Well EmbroideredA recent text message from a dear friend put me in a reflective state of mind.

24 years ago I bought my friend a poetry book called ‘I will build you a house’.  The book was given as an expression of friendship and support from one angst ridden teenage girl to another.  The book describes itself as a poetry house full of love and joy, sadness and laughter shared through the magic of words. Sounds girly I know but we were girls then, so girly was just fine.

My friend and I are now both 43 and the headlines from our parallel adult lives are two marriages, one divorce, three children, cancer (from which she is fully recovered) and the death of a parent. The subtext however has been rich with experiences and shared moments, some triumphs and some disasters.

At 43 we would struggle to get away with calling ourselves girls now but when we are together – which is less often than it should be – the 24 years that have slipped by, fade away and we are girls again.

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Yes, yes – I know the easy riposte is to say ‘stop reading self help books and get on with it’, but as a working mother I don’t often have the time to stop and think of the clever response. If I stopped juggling that long, I’d be too scared that at least one of the plates would stop spinning and just drop. Saving an Hour Every Day would feel life-saving on the majority of my days: the challenge is finding the time to figure out how.

To Michael Heppell’s credit, he does recognise this (along with helpfully reminding me that the getting on with it matters far more than the reading about how). The book contains over 200 ideas on how to save time – some will work for some readers, some for others, but Heppell acknowledges this right at the start. As the Introduction stresses, the ideas that grab your attention most will be the ones that work for you. Some will be in the ‘yes, but not now’ category, and others may leave you cold. An idea that leaves you thinking ‘Bovvered?’ isn’t going to have a great deal of impact. (A lesson I can’t help but think more managers could benefit from recognising: it would save hours of many employees’ – and managers’ – time every week.)

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Humour? At work? Or important social functions? Are we having a laugh? Well, yes, we are. Along with Ricky Gervais, Leonard Rossiter, Richard Curtis, and the guy that draws Dilbert. Although we’re puzzled as to why some people are reluctant to join us, if only occasionally.

There are any number of weighty tombs on Emotional Intelligence In The Workplace – I typed that phrase (with Lots of Capital Letters, of course) without thinking, but it gets 13,400 hits on Google. But there are very few management books on one aspect of our emotional life: human beings like to laugh.

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However we describe contemporary life, speed and brevity are certainly two of its characteristics. Even our soundbites are getting snappier. According to Mark Smith, a political science professor at Cedarville University, radio or TV soundbites averaged 48 seconds in 1968. By 1998, that had shrunk to 8 seconds. No doubt it continues to shrink.

As The Independent (who should know) points out, the soundbite is now part of the landscape. If 8 seconds is too long for you, try the following clip where 40 inspirational messages get compacted into 2 minutes – an average of 3 seconds each.

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