In this episode of The Learning Network's Community & Family Studies Podcast I'm joined by Melissa Marsden to talk about how we can be more effective & more efficient by maximising our workspaces.

Melissa Marsden is a workplace strategist as well as the director and founder of COMUNiTI which is a commercial workplace Design Studio, & in this episode she stresses the importance of alternative spaces which support really deep cognitive thinking.

Now, I know what some of our workspaces look like, old, dingy & tired with clutter everywhere and I know many of us get distracted by various things, including various tasks or conversations with our colleagues that aren't necessarily maximising our potential or productivity.

So, join us for an insightful conversation that will open up your eyes to what we can really learn from businesses to make our own workspaces a lot more effective.

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Show Notes 

Find Melissa's website at or, her Instagram @melmar or her podcast at Work Life by Design.

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The Learning Network

Since 2004 I have been teaching PDHPE and Community & Family Studies. I love learning. It lights me up. I am so passionate about supporting you to be the best educator you can be.

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To build on the knowledge, understanding and skills of Community & Family Studies teachers to set their students up for success with confidence.



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Show Transcription


Episode Intro - Kelly:

Hey everyone, and welcome back to the Learning Network podcast. This is episode number 28. And in today's conversation, I'm joined by Melissa Marsden. Mill talks to us today about how we can be more effective, more efficient, and maximise our workspaces. Now, I know what some of our workspaces look like, old, dingy, tired clutter everywhere, they're not productive spaces. And I know many of us have further conversations with our colleagues that sometimes aren't maximising our potential and maximising our productivity. So today's conversation with Mel is going to be really insightful for you, and it's going to open up your eyes to what we can really learn from businesses to make our workspaces a lot more effective. Melissa Marcin is a workplace dynamic strategist who works with emerging leaders, corporate and professional services firms to create environments that drive high performance teams.

Mel believes that our environments have the opportunity to positively influence our behaviour and performance at work, with a career spanning more than 20 years supporting organisations to enable their environments to inspire human potential and through leading her own commercial design studio. She has developed a robust toolkit to transform organisations from the inside out, bring together a curated wealth of knowledge. Mel specialises in supporting others in navigating the challenges of business and building align teams whilst maintaining connected to your true self. Mel's business acumen has been recognised by aim and Telstra Business Women's Awards for her leadership and transformational business strategy process. And her passion is sharing her journey with businesses, leaders and fellow entrepreneurs. CAFS group. This is my conversation with Melissa Marsden.

Podcast Intro - Kelly:

Hey, I'm Kelly Bell. Welcome to The Learning Network Podcast. I guide Community and Family Studies teachers, newbies and experienced, through best practice to improve knowledge, increase empowerment and alleviate stress, to help you and your students to make meaningful connections across the course. I will share strategic and purposeful applications from my 16 years experience in the classroom that I have adopted to increase student motivation, enjoyment, engagement and results. Together, we will grow and transform your CAFS crew to the next level without impacting your sleep and wellbeing process. To join my free how to improve writing and fast track results webinar, head to So tune in, get inspired and let's connect, learn and grow together. 


Kelly: Hey everyone and welcome back to the Learning Network Podcast. Today you're in for a bit of a different spin on typical things of what we do here. So we're going to be joined by our special guests know mazdan. And Mel is an expert in workplace dynamics, a business strategist looking at spaces in the workplace. And we're going to really hear from her and brainstorm some ways that we as teachers can change our workspaces to me to be really productive to support our time and well being in the process. So you've heard our mills official bio, but now would you like to introduce yourself to our listeners?

Mel: Absolutely. And thanks for having me on Kelly. Hi, everyone. So my name is Mel and I am a workplace strategist. I'm also the director and founder of community, which is a commercial workplace Design Studio. So what that means is that I get to work with organisations and help them really understand how to bring their brand, their culture, their organisational strategy to life in their workplace environments. So often we are given briefs around how a workplace needs to house all its people. However, when we really understand what the operational outcomes of an organisation are, we can often come up with some really insightful and different ways for their physical environment to support the way that people behave within it to get better outcomes for the organisation.

