Spring Cleaning Your Productivity Tools

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April’s Guest Blogger, Productivity Expert Extraordinaire CLAIRE HAIDAR

Our guest blogger this month is the charismatic and dynamic entrepreneur – Claire Haidar – of WNDYR , who we are delighted to announce will be presenting at this year’s Executive PA, Secretary & Admin Forum! Claire is a ‘no-e-mail’ champion and helps individuals and organisations to be more productive and create happier work environments.

For this month’s blog, Claire gives advice on ‘Spring Cleaning Your Productivity Tools’…

While it isn’t really spring yet, we’re definitely riding the wave of momentum that a fresh new year brings. As part of the overall reviewing and planning activities that we do, it’s a great time to take a look at wherever you work, do a bit of cleaning up and try to make sure that you’re making the most of your productivity tools so that you can spend more energy on the work that brings you satisfaction and less on handling the administration of it all.

If you’re working out of your inbox, reviewing your email is a good place to start.

Are your emails:

  • Full of tasks?
  • Full of FYI information you may need to refer back to?
  • Full of attachments, of different versions?
  • Dealing with more than one subject at a time?
  • Of varying degrees of urgency with no way to differentiate?

I feel a bit queasy just thinking about all that. But I know it’s a huge step to move away from email.

If you’re not quite ready, there are a few things you can do to clean things up in the meantime:

  • Use folders or tagging & archiving to reduce the mental load of a full inbox.
  • Have you set up rules? Some quick ones that can reduce the number of emails you have to deal with manually and individually:
    • Emails that haven’t been sent directly to you – these belong in an FYI folder that you can scan when you’re ready.
    • Notifications from systems are better filed separately to allow you to review them when you’re ready.
  • Use a tool like Mailstrom or Unroll.Me to take care of subscriptions without having to manage them all individually, allowing you to stay subscribed but choose when you want to see newsletters instead of having them land in your inbox along with everything else.
  • Include a line in your outgoing email footer with a suggestion to reconsider emailing you if it’s something that can be handled with a quick call.

I believe that the single biggest thing you can do as a team to reduce everyone’s email burden is to get tasks and the discussion around them out of the inbox and into a platform where they can be handled better. This can be anything from a really simple task list to a full on project management solution, but I think that it’s the biggest step towards handling work efficiently that any team can take.

If you already use a task list app, this is also a good time to review the content and the app itself:

  • Are the outstanding tasks still relevant to existing work? If not, they shouldn’t still be there. Add a note to explain and mark them as complete, or just delete them.
  • Are there tasks that have been done and waiting for feedback? Assign a task to the person who needs to give the feedback, and mark them as complete. If the feedback means you need to do more work, you can create new tasks for that.
  • Are there tasks have mostly been done but the scope has changed? Rename them or create new tasks for the extended work and mark the old ones complete.
  • Are there tasks that are too big in scope and need to be broken down more? This can stop you from taking action, so break them down into subtasks if the app allows or create a new list, if you can’t.
  • Are there too many tasks in a flat list that make it difficult to prioritise? This could be a problem with your app if there’s no facility to group and you might need to consider using a different one, if it keeps holding you back from doing your work. There should be a way you can use projects, labels, tags or subtasks to group or arrange them in order to help you figure out how to attack the work.
  • Are there tasks that are waiting for other tasks to be completed first? If your task list manager doesn’t allow you to identify dependencies, you may need to consider a change or find a way to use tagging or linking to represent this – everyone in the team should know how their work fits in with the bigger picture.
  • Review whether your app or software allows you to easily:
    • Mark things as completed?
    • Review things that have been completed?
    • Group similar things together to give a bigger picture view?
    • Manage dependencies and status?
    • Share work with your team & discuss it?
    • Link to resources relevant to the task like files or notes?

If you can identify blockages in your work because your task manager isn’t allowing you to do these things, it’s time to consider a move.

If your work involves writing or developing work based on your ideas, do you have somewhere to capture and store them?

As well as your task lists, it’s worth reviewing the content and the functionality of your idea list and the platform you use to handle it.

  • Review your ideas:
    • Consider if they still fit your current strategy for the year ahead.
    • Are they based on context – is there related information that should be attached?
  • Does the app allow you to easily:
    • Note new items as you think of them?
    • Include details, links, attachments?
    • Group them together to form a bigger picture?

