Friday 23 December 2016

Time management tips for getting you through the festive period

There’s no denying it, Christmas is a busy time of year. There are always people to see and things to do, above and beyond our usual daily routine – how do we manage to fit it all in and get our work done too?

As much as we may like to be spontaneous and flexible the rest of the year, the festive season is best enjoyed when properly organised! So we’ve developed some time management tips to help guide you – stress free – through this Christmas period.

Write it all down

Not just the big stuff either, now is the time to be specific. Include your work, recreational and social events all on the one list. One of the biggest stressors around this time of the year is feeling as if you’re pulled in every direction. By making a list of everything you need to get done over the festive season, it will help you to feel in control and avoid the nagging doubt that you have overlooked something – or indeed someone!

Make some me-time

At Christmas we tend to put other people first and forget about what we need. That’s the wrong way to do it. You should always looks after yourself first so that you are sharing your very best self with your colleagues, friends and family. We would even go as far as to suggest you add yourself to your to-do list (see point above), just so you don’t forget to focus on who’s important.

Stick to a schedule

Setting a schedule may not be exciting, but it is necessary to ensure that you make time for everything you want – and need – to do. Take each item off your to-do list and transfer it across to your calendar, along with an estimate of how long you think it will take you. Make sure that you are realistic about your time commitments and don’t forget to schedule in the daily events too, like meal times. Rather than see the schedule as something that binds you, regard it as a tool that gives you the freedom to accept festive opportunities as they arise.

Be creative

Christmas is a special time, a magical time, so feel free to be creative with your schedule and use it to remind you of the spirit of Christmas. Instead of writing ‘gift shopping for mum’ change it to ‘looking for the perfect gift to remind mum just how special she is to us’; rather than ‘team Christmas lunch’ think of it as an ‘opportunity to learn more about my colleagues and what makes them tick’. It may sound like a silly idea initially, but when we’re harried it really helps to remind ourselves why we’re busy and why certain activities are important to us.

Be present

As well as making sure that things don’t fall through the cracks, schedules are also a great way of helping us appreciate and be present during the festive season. By scheduling something into our calendar, we are giving ourselves permission to spend the time doing things that are important to us, so savour the time you have allocated to the task in hand and remember to enjoy yourself.

Value time

Time management is all about prioritising and you can’t do that effectively if you don’t put a value on time. Knowing what time is worth – both yours and other people’s - can help you decide whether you can do something yourself, or delegate / outsource. Let’s give an example: the house needs its annual deep clean but it will mean taking a day’s leave; you know that a cleaner can be brought in for £2 less per hour than you earn, therefore bringing in a cleaner to help with the house makes financial sense. Plus, if you schedule in the cleaner to come when you know you’ve got to be at work – office lunch, important meeting etc – this means you’ve effectively freed up your time to do something else.

Prepare to prioritise

Go through your schedule and give each entry a grading – 1, 2 or 3. Make a distinction between your obligations (i.e. things that are non-negotiable and can’t be moved – this could be something like a school play); the things that mean a lot to you and you’d be really happy if you could manage it (like Christmas drinks with your work colleagues); and those events or activities that you would make time for if possible, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you couldn’t manage it (shopping for a secret santa gift).

If you find prioritising difficult, ask yourself:

  • What will happen if I don’t do this?
  • Is there anyone else who can do this instead of me?
  • How will I feel when this task/event has been done? 

Prioritising your Christmas to-do list is slightly different to any other time of the year in that it is about balancing your work and family obligations alongside the social events that give you real joy and enjoyment, so make sure that your schedule reflects this.

Finally, don’t be afraid to say no. There will, no doubt, be additional pulls on your time but before you agree, ask yourself these things:

  • Do you really have the time or energy to do that extra task? 
  • Will it eat into your personal / family time? 
  • Does it involve doing something you enjoy? 

Remember to try and stick to your schedule, enjoy the festivities and make this Christmas one to remember – for all the right reasons!

Wednesday 7 December 2016

The life and soul of the party! Successful socialising with work colleagues

When it comes to relationships, friendships with work colleagues are unique. They’re often the people that we spend most of our time with, yet the people we know least about. Building social relationships with people we work with takes time.

At work there are deadlines, objectives and routines. When out with friends we are ‘off the clock’, relaxed and comfortable. Socialising with work colleagues lies somewhere in between. This makes it hard to build up meaningful relationships, especially when you’ve just started a new job or changed roles.

Successful team work comes through having good relationships with our colleagues, so any time we spend socialising with co-workers outside of work has got to be good for business. At this time of year, there will usually be lots of opportunity to meet colleagues outside of your usual working day so we’ve come up with some tips to help you develop enjoyable, productive relationships with your work colleagues.

Show up

The right mindset can provide much-needed balance, so although office social gatherings might be daunting, think of them as an important part of how your team operates and worthy of your time. They’re part and parcel of your job, so make a deal with yourself to be there and make the most of the opportunity from a work perspective. Plan ahead, as you would a work meeting. Find out who else will be there, what people will be wearing and how long you will be expected to stay. Uncertainty causes unease, so knowing all of this information up front will help you approach the event with a positive mindset.

Look around – and listen

If it helps, give yourself a work related task to do while at the event. Take on the role as mentor, looking out for colleagues who are alone and introducing them to others. If there is a colleague you’re not seeing eye to eye with at work, go out of your way to hold out an olive branch and build bridges. Social settings are a great environment to practise forgiveness. Take the time to really listen to your colleagues and team members – it’s OK to talk about work stuff, indeed it’s a good way to unwind or debrief after a stressful day, but be prepared to jump in with more social topics to ease the mood when you can. Make mental notes of any common ground you uncover during your conversations, they’ll help you build stronger relationships once you’re all back at work.

Be a man (or woman) with a plan

Treat any social gathering as you would any other work event. Identify what you want to achieve and outline a game plan beforehand. If you are target driven, set yourself some simple goals – i.e. the number of people you’ll speak to; the amount of time you’re willing to spend there before moving on; seeking out people from departments that you have little opportunity to mix with before now, etc. Take the opportunity to speak to your manager and other superiors in an informal setting and find out more about what makes them tick outside of work, this will help you once you’re back in the office. It may also help to have an exit plan ready and inform your colleagues beforehand so it doesn’t look odd if you decide to leave early. Remember, the purpose of the gathering is to ultimately build better working relationships.

Don’t fear silence – be prepared instead

Preparation is key. As with any social occasion, there is a likelihood that conversation will dry up as topics come to a natural conclusion. If you find socialising difficult and small talk doesn’t happen naturally for you, don’t be afraid to pre-plan some safe topics of conversation that you can turn to during the event. There’s a great article about the Imposter Syndrome  that talks about the power of perspective. It’s about realising and appreciating that everyone else in the room is in the same boat. This levels the playing field and makes it much easier for us to play an active role in networking opportunities.

Relax and try to go with the flow

If you approach the event with an open mind and positive outlook, you’ll find that what you once feared can actually become an enriching experience that adds real value to the relationships you have with your work colleagues. Visualise yourself at the event – talking to everyone, holding conversations together and actively participating in what’s going on. Picture yourself laughing, smiling, enjoying the interaction. Accept that this is part of what is expected of you in your role.

Remember, ‘tis the season to be jolly; a time when expectations (and opportunities) for out of work socialising are higher than any other time in the year. With a bit of forward planning and preparation you’ll be building better working relationships that will make 2017 a positive and productive year.