March 21

How to Get More Done in Less Time with Donna McGeorge


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We can probably all agree that work has become relentless. People are overwhelmed and overworked, resulting in a kind of anti-work movement – think ‘act your wage’ or ‘quiet quitting’. 

We try our hardest, achieve our best results, only to be asked to give 10% more. So is this year-on-year growth sustainable, or do we need to rethink how we work altogether? 

Donna McGeorge, author and renowned productivity expert, has a few thoughts on how we can achieve success while still creating the capacity to live healthier lives. In her book The ChatGPT Revolution, she advocates for the power of AI in assisting us to simplify our everyday load in work and life. 

In this episode, we talk about the pressing need to find space in our day, and how we can utilise new technologies to enhance how we live and work. Increasing our capacity in a fast-paced, often overwhelming world is not only crucial for our mental health, but the ability to think about, plan for and design our future. 

So join us today and get inspired to embrace new, better ways of doing your work get more done in less time!


Elevate with Janine

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Janine: Hello. Hello. Janine Garner here and welcome to another episode of Unleashing Brilliance. And I'm super excited about this episode because I'm in conversation with the incredible Donna McGeorge. Now I met Donna, a number of years ago now, and we were talking about how when we're running our own businesses, we can become so [00:01:00] addicted to busy, that we.

Actually, if we're not careful, end up working harder than ever before. And some of the techniques, some of the tips, some of the frameworks that she shared around how to build capacity into our world to essentially perform better with less. Totally changed how I run my business. So if you are feeling under the pump, if you feel like you have got no time, if you feel like you are juggling and overwhelmed with what to do first, second, or third, then I really encourage you to listen to this podcast.

Donna McGeorge has. So many tips, which we talk about in here around how to achieve more and do less, how you can stop being at the mercy of other people. And most importantly, how to develop your capacity through thinking space, breathing space, living space, and your working space. This is an awesome episode.

Enjoy. And as always, let me know what you [00:02:00] think. In fact, if you've got any questions on this episode, please. Flick them through to me. There is a question button at the end of these notes. and we'd love you at the end of the notes, sorry. We'd love you to send us any questions and I can answer them on the next podcast.


Janine: Hello Donna McGeorge. So awesome to have you on the show again. How are you?

Donna: I am actually awesome. Thank you, Janine Garner. And thanks for having me. Um, you know, never a, difficult thing to say yes to when you say, Hey, you want to come back on my show?

Janine: Love it. Well, I just had to talk to you and get you on the show because, you've written a brand new book and, uh, first up, of course, congratulations on that. I know you've got it published and it's already been translated into multiple languages. [00:03:00] So high five to you. But what I wanted to really sort of explore is where this book came from, why this book and how, it taps into your work, because you are the queen of productivity in terms of the work that you do to help executives and individuals perform at their best.

And at the same time, you're the queen of productivity yourself, because you've written 10 books about this stuff. So you're a machine, my friend. and we had a conversation when you said Janine, I've been approached, I've been asked or commissioned by my publisher to write a book on chat GPT and we had a massive chat about it and I'm not afraid to go on record as saying I couldn't get it.

I was like, ah, this just, this feels incongruent to your positioning and everything that you've done. So Why did you write a book called The Chachi PT Revolution?

Donna: I got to tell you, it felt odd to me too, just quietly. so I was quietly. minding my own business in January, and I'd started [00:04:00] seeing a lot of the media or just chatter about ChatGPT and AI, and I, literally, because this is how I roll, I dedicated some time in my diary. I'd blocked out 90 minutes in my diary, and it said, investigate ChatGPT, find out what's it about.

So I go in, I investigate, I find out about it, and it's, you know, oh, this is cool. And then my sister rings me that afternoon, and I go, hey, have you heard of ChatGPT? No, so we get on together. And we both go, this, this is awesome. So we started playing around with it. Then she told someone at her work, who told someone at her work, who told someone else, who told someone else, who told someone else who was a journalist.

