Lights – Camera – Action! What goes into a successful event?

Lights – Camera – Action!  What goes into a successful event?

I was asked to MC an online event one evening this past week, hosted by the PSASA Johannesburg Chapter, and I knew that I wanted it to be a wonderful experience.

Was I nervous? Was I stressing right up until the final minute before start? Absolutely! Yet, when 19h00 came, it was time to shine.  

That knot in your stomach, the adrenaline rush beforehand, just reminds us as speakers why we do what we do.

As a speaker and MC you have to be ready to think on your feet and at the same time, plan to be successful.  You are not the only speaker – the success of the evening also depends on how you conduct the speakers, the audience and the support crew.

So, what does one have to do to ensure everything is on track? Prepare – organise – action!

  • Ensure an agenda is set up – with annotated notes to make sure you don’t forget anything.
  • Check in with the Head of the Chapter on the agenda and add their comments/edits/etc.
  • Have a slide presentation ready with information of the organisation, what they offer and what benefits are available to members.
  • Check in with the person who will be your co-host (support) in the background to help with presentations and admitting guests in the room.
  • Decide on the atmosphere, can you play music? – We had some lovely jazz music filling the void of quiet whilst the members and delegates interacted with each other.
  • Engage with the speaker of the evening beforehand – check their requirements, give them a heads-up when it’s time to enter the room to present their topic.
  • Engage with the person who introduces the speaker and the person who thanks the speaker afterwards.
  • Ensure your phone is on – have everyone’s numbers at hand – set up a Whatsapp group for behind the scenes and to answer any pressing questions during the event.
  • And then … enjoy the evening with everyone. You have done all that you can – now whatever happens, happens.

There were so many distinguished and professional speakers in the room, people I admire and respect.  It was an absolute honour to be your MC for the evening.

Thank you PSASA Johannesburg Chapter for the opportunity.

My name is MICHELE – what is yours?


I need to have a little venting session now – so please bear with me.

Well, I don’t know about you, but my name is very important to me.  It is a name my parents chose for me and I love it.  I am proud of it.  I love the fact that it is not spelt the normal way which makes me somewhat different, stand out from the rest, unique, different.

Why am I making such a fuss of my name, because it is MY NAME.

I am just getting so tired of people getting my name wrong./

My biggest bug bear is that whether I send an email, Whatsapp message, text message – whatever message, some people reply to a MICHELLE.  That is not me.  That is not the name on the email address you replied to.  That is not the name that appears on my Whatsapp messages.   Why spell it the wrong way?

It is a form of respect by getting it right.  Boy are some names tricky on the tongue and spelling, but I make sure that their names are spelt correctly.  It means I have taken the time to make sure I address that person correctly.

I was at a conference some time back and when I got to the registration table, I noticed my name badge was incorrect.  I asked them to redo it as my name was incorrect.  Another lady joined the table and funnily enough, her name is spelled just like mine.  She took her badge and was not bothered to have them correct it – she said she had given up trying to get people to spell her name right.  Never, ever give up!

I will never get tired.  My name is who I am, my brand, my unique label.  So please get it right the first time.

Getting the spelling right tells me you took the time to make sure you addressed the message to the right person.

Now I have only gone into my first name – wait till you hear my last name.  The pronunciation I can understand if you get it wrong – or close enough – but boy oh boy have I had the most amazing spellings of my surname.  One would think I have a few hidden identities under my cap. I could travel anywhere and be someone else in different countries – I wish!

Have you had any problems with people misspelling your name too?  I would love to hear your thoughts and what you think.

Thank you for allowing me to vent and to get it off my chest.

Michele Thwaits

Desperate dudes – dangerous dirtbags


It has been a while since I did a blog and this one is going to be different to what I normally write.  I am going to share with you  (and in particular all those single ladies looking for that special someone) what to look out for when going onto the dating websites.

Ladies I know we get lonely, we want to have that someone special in our lives.  I was very hesitant to go onto the dating site again.  Don’t be so eager to hook up with that first one that you think is Mr Right.  (I mean really, is there a Mr Right?)  I certainly don’t think he would be on the dating site, that’s for sure – but who knows?  Don’t think that the one that ticks all the right boxes – good looks, he seems to match you on so many levels on your needs and expectations is the right one.  There are some good guys out there – but they are few and far between – at least that is what I have experienced.

I’d like to share an experience on a dating website that you pay to belong to.  You would think this should be safe and probably have some decent men too and that  there is no way the scammers or con artists will get on here.  But they do!  Yes! They do!

So contact is made with a man who called himself Ben – supposedly Italian and grew up in France.  Had 2 daughters studying at Stellenbosch University.  He lived in Sandton on Rivonia Rd and worked in Alberton at some construction company (which proved legit).

He was consistent – let’s give him that.  He called 3 times a day to chat.  It was a very platonic friendship which was a change seeing as every man who gets in touch with you is after one thing only.  Something just didn’t seem right.

Let me take a break from my story to share the flags one would pick up (and flags you should pick up too):

Flag 1                                                                                                                                                      He said he was Italian and grew up in France.  Yet when spoken to in the little Italian or French anyone could interpret, he couldn’t respond.  You want to know the reason?  “I grew up in France but never got to learn the language”.  What?!?  As a child wherever you grow up you learn the language so quickly.  And also, if your home language is Italian, 10-1 you are speaking it too with your parents, right?

Flag 2                                                                                                                                                        He had 2 daughters studying at Stellenbosch University – that is great what are their names?  Karen and Charmaine.  Seriously?  Those are not Italian or French names or anywhere near.

Flag 3                                                                                                                                                      He said he lived on Rivonia Rd – now as those of you who live in Gauteng know most of Rivonia Rd is made up of companies – very little housing.  Turns out the address was for Executive Apartments.  Hmm, interesting.

Flag 4                                                                                                                                                  Since there was only his first name one couldn’t google him – no surname.

Flag 5                                                                                                                                                      When time was scheduled to meet, at the last minute something came up and he couldn’t.  And remember all his pictures were only of him – no family or daughters.

