Monthly Archives: April 2016

Get More Productive At Work

I don’t know about you but I think one of my favourite things to do is to book a holiday. I love the excited anticipation of having a few days away – whether with my loved ones or a group of friends to go exploring new places, eating a little too much from the buffet and enjoying a cocktail and ice cream by the pool whilst enjoying a book.

However, there’s always a little part of me that starts to panic at how much I have to do before I go and how much there’ll be to do when I get back. Do you get that as well?

I am at that excited stage now as I have just booked a holiday in June to attend a friend’s wedding in Italy. I know the next few weeks are going to fly by and so I’m already thinking about how best to organize my time so that I can enjoy my holiday.

I started to think about what I needed to achieve before I went and I remembered that I always get so much done on my last working day before a holiday as I know there is no option to leave it till tomorrow. So I thought I’d write a blog on how you can be more productive at work allowing you to get more stuff done every day – and not just on the last day at work before you depart.

1. Turn off social media

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are the biggest time wasters ever!  I’m so thankful that they have been created as they really help me keep in touch with friends and grow my business. But I can lose hours if I am not careful in posting pictures, liking friends statuses, retweeting articles that I think my followers might find interesting and congratulating people on their new job.

It’s great to know what’s going on in the world and keep up with everything that’s happening in my friend’s lives but it doesn’t help me to complete my to do list and it won’t help you either.

I now have to keep my phone in the kitchen away from my desk otherwise I find myself just “quickly checking” twitter when it vibrates and then losing focus on what I was doing.

Now, I’m not perfect so I do admit to cheating on this rule if I know a friend is going for an interview or moving house or something equally important to them. In that situation I’ll send them a quick message to ask them how it’s going and kid myself that it will only be a minute.

However research shows that switching tasks can lead to more stress and frustration as you struggle to get everything done. Also, it can take up to twenty-three minutes to become focused again on the task that you were doing before you interrupted yourself. The more complex the task the longer it will take you to refocus.

I’m going to take a guess that you’re probably like me so I recommend that you only check your phone at a specified time such as a lunch break and on your bus ride home. Otherwise leave it in your handbag in your draw at work and don’t look at it.

2. Action list

Get into the habit of doing a brain dump and writing a list of everything that you have to achieve and then order it from what’s urgent and important to it “would be nice but not critical to get done”.

I write my list on a Friday afternoon so I’m clear on what I’m doing when I sit down at my desk on Monday morning.  I then find that I don’t suddenly remember on a Sunday morning as I watch Sunday Brunch about emailing someone or changing a meeting time and can enjoy my weekend.

3. Block out time

Once you have made your list schedule these activities into your diary.  It may be that the first and last hour of every day is best for clearing your email inbox and making any phone calls.

The morning is the best time to do any strategic or big project work as you’ll feel more alert then. Towards the end of the day you may do more administration tasks when feeling less creative.

When I was doing a lot of recruitment in my last corporate HR job I use to schedule a whole morning on a Friday to make briefing calls with recruitment agencies. It really helped me block out my diary and clump tasks together so that I could be focused on that one task that needed to be done and it helped my colleagues know that on Friday mornings I would usually be on the phone and wouldn’t be able to help them till lunch time.

4. Eat That Frog

If you haven’t read the book “Eat That Frog” then I highly recommend that you do. It has some great tips that you can quickly action to become more productive. The book talks about getting the hard things done first so that you’re motivated and focused to do everything else knowing that you’ve  accomplished the most difficult/unpleasant tasks of the day. Here’s an Amazon link to the book.:http://amzn.to/1SnksWn

5. Take breaks 

If you don’t take a lunch break then you may want to check out my blog about “Why You Need To Take That Lunch Break”. By taking a break you will feel more focused and energized for the afternoon’s work and you’ll find that you get a lot more done.

http://carolinearnoldcoaching.co.uk/blog/

6. Change your mindset

If you ’re someone that tells yourself that you’ll leave work when you’ve completed everything then I would take a guess that you probably don’t leave the office before 7pm.  But try changing your mindset and saying to yourself that you’re going to get all your work done by 5.30pm every night because you’re going to meet friends, go home and see the kids or go to the gym. That way you’ll make an extra effort to get everything done and be out of the office by 5.30pm.

Research shows that we can make work expand to fill as long a day as we want. And I think that we can all agree we don’t want to be in the office at 8pm every night.  So start telling yourself you’re leaving at 5.30pm.

A favourite tactic of mine that you might try is treating every day as if you’re going on holiday the next day for a month and everything has to be done that day. Whenever I do this I always manage to cross off so much on my to do list!

7.  Environment 

Your working environment can make a big difference to your