Monday, 28 September 2015

Guilt free "me time" - and why you need it right now

The picture above is of the inside cover of a book I borrowed from the library last week.  On Mondays after school and in amongst my daughters' ballet classes, tap classes and Brownies, the three of us fit in a half hour visit to the library. Although this library visit is mostly focused around the children's section, I do sometimes manage to grab a book or two from the display shelves right by the entrance door whilst following my two speeding book worms.

The inside cover of this particular book from the Fast Back section came with it's own set of instructions.  The first 4 instructions are explaining the rules of borrowing a Fast Back book, basically you have one week and then your time is up.  But the last instruction made me stop and smile...

"All those jobs you hate doing should be left whilst you enjoy the book!"

Firstly, as I've said many a time before, I love a list so this appealed to me.  Secondly, and most importantly, this gave me permission to leave those grotty jobs I didn't really want to do.  By not doing these jobs I was simply following the instructions in the book, in fact I'd go as far as saying, that these instructions are the agreement of borrowing the book; the contract I was signing up to by scanning my library card and bringing this book home.  

So this library book not only looked like it would be a good read but it also came with an anti dusting permission slip as dusting is one of the grotty jobs I don't like doing...and so I didn't do it.  Simple as that!  The book instructions said I shouldn't and so being a good girl, I didn't!

A friend was round later that week and before I could stop myself I declared during our chat,  "Oh just look at the dust on top of the piano!  No don't look!"  Too late!  Thankfully she is a very good friend and certainly not one to think any less of me for having a dusty piano top.

So in addition to the addictive story and the anti dusting clause, this book gave me permission to take time for myself and to sit and read my book when normally I would have been filling my time with jobs, tasks and errands.

Yes some jobs didn't get done but the important ones still did.  Nobody suffered as a result of me reading more, in fact the spiders positively loved it building their webs wherever they liked undisturbed.  I love reading and always have a book on the go but this particular book was quite thick and therefore needed a concerted effort to get through it in a week.   So I made time in my week for reading this book knowing that I had a 7 day headline.  In fact this book made me make time like stopping for lunch and reading for 40 minutes when normally I wouldn't have stopped for that long.  I felt better, like I'd had a proper break, I was refreshed, revitalised with a new burst of energy ready to tackle my work again.

This article isn't about reading more (although I think that in itself is a great idea).  This is about making time for yourself to do something you enjoy.  Taking time out from the busyness; time to rest and relax and recharge your batteries.  Me time.

Would you feel guilty taking some "me time"?  Does "me time" sound selfish?  I admit to answering "yes" to both of these initially.  I thought about the jobs I should be doing, the emails I ought to answer and the un-ticked tasks on my to do list.   But why should I feel guilty?  If making some time to read a book I was hooked on gave me a break and stopped me becoming a frazzled, stressed out, exhausted, grumpy person who upset people, made poor decisions because I was too tired to think clearly, snapped at those around me and became ineffective and inefficient....then surely that has to be a good thing.

Think of it this way, in air safety announcements you are always instructed to put your oxygen mask on before helping others.  You must take care of your basic needs before helping others.  Skipping this and neglecting our own well-being will catch up with us, maybe not immediately but it will.  Looking after ourselves means we can then be more help to others and there's nothing selfish about that.

As a parent, do you insist your children get enough sleep and rest?  Do you ensure they have fun activities such as playdates and after school clubs and activities, their version of "me time"?

So I'm calling on you to do the same for yourself and to make it official, I'm giving you your very own Fast Back permission sheet.  It's right below, you just need to print it off and fill it in.

Click for Your very own Fast Back style permission sheet.

I'd love to hear what you decide to do so please let me know in the comments.

And one last thing, if you're still not convinced have a read of this article Take care of others by taking care of yourself first from

Friday, 25 September 2015

WSWS Friday Download - Work Life Balance - 25th September 2015

Welcome to the very first Work Smart Work Savvy Friday Download where I aim to share some interesting reads from around the web on a related subject kicking off with Work Life Balance...