And so next minute I get a call from a journalist saying, Hey, I understand you're an expert in chat GPT. I'm like, uh, no, I've had a bit of a play with it. They said, oh, we're doing this article and we'd like to know the five things you can do with chat GPT at home. And so I go, okay, I'm happy to be in the, papers, you know, Any PR is good good PR.

So I go to ChatGPT and say, what are the five things you can [00:05:00] use ChatGPT for at home? Journalist calls, does the interview. We laugh because I tell her I've asked ChatGPT to help me. So then that goes into the papers. Next minute, the publisher rings and says, Hey, we want to get a book to market really quickly.

So this is, this has all happened in a matter of a week. You know, Joe and I are playing around with it. Jerno calls, goes in the paper that weekend. Tuesday I get a call from the publisher. And so my initial reaction was no. Um, I have to be honest. My initial reaction was no. I don't, I mean, I can see that it's about productivity, but I'm not a technology person. I don't want to be positioned as a chat GPT or AI expert per se. I still want to stay in my space of. Space what really I'm obsessed about is helping people have space for what's important. And so I kind of said, I have to let you know, cause I didn't want to say no straight up.

So then I had a conversation with you, I had a conversation with a number of people and people came down on two sides. One was. It's not quite, I don't get it, but one was it feels opportunistic [00:06:00] and could it be negative for your brand? Like, are you just jumping on a bandwagon? And then the other side was, how can you make this work?

It's, you know, AI is not going away. They're going to get someone to write the book. and what the publisher had said is I'm a trusted voice in the productivity space. Why not use your voice as a power for good? Um, and position how ChatGPT can be really helpful. And so I thought on that basis, yeah, I'll have a crack.

And here we are. Turns out it's become a bit of a bestseller.

Janine: I know. Congratulations. So, so you mentioned there that your passion is about space. and particularly how to help other people find the space, find the capacity to do what's important for them. So given that, what do you see? AI Chat GPT offering to support that.

Donna: So for me, it's mental capacity and physical capacity. So I'd love you listeners just to pause for [00:07:00] second and think about the last time they were asked to do something and they just didn't know where to start. And how long did they sit and ponder with that? How often did they type the first few words of an email or an article or a book chapter or whatever it is they're doing, whatever they're writing.

and how long did they agonise and how much energy did it use up? And so for me, the opportunity to free up mental capacity is You know, it's a starting point. I think of it as an eager intern that sometimes has a hangover.

And so they're eager to help you and do stuff and be the best possible intern they can. Yet occasionally you've got to check their work because it's not always 100 percent accurate. And so it's like having that person sitting next to me that I can just say, Hey, can you have a think about what might this do?

And can you try this? If you were writing an email, can you give me a first draft? so then I can think about other things. And then once the draft comes through, ah, then I'm good to go. So I would say from a mental load perspective, it's just cutting out. What could [00:08:00] be for some people up to hours of agonising about where do I start?

Then the physical capacity thing is like, how much actual time do I have in the day to get stuff done? I would say the minimum, minimum with a mainstream publisher book is three months from the inception of idea to holding a book in your hand.

I've had some people say they can write a book in 30 days. I'm like, good for you. I can't do that. well, I can now because I just did, but my other books were, um, longer, like it took about three months to get the manuscript ready.

And then the book goes right. So something like chat GPT, you know, studies out of the U S my, personal lived experience, I would say I'm saving myself about 30%. Up to 40 percent of my time. By using this, I'm reducing my mental load and I'm saving time in my physical capacity in the week. So if at minimum, it's saving me a day a week

with stuff. So.

Janine: Yeah. Why does it matter that we find that extra 30 to 40%? Cause I go, yeah, awesome gift. [00:09:00] But there's obviously always that flip side. Like there's a need, there's a demand for this search. For space, this search for time. It's the I'm busy. I'm busy. I can't do it. so what, what are you noticing in the world of work and life at the moment that is, creating, this absolute need to find.

