Do you run your day or does the day run you?
Scan through this simple list of symptoms and see which apply to you;
If you answered yes to any of the above the chances are you’re suffering with a level of stress that is having a negative impact on your quality of life. We actually need a certain level of stress in our lives otherwise we’d not get much done. Positive stress, also called eustress, gets the deadline met, the presentation delivered and you on board the right train at the right time. It delivers adrenalin, excitement tends to be short term but can improve our performance.
Negative stress is where the mind starts to introduce anxious irrational thoughts that appear to be beyond our ability to manage. It makes us feel bad, it can be both short and long term, has a direct impact on performance and if left unchecked can lead to unwanted mental and physical symptoms.
There are very many causes of negative stress. It can be a relationship breakdown, new boss, new neighbourhood, too much work, not enough work, starting a family, financial worries, illness or losing someone close to you.
The fact is we ALL face these bumps and hurdles in our lives and for most of us, most of the time we can deal with them without any difficulty. Unfortunately, the statistics seem to suggest that an increasing number of us are not coping so well. As many as 12 million adults in the UK will consult their GP about mental health issues each year. Diagnosed with anxiety or depression typically caused by stress this results in 13.3 million working days lost each year. It’s a sizeable and growing problem.
Here’s the disclaimer…I’m no GP, psychologist, counsellor or psychotherapist but I, like many others have had my moments with this increasingly common problem. First and foremost, I would suggest that if you are worried about stress and its effect on you make an appointment to see your GP. If you can sense that there are one or two warning signs and you want to find a way to improve the way you feel I would strongly suggest taking back control of your life.
Of course “taking back control” can be easier said than done but often we fall into patterns of behaviour which help propagate feelings of negative stress. The result is that we lose control of our time, others fill it all too quickly and with that loss of control comes added anxiety. The answer is to evaluate those things we are doing that are causing angst and
My “self-help” route was helped enormously by an old friend who I’d overlooked for too many years. The “friend” is in the shape of a number of tried and tested time management principles that I had learnt as a young manager at Thomas Cook and carried with me or so I thought through my career. What happens over time and new challenges is that we adapt and grow and learn but often let key nuggets of working practice slip through our minds.
I have a theory. Actually I have lots of theories but this one is relevant to our 21st Century dilemma. Once upon a time, long ago in the 90’s, talk of computers, online business and e-mail suggested we would have more leisure time. Thanks to the advent of this fabulous technological era we would all be “chilled to the max” reclining on Ikea furniture and enjoying our newly won down time supping on Sunny D or Sprite.
Fast forward to today and that pipe dream of a technological Nirvana is about as far away as anyone could possibly have imagined. Smartphones, social media, the Internet of Things and now robotics, VR, AR and AI…are you keeping up? All these new wonderful innovations are not going to create time for us they’re going to squeeze into whatever time we have, competing with the multitude of tasks expected of us. As life moved faster so did expectations. News used to arrive via a broadsheet paper stuffed through the letterbox by a schoolboy on a Raleigh 5 speed. Now it’s instantly delivered in our hands via Twitter and we know about a Japanese tsunami before the BBC news team can brief Hugh Edwards.
So with steely determination I attacked the bookshelf in my office, being self-aware enough to know “Googling” the subject would result in momentary success followed by a likely hour of distraction. I found notes in an old Filofax, yes do you remember those? I also found a previous blog on the subject and arrived at the following list.
If you’ve experienced problems with stress and/or or time management drop us a line today.
One of the oft touted benefits of technology; new and shiny gadgets, software or apps, is their ability to make our lives easier, save time and be more efficient.
Not all make the grade, in fact many can create quite the opposite effect and leave you staring at a screen for far longer than you’d want. The app that promises to make your life so much easier and then fails to act at the all too critical moment
There are however some gems that do indeed work their magic and serve as excellent tools to help keep us organised and in control. I have 6 such examples here that I would recommend you looking at if you don’t already use.
Issue #1 – Managing multiple accounts or a single brand across many social media platforms
Hootsuite – there are other platforms such as Tweetdeck that continue to deliver a good PC experience for visibility of activity but for me Hootsuite offers just that little bit more. The dashboard can take some getting used to but it’s worth persevering
Issue #2 – Keeping abreast of news on specific topics
Google Alerts – this little nugget has been around for a few years now but still many are not using it. I don’t know why. By searching for Google Alerts you’ll identify a keyword tool that can provide search results for specific keywords on a daily or weekly basis. You set the time and frequency and provide an e-mail for this digest to be forwarded to. A great way to monitor yours and your competitors brand along with sector specific items that may be of interest to you, your staff or your customers.
Issue #3 – Smartphone Memory Management
CM Security is one tool I make good use of as I have an iPhone and without this very effective app I’d be all out of memory. There are other similar apps available but CM is one of the best offering a simple click solution to removing excess, unnecessary items.