This week has been National Work Life Week in the UK, an initiative set up by with the aim of helping employers in, "facilitating the well-being and work-life balance of your employees, so that they are engaged, motivated and productive at work."

Work Life Balance is a subject I've written about before on this blog.  In this post I ask you Six Questions to See If You Need to Make Some Small Adjustments to Your Choices to Realign Your Work Life Balance...before you explode from trying

In his article in Psychologies Magazine, writer Oliver Burkeman shares tips on how to set boundaries between work and life.  Read more here.

Jeen Cho, co-founder of JC Law Group PC in San Fransisco, suggests rather than thinking about Work Life Balance try striving for a Balanced Life. Read more here.

Finaally Nicola Slawson in The Gaurdian asks, Is your work life going down the toilet?  Read more here.

So there you have it, the very first Work Smart Work Savvy Friday Download.  I'd love to here you thoughts on the articles above or your tips on how you manage your Work Life Balance.

Same time, same place, next week.


Monday, 21 September 2015

What are you grateful for today?

According to my diary, today is World Gratitude Day and although I'm aware of the concept of gratitude,  I have to confess to not being aware of an actual day dedicated to this world wide.  I do however like the idea and was keen to know more. Hence started my research and although I'm not doubting its existence, my research has made me question how known this event day is world wide.

It appears that there are two areas laying claim to its creation; the people of Hawaii in 1965 and the United Nations Meditation Group in 1977.  However, I'm not put off by the haziness of the origins of World Gratitude Day.  I still believe that making time in our lives to appreciate what we have can make us feel happier and more content and thus have a positive impact on our mental well-being.

Yesterday I discovered a box of Roses chocolates tucked in the plant pot, behind the fir tree next to our front door.  There was no note and no clues as to who put it there.  Even though I don't know who the chocolates are from, why we've been given them and actually whether they were meant for us and have not been left there by mistake, it made us smile, if in a somewhat puzzled way.  Assuming we are the intended recipients, it's a very lovely, selfless gesture from someone, and one I'm hugely appreciative of.

In our busy and hectic lives our diaries and calendars are packed, our activities are timetabled and our heads bursting with things to remember  but making time to find a little calm and focus on the amazing things we have in our everyday experiences and interactions can be very beneficial to our overall sense of well-being.

Sporadically I keep a gratitude diary.  Nothing fancy, I just jot down 3-5 things I'm grateful for about that day.  Sometimes I jot down quite big and substantial items but more of the time it's little things that could quite easily have gone unnoticed.   I say sporadically because although not part of my plan, sometimes good habits slip, however, I have noticed that I have a more positive outlook when I do.

I ask my daughter either at teatime or bedtime story time "what was the best bit about today?"  Normally this leads to tales of playground games, a sticker they were awarded by their teacher, something one of their friends said that made them laugh.  Not once have they been unable to answer.  Now I appreciate that they don't necessarily have the same stresses and pressures that come with adult life, and that some days I admit that it takes a little more thinking and brain power to come up with my 5, but there is always something.  A mental health practitioner who used to run a Stress At Work training course with me said he starts with "I'm alive and breathing and have a house over my head", on the basis that he then only had to think of two others.

Why not give it a go.  Try and keep a Gratitude Diary for a week, jot down things that make you smile, that you appreciate and that you're grateful for and see what a difference it can make to your outlook.

Here's mine so far for today....

1.  Seeing my youngest daughter going off on a school trip holding her friend's hand and looking so happy after a few tears of anxiousness. 

2. Getting my run done this morning before the heavy rain set in!

Friday, 18 September 2015

How meditation helps England's top rugby players in the Rugby World Cup

Photo taken from
The Rugby World Cup kicks off this evening with England taking on Fiji at Twickenham...will you be watching?  I'll be cheering on the home nation but unfortunately from my living room rather than at the stadium itself.

