Why taking a break from the seriousness of life is one of the best things you can do for your career.
Why is it that as soon as we reach adulthood, it’s time to get serious? Why is that our society looks at play as something just children can do? And why in the world should having a laugh make you feel guilty?
It is summer in Ireland and I hope you are enjoying it!
Forget about New Years resolutions this year. Set a proper intention instead. In order to do this you need to have a clear idea of where you want to be going.
“Never look backwards or you’ll fall down the stairs.” Bridge Builders (1893) by the British writer Rudyard Kipling is an Indian story about the building of the “Kashi Bridge.”
It’s the first day of December today and ‘Hark Did I Hear Panic Sing?’
Well, maybe not just yet, but this being the busiest time of the year for most of us, I bet I’m not the only one who usually feel a bit overwhelmed by all the stuff there is to do...
So, how do you cope with the stress of urgent deadlines and last minute orders, and, as if running your business isn’t enough; finding the time for social lunches, family obligations and shopping for perfect gifts?
The answer is. Give yourself permission. To breathe.
To properly breathe. Most people use only a small part of their lung’s capacity and this shallow breathing deprives the body of oxygen which is essential for good health. You can’t breathe in the past. You can’t breathe in the future. If you undertand the importance of proper breathing you will use your breath as a way to stay grounded in the present.
You average about 25,000 breaths each day. The effects of inhalation and exhalation extend far beyond the physical exchange of air in and out of your body. It controls the workings of the heart and lungs, so by breathing properly your body’s energy production is working as it should and you will be able to cope with the extra stress that this month brings on.
Intentional breathing is a fantastic stress buster. The next time you’re feeling more frazzled than festive, close your eyes and consciously take three or four really deep breaths with equally deep exhalations and notice how much tension you release.
To go deeper into it, you can cover one of your nostrils, inhale whilst counting to five, hold your breath and then breathe out whilst counting to five, another pause of breath, swap side of nostril and repeat. This is a simple version of Pranayama breathing that I learnt from doing yoga and you should feel both energised and relaxed after doing this exercise for a few minutes. There are several apps available to guide you through this if you are interested.
Your breathing controls how you feel, think and react. It controls how you move and how you speak. Correct breathing is also a great way to detoxify the body. Perhaps this last fact might be the reason you’d like to have a go at it, now that we have fully started the ‘silly season’?
Despite having lived in Ireland for almost 20 years I still value my Norwegian punctuality. I have tried to arrive “fashionably late” for a few dinner parties over the years but I would never apply this idea to the work place.
Here’s a few good reasons why:
I would be surprised if anyone disagrees with these statements, but punctuality doesn’t come naturally to everyone. However, the good news is that you can train yourself to be on time by changing your habits.
Here's two simple 'tricks' for being more punctual:
Don’t overbook yourself
Make sure that you only commit to do the number of things that you can realistically get done, on time. Most people over-estimate how much they can get done in one day. The good news is that they also under-estimate how much they can get done in one year.
Say goodbye to wasting other peoples time by accepting the fact that you can not do it all, all at once.
Give yourself a time buffer
Even if you know how long it takes you to perform different tasks, give yourself some extra time in case of unexpected events, like computer problems for instance. It seems only to happen when you’re too close to a deadline.
Add 15 minutes to any journey, just in case of delays. If you figure it will take half an hour to get to your meeting site, leave 45 minutes early just in case.
Follow these two practical habits and punctuality will follow.
Well, it works for me. However, if you’d like to get properly serious about it there’s plenty of ways to go about it.
First thing to do is to time your daily tasks and distractions. You will probably be surprised to discover that what you thought took a short half hour actually takes twice that time. How long does it take you to get out the door in the mornings? Really? How long does it actually take?
You will guaranteed find plenty of 'time sinkholes' also, like popping out for a coffee or checking your social media. Remember; “When you’ve got 5 minutes to fill, Twitter is a great way to fill 35 minutes.”
A quick browse on the web resulted in plenty of other tips, like changing the time on your watch or surrounding yourself with timepieces. Personally this would just stress me out but it might work for you? Check out this link to WikiHow for more: Arrive on time, http://www.wikihow.com/Be-Punctual
Better three hours too soon than a minute too late? Well, that notion certainly doesn’t apply to the up-coming party season, but it’s worth considering changing your habits if you’re the one who is always late with work.
Could it be your New Year’s Resolution?
Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will. George Bernard Shaw
We can not all become the next Steve Jobs or win the Nobel Prize in Literature, like the Irish playwright Bernard Shaw, but we are all able to embrace a more magical, innovative and colourful way to look at the world if we allow ourselves to do so. We need to allocate a few minutes every day. To imagine. Without considering it daydreaming. Or time wasting.
