Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Facing your fears

Most of us have fears or phobias that stop us from achieving our full potential – we’re only human, after all. However, sometimes these issues can become problematic, getting in the way of our performance at work, or our enjoyment out of work.

The great news is that many fears and phobias can be overcome, if you want it badly enough. And rather than avoid the things that make you anxious, often the best thing to do is to expose yourself to them until you become desensitised to the fear they induce.

We’re not talking about jumping right in – it’s more a case of taking tiny steps, and gradually increasing the frequency of time and duration you expose yourself to whatever it is you fear, until you can manage your emotional responses better.

Let’s give you an example: you have a fear of presenting to large groups - you're not alone - many people do. So start off small. Agree to sit on a question panel, for example, or develop the presentation materials, but ask a member of your team to present. Once you feel comfortable doing that, agree to present for a short period of time at a small gathering until your confidence grows. Now, while we can’t guarantee that you will grow to love taking the stage in front of your peers, we can say that it won’t ignite the same feelings of fear any more, which means it won’t hold you back.

We have four tried and tested tricks to help you build up your exposure and face your fears.

Picture your success

Picture yourself doing exactly what it is you fear. In fact, go one step further, picture yourself being completely at ease while doing it. The trick is this: if you think you can – truly believe you can – you will. Be prepared to take the first step forward and plan your actions out step by step. Use the power of your mind to realise your success.

Remember the time you did it!

Often we are our own worst critic and that stops us from doing things. Strengthen your belief in yourself by reflecting on the last time you successfully overcame your fear. Forget about the feelings of anxiety that preceded your success and, rather, concentrate on the feelings of joy and elation when you’d done it. Relive that feeling, dwell on how good it made you feel. 

Seek inspiration from people you look up to

We’re all fallible and many of the world’s most successful people have overcome adversity to propel them forward. If you’re feeling anxious or plagued with self-doubt, do a quick google search on some of the people you find most inspirational. See how they overcame their fears and used it as a power for good. Use the success stories of others as the fuel you need to face your own fears. 

Only positive thoughts

Positive thoughts attract success. Instead of fearing the worst, train yourself to expect the best. Don’t give your fears the time to dwell in your mind – they will sap all of your energy. Focus on solutions, plan to succeed – and you will get there.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Take a minute for World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day and this year's focus is on mental health in the workplace.

Most people spend a large proportion of their lives at work, so it's important to ensure that you can find ways to cope with your workload and the environment you work in if you're going to have good mental health and wellbeing.

If you find your role stressful, it's worth sitting down and thinking about which tasks create stress for you. Remember that not everyone will find the same things stressful, and what one person finds motivating another may find overwhelming and stress inducing.

And stress is not really such a bad thing when it's doing it's job of protecting you from harm - it's our inbuilt response to danger and it really works - our bodies 'power up' ready to fight or run away from danger.  However, when we are exposed to stress inducing situations in the long term, stress can affect our mental and physical health, which is why keeping on top of stress is key. Stress is cumulative - in other words it's not just your job that can cause you to experience stress at work. Family problems, relationship issues, financial problems, moving house,
and illness can all add to the stress load and are more likely to result in you feeling stressed at work.

So what can you do to reduce the load and manage the stress?

Building in time for relaxation is the key to managing stress before it becomes a problem.

We've come up with some simple one minute exercises you can do at work to help stay on top of stress. The first one is below. We'll be adding more throughout today, so come back later to check for more tips.

1 Step outside for a minute 

One of the most important things you can do to support your mental health is to take a break and do a little bit (even a very little bit!) of exercise. This helps your mind switch off, even for a moment, which allows your adrenaline levels to reduce. The exercise will loosen your muscles and release some tension, and if you can face some gentle stretching this will be even more beneficial! Regular breaks and time outs can have a huge impact, giving you the ability to find perspective and feel less overwhelmed with things that are going on – reducing stress and improving your mood.

2 List the positives

Research has shown that people who keep a list, each day, of positive things that happened to them during that day find their mood improving and their general sense of well-being increasing. When things are difficult, and we feel under pressure, we can often lose perspective and forget about the good things that might be happening around us. So, take a minute to write down three positive thing that have happened in the last 24 hours – these could be an enjoyable chat with a friend, a beautiful view of the sun setting as you make your way home, reading a good book, sharing a funny moment with your child, etc. If you do this exercise daily, research would suggest you will find yourself feeling more positive and upbeat. Try it!

