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What I learned on holidays

22 February 2016

What I learned from my annual break.

Sounds like an assignment you’d get in primary school but it’s surprising what you can take away from a holiday. For me, it’s the importance of looking after my own well-being for the benefit of my family, friends and work.

In other words I made ‘me’ my priority.

It all began early in January – the second to be precise - when a girlfriend organised for the two of us to go on a seven-day detox retreat, only to pull out at the last minute because of emergency work commitments, leaving me to go on my own.

That wasn’t a problem (70 percent of people in attendance were flying solo). It was the no coffee, no tea, no alcohol, no sugar, no dairy, no flour, no dessert, no meat - for the first few days – that was full on. Every morning we were up at six to do Qigong - an ancient Chinese health care system that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention - on the mountain overlooking the retreat. We hiked daily, attended 90-minute nutrition workshops and were ‘banned’ from technology. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

While the digital detox was mind blowing, the withdrawal from caffeine and sugar was just a headache. I actually removed Facebook from my phone and my Westpac email app to reduce the compulsion to checkin.

The point was to make lifestyle changes and I’m pleased to say I’ve only had 2 coffees since the retreat, no chocolate, and I’ve drastically reduced my alcohol consumption. I have, however, put the email app back on my phone but am toying with whether Facebook is necessary?

There’s no doubt I’m rejuvenated and everyone has benefited.

One of the first things I did on my return was to attend a Ruby event in Melbourne where Time Styler Kate Christie, best-selling author and Time Management expert, spoke to a room of busy women about how to get back 30 guilt-free hours a month. She began by asking the room what they would do if they had one extra hour a day – the buzz of excited ideas was deafening. She then went on to explain how to get more time with your family, more time with your friends, more ‘me’ time and we listened in rapt attention.

The feeling in the room reminded me of our Ruby lunch at the tailend of 2015 with our Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence overall winner, Carnival Australia Executive Chairman Ann Sherry. She had some pithy tips about life success. My memory of them goes a little like this:

1) Look for the world of what's possible (for boys as well as girls).

2) Know your inner self - colloquially described as ‘life is short so don't put up with any rubbish’.

3) Do work that you love and with people that you enjoy being around and find exciting.

4) Work for companies that believe in gender equality.

5) Take risks - if it doesn't work you can change your circumstances.

6) Understand the importance of the support from your partner in life and where you can outsource.

7) Don't be afraid to smash through - fight for what you think is right.

8) Understand the importance of recognition (e.g. awards such as 100 Women of Influence).

9) Know your customer - look for insights, unique products and experiences.

10) Understand the importance of giving back to society and saying thanks - thank your team, your partners, colleagues.

Ann will be at our International Women’s Day lunch in Sydney on Wednesday 9 March at The Cutaway Barangaroo Reserve. She will join our keynote speaker The Hon Julie Bishop, MP, and sportsperson Michelle Payne (who won the Melbourne Cup in 2015) on a panel to discuss their careers and the issues they see women facing as we march toward parity in society, at work and in our communities.

Hosted by Westpac Group CEO Brian Hartzer, the lunch should be illuminating and a great networking opportunity. Julie was managing partner at Clayton Utz Perth when I began in law and I worked with her at the firm. She has remained a mentor and friend and I’m looking forward to hearing from her. I know she has some fabulous tips on navigating the workplace and politics and the importance of resilience.

For more or to book tickets to the lunch, see here.

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