Albert Einstein believed that ‘imagination is more important than knowledge’ and I could not agree more. However, there’s only so many hours in the day and deadlines to meet, so despite my preaching about the importance of getting inspired you might find yourself with very little time for it.
Hence this blog post.
As a graphic designer I do take the time to seek inspiration and here I’d like to share with you some of my ways. At the very top of my list is traveling and seeking new experiences, but this blog post is simply focusing on some of the ‘everyday’ things you can do.
5 very simple things to do that will inspire you:
A walk in the fresh air
There's nothing like the look and smell of nature. Or the sound of the sea.
It has been around a long time but I still haven’t found anything more visually stimulating. This link takes you to my page, but you can search for just about anything here.
But only if you use it in a professional way. Checking up on what your friends are up to is a no-no, unless it's ok that the five minutes you had to spare turned into a good hour... Here is a link to my (not-yet-very-popular) Trumpet page.
Here’s a great one on the topic ‘inspire’. If you can take the time, it’s well worth watching:
Theaster Gates is a potter whose ambitions stretch far beyond the wheel and the kiln. In Chicago, his leadership of artist-led spaces has catalyzed interest and excitement in a formerly neglected neighborhood, as he uses culture as a transformational weapon.
To imagine means to form new images and sensations that are not perceived through the five physical senses. The wheel is already invented but most of us could do with creating new ways of doing things in everyday life. Set aside 15 minutes every day for a bit of inspiration and you will be well on your way.
This might sound too naive for some, but I believe you get the life you have the imagination for.
If you agree, go on. Imagine!
Entrepreneurs seldom get it right the first time. But having the ability to keep moving by making adjustments and keeping a healthy mindset improves the odds of success.
My dad invented all kinds of things and he ended up producing one of his ideas, selling it all over the world. Inspired by his guts I tried to take over Hallmark with my greeting card business some years ago.
It was a failure. But instead of bore you with the details of it, I’d much rather share some tips I have picked up over the years about how to move on:
Treat a failure as a learning experience
Without having failed at least once, few entrepreneurs would know the way to success.
Stay loyal to yourself
Instead of taking it personally, use failure to strengthen your commitment. See it as something that happened, not who you are.
Take a step back
Evaluate your business plan and make necessary adjustments based on feedback and results. Sometimes moving past a large obstacle means going around it and not necessarily over it.
Take care of yourself
Set regular times during the week to relax, sosialise and exercise.
Don’t become discouraged
Successful people see failure different from the majority. Copy their attitude of never giving up. Remember: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
It was a recruitment ad targeting people with IT experience. I had great hopes for it to win a 'proper' creative award but all it got was a nomination. Looking back I don't think it was a bad achievement at all, but at the time I treated it as a failure.
Thank goodness for the ability to put things into perspective;-)
Making a weakness less of a weakness is time consuming. You can not be good at everything, so why not play to your strengths instead?
A strength is something you are great (not just good) at. It is a mixture of your talents, knowledge and skills. When you are using your strengths, you feel that time ‘just flies’ because you are so engrossed in what you are doing. It excites you and when you’re done, you will most likely feel more energetic than when you started.
If the majority of your job involves activities that play to your strengths, you are more likely to perform better, stay motivated and, because you’re enjoying what you’re doing, you’re a joy to work with.
So what’s your strengths? A lot of people do not know the answer to this question and what seems like a strength to one person, might not necessarily seem that useful to others. I know my strengths are graphic design of logo identities and marketing collateral. My mission going forward is to focus on these. If you are uncertain what your strengths are there is an exercise you can do. It has been developed by the Harvard Business Review and it is called the Reflected Best Self (RBS) exercise. You can find a link to it here: how-to-play-to-your-strengths
Here is one paragraph from this website that inspired me:
It is a paradox of human psychology that while people remember criticism, they respond to praise. The former makes them defensive and therefore unlikely to change, while the latter produces confidence and the desire to perform better. Managers who build up their strengths can reach their highest potential. This positive approach does not pretend to ignore or deny the problems that traditional feedback mechanisms identify. Rather, it offers a separate and unique feedback experience that counterbalances negative input. It allows managers to tap into strengths they may or may not be aware of and so contribute more to their organizations.
Another helpful website is the brilliant wikiHow. Click on this link to learn how to identify both your strengths and your weaknesses: Identify-Your-Strengths-and-Weaknesses
The theory behind strengths is based on positive psychology. Everyone has strengths they are born with. High achievers may not have more strengths than the average individual, but they have learned to utilize them better.
So can you!
Focus on developing your strengths by doing more of what you are great at and you will not only enjoy it more, you will most likely perform better too.
Summer is here and if you are interested in keeping on top of things you need to take a proper holiday. Not just a few days off, but a proper long week. At least. And I am not talking about a ‘working holiday’, where you might go away somewhere nice but you are constantly checking in on all the 'goings-on' in the office.
