Business: Email Overwhelm

I21-Ways-to-Manage-Time-cover-lowresn our modern world of being available 24/7 by email, it sometimes feels like there is no escape.  Email alerts ping in my pocket, my handbag, on my desk, they are everywhere!  Sometimes if they don’t synchronise properly between PC and phone email can be lost or actions are not followed through.  Quite honestly I was sick and tired of being a slave to email.

I booked Grace Marshall of www.gracemarshall.com, productivity ninja and coach to help me to find a system that worked for me.  The day with Grace was great, we worked through all my email (and there was lots and lots!)  I now have a system of prioritising emails for action, those that are waiting for someone to come back to me and those that are just to read.  I also did lots of unsubscribing from newsletters that I never read to reduce the number of email coming in.

To stop the issue of email not synching correctly, I now only read my email on my iPhone and don’t use it to respond or flag email, unless it is really urgent.  Now that my inbox is down to zero – yes ZERO – I only have one day’s worth of email to sort out and respond to, so much easier to handle.  It means that I no longer miss email, or miss flagging email for action.  It does, of course, require human intervention, so I am sure there might be the odd one that gets filed in the wrong place with the slip of a finger.  I now feel much more in control of my email and am pleased to have taken the time to sort it out.

When I am working at my desk all day I also switch off email and only check it a couple of times a day.  Grace says that ‘one minute of distraction takes c. 15 minutes to recover from’, so four email interruptions could loose you an hour!

I have also turned off all notifications for Twitter, Facebook and Linked in to avoid those disruptions too.

Grace’s approach was fantastic, she really listed to my needs and adapted her style to suit.  I am hoping for a more productive week!  For more top tips from Grace, she has a book out ’21 ways to manager the stuff that sucks up your time’.   And her latest book is just out ‘How to be really productive’.How to be really productive

#MarthasDancingHeart, Martha's Dancing Heart, Pillowcase Dress, Weekend Sewing

Weekend Sewing: Baby Pillowcase Dress

I have just made a dress for a very special little lady.  I’d like to introduce you to Martha Graham.  When she was born she had a  very fast heartbeat – double what it normally is for a newborn.

Marthas Dancing HeartShe was cared for really well by the staff at the University Hospital in Wales and she is now a health little girl.  She has a heart condition called PJRT and it is controlled with lots of medicine, so lots of trips back to hospital for Martha and her family.  Her lovely parents Rick and Michelle have been raising funds for the hospital and their fundraising is called ‘Martha’s Dancing Heart’.

I knew that I wanted to make a dress for Martha, so I looked around at the styles available and settled upon the pillowcase dress.  I found a great tutorial on Baby Rabies.  Don’t worry, her babies do not have rabies, just in case you were wondering!!

I bought some fabric from my favourite shop in Leamington Spa, Harlequin Fabrics.  They have lots of cute craft fabric, but I decided to go for cotton lawn as it is lovely and soft – perfect for baby skin.  It’s a really easy pattern, so I wanted to be really tidy and ensure that all my seams were neat and well finished.  It only has one seam in the centre back, so I decided to make a French Seam to keep it neat.  I love the bias bound armholes and the matching ribbon to tie the shoulders in place.

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I just h11824069_10152986898752116_2062734623_nope it fits and can’t wait to see baby Martha wearing it!  To find out more about Michelle’s fundraising, please see Martha’s Dancing Heart

#Scope10, First Impressions, Makeover Shows, Periscope

Uncovering the Myths from Makeover Shows – Periscope #Scope10 Challenge

I saw Veronica Pullen talking about using Periscope and she had set up a 10 day challenge to learn how to use it and to become comfortable with broadcasting live from your smart phone or tablet!  Periscope is an app that can be downloaded it’s available for Apple or Android and it can be used to live broadcast to specific audience members or to the general public.  It is announced to your ‘followers’ and you can Periscopealso set it up to notify your Twitter followers that you are about to go live too.

The challenges started off gently with us learning our way around the app and broadcasting to just one buddy, so that made it less scary while getting to grips with the technology.  I missed a day of broadcasting as we have builders in at the moment and there was lots of drilling and knocking down of walls, so too noisy that day!

Yesterday’s challenge was to do a live ‘scope’ and have a rant about something in your industry.  The first thing that sprang to mind was the TV makeover shows!  I have to say, that was a little tricky, so rather than have a rant, I have dispelled some of the myths purported by makeover shows and I have let you know what it would really be like to work with an image professional, rather than one in TV land!

If you would like to catch it – here is a recording on You Tube.  Periscope deletes them after 24 hours, which has some benefits!!

I’m trialling the app so I can tell our First Impressions consultants all about it if I think it will be useful to them.  Today there is lots more drilling going on, so I’ll be scoping later in the day if you want to catch it, my scope handle is @FirstImpressions.

Have a great weekend all.

Dress, Eliza Dress, Leopard Print, Sewing, Vintage, Women's Style

Weekend Sewing: Finished Vintage-Stylie Dress

You might remember that some time ago I blogged about a dress that I had almost finished ‘A Vintage Affaire‘.  The hem just needed to be completed.  I then hit a snag and asked for help ‘Trouble shooting‘.  Since then, the dress has hung in my wardrobe and I hadn’t got round to finishing it for fear of ruining it!