Anyway, so he had to go to Dubai for business – he was looking at purchasing equipment to start up his own business.

Flag 6                                                                                                                                                    He bought a one way ticket to Dubai – who does that?  Any businessman has a return ticket and also, if he is working for a company, he would need to put in leave and return at some time. And when asked how long he would be there – he replied when my business is done.  What about the company you work for?  Surely they don’t let you go for as long as you want?  This did not gel well with me.

But I carried on.  I wanted to see where this was going.  Stupid man – who did he think he was fooling.

A week had passed, still going good so far.  He then mentions he is now going to take a cab to go and do his business.  But then ……

Flag 7                                                                                                                                                       A picture is sent of himself in the driver’s seat of a car, with a jacket and scarf and dark glasses smiling with a caption – “Yay it is Friday.”   Hello?!?  Dubai has degrees of 30-40 where do you wear a jacket and scarf in the middle of that hot season?  Seriously? And for heaven’s sake he said he was taking a cab!

Anyway, within the 2nd week, a message comes through he is having a terrible day. (D-Day!! Ding ding ding! Wait for it …. here it comes …..)  He says that his bank won’t release the funds for him to purchase his equipment.  Tada!!!!!!!

Flag 8                                                                                                                                                      Most payments are made online or through a bank account when purchasing equipment and not done in person, you usually pay into an account, or make plans.  He did not.  And of course …..

Flag 9                                                                                                                                                  Tada!!!! “Can you help me out with finance?”   There you have it!  Of course, the answer was no. Seriously!

He then calls – he has now spoken to his daughter who is coming up from Stellenbosch to speak to his friend ….. wait for it ……

Flag 10                                                                                                                                                       “Can you please pay for her ticket from Cape Town?”    Ay yai yai yai!

And of course, messages come through saying you don’t care, …. etc, etc. Before he could be reported on the website, he had taken down his profile.  In fact, whilst he was giving me the run down of how unsupportive I was, he changed his profile pic and I thought – ” There he goes, getting ready for the next victim”.

Do you see how many flags came up?  I just mentioned 10 when there was a few more.

Enough about me – let me tell you about a good friend of mine who was not too interested on going on a dating website, however, some guy had come into her Instagram wanting to be her friend and chat.  She sent me his picture and asked me what I think as she was beaming and so excited that this good looking man would be connecting with her, even though she didn’t know him from a bar of soap.  And of course, in her excitement, she asked me what I thought as this was exactly the type of man she would go for. Even her daughter thought he was a catch.

I think I burst her bubble because I wasn’t so excited.  So I tried to sound happy for her yet all I could tell her was the picture was too good to be true.  But I told her go and check out the following:

  • Google him
  • Check out his Facebook page
  • Invariably you will only find 2-3 pictures of him and no one else
  • He has not been on Facebook very long so not much to read about him – almost nothing on his profile
  • His wife probably passed away from cancer or he caught his wife in bed with another man
  • Probably has a daughter somewhere

I also encouraged her to carry on the conversations to see how far he would go before he revealed his true self.  And I could go on.  Well within a week I think she realised he was not all he said he was.  After chatting to me she says her radar was heightened.  She started picking up that ….

He said he was Irish and lived in the USA.  Yet his language was not consistent with an English speaking person – very broken and not good English.  There were a lot of discrepancies.

There were many flags which we picked up along the way.  And I didn’t want to dampen her feelings, but she was vulnerable enough to fall for this guy.  Jerk!

And hang on … you think they only try their luck on dating sites?  They now get brave and send you an email saying they know LinkedIn is a business site, but they saw your profile, find you beautiful and captivating and would like to get to know you more.  First of all, where do they get my email address if they are not connected to me?  Well he is still waiting for a reply – he will wait a very long, long time.

Okay, so what should you look for or read when someone connects with you?

 1.  Connection on dating website

  • Be careful when reading their profile that somewhere in their writing they tend to harp on the fact that they are there to meet the woman of their dreams and someone to spend the rest of their life with.
  • Their pictures are too perfect – posed almost

2. Connection on Facebook

  • If you don’t know him or he only has one or two friends that you know of – check out his posts.
  • How long has he been on Facebook – probably only a few months
  • There are only 2-3 (maybe 5) pictures on the profile and all only of him
  • If you dig deep enough into his posts you will probably come up with some random woman who has told him where to get off

3.  Watch the language in their messages. You can pick up immediately if they are for real or not.  And if he keeps saying “ma” everyone now and again – dead give away!

4.  Some like to send you pictures of their cars, houses, businesses to impress and they want to know what you drive, where you stay – they are fishing and trying to impress to catch you

5.  Most of the time these scammers work on an oil rig, in construction, in the army in US.

6.  And whatever you do, if they ask you for financial help – you don’t do it. They play on your emotions – that is why they keep you going for about a week or two before they ask.  They will tell you there was an accident on the rig, or their daughter/son had an accident and they can’t afford medical, or like me, his bank would not release funds or he needs an air ticket for his daughter, etc.  Don’t buy into it.

And the latest way for scammers to try and get to know you ….. I almost fell off my chair laughing when I saw this …..

A lady wants to friend me on Facebook, she knows one or two people I know so I assume she is a PA.  Turns out I get a message in Facebook Messenger with a heck of a long, long, long message about how her cousin saw my profile and was interested, blah, blah, blah.  Would I please email him, blah, blah, blah.  No freaking way! What on earth will they do next?

Just be careful – get dude alert smart.  There are other ways, better ways to meet someone – and that someone will come at the right time.  Yes, I have heard of success stories on the dating websites, they do happen but there is a lot more nonsense and scammers out there, lurking, waiting, in dark corners of the web, on the side so that they can catch you.

Happy dating ladies!

If you have anything you could share of your experiences on the dating websites, good or bad, I would love to hear from you.

What are you saying?


I met with a friend the other day to catch up after the December holidays.  She was telling me about her travel to Phuket last year (gosh I just realised so many people I know were in Phuket over the December holidays.  Seems like South Africa was well represented there).

