How to be productive


I’m on a bit of the productivity roll at the moment. Admittedly, I’m always looking for ways to streamline my workflow  and become more efficient in the way work.

So I really resonated with this productivity chart from Funders and Founders.

You can print out a bigger version here.

It features the 80/20 Rule, of which I’m a big fan. The other strategies I’m particularly fond of include:

* No meetings unless they are decisive
There is nothing more frustrating than talking for hours without achieving a definite outcome. To avoid suffering from “death by meeting”, start each meeting by determining how long it’s going to take and what decisions you want to make by the end of it.

* Start an “Idea Dump” book for genius ideas you can’t work on right now
I love this – and it’s a must. I used to write down all of my ideas, but they were never collated in one spot. So I would have ideas on post-it notes, notebooks, Evernote, on the notes function in my phone – all over the place!… Read more ...

Want to run the world? Here’s how

Run the world

I’m excited to be one of 10 female entrepreneurs speaking at the Run The World Conference in Melbourne on Saturday 19 October, run by The League of Extraordinary Women. If you’re going to be there, make sure you come say HI!

Here are some details from the organisers:
10 inspirational female entrepreneurs. One extraordinary day. Join the movement.
In partnership with RMIT University, the League of Extraordinary Women will be hosting the first ever female entrepreneurs’ one-day conference in Australia.

There will be 10 outstanding female entrepreneurs and academics who will be taking the stage throughout the day to share their remarkable stories and advice with an audience of over 350 people.

For more information please visit:

Read more ...

Why you should start every week like this


You want to be productive. You want to get more done. But you seem to be falling into a never-ending spiral of tasks, emails, projects and so on. You don’t feel like you’re ever going to get on top of everything you need to do. Obviously, this causes stress. And one of the main drivers of stress is the feeling of overwhelm, that you’re drowning in a sea of tasks that never seem to stop flowing.

So you work like crazy but feel like a hamster running on a treadmill that just seems to get faster and faster. And your only option is to keep going because, if you take a break, you’re only going to have an even longer “to do” list when you get back.

I get it. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to feel like you’re never going to get on top of things.

You end up compromising. After all, you’ve actually been told NOT to strive for perfection, otherwise you’ll never complete any tasks. You’ve learnt that you just need to get your projects to “good enough” because that’s better than not getting them done it all.… Read more ...

My life in a minute: Our magazine launch, our 8th birthday – and bloggers everywhere

Hanging out at The Boathouse at Balmoral Beach.

It’s been a while since the last recap. So this is more like “the last two months in a minute”!

Lunch with Candace Bushnell

It was great to see so many familiar faces at the Business Chicks lunch featuring S#x and the City author Candace Bushnell. I had the opportunity to interview Candace earlier this year and I loved how down to earth she is. We compared notes about living between a house in the country and an apartment in the city (although I’m sure her New York pad is probably more than a bit fancier than my apartment in Sydney!)

I hosted a table at the Melbourne lunch with Candace. Pictured here with Australian Writers’ Centre presenter Karen Andrews, and marketing manager Leona D’vaz.

There were plenty of Margaritas and Cosmopolitans. Naturally.

Then I did the whole thing again with an awesome groups of women in Sydney. Pictured here with author, blogger and TV panellist Kerri Sackville.

Awesome group of students

I loved teaching the Australian Writers’ Centre weekend Melbourne course in Magazine and Newspaper Writing. It’s inspiring being with so many enthusiastic students and watching their talent unfold over the weekend as they learn how to put their new skills into practice.… Read more ...

Waking up next to a cow: a tale of two cities

Meet my neighbour. He has insomnia.

Meet my neighbour. He has insomnia.

Earlier this week, I was awoken at about 2am by an almighty noise. It was definitely from an animal … or monster … and it emanated from somewhere near the bedroom window. It sounded like Satan trying to escape from hell. And he decided that our side fence was the right place to make his entry into the world.