While I was getting my dresses out ready for my holiday I saw it hanging there and I got the desire to wear it on holiday.  I put it on and bravely, or stupidly gave my teenager a pair of scissors to cut it off for me.  I figured that nobody would have a tape-meeasure when they see me wearing it and I wasn’t sure how easy it would be anyway with such an un-even hemline.  So, I trusted her to do her best with the scissors!

It ended up a little short once I had turned the hem up and sewed it, but it was fine for holidays.  Here is me twirling on my balcony in Turkey wearing the finished dress!!  Plus a stationary one so you can see the style better and one with my family where you can see the colour better.  I’m pretty pleased with it.

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Personal Brand

Personal Branding: Brand of a Nation

I have often written about our own individual authentic personal brand, but while on holiday recently, it got me thinking about the brand of a nation.  We met a lovely couple on a boat trip around the Turkish coastline and we spent the day together.  As you do, we started to chat and find out about each other.  They were from Chile and he had travelled extensively with his work and had even been to Warwick University just down the road from us – what a small world.  His wife had never been to the UK, so her perception of us was from TV, newspapers and meeting Brits abroad.

My heart sank, I knew what was coming next.  She either had us down as one of two extremes.  Her experience was either aristocracy, such as the royal family or lager louts on tour!  She said that Brits abroad have lots of tattoos, wear short skirts, get drunk and are very loud!  Her husband, having spent time in the UK realised that there were many different characters and socio-economic groupings.  He understood the subtlety of different parts of the country, different accents and different occupations.

Royal Family Wayne and Waynetta

I do hope our day together changed her opinion somewhat.  I wonder what your view is?  How could we re-brand our nation and how would you want it to be?

Cherry Dress, Experimenting, Self-drafting, Sewing, Weekend Sewing

Weekend Sewing: Cherry Surprise!

I absolutely love this dress.  I bought it on a lovely holiday to St Ives many years ago and it was cheap as chips!  I love it because the colour and pattern is great for me.  I like to wear strapless dresses when I’m out in the sun so I don’t end up with a multitude of strap lines.  It’s cotton lawn, so beautifully light and great to wear on a hot day.  Sadly it’s almost worn out.  It has sun lotion stains around the top and the elastic has gone unde39792_10150223918170494_13209_nr the bust.  Here’s me wearing it in 2010 in  Portugal!

It’s a simple design, so I thought it would be relatively easy to copy. I went off in search of fabric to my favourite shop – Harlequin Fabrics in Leamington Spa. My idea was for something fun that I’d like to wear on holiday.

I found a great piece of soft cotton with big cherries on it. Perfect!   I started by creating a paper pattern copied from my original dress and adding a bit extra for seam allowances.


I created a lining with cotton lawn and sewed the dress up in about an hour and a half, lining and all.  Perhaps the rose wine helped!

I tried the dress on……it was too tight across the bust…..nooooooo! I asked my daughter to try it on…..it fitted perfectly. So now she is the proud owner of a new cherry dress!! And me….I just used some vanish on my old dress, sewed in some new elastic and it will have to do for another holiday!!!  Back to the drawing board!  I am sure with a few modifications I can alter the pattern to fit me.

Here we are in our dresses!


Bentley, Cars, Customer Experience, Customer Service, Quality

A Case Study in Quality – Bentley Cars

I was lucky enough to have a trip to Bentley yesterday, along with my fellow leaders at Achievers Academy for Women.  I didn’t know a great deal about the brand or the cars before my visit and I was intrigued to find out more.  I love cars, I love great FullSizeRenderquality, craftsmanship and great customer service.  All of these are apparent in spades from the moment we arrived at their offices in Crewe.

The gleaming cars and the Bentley wings were on display at their prestigious new customer experience centre CW1.  We were met and greeted by our guide for the morning, Nigel.  We started with refreshments in their customer lounge area.  You might be expecting lots of masculine dark leather and winged back chairs.  None of that in their new cutting edge purpose-built showroom.  It’s all modern, clean lines and the highest of quality.

Here are just a few of the options and choices you get to make when specifying your new Bentley.  There are so many colour choices, options on colour and type of stitching.  If you have one, you can even have your coat of arms or logo stitched in to the headrests – whatever floats your boat!  Nigel was even telling us that one overseas princess asked them to match the colour of her cars to her favourite nail varnish!

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We then set off on the factory tour – here are a few photos from the initial rooms, once we were in the factory, no cameras were allowed for obvious reasons.


Here’s W.O Bentley – founder of the company in 1919.

It was incredible to see the factory – it’s my first time on a factory tour, so I had no idea what to expect.  Everyone was wearing white and pale grey, so it made the environment seem quite scientific.  The line moves slowly to allow each job to be completed.  We chatted to a few of the staff along the way.  We were shown how the steering wheel and seats are hand stitched – we were even given a leather sample with a cross-stitch on it as a souvenir!

We were really impressed by the wood veneer and the process it goes through from root ball of a walnut tree to becoming part of the trim in the cars – we saw them being created by the presses.  Every element of the process using the highest quality products and many man-hours and skill to complete.  In the woodworking shop there are sons, fathers and grand-fathers all working together – passing on the skill and knowledge from generation to generation – very impressive.

I love these two quotes I saw on the walls there: ‘We start where others stop’ and ‘we’ve been taking things personally for nearly 250 years’.  They both demonstrate the attention to detail, the bespoke nature of the cars and the outstanding customer service.

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We all learned lots of great lessons from our day at Bentley.  If I had a spare £140k I’d have no hesitation in buying one!!  Here I am just testing out the feel of my future car!!

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