Lynne Cazaly is a speaker, author and facilitator who has worked with executives, senior leaders and teams on change and transformation projects.
Her latest book, Argh! Too much information, not enough brain: A Practical Guide to Outsmarting Overwhelm, is now available.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My early career involved lots of words: writing them, speaking them, wrangling them. I worked in public relations and communications and while PR sometimes gets a bit of a bad rap, it was a great way to work out how to make sense of information and package it up for people so it would help them understand often complex things.
I’ve just published my 9th book and it’s called Argh! Too much information, not enough brain : A Practical Guide to Outsmarting Overwhelm. It’s been a combination of a lot of my learning from my career. I worked in public health, writing about radiology, surgery, pharmacy and other things you find in your local hospital.
I also worked in sport, heading up Yachting in Victoria, having sailed with my father for much of my teenage years. It was a dream job to land working in the field that’s your hobby. But beware! Once I started that job, I never sailed again. Doh!
I started my own business, working for myself, providing management consulting services and I also did a fair bit of lecturing at universities in public relations, marketing and advertising. I still run into some of my students in the work I do now which is as a speaker, author and mentor.
I get to keynote at conferences, share my ideas, deliver training programs in new ways of working, and I mentor people 1:1 who are also in the early days of getting their own businesses going.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I’m not much of a morning fan so I do things to get my mind going, reading, thinking about my ideas and enjoying nature, trees and the local community.
Then, I’ve usually got a ‘gig’ doing something for a business or company. Usually it’s speaking at their conference, presenting on agile and new ways of working to a leadership team, or helping an HR team engage better with their business.
I make sure I have a break for lunch and don’t work back late. Having just published a book on overwhelm, I am highly aware from reading the research, that we can get overwhelmed with too much work and not enough breaks!
Most days I’ll have a 1:1 mentoring call for an hour with a client and I love being able to respond to what’s on their mind, what problem or challenge they need to solve or what advice they need. It’s always an inspirational lift to see how you can solve a tricky challenge.
Most days I post something on LinkedIn so I make sure there is a 15 – 20 minute time where I can capture my thoughts, write about them and share them with the wider world.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes it’s required flexible and remote working in these COVID times, but it’s also requiring a hybrid response. Many of the workshops I lead and presentations I deliver are to a mixed audience: some are in the office, some are sitting around a board table together, some are working from home.
To be able to ‘work’ and engage with the entire group and not forget about anyone is vital. Most weekdays I work on my own business, but I also try to make Mondays and Fridays a little ‘easier’. That is, I try to keep the BIG gigs and high pressure meetings to the middle of the week when I feel momentum and more kind of ‘warmed up’ to the week.
Yesterday I took a client sales call while in my car looking at the beach and waterfront, and last week I took a client mentoring call while I was driving in regional Victoria, Australia. That’s remote!
Plus I sometimes have to work at some odd hours to deliver a workshop or keynote to Sweden or the UK or the US! That’s being flexible. I make sure the day prior and day after are easier withs schedules and meetings etc.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
It means to prepare ahead of time for balance. If you try to get balance when you’re out of balance it’s a lot harder. So I’ll schedule in blocks of time to visit my parents, go out with my husband, walk in the park, read a new book.
If I don’t see it in my diary or don’t make that time for it, it’s easy for it to be gobbled up and taken with an admin that never seems to end. I have a Business Manager, a remote worker, Myra, who has supported me in my business for more than 4 or 5 years.
I’d be lost without her support in coordinating my diary, checking on emails, issuing invoices, following up enquiries and troubleshooting.
This was a deliberate decision to get a professional person to help me with the things that stress me and that I’m less good at. If I’ve had a big week, I know the next one must be a little easier, so I might go through and change or reschedule things.
I absolutely love aviation and so I might go to a local airport and watch some planes take off and land, or follow them listening to air traffic control. I find that very relaxing, interesting and zero pressure. It’s a great way to unwind when you can look at the things you are fascinated by or have an interest in.