Issue #4 – Keeping on top of followers/ unfollowers on twitter and Instagram
I’ve been aware for some time of the rather short sighted method of attempting to grow a network. Someone follows you, on for example Twitter and then a week later after you’ve returned the compliment and followed back they “unfollow” you. Nice! Surprising how many accounts employ this strategy – if you are please don’t and if you’re subjected to it don’t let them have the benefit.
One of the best apps I’ve found for regularly reviewing those who unfollow and keeping your network to those who you can trust will engage is Unfollow for Twitter. The same issues arise on platforms such as Instagram, again there is an unfollow Instagram app. Given the difficulty of identifying these unfollowers, especially if you have a large network, I would recommend uploading these apps and once a week clearing out any accounts that are not following you back.
Issue #5 – Sleep patterns affected by late night browsing
Increasingly smartphone users are complaining of tiredness and attention deficit. This is often a side effect of staying on a smartphone, ipad or laptop late into the evening. The screen glare of these devices replicates sunlight telling the brain its wakey-wakey time rather than time for bed. At the point of retiring to the duvet the brain is unable to switch off.
The Opera browser which you can download to your devices offers a “bedtime” mode which reduces glare and keeps your brain in line with the actual time.
I’ve used it and it certainly works.
Issue #6 – too many passwords to remember
Do you get frustrated with the number of usernames and passwords your forced to remember or record to access your bank, facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, e-mail accounts, Starbucks app, iTunes, Amazon, ebay, MailChimp….I could go on.
If you’ve a brain that can cope with keeping and retrieving multiple passwords you’re ok but if like most people you can only remember if prompted the 1Password App may well be for you.
Some people keep spreadsheets of their log-ins which is great, until someone unauthorised accesses it or it’s deleted. The 1Password option gives you a secure vault in which you can then introduce the accounts you want to quickly access.
I’m sure in time the finger print or eyeball scanning will be the way we access our all-important data but until that becomes the norm I’d suggest looking at 1Password.
Most of these apps can be found by searching on your device by the name or if that doesn’t work a quick Google will do it. If you’ve got a hot tip for a great time saving or efficiency promoting app please drop me a line and we’ll feature it.
I’m not the first to write on this topic nor the last but it’s the subject of today’s blog because I feel quite strongly about this growing phenomenon.
There are an estimated 1.8 billion of us using smartphones and this year alone will see a further 25% increase in ownership. By 2017 a third of the World’s population will be glued to their touch screen devices.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m someone with a long record of smartphone ownership from early HTC varieties through to iPhone but I’m not such a fan as I was.
Millions of us are struggling with an addiction to the smartphone. The proliferation of these super slim, super smart devices gives us a look of that 24th Century imagined world of Gene Roddenberry. How long before we’re moving from “hang outs” to “beam ups”?
So what of this reference to making us stupid and why am I not such the fan that I once was?
It’s not that your smartphone contains anything other than a deep pool of wonderful treasures. We have ready access to apps that can help with every single facet of our lives. They keep us fit, healthy, on time, up to date with international, national, local and personal news and entertained with games, TV, radio and our favourite songs.
We can’t hold back progress with technology and let’s face it we’re pretty insatiable when it comes to the fast moving consumer gizmology but I do think we’re struggling to keep up.
As humans we are undeniably an adaptive species. Evolving from hunter gatherers to hot shot gamers with each generation bringing their own unique code of knowledge and rules factoring the software into their lives so that it becomes intertwined with everyday living.
It’s this interdependence of human and technology that is starting to bother me. It’s also a reason why primary schools are starting to build lessons into the curriculum to help explain how these instruments work.
Our recent trip to the USA was great save the occasions the location visited either A) didn’t supply wifi or B) did supply wifi but at such a poor level that it brought immediate frustrations. I even went to the trouble of buying a portable wifi hotspot so we could retain connectivity whilst traveling up the coast from LA to San Francisco. It cost a few dollars but nothing compared to the potential costs if we’d relied on the local networks for our downloads. We ALL had smartphones and we used them, pretty much constantly.
At work they can be a real boon, mobile access to e-mail, online searches on the move and that feeling that “you’re always in touch”. Trouble is, I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. Here are a few of the issues I have with how we are currently using our smartphones;
Selfie time. No please, don’t take another profile pic for Facebook, instead take a look at yourself properly. When was the last time you truly studied how you’re running your life. Heads up from the screen and take pen and paper to write a list of positive actions that can help you take back control.
Last year for the whole month of October I ran my #Offtober experiment. I turned off my smartphone at 8pm each evening and didn’t switch it back on until 8am.
The result of this simple step was improved sleep it also had a positive impact on mood and overall well-being. Like many of us I’ve since drifted back into bad habits but rather than wait for October to come around I’m going to set myself clear rules so I can get the benefits of the tech without the downside.