We all have our own ways of managing files, but to reduce the overhead and stress involved with sharing them efficiently you need to put some thought into what we do with them.

This is so huge I can’t even begin to get a handle on it here, but there are some good questions to ask that will indicate you need to sort out your files:

  • Do you, personally, have a system?
  • Does your team have a system? Does everyone know what it is? If a new person joined the team, how easily could you explain where to find things?
  • Do you differentiate between resources, working documents and ephemera – what should be easily accessed, and what can be archived or deleted?
  • Are there multiple versions of all your files floating around? Do you have any way to handle versioning – either using a tool or manually with a naming convention?

If you find lots of issues around this, it will probably need to be approached as a project. Consider the impact it has on your work and your team, and whether you think you can ignore it for much longer. If you have a shared area that’s fairly tidy you can probably still encourage the whole team to do a 15 minute sweep and zap their unnecessary files. It’s surprising how quickly you can clean up if everyone does a bit.

Thanks Claire for all this advice and we very much look forward to welcoming you to the Forum in May to hear more words of wisdom and practical advice!

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Royal Marine Hotel – Special Offer

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The fabulous Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire hosted our recent networking event in March. Aidan Ryan, General Manager of the Royal Marine, welcomed everybody to the hotel and its surrounds, before we introduced Deborah Shaw, celebrity PA and personal stylist to give her personal styling tips.

Deborah gave some great advice about investing in a limited amount of good quality pieces of wardrobe staples, that you can mix and match with clothing from the high street. Organising your wardrobe the same way you would your bosses’ diary is key she told our attentive audience – everything should have a place and you will save time and effort deciding what to wear each morning if you start with this. She also advised on tools you should use when going shopping, including honing your bargaining skills, making a list before you go (as you would if food shopping) and making sure to buy splashes of colourful clothes wherever you can.

Deborah is also currently working with pa-assist on their nationwide PA of the Year Awards and she spoke about the importance of the Awards for the profession and for individuals alike.

We ended the evening with some delicious canapes from the hotel’s hot food menu, washed down with refreshing beverages and wine for those that weren’t driving!

Everybody who attended took away a goody-bag with them which included Sansana spa treatments vouchers, delicious champagne truffles provided courtesy of Hampers & Co, a water bottle, USB keys and special offer vouchers for the Royal Marine Hotel.

Congratulations goes to Lisa Dunne from Aecom who won the large picnic hamper sponsored by Hampers & Co and we hope you get to enjoy it soon Lisa (if you haven’t already!)

For more information on the Royal Marine, contact Martha O’Connor at moconnor@royalmarine.ie or call 01 271 2513

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Early Bird Brochure 2015

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Our Chat with Kathryn Thomas


PR LOGO sponsored by GOLogo

Kathryn Thomas is a presenter on RTEs major TV shows, and now she is setting her sights to her new business venture – Pure Results Bootcamp. We sat down for a chat with Kath!

When did you start making waves in your career?

No Frontiers was a huge springboard for my career. It put me on the map – literally, haha!! But I would say the show where I feel like I’ve made an impact on a National level is Operation Transformation. And to be quite honest, Operation Transformation has made a huge impact on me! It has changed how I view my own health, fitness and nutrition! I’ve learned a lot and I’m still learning…

And of course I absolutely love presenting The Voice of Ireland, again I am part of a programme that can change people’s lives. It is so much fun, and you never know what’s going to happen with that panel of judges, ha!

You’ve accomplished a lot in the last few years, but also physically you have taken on some big challenges…

Well over the years, I’ve had opportunities to push myself out of my comfort zone. I think it is so important for people to do that. I climbed Kilimanjaro, did the Iron Man Triathlon, did yoga retreats in India and then in the last two years I went to various bootcamps in Spain, France, and America! I went to the bootcamp in Spain with my best friend, with an aim to lose a maximum of 7lbs, and I lost 10lbs!

We’re so excited about your new venture Pure Results Bootcamp. How did this come about?