Kelly: Awesome, thanks, Mel. I think before we kind of hit record, we're chatting about how schools are, you know, in a nutshell, very different to what what it is like in the workplace. But I think we can learn so much from businesses and so much from other workplaces to really make our workspaces really more effective. So today we're talking about not necessarily what happens in our classroom, that workspace, obviously we can kind of learn some little tips on the way to help maximise our own learning spaces. But for us as teachers, there's so much that happens, you know, behind the scenes with our preparation, marking, programming, all those sorts of things, professional discussion, but sometimes the those professional boundaries are actually You know, not adhere to all, you know, people disrespect them. And I think we can learn so much from businesses. You know, our principals often say, we're like, you know, we're like a business. But really, in our professionalism, we're not behaving like that. And I think, like you mentioned, I think we can really learn from what we can do in our workspaces to be a lot more productive, a lot more efficient. And hopefully, some of the things that we chat about today, will, will, I suppose, make you more productive at school, so you're taking less work at home? So obviously, supporting a well being all those things that we talked about anyway.

So now, what do you think, you know, if you're, if we've chatted about the spaces, typically we have, you know, up to 70, even 80 staff members in the one space off a really old Cold, dingy, crappy carpet. Often, there's like a big, really huge cubicle. So you might have space for a bookshelf at the top. You might have, you know, bookshelves on either side, it is quite cluttered as well. What do you think we can kind of do from the beginning, if we are either at the beginning of a new year, or we might have, you know, some space to think about our workspaces? What can we do to really maximise those?

Mel: Yeah, so as you and I were talking, Kelly, before we started, there's, you know, majority of space that I work in is with corporate workplace environments, and the space that you've just described is probably not that dissimilar to some of the environments that I come into, to help organisations shift out of so very much your Dilbert style, you know, cubicles, rows and rows of cubicles, very high screen partitions, got bookshelves all around them. You know, a lot of these workplaces have been around for quite some time. And so over time, we accumulate a lot of clutter and things kind of grow and build. So there's a couple of things that I would suggest off the bat, if you, you know, are stuck with your existing workplace. And you can't extend a new budget or anything like that, to actually spend any investment in upgrading that space. But the beginning of each year, a good clean. And I know that sounds so simple, but getting the clutter out of a space makes a huge difference.

And there's so much research that supports that having a clean and tidy desk space is actually really good for cognitive thinking, you have less distractions happening around you, and you can be far more focused. So that would be one of the first things is would be going to spring clean at the beginning of the year. You and I are also talking about how typically, these sorts of spaces are set up into the various faculties. What is happening when we're doing that, and that's not dissimilar, again, to our commercial work environments is that we're grouping together like minded teams, which is quite common. But what happens with that is that we're all expecting everybody within that similar space at that time to be working in a similar way. And what happens with that is that we're actually not considering the diversity of the people that are working in that space. So we all have different work style preferences. So some like to actually sit in noisy environments, and okay with like that background noise being around them, where other people need very solid, quiet space to be able to concentrate and really focus. So they're just two examples of the extremes that we've got in there. But we've also then got generational differences.

So we've all been raised with different levels of tech expertise, and how we then want to engage with that. So what happens is, we end up with this mix match of people that are all being put in the one space trying to work in very different ways. Whereas when we design new work environments for organisations, now what we're looking at is the generational diversity, the work style preferences, the different personality profiling, so introverted versus extroverted kind of people. And then what we do is we actually create zones. So I'm not sure if you're familiar, but there's a book called Deep Work by Cal Newport. And he talks about the university machine. And the university machine is effectively how we transition through layers and layers of depths of spaces. So we come in, and the first part is the saloon. And that's where we're kind of interacting. It's, we're engaging, and we're having conversations. But progressively, what we do is we move deeper and deeper and deeper into this machine of work. And as we do that, what we're doing is we're actually getting into more quieter, more individualised and more concentrated spaces. And so if we think about it in that way, what we should actually be kind of looking at in terms of our workplaces is zoning out the types of functions that we want people to be performing in those spaces, rather than trying to group them based on faculty. And with that then means we become a bit more agile, so no one owns their desk.

So again, this is very much a hot topic in the corporate world of work at the moment, but sharing our desks but what we're doing is when we're sharing, we're actually then accessing a lot more ranges of spaces. So you might say that this cluster of workstations over here, that's going to be a quiet zone. So when you're sitting in that zone, there's no phones, there's no talking it's purely deep work, where I can really focus and I can concentrate. But these workstations over here, well, that's where I can, you know, sit and do my work. And I'm happy to have a casual conversation with the people around me at those workstations, and then this zone of workstations over here that are right next to, you know, the staff room and where all the noise is happening. That's some way that I'm quite comfortable to sit and have all that background ambient noise around me, because that's something that I feel quite comfortable in working in. So that's just a simple way of restructuring, what you've already got to be able to support that. And then we can go into all sorts of other things that go off the back of that, if you've got budget to be able to start to reconfigure some some of the space.