No doubt many smug readers, my wife included will nod sagely and say, I told you this ages ago. Well yes, you probably did but I was face deep in technology at the time.
Sunday is traditionally known as the day of rest, the day we stay away from thoughts of work and revert our attention to more leisurely pursuits. The need for rest and relaxation and diversion away from stresses and strains of our busy working lives make Sunday a perfect day but….
That’s not quite how my Sunday worked out for me.
This Sunday I spent the best part of the day harvesting dead wood from my office, organising myself and planning. It had been a little while since I’d last re-organised but I’m now determined to stay on top of all things real (paper) and virtual (e-mails and digital files).
It is quite amazing how much “stuff” we accumulate and what we regard as important one week but happily consign to the bin the next.
Staying organised takes discipline and the ability to make effective decisions. My biggest problem is fighting the inner hoarder in me – time to be more ruthless.
Of course the process and determination of what “truly organised” is will vary from person to person. They key is to feel on top of things and confident that matters won’t get overlooked and opportunities or deadlines missed.
There is a level of science and tangible evidence of the psychological benefits of having a tidy up in the office. So if you’re in need of a little more order in your life here’s a few tips to get things started:
Once you’ve finished remember you actually haven’t…being organised is an ongoing process. Keep on top of matters to avoid falling back into the bad habits of old.
The greatest advantage, once the job is done is the feeling of control and confidence you get from knowing exactly where things are. You can save a great deal of time and avoid the frustration of duplicating effort by clearing out the clutter and in so doing retain the knowledge of what you have.
For me a cluttered office results in cluttered thinking and working practices. A clean and ordered environment certainly improves my outlook and ability to cope with the ever increasing demands of the modern multi-tasking world in which we live. My weekend might feel a little shorter but the week ahead will prove far more productive as a result.
David Laud – Click Here to follow me on Twitter
Charles Darwin knew a thing or two about evolution. If I can cast my mind back to my human biology lessons, the term coined by the great naturalist was “Natural Selection”. It took a little while for this radical theory to be accepted by the mainstream scientific community but now it is universally seen as the reason we, as humans, exist in the form we do today. Of course not just humans, we can trace the origins of all living creatures through this process.
If Darwin were alive today he would no doubt be fascinated by our individual and organisational development. He might also see how his theory can as easily be applied to businesses as it can to individuals.
A sector currently experiencing a significant series of evolutionary events, shaping their structure, relationships and existence is the legal profession.
Just last week we heard of yet one more familiar north east name going into administration. The loss of 50 jobs and a history of 250 years, gone. They are not the first in this recent wave of firm closures and they most certainly won’t be the last.
Why are we hearing of so many failures? The answer, as in any scientific evaluation, is not straightforward. The truth is that the myriad of challenges that have conspired to arrive at the door of law firms in the UK are individually manageable with care but when they arrive in rapid succession, they create a chain of events that leave only the very fittest and dynamic of practices standing.
The Law Society reported toward the end of 2013 that over 400 law firms had closed in the preceding 12 month period. Last week the same organisation revealed that more than 4,500 solicitors had simply not arranged to renew their practicing certificates. Without it they are unable to carry their work.
The events that have brought about the closure of so many firms include;
These facts and more point to a series of tremors in the legal world that have built to form a seismic event. The consequence of these factors is when the dust settles the clients, both personal and business will have far less choice. On the upside, of those firms remaining we can be assured that they are resilient and very likely to be focussed on the needs and value they can bring to the client.
The conclusion we can draw using Darwin’s theory is that having survived the natural selection process those still standing will be fitter and more prepared for the future. The advantage existing firms have at this time is their opportunity to still act, adapt and ensure their survival and avoiding a Dodo dilemma.
David Laud – Partner i2i Business Solutions LLP
Have you ever faced the dilemma of thinking how best to phrase the opening line of an e-mail? The trend appears to be for the “hope all’s good with you” or “hope this finds you well”. Nothing wrong with this, it’s polite and shows an interest in the well-being of the person you’re engaging with. But on the receiving end of such an e-mail are we ever tempted to tell it how it really is?
That would be rather “awkward” and put the recipient in an uncomfortable spot as to how to answer such a statement. But in one way this answer to the original e-mail is refreshing as it’s truly honest.
The difficulty of course is that no one wants to admit to fragility or weakness, stress or worries suggest failure. The reality is at some time or another we all suffer from varying degrees of stress and have genuine doubts over either a business or personal direction and our own capabilities; especially when we’re up against it and under pressure.
The media regularly reports on the trend of business confidence sourced from trade and sector specific surveys. I’ve always suspected that they are very heavily skewed, with a positive spin put on the answers. Respondents will want to talk up their own position and only express genuine concern when it is a globally recognised issue such as the height of the recent recession. After so much gloom we’re desperate for good news and we don’t want to disappoint. But it’s easier to consider business buoyancy over the rather more personal and potentially painful analysis of our own self-confidence.