After that bootcamp in Spain, I knew I wanted to bring it to Ireland. I was also delighted when our friends and supporters in Great Outdoors decided to come on board as sponsors! I travelled the length and breadth of the country and finally came to Inish Beg. It has everything I want for a retreat, with all the amenities I need for my classes. For our day trips and evening excursions we can just hop on the boat over to Sherkin island for circuits on the beach or a hike up the forest!

Who would the bootcamp suit?

Well at the moment we have quite a mix of clients. We have a couple of mature fitness fanatics, new Mums (8/9 months) brides to be, and people just wanting to kickstart their fitness again. A lot of clients say they want to “get away” and push themselves – do something they never thought they would do!

We mix a lot of high intensity with low intensity workouts during the day, as well as evening activities – like yoga, hillwalking, and motivational talks with our life coach Niall!

I am SO excited to bring everyone down and experience their own personal transformations! There are 6 weeks altogether. The first camp is in April (17th – 24th) and the last camp is in June.

…And will you be there?

I will definitely be there and I want to have a huge presence there. This is my brainchild and I am going to make sure our clients have the best experience they possibly can! I will also be supplying HUGS and pep talks!

What does being an Irish career woman, and a business woman mean to you?

Firstly, being an Irish career woman means being free, strong, fun, vocal, opinionated, and driven. To be a woman is business is not easy. You have to push hard for what you want, and you have to be tough and resilient, and put yourself out there. Since starting my business I have encountered so many obstacles and it has being a learning curve – absolutely!

I have huge admiration for women who push themselves out of their comfort zone and start something new – be it a new role, or indeed a new business.

So is this the start of Kathryn Thomas the business woman … and the end of Kathryn Thomas – the blonde beauty on our screens?

My first passion is presenting and being in media, and as long as people want me on their screens I will be there! I get such a buzz from being in front of an audience, and I love how varied life can be on TV.

I see my new venture with Pure Results Bootcamp as a new avenue where I can hone all of my experience and interests – and bring something new to Ireland!

That sounds right up our street! Now we know what it is, can you tell us ..

What do we get?

You get a pre-consultation with our diet and nutrition expert, followed by 7 days at the residential camp, followed by a 2 week after care programme.

Who will be there? (apart from clients)

Our trainers Dave Kenny (personal trainer built like a house!), Robyn Fitzsimons (fitness instructor) Niall O’Callaghan (personal trainer and life coach) Jennifer O’Callaghan (expert nutritionist and wellbeing coach), our on-site chef…plus, me and my doggies!!

Where is will take place?

On the beautiful island of Inish Beg – between Skibereen and Baltimore . We also take day trips out to Sherkin Island via boats, and go hill-walking through the forest up the hill trails!

How much does it cost?

For the camps in April, clients can avail of our offer of €999 p/p sharing

For the camps in May and June, it is €1199 p/p sharing and we have a really convenient payment installment plan set up.

How do we book?


You can book

  1. Directly through the site pureresutsbootcamp.com/book
  2. Call me or Aisling on 087 441 7090
  3. Email info@pureresultsbootcamp.com or aisling@pureresultsbootcamp.com

You can keep up to date with our fitness videos and nutrition facts and info on

Tw: www.twitter.com @pureresults_ie, FB: www.facebook.com/pureresultsbootcamp and Instagram: www.instagram.com/pureresultsbootcamp

What is your mantra for life?

Appreciate every day like it is your last and give as much love to those around you as you can!



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APAI Executive Committee Members Elect 2015-2016

The APAI (Association of Professional Administrators in Ireland) Executive Committee was elected on the 17th of February 2015.

The APAI aims to promote the success of career-minded administrative professionals by providing opportunities for growth through education, community building and highlighting the important work of administration professionals in Ireland.

We recognise excellence, set standards and provide educational, networking and professional development opportunities for those pursuing careers in the office administration field.

Executive Commitee members elect for 2015 – 2016:

CHAIR – Rosanne Reilly

VICE-CHAIR – Sarah Cagney

SECRETARY – Roseanne Connolly

TREASURER – Allyson Ng

PRO – Carmel Ní Luanaí


We wish the Executive Committee every success over the coming year!

For further information or queries please get in connection via

Email: info@apai.ie

LinkedIn: ie.linkedin.com/in/theapai/en

Twitter: @theAPAI

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