Kelly: Next I know, you know, some some of our schools, you they have kind of two models happening, you have one model where you have might have especially independent schools, so private schools have really old school buildings, which are either old homes or, you know, kind of like really tiny little spaces, and then people are just shoved in by themselves, they had contracted that model, which you know, isn't really effective if someone's just No, put into their own little space. And that's what they shut the door, and they have no interaction with people. That's kind of one space. The other space is, like I said, really massive spaces, high ceilings, the noise, obviously, you know, that noise in that room often shifts. And I think, you know, many schools, public schools, Catholic schools, especially don't have the budget, like you said, to really change the physical space, what I could probably see happening is, like you said, I don't know how that would work. But what to kind of suggest if we did move to zones. So you know, the quiet zone, the collaborative space, the noisiest space? What do workplaces do to actually partition those spaces up? Or just kind of go? This is the quiet space? And then how does it then emerge into that next phase? What will that look like?

Mel: So it comes down to that transitioning and again, sort of that Imodium type model that I was talking about is, it's about thinking about the activities and how they're then impacting on the adjacent spaces. So you don't go and put your quiet, really concentrated spaces right next to the staff room where the coffee machine is, because that's counterintuitive. So it's about progressively transitioning. And whilst you might then have the Quiet, quiet, very focused space right down in the back corner, it's next to that quieter casual conversation space, which is then next to that other space. And so it's actually it's about proximity, and how that then starts to transition over space as to how we kind of start to partition things down. The other way that we do do it as well is that acoustics within these spaces come down to the use of soft finishes, so upholstery, carpets, the quality of the ceiling, and how noise gets reverberated around in those spaces. So what we can start to do is we can use different pieces of furniture, to also shift and cue different types of behaviour.

So the way that we do this in a workplace environment is let's say that you want people to start being more individualised work, start doing more individualised work and far more quieter, what you start to do is you shift the style of furniture, so that it is more singular. So if you think about it, you're in a cafeteria or on the staff cafe, you're going to have large tables with lots of chairs around them, and you're encouraging people to come together in larger groups. As we transition to a space and we go from being very collaborative to very individualistic, you start to see that furniture shift, and it might become higher and become softer, and it becomes more you know, a one one person type of space. So we start to shift behaviour. Now, the other thing that's quite counterintuitive, is that for years, we used to just make petitions between workstations higher and higher thinking, well, if they can't see me, they can't hear me, which we know is actually not true. Because when people can't be seen, they actually feel they can't be heard. So they actually raise their voices. Whereas when you can see people you will automatically lower your voice because you're observing the fact that someone is watching you while you're talking.

So it's, it's far more beneficial to be able to have visibility through a space, but then looking at how we can sort of support that with better acoustics or the rest of it. The ceilings are a big part of that. So even just upgrading the ceiling tiles in a space can have a massive difference. And the other thing is with noise is that noise bounces off flat surfaces so the more angles and shapes that we can have in a space. What that does is it directs the noise in multiple different directions, which enables that noise to dissipate which means it's not as noisy as if it was just a flat floor and a flat ceiling.

Kelly: So many things that we can just like little small tweaks. Hey like Nothing major, obviously, you know, retiling, you know, ceilings probably not going to be under the budget. But I think just, you know that they're soft furnishings, even a couple of, you know, cushions and like later. So those laser kind of spaces that are a bit more comfortable, lower chairs, that kind of thing.

Mel: Plants! Plants make a big difference as well. So if you do have workstations that are set up putting even some plants on top, because again, you've got this texture of the leaves, and the shape is actually reverberating noise. So it's bouncing that noise off in different directions.

Kelly: So clever, really clever. So some of our teachers, many of our teachers, in fact, like, really, you know, quiet space, especially when we do marketing and programming. They, you know, as you mentioned, deep work is an awesome book I absolutely love and I think teachers can really learn a lot from it. But I think marking, report writing, programming are things that we need lots of really quiet spaces, if I'm going to school, who has a really loud kind of staff really loud staff room in my principal isn't too keen to change things, because we do have lots of leaders who think that school should look like this. And schools, you know, shouldn't change and shift and move with the times, can you suggest anything for those teachers who are really struggling to be really productive, and what they can maybe do in their workspace in their little station, I suppose to Yeah, to either suppose limit or eliminate like distractions, other people mainly, but also just kind of focus and have that attention.

