I Don't Have Time! interview with author Emma Grey

Monday, 23 January 2017


I don't know about you, but (along with social media), I'm kind of sick of being 'busy'. Of my own busy. Of the relentless busy of others. Of the collective busy. It's really doing my head in, and I've long felt us busy peeps are careening headlong into a collision with a return to Slow Living.

We are bombarded, from every angle, with attention-seeking issues, people, events, obligations and things to measure ourselves against. There are cobwebs in our room corners and crisped hydrangeas in our garden beds. The fridge looks like someone spilled something sticky in there (well, maybe that's just mine) and our contact lenses are so outdated, we can't really see.

We never have time to do anything much it seems, and at the end of any given day, we collapse into bed and wonder, yet again, how the day got away from us.

Where has time disappeared to?

Emma Grey and Audrey Thomas know. Thank God. And even more thank God ... the amazing Emma is here right now to talk to me (and you) about too much busy and too much disappearing time. February sees the release of Emma and Audrey's book I Don't Have Time, which basically, in 15-minute ways, makes it clear that you DO have time.

I read this book in one sitting on Saturday. Seriously. It's ravenously good.

Thanks so much for visiting, Em. Can I start by asking ... what the heck is going on? Why is everyone so busy? Or are they ...
We exist in a ‘cult’ of busy. Exhaustion has become a status symbol. If you’re not flat out or frantic, people look at you a little strangely. Sometimes, even when we’re not completely snowed under, we tell people we're ‘busy’ when someone asks how we are—almost as a default response.

I think it’s what James Gleick calls ‘hurry sickness’. It’s this concept that the bulk of our stress comes from areas under our own control—high-pressure jobs we choose to apply for, extra activities we enrol our children in voluntarily, commitments and social events we say ‘yes’ to, social media rabbit holes we enter into, standards we select on the home front, our own behaviours …

Recognising the extent to which we have power over our use of time isn’t meant to be an exercise in self-blame, but in finding freedom. If we got ourselves into much of this frazzled, over-commited mess, it stands to reason we can also dig ourselves out of a lot of it … and that’s an enormous relief.

How do we manage to lose so much time? Can we make time? Is it malleable and just a matter of perspective? 
Some astro-scientists have proposed that all time (past, present and future) exists now, and it’s only our perspective on time that changes. The idea of that baffles me completely, but what I do know is that, as Brian Andreas says, ‘There is exactly enough time for everything that matters most’.

If that’s true, it also means there’s simply not enough time to do everything. When we accept that—that our ’To Do’ lists will never be finished, and that we won’t ever accomplish ‘all the things’, then it becomes about choices. It means ditching some things and cutting other corners in order to pour time into the most central things (whether that’s health, relationships, career, hobbies or whatever is really vital in each of our lives).  

We tend to get in our own way quite a lot. In what specific ways do we do this? Does perfectionism and self-esteem play a part?
Definitely. When we’re worried about our performance we hold back for fear of failure or being ‘found out’. We go over and over our work unnecessarily instead of releasing something and moving on. We people-please. We grapple for control by hoarding tasks that could be delegated or outsourced, thinking it saves time because, ’nobody does this as well as I do’. We’re ‘badge of honour’ busy—staying busier than others and taking on extra things we really don’t want to do, because being busy gives us a boost to our self-esteem.  

Were you once too busy? When did you realise enough was enough?
Yes, about a decade ago I was living a life of self-inflicted chaos—staying busy to run away from other challenges. I was working full-time, studying a Masters degree, writing my first book, volunteering at school and in other organisations, going to the gym every day, playing netball and all of this with two children under five. It was ludicrous.

The low-point was when I’d just received a publishing contract for Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum. I was bed-ridden with glandular fever, contract in one hand, divorce papers in the other … thinking ‘life doesn’t have to be this hard. I’m making it this hard.’.

Are humans excuse-makers by nature? Why do we do this???
I think we all love a good excuse. (I know I do!) It feels good to let ourselves off the hook. After Audrey and I wrote a book with one of our personal go-to excuses, ‘I don’t have time’ in the title, we realised we wouldn’t be able to use that one any more and remain authentic. We’ve caught ourselves saying it often, only to self-correct with the truth: ‘I haven’t made time for that’.