3 Face a fear

Anxiety is one of the biggest mental health problems faced by many people. We worry about many things, and this can reduce quality-of-life and create a burden that often feels difficult to let go of. So take a minute to tackle one fear (pick a minor one - it's only a minute after all!). Identify something you're worried about, and ask yourself the following questions:

 a) What is the actual likelihood that what I am feeling will happen in the way I think it might – does the evidence suggest this or not? Remember, most commonly we exaggerate to ourselves the awfulness and level of catastrophe that we would face if the thing we fear comes to pass! 

b) If what I fear did actually happen, how would I cope with it?  It's often really helpful to develop a clear and concrete plan as this allows you to feel more in control and also to challenge some of your assumptions that you couldn't cope. 

c) Chat to someone else – asking someone about whether they would deal with what you fear in the same way is often very helpful – it can provide perspective and give you an alternative viewpoint that you hadn't thought about.

4 Keep others in mind

People experiencing mental health difficulties often find it hard to talk about things, or even seek help. Take a minute to look around you, or to think about friends and family who may be having a hard time. Are there any people who you see or know who may have changed in recent times, perhaps seeming under pressure, more introverted, working harder, eating less (or more), drinking more alcohol, or neglecting themselves a little bit. Use your minute to think about others, and even to ask someone who may appear not themselves if they are okay. A question like that, followed by a cup of coffee and a chat, may mean your minute makes a huge amount of difference to somebody else.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Career choices that don’t clash with your personality

We spend most of our time at work – in fact it’s been estimated that we spend 12 years during our lifetime. That’s a really long time to be doing something that doesn’t suit your personality.

Happiness and well-being is not just a question of the profession you choose but, as it’s where you spend a big chunk of your waking life, it’s important you make the right choices.

Many factors come into play when it comes to job satisfaction – the role, the way we’re managed, the culture, our colleagues – and finding work that plays to our personality and ignites our interests is far more likely to keep us absorbed and feeling contented. Plus, as the lines between home and work become more blurred than they used to be, it’s even more important to make sure we're happy in our work, as all too often it spills over into our personal life too.

The benefits of feeling content at work are well documented. They include:

  • Improved health - people who are unhappy at work or under a lot of stress tend to suffer from a multitude of ailments, ranging from aches and pains to broken sleep patterns. 
  • Happier relationships – when people are feeling unhappy and unfulfilled, it can’t help but carry over into their personal lives. If you keep venting your workplace frustrations on friends and family, they’ll soon disengage, whereas happiness spreads.
  • Increased productivity – happy people achieve more. They find it easier to focus and concentrate and they like to get things done. And it’s by getting stuff done – or through feeling appreciated in the workplace – that you want to do more. It’s a positive cycle of productivity.

We’ve found a nifty little quiz that will really help you get under the skin of what it would take to make you feel happiest at work. The questions were created by a professor at Arizona State University. They’re designed to measure six personality traits, captured in the acronym RIASEC: Realistic (doers), Investigative (thinkers), Artistic (creators), Social (helpers), Enterprising (persuaders) and Conventional (organisers). The questions in the test may appear random, but answer honestly – you might be surprised at what they reveal…

Take the test >

And once you’ve taken the test, it’s time to reflect and decide upon the best career choice to suit your personality. The question is: how do you go about following your new path and making it a reality?

These three top tips should help you on your way:

1. Be patient

Nothing worth having comes easy. Having a clear path is a big step forward but remember – good things come to those who wait. Don’t be in too much of a rush to jump right into a new career path. Take your time, think things through. Do your research, then progress at a pace that feels comfortable.

2. Walk, don’t run

However unfulfilling your job may be at the moment, don’t run away and be very careful not to make any rash or drastic decisions. Work out a plan that takes you ever closer to your dream job, but not at the expense of all that you have learned and achieved so far.

3. Don’t let fear hold you back

So what if your dream career seems unachievable at the moment? We all have an amazing capacity to learn new skills so, in 99% of cases, it’s never too late to set your sights on something new. Most of the time, the only thing holding you back is your own fear. It can paralyse you and stop you from achieving your true potential. Follow steps 1 & 2 and you’ll get there when the time is right!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Dare to delegate: maximising efficiency in the workplace

Returning to work after the summer break can be a little overwhelming and it’s easy to slip back into old habits – taking too much on and struggling to maintain the work/life balance we all crave.

For many of us, delegation is the one thing that we really struggle with. How many times have we agreed to more work than we can realistically handle? How many times do we do things ourselves, rather than spread the workload with others within our team or seeking freelance help from outside?

Doing everything ourselves might seem like the right thing to do, but the reality is that not only is it bad for business, it’s also not conducive to optimal wellbeing.