Mel: I think this is where it gets a bit tricky. And this is where workplaces have struggled for a very long time and why, you know, the whole open plan concept doesn't really work. Because we don't have those alternative spaces for people to be able to go and find to be able to support that really deep cognitive thinking that they need to be doing. What we've seen emerge as a result of that within workplaces is people wearing headphones, you know, trying to distract themselves from you know, cut off the distractions.

The other thing that we've started to introduce as a result of that, though, is you know, more and more quiet rooms. So is there a space within the rest of the school that you could go and work that would be supportive of that and, you know, not knowing the context of each and individual school, that might be something that could be quite challenging. You know, even potentially just staying in the classroom might be a better way of actually been able to do that more deeper cognitive work, as opposed to trying to do it in that space. But that's why we've seen these zoning principles work so much more effectively. Because if we're actually creating the environment where, you know, going back to the old style library corral effectively is that there's an etiquette around the type of work that we do in that particular space, and that it is deep thinking undisrupted and that there is no noise coming around it. So I probably would suggest to try and find even just cordoning off a section of those workstations that are dedicated to that. Otherwise, you kind of reverting to those other sort of band aid type of fixes with headphones and things that we're seeing that happen in workplaces, which is also why most people don't want to come back. Surprisingly, because they're actually more productive at home.

Kelly: Yeah, look, I could we could talk all day about this. I remember, at my previous school, I was the relieving head teacher and I had a faculty. So fairly large faculty are very different dynamics, I had people who were counting down the terms to actually retire, and who were actually about to retire to some really disgruntled staff and a couple who were quite good to work with that material. It was a very difficult team to work with. And the comment that my principal made to me was, I want you more present within the faculty. So I would I couldn't get any work done there. Because I'd have people over my shoulder. Can you show me how to do this? How do I do this Google Form? Or how do I do this? As Google Doc and I might predict my productivity was completely gone. That's probably why I got shingles in my first year of school, and probably why I ended up leaving the school because there wasn't those boundaries in place. But also, I had a boss who wasn't supportive of me actually tell it like saying to me that, you know, I support you being super productive if you go to your classroom, you know, in your because we had, we had our own classroom, and we were very, very lucky. Not all schools have these, you know, each teacher was assigned to a classroom. And it was a beautiful space. I had soft furnishings, I had some really great spaces for my students. And I felt so productive that I could get I could smash out so much work in that space. But I had a boss saying to me, no, like, you can't go to your classroom, I want you to be more present. Or I would towards the end, I would go and hide. I'd hide in the library and I told nobody where I was because I had stuff to do. I had lots of admin stuff to do as a relieving head teacher and as an instructional leader, but I found it very hard to work at my desk despite putting in an arm you know, my air pods or you know saying I have to get this done, you know, verbally saying to people like I've got a deadline that I need to meet because of, you know, X, Y and Zed. I think, I know, hopefully our listeners don't have bosses like that who, you know, counterproductive, what's, what should be happening.

But look, we're here to do work. We're here to, you know, deductive work and efficient work. And it's very difficult when you have, you know, lots of barriers around us. So some really great advice, I think. Okay, so it before we started recording, we also chatted about, I think the issue for teachers, that is that they're not getting productive work done. So they have this big mountain that piles up, you know, reports, marking that just continues to pile up, they have to get it done somewhere. So where do they do it? They do it at home? Because it's like you said, it's quiet, it's a you know, in a comfortable environment, there's no distractions, then there comes an issue then for teachers is that there's no, there's no delineation between, you know, work and, and home. And I think, you know, COVID kind of taught us is that it's really tricky. There, there needs to be lots of barriers, I think, you know, boundaries in place at home, can you provide our teachers, mainly our teachers who are listening, listening strategies of, of how the workplace doesn't, I suppose we are like workplaces, we are working from home.

Mel: I think this is a common problem that we're all kind of experiencing at the moment is that transition between the office and the home environment. And it's different for different people, because some of us, you know, like myself, I work from home two to three days a week now. And I go into the office two days a week, depending on what requirements are happening, you know, what client meetings are happening, those sorts of things. There's also that shift where you're seeing people come in for shorter hours during the week, and then leaving early to pick up kids from school and then transitioning through the rest of their day. So that flexibility has brought with it a whole raft of new challenges. And that's kind of very similar to what you're describing here is, you know, finish the school day, go home, you know, picking up your own children or whatever, you know, your personal routine might be and then, you know, getting them ready and then putting them into bed, and then you kind of open the laptop again. So your day is become this, this broken piece. And I know for myself, mine's very similar, because I've got three kids, and another one coming on the way. And it's similar.

