Friday, 24 October 2014

Friday Fun

It's Friday and the weekend is almost upon, so here's a little Friday Fun for you...

Are you singing now?  Did you re-read it using your best Elton John and Kiki Dee voices?......OK just me then...moving swiftly on.....

This reminded me of an article I read recently in the newspaper about questions put to couples who were 100 years old asking for their healthy relationships tips.  

Holiday Retirement  conducted a study of 68 centenarians asking them to name the most important factor for a successful marriage and nearly a third stated the importance of making a stronger effort to communicate.

The other tips were...

22% - say "I love you" more often
22% - spend more time together
6% - spend less time together
3% - be more kind

It may be a step too far to say "I love you" to your work colleagues and probably highly inappropriate to say it to your boss....but we can probably think of times when better communication would have got better results whether we are on the giving or receiving side of the communication.  I know I can certainly think of a few times.  

Unfortunately we have very little say in how others communicate to us, however we can certainly try to ensure our outward communication is as good as possible and just maybe, our good practice might rub off on others.  A kind of good communication chain reaction!

So thought for the day; maybe we could try to ask ourselves three things before speaking...

Is it helpful? 
Is it kind? 
Does it need saying?

Have a good weekend and if a full English breakfast is your weekend treat, enjoy your bacon and eggs!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Time Boxing Unwrapped

Time Boxing is really just about time management. However if you're anything like me and hate formal  time management tools but you want help with how to focus on the important things, then maybe this approach will work for you.

Time boxing is worth a try if you are

A Procrastinator  - not being able to start  until everything else is done and  you can give the task your full attention. I can identify strongly with this, tell tale signs will be me tidying my desk and cleaning surfaces, or basically anything else I can think of that puts off the task a bit longer.

Reluctant or really not that interested in the task. If this is the case asking yourself if you still need to do this or could it it be delegated to some-one else. If the answer is "yes I do need to do this and it is my responsibility", then time boxing is going to be really useful.

A Perfectionist- you find it difficult to know when to stop and keep amending and trying to perfect your work....the consequence of this may be that everything is open ended and  tasks are rarely completed. Sometimes we may feel under confident that our work will be accepted and  valued. This may also mean  that we are reluctant to be open to criticism even if it is constructive. 

Time Boxing Unwrapped
Chunk up the task into definite stages ...but be clear what each stage is and realistic about what you want to achieve in the allotted time.

Step 1 Clear your desk of everything you will not need for the task, divert calls block the time out in you diary. Put up a do not disturb sign.

Step 2 Set your timer, it is important to know when time is up as that's it...... If it is  a task that has to be completed to a deadline then Time Boxing will not work if you schedule up to the wire . Remember you may need more than one session to complete.  There is no guarantee the task will be finished but the important thing is to get the task started and schedule another time block later if it needs more time. Obviously the more complex the task the longer it will generally take. It's beneficial to concentrate for shorter periods of time, with practice you will find your optimum concentration time. Personally I like to work in 40 min slots for most day to day tasks. Practice has shown me how long I can realistically spend on any task before I become unproductive.

Step 3 When the alarm rings finish there and stop working. I always think of The Great British Bake Off at this point .........put that piping bag down and move away from your buns! Time is up.  Even if the task isn't fully completed chances are you would have at least made progress and have a  good return on your investment in  time.  This strategy also works when you have  to give progress reports to your line manager and shows exactly how you are spending your time.

Did I Time Box this blog? 
Yes .......30 minutes to mind map 40 minutes to write. Job done! 

Friday, 17 October 2014

It's nearly the weekend!

I found this recently and thought I'd share it as it made me chuckle and sometimes a giggle is exactly what we need isn't it?
So why do many scientists, doctors and psychologists believe in the medicinal powers of a proper good belly laugh?

Well here are a few suggestions:
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins which are also know as our body's natural "feel good chemical".  This can give us an overall feeling of well-being.
  • Laughter decreases our stress hormones and increases our immune cells.
  • Laughter relieves stress and physical tension in our muscles helping us to feel more relaxed. 
Now I don't know if this picture produced a proper good belly laugh in you enough for you to get the benefits above......but hopefully it put a smile on your face, gave you something to share with colleagues and friends and was a little pre-weekend light relief.

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Mind Mapping Unmasked

It's interesting that Richard Branson states that one of his top ten tips for success is making lists which Lisa commented on in her post  Lists are the Tools of the Successful,  but for me making a mind map is a crucial first stage of the process for without it, a list will be, well just a set of things to do in linear form.
If you are trying to make sense of thoughts that whir  around your head when you embark on a new project, just giving yourself the freedom of putting your thoughts down on paper without worrying where they fit, fuels the creative process.