Anyway, as she was telling her story she suddenly said “Needless to say ….”.  And the moment she said it I stopped her and asked if what she was about to say was going to be a waste of my time or that she was going to bore me with a load of hogwash and was it worth my while to listen.  Well the look on her face was priceless and I had to smile.  She knew I was onto something and left her lost for words.  She hadn’t realised what she said and that the phrase was meaningless – it literally discounted everything that was to follow. Of course, we had a good laugh and began to talk about the junk people say in the hopes of impressing those they are talking to.

That is why I thought this is a perfect opportunity to blog about those ridiculously unimportant, “hifalutin”, phrases (sometimes waste of words) that people use thinking they are making an impression and sounding good.  Yes, I do too from time to time and that is why I can laugh at some of the stuff being said.

I am going to take a light-hearted look at some of the phrases which I hope will leave you smiling and probably second-guessing yourself when you do utter these phrases.  Some of my dearest friends are guilty of using some of these statements too and they will know who they are when they read this.

So let’s get to it.

 “Needless to say” – why bother to say anything if that is what you are going to start with.  You are in fact letting the other person know that you are now going to waste their time by saying something that doesn’t really need to be said.  So, don’t waste their time. Don’t say it!

“It goes without saying”– Really? Then why say it? It is going to go, whatever it is, somewhere, sometime – no words needed.

“The fact of the matter is” – Oh joy, this is such a meaningless statement.  Just say what you need to say – there is no matter of fact to discuss.

“To cut a long story short” – Usually by the time this statement is said, a long story has already been told and another long story is going to follow – nothing short about it at all! Can you relate?

Another favourite is “Before I get started” – Oh wow!  The very fact that you have said or written it, means you have started! Think about it – start is the beginning of something, there can’t be a “before” once you have started.

These are just some of the phrases we all use from time to time.  Yet so unnecessary when all you need to do is get to the point and say what you need to say, right?

When speaking or writing, less is best.  Keep it simple. At least everyone will understand you. Yes, everyone, not some, not a few.

  • New and improved – Which is it? New or improved?
  • Fair and equitable – Is it fair or equitable? Use one or the other, just not together.
  • Unexpected surprise – Really? Whoopee! I didn’t see that one coming.
  • Each and every – I know you want to prove a point, each or every would be good.
  • Begin to start – You can either begin or start, I’m not sure how you can begin to start?
  • Component part – Yes … moving on.
  • At this particular point in time – Surely you mean now? Or just now, or now-now?
  • At the present time – Yes our politicians love to use this statement
  • At that particular point in time – Do you mean then? Or when?
  • In close proximity – Aren’t you close or near?
  • My personal opinion – Usually an opinion is personal or are you giving me someone else’s opinion?

We should also avoid using transitional phrases (or simply in-between phrases) from beginnings and endings such as:

  • Secondly – okay so this is the second point, we know that because you already stated the first one.
  • Another point to consider – Really? What was the first point? Did I miss it?
  • As we shall see in a moment – Ooh I can’t wait. When? I am waiting in anticippppppation!
  • Furthermore – Hmm? Go on ….
  • In addition – So what you are going to say follows what has just been said, right?

Some people tend to overuse adjectives and verbs – again, this helps them be more emphatic or helps them to make their point clear.  Have a look at these:

  • The radio blared loudly – Is it blaring or is it loud? If it is blaring, it is loud.
  • He clenched his teeth tightly – Yeah, trying to picture clenched not being tight
  • He grinned widely – Really? Can’t you grin narrowly?
  • Moped dejectedly – Not sure how much more dejected you can feel when you mope
  • Many students – how many is many? “Students” is already plural and that means many. Do you agree?

Remember, when writing, keep it short.  In today’s busy world, people don’t have time to read long, windy emails or messages.  When I get a long-winded message or mail, I immediately lose interest.  Short and sweet and you have my attention.

One of my favourite and unforgettable examples I like to use when training on writing is this email I received from the CEO’s PA (yes, who would have thought) and the message read, “Will you kindly please book me a boardroom ….?”  Yes I can book the boardroom but a simple ” Please”  is good.  “Kindly please”  – I am not sure how please can be kind, can you?  It is polite enough to say “Please book me a boardroom …” without using any additional words to make it look good or sound as though you are begging.

In an article on the web, Gene Wales put it so well.   He said, “When communicating whether through graphic, written or verbal do it as if you are sending a telegram to a moron at USD 10,000 per word.” That is hectic!

Remember, where you can use one word in place of a phrase or a few words, do so.  Cut your text by 50% when moving from print to screen.  7-10 words per sentence is ideal.

I hope you had a good chuckle at some of the above examples.  Have you used any of them? Do you know of anyone who has?

If you have some new phrases/statements that you have heard, please feel free to share them in your comments.  I would love to hear from you.

Know what you want and pursue it

The key.png

“ To be, or not to be”  is the opening phrase of a soliloquy spoken by Prince Hamlet in the so-called “nunnery scene” of William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. … Even so, Hamlet seems to consider himself alone.  Are you alone?  Do you see yourself walking the lonely path with no support?  Do you feel as if you are not going to get to where you need to be? To achieve what you have set your mind to? To accomplish the goals you have set up?  Just take a moment and think about this ….

What do Susan Boyle, Paul Potts and JK Rowlings have in common? Well, they are all British and their success did not come overnight.  They weren’t lucky enough to have instant fame and recognition in the spotlight.  In fact, when Susan and Paul walked out on the stage of Britain’s got Talent, people looked at them and thought, what now?  They didn’t look the part or dress the part yet ….. when they started to sing, everything changed.

Paul went on to win Britain’s got Talent in 2007 and Susan in 2009.  Both of them were bullied at school and yet despite that, they both won one of the biggest shows in the world.

JK Rowling as you know, won her fame from the Harry Potter series – she also did not have a very happy childhood.