So you know, I leave work, pick up the kids, do the afternoon staff, feed them, and then put everybody bed and then you know, eight o'clock comes in the laptops getting opened again, because I've still got things to do. And I haven't finished my eight hour workday. So there's similar things that are coming up across different different sectors as well. So flexibility does bring that and I suppose there needs to be some conscious decisions that get made by individuals around what they're comfortable with and where their own personal boundaries are. And I think that's actually often where the bulk of the problem sort of starts is, we're not clear around our own personal boundaries, and what we are prepared to do and what we're not prepared to do. And that's where the challenges come up. Because when we're not clear on that, all of a sudden, our time gets very stretched. And you know, what you're describing there with, you know, your principal expecting you to be present at work and doing all of those sorts of things, and then having to do your work later. That's a very real scenario for many of our management level, because that's exactly the scenario that they're in. They're coming into the office in the workplace every day, they're supporting all of the people around them, because they've got to be mentoring and coaching and training. But there's still a job that they need to complete. And then there's nowhere left for that to actually happen.

So some of the tips that I will be putting in place around that is allocating time that is for that particular work. So between these hours, or at this time of the day, I'm available to support with you with your questions and things. And these are things in strategies that I had to put in place with my own teams in managing them so that I can get the stuff that I need to get done during the day as well and trying to fit all the moving parts in. So being really clear around when you are available to support them, getting them to be very clear and succinct about what their challenges or their problems are, and trying to you know, shift that monkey from your back and back to them and getting them to try and problem solve things themselves or coming to you with solutions rather than just problems. So there's a retraining piece that I found that I had to go through with employees to help them kind of understand their own working responsibilities. And then it's about kind of going okay, well what kind of work Am I prepared to do? At which parts of the day and again, Kelly, you know, you and I are both friends with Dr. Christy, she talks about Chrono types and being really clear on what your personal chronotype is.

I am an owl. So I'm quite happy to work late at night, but try and don't get me out of bed early. That just doesn't happen but you might be you might have If you're a lot, then you know you're getting up at four. And maybe you're, you know, that's your productive time and you're getting that stuff done then before you go into work and are dealing with everyone else's problems that are coming at you, so getting clear on where your personal energy comes from, and then working within your time zones, that where you're at your peak performance is going to help you be far more productive, because you'll get more done in those two hours at you know, between four and six, if you're a lark, or for me, you know, between eight and 10, then you've got done for the rest of the day, because that's your prime time.

So being conscious of where your energy comes from, and by your own biological rhythms, and then planning around that, in terms of separating work from home. There's a few things that we've sort of worked through. And there's been a lot of sort of, I suppose, experimentation happening with this through COVID. But trying to find ways to actually then delineate, you know, and again, I'm just as guilty as the next person opening my laptop at eight o'clock and then working onwards, but what is that shutdown routine that then happens at the end to be able to just really switch off and be able to go back to bed, because, you know, we know that the blue lights are not great for us, we shouldn't be having digital screens at that late at night. But sometimes these things are just unavoidable. So what can we do to best mitigate and manage that and so blue light glasses would be something I'd be recommending to help reduce that stimulation that you're getting, having a shutdown routine.

So for me, it's shut the laptop, go and have a shower, put my pyjamas on. And then I'll do a routine of I've got, you know, tea to sleeping it, I've got good night, good night oil, all these things that cue me for bed, so that I then got this sort of shutdown routine that enables me to actually go to sleep, and then get a good night's sleep to be able to get up and then get going again the next day. So I think it's about firstly figuring out what your boundaries are. Secondly, understanding your chronotype and where your energy load is going to come from. And when your best primetime is going to be helping to retrain your employees or your your team around you so that they can start to be problem solvers for themselves. And more solutions orientated and then having a really good, you know, shutdown routine and sort of that separation break between work and home, when whenever that looks like for you.

Kelly: Awesome tips. And I think, you know, our members heard from Christie last week. Like the holidays, but she was probably our guest on one of our guest experts last week. So our cast members, first off all about, you know, creditor types and the blue light glasses and switching off and I think out of sight out of mind is always a good one. Yes, me, you know, I've got my desktop now, but also my laptop. So zipping up my laptop, putting it into the cupboard, and not actually seeing it is always environment. And when I'm downstairs, my my desktop and my little office space is downstairs. Actually, I think part of the issue for me is it's on my computer still on, but when I shut it down for the day, okay, you can't really kill it, it's time it's time to shut it down and have that routine of shut down at some normal work. There's nothing urgent I think, I don't know, if I read something somewhere on Instagram or something recently about, you know, your email or or that message from your colleague or whoever it is. It's not is it life or death? No, it's not like, you know, we hear from somebody football is really an emergency. So it's nothing urgent that we can, you know, just just wait for until next day.