It’s so much easier if we can blame something or someone else for our lack of time. Our boss, our partner, the kids, our parents, ‘modern life’ … It’s uncomfortable when we realise it’s not really those things that get in the way most of the time.

Perhaps we didn’t go for that promotion not because there ‘wasn’t enough time’ to submit the application but because we were scared we’d fail. Maybe we do the bulk of the housework because early on it felt nice to be needed and now we’ve taught our co-inhabitants how to treat us. Perhaps we haven’t reached for that secret dream because, if we don’t give it a go, theoretically it’s still the perfect plan …  

Are women busier than men?
They don’t have to be.  

What kind of effect does busyness have on creativity? 
A brutal one. We need time to ‘play’. Our brains solve problems, finds solutions, imagine and dream when we switch off.

How important is it to be liked?
More important than it needs to be, for lots of us (including me). There’s a huge difference between being liked, genuinely, and being taken for granted, walked all over and stifled. Author Jacqui Marson calls it ‘the curse of lovely’. I think it’s more important to be admired than liked—I have admiration for people who have the knack for being kind while being assertive about their personal needs and space.

How important is it to say no?
Saying ‘no’ gives meaning to your ‘yes’. When you’re clear on what is centrally important to you, it becomes easier to weigh up a request and decide whether it’s going to give or take from what matters most in your life. It makes the difference between a year filled with resentment (because you’re at everyone’s beck and call and have an endless list of things you think you ‘have’ to do) and one in which you grow, personally and professionally, because you’re existing within clearer boundaries.

It’s also important to say ‘yes’ to things that may feel uncomfortable, like goals that stretch you, or offers to help you. We live in an eco-system perfectly designed for give and take and mutual help-giving. Our lives are so much easier when we learn that accepting help doesn’t make us any ‘less'.

Em, do we simply have too much choice nowadays? Does that weigh into time management?
I think we’re bombarded with choices and opportunities, and there’s a real skill in being able to let an opportunity pass you by. We fear that we’ll never have another chance, so we try to cram all the action in our lives into one chapter, instead of spreading it out over the course of a whole book.

Six months ago, you experienced the unbearable—losing your husband Jeff. How much of your darling man is inside this book?
Jeff read one of the final chapters, in which Audrey and I discussed our families and our most intimate relationships and what they mean to us. He wasn’t into Public Displays of Affection, but he strongly approved of those words.

When he died, Audrey and I realised we stood by every word that we’d written. These messages were now even more important to us than ever. Because life is short. It really is. It’s far too short to waste time letting mindset gremlins win. So what if we’re afraid? Do it anyway. There’s nothing to lose.

I’m choosing to let Jeff’s memory turn the light up in my life, not down. Being here at all is an enormous privilege. I’m acutely aware of that, now. I just wish more than anything that he could hold a copy of this book in his hands and read it, after supporting me all the way to write it and develop my career as an author.  

What would Jeff say to you on publication of I Don't Have Time?
He was the author and editor of over twenty books. He’d smile and say, ‘Very good. What’s next?'

On that note! You're working on some incredible projects this year. Can you tell us a little bit about them?
Audrey and I are writing our second book together, The 15 Minutes that Changed Your Life. We’re talking to people who’ve made bold decisions, taken remarkable action or risen from adversity. I’m also working on a sequel to my first teen novel, Unrequited: Girl meets boy band, and that novel has been turned into a musical in a collaboration with my school friend, ARIA-winning composer Sally Whitwell.

On the personal front, I’m focused on healing from the shock and grief from losing Jeff last year. I’m caring for my children and we’re all having the counselling we need to recover from this. I think I’ll probably write a book about grief in the next 18 months or so. I don’t think we talk about death enough in Australia and, because we run away from it, we don’t know how to handle it when it happens. It’s terrifying, and I’d like to contribute something to making it less so.