So is our level of personal confidence that important?
The answer is clearly “yes” – A leader’s self-confidence is at the heart of business success and growth. Through the recessionary period many tens of thousands of business owners have faced tough decisions and trading conditions which impact on their personal outlook and mood. With shoots of recovery appearing there’s an expectation that these entrepreneurs and owners will simply click back into overdrive and quickly return to their super confident persona.
The truth is it is not that easy to turn on confidence, it relies on a number of factors and will differ for each person depending on their own leadership skills, life experience, measure of success and management capability.
Optimism and confidence are crucial attributes for business leaders as those who work for them look to the signals from the boss to determine their own feelings of security. It’s not hard to see that a forward looking buoyant and confident business owner will engender a positive atmosphere throughout their organisation. Not that it’s entirely all down to the one individual but if they’re not confident and positive in their communications it will send an uncertain message to others and lead to discontent and discomfort amongst the workforce.
Ironically for certain senior executives their outward view is often believed to be positive whilst the reality is far from that perception. Body language and tone of voice might seem minor elements compared to the content of any communication but we know that as humans we take in a wide range of signals and are naturally very adept at translating them.
If not sure how you’re perceived ask a few trusted colleagues for their unbiased appraisal, it might be quite an eye opener.
Without a clearly understood vision for the future, business owners will be likely to react to situations as and when they arise leading to “knee jerk” responses. This will not breed confidence amongst the workforce no matter how well a leader presents their decisions. A lack of management consistency often creates feelings of uncertainty amongst staff heightened in times of trading difficulties and increased competitive pressures.
At the heart of the corporate confidence issue is the conviction of a clearly articulated and implemented strategy to take the organisation forward. Whilst insecurities and concern still exists in many sectors those who’ll survive will have calm, assured captains steering the business on a course to deliver a strong and sustainable future. With plans in place and everyone understanding their role all who share the journey can themselves grow in confidence and far more readily contribute to the success of the business.
Below are 5 suggested tips to assist leaders develop a stronger feeling of self-confidence.
5 Tips to Build Self Confidence
1. Pragmatism over Perfection. Don’t get hung up on the felling that every decision and act you make must be perfect and borne out of your instinctive powers as a leader. Making the right decisions can often prove difficult but remember there are frequently situations in business where there is no right or wrong response. Be logical and gather the data you need to make an informed decision.
2. Commit to your Decisions — Communicate with conviction and provide details of the outputs from the decision.
3. Failure is an Option – Mistakes will happen and that’s life but make sure that lessons are learnt from any failure and not repeated. The best leaders freely admit to shortcomings and can identify how success was often borne out of projects that didn’t initially deliver.
4. Body Language — We all have moments of fear and trepidation in our lives but if others are looking to you for direction you need to show courage and calmness especially when under pressure.
5. Enjoy the Moment and your Work – We can spend a great deal of time at work especially if you’re the owner or senior manager of a business. There will be good and bad moments but make sure you celebrate the successes with your team and be there to pick everyone up when a deal fails to materialise.
It’s been quite a year, busy with plenty of work, close encounter with reality TV, first appearance on Radio 4, 20 year wedding anniversary, surgery and first child in University. Blink and 2013 seems to be almost over so time to put the brakes on.
A last minute decision and possibly one of the best this year, a week in Italy.
There are times when we need to step back from the moment and take that opportunity to re-charge the batteries. After a week in Puglia with Azzurri skies, stunning scenery staying in a 400 year old Trullo villa the power levels are back to normal.
Whether it’s Italy, Indonesia, Islington or the Isle of Wight a break is a break and we all need one to put life back into perspective.
Giving ourselves that chance to leave the laptop and smartphone alone and experiencing real peace and quiet is not suprisingly a key to improving our quality of life.
Of course travelling can also deliver experiences and bonding with my flappy stick Fiat 500 was right up there but meeting new and interesting people such the fabulous Jane our American abroad tops that. There were the 3 weddings the last setting off in their classic MG, the beauty of Locorotondo, discovering the cheap local wine in plastic bottles was actually the best to buy, steeling myself in readiness for the “oh so fresh” feeling of diving into the unheated pool, truly the best Pizza I’ve ever tasted, scene from a Rock Hudson & Doris Day movie watching yachts and speedboats from the cliffs at Polignano a Mare, memories a plenty.
We deserve to give ourselves the chance to capture such moments and put them to work when we get back to the cut and thrust of the day jobs.
When someones ready to “blow the bloody doors off” I’ll just dip into those stolen treasures and get the very most from my own Italian Job. Here’s a brief flavour of that trip. Italian Job Flipagram