No, you need to switch. Off. Delegate, outsource and avail of tools like an e-mail responder. I would also recommend changing your voicemail message to keep everyone informed of your well deserved holiday.
The great news is that if you manage to forget about your to-do list, Brexit and outstanding invoices for a solid week you will perform much better at work on your return. Holidays are proven to reduce stress, lessen the odds of heart disease, decrease or eliminate depressive tendencies. You will come back energized, more productive and with a strong focus. Your holiday will increase your physical and mental well-being and it will give you a wonderful, new perspective to view the various issues your business might be facing.
So, here’s wishing you a great holiday and I look forward to seeing you with renewed energy on your return.
On holiday from 31 July to 11 August 2017.
Leo Varadkar said he wanted to lead a party for 'people who get up early in the morning'. He might have offended quite a few people by saying this but he got my vote.
I recently read that the most successful entrepreneurs get more done by 8am than most people do all day. Intrigued by that I did a bit of research and I have learnt that early risers are more proactive than night owls. They’re also more agreeable, productive and conscientious, compared to people who sleep in.
Waking up earlier allows you to start the day with a victory. Your willpower is at its absolute best first thing in the morning, so it’s the perfect time to fit in some exercise. This will stimulate the flow of endorphins for a clear and healthy mind. You could also try a 30 second cold shower. (I promise you, it wakes you up and you’re less likely to need all that caffeine...)
Other benefits to waking up earlier include quiet surroundings and having time to eat a good breakfast, perhaps while reading the news as supposed to just glancing at the headlines. This will set you up for the day so by the time you’re ready to start working, you’re full of energy, and as it’s still early(!) you can get started on your most important task of the day, before all the usual distractions start...
If the thought of waking up at sunrise is just too much, have a think about how you spend your evenings. If you’re as productive after dinner time as you’re in the morning, you’re lucky. If not, well then have a think about what you could do if you had one extra hour every morning. You’d need to envision something positive. Something just for you, that you will enjoy and look forward to. This good reason to get out of bed will help you set the alarm for earlier and it will help you get up.
How to go about it
If you’re keen to try this out you will need to pick your ideal wake-up time and you need to work towards that time, gradually, to avoid shocking your system.
Build your habit 15 minutes at a time. If you normally get up at 7:30am you must set your alarm for 7:15am. Do this for two days. For the following two days, set it for another 15 minutes earlier than normal. You need to do this every day of the week, including weekends. You can not have any sleep-ins until you are completely ‘re-programmed’.
As you get up earlier and earlier, you need to go to bed earlier and earlier. The goal isn’t to need less sleep, the goal is to wake up earlier, to reap all those benefits I listed above. And more.
Leo probably agrees with Benjamin Franklin:
“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
I have only just got started, but I think I will too.
'Focus on energy. Not time', a quote made famous by Tony Schwartz who himself became famous when he wrote 'The Art of the Deal' 30 years ago with Donald Trump. Don’t worry, he is a good guy and is now CEO of The Energy Project. He is passionate about transforming the way the world works and creating a more wholly human world.
So how can we become more productive at work when there are only so many hours in the day?
Here are 4 key ideas from a Harvard Business Review article by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy.
1. Physical Energy
2. Emotional Energy
3. Mental Energy
4. Spiritual Energy
We like the idea that your health comes first when thinking about your working life. Simple but true. Emotional energy is often forgotten about at work so it is heartening to see it validated and how it contributes to personal and business success, in that order. Productivity is only increased when mental energy is increased. Taking yourself away from distractions and having a routine which bolsters your mental energy is enlightening. Spiritual energy, although last on the list, is still critical when thinking about personal satisfaction.
I came across this book recently called Great Traits by Tobias Harwood which uncovers the key traits that make successful people tick. It is a great, easy to read yet insightful book and in the spirit of giving I wanted to share the best bits with you. It has identified the five main character traits that drive normal people to exceptional achievements. So what do you think these traits are?
The five key traits are passion, grit, competitiveness, boldness and constructive consciousness. These were all evident in the high achieving individuals interviewed for the book. They all shared these traits in different proportions; some showed remarkable grit while for others it was their boldness that drove them to their success.
To sum up these character traits, it became evident that motivation and passion were at the centre of any remarkable achievement and once this was ignited then an intense level of grit and determination was required to see it through.
Along the path to the great achievement there was fierce competitiveness not just with others but often with themselves. Set backs were common but they were overcome with boldness in ideas and actions.
Finally, the last trait, constructive consciousness was seen as the most important and all interviewees displayed it in a big way. This is all about how to interpret events and then selecting the right mindset in response. Many of the interviewees experienced life changing injuries or events that would have felled any normal human being. It was their response that set them apart. Their constructive consciousness. Without exception they made the most of their situation. They chose to take a certain path and were not afraid to fail.