Here are our three tips to help you manage your workload and delegate effectively to maximise your effectiveness and efficiency in the workplace.

Start small and work up

For many of us, delegation marks a loss of control. We fear that other people won’t complete the task in the same way or to the same standard as we would and that makes us reluctant to let go. Delegation is a skill. And, as with most new skills, the key is to start small. To begin with, delegate only the smallest of tasks – then as your ability to let go grows, so too can the tasks you are willing to pass over to someone else.

Prioritise your workload

In order for you to successfully delegate, you need to be clear about your own workload. As work comes in, categorise it. Does it have a deadline? What is the expected outcome? Is there anyone else with the skills needed to complete the task? Anything with a less urgent deadline or a lower skill requirement, can be delegated, freeing up your time to the value-adding tasks. Keeping hold of tasks that could be easily or more quickly done by someone else doesn’t make good business sense – you should recognise your own strengths, and those of others. That’s the way to ensure efficiency at work.

Include instructions

This article from Psychology Today's blog suggests that the real reason we find it hard to delegate is not that we don’t want someone to share the burden, but that we are often dissatisfied with the results that come back to us. This can be easily overcome with the use of detailed instructions. These serve two purposes: to outline your expectations with regards to outcomes and to make it easier for you to let go of certain tasks. Even if the task is straightforward, the act of writing up instructions for whoever you delegate to, will avoid any misunderstandings in communication when handing over the task and help ensure that standards are maintained.

Still not convinced? Remember, delegation is not an indication that you are unable to manage your time effectively, it’s the opportunity for you to help others to grow, to strengthen collaboration skills and to develop trust / confidence within your team.

Delegating the tasks you haven’t had time to do could actually lead to greater creativity in the workplace – helping to identify efficiencies and finding better ways of doing things. So by delegating, you’re actually doing someone a favour!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Avoiding a stressful September

Have you noticed how less stressed everyone is during the summer? Whether it’s the fine weather or the promise of a break away in the sun, somehow life seems easier during the summer months. Come September, however, and we soon see the stress start to escalate again…

Master our two simple exercises and help make your September as stress-free as possible.

Focus for fifteen minutes

It’s easy to get distracted in today’s busy, digital workplace. We’ve often got our fingers in many pies and we’re multitasking more than ever before. We challenge you to take a step back and focus for fifteen minutes each day. Think about what you want to actually achieve, rather than busying yourself with lots of things concurrently. Concentrate on the quality of your outputs, rather than the quantity of tasks you’re engaged with at any one time.

Yes, the rest of your day can be spent juggling, but we reckon after just a quarter of an hour spent on executing one single task on your to-do list, you will feel more positive and productive than you will the rest of the day.

This is what we want you to do during the fifteen minutes:
Remove yourself away from all distractions, switch off all competing technology and just concern yourself with the task in hand. If you start to daydream, click your fingers as a cue to bring your focus back to the task you’re doing. When your fifteen minutes is done, review your work.

Expect to feel a sense of pride from a job well done that will reduce any anxiety and stress. Realising what you can achieve in just fifteen minutes will also enable you to review your own workload – and that of your team – with a renewed clarity and focus going forward.

Connect with your colleagues

We guarantee that if you’re feeling the September stress, your work colleagues will be too. We want you to spend five to ten minutes each day connecting with someone you work with. You can use the five minutes to discuss a work-related topic or to find out more about them as individuals outside of work. What you discuss is not important, it’s the time spent together that will build the bonds you need to create a stress-free working environment going forward.

By taking the time to get to know the people we work with, we can gain a deeper appreciation of them as individuals, which leads to improved working relationships. The better we know people, the easier it is to communicate with them during times of stress and the more manageable our work issues will become as a result.

Taking time to connect with others may seem like a frivolous waste of time, but believe us, it’s five minutes well-spent. Stronger work relationships help us make more informed and grounded business decisions.

So, with September just days away – set yourself a challenge: to make it as stress free as possible.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Simplify your life beyond the summer

During the summer months there is a tendency to live more simply than we do the rest of the year. Spending more time outside, when the weather is fine and the evenings lighter, makes us feel more satisfied and able to cope with less ‘stuff’. What can we take from our summertime living habits that would help us live a simpler life all year round?

Simplifying life helps to reduce stress by creating less reliance on material things. The ability to simplify life comes from an inner sense of well-being, a satisfaction with what we have already and an appreciation of what / who we have around us.