Capacity and space right now,

Donna: Well, I think anyone that's listening that has what they would refer to as a busy lifestyle would be able to answer this question for you. It's like people are overwhelmed, overworked, work has become relentless. It's like there's never a time where you get a break, even, even someone listening saying great, I could get an extra day in my life back or an extra few hours or whatever.

My question would be, what would you fill it with? Chances are it's just too easy to fill it with work. So we're in a bit of a perfect storm of opportunity for change right now. We're coming off three years of pandemic impacted work. We've got, [00:10:00] you know, the flexible work conversation, the work from home, work from anywhere, work from office debate that's ongoing, right now.

We have what is sometimes referred to as the anti work movement, which is the, act your wage, quiet quitting, great resignation or the great reshuffle, whatever you want to call it. And now we've got AI in the mix. There's this perfect opportunity to really rethink work because I don't think this is sustainable.

Now, it's been sustainable for a while and I've, I've been, not that I'm waiting to see what the tipping point might be around this and what might be the moment where people go, we need to make change. And I do think it's mental health.

just hear it all the time, you know, people who've done, had their best year, did our best results. We've done really well. And then the next thing they're told, great, now I want you to do another 10 and another 10%. So this year on year growth thing, how is that even sustainable, right?

How is it sustainable?

you're right that, that there's this real, [00:11:00] um, tension going on right now between, the world that was and conforming and being pulled back to that and being pulled back to it unconsciously.

Janine: And then this friction, this tension of, Oh, no, I need to try and change that. because what's always interesting to me, and you challenge me on this all the time and, this is one of your key things. It's great to get that 30 to 40 percent back, but what are you doing with it? And there's been some interesting work recently around learning to actually not have a plan, learning to be bored, learning to actually have nothing to do, and that in itself is quite an interesting and somewhat uncomfortable feeling for many, I'm sure.

Donna: Definitely. And the research into boredom, downtime, rest, daydreaming, all of this stuff is relatively new. you know, I had a conversation with my mum this week and, she said, what are you doing on this, this weekend? And I said, I think I'm just going to. be a bit bored actually.

And she said, Oh, you know, when [00:12:00] you were growing up, I would never let the children be bored. and that's what we've grown up with. We've grown up with it. You should be doing something all the time because any form of idleness is considered, bad.

Like if you're doing nothing, it's bad. We should always be constantly in the state of activity. So the new research is showing is it's a form of addiction. it's addiction to activity and the dopamine hit that we get from doing something, anything. So I think is something for anyone who's listening to think about how good are you.

at taking an hour just to sit on a chair in the sunshine or in the shade or under a tree or in nature or on your couch or whatever and do nothing. And if that makes you vomit a bit in your mouth at the thought of that, then you might be addicted to activity.

Janine: It's really interesting Donna, because, even the work that I do in corporates working with, with individuals to try and sort of navigate the next, we came out of, COVID and there was this relentless [00:13:00] demand to keep stuff online, to over agenda full day workshops, half day workshops, conferences.

And my big. Pushback has been great space in that content. We were away on retreat recently and the same thing, like not over agendering stuff because in that space comes the time to think, comes the time to get curious, comes the time to explore, comes the time to debate. And I think this is one of the biggest risks that we're facing right now of that.

We're so, as you said, relentlessly doing stuff that we're becoming quite robotic. Of just clearing off to do lists of ticking off things of jamming our calendars versus being in that space to actually get curious and explore. What should next look like? What are the next ideas? How do we work better together? So whether you're in organizations, whether you're a business owner or whether you're an individual in a family that's chaotic, I think the same thing applies.

Would, would you [00:14:00] agree?

Donna: Oh, completely. And, you know, the amount of senior people that come to me and say, my people are just not strategic. They're just not able to think or work strategically. And the first thing I say is, well, do they have the space and capacity to do that? Because it takes space to think about a current situation, ponder what that might mean for us now and into the future.