When Jeff died, I was surrounded by support from family, friends and strangers. I’m establishing a charity called Canberra’s Heart so that our amazing community can rally behind other families who find themselves hit by sudden, unexpected loss.

Emma Grey

Inspired? Read more about 
I Don't Have Time at the 
dedicated website.

Biggest congratulations to Emma and Audrey
for their beautiful and important book.
Exisle Publishing have offered a copy
of the book to one lucky reader!

To win, just leave a message to Emma below, and she will choose a winner. This comp is limited to readers with an Australian postage address. Comments close at 5pm on Wednesday 25 January 2017, and the winner will be added to this post, right here that same evening, so do check back. This is a game of skill, not chance, and judge's decision is final. If you miss out on the win, you can grab yourself a copy of the book right here.

About the Book

I Don't Have Time, Exisle Publishing, February 2017, $29.99, 9781925335323

We live in a time of ‘hurry sickness’. ‘Busy’ has become a competitive sport — and it’s a sport with no winners. But somewhere, underneath all of this hard slog, there are the things we really want to do. The things that bring us joy and give our lives meaning. More often than not, the only thing standing between us and getting on with those things is ourselves.

Our lives don’t have to be as complicated as we make them. Through stories, theories and practical exercises, I Don’t Have Time explores 50 excuses we make that keep us from getting on with the things that really matter to us. These are the excuses that hold us back in our health and wellbeing, our careers, relationships, finances, home environments, personal development and recreation.

Using humour, anecdotes, research into productivity and Emma and Audrey’s proven ‘My 15 Minutes’ approach, this is a practical guide to ditching overwhelm and making progress in all the areas that matter most. It flips the notion that we need great swathes of time to get ahead with things, instead encouraging us to use the nooks and crannies in our day to achieve big things over time.

About Emma
Emma Grey is a life-balance specialist who uses a suite of innovative concepts and tools to provide organisations and individuals with practical solutions to the modern challenge of ‘having it all’. Emma runs seminars, workshops and executive coaching, writes regularly for national media, and together with Audrey, is co-founder of the highly successful ‘My 15 Minutes’ program (http://www.my15minutes.com.au).

About Audrey
Audrey Thomas is an experienced coach and facilitator with a background in project change and management, human resources and operations management. After a corporate career spanning the UK, Europe and North America, she now specialises in working with clients in both the public and private sectors to discover and develop their untapped potential.

This is Banjo Paterson review in the West Weekend magazine (The West Australian)

Saturday, 21 January 2017

SCBWI ACT Excellence in Children's Books event


A sensational Canberra event you won't want to miss.
Click the poster for more info
and to reserve a place!

This is Banjo Paterson blog launch

Monday, 16 January 2017


Come and join me to celebrate the launch of This is Banjo Paterson, with 7 days of blog posts in celebration of Banjo's life, and showcasing the book's creation.

From Thursday 26 January to Wednesday 1 February (the book's release date), I will be posting right here on this blog, and will update this post with daily links.

I hope you can come along and help Christina Booth and I celebrate!

Blog Launch Schedule
*Please note--these links won't go live until 5am of each relevant day.

Day 7 - WIN! a copy of the book (1 Feb--launch day!)


Join Tania on Periscope on Friday 17 February at 1pm AEDST, where
she will be chatting about the book live from the National Library,
and showing various priceless Banjo Paterson items,
along with original artwork by Christina Booth!

And for those in or near Canberra ...
Book Launch - This is Banjo Paterson
Sunday 12 February 2017
National Library of Australia
...more info / reserve a place...

International Book Giving Day 2017

Thursday, 12 January 2017


14 February 2017

The International Book Giving Day team, founded and headed by my gorgeous friend and colleague, Emma Perry, is delighted to announce that Marianne Dubuc is the illustrator behind 2017’s official poster. Isn't it just divine!?

Now in its fifth year, International Book Giving Day (IBGD) continues to grow from strength to strength, reaching places such as Nepal, India, Canada, South Africa, UK, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Nigeria, Fiji, Czech Republic, USA, Cambodia, Hungary, The Philippines and Romania.