Start as you mean to go on

To make sure your day is simpler, you must start as you mean to go on and that means creating a morning routine that impacts positively on the choices you will then make throughout the day. Mindfulness techniques or practising gratitude can create a feeling of calm that will then emanate throughout your day. Just five minutes in the morning can set you up for the whole day.

Cut complaining

Making a conscious decision to complain less can help to simplify your life too. Often, we focus on things that lie outside of our control and these can occupy our minds, creating unnecessary chaos in our thinking – this could include things such as rising cost of living. There’s nothing we can do about the economy, but we do have control over what we use. Set yourself a challenge not to complain for the next two weeks – thinking only about those issues over which you have some control. You’ll soon see how this can help create a sense of peace.

Ditch the distractions

Electrical devices are a great way of helping us to access information when we need it and are a useful organisational tool. However, have you noticed how much time you waste? Distracted by non-essential activities on these very devices. Want a simpler life? Ditch the devices. Your mind will thank you for it and you’ll feel calmer and more centred as a result. Given how much time we all spend on our gadgets, a total device ban may seem daunting. If that’s the case for you, start off small – have an hour free one week, and increase the time by the hour until your mind starts to rest.

Cut down on choices

Have you noticed that the number of choices you have at any one time is just overwhelming? Even simple decisions, like which milk to buy, are met with numerous choices, which can lead to confusion and dissatisfaction. This Huffington Post article looks at the power of limiting our choices. It considers how much simpler our lives would be if we cut down on the choices we have to make on a daily basis. Give it a try.

If this post has inspired your to start living more simply – why stop there? We look at the benefits of living a minimalist life in a previous post – it includes tips on how to declutter and learn to live with only those things we need.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Mentoring - how to be a good one and how to choose one

Years ago ‘mentoring’ was as simple as helping a new colleague feel welcome or listening to your co-worker as they let off steam about a manager or an increasing workload. Today, mentoring is regarded as a valuable and measurable tool to assist in an employee’s professional development.

Done properly, mentors provide a sounding board at critical career points, supporting and guiding on a specific career path. They help provide us with a unique perspective on the challenges we face, due to their understanding of us as individuals and – usually – an appreciation of the business or sector we work in.

A recent survey by the Accountemps recruitment company found that 86% of executives saw having a mentor as an important tool for career development. That said, only a quarter of those surveyed actually had someone they could regularly turn to for advice and guidance. 

This could be for one of two reasons:

  1. We don’t know how to find a good mentor, or
  2. There aren’t many good mentors about

Finding a good mentor isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are a number of factors that you need to consider.

People need to be clear about what they actually need in a mentor

What skills are you looking to develop? What gaps in your knowledge and experience are you looking to fill? You need to be honest with yourself about what you need from a mentor in order to find one who can support you in the right way. As we develop and grow, so too will our mentoring requirements change. Some mentors will grow with us and sometimes we will need to draw on more than one mentor to help us develop and fulfil our true potential. Set yourself a twelve month plan about what you hope to gain out of a mentor/mentee relationship and be sure to review it – with your mentor – at regular intervals during the year as you would any other development intervention.

People should consider working styles when choosing a mentor

Choosing a mentor based on the person you want to be is dangerous – you shouldn’t be looking to fundamentally change the way you are, but more to learn certain skills, such as empathy, collaboration and reflection, that will help you do your job better. By choosing a mentor with a complimentary work style you will avoid personality clashes and ensure that you get the most out of their support and guidance.

People should look for mentors who can listen as much as they talk

A successful mentoring relationship is a 360 one. Your mentor needn’t have been down the same career path that you have, nor should they just feed you the answers to the challenges you face. They are there to act as a sounding board and provide valuable insight that helps you reach your own conclusions. This can only be done if the communication is open, genuine and two-way.

So what does it take to be a great mentor?

Mentoring is a different relationship than the traditional manager / worker one and to become a great mentor you have to see the mentee as an individual, rather than a subordinate. You have to be prepared to look beneath the mentee’s work performance and develop an appreciation of their personal life to truly understand what drives the business decisions they make and shapes the way they behave at work. describes a great mentor as someone who is ‘honest and unafraid to tell you hard truths about yourself and your work’. They ‘push you to take risks and aim higher’.

More often than not, the best quality that a mentor can have is the ability to inspire. To make people aspire to be better people and to give them the confidence to believe they can achieve what they set out to do.

Great mentors get as much value out of the relationship as mentees do. Some of this value is obvious: improved relationship management skills, deeper insight into how people think and operate, as well as experience in challenging, exploring and testing alternative theories and perspectives, which they can then replicate in their own work.

If you’re looking for more information on how to get the best out of people, this TEDTalk playlist is worth a look.