Work Life Balance - how's yours?

Balancing Act
New working practices have been introduced in France and Sweden to improve the lives of workers.

In France it's now illegal for workers in the digital and consultancy sectors to respond to emails after 6pm.

That would probably see most UK employers breaking the law on a daily basis, as so many people these days seem to spend long past the 6pm cut-off working, never mind tackling their emails when they're at home or late at night.

Not responding to your work emails out of office hours is good general practice - although making it a law is perhaps a step too far.  You need to create boundaries around your work day and just because you can be contacted and read your email outside of work hours doesn't mean you should.

When you do, you set a precedence.  Set customer/client expectations and clear boundaries.  In reality, what difference will it make whether you respond late in the evening or the following morning?  (Unless, of course you're working on a time critical project but this should be the exception not the norm.)

I've heard many stories of people being contacted late at night, over the weekend or even when they're on holiday and there's been little they can actually do because it's 'out of office hours'.

In Sweden they're trialing a six hour work day - 30 hour working week, on the basis that productivity decreased the longer employees work.


The longer you work without a break, the less productive you become - especially if you're working long hours and getting more and more tired and inefficient.  You'll probably get as much done with focused effort in six hours as you would with interruptions, distractions and a lack of focus in eight, nine or ten hours.

What do you do to maintain a good work life balance?

Balancing Act (Photo credit: Digitalnative)
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Is your smartphone depriving you of sleep?

Koala sleeping on a tree top
Many people are far too attached to their smartphones at the best (or worst) of times, never mind taking them to bed with them.

If you insist on having your smartphone in the bedroom - at least use the Do Not Disturb/Nighttime  settings, so that you won't be pinged, alerted, called or otherwise disturbed when you should be asleep.

While a lot of people like to catch up on email or social media at the beginning or end of the day - the bedroom is for sleep.  If you absolutely must check your email as soon as you wake up - get up and out of bed first.

If you need an alarm to wake you and that's why your smartphone is on your bedside table - buy an alarm clock and leave your phone in a different room.

If you want to get a decent night's sleep:
  • Stop all computer use - smartphone, tablet, laptop ... at least two hours before bedtime.
  • Eat a banana or have a hot milky drink (not coffee).
  • If you lie awake worrying about what you have to do - write it down.  If you wake in the night with similar thoughts, do the same thing.
  • Have a warm bath - this will help you relax ready for bed.
  • Eat your evening meal before 8pm to give your body a chance to digest it before you sleep.
  • Lavendar and chamomile are good for relaxation use a few drops on your pillow
  • Try meditation - there are simple apps to guide you through a short meditation to relax your mind and switch off your active brain.  Take a look at Mindfulness Daily or Headspace apps.  Yes, I know they're apps on your smartphone - use them before you go to bed (and during the day).

Main health effects of sleep deprivation (See ...
Main health effects of sleep deprivation 
Too little sleep has a detrimental effect, not just on your physical and mental performance but on your immune system - making you more susceptible to infections, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and possibly cancer.

If you're tired during the day you're more likely to have an accident or make mistakes.

You'll be less productive at work if you're tired and suffering from sleep deprivation, particularly the longer it goes on.

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The simplicity of pen and paper

Pen and Paper
There are any number of apps available that promise to organise your to-do list, capture notes, help you to be more productive, plan your day ...

While technology is great, it can tie us down or even make us less productive, as you spend time attempting to get the latest app to sync with the rest of your system or several minutes updating the app(s) with your progress.

Sometimes the simplest things are still the best - such as pen and paper.

Pen and paper also has the advantage that you're engaging different parts of your brain when you write something down.

It also has the advantage that if technology fails, pen and paper will always be there.  It won't run out of battery and you don't have to worry about whether you can get a signal or not.

Carry a note book with you to jot down notes, brainstorm ideas, create lists for your tasks.

Pen and Paper (Photo credit: Guudmorning!)
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International Women's Day 2014

International Women's Day
It's International Women's Day - one day a year to celebrate women's achievements around the world.

While in the UK we may have won the vote and have equal rights in many walks of life, in many countries around the world, women are still the oppressed minority.
  • Women do two-thirds of the world's work.
  • Women and children represent 70% of the world's poor.
  • They produce half of it's food but earn 10% of it's income
  • They only own 1% of it's property.
  • Globally only 24% hold senior management roles.
  • Worldwide they only hold 19% of parliamentary seats.
  • Only 7% of Heads of State are women.
  • They account for two-thirds of the world's illiterate.
  • 54% of girls don't receive primary education.
  • 30% will experience physical or sexual abuse.
Do what you can to support women around the world who are less fortunate than yourself, who don't have the support and opportunities that you do, who don't even have access to clean running water and electricity, let alone an education.

