These sample articles will give you an idea of some of the different writing styles we employ.

The articles are separated into two groups. The first consists of tips for anyone looking for assistance with a writing project. If you scroll down further, you will find pieces covering other topics.

Resources to help you with your writing

hand-782688_640Engaging professional help for writing projects is one option, but it’s not always the best path. In case you decide to go it alone, here are some stand-out resources that I recommend.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list; rather, it’s a small group of sites or apps that I have found to be particularly helpful.

They are all online, and they have free or trial components available.

Software & apps
Aside from the standard dictionaries and grammar advice provided by MS-Word and the like, there are two online services that could make your life easier.

Grammarly, as its name suggests, is designed to check your grammar. The free version will suggest improvements and provide explanations. Many users find it more reliable than MS-Word’s grammar checker, which doesn’t always get it right.

PerfectIT will help you produce a consistent document. Have you used consistent punctuation in your bullet lists? Are your abbreviations and acronyms explained properly? Have you capitalised all your headings (or not) in a consistent manner?

PerfectIT will help you with this and much more. You can select from standard style guides or create your own style sheet. It is available for Windows and Mac.

Online coaching and tips
There are a lot of good websites to help you with writing tips. If you want everything in one place, check out The Publication Coach. On this site, Daphne Gray-Grant gives a host of great tips and ideas designed to help improve your writing and efficiency. Her free weekly newsletter is concise and is a great source of regular hints and training.

Daphne also offers books and coaching sessions that can make a big difference to your productivity.

These are my favourites, and I’m happy to recommend them. They are well worth looking at, even if you already have good sources of advice and tips.

Why four eyes are better than two

owl-1643872_1280Proof reading your own work is notoriously difficult. No matter how skilled you are as a writer, editor or proof reader, there is always a risk that you will miss an error when checking your own work.

One reason for this is that our brains see what they think is on the page (or screen) rather than what is actually there. So, if you’re the one who wrote the piece, your brain knows what you intended to say, and that’s what it often sees – regardless of what your fingers actually typed.

Fortunately, there are two ways to overcome this. After you’ve checked your work and made use of spell checkers and any other software you employ, it’s a good idea to:

  • Set the work aside for as long as you can and then check it again with fresh eyes. Of course, sometimes deadlines mean that you can’t leave it for long. But even an hour or two is better than nothing. If you can leave the piece for days or weeks, that’s even better. You’ll almost certainly find something to improve and catch a typo or two that you’d missed first time round.
  • Pay a professional or ask a friend to proof read your work. This is a great final step, after you’ve done your best to eliminate all the errors. That second pair of eyes is often the difference between creating a great impression and a poor one.

Confession time: With the best care in the world, I managed to launch this website with a typo on the front page. Even as an experienced professional writer. Fortunately, a good friend of mine cast her eyes over it and found a glaring error. (Thanks Elizabeth!) That’s the value of a second pair of eyes. If you happen to spot anything else that’s not right, please tell me. I’ll be grateful rather than embarrassed.


A recipe for staff retention in a candidate-short world

ResignationThere are many ideas for staff retention out there. The trouble is though, most of them don’t work. Take nursing, for example. There’s a worldwide nursing shortage that shows no sign of abating. For all kinds of reasons, experience walks out the door daily, never to return.

What can we do to stem the flow? Jan Finlay, a Melbourne-based peri-operative nurse specialist, suggests an innovative approach for the area she works in. She says that, as a rule, the industry doesn’t consider the changing needs of its employees over their working life. But if it did, staff retention rates would sky rocket.

Under this model, two fundamental changes would be required.

The first is for hospitals to only employ about 80% of their required effective full time staff (EFT) as permanent nurses. This is because of the fluctuating demands in the operating theatre environment. The 80% level (exact figures would need to be calculated) would cover low to average demand and would be topped up by ‘bank’ (casual employees who work for the hospital) and agency staff.

These bank and agency staff would need to be reliable regulars – people who know the systems and require little or no induction when they turn up to work. The question is, how could hospitals build up a pool of suitable nurses of this ilk? And how could they retain the permanent staff that form the 80% of their EFT staff?

What do you really want?
According to Jan, the first step is to recruit people – both permanent and casual – who fit the criteria of the nursing units, and then provide them with great mentoring and training. She says that this is often lacking in our current system and an organisation that does this well will stand out as an attractive employer.

The next step is for managers to find out the true needs of their staff and build this into a yearly development plan for each person. These needs will change over time and vary from person to person. Then, as much as possible, arrange shifts so that the right people are working in the right roles at the right time. Some examples:

  • Inexperienced nurses will need and want a lot of supervision and training to build their skills
  • Some people may prefer not to work on Friday nights or weekends
  • Some may be at a stage where they want to maximise their earning potential and would be happy to work the weekend shifts that others are keen to avoid
  • Then there will be the ones who want to take an extended break for family, travel, study or other reasons. If they know they can do it with a high likelihood of having a job to come back to, the organisation will have better motivated and more loyal staff.
  • Transitioning to retirement, with fewer shifts, will appeal to a percentage of the workforce
  • During the early child-rearing years, parents may need to be available for school drop-offs and pick-ups and important school events. As the kids grow older, longer shifts might be more appropriate.

Trust is key
If managers could have open conversations with their staff in a trusting environment, they would have far better knowledge of the needs and desires of their staff and would be able to fill their shifts with people who want to be there, rather than having a mismatch between the needs of the organisation and its staff.

There might still be occasions when people would be called upon to work inconvenient hours, but if the conversation were held and staff knew they could be open without fear of being thought of as lazy or slack for wanting hours that suited their lifestyle, this model could work.

