Wednesday, 18 July 2018

How to be more productive at work to restore your work/life balance

When it comes to your work do you think you’re doing a ‘good enough’ job, or are you always looking to improve what you do to get bigger and better results? Self-improvement is, in itself, a positive thing, however often we get caught in the trap where we feel that only the best will do and that we have to produce work that is ‘perfect’ in order to be valued.

The problem is that often when we strive for perfection, it can actually impact on our productivity – as well as on our ability to enjoy ‘down time’ with friends and family. This article from The Guardian is spot on when it says that we must stop striving for perfection and that working hard to get the work life balance right, not only benefits our own wellbeing but can also give our career a boost.

There are many tips to share that can maximise your productivity at work, such as: tackling tough tasks in the morning when we're at our most alert and scheduling regular admin time into our diaries to deal with the more trivial tasks, such as email management and returning calls; not to mention the benefits of taking regular breaks to keep energy levels high and your mind clear and focused. You can read more on improving your summer productivity here.

And if you're serious about redressing the work/life balance, we want you to remember the following:

Strive for great – but not perfection

We all want to do a good job, but there comes a point when our quest for perfection means we can never truly switch off and concentrate on other things. When tasks are completed we continue to ask ourselves: how can I make this better? Or: what have I missed? rather than applaud ourselves on a job well done. It can be hard to let things go at work, but by striving to do a great job, rather than a perfect one, we allow ourselves to move forward from tasks and free our mind to focus on other things – such as time spent with family and friends at home. The same can be said for home tasks too. By putting pressure on ourselves to do things better all the time we increase stress levels when what we need to do is give ourselves a break and learn that sometimes ‘good enough’ is perfectly acceptable.

Compartmentalise

In order to maintain a healthy work life balance, we have to learn how to carve out time for each – rather than allow the lines to be blurred. We need to focus on them one by one to give each our full attention. Failing to do so means that we're never fully present and do not give our best self. This means it’s much harder to progress, as we become preoccupied and overwhelmed. So when you’re at home, switch off your work phone, if only for an hour. The world isn’t going to end if we go offline for an hour or two. And make a deal with your family and friends that it’s emergency calls only during core work hours.


When it comes to work life balance, there are not many people who feel that the balance is positively tipped towards their home and family life, rather than their work! Yet, having a fulfilling family life serves to benefit the time you spend at work so it makes sense to find the time for family and friends when you can. The saying goes that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy – don’t be Jack – do what you need to do to get the balance right.



Wednesday, 4 July 2018

How to organise your working week over the school holidays


The summer holidays will soon be upon us. The kids are excited. The parents perhaps less so as the annual quandary around how to juggle work and family commitments and how to keep your young ones entertained for what can seem like endless weeks, again rears its head.

For working parents and carers of school age children, it can be hard to come up with a plan that will enable you to spend quality time with your children and still deliver at work.

The rise in flexible working practices across the UK means that employers are more open to changes in working patterns over the holiday period, so you may find it helpful to discuss some of the options with your manager.

  • Shortening your working week – the idea of working two or three days a week over the summer holidays is a good compromise for childcare and business continuity
  • Working from a home base – if you’re not tied to your office, a spell of home working might enable you to keep an eye on the children while still providing the cover needed at work
  • Splitting your holidays – we know it’s nice to have some family time, but sometimes parents need to consider splitting their holidays to cover the long holiday period. Having two separate weeks, rather than a two-week stretch off work can make the return to work easier too.

For self-employed parents, the holidays bring different challenges. While you're technically free to watch over your children, there is also a need to look after clients and generate new leads. Making smart choices around how to manage your time can help you navigate the summer break without it impacting on your business or your children. We suggest the following:

Prioritise urgent work

It sounds simple but during the holidays we really need to be clear about what needs to be done now and what can wait until the holidays are over.

Extend deadlines where possible

Try and renegotiate deadlines with your clients to make sure your workload remains manageable over the holiday period.

Focus on growth

When you’ve got limited time to work, it’s important not to spend time on tasks that will not support your business growth or add value to what you’re doing.


Our biggest tip for organising your time over the summer holidays is to plan your family time in the same way as you would your work priorities. Get a wall planner. Share it with your children so that you are all clear about what’s happening when. This helps to set realistic expectations and enables your children to take some responsibility for their own free time.

