How To Beat Procrastination

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Procrastination describes the process by which we delay starting or completing a task. We know we are doing it when we make the 10th cup of tea in a morning, check our emails yet again, or for us homeworkers – start cleaning the fridge, or sorting out the plumbing. Procrastination is normal, we all do it to some degree, but it can result in loss of productivity, frustration for colleagues and an increase in your stress levels.

Here are 5 top tips for beating procrastination:

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How To Manage Anxiety

All of us experience anxiety in our lives; sometimes we experience it more strongly than at other times. That feeling of dread that builds from your gut towards your throat, the sensation of nausea, and the sense of impending doom.

Below we have listed 5 techniques to help you cope with anxiety. If your anxiety is impacting on your life speak to your GP, they can help you to check out whether there are physical causes for your increased anxiety, prescribe medication and/or sign-post you to talking therapies.

laughing1. Learn to Relax
Learning to relax is an essential technique to help you to manage your anxiety. Our blog Tried and Tested Breathing and Muscle Relaxation Techniques describes in detail deep breathing, meditation and muscle relaxation exercises that you can complete to help you to relax. Remember to include every day something that gives you pleasure; whether it is meeting with friends, enjoying a warm bath, a lunchtime stroll in the park, or watching a funny film. Laughter continues to be one of life’s great medicines – choose to bring laughter and happiness into your life; our blog 10 Top Tips For Achieving Happiness will help you to discover how.

kidwithapple2. Eat Well
You are what you eat! Avoid stimulants such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and sugar. All these foods can raise your anxiety levels for the rest of the day, or stop you being able to sleep or relax at night. Our blog 10 Foods To Make You Happy will give you tips on food that will help boost your happiness – yes we all know we should be doing this, but often our good intentions go out of the window. This time give yourself a couple of weeks on a new improved healthy diet and see what changes it can make to your feelings of anxiety.

bodybuilder3. Exercise
Another thing that we all know we should be doing more of but often feel that we are just too busy to fit it in. Make time. Exercise is essential to your physical and mental health. It helps to lower stress hormones and increase feel good endorphins. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy, and that you can easily incorporate into your life. Create a routine around it; doing it at set times during the week. If you find it hard to motivate yourself join a group exercise or sign yourself up for a fun run or other organised event to give yourself something to aim for. Get yourself a pedometer to help you increase the amount you walk everyday. If monitoring your improvement motivates you then check out the numerous exercise apps that help you to monitor your fitness.

balloon4. Learn to Let Go
There are very strong links between a ruminating thinking style and depression and anxiety. Rumination describes a tendency to compulsively focus on things that are causing you anxiety and stress; to become fixated on problems. We describe the best ways to break the ruminating habit in our blog on rumination. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness both teach us that our thoughts are just our thoughts. Just because we think them doesn’t make them true. We can learn to change or let go of our thoughts, seeing them float away on the wind like a balloon.

raining5. Set Yourself a Time to Worry
Some of our anxieties deserve our attention, and needs us to focus our energy to find a solution. Set yourself a worry-time: 10 or 20 minutes to focus on the things that are causing you anxiety and most importantly to plan a solution to the problem. If you find yourself focusing on your anxiety outside of your planned worry time, remind yourself that you have set yourself a time to focus on your worry and let go it until then. Confronting your worries head-on and planning a solution can help keep your anxieties in check and stop them spiralling out of control.

Top Five Regrets of the Dying

Living a life that reflects your personal values can act as a buffer against psychological and physical stress; but often in life we become detached from our values, we forget the things that are really important to us, the things that give our life meaning.

Nothing focuses your mind on the things that are most important, than knowing your time is running out. Bronnie Ware, a nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last weeks of their lives, recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, her writing has now been put into a book the Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Here are the top five regrets of the dying as witnessed by Ware and taken from an article written by Susie Steiner for The Guardian.

1. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it”.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

Each one of these regrets resonates with me. it is as if a precious pearl of wisdom has been handed down to us, words so wise we would be fools to ignore them.

Imagine yourself facing your final days; what regrets might you have and what can you be doing now to change those regrets before it is too late?

How To Master Your Email

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Email is one of the technological innovations that has transformed the way that we work. But as with most technology, it can only ever be as useful as we allow it to be. It’s a bit like dog training. Most trainers will tell you that it isn’t the dog that needs training; it is their owner. So this is our attempt to train you to master your emails:

1. Don’t Prevaricate
Don’t allow your emails to become another form of prevarication or distraction. A day spent answering emails is not necessarily a productive day. Limit the amount of time you check your emails, and turn off any visual or audio notification systems. Your emails are there for you to check when you have time to focus on them – they should not be a siren call distracting you from your work.