Turns out that it wasn’t Satan. It was the cow from next door.

Yes, even as I type that, I find myself wondering: “How did I end up sleeping barely metres away from … a cow?”

This is particularly perplexing as I’m quite a fan of the Sparkling Concrete Jungle, otherwise known as the city of Sydney. But here on the outskirts of Melbourne, there isn’t too much concrete. Instead, there are a lot of undulating grassy pastures, a phenomenally bad internet connection and … yes … cows.

If you wander across the road there are even little lambs. And horses.

Ok so I didn’t write about these in my post. But check out the crazy arsed chicken eggs you get out here!

Read more ...

How to connect with your heroes

Connect with your hero

So you’ve been inspired by someone you admire. Maybe you want to achieve what they’ve done in their life or business. Perhaps you simply think they’re awesome.

You would love to connect with them. You dream of them endorsing your book, blog or business. Or you would give your right arm for the opportunity to pick their brains for 15 minutes. But you have no idea how to make this happen.

Linda Coles is the author of Start With Hello. She says her book reveals how you can master the skills of talking to strangers. I don’t mean about chatting to the cute guy on the bus in the hope you exchange phone numbers. Linda means engaging with strangers to turn them into valuable professional clients or contacts.

I specifically wanted to get Linda’s advice on how to approach your heroes. Maybe you’ve always want to reach out to Seth Godin, Sheryl Sandberg, or Richard Branson. How do you make this happen? Here’s Linda’s advice.

Hello. You are my hero, let’s connect!
Have you ever thought about reaching out to someone who is high profile but have never taken it any further because you don’t know the best way to approach them?Read more ...

See you at the Problogger Training Event 13-14 September


Next week, I’ll be soaking up some Gold Coast sunshine as I’m speaking at the Problogger Training Event. I’m really looking forward to this, not just because it means I can break out my summer wardrobe after living in leggings and woollens thanks to months of chilly Victorian weather.

I’m also excited to meet the other speakers include Facebook expert Amy Porterfield, marketing expert Ed Dale and photographer Trey Ratcliff.

If you’re attending the Problogger Training Event, make sure we connect!

I’ll be speaking at the following sessions:

Launch Your Freelance Writing Career – Friday 13 September, 9.45-1.40am
This is an informal Q & A session focusing on using a blog to launch your freelance writing career. I’ll be sharing the stage – or the sofa – with the lovely and talented Kelly Exeter. Bring along your questions and get ready to learn from the experts as well as attendees.

I started freelancing 14 years ago and it’s the best move I ever made in terms of my writing career. And I’m passionate about helping others take their first step into this world because it’s so incredibly rewarding.… Read more ...

Why you need strategy – not motivation


My friend David insisted that I read Playboy. Apparently, it has good articles. Specifically, he was referring to the recent Playboy interview with Tony Robbins. It’s definitely worth a read so if you have a chance, head on over to the site and check it out. Just be prepared for a few pictures of pneumatic blondes to flank the text.

One thing Tony mentions struck a chord with me. Tony is often pegged as a motivational speaker, but in the interview he says: “I’m a strategist, not a motivator. I’m obsessed with finding strategies that create real results in the shortest period of time.”

That’s something we all need to remember.

It lies at the heart of why we don’t take action.

You might have a great idea for a business. You talk to your mates about it over Friday night drinks. They love it too. But one year later you’re still talking about it. You haven’t taken any action.

Or perhaps you know you need to go to the next level in your business. But it’s such an overwhelming concept that you just don’t know where to start.… Read more ...

Take a risk – ask for the impossible. Here’s someone who did.

Billy Joel

I love this video of a university student Michael Pollack having the guts to ask Billy Joel if he could accompany the legendary singer on the piano. Joel was speaking at Vanderbilt University when Pollack used the Q&A session to ask what many would never dare.

It takes chutzpah and confidence to do this. But it achieved a great result. Not only did Pollack get to accompany his idol, he did it brilliantly. And the Youtube video has been viewed over 2.5 million times so far (the incident occurred in March 2013).