On the 14th of February, #bookgivingday participants are encouraged to give books to children.

This can take many forms, the only limit is your imagination. Books have been sent to child refugees in Calais, France; a new library was created in Cape Town, South Africa; in Uganda the Mpambara-Cox Foundation gifted books to children, and for many, it was the first time they have been given a book of their own. In 2014, Scholastic Australia went to the Melbourne Children’s Hospital and gifted a book to every child. People continue to be creative in so many different ways, all keen to share the love of books. More examples can be viewed here.

Turning the commercialisation of Valentine’s Day on its head, people across the globe are encouraged to spread the love of reading by getting books into the hands of as many children as possible on 14 February.

Learn more about IBGD here and about Marianne Dubuc here.

On Feb 14, I'll be giving books to kids. When you've finished gobbling chockies and smelling the roses, won't you do the same?

The 52-Week Picture Book Challenge

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Over at the 52-Week Illustration Challenge, we have a very special announcement.

Tomorrow, 4 January, we embark on our very first theme for 2017, and at the same time, we are launching a very special YEAR-LONG bonus challenge that will run alongside the 52-Week Illustration Challenge this year.

For those Challenge members who are aspiring picture book creators, we are offering a bonus challenge to help you commit to penning one picture book manuscript a week.

Yes, that's right, you heard right. Is it possible? YES!

Just head to the Challenge blog to read up on how it will work:


If you haven't yet joined the Challenge, head there now and request to join. This is a priceless opportunity to get a heap of manuscripts under your belt, created to sensational themes.

Many thanks to Sarah Wallace for the wonderful idea!

a quiet Christmas and a shiny new year

Friday, 30 December 2016

Well, hello everybody. How was your Christmas? Was it warm or cold where you were? Did you eat seafood? Fruit mince pies? Antipasto in the sunshine? Flaming puddings by the snow-banked window? Did you open presents under the palm tree on Christmas morning or did you wait till the afternoon, with fat bellies popping by the fire?

Our day started not-too-early--07:30, gasp. Yes, for our family, the 04:30 days are long gone (though I fully empathise with those who are still entrenched!). We waited 40 mins for my girl Ella to zhuzh herself up (which gave me time to drink my Daily Tea in bed) and then it was under the tree for our traditional personalised Christmas cookies, with Riley as Christmas elf. This year, it was gingerbread with lemon icing in random filigree patterns. Mmmm. They were delish.

By the time the pressies were done, it was time to start cooking. It's been a looooong time since I've made Christmas lunch, and my goodness, even for four people, it takes a while, non??? Why is that?

a pre-Christmas wrap-up, with news, pretty pictures, plump pillows and other stuff

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Week 50: FESTIVE

It's 1.32pm on 21 December and I've just, against all better judgment, eaten two fruit mince pies for lunch and then wandered the halls for nearly an hour, unable to decide on which pile to tackle.

That sentence pretty much sums up my 2016.

It's been a strange, fragmented, bizarro year of major ups and downs, calamity and calm, and the oddest sensation of feeling either upside down, or wanting to abscond to an isolated villa in Tuscany. Granted, the latter is pretty much a permanent sensation! But more so than ever this year.

It's been such a strange and challenging 12 months--for everyone, it seems--that I'm kind of expecting to wake up and realise it was all just an upside down dream.

That truly wouldn't surprise me at all. I'd wake and I'd go 'Wow, that was a marathon dream nightmare hybrid! I'm so happy to be awake now, yes I am!'

So, as I wait to wake, and as the fruit mince pies settle onto my thighs, I'm only making one resolution for 2017... and that's to recalibrate. Earth myself, house, family, world, work. All of it. Take what's needed and chuck the rest. Cleanse. Focus. Streamline. 2016 was the carnival ride sugar rush. 2017 will the rowboat on an expansive, deep and beautiful lake. A lake bustling with Things I Love to Do.

I hope it's like that for you, too.

In the meantime--here is a pre-Chrissie update before I disappear into a Lindt box the size our car (why fight it?).

Announcing... This is Banjo Paterson!