“The soul is placed in the body like a rough diamond and must be polished or the lustre of it will never appear” – Daniel Dafoe

You may be frustrated with yourself, disillusioned, down in the dumps, but you know what?  Everyone I have met is absolutely unique and extraordinary.  And yes, you are one of those people.  Hidden deep down inside of you, and everyone else, is the human spirit.  That is your diamond and it is always there.  YOU are a unique individual! If we were all the same, just imagine how boring this world would be.

For many of us, times can be tough.  And it is during those times, that we can fully appreciate our capacity for endurance and how bright our spirit can be.  So we need to polish that diamond within us all the time.  No one else can, only YOU!  So how can you move forward ?

Know what you want

You have a talent and you are dying to express and develop it.  You know what you would like to be doing. Perhaps you want to be happier, want to communicate better with others or you want to have more fulfilment in the workplace.

Wishing or thinking about it is not going to make it happen.  You need to have such a strong conviction that you can base your life on it.  Go with your gut feel.

For years I always wanted to work for myself – I wanted to go into training and speaking full time.  Oh and there were many times I doubted it would ever happen – I was scared to take the leap of faith – I worried about financial security.  Many, many thoughts went through my mind and I just never got round to doing it.  And then I was retrenched!

That was the kickstart I needed to get my act together and I had to take that leap of faith and get out there and just do it.

Do what you intend to do

Nurture your vision every day.  See, feel, hear how you experience fulfilment of the life you want.  Use your imagination – dream it, believe it, achieve it!

Close your eyes and imagine where you dream or envision yourself to be – where would you be? What would you be doing? What would you be feeling in that moment?

You need to believe in what you want to do because if you don’t, no matter what hurdles are on the path you will see them as a permanent block.  A positive and confident person sees those hurdles as a hiccup, a mound to step up and over, and carry on.  No matter what hurdles you face, stay focused on your goal, on your dream – the light is there at the end of the tunnel and as you get closer to is, it gets bigger and bigger – it never dies.

Practice your passion

If you have a talent – keep working on it.  If you want to be happier, do things that make you happy.  Be willing to learn, practice, improve and make mistakes from time to time.  Yes, make those mistakes.  That is your learning curve, your hiccup – your intention will speak volumes.

You want fulfilment?  Adjust your attitude. I have seen what happens to someone who continually moans, complains, always sees themselves as the victim and is never happy.  Moan, moan, moan.  That is not a nice person to be around – they alienate everyone close to them – don’t be that person.

“Nothing will work unless YOU do.  Illuminate! – Maya Angelo

If you don’t make it happen, no one else will.  If you want to see change, you need to start with the change.  If you want to communicate better, you need to start changing the way you communicate.  If you want fulfilment, you need to start by doing something for others and putting a smile on their faces and pretty soon you will be smiling too.

It all starts with YOU.  No one else.  So don’t wait for someone else to make it  happen, you are going to wait a long time.  Remember, the choices you make define you.  So if you are making bad choices, don’t be surprised that nothing is going the way it should.  Make the right choices – move in the right circles – go in the right direction – you need to be happy and content with yourself and your life.  Make it happen!

Get your energy levels up – turn up the heat

Love yourself and be grateful for everything you have in your life right now.  Learn to forgive (and forget) and laugh at the mistakes you make along the way.  They are not fatal.  Many a wealthy man/woman today has made many mistakes – they just carried on till they got it right.

Feel that enthusiasm each and every day for your vision, as if it has already happened.  Stay open for the remarkable to take place.  And it will!

When I talk about the work I do, the deep desire I have to help others and share my experiences, I bubble, I smile, my whole body tingles all over – I am excited – I am happy – I am confident – I believe in what I am doing – I feel freaking amazing!  (And yes I am smiling as I am writing this to you).

“There are two ways of living your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle;  the other is as though everything is a miracle” – Albert Einstein

How are you living your life?  Life itself is a miracle, don’t you agree?  If you are not seeing your life as a miracle, wake up!  Smell the roses! Look around you!  Look in the mirror – YOU are a miracle.  YOU are unique.  YOU are special.  YOU are one of a kind.  Be proud!

Surround yourself with positive people

Like attracts like.  Enthusiasm rubs off on you – it is infectious, just like a smile.  At the very least, spend time with people who are supportive and for you, people who make you smile, people who make you happy.  Enrich yourself by getting to know others who are actively creating the best for themselves – learn from them.

They say you are associated by the company you attract and keep.  They also say treat others as you would have done unto you.  Well, why don’t you treat others as they would like to be treated.  The wheel turns – what goes around, comes around.  What are you attracting?  What are you giving out?  What are you radiating?

Clean out the clutter

Clean out.  You will feel liberated and free.  What is holding you back from going for your dream?  What is your fear?  What baggage are you carrying within yourself that is holding you back?  Get rid of it.  Let it go.  Lighten the load so that you can move forward with ease.

Get organised for success

Find ways of dealing with what is necessary in your life so you don’t get distracted.  Only agree to what you will or can actually do.  Learn to say NO.

I know of someone who just can’t say NO yet they complain about how unhappy they are and blame the person they can’t say no to and everyone else around them.  You only have to say it once.  And mean it.

Don’t limit yourself

Go beyond your limit. Do more.  Stretch yourself.  Learn to live in the present moment.  Some times you will need to hold back and other times, you go forward.  There will also be times when you need to speak and then times when you need to be quiet.  As time goes on you will know which is which at the right time and the right moment.

Use your time wisely.  It is amazing what you can do when you just let yourself go and do it.  No holding back.

Believe in yourself, believe in your vision

Don’t doubt yourself.  You have a dream, you have a vision – it remains a dream until you actually do something about it.  Make it a reality – make it a goal and work towards it.  YOU can do it!

Appreciate yourself

Look after yourself – take care of yourself.  Eat foods that are good for your body, drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, make time to have fun and relax – stay focused on your vision.  Taking care of yourself is a wise investment of your time and attention.

YOU have the power to choose who you want to be.  Be the greatest, grandest and the best you can be.