Here's my top 6 tips for getting started...

Step 1 Relax
If you can, take yourself away from the PC and  find a spot where you can spread out without someone looking over your shoulder. Set the scene, put some inspiring music on and have a stretch. 

Step 2 Time Box this activity
Which basically means give yourself a defined amount of time to complete it.  Set your alarm and go for it.  Don't worry I'll tell you more Time Boxing soon.

Step 3 Prepare your Toolkit
Experience has shown me that however big the paper is, it will be filled, so probably flip chart size is the max you will need. Now's also the time to get your coloured pens out for adding definition and emphasis. Allow yourself to draw even if you think you can't ......remember no-one's looking over your shoulder.

Step 4 Be specific
Start in the middle and write down specifically what you want to mind map. Draw 4 arrows radiating out ready for your thoughts.

Step 5  Get those thoughts down
It works like magic ...once you have 3 or 4 thoughts down the next ones will come thick and fast. You will see instantly where they belong  then link them with an arrow and /or a different pen colour. Be creative doesn't matter how curved  your arrows are as long as YOU can see which thoughts link together.  It doesn't matter how neat it looks.  

Step 6 Step Away
Remember you are time boxing this activity. After the allotted time, have a cuppa, you can highlight anything that needs actioning very quickly and then refer back to Lisa's bit for more on the benefits of list making.

I forgot to mention, you can get some nifty software packages to do the same if you just like to sit at your PC (see link below) ...................but really where's the fun in that?

Let me know how you get on.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Midweek Motivation - 8th October 2014

C is for Resilience

Resilience is a term that is batted around in businesses from building a resilient workforce to creating resilient business cases, from being resilient in a changing market to developing a business resilience strategy.  To a business, this could mean a combination of business continuity strategies, risk and crisis management and attempts at future proofing their business.
But what does resilience actually mean to us?

Resilience; the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.  (Oxford English Dictionary)

In the late 1970s Clinical Psychologist, Dr Susan Kobasa PhD conducted a study of executives at the Bell Telephone Company in the USA.  The company was going through a major restructuring and these executives were under considerable pressure.  The study concluded that there were 3 traits (The 3Cs) that protected some of these executives from developing serious stress related health problems. 

1. Challenge
Challenge is about how we perceive the things that happen to us.  So rather than dwelling on why something is changing, if we can accept that change is a normal part of life then it becomes less scary. 

Many of us like to have our set ways of doing things, our routines and orders as it keeps us on track and we feel safe and secure.  I certainly have one foot securely in that camp.  However we've all heard the saying "variety is the spice of life" so may be a step to becoming more resilient would be to adopt an openness to explore new experiences and to view them as a challenge rather than a problem.  To me, a problem feels negative, definite and certainly hard to overcome, whereas a challenge provokes a more "OK let's give it a go" type of attitude and with a bit of planning and forward thinking this could actually be possible.  For me, I think it's a bit like a personal dare and that's when my competitive side kicks it...bring it on!

2. Control
Control is about finding ways we can have influence over a situation rather than being a passenger feeling powerless and helpless.  Unfortunately it's likely to be nigh on impossible to remove all stresses however if we can think, act and feel in charge then maybe we can make some headway and avoid falling into the victim trap.

Personally, I use a little mantra to help me get my head around the control trait which I thought I'd share...

Change what you can.  Accept what you can't change.  Don't blame others.

And it's that third one that I still find the most tricky!!

3. Commitment
Commitment is about finding our purpose in life whether that be work, family, community, social or faith or a combination of them all.  It's believing in what we are doing, being fully involved and curious.  

Have you ever noticed that when we are doing something we are 100% committed to, then we can be a like a dog with a bone, nothing will waver our motivation and we just keep going and going until we find the solution.  Although it's hard work it doesn't feel like a chore because we really and truly believe in what we're doing.  We're prepared to put in more effort for those things.  So let's start by being curious and asking ourself what is our purpose?

There's quite a lot to take in here and unless you're one of those fortunate people who find these 3 hardiness traits come quite easily, it's going to take a bit of practice. 

It's not to say that we are either born with these traits or we aren't.  We can learn and develop them and although it doesn't mean that we won't experience negative thoughts and emotions, we can learn to bounce back quicker.

If I can offer a tip as I'm not one of those fortunate ones, I have to consciously work at it, personally I find a really good starting point when faced with a period of change or adversity, is to try and change your thinking from...

 "If only such and such could happen or if only they'd done such and such...."
"OK, given that I'm in this situation, what can I do?  
What are my options?  What is my plan?"  

For me it changes the focus from viewing the situation as something that I can have control over and can solve rather than something that is a threat to me personally.

Try it and please let us know what works for you.

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