However, I also think it’s important to have a good balance of boldness backed up with the goods. Imagine if Pollack asked the big question, got on stage and did a terrible job. It would have been humiliating.

Sure, someone people might argue that the act of asking is kudos enough. But any idiot can put their hand up for a job.

If you’re going to do that, make sure you can deliver.

I know this seems to fly in the face of many articles and comments about the fact that men often ask even when they don’t necessarily have the goods to deliver.… Read more ...

So I couldn’t get to sleep …



Earlier this week, I couldn’t get to sleep. At all.

I had a productive day in the office brainstorming a tonne of ideas and, by the time I left, we had bedded down some pretty exciting plans, timelines and new projects.

That night, as I lay in bed, even more ideas swirled around my brain. It was as if someone has turned on an idea hose and I had no idea how to turn it off.

On one hand, I was so excited by this that I just wanted the calendar to fast forward so I could work on them all! On the other, I was annoyed they didn’t wait till a more reasonable hour to invade my mind.

Needless to say, I couldn’t sleep. This is an anathema to me because I’m the sort of person who can usually go to sleep the minute my head hits the pillow. I can sleep on planes, trains, automobiles, even at the opera while the soprano is hitting a high C. I am what you would call a Very Good Sleeper.

So being unable to doze off is a very frustrating experience.… Read more ...

TV shows finally give Asian-Australians the voice they’ve always had

Better Man

The cast of “Better Man”. Picture: Gina Milicia

This month, SBS is broadcasting Better Man, the mini-series about Van Nguyen, the 25 year old Australian who was executed in Singapore in 2005.

I won’t go into detail here about the tragic story because you should do yourself a favour and watch the show “on demand”. The cast is brilliant, the script by Khoa Do is gripping and the performances – especially by lead actor Remy Hii in the role of Van – are fantastic.

It’s also part of a new crop of Australian dramas where Asian-Australians are finally being allowed to sound authentic. Like the Australians they are. With Australian accents … because that’s how they actually speak.

Like the character Chai Li in the wonderful ABC drama Time of Our Lives (starring Claudia Karvan and William McInnes) also currently being broadcast on the small screen (catch it on iView). Michelle Vergara Moore plays Chai Li and she speaks with an Aussie accent. And – hallelujah – the scriptwriters treat this as the most normal thing in the world. Because.… Read more ...

Want to join me for two extraordinary days?

Wired for Wonder logo

Wired for Wonder is a unique two day event, supported by the Commonwealth Bank, that aims to bring together entrepreneurs, business owners and enterprises to ponder a world where anything is possible.

I am excited to be speaking at the event along with  impressive array of speakers including researcher and storyteller Dr. Brené Brown (USA), broadcaster and researcher Michelle Gielan (USA), as well as author and journalist Michelle Grattan (Australia), bestselling writer and journalist Ben Hammersley (UK), and dedicated collector, patron and supporter of contemporary art John Kaldor (Australia).

With conversation jams focused on five key topics:

  • Links between wellbeing and success
  • Women in technology
  • Where is science taking us?
  • Tapping creativity
  • Future of work and leadership

The aim of Wired for Wonder is to “nurture creativity, innovation and development throughout the Australian community.”

It promises to be an exciting event!

(image courtesy of TEDx,


When: Wednesday 31 July and Thursday 1 August 2013

Where: The beautiful NIDA Parade Theatres, 215 Anzac Parade, Kensington, Sydney

Cost: $1390 (2 day ticket)

For any other details, you can find out all you need to know here.… Read more ...

When your heroes fail you

(image courtesy Warner Bros)

(image courtesy Warner Bros)

We all have heroes. Role models. Or simply inspirational people who we learn from and look up to. But what happens when your heroes disappoint you so profoundly that it rocks you to your very core?

