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.