumbled upon a much more techie, but nonetheless easy-to-use, system.

LastPass and 1Password are two examples of password managers that keep all your passwords in a safe, secure place. You just have to remember the password for your LastPass or 1Password account and this gives you access to all the rest of them. They also have handy functions such as:

  • Generating new passwords (the gobbledygook ones that are more secure than your pet’s name).
  • Filling in forms automatically.
  • Enabling you to share passwords with friends safely, rather than by email or text.
  • Storing confidential information securely (eg safe combinations or a scan of your passport).

LastPass is free and works across Mac, Windows, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and more. 1Password works across Mac, Windows, iPhone, iPad and Android and is currently £24.49 in the Mac app store but gets great reviews.

Have you come across anything similar? Please add to the comments if you have.

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Free personal shopping for fast festive outfits

23 Nov

So the festive invites are stacking up. But you’ve not got anything to wear and barely any time to trawl the shops or the net. What to do? How about squeezing a personal shopping session into your lunch break?

There’s no getting hot and bothered carrying your coat, bag, six dresses, three tops and four pairs of trousers. No queueing for changing rooms. No fee. And no obligation to buy. Just some of the shops offering free personal shopping services are Top ShopHouse of FraserDebenhams and John Lewis.

To make sure you get the most out of your session, here are a few tips:

1. Review your wardrobe

So you don’t buy something similar to what you’ve already got, have a good look through your wardrobe the night before. This also helps if you tend to wear separates – you’ll remember if you’ve got a pair of trousers or a skirt to go with a top you’re trying on. Look through your bags, shoes and jewellery too so you have in mind whether you need to buy new accessories or not.

2. Decide on your budget

When you’re rushing and in the shopping zone it’s easy to get carried away. Decide how much you’re prepared to spend beforehand so you don’t get shopper’s guilt on the way home.

3. Give a clear brief

You don’t want to waste half the session with your personal shopper trying to understand your taste. Have a think beforehand about what you like, don’t like and are looking for so you can give a clear, detailed brief .

4. Don’t be afraid to say no

It’s your session so you can try on as many or as few things as you like. Your personal shopper won’t be in the least bit offended if you reject some items. They’ll bring a range of things initially so they can pinpoint exactly what’s right for you. Saying no to some items helps speed up the process.

5. Be open minded

While it’s important to be clear on what you don’t like, it’s also a good idea to keep an open mind. The beauty of having someone else choose clothes for you is they’ll suggest things you maybe wouldn’t usually look at. Give in and try a few on – you might be surprised by how much you like them.

6. Be focused

Trying to shop for too many things during a short personal shopping session may risk you being disappointed. Your personal shopper won’t have chance to home in on what’s right for you and you may end up with nothing. During a session lasting an hour or so it’s best to stick to just one outfit.

7. Arrive on time

The sessions are often booked up back-to-back, so make sure you get there on time so you can use the full slot.

8. Wear nice underwear 

Personal shoppers are great at giving you privacy but, especially if you’re in a rush, they’re likely to see you in your undies at some point. Also think about the underwear you’re likely to wear with what you’re shopping for. It might be worth taking a strapless bra, for example.

9. Take accessories 

Personal shoppers will bring shoes, bags, jewellery etc to accompany your clothes if you want them to. But if you’d rather focus on the clothes, you don’t want them wasting time fetching bags when they could be looking for dresses. If there’s a pair of shoes or something else you’re likely to wear with what you buy, take them with you so you can see how they look together.

10. Enjoy it! 

Having a personal shopping session is a great opportunity to have someone running around for you for a change. So make the most of it. Accept the glass of whatever they’re offering, delve into the magazines and make it a bit of you-time. Just don’t look too closely in the three-way mirror when you’re down to your underwear – it’s awfully revealing!

Have you had a personal shopping session before? What are your tips for making the most of them?

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