And I think, you know, we mentioned before, as we before we started to record is that those boundaries and that etiquette needs to really, I think be addressed in schools, but also in all places that, you know, the text message from your boss at nine o'clock at night, or the email, that's Nexium, you know, and I'm guilty of that. And like I said, I work. I used to really be productive at night, I still am more productive at night. But I've, I've set some firm boundaries, obviously got shingles in 2018, and then routed to ugly head during COVID. Again, and that's literally why I left the classroom because I was like, Nah, I need to an agent stop this. And yeah, I think for us, you know, setting firm boundaries around, you know, your own team, you know, your colleagues, don't send me a message about work. I don't like I don't want to hear about it. unless it's an emergency. Don't message me, don't email me. Because it's not really that urgent. Like, it's not why we're teachers like at the end of the day.

Mel: Yeah. And I think that, again, comes back to some of the stuff that Christie talks about in terms of, you know, turning off your notifications and, you know, being digitally savvy yourself to be able to control what information you're receiving at what time's I think is a big impact as well because I totally agree with you in terms of the fact it's not life or death. But because we've got flexibility and because of our enablement with technology, we We're all going to choose to work in a different way. But just because you send me a message at 10 o'clock at night, doesn't mean that I should expect a response at 10 o'clock at night. It's convenient for me. It's not convenient for you.

Kelly: Yeah. And I actually I saw it on a colleague's email years ago. That said, I don't know what it says, but something about, I'm sending you this right now. Because it works. It makes it look like that. I don't expect a response. You know, this is my time. This is when I feel really productive. But don't don't ever email me back. It is. Yeah. It's nothing urgent. So talking about etiquette with, with Workspace spaces. I know, we've mentioned that before. Can you provide some of our teachers with some some ideas around it etiquette? Obviously, you mentioned, you know, the zones, if if teachers are still stuck in a big staff room, what can they kind of do? And I suppose articulate I think that you know, some things in workplaces, it's mentioned, but it's not actually made no, like a process. 

Mel: Yeah, probably one of the activities that we do, when we start working with an organisation to really understand some of the challenges is we do an exercise called take, leave and create. So effectively, what we do is we get them into smaller groups, and we get them to brainstorm, and we use three different coloured post it notes, one for each take, leave and create. And you put down all of the things that you absolutely love about the, you know, the environment, the people, the culture, the systems, the processes, everything. So it's not just limited to, you know, the workspace, it's everything to do with work, what do you love about it, and there are the things you want to take with you, you never want to lose that no matter what happens. The next one is leave. So what are the things I want to leave behind what doesn't work? What don't I like? What's clunky, what annoys me all of those sorts of things. And that can be everything from technology to processes to culture to people, to, you know, workflow process, all that sort of stuff can get left there.

And then the next one is create, and so on the create stuff, it's like, what are we want that we don't actually have right now. And sometimes these are solutions to the leave behind. And typically, the Create pile is the biggest pile. But what we start to do by this is we actually start a conversation. And what that enables us to do is in a safe way, we can all say what's really taking us off, what we're loving, and what we'd really like to see happen. And then what we can do is we go through a process of co creation, then to actually start to implement some of that change. So you know, if you've been listening this today, and you've heard some of the suggestions that we've made, this might be a way for you to be able to start a conversation within your group to be able to broaden it and go look, you know, I'm really love this, this isn't working for me. This is some ways that maybe we could solve that, or I'd really like it if we did this. And then what happens is you're able to build that etiquette together. And, you know, Christy talks about it in terms of digital guardrails, those kinds of things. It's basically what are we doing to put some structure around the way that we want to operate?

So that could be everything from you know, what are our, you know, contactable hours, you know, what is a problem? You know, what's our process of escalation? What problems should I expect you to solve on your own? You know, what should then you come to me with solutions we send, you know, what, what goes to, you know, read. So putting all that sort of stuff in place, but then also talking about, well, you know, I find it really difficult to concentrate. So this might be a way that we can handle that. And I think it's about really getting clarity, and this comes back to communication. At the end of the day, a lot of issues that happen no matter what kind of workplace it is, it comes down to a communication breakdown, someone's misinterpreted something, it was never communicated. You know, we've misheard or misjudge something. So having that really clear process of communication, and I think that tool really helps people to be able to bring it to the table in a way we're all invited to. And then we can start to work through those solutions together as a team.