Shift into maximum productivity

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Do you find there are not enough hours in a day to get through your work?  You are not alone!  With the way economy is going, retrenchments becoming the order of the day and no one is being hired to fill the empty spaces – your workload increases, your job description remains unchanged, no immediate compensation or increase to cover the extra workload and yet you are expected to cover your work plus the extra in the same amount of hours a day.  So how do you do it?

You are, in all good faith and supposedly, employed to work eight hours a day, five days a week – right?  But, how many of those hours do you think you are actually productive? And remember, you are not paid for the number of hours you work (I know some of you like to be busy, busy bees) but you are paid for the value you add to those hours in your day/week.

Work less, do more

Looking at some stats done a while back, the message is to look at how to work less and do more.  Seriously?  Somehow that sentence does not make since, yet it can happen.  People work an average of 45 hours per week (working on a five-day week).  This equals nine hours a day.  Some researches reckon that only 17 of those hours are productive.  That equals approximately three to four hours a day of productive work.  Scary, isn’t it?  But so true.  Just think of all the things that are your timewasters, whether intended or not, and how these things take away your productive time, if you don’t control it.

Multitasking is a myth, or is it?

Stop multitasking!  If you really think about it, there is no way we are good multi-taskers – I mean, how do you actually get to do two things at exactly the same time, with the same amount of focus on each one at the same time?  A little bit impossible, I think.

As much as we would like to pride ourselves on being multi-taskers, we should rather refer to ourselves as master task-switchers because that is in effect what we actually do.  We do many tasks at once, yet we finish one at a time.

Researchers estimate that only 2% of people are able to successfully multi-task.  So it certainly takes someone remarkable and seriously ambidextrous to do this.  Agree?

Also remember that when you multi-task, your productivity is reduced by 40%.  Think about it.  Have you sat at a restaurant, talking to someone, the waiter comes over to take your order.  When they leave, you suddenly have to think what you were talking about and carry on from where you left off. It takes a few seconds to do that – that is what happens when you switch from one task to another – and then it is not just the one task for the day either.  It all adds up.

Moody blues

Your mood also plays a part in your productivity.  If you are not in the right frame of mind, or you are not focused on work but rather on something that is bothering you, a fight with a spouse, or your children, anything upsetting you, bad headache – this all has a role to play in how productive you are.

Change your mood!  They say that optimistic sales people outsell negative sales people by 56%.  Very interesting and I can resonate with that.  The more positive, happy and engaged you are, the more you will get done.   I mean, who wants to deal with someone whose head is not in the game, who looks miserable and who one can clearly see is not focused on the sale.

People need to believe in you – you need to believe in yourself – hence, change your mood and your attitude.

Curbing/controlling emails, social media, telephones, meetings

It is said that people who do not organise their emails or filter them, found what they were looking for faster than those who did file them in folders.  Don’t check your mails every second they come in – they distract you from what you are doing.

Cut down on the time you spend going from one task to the other by doing similar things at the same time i.e. replying to emails. Rather decide on a time/s in the day that you will check and respond to your mails.  And deal with each mail one at a time and finish with it.

We all have bad habits, don’t we?  Try replacing bad habits with good ones.  Did you know that 40% of the actions we perform daily are habits?  And to change a habit to a good one, takes an average of 66 days!  That is a long time.

Don’t allow social media interruptions during the day to distract you.  Go through then either at beginning or end of day or lunch time – it is not necessary to go through them as and when you get a notification.

Ignore phones calls and emails.  Unless it is an emergency or you are expecting an important mail or call to come through, leave your replies for later.  Don’t allow yourself to be needlessly interrupted.  Phones have voicemail for a reason – use it.  They also have a mute button too, by the way.

Meetings are probably one of the biggest stealers of time and productivity – and if they don’t stick to time or the agenda, even worse.  Arrange stand up meetings (works great if you are in an open plan office).  That way you say what needs to be said and get it done quickly so people can get back to work.

Use checklists.  Your checklists should have a time estimate for each task.  This helps and encourages you to stay on track and on target to get a task done within a specific timeframe.  Also make sure you don’t intentionally schedule 20 hours of work for one day – that can be a nightmare.  Estimate your time wisely.

Focus on being productive instead of being busy.  We all like people to see we are busy, it’s a status we like to attach to ourselves to make us look and feel important.  But, being too busy is detrimental to your health and wellbeing.  You need to find a way to work smarter, not harder.

Delegate it

If you are 70% sure of a task that can be delegated to someone, then delegate it.  Don’t think too long on it, after all 70% is close to 100%.  Yes you do your work well and no one can do it like you, but you can’t do everything for everyone all the time.  You are going to burn out.  And if you burn out or end up so ill that you cannot continue work, there is always someone to replace you – sad, but true.  We are replaceable but at what cost?

If you find that the task you delegated comes back and you need to redo it or have to fix it or are not happy with it, the problem is YOU and how you delegated in the first place.  If you explain and give the right amount of detail (even examples) you will get your work back in a good form.  This is a morale booster for the delegate and you feel confident enough to give other work going forward.  And I can guarantee you they won’t hesitate to jump in and help you again and you won’t worry about giving them more to do.

Say NO

Learn the art of saying no, even when you don’t actually say it.  Value your time and what you need to get done and work it to your advantage.

You know your priorities, work on them in the order you prioritise them.  Cross them off as you get each task done.

Practice saying NO.  The more you do it, the easier it becomes.  If you can’t say no, trying suggesting another time to get an unexpected task request done which was not part of your plan for the day.  People will understand if they see you are busy and have deadlines.  By giving them an alternative, yet still able to help them out, they won’t mind.

Pre-empt possible interruptions – let everyone know what you are working on and what your deadline is – they will appreciate it and not ask for your help unexpectedly.  They may come to you, but will indicate they are happy to wait till you are done.

Ever had to say no to your manager?  You can.  Sit with him/her when he/she continuously interrupts you for things when they know your workload.  Share with them what is on your plate and even ask them what they suggest you do or what they suggest you put on hold for a while.  You work with your manager, not for them – so talk to them.

Manage your time wisely

Set yourself some goals – daily, weekly, monthly.  Make sure they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based).  That way you keep yourself on track.