There has been plenty of talk by pundits, retired players and commentators about England's perceived lack of experience.  They have pointed out that many of the home nation players will have fewer caps than their opposite numbers in many of the other teams in the tournament.  However, England Coach, Stuart Lancaster has vowed to start with his strongest line up.  Playing at Twickenham to a vocal capacity crowd will certainly lift the team. 

Scrum half Ben Youngs highlighted the benefit of having a young team,

"We have a young group of guys who have no fear.  They're almost too young to have any fear."

Sam Burgess who has recently made the transfer from rugby league where he has been enjoying success with the South Sydney Rabbitohs will start on the bench this evening.  Burgess has admitted in the press that it's been a difficult switch transferring to a game he sees as being more mental and tactical than rugby league.

However Burgess has a secret weapon, or not so secret as he has been openly talking about how he uses meditation to find calm and boost confidence during games.

"Meditation became a valuable tool for me when I was playing rugby league in Australia and it’s a technique I’ll carry on using for the rest of my career.

I was quite sceptical when we first started meditating at South Sydney, but I began to connect with the people who were doing the sessions so I bought into it. It was all about opening up our minds and talking to each other a bit more, and also about clearing your own mind in terms of being calm and ready to perform.

We used techniques to bring ourselves back down to a calm level if we found ourselves getting frustrated or lost confidence during a game.

Since joining Bath, I’ve been having sessions with Don Macpherson, who works with F1 drivers and other sportsmen, and lives two minutes away from me. I find it really helpful. It helps me stay calm, keeps my blood pressure down and keeps my mind focused. It’s even helped me to go easier on refs when decisions go against me!

I truly believe that meditation was a big part of our success at Souths. Just before the biggest games of the year, the guys would be laughing and joking, but then everyone would switch on and be in the right mental state to play.

As I see it, the brain is a muscle and I’ve got to train it like I train other muscles. At Bath, it’s been helping me to visualise the game and accelerate my learning. You train your brain with little triggers so when you get into certain match situations, your mind subconsciously knows how to react. It is really useful for me during this transition phase."
Read more: 

Using meditation is by no means a new concept in sport.  Sportsmen and women have been using sports psychologists, mindfulness and meditation to give them the competitive edge, create a sense of mental wellbeing where they are able to perform at their best and deal with tricky and stressful situations which competition throws up.

But what is meditation?  Well probably one of the best people to answer this question is Meditation and mindfulness expert, Andy Puddicombe who has a brilliant knack of keeping it simple and straightforward.  He starts his TED Talk on meditation by asking,

"When was the last time you did absolutely nothing for 10 whole minutes? Not texting, talking or even thinking?" Andy Puddicombe
I'll leave you  to ponder that and watch Andy's TED Talk...

Friday, 11 September 2015

Will taking "4 Savvy Steps to Getting More Done" really make a difference to my life?

Will doing 4 Savvy Steps to Getting More Done really make a difference to my life?

Now isn't that just the million dollar question!

OK so let’s lay the cards on the table here, this course alone, and in fact any course for that matter, is not going to magically transform your life just through the act of enrolment.

Just like simply having a map doesn't get you from Bristol to Manchester and owning a book on baking doesn't make you Mary Berry. However, if you engage in the course, follow the advice, complete the activities, practice the techniques and are really determined to make changes for the better, then you have my guarantee that you’ll come out smiling.

There are no magic wands or frogs to kiss (well actually there is a section on kissing frogs but you’ll have to wait until Savvy Step 3 for that beauty).

What there is, however, is brilliant course content, insightful and experience based advice and tips backed up with carefully planned and thought out worksheets to guide you through the activities.

This course is all about you. It’s you learning more about yourself and how you work and then deciding which bits are worth keeping and which bits are definitely not. These “definitely nots” can then be swapped for some of the fabulous tried and tested tips, processes, advice and techniques which the course is jammed packed to the rafters with. In addition, by the end of the course you will have created your very own and completely unique one page Personal Power Plan to help keep you on track as you continue to get more done without working more hours.

More details and how to sign up for "4 Savvy Steps to Getting More Done Without Working More Hours" can be found here .