Kelly: Awesome strategies. And I think, you know, so are we talking like no personal phone calls allowed? Some of them you'd be shocked at some of the things that happen in schools kill How do you spell this some of you, I'm pretty sure you can Google it and find it. And you also have spellcheck, so I'm pretty sure I can recollect smells. Like it's crazy that we teach the kids these things know how to be autonomous, how to feed how to be a problem solver, but then, you know, so many of us revert back to some of those behaviours that you know, that we shouldn't be teaching. I know you had an awesome programme, where you teach people to kind of create this life that you know, by your own design, which I absolutely love, I love you know that you've brought out this programme. Would you like to share a little bit about that with our listeners, but also maybe what they could do to live a life that's designed just by them?

Mel: Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, this is is my little passion project to deliver life by design. And it's kind of a combination of my own lessons and learnings over the last sort of 10 years. So yeah, going back about 10 years, I blew up my life, I quit my job and separated from my husband and kind of went on this little journey to figure out who it was that I wanted to be when I grew up. And I've always loved what I did. So that really wasn't the question, it was kind of like, well, how do I do that in a way that I feel is actually conducive to me and what I want to do so the programme goes over six weeks, and it's broken down into really getting to know who you are. So there's a lot of soul searching in there that goes around personality profiling, which is a big part of what I do in the workplace design, too, because I feel like if you aren't very clear on who you are, what ticks you off what motivates you, then you're not going to be very able to articulate what's going to work for you. So those things around we talked about, you know, what are going to be clear boundaries for you, you're not going to know how to identify them, or then even articulate them so that anyone else can be respectful of them, because you don't understand them yourself.

So a big part of the programme is actually working out what your values are, what your purpose is in life, understanding those personality traits. And again, you know, coming back to Chrono types, and all those things, all of these things make a big difference in understanding yourself so that you can actually, you know, fulfil your greatest potential. So having that as the foundation, and then we work through a process of reflecting on what's worked and what hasn't, and learning from that. Because a lot of the times when we look at things that have gone wrong in our life, we see them as very negative experiences. But if we actually look at that, and we reframe it, we know we grow through adversity. So if we're looking at where things haven't worked out the way that we wanted them to, or some of those really tough and challenging times, this obvious, there's usually a huge amount of growth that's happened in that. And it's about kind of identifying that reflecting on it, and going, wow, look, look at the person I am now as a result of that. And it's this continual building that and of understanding yourself your capability, that expansion of your comfort zone, and therefore your capability, but then also being really clear about what you can and can't control because, you know, we know we live in these very volatile times, and there's only so much that within our own power.

So once we've got all of that, we've really got this wealth of knowledge about ourselves what we're capable of, and, you know, we can start to get a bit clearer on what our dreams are going to be. And when we start to get that clarity, we can start to start imagining what it is that is the life that we want to leave. And one of the exercises we do in there is a 25 year visualisation. So we pick ourselves up and we take ourselves 25 years into the future, and we go what is the dream life that I want to be living. And the intention of that is that you are so logistically removed from, you know, the steps you will take to get to that 25 year plan that you actually connect into, you know, what's in your heart and your mind around, you know, what is the life you dream of, and then you break it down, and we start to put an action plan in place to start to put some, some goals and some statements around who you want to be in the future, and what action you can take right now to actually embody some of that, so that you're not waiting 25 years, because, you know, that's a long time. What can you do today to actually be living the life that you want to be living, but you thought was out of reach.

So we put all those sort of simple principles in place as well. So the intention of that is that after six weeks, you're walking away with a really clear understanding of, you know, the life that you're gonna be living and what you can be doing right now, right today, to see that happen.

Kelly: Sounds awesome. And I think, you know, so many of our teachers are stuck in a bit of a rut, and they don't see the value of looking ahead, or, you know, COVID, I think for, for me, for COVID, it was massive silver lining, if COVID I wouldn't be where I am right now, I'm supporting my teachers, I'm leaving the classroom, which I love to the classroom, I still do miss the students, but I don't miss all the other crap that goes with it, that we're really getting me down. And you know, I'm very effective, I'm really productive and really efficient. But, you know, when you're surrounded by those things, it does it a beat you down. So I think for me, COVID I, you know, I have, you know, thank you COVID Because I wouldn't be here and I think many of us dwell on the fact that, you know, negative things do happen. But, you know, so much growth happens from that. And and I think, you know, it makes us a stronger person. In the end learned.