And so the phrase that I use is your activity horizon. So if you think about what am I doing today? Am I doing things that are due yesterday? Well, that would say that your activity horizon's behind you, right? And you're constantly playing catch ups to get the work in front of you, if you will.

if we're working on stuff that's due today, that's okay. Our activity horizon is right on top of us. But we know we're in good shape. when we're doing things for next week, for the next two weeks, for a month, that we're already thinking about the next quarter. And that requires space. So I call it the adaptive capacity, the space in your [00:15:00] world to think about how I need to adapt.

to navigate next, otherwise you're kind of at the mercy, just kind of rolling and tumbling along with whatever direction pushes you and at worst, uh, you're missing opportunities.

whether it's you're too busy in your diary to take a meeting with someone who could transform your business. or you're too busy to attend, learning opportunities or events being offered by the business. The amount of people that I hear that just say, I haven't got time to do all that sort of fluff.

Well, that's the kind of fluff, sorry, that you need to be doing. Or you haven't got the time to think about, is a beautiful example of this. AI is absolutely transformative. Transforming the way in which people work. And if you're saying, I don't have busy for that chat GPT nonsense.

then you're going to be behind the April and you're certainly going to be behind your competitors. So I think adaptive capacity is your biggest competitive advantage, both as an individual and as an organization

Janine: Love that. And you're, [00:16:00] you're talking to someone that you've been able to, uh, reeducate on this space and, you know, when I, in my work talk about, for example, the power to connect, the capacity to connect, in the context of strategically networking, nurturing, and cultivating your network. What's really interesting for me right now is so many leaders who have lost jobs. They've been retrenched or so many business owners that suddenly their referral network is. slowing down or totally dried up for some of my clients right now. And I say, okay, well, well, who are you reaching out to? Where's your network? I haven't had time to do that. I haven't had time to invest in it.

I'd rather spend time writing a social media posts than potentially going and meeting someone and having a conversation. So there's this, again, that's one of those tension points, but what I'd love you to share is that simplicity of the framework that you've got, around, how do people use it? That starting point. So [00:17:00] I think that would be really useful for our, for our listeners just go, Oh my God, it's that simple. Yes, it is.

Donna: so the first thing you need to think about it is it's not Google. So a lot of people approach chat GPT as if the way they approach Google. So they say, you know, find me something.

whereas chat GPT A is way more powerful than that. And B, you're not going to get a great result if you approach it like Google. So you've got to think very differently. So new language for you straight up is. We're not doing a Google search. We're not Googling something anymore. can still Google that Google has its place.

Uh, we're now prompting. And so what's the prompt we're using in chat GPT to get us the results. someone told me the other day, you know, oh, you know, I asked her to write a blog about. levelling up at work. You know, you're a new manager. How do you level up at work?

And I, and they said, Oh, I didn't really like the result. And I said, Well, did you give it a bit more context? So first of all, did you say, you know, what's the purpose? I'm writing a blog. and what's the perspective from the perspective of. female executives [00:18:00] in corporate Australia.

So there's a bit of perspective, and I want it to have you a bit of personality. I want it to have a, a chatty and engaging style, and I need it to be about 600 words. So I want you to imagine that, that it is a human. So this eager intern. If you give it the best kind of, the more information you give it, the better, it'll get you a much better result.

But if you just give it a really rubbish, it's like rubbish in, rubbish out, give it a rubbish prompt, then you'll get a rubbish result. Here's the interesting thing, you can't hurt it's feelings, whereas a human in turn, it's feelings could get hurt if you say, this is a pile of rubbish, go back and do it again.

And you wouldn't do that with a real human. and I would be very cautious because we don't know if the machines are going to take over the world. So still be polite, but you can go to chat GPT and say, that's not what I meant. Now do it this way. And you can get into a conversation with it and keep working until you get the result.