Remember, when it comes to the school holidays:

  • Share the burden and call in favours – you're not the only parent trying to get organised this summer. Speak to fellow parents and carers and see if you can share the care between you on certain days. 
  • It’s ok for children to be bored – we live in a society where we feel the need to keep our children occupied and stimulated 24/7. Think back to your own childhood when playing out and meeting friends in the park was the norm. Don’t be afraid to let your children have some real ‘downtime’ during the holiday – it encourages creative thinking and coping skills.

For more tips, read our previous blogs on encouraging children to be more active and how to get the most out of your summer break. Happy holidays…

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

How to build productive work relationships with colleagues

In our previous blog post we talked about how to reach out to our male colleagues to offer additional support when they need it. Today, we wanted to look more generally at how to build productive working relationships with all people within our team or work group.

We spend most of our waking lives at work, so while we’re there it’s best to make the most of the time we spend with our colleagues. This means making the effort to build more productive connections with them. As with all relationships, you get out what you put in and – however different our personalities may be within work teams – taking the time to get to know your colleagues better will always pay dividends, be it through better work performance or a more enjoyable work environment.

These top tips should help you connect with your colleagues:

Start the day as you mean to go on

We know how tempting it is just to get to your desk, plug in and get started – especially if you’re not a morning person! However, just five minutes every morning greeting your work colleagues is all it takes to start the day off on a positive footing. Time well spent, we say!

Be inquisitive, be interested

The strongest relationships are built on shared interests. By going that extra mile to find out what makes your co-workers tick, inside and outside of work, you can identify connections – such as a shared joy of cooking or an interest in a sports club – that will then strengthen, your working relationships. Don’t be afraid to show your personal side and ask questions of your colleagues – you’ll be surprised what you will find out and the positive impact this can have on your working relationships.

All work, some play!

Used to eating lunch alone? Stop. That will do nothing to benefit your work relationships! Make the effort to connect with your colleagues in a more social setting instead. Go to the canteen, take a lunchtime stroll or, if lunchtimes are difficult, agree to grab a drink after work. It doesn’t have to be every day, but spending a little down-time with colleagues regularly will really help with team bonding, which is especially valuable if you have new team members to welcome or are about to kick off a new project.

Show some support

We all have a role to play in the wellbeing of our colleagues. As well as managing our own workload, it pays to keep an eye on colleagues and offer support if they need it. We don’t mean taking their work off them – but simple gestures of goodwill, like grabbing the lunch order or keeping their coffee cups full can strengthen team bonds. It also means that you’re more likely to get the support you need when you need it, as a result.


Effective teams take work at relationships. They don’t grow over night, so be patient. Some of the strongest, life-long relationships started off at work, so get to know your team mates both as colleagues and as individuals, and you’ll soon see positive results.

For more tips on how to develop better working relationships, why not read this blog post from Psychology Today. 

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

How to reach out to male colleagues to check they’re ok

It’s Men’s Health week 11-17 June. The focus of this year’s campaign is male diabetes, with one man in ten being diagnosed with the disease in the UK. You can find out more about the campaign and the movement here: https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/mhw. On the website you’ll find lots of resources and information about the disease and how to get support.

What this year’s campaign highlighted to us was how difficult it can be for men to reach out and get the care they need in the workplace – not just for physical conditions but for mental wellbeing issues too.

We all have a role to play in making sure that our colleagues are supported in the workplace. It can be something as simple as asking people how their day is going or offering a friendly word during a busy work period. Engaging with male colleagues can often be more challenging, given that many men tend towards keeping their emotions under wraps.

Often, for men, there is usually no outward response to stress triggers and they internalise frustration, so it’s even more important to make sure male colleagues have the support they need and are able to speak to colleagues if they need to.

Men are more likely to find it hard to talk about things that are bothering them. While women are more used to sharing, men may need more encouragement to talk. So, we’ve pulled together a few tips to help.

You talk first

The best way to build connections with work colleagues and encourage dialogue is by opening up to the other person first. If you show your own vulnerabilities or share your own concerns, colleagues will feel more comfortable telling you what’s on their mind. When you are talking you can usually get an idea of how likely someone is to open up to you by the way they act when you are speaking. If he’s giving you his full attention—not looking at his watch or phone – this shows a genuine interest in what you have to say, which marks the start of a meaningful dialogue.