That happened to me recently. For some years I gained inspiration from the teaching, lifestyle and philosophy of a certain individual. We’ll call him Mike.

Mike is an entrepreneur, author, high achiever and considered by many to be a role model. I’ve admired him for years. We’ve met on several occasions and in those brief interactions he’s been courteous, warm and friendly.

Even as his star continued to rise on an international scale, we would exchange occasional emails and refer to each other as friends. I was not only inspired by his success, I was proud of the way he approached life with integrity.

He was what we Aussies would simply call “a top bloke”.

Until he wasn’t.

Some years after first getting to know him, I witnessed behaviour that made me question everything I thought was admirable about him. I won’t go into details here but, frankly, it traumatised me.… Read more ...

Breaking up is hard to do … but I’ve been doing it anyway

Breaking up is hard to do HERO

Breaking up is hard to do. But sometimes you need to take a deep breath, realise when something’s not working – and have the guts to make a clean break.

Anyone who’s initiated a break up will know that it’s tough thing to do. Sometimes, it can take years before you have the guts to separate. And, in the meantime, you live a life that can range from mild dissatisfaction to sheer misery. But sometimes, we crave familiarity and comfort more than the potentially liberating feeling of uncertainty and adventure.

The things we associate ourselves with – partners, associations, jobs, friends – often define us. But when we finally take the plunge to make the chop, we often wonder why we didn’t do it earlier.

I recently wrote about my realisation that I need to let go of many things in my life. And over the past couple of weeks, that’s what I’ve been doing.

1. It’s just not working for me anymore
I started with baby steps: unsubscribing from newsletters and online groups that I no longer get value from.… Read more ...

The stupidest tax in the world

The stupidest tax in the world HERO

Tax. The very word can send shivers down a business owner’s spine. And when it’s tax time, you can hear entrepreneurs – and accountants – all over the country curse, grump and throw their general ledgers out of the window. But I have to say, I understand the need for tax.

Roads, infrastructure, public spaces, education … I get it. They’re not going to happen without taxes being levied. So, in many ways, it can be a good thing.

When it comes to personal income tax, we all complain about how much we pay – but it makes sense. Ditto for company tax. They’re both tied to your level of income or profit. Broadly speaking, these taxes are only going to be levied if you actually generate the income needed to pay them.

But without a doubt, the stupidest tax in the history of mankind has to be payroll tax. Even when I first learnt about it in Year 8 in Miss Aurisch’s Commerce class at school, I thought to myself: “A moron invented this tax.” I may have been a mere 13 years old, but nothing about it made sense to me.… Read more ...

“French toast” versus “bacon and egg rolls”: a parable about business

French toast versus bacon and egg rolls a parable about business

I love French toast. It’s one of my weaknesses. And when I go out for brunch, it’s often the very thing that I order. Recently, my partner and I drove to the cafe in the next town because we know they do a great French toast. But when we got there, the ONLY thing on the menu for the day was “bacon and egg rolls”.

We were perplexed. We’ve been to this cafe many times and they’ve always had a huge array of breakfast and brunch options, many of which are delicious – especially the French toast.

The cook (yes the very genius who creates the delicious French toast) wandered out of the kitchen. We recognised each other so we started to chat. Here’s how the conversation went:


Me: Oh hi, how are you today?

Cook: Well thank you. How are you?

Me: Great. Can we order French toast?

Cook: No, sorry. Only bacon and egg rolls today.

Me: Oh. Why?

Cook: It’s my day off.

Me: Oh. Um. But … you’re … here.

Cook: I know. It’s meant to be my day off but the Tuesday cook is off sick.… Read more ...

Can a conference REALLY change your life?

Can a conference REALLY change your life HERO

Conferences are funny things. You get 200 or so people stuck in a room, often with no windows; and they’re all watching a bunch of other people on stage talk about their areas of expertise. These conferences can be life changing, inspirational events – or they can be the most boring two days of your life.

The trouble is that when you sign up, you’re never quite sure which one you’re going to get.