I certainly know from tough experience that you cannot go hard all the time. You just can’t. And we are the ones who have the greatest control over our time. We are. If it’s not working the way I want or need it to, I need to do something. I can’t wait for someone else to come and rescue the situation.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
With less interstate and international travel, I’ve been missing the ‘mini-breaks’ that I used to add on to the conferences or speaking gigs I had prior to 2020. That means when I was in Auckland, New Zealand for a conference for example, I’d schedule a couple more days and just go for walks, shopping, have breakfast with a friend or even dinner in a nice restaurant.
I’d sleep in and mosey on to the airport without all the rush. Without these kinds of bigger trips, I’ve scheduled ‘mini-retreats’ each month. This is 1 – 3 days where I block out the time and either stay home and not work (if we’ve been in lockdown conditions) or, go for a bit of a drive and stay somewhere away from home.
It’s a big ask to do this each month but planning it out ahead of time is vital. If you leave it until when you need to do this, to recover or rest from burnout, it becomes too late. It’s preventative.
This week I took a drive around the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia, stayed at a hotel on a golf course – even though I’m not playing golf so much anymore – but just enjoyed the green views. I drove to the local beaches and enjoyed looking at the surf, the waves and the sunsets. It’s so recharging and rejuvenating.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I love Nancy Duarte’s books that help us be better communicators and storytellers. I love listening to audiobooks like Seth Godin’s The Practice, Dr Susan David’s Emotional Agility and when I’m driving or walking or writing and working (like right now) I listen to chill music.
I don’t really recognise the tunes but they are relaxing, comforting and I know from the research for my book about overwhelm, that the benefits of music in preventing and reducing overwhelm mean we should be listening to music all the time!
Curiously, I love the sound effects from ‘Coffitivity’; it’s the café soundtrack that you can play so even if you can’t get to a café you can re-create the creative environment of a coffee shop and get to working, creatively!
I like to set up a series of filters and topics on an app like Flipboard so that only the things of my interest come in through that feed. It’s too easy to be distracted by everything. If I know I can go to one place and get some great articles on my areas of interest, it’s worth my while swiping through that for a few minutes.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I live in Evernote. The note-taking app is my place for ideas, plans, thoughts, comments, tracking information, researching and saving information. I categorise information with tags and have a new note for each new client job.
I have a journal note too, so when there’s something on my mind that is irritating, annoying or frustrating I just type like crazy into that journal. I hope no one ever reads it or publishes it! I love my AirPods headphones.
They’re ideal for leading workshops, cable-free and listening to participants and speaking through. Plus they go in my pocket for my beachfront walks, listening to an audio book or a chill station.
I don’t think I could do without Siri on my iPhone. I tell her to do so much. ‘Hey Siri, set a timer for 25 minutes’ and then away I go working in a focused ‘timebox’ to be undistracted and to get things done. Then the timer goes off and I get up and have a little walk around, look outside, or check in to see if our local feathered friends have visited us for the day, a family of magpies.
I certainly can’t live without them even though they are wild birds. They have funny antics, singing and flying by my office window. I wave at them; they must think I’m mad but they are my co-workers when I’m working alone!
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Nancy Bird. She was the youngest Australian woman to get a commercial pilot’s license and I love her story about how she overcame obstacles and pursued her passions for flight.
I wonder just how hard she worked day and night because she was also a great philanthropist and charity supporter. But I also know she must have had great balance and time off to enjoy the miracle of flight up there in the clouds. There’s little paperwork, no telephones and just the wind in your hair!
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I’ve learned that plenty of our stress and hard work is often wasted. Unfortunately, we learn about things like the 80/20 Pareto Principle (where 20% of your work will deliver 80% of the results) after years of working so hard.
We can be focusing on the wrong things, or doing ‘busy work’ that we think is valuable but just creates more stress, overwhelm and overload. I’ve learned to love the Spotlight Effect; this is the bias that says that most people don’t pay as much attention to things as you think or worry they do.
If your hair’s not perfect, no one will notice. If the report isn’t perfect, no one will notice. We too often put too much pressure on ourselves to try and make things perfect, when ‘good enough’ will often do the job. I wish I’d learned that when I was about 15!
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