Ever found you have put a task off over and over again and then at the last minute it is a mad rush to get it done and finished on time?  And you do, but at what stress?  So why do we leave it to the last minute when we could have done it long again and saved ourselves so much stress?  Because we are human, we develop bad habits and find it hard to change them.  Turn your bad habits into good ones!

Not everything is urgent and important and yet that is the quadrant we find ourselves working in most of the time.  Use the principles of your Urgent-Important matrix and prioritise your tasks accordingly.  You will save yourself a lot of stress and anxiety.

Get into a good habit

Lou Hotlz said “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it”.  Don’t try and do everything yourself or kid yourself that you can do it in much less time than you actually can.  Pace yourself.

If you have been in your current position for more than 5, 10, 15+ years – what have you changed in your routine or process over that period?  If you say nothing, that is your problem.  You are doing the same old, same old, day in and day out for the last few years and nothing has changed.  In order to turn your bad habits into good ones, you need to start changing something, somewhere, sometime soon.  Play around with a few ideas or suggestions and see which one works out best.

Being busy means doing stuff – being productive means getting stuff done!

Get the maximum out of the few hours in your day and be productive.  Change what needs to change, try out new ways and methods, find some help, and you will be a lot less stressed.

Shift into maximum productivity!

TEAM work makes the DREAM work because WE work together

I have worked in many teams, in many organisations with many different people and personalities.  And I thought I had seen the best in team work ….. until I joined an amazing group of people this year.

You want to talk about team work  – this team can show you a thing or two.  I have never seen people jump into action so quickly, without question and without any expectations.

Firstly, we don’t work in the same office (at least not all of us) and I, for one, work extremely far – across the ocean – another continent.  Technology does not separate us at all (thank goodness for that).  In fact, we speak and liaise with each other probably more than some bosses and their assistants do.  And that is saying something.

We have a Whatsapp group which is a blessing.  Anyone can put their thoughts or ask for help and someone is bound to ‘put their hand up’ and volunteer – in fact, not even that someone just takes the reigns and runs with what needs to be done.

Secondly, we respect and admire each other – each person has their own skill set, strength, area of expertise and no one tries to take over or step anyone’s toes.  And even though we all have different skill sets, we can still do with help and not be shy to ask for it. And we don’t care if someone happens to take over – we see it as help and a relief for the one under pressure.

Thirdly, you always get a ‘THANK YOU’.  Not that one expects it at all.  It just comes whenever it is due and many a time, I get caught off balance because that is something my bosses failed to do.  They very, very rarely said ‘thank you’ or ‘job well done’ – and I am sure I am not the only one here who has had that experience.

Working with this wonderful group of people has put my faith back in humanity – I love the dynamics, I love the different personalities, I love the quirks and the fun we have even when we work hard.  We teach each other, we mentor one another, we lift each other up all the time.

We may be a small group, but we are certainly a dynamic force.

Common faux pas


Shocked woman holding banner isolated on white

We sometimes forget that when doing business emails, we need to remember that we cannot be casual and sloppy about it.  We need to be professional about it.  And there are some things we need to remember when sending emails (or any other correspondence for that matter). Let’s see what I mean.

Please and thank you

“May you kindly please arrange for the boardroom to be booked” or “May you please book a boardroom for me” – what is that?  That is the kind of email I used to receive from a PA to the CEO in a company I worked at.  A simple “Please arrange a boardroom to be booked for me”  or “Will you please book a boardroom for me?” would have been perfect.  It is polite, short and sweet – no frills, no fuss.  And anyway, how can you “kindly please” do anything?  When asked to do something, you can only get one or two answers – Yes or No. No need to butter up your request that almost comes across as pleading.

Now for a totally different situation – I was asked this week if I got offended when I received an email simply stating the task and in point form what needs to be done?  She was feeling bad that she didn’t ask or put it across nicely.  And I think she is reading this right now and smiling.  First of all, I work with her – we have a great working relationship and I have offered to assist where necessary.  I don’t need to be asked nicely every time.  We are both busy and have a lot on our plates.  Just make sure your subject line indicates what your message is about – makes it a lot easier to determine whether urgent or not.  And I understand where she is coming from – albeit far across the ocean.

What is my name?

Then of course another bad habit some people have is getting your name wrong.  Oh wow – and this happens time and time again.  First of all your email should have a signature, which should include your name, surname, contact number and company name.  An email address should be self-explanatory since you have just received it.  When people answer your email, do they address you and spell your name correctly?  Hmm …. I have people getting it wrong over and over and over again.  And I make no bones about correcting them either.

First of all, you have just received the mail with the person’s name in the signature – how can you possibly get it wrong?  Besides me don’t you get upset when people get your name wrong?  I mean, just take the time before writing the mail or sending it off, and make sure you have got their name right.  That is something very personal and it makes me wonder how important I really am if you can’t get my name right.  Especially, when my name is Michele and not Michelle.  Definitely make a point of checking because some names are not the norm.  The same goes for sending texts or Whatsapp messages – again last night I noticed after I posted my previous blog, someone thanked me but spelt my name wrong. Why?  Please make sure you get the name right.

Your idea or mine

Many people are posting quotes and interesting things on line, on social media and some have even created their own format – beautiful, chic, professional formats.  Now it is one thing to copy (which I am sure is fine to a point), but sometimes it is just courtesy to check with that individual if you can copy their idea.  First of all it is a compliment to like and admire someone’s idea and want to use it, but it is also just courtesy to check with them.  I know, some don’t mind especially if they are a good friend of yours, but I still ask.  And yes, another friend of mine is reading this right now and also smiling because it happened this week too.

Research and references

Ah yes – the last one I want to touch on.  Many people are writing articles and blogs and often referring to other websites and articles for their information.  Be careful if you are using their words, literally word for word.  Remember you are not the only one reading these articles and researching.  So be careful, because others will pick it up.  Make sure you reference or give reference to the person/s whose article you have taken information from.  If you are caught out, it could ruin your reputation as a writer or blogger going forward.