Thursday, 15 December 2016


Tomorrow, I'm officially in holiday mode, but before I go, I'm thrilled to share with you my newest books--both will be released in February 2017 (National Library Publishing).

This is Banjo Paterson is the follow-up book to This is Captain Cook, and once again features gorgeous illustrations by my dear friend Christina Booth. I'm so excited about this book--an historical picture book for very young children. There'll be a launch here in Canberra on 12 February at the National Library, so keep an eye on my events page for that.

Learn more about the book by clicking on its cover, and if you want to get in early, you can order a copy of the book right here.

Also publishing 1 February is Australian Story: An Illustrated Timeline--a revised edition which includes 2016. This book has become a resource for primary school teachers, so it's wonderful to see the book republished, and with a shiny yellow cover, too.


Learn more by clicking on the cover, and you can order a copy here.

In more exciting news, This is Captain Cook has been shortlisted in the ACT Writing and Publishing Awards! The announcement is tonight at the ACT Writers Centre Christmas Party. Shortlisted with amazing friends and colleagues Stephanie Owen Reeder and Jackie French, I'll be drinking bubbles, whatever happens!

Here's to ending the year bookishly.

Australia Illustrated Reviews

Sunday, 4 December 2016

It's a nervy thing when you launch into a new arena (illustration), especially after decades of neglect! So it's been with great relief that Australia Illustrated is doing so well and that I may not have to put my paintbrush down just yet.

Below are some of the reviews that have been coming in so far. Thank you, everyone, for your kindness!

4 December 2016
Australia Illustrated Review in the Sunday (Funday) Telegraph (above)

2 December 2016
Australia Illustrated Review on The Book Chook

1 December 2016
Australia Illustrated review on The Good Books Blog

November 2016
Australia Illustrated review in School Days Magazine

November 2016
A Pinerolo endorsement of Australia Illustrated 

19 November 2016
Australia Illustrated in the Mummah Christmas Gift Guide

15 November 2016
Review of Australia Illustrated on Unity Words

5 November 2016
Australia Illustrated Review on Just So Stories

2 November
Australia Illustrated with Megan Daley on 612 ABC Brisbane Bookworms

2 November 2016
Canberra Times/Sydney Morning Herald interview--Australia Illustrated

1 November 2016
Australia Illustrated and Author Interview on Franki Hobson

31 October 2016
Australia Illustrated Review in New Idea

31 October 2016
Australia Illustrated Review in Reading's November catalogue

30 October 2016
Review of Australia Illustrated by author/illustrator Christina Booth

26 October 2015
Writing and Illustrating a Picture Book, Australia Illustrated, on DeeScribe

26 October 2016
Author Interview for Australia Illustrated on Pass it On blog

25 October 2016
Writing Non-Fiction Picture Books, Australia Illustrated, on Jen Storer's Girl and Duck

25 October 2016
Creating a Picture Book, Australia Illustrated, on Soup Blog

24 October 2016
Writing and Illustrating Books, Australia Illustrated, interview on Writing Classes for Kids

24 October 2016
Review of Australia Illustrated in Readings' November Catalogue

24 October 2016
In conversation interview on Australia Illustrated with Dimity Powell on Boomerang Books Blog

21 October 2016
Interview with author/illustrator Nicky Johnston for Australia Illustrated 

19 October 2016
Author Interview for Australia Illustrated on Creative Kids' Tales

October 2016
Australia Illustrated review on My Book Corner

October 2016
The Creation of a Picture Book, Australia Illustrated, on My Book Corner

8 October 2016
Review of Australia Illustrated on The Bottom Shelf


Christmas Book Reading at Dymocks

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Australia Illustrated in Dymocks and Harry Hartog Christmas Catalogues

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Oh such a lovely, lovely thing to see your book cover peeking from the pages of a Christmas catalogue.

Huge thanks to and Dymocks and Harry Hartog.

Thanks to David Jones, too, who are stocking the book!

click to see the entire kids' catalogue at Dymocks

click to see the entire Christmas catalogue at Harry Hartog

spotted at DJs

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