Body language speaks volumes

When a male colleague opens up to another, he will see this as showing vulnerability which men are conditioned not to do from birth. If you're talking to a male colleague and notice that they're twiddling their thumbs, running fingers through their hair, or subconsciously tapping their desk, this may indicate that they're preparing to show you their vulnerable side. This could take some time, so be patient and be there, ready to listen.

Be direct

When it comes to reaching out to a male colleague often the best policy is to be direct and ask them outright if everything is OK. Men, more so than women, in the workplace respond best to open and honest conversations, rather than open-ended invitations to connect. If you are worried or concerned about a male colleague – especially after you have already opened the lines of communication as outlined in our first two points – the best way to find out how you can help support them better, is to simply ask them.


The differences between male and female communication styles in the workplace is well documented. Problems only arise – according to this article in Psychology Today when we try and control how other people communicate, rather than adapt our own way of connecting to suit their needs.

Despite the different ways we have of articulating ourselves, by going the extra mile to understand how our male colleagues prefer to communicate, we can build a more supportive work environment for everyone.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

How to stop absorbing the emotions of those around you

It’s one thing to act as an empath in the workplace - having an appreciation of how other people in your team feel is a rare gift that can help you motivate and get the best out of people - but when you work in a team environment it can be hard not to be impacted by the moods and emotions of your colleagues and team mates from time to time.

When the emotions are positive – happiness, excitement, pride – it’s easy to get carried along with the emotion and often this is a great motivator which drives us to be more productive. However, if your colleagues are in a negative or fragile emotional state, it can have a detrimental effect on your own work and the performance of the rest of the team.

This article from Psychcentral outlines six ways for you to ensure that you acknowledge, rather than absorb, the feelings and emotions of those around you. It includes recognising and labelling what you are feeling so that you can make rational rather than emotional decisions and consciously passing back the feelings to your colleague, leaving you emotionally free to focus on your own goals.

If you do find yourself getting wrapped up in the emotions of those around you, we want you to ask yourself the following questions:

Is this feeling mine?

Once you have acknowledged the emotion you are dealing with, you need to ask yourself, honestly, whether you have a reason to own it as your own. If the fear, anger, anxiety is yours, you can then get to the bottom of what is causing it – only when you have established why you are feeling that way can you take the steps necessary to get through it. Accept ownership, then deal with the cause.

Does distance help?

Often, absorbed feelings lessen once you have gained some physical distance from the suspected source. When you start to feel overcome with emotion, but are not sure why, move yourself into another office or take a short walk around the block. Does the feeling remain? If yes, you can accept the feeling as your own and deal with it. If distance brings you some relief, chances are the feeling belongs to someone else and it’s just rubbing off on you.

Am I still centred?

Stress and negative emotions can often be felt in your stomach, rather than your head. When you feel the stress and negativity starts to build, we want you to take a few moments to concentrate on your breathing. Exhale your stress and inhale only calm. This will quickly make you feel better and able to identify your true feelings.

Can I find a positive?

If you find yourself getting bogged down with a colleague’s emotional state, seek out for positive influence from other people around you. Call a friend or family member who is known for their positivity and use their emotions to help you find the positivity you need. Hope, faith and optimism are contagious – use it to help prevent absorption of the negative feelings of your team mates.


In a close knit team it can be hard not to take the knocks felt by those around us, but we hope that by acknowledging and recognising when this happens, you can easily get your emotions back on track and remain empathic towards your colleagues, but not be led by what they are feeling.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

How to cope with negative feedback

Let’s face it, none of us likes dealing with bad news – giving it, or receiving it. But when we’re in a work situation, negative feedback from customers and colleagues is pretty much inevitable. Knowing how to cope with adverse comments when we’re faced with them, helps ensure we use the feedback as a catalyst for positive change, rather than allowing it to overshadow our work, dampen our spirit and dent our confidence and self-belief.

The first hurdle to overcome is how to manage the occasion when the negative feedback is delivered to you. Chances are the feedback will come out of the blue when you’re least expecting it, but when it does happen, we want you to try and remember to do these three things:

Stop for a second

Our natural instinct when someone says something negative is to defend ourselves and to come back fighting! So much so that we often don’t actually take in what people are saying. Our first piece of advice is to take a moment to process what you've been told. This helps your response to be measured rather than emotional, which will lead to a better outcome, solution or action plan.