To support International Women's Day, as in previous years, I'll donate £1 to Kiva for everyone who downloads and returns the free Time Audit this month (quote IWD14).

Join Kiva today and support women around the world to help themselves.
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Networking Tips: #39 Networking types

Wallflower (Erysimum cheiri) in Paris, France
A light-hearted definition of some of the 'types' of people you're likely to meet at networking events.

The wallflower - doesn't really know anyone and this may be their first time networking.  Hides in the corner or skirts around the edge of the room, trying to avoid making eye contact.  If you see them invite them to join you, make them feel welcome, don't leave them standing on their own.

The socialite - seems to know everyone in the room and are usually more than happy to introduce you to people they know.  Good people to connect with at networking events, especially if you're new to networking or new to the group.  Some can be a bit aloof if you're not part of their 'crowd'.

The meerkat - constantly looking over your shoulder or glancing around the room to find someone more interesting to talk to.  Or that's the way you feel.  Perhaps they're just looking out for a friend or colleague who's yet to arrive.

The gannet - they're only there for the food (or drink).  You'll find them hovering around the buffet table or the bar - best place to find them if you want to engage any of them in conversation.  Sometimes they only turn up for the food and refreshments, hardly talk to anyone and quickly disappear having eaten their fill.

The seagull networker - you may have heard of the seagull manager, the seagull networker is similar.  They fly in, rush around the room, handing out their business cards or leaflets, they make a lot of noise talking AT you and then move on the next victim person, without showing the slightest interest in what you do.

The techie - firmly attached to their smartphone or tablet and probably more interested in that than in having a conversation with the real life people in front of them.  They may be seated at a table tapping away or spend most of their time on the phone outside or on the edge of the room.  Technology has it's place but at least pay attention to where you are and who you're with.

The groupies - they're from the same company and spend most of their time talking to each other.  They sit together and don't take advantage of spreading their resources and talking to twice as many people. 

Can you recognise some of these and what other types have you spotted?

Wallflower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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The importance of planning ahead.

Planning Ahead for Fall
You're working on an important report or piece of research and then you discover that the one person critical to you being able to complete the work is away on holiday and won't be back until after it's due.

It's not their fault - it's due to lack of planning ahead on your behalf.

Other people don't know your timetable unless you share it with them and communicate what it is you need and by when.  They can then plan their time accordingly or at least you've set expectations.

With holidays, half-terms and long weekends constantly adding to the planning mix - you need to be aware of the impact of other people's timetables on your scheduling and completion of tasks.

Give them enough notice.  Let them know what you need and when.  Don't communicate this two days before you need it!

Follow-up - are they on track?  Will you get the information you need when expected?  While it might not entirely be your fault - some team members may not be that good at planning themselves and over commit or just simply forget, if you follow-up in a timely way it will act as a reminder.

Get the important stuff done first - not all tasks relating to a project are equal.  If you have a looming deadline, what's the really important stuff that needs to be done.  Don't waste time on unimportant tasks.

Get them in order - some tasks need to be completed before others can start or continue.  Don't get caught out by starting work on a task and then realising there are additional tasks that need to be completed first.

Planning Ahead (Photo credit: Chiot's Run)
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Always late for meetings? Missing appointments?

Being late for a meeting or missing an appointment isn't just an indicator that you're not good at managing your time, it also shows a certain disregard for the person or people you're meeting.

They've made time for you in their day.  They've turned up on time (hopefully).  They may even have altered or moved other appointments to fit around you.

It's an inconvenience to them and it makes you feel guilty, frustrated or just stressed out.

Respect their time and yours by making sure you turn up on time for your meetings.

If you are going to be late or can't make it, let them know - with as much notice as possible.

Most common reasons for missing meetings and appointments:

- Not putting it in your diary - write it down, put it in your scheduler.  Set a reminder.
- Not leaving enough time to get to the meeting - always aim to arrive early and allow extra time for delays and hold-ups.
- Not knowing where you're going - check it out before you get there.  Google maps and Streetview are very useful.

If someone cancels on you - you might enjoy the extra time you now have available.  You've gained an hour or two of your time.  Make the most of it.

What does a missed appointment mean to you?  Inconvenience, frustration, wasted time?

How much do late, missed or no-shows cost you and your business?  Do you ever charge for missed appointments?

Get in touch for more tips on how to never miss a meeting or be late for an appointment.

Rush! (Photo credit: Quadel)
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