So it's super simple to use. One of the reasons, or there's three reasons why I think it's here to [00:19:00] stay. One. Other than recently, Threads has now broken the record for, you know, speed to a million users, which was five minutes or something when it was released. Prior to that, ChatGPT had the record and it was five days to get to a million users.

it's really easy to use. And I think the third reason is my dad's using it. My 79-year-old dad is really interested in it. And I'm like, gee, that, that speaks volumes to me. 'cause he's not really been that interested in that sort of stuff before. So. So there you go. So get in, have a go, go to chat, GPT.

Um, just go to Google and search. Chat GPT or open ai. Get yourself a free account. And start playing around with prompts would be my suggestion.

Janine: Love that. God, I'm starting to notice it. I actually gave some feedback to a client yesterday because she sent me a message going, do you think I can use this as my outreach? And I read it and I went, that's chat GPT. And I wrote back and I said, have you just sent me the chat GPT copy? She went, Oh yeah.

I said, no, you can't send [00:20:00] this. I don't see any of you in this copy.

So that point about the human piece, can you just tell me a little bit more from your, um, perspective, what that means to you. It's almost like the word of warning. It's like chat GPT comes with a don't forget.

Donna: but with a warning on the label. Right. first of all, it's really obvious. Now, if there are people out in the world, because we're still in a little bit of a bubble here. There's plenty of people out in the world that don't know about GPT. But what will happen is when they receive something, they literally, they'll go backwards.

They'll be like, well, that feels odd. That feels off. That doesn't quite feel right. Well, because it's been written by a computer. Now, maybe in the future, I predict they will, it will get better at it. so for me, I'd say all it does is it gives me a start. So your client that you just talked about that, got something out of ChatGPT, fantastic, gave him a start.

Now they go, how would I say that in my words? So it still saves mental and physical capacity, but how do I humanize this? So the [00:21:00] other thing I do is there is an app and I, I just assume that these days smart people, are checking whether things have been written by AI or chat GPT. So there's an app called zero GPT.

So even when I use chat GPT to help me with stuff, I reckon the maximum I want would be about 10%. So I copy and paste my article into zero GPT. And it tells me it does a bit of a search on what percentage does it think it's been written by AI. And I think the highest I've ever had was 17 percent that I would be happy to submit, and even then it thought some of the stuff that the human me had written was written by ChatGPT, so it's not always accurate.

you know, the work of, Amy Yamada is really good around this.

She was quite inspiring, inspirational for me in my early days of using ChatGPT. Where she talks about using heart speech, where she's saying, what are you really talking about and incorporating that heartfelt humanness into what [00:22:00] you do?

Janine: Well, we've had Amy on a podcast here, so I'll put the link in the show notes. So if anyone wants to listen to her comments on that, you'll be able to find it. I've got to ask before we sort of start wrapping this up is, you know, you talk a lot about freeing up capacity, how it reduces mental load and physical, capacity.

What's your best example?

Donna: Of using ChatGPT to free up time?

yeah, yeah. So I've, of course, I've written the book now and it's done and, yes, ChatGPT helped me write the book. But for the most part, it's a human written book. I would say 80 80 to 90 percent human written book. and so now what's happening is, I'm starting to be asked to write articles in the media on particular topics.

And so what I do is I copy and paste three chapters of my book into chat GPT and say, here's the article. topic. Can you use the content that follows to write this article? So not only is it generating it quickly, it's using my IP. So no [00:23:00] risk of, someone saying, Oh, this is computer generated.

any of that anyway. So I'm turning around my articles so fast that my PR guys uh, rang me and said, I just need to know how you're doing this so fast. Seriously, it's gone from taking me. couple of days to respond to maybe an hour to generate three or four articles. So that's one thing that's really, useful from a professional perspective.

From a personal perspective, I'm traveling to, the UK and Europe at the end of the year, and we're coming back via Singapore and Sydney. Now that means we're going to be in two weather zones. And, uh, we're also trying to pack really light. And so I went to chat GPT and said, generate me a packing list for this itinerary that accommodates two different weather zones.