Reverse the lens

Whenever anyone shares negative feedback try to take a look at what’s been said from the other person’s point of view. What is it that has made sharing the feedback necessary? Be honest with yourself – could there be some basis in what they're saying? If you choose to ignore what is said, then you are cutting off the opportunity to find out what the basis for the feedback is, and that means there’s a likelihood that you may be missing out on an opportunity for self-improvement and growth.

Respond with kindness

Regardless of the news you’ve been given, thank the person for taking the time to share their feedback with you; summarise what they've said to you, so they know that you've heard their concerns; then reassure them that you'll consider the points raised. Letting someone know that you’ve listened to their views goes a long way to resolving whatever issues you’re facing – and it will definitely buy you some time to think about the feedback and what you’re going to do about it.


Once you’ve done all this, it’s time to think about how to actually deal with the feedback you’ve been given. The first thing to remember is that, in the vast majority of cases, people only give feedback because they care and want to see an improvement in the situation. This is a good basis to work from. By recognising this fact, we can start to reframe our thinking and see negative feedback as a positive opportunity for growth.

This blog post by Psychology Today contains some useful strategies for dealing with bad news, such as contextualising the situation and using it to effect transformative change. It’s especially important for you to take care of yourself during times of emotional upset. Eat well, avoid alcohol and get some exercise. Looking after your physical and mental health will help you navigate through your emotions to reach a positive conclusion to the feedback received.

And remember, you are not defined by this feedback. It is just one person’s view of a particular issue or situation. At the end of the day it is up to you to decide whether – on reflection and after examining the evidence – you choose to agree with them, or not.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

How to boost productivity within your team

Businesses deliver better results when people work together as a team. Anything that upsets motivation or productivity can have a massive impact on organisational performance and so, as managers, it’s important to make sure that each member of your team is positive and productive.

Often, the constant pressure to focus on results and the bottom line can mean that it’s easy to forget about the people behind delivering these results, so we’ve developed a few simple ways of keeping your team motivated so that they can give their best at work.

To do, or done?

As a manager chances are you have a ‘to do’ list as long as your arm. It’s easy to concentrate on what needs to be done, when in reality employees really need to focus on what they’ve done well, in order to keep on delivering. Giving – and receiving – recognition and praise for work already completed provides a great confidence boost which motivates us to go above and beyond what is expected of us. So, if you feel your team’s motivation is waning, spend some time to focus on their achievements, rather than the tasks that remain ahead.

Work matters

Most people like to feel as though they're working towards a greater good, it’s a great motivation boost to know that your actions are having a positive impact on society and this leads to greater productivity – you only have to look at big businesses like Unilever or P&G to see how they’re linking brands to a wider community benefit. If your business or organisation doesn’t have a community benefit that's easily identifiable, consider creating a volunteering or fundraising initiative for your team to get involved in and see how their positivity translates into greater productivity in their day to day work.

Flexibility pays

In today’s digital age it’s easier than ever to provide more flexibility to your team – and often the more flexible working environments are, the more productive the employees - as it enables everyone to have a better work/life balance. Advances in technology mean that employees can access the files and tools they need from anywhere, so if you're looking to boost productivity, look for ways to offer your team more flexibility in how they work. You can read our previous blog post on flexible working for ideas and inspiration: https://firstpsychologyassistance.blogspot.co.uk/2018/03/flexible-working-making-it-work.html


Spending some extra time looking for ways to better support your team, might mean that you need to establish some working practices that maximise your own productivity – besides, leading by example is often the most effective way of coaching others.

This blog post - https://firstpsychologyassistance.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/how-to-motivate-yourself-and-others.html - covers the basics of how to keep yourself motivated. Some simple tips that you can start straight away include:

  • Set blocks of time aside to tackle basic admin tasks – or emails - rather than spreading them through the day/week.
  • Set aside certain periods (a day,  an afternoon a week, etc) for meetings, leaving the rest of the week clear to get on with tasks.
  • Give yourself ten minutes each morning to steam through small tasks that would otherwise sit on your to-do list for days or more.


Remember, positivity and productivity go hand in hand, so lead with the enthusiasm and energy that allows your team to shine.