2. Lead By Example
If you want to limit the number of emails that you are receiving then you need to lead by example, and try and encourage your organisation to develop an email protocol. Be clear and short in your communication. Don’t CC everyone in unless they really need to be copied in. Be clear about why you are sending the email and what response you are looking for. If possible give people a reasonable timeframe to respond in. Give yourself a reminder to check that they have responded.

3. Talk To People
Don’t email someone sat at the next desk or in a neighbouring office when you could just pop your head around the door and ask them a question. Face-to-face contact is good! Some organisations have a regular day when emails are discouraged and people are encouraged to speak to each other instead.

4. Pick Up The Phone
If it is urgent, pick up the phone. Don’t presume that people are going to be seeing your email and responding to it immediately.

5. Don’t Send Emails At Night
Ok, so you are working at 10 o’clock at night – but do you really have to let everyone else know that by sending out emails at that time? Night-time emails do not make you look dedicated and hard working – they make you look disorganised and unprofessional (unless you are working across time zones). Write the emails at this time if you have to – but save in your draft box and send them out during office hours. This is particularly important if you are sending emails to staff you are managing. Don’t encourage a culture of out of hour’s emails.

6. Don’t Send In Haste
Never send an email in haste. If you have any doubt about an email, save it in draft and give yourself 24 hours to think about it. Once that email has been sent there is no getting it back.

7. By Professional
Always presume that your email will be forwarded on to other people. Write your emails in a professional and considered way. Never gossip, or say anything in an email that you wouldn’t stand up in front of a group of your colleagues, clients or customers and say.

8. Don’t Clog Up Inboxes
Try not to send large attachments with your email it just clogs up people’s inboxes. Look at ways of storing the emails in a shared file and sending the link. This is particularly useful if you are asking people to comment on the document – by using a shared file everyone can comment on the same document and you don’t have the nightmare task of version control.

9. Separate Work and Personal Email Accounts
Separate out your work and personal emails. Have different accounts for both. Don’t use your work email address for making personal purchases or signing up to on-line groups and websites. It looks unprofessional. Combining the 2 email accounts also makes it impossible to monitor your personal emails whilst on holiday or at the weekends, without having to check you work emails.

10. Learn To File
Learn how to file your emails and search for them. Use the subject box to give an accurate description of the content. If the focus changes during a long stream of emails then change the subject box.

All common sense stuff, but all stuff that we can forget as we try to cope with the avalanche of emails that come our way. Instead of bemoaning the number of emails you receive, lead by example and show other people how they can send professional, effective, targeted emails that don’t just litter up other people’s inboxes.

How To Get More From Your Working Day

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OK, so here is a $64,000 dollar question: how do you get more from your working day? Here are our WorkGuru Top Tips:

Prioritise, Prioritise, Prioritise
And when you have prioritised: delegate! The ‘trick’ to prioritising is learning to distinguish between your important and your urgent tasks. Important tasks contribute directly to your work goal, and usually have a long-term perspective. Urgent tasks usually demand urgent attention and tend to be dictated by someone else. They have a short-term perspective. Learn to delegate your urgent but not important tasks, and begin to focus on your important not urgent tasks. These are the tasks that will really help you to achieve your goals.

Learn To Say ‘No’
The bottom line is, that you can’t keep squeezing more and more into your day. Something has to give – and usually that something is you. Learn to say ‘no’, even to the things that you would really really love to do but you know that you just wouldn’t be able to do justice to. Saying ‘no’ to new stuff will help you focus and deliver on the things that you are already committed to.

Create Routines
Creating routines helps you to converse energy. Decision making depletes your energy, leaving you less able to focus on the things that are important. Creating routines enables you to cut back on the decisions that you make every day and provides you with the foundation from which to build your working day. Routines help you to be more consistent and effective.

Don’t Multi Task
We have said this before (and I am sure we will say it again) don’t multi task. We all have a finite capacity for paying attention. The amount of attention we have is limited, so we can not effectively focus on more than one thing at a time. Learn to focus on one thing at a time and to batch similar tasks together, saving on energy and keeping yourself focused.

Match Your Task To Your Energy
Another WorkGuru classic – learn to match your tasks to your energy levels. Our energy levels fluctuate during the day – and often during the week. Learn when you are at your most alert and use that time for complex or creative tasks. Learn when you are most depleted and use that time for routine tasks: answering emails or telephone calls. By routinising (I think we might have made that word up!) your tasks to your energy levels you can make the most out of your working day.