I found this book very inspiring and enlightening as not only do I have a high achieving aunt who is the first ever Scottish woman to have climbed the seven highest peaks in the world including Everest. John Neill, CEO of Unipart Group, one of the business leaders interviewed for the book, had a significant influence on my early marketing career at Unipart. He was and still is a remarkable man. I hope you pick up a copy of the book and find it as inspiring as I did. You will not be disappointed.
Book Title - Great Traits. Author – Tobias Harwood. Blog - Penny.
With all the horrible news, fake news, alternative facts, Trump, Brexit, February... We could go on and on... Are you finding it difficult to stay positive? Firm believers in the glass being half full rather than half empty and also being of a proactive disposition we have decided to take matters into our own hands and find out just how to stay positive in the current climate. While our tips are not earth shattering they are good little reminders of how to respond, act and think when our positive attitude is under threat.
Here are our Top 5 ‘Stay Positive’ tips.
Hope this helps. We believe that it is important to treat everyone as human beings and individuals. This can sometimes get lost in the business world.
We like the saying 'Start as you mean to continue’ and it is certainly apt at this time of year. The saying originated in the 19th century and is attributed to Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92). He said 'Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began’. It is not always the easiest route but we are firm believers in not taking the easy path if the harder route can yield better results.
So thinking along these lines here are a few tips from us to start this year as you mean to continue:
Wishing you a very happy and successful 2017. We are here if you need us!
Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Lao Tzu, ancient Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism
With busy lives we can often find ourselves reacting to situations which may not be the best approach, where a considered response would have been far more productive and helpful. It’s not easy though and takes a bit of practice but it’s well worth the effort. Typical reactions can be:
Responding, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect but has to be learnt first. Typical responses can be:
Interested to know how to respond?
Simple steps, it’s free and the benefits are huge. Try it and see for yourself.
The jury is still out on To Do Lists. They do work for some people. We like them, however they do have a fundamental flaw. Many tasks on a To Do List don’t seem to get done. The non essential tasks are often pushed further down the list and never achieved. Strike a chord? So what should you do? Start with deleting your To Do List and instead schedule your tasks.
If you allocate time for these tasks this will allow you to be far more productive than having a never ending long list of ’things to do’. There are many scheduling apps out there that help you with this, such as Todoist or you can simply use your icalendar to set realistic times for each task.
Here are five good reasons to start scheduling now:
If you can stick to it you will see that allocating time for tasks rather than having a long To Do List really does work. These small things can make all the difference. Try it and see.
If you are doing this, then great, hats off to you, as it is a great skill to have. If however, you would like to know a little more about why you should listen twice as much as you speak, read on….
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.
Epictetus the Greek Sage and Stoic philosopher
Speaking and listening in a balanced way are so important in our world. The noise of useless words that many of us are throwing away in an attempt to get a grip on someone else’s attention, creates a thick fog that makes it really difficult to actually understand each other. Ironically, the more we talk, the less we’re able to communicate.
Read on about the benefits of speaking less and listening more and improve the way you communicate with the world.
Five benefits of listening more:
If you are finding yourself talking more than you are listening, take Epictetus’ advice and do less talking and listen twice as much. It may very well be the best bit of advice you have received in quite some time.
• 28% of each working day spent on distractions
• 27% of office workers feeling disorganised
• 13 hours on average per week checking emails
So how can we improve our productivity levels in this difficult environment and be able leave work at the end of the day and utter the immortal words’, ‘well, that was a highly productive day, got loads done’. Here’s how…
Schedule email breaks - yes they are important but in your own time. Don’t feel the need to check your emails first thing or if that is too difficult set times for checking your emails in one go. Resist the temptation to check each and every email as it lands in your mailbox. Difficult yes, good for productivity levels most definitely.
Only schedule meetings that really matter – according to Atlassian, the average office worker spends over 31 hours each month in unproductive meetings. Yes of course there are important necessary meetings but if you are calling a meeting then double check that an email to the attendees would not work just as well, if not better. Everyone will be grateful. Just think about how useful 31 extra hours in a month could be.
Create a ‘Top 3’ list – write down the top three tasks you must accomplish that day. Don’t stop until all three initiatives have been completed. Surprisingly you will feel so much better having achieved 3 ‘big things’ and you won’t worry so much about the small tasks still to do. Magic, no. Clever, yes.
Take a break – ideally get active. Studies show that even if you take a 20 minute stretch of the legs that’s sufficient to release those all important mood lifting endorphins. So get out there and breath in the fresh air. It will help…
Achieve a healthy work life balance - yes we know, easy to say and hard to do but it is a proven fact that if you actively engage in a hobby or pastime outside of work it will be beneficial to your productivity levels at work. How so? It is to do with happiness, happy employees are the best employees.
Thank you for checking out this blog.