The result would be a more contented and loyal workforce. Why would people leave if they were getting what they wanted? Implementing a program of this nature could help halt the staff losses in nursing.

We’re being told to expect candidate shortages in many industries as the population ages, so perhaps this model could be replicated elsewhere. What do you think? Would an approach like this work in your industry? Have you been involved in a program of this nature? It would be great to hear about your experiences and share your ideas.

Kundalini rising

LivingNow – Kundalini Yoga article_3

Powerful and fast acting, Kundalini Yoga is considered by some as the mother of all forms of yoga. It is certainly different. In this article, we describe this ancient practice and why many people find it so effective.

Breath of fire, froggies and the ‘ego eradicator’ are unknown to most yoga traditions, yet they are frequently used in one of the oldest known forms of the art – Kundalini Yoga. While it does employ some of the more familiar yoga movements, Kundalini Yoga is a unique system that combines postures, chanting, meditation, mudras and breathing techniques to rid its followers of negative patterns that prevent true happiness.

Each of the twenty-two major forms of yoga emphasises one or more areas, such as physical movement in Hatha, or sound in Laya Yoga. Since Kundalini Yoga combines all these into a single practice, it brings about changes with great speed.

The practice is designed for ordinary people with normal lives and responsibilities. Improvements in well-being can be gained from as little as three minutes’ activity a day. However, once people feel the effects, they often become motivated to take the practice a lot further.

Kundalini Yoga is centred around ‘Kriyas’, which are complete sets of postures undertaken in precise order. There are thousands of different Kriyas. While each has a specific physical outcome – which most people feel immediately – regular practice can lead to a sense of awareness and well-being, said to come from unlocking the reserves of Kundalini energy that lie at the base of the spine.

The word Kundalini literally means “the curl of the lock of the hair of the beloved”. In the Kundalini Yoga tradition, this is regarded as a metaphor; it’s a poetic way of describing the flow of energy and consciousness that exists within each one of us. According to Yogi Bhajan, an accomplished Master who defied a tradition of secrecy to bring the practice to the West and teach it openly, Kundalini Yoga allows you to uncoil yourself. It helps you reveal and identify yourself. As he described it to his students, “Kundalini Yoga awakens your awareness to take you into your original self.”

By working on different parts of the body, in a manner perfected over thousands of years, Kundalini Yoga brings a host of practical benefits. Regular participants describe better focus, increased strength, improved digestion and all kinds of physical progress. But the effects are more than just bodily. Many people speak of heightened intuition, being more relaxed, and simply being happier and finding more joy in life.

Regular practice of the Kriyas can also help people overcome physical ailments such as back pain. Anthony Griffiths, a professional musician, suffered severe whiplash in a car accident in 1990. “In my case, the Kundalini Yoga sessions were life-changing,” he says. ”As well as causing chronic back pain, the accident led to loss of sensation in my fingers – not good for a guitarist. I tried lots of different treatments and was seeing a chiropractor every two weeks. Now though, I find that with regular Kundalini Yoga sessions, I can manage the pain better and can go for six months at a time without seeing a chiropractor. The feeling has returned to my fingers too, and I have much more dexterity when I keep up the Kundalini Yoga practice.”

Anthony has also noticed that he is less vulnerable to colds and flu outbreaks. Such experiences are common, and most teachers describe similar examples.

Golden chain
A Kundalini Yoga class always opens with a mantra that connects those present with the ‘golden chain’ of Kundalini Yoga teachers stretching back into the past. This is followed by a series of warm-up movements and a short rest period. The short rest periods during the class are important, as they allow the benefits of the activity to take effect.

The Kriya for the class is selected from the many taught by Yogi Bhajan. With so many to choose from, there is more than enough variety to keep the practice fresh. The different combinations of postures, movements and breathing techniques are all designed to produce both immediate and long-term results.

While many of the postures are common to other forms of yoga, the emphasis on angles, alignments and energy flow makes for an entirely new experience for most beginners. However, there is no pressure on participants to go beyond their limits – the only difference between beginners and advanced students is the amount of time they spend on a particular posture. Students are simply encouraged to do their best, rest if required, and “listen to their inner teacher”.

In common with other styles of yoga, a period of deep relaxation follows the physical activities. In Kundalini Yoga, this is often accompanied by the sound of a gong, which can take students into a deeper meditative state. While most people enjoy the experience, it can bring out a variety of reactions – not all of them comfortable. But then, meditation isn’t always about being comfortable.

After the relaxation session, most teachers provide a guided meditation. This may include chanting and the use of carefully designed mudras. The class closes with a traditional song that confers a blessing on those present and others in the outside world.

Unlocking the secret
When he introduced Kundalini Yoga to the West, in the 1969, Yogi Bhajan defied a centuries-long tradition of restricting the practice to a chosen few. In his role as the Master of the practice, he decided that the time was ripe to take the practice to the world at large. Moving to the USA during a period of social upheaval, he sought out future teachers, rather than just students, in order to pass on his vast knowledge and experience as widely as possible. Reflecting the times, he told them with a comment that holds true today, “If you don’t want to change, don’t do Kundalini Yoga.”

The practice has now spread around the globe, as teachers have moved to new locations to offer Kundalini Yoga to all who are ready for it. In Australia too, there is an active Kundalini Yoga community, with teachers in most capital cities, festivals and other events each year.

Yogi Bhajan achieved a great deal during his lifetime, and Kundalini Yoga is now within the reach of ordinary people in many places around the world. It’s not for everyone – you generally know after three or four sessions – but, if it’s for you, Kundalini Yoga can feel like coming home.

[If this style of yoga is of interest, you can learn more here.]