Michele Thwaits May 2016




Where we find ourselves today is due to the choices we made.  Our choices determine or future, not what happened in the past, not by blaming others for where we are and what we couldn’t achieve.  Our choices are our own doing.

Some time back Julie Perrine shared her acronym of the word CHOICE – I’d like to share my version.


Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to do what we feel we ought to, go in the direction we think is right and have no idea what the outcome is going to be.  It is not easy.  We have fears and doubts on the choices we make, but we need to push through, carry on moving forward, don’t lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel, onward bound towards your goal.  Whatever comes your way to make you stumble, get up and keep moving on.  If you need to ask for help along the way, it takes courage to admit that you need help in the first place, but it doesn’t mean you are any less the wiser.  A good support is always recommended.

Some choices are easier to make than others.  It is a definite, gut-feel, know-for sure decision you make.  The path is not always rosy or clear or smooth sailing, because you have set your mind to it and you stick to your guns.


You need to be honest with yourself and your choice.  Don’t set targets that are out of reach or a very long stretch.  You know your limits.  You know in what timeframe you are able to achieve what you set your mind to do.  Yes, a goal should be a bit of a stretch otherwise it is too easy. Be honest with the people you are working with, who you are going to work with and who support you.


You need to believe in yourself and what you are capable of.  You need to believe that you are good at what you do and that you can achieve anything you set your mind to.  Always see the green light instead of the red one.  The glass is only half full, not half empty.  Take the “T” off can’t and you can.  Tell yourself “Nothing is IMPOSSIBLE, because I AM POSSIBLE”.  Self-talk, belief and support all add to your optimistic view of your future.


This is a very important attribute to have when making your choices.  People need to believe you, trust you and support you.  They won’t do that if you are not what you seem.  Don’t try and cover up or paint a pretty picture to make yourself look good.  People will see right through you.  Hold you head up high, remember your beliefs and values you grew up with, those will play an important role in your future and that of the people you associate with. Accept responsibility and accountability when it is needed.


Go out confidently, walk straight and tall, smile, hold your head up and walk with confidence.  Don’t hesitate or procrastinate – you believe you can do it, others believe in you so take that first step – confidently.  If you lack confidence, who is going to believe you or believe in you?  Show them who you are and what you are made of.


Whatever you do, do it with excellence.  Do it at your absolute best – not someone else’s best, your best.  After all you know how far you can push yourself.  And no matter what the situation, no matter how toxic your relationship or workspace is, you continue doing and going at whatever you  have set your mind to and make sure you continue doing what you love to do at your best.


That is the road you have started travelling on, and that is the road you continue with influencing others along the way, impressing and inspiring people and helping people to grow and empower themselves.  That is true success, not just you.  Make sure the legacy you leave behind is one where people who have grown and made it by themselves, have done so because you took the time to help them and encourage them – no matter how small or insignificant it may seem – it only takes one.

So the CHOICES you make will show your COURAGE, you will be HONEST with yourself and others and go forward with an OPTIMISTIC point of view.  Your INTEGRITY will draw people to you and your will begin to grow more CONFIDENT within yourself because you will be doing everything to a standard of EXCELLENCE and your will reap the rewards of SUCCESS on your journey.

I encourage you to make the right CHOICES – it is worth it.

Michele Thwaits May 2016

To Compete or to be Complete … that is the question

To compete or be complete

In the quest for success or fulfillment – are we competing against others to make our mark? Or are we competing with ourselves?  Do you sometimes ask yourself the question “Why do they get the opportunity and not me?” Even though you are on the path to creating your own destiny, you still doubt and want what others have.

You are where you are today because of the choices you made along the way.  And you also got here by sheer determination and a want.  When you thought about doing what you are doing now, didn’t you have a permanent smile on your face, get excited, talk louder than normal and talk about it to everyone and anyone you came across?  Didn’t the people you shared your dreams and goals with encourage you along your path, instill confidence in you by telling you, you can do it?  So why the doubt?  Why question yourself and your abilities? No one said it was going to be an easy ride – no one ever achieved success or their goals by having a smooth ride.

We will go through the downs in our life, we will cross hurdles on the way, we will make mistakes, we will fail, we will lose – the question is, how do we go from there?  Do we just sit back and say “That’s it.  I can’t do this.  It is not working.  It is not happening quick enough.  What was I thinking?” Turn all those negative and doubting thoughts ino positive ones.

There are many things you can do that will make you feel better or lift your mood in the moment (and I know it works for me) – going for a new haircut or hair colour, having a manicure or pedicure, putting some make up on, dressing in something more appealing, colourful.  I also find going to a movie just takes my mind off what was worrying me and I feel so much better afterwards – I can look at the problem and come to a more positive way to handle it and move forward.


Think positively – wow that sounds crazy but you will be amazed at how it can work.  If you find yourself saying “Heck I’m so fat”.  Stop right there.  Reframe.  Say it again and this time think “I’m unhappy with my weight.  What am I doing about it?” This doesn’t mean to say it is going to be sunshine and roses.  Not at all.  You just have to be less hard on yourself.

Positive thinking leads to a positive, more confident disposition.  You know that when you start thinking negatively about yourself, it becomes a habit and then before you know it you are thinking negatively about everything.  You start to gossip, complain, find fault.  Is that really who you want to be?  I don’t think so.

Be grateful – Start being grateful.  The more things you realise you have going for you the more you can then sit back and say “It is not as bad as I thought”.  And sadly, we tend to forget just how good our lives are and how blessed we are with what we have.  I mean seriously, your arms, fingers, legs, toes all work don’t they?  You have clothes on your back, you have food to eat.  There are many people who love you.  You have a future.  And that is just the beginning.  Most people have that – so what else do you have that is unique to you?

Smile – Your mind takes cues from your body.  So start tricking your mind and smile. Smiling releases endorphins and serotonin.  If you force a smile, you will literally be happier.  Not just look happier or seem happier but be happier.  Smiling also reduces stress, lowers your blood pressure and ups your immune system.  Smiling also makes you more attractive to others.  Yes it does.  Happier people are generally more confident. Aren’t you drawn to someone who smiles?