Last week I attended the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network Conference in Istanbul, Turkey. And I’ll admit, the event itself was overwhelming. It was full of successful female entrepreneurs from around the world, the agenda was laden with interesting sessions; and it was peppered with impressive experiences such as cocktails and dinner in the Esma Sultan Mansion on the banks of the beautiful Bosphorus.

A conference like this has a jam-packed schedule. There were workshops, networking opportunities and the organisers even scheduled early morning Pilates sessions in case you were inclined to give your abs a workout before getting into the conference for the day (I didn’t feel the need to disturb my abs for this purpose).… Read more ...

My life in a minute: Istanbul, amazing women, and la dolce vita in Rome

MLIAM 14 JUne 2013 HERO

I’ll admit, it’s been an extraordinary couple of weeks. My life is not usually like this. If it was, I think I’d have cardiac arrest from sensory overload.

I was fortunate enough to attend the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network Conference in Istanbul, Turkey. Amazing. More on that in a future post!

It was wonderful to connect with female entrepreneurs from around the globe – including our wonderful homegrown ones as well. Here I am with Cathie Reid (APHS Packaging), Tina Tower (Begin Bright) and Catriona Pollard (CP Communications and also presenter of the seminar “PR and Media Releases that Get Results” at the Australian Writers’ Centre.)

L-R: Valerie Khoo, Cathie Reid, Tina Tower, Catriona Pollard at cocktails at the Esma Sultan Mansion

I had never been to Istanbul before so it was wonderful to discover a new city.

An oasis in the middle of the Bosphorus, Istanbul

A visit to Turkey is not complete with some whirling dervishes

I discovered these gorgeous kittens in a fishing village and had to resist the temptation to bring then home!

Baby kittens in a fishing village near Istanbul

Then a few days in Rome with my fabulous friend Nicole, where we visited what seemed to be every ancient monument in existence, ate ridiculous amount of pasta and then shopped, shopped and shopped.… Read more ...

Australia named second best country in the world to be a female entrepreneur

Female Entrepreneurs in Australia HERO

It seems that female entrepreneurs living in Australia are in a pretty good position. Last week, Australia was named the second best country in the world to be a female entrepreneur, according to the new Gender-GEDI Index launched by the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network at its annual conference in Istanbul, Turkey.

This result even surprised the researchers.

Australia has been named the second best country in the world to be a female entrepreneur, according to a new global index.

The Gender-GEDI Index compares key metrics from 17 countries, measuring everything from business environment and ecosystems to the attitudes and social norms likely to impact entrepreneurship. It has a particular focus on “high potential women” who are “innovative, market expanding and export-oriented”.

The study by the US-based Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute, was launched Tuesday by the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) at its annual conference in Istanbul, Turkey.

Ruta Aidis, the institute’s project director, said she was “surprised that Australia did so well, coming ahead of countries like France and Germany.”

You can read more of this article in… Read more ...

Tear gas, riot police – and my attempt at channelling Liam Neeson

A much more peaceful shot of Istanbul at sunset

A much more peaceful shot of Istanbul at sunset

When you’re planning your first day in a foreign country, here are some tips:
1. Avoid mass protests where the crowd is peppered with tear gas.
2. Don’t go anywhere near riot police.
3. When you hear loud noises that sound like explosions, don’t just walk, run.

Yesterday, I managed to fail on all three counts on my first day in Istanbul and found myself stuck in what has been described as “the worst protest in years”. According to news reports that have since emerged, “an estimated 10,000 demonstrators again streamed into the area waving flags and calling on the government to resign.”

Now, I’m not the kind of girl that goes looking for trouble. I’m more of a “book a massage in the day spa, sip Bloody Marys in a groovy bar, then go shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue” sort of traveller.

So I didn’t quite believe it when I found myself in this street:

Yes, I was in this very street.

Crowd control using tear gas.

Riot police here in Istanbul.

Read more ...