Monday, 7 September 2015

4 Lessons from Inside Out

Inside Out - Pixar

Have you seen the film Inside Out?  We (myself, my husband and two daughters aged 9 and 5) saw it over the summer holidays and it has cropped up into conversation many times since.  It is one of those great family films that can be enjoyed on several different levels but what's more, it's given us as a family another tool by which to talk about our emotions, thoughts and feelings.

If you haven't seen the film yet (I say yet as I highly recommend it), here's a quick synopsis without any plot spoilers so you're safe to read on...

Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it's no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. The emotions live in Headquarters, the control centre inside Riley's mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley's main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school. Written by Pixar

I discovered a couple of very interesting articles about the film which I thought might be of interest to you.  The first article (which you can find here) highlights 4 lessons we can take away from the film and is particularly useful for discussions and conversations with children...

1. Happiness is not just about joy
2. Don't try to force happiness
3. Sadness is vital to our well-being
4. Mindfully embrace - rather than suppress - tough emotions

The second article (which you can find here) highlights 5 things the film teachers us about emotions...

1. All our emotions exist for a purpose
2. To have emotions is to have a compass
3. Our realities and memories are filtered through our emotional lens
4. Having the language to talk about emotions is empowering
5. Feeling our emotions is an universal human experience

Thursday, 3 September 2015

8 Tips for Dealing with Change at Work

I don't know about your neck of the woods but in mine, yesterday was first day of term.  Both of my daughters were kitted out and ready with all necessary bits of uniform.  On the outside they had everything ready; new shoes, same uniform, hair neatly tied up but on the inside they were feeling very different.

My 9 year old going into Year 5 was raring to go, excited about spending lots of time with her friends , enthusiastic about her new teacher, familiar with the school environment and expectations and loving being in the second oldest year in the school.

It was a slightly different story for my 5 year old going into Year 1.  She was worried.  We talked it through, saying it's OK to feel like this, explaining that she won't be the only one and comforted and reassured her. 

The main difference here being their attitude to change and to doing new things.  To be fair there was more change going on for my youngest to deal with than her sister who's classmates have remained the same for the last two years.  Where as for my youngest, not only is the school still relatively new to her and her classmates but the class structure has changed since last year so although she's with plenty of her friends, there are some close friends who are in different year 1 classes.

Is it just 5 year olds who struggle with change?  I don't' think so at all.  Change, particular change that is imposed upon us can really throw us off kilter.

So here are my Top 8 Tips for Dealing with Change at Work...

1. Acknowledge that change happens.  It's inevitable and to be honest we'd probably get bored stiff if things didn't move on and change.  Try not to take it personal but rather look at the bigger picture.

2. Speak to someone you trust about your feelings.  It's best to avoid someone else who is struggling with the change and seek someone who will give you an honest view point on the situation.

3. Keep some things the same during a period of change.  It can just be little things like going to the same coffee shop but continue with the routines you've created that have served you well so far. 

4. Give yourself options. Rather than saying "if only.....", move your thoughts to "OK, given that I'm in this situation, what's my plan?" Don't sit back feeling like a victim, take control and make some positive decisions.

5. Avoid gossip, rumours, moaners and groaners.  During periods of change gossip can increase, stories can become exaggerated and embellished like a massive game of Chinese whispers.  Seek out information from those who have the facts and try and keep an open mind.

6. Continue to do your work as best you can.

7. Do something completely unrelated to the change.  Get together with friends outside of work where the conversation won't drift to this subject.  Engross yourself in a hobby.

8. Plan in little treats and rewards to help keep you going during tricky times.  The promise of a pain au chocolate after school did wonders to help keep my little one going!

As a little footnote; both my daughters had a fantastic first day back at school.  I'm very proud of them and very happy with their teachers....oh and yes, I do have a cheeky pain au chocolate at the ready for this afternoon!

Midweek Motivation - 3rd September 2015

OK so it's not quite midweek but I've been thrown a bit off kilter this week with term starting on a here's this week's better late than never midweek motivation...

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