Change your environment – Think about the kind of person you are when you are at home, the person you are at work, the person you are at your favourite cafe or restaurant. Are you the same person everywhere?  Probably not and the odds are that there are one or two places you don’t feel comfortable and  confident.  Get up and move.  So the next time you are not feeling so great, think about where you are.  Try it!

Visualise and breathe deeply – This is a more-in-the-moment scenario.  When you are getting ready to speak to your boss or a colleague or you are preparing to give a speech – that is when you need to …

  • Visualise yourself doing awesome and doing it well.  When you expect success, you might just get it.  However when you expect to fail, you will.
  • Take a deep breath.  When we breathe too quickly our heart rates go up and our brains start thinking “fight or flight”.  You are making yourself more nervous.

Self talk – Take a look at yourself in the mirror and persuade yourself that you are you, and that you ARE brilliant.  Convince yourself you don’t have to hide from anything except yourself.  Make fierce and confident poses in the mirror, this will make you think positive. (It will probably make you laugh at yourself too for doing this).  I personally find myself talking to myself and saying “What advice do you give others in this situation – give yourself the same advice!”


Dress for success – If you went to the mall or a shop dressed in your drab bulky casuals, no make up, having a bad hair day – you find you bump into everyone and anyone when you don’t want to and you probably feel self-conscious and awkward.  Am I right? So how about dressing up, put the make up on, get your hair done and I bet you will feel so much better and more confident.  Now I know clothes don’t make a (wo)man but they can make you feel like a million dollars.  It is so much easier to feel good about yourself when you think you look good.  I know it is probably a girl-thing to say, but it works.

Be aware of your posture – 9 times out of 10 you walk into a room full of people and you can pick out the people who are not confident.  They are a little slouched over or they are looking down.   Keep your chin up, throw your shoulders back and walk like you own the place.  Also, if you are preparing to go into that room full of people and there is someone in particular whose attention you want to catch, do exactly that and of course, remember to  smile.  It works!

Work out – I am afraid it is true – when we work out, we do look better.  And when we look better, we feel better.  Working out also releases those happy endorphins, makes us feel more productive, increases our energy levels and puts a pep in our step.  I am not saying go and run the marathon.  Just exercise 30 minutes a day – at a gym or at home – that is all it takes.  And the best thing is even if you don’t feel like, once you have done it – well, what more can I say – you feel great!

Wear colour – There is a reason people wear black when they mourn – it definitely reflects their mood.  Humans associate a lot with colour.  So when you are feeling down, throw on something bright.  Just that little pizzazz could be all the confidence you need.


Do something you are good at – Oh yes you can.  You are good at something – could be baking, public speaking, training.  And you know you are good at it, don’t you?  When we do things we are good at, we feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.  This is where your confidence comes from.  So don’t just do it, do it often.  It is a reminder of how awesome you really are.

When we do something good and master that skill, it gives us personality, gives us something to talk about and makes us interesting as also gives us a sense of fulfillment. Did I forget to mention that doing what we are good at is fun?  So what are you waiting for – go out there and do your thing!

Talk to everyone – A part of lacking confidence comes from not understanding people.  So to get around this, start talking to everyone.  Even if it is a remark about the bus or something, just talk to everyone.  You will learn that –

  • Most people are friendly enough.  They are not there to judge you.  In fact, they will probably enjoy talking to you and you to them.
  • Most people don’t like initiating conversation either.  They will open up if you make the first move.  They are just as nervous as you are.  So put yourself out there.
  • People get cliquey.  They generally stick to what they know and don’t like to deviate much.  Boring!!!!!  Don’t do that.  You learn so much from people who are different to you.

Keep on talking to everyone – Absolutely!  The more you talk to people the less scary it gets and the less concerned you will be about what they think of you.  The less you think about how great everyone is, the more you will realise that most people are completely average. If no one else is a big deal, you don’t have to care so much about how you come off.

The more you talk to people, the more you will get to socialise more easily.  Yes it can be intimidating but once you have done this over and over, you will be great at it.

Compliment others – Ever heard that “giving is better than receiving?”  It feels great when someone makes you feel good and it feels even better knowing you helped someone else feel good about themselves.

And don’t forget to accept compliments graciously too.  (Hmmm, that is an area I struggle with believe it or not).  A simple “thank you” is the best way to do this.  Don’t hum and haa or make excuses when someone is nice to you.  That just being modest and not really kind to the other person.  Imagine if they gave you a gift and you turned round and said “No, no I don’t deserve this, take it back”.  Ouch!  Whether you deserve it or not, it is the heart and the thought behind giving that gift that makes all the difference.  And if you are going to give a compliment, make sure it is genuine.  Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.

Observe yourself and everyone around you – Here are two reasons why this statement is so true –

  • Observe yourself and others instead of judging – when you stop judging, the negativity stops.  Your mind opens up and you can learn.
  • Observe yourself and others so that you can learn – what makes others seem so confident?  What makes you feel confident or not confident?  What are your trigger patterns?

Find role models – Oh yes, so important.  Having someone inspire you and your confidence, can be a great boost.  Makes sure that the person is real.  Aiming to be a Kim Kardashian is not a good idea.  You want a source of positivity you can tap into when you need it.

Having a good role model or mentor is great, also keep a positive crowd of people around you.  Being around people who just bring you down whether intentionally or not – not a good thing.

Be true to YOU – It is very hard to be confident when you are trying to be someone you are not.  Besides remembering to come off confident, we have to remember who we are trying to be.  That is hard work.  Just be YOU.

So stop trying to compete with someone else or be like them or be at the level they are now.  You are on your own path, you are successful in your own way, you have your own strengths.  Remember that and if you forget, find that someone who can help you refocus and stay on the right track.

DREAM IT – your dream is your dream – run with it

BELIEVE IT – believe in yourself and believe in your dreams and they will definitely happen at the right time

ACHIEVE IT – you can achieve anything you set your mind to – be positive

Well I feel a whole lot better now – how about you?