And it is the minimum I'm going to need I want to travel really lightly. And it's generated me a really awesome packing list But there's so many, you know, so many.

Janine: Just as we do our part, I mean, we could just talk for hours and hours and hours as we do multiple times. really want to come back to something that you said [00:24:00] that right at the beginning around the fact that when the part your publisher approached you, they talked about the practice that you have built the positioning that you have built and A conversation around using this voice for good.

And what I'd love to hear from you, because, you know, this podcast is all about unleashing your brilliance of, of getting to that place where you are doing that work that you, you really love in the way that you want to do where you stand for something and you're making the impact that you want to make.

first off, how did that feel? And then secondly, I just want you to reflect for a second for our listeners around that piece of the work that you have done that has got you to this place of, wow, I'm actually known for something. And with that comes the responsibility of using it for good.

Donna: Yeah. So first of all, I'm not gonna lie, my ego was purring [00:25:00] like a kitten. when I got the call and when they said things like you're a trusted voice in productivity there's ego when someone comes to you and says, you're amazing. Can you do this for us? Like, so that's really hard to overcome to then stop and think, how does this go with my brand?

Because that trusted voice of productivity, they were using it as a selling point for me to write the book. I then went. Okay. Well, this could be a selling point for not to write the book because I'm such a trusted voice and productivity and I have to really think about how does this book get positioned?

Now, the good news is just about everyone that's read it has come back and said, Oh, it's another classic Donna McGeorge book. And I'm like, that's all I wanted to hear that it felt like it fitted and it had the same voice and the same angle and the same kind of messaging and the same kind of energy, if you will, of my other books.

So that was really important to me. but You know, it's taken a long time to get to here. Like I, as you know, you've watched me on this journey for quite some time to get to the point of I'm known for this. I, I used to cringe when I'd say I'm a global authority on [00:26:00] productivity until I realized I actually am and that people from over the world now seek my opinion.

And that's. That's not been an overnight success. That's been writing books. You know, you're, you are always in my head around this positioning, positioning, positioning, be really focused. And I get quite distracted quite easily. And then I have to remind myself, no, the reason I'm here is because I really focused hard.

And so the question around, how does that feel? Is, it feels freaking awesome, just quietly awesome from an ego perspective, but also awesome from a legacy perspective. You know, I didn't know till I got to my mid to late fifties, not mid fifties, not late yet, mid fifties, that it might be important to me to know that in the future.

My great great grandchildren will hold up copies of my books and say, hey, this was our great great great grandma that wrote this. that feels pretty special.

Janine: Donna, you are amazing. love having you in [00:27:00] my world. I think this book, your 11th book, does absolutely make sense. Highly encourage people to, to buy it. And you are open and honest about the fact you're not a technology expert. You're not, uh, a future thinker on where AI is going. This is more about how do you use The evolution of technology to build more capacity, more space into your world.

And from the work that I do, the clients that I have, all I can say is it's absolutely needed right now, whether you are a stay at home mom or parents, sorry, whether you have your own business, whether you're managing a small team, whether you're part of a major global conglomerate. Nothing can go wrong if we get more space into our worlds, because the world right now, the problems that we're facing need every single one of us to start thinking differently about how to navigate the now, the [00:28:00] next and the future.

And the only way we can think differently, we can explore, we can get curious, we can get some perspective, we can connect as human beings is to find the space to do that. And so for that reason, I'm glad you read, wrote this book I will put in the show notes how people can buy it and find out more about you.

but what's your final word to our listeners? What would you like to leave our listeners with?

Donna: It's the final word that I'd like to leave everyone with, is that what are you doing today that your future self will thank you for?

Janine: Thank you so much Donna. Keep going out there, changing the world. You're amazing.

Donna: Thank you. Thanks for having me.


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