Mel: Absolutely. And I think the the other piece that came out of COVID was it gave us permission to experiment and to try new things and to redefine what our, our concept of success was. Because I think for so long, we've been just going along because that's the way we've always done it. And that's the way that we just do things. And that's across everything. And COVID gave us that big shake that big wake up call to enable us to kind of revisit that and look at it go, you know, is this really what I want from my life? Is this where I want to be going. And sometimes, you know, you don't need to blow up your life, sometimes it's just a reinvigoration of that existing passion that you already have. But tapping into it in a new way that gives you more meaningful connection to the work that you do. And the impact that that creates, can just give you a whole new lease of life. And that's what I found in many of the participants is that sometimes going through this programme just gave them the permission to look and do things differently, rather than to keep sort of traipsing down the same track that they had always gone down.

Kelly: Yeah that's really special. So if my teachers want to check any of your programmes that obviously your know your signature programme, where can they find him out?

Mel: You can find me on Instagram, I'm @Melmar or you can head over to my website, which is

Kelly: Awesome. Thank you. And one last question to finish off our our little chat. So if you have been given permission to think about your your past and to give advice to your younger self, what would it be? 

Mel: Hmmm, I think the permission that I would give her is to not take life so seriously. Being a very ambitious and driven young lady probably put me in the position where I'm now teaching everyone else by design because I was ticking boxes for a very long time. And I was very conscious of what everyone else deemed success to be. And I think you need to go on your own journey. Connect your own dots, find your inboxes to take and be really intentional about the life that you want, but not take it so seriously.

Kelly: Great advice. No. All right. Thank you so much for joining me today. I know our teachers are going to love this episode. So a huge thank you to you Mel.

Mel: Thanks for having me, Kelly. It's been wonderful.

Kelly: Thanks so much.


All right, CAFS crew. So you know how I feel about advocating for yourself to protect your time and well being? I think this is a conversation that many schools need to have about the workspaces and the workplace etiquette that happens in schools now. No. I think we say out loud. I think I said this in the podcast episode that we like businesses, but I think some of our colleagues are still not behaving like professionals, all like they have, you know, clients in in the parents and teachers at the school.

So I think we need to be more productive, we need to maximise the time at work, to really protect us ourselves. And to take less work home. I think if we can make our workspaces more efficient, more effective, more productive, we're going to be able to protect our time and well being more efficiently because, you know, if we're more productive at school, that means we take less home, you know, less work home, to our families, to, to our partners. And that balance is so important. And I think I only know this, because I've been there and done it, you know, for the best part of 14 years. I love to work, I loved teaching. And I still do love all of that. I thrive on work and working hard. But I've been burnt, I was burnt hard in 2018. And most of you guys have heard my story now, but I got shingles in you know, my, my first years relieving head teacher PDHPE. We did also move house and all that sort of stuff that happens with it. Our dog died that year. So it was pretty hectic. But I got shingles, and I backed up again. And I stay in that kind of position for two and a half years and thought I'd be okay.

Our workspaces at that school were not effective. We had to open plan staff rooms, we had teachers talking over each other teachers having personal conversations, you know, swearing and carrying on, it was not productive at all. And as I said in our episode, some of our conversations weren't professional. So look, you know, if I challenge you guys to have that conversation, as a faculty, to have that conversation, if your head teacher if you're on the executive, if you're one of the middle leaders as a coordinator, this is a really rich conversation that we need to be having at school, because what we can do to maximise our workspaces can have a really big impact on our well being and what work we take home and how efficient we are in those little bite size beds. Those little Sprint's, around our workday.

Anyway, guys, you know how I feel about this. So I would really love to hear from you about how that conversation went with your faculty. And even if it starts with one person, it can have a really significant impact on the rest of the school. Anyway, guys, I really hope you enjoyed today's episode. These are the sorts of conversations we're having out loud in the CAFS collective. My CAFS membership and I'd really encourage you guys to check it out. If you want to head to the forward slash CAFS Colette Dave would really love to have you on board. 

Thanks for joining The Learning Network, I'd love to hear what connected with you most about today's episode. Take a screenshot and tag me on Instagram and Facebook, @thelearnnet. If you'd like to know more about my courses, MasterClasses, Coaching and Mentoring and Membership, you can DM me over on Facebook or Instagram or head to Don't forget to stay connected by subscribing to Apple Podcasts or Spotify, and if you love today's episode, I would be so honoured if you could please leave me a review. See you again next week. Let's continue to connect, grow and learn together to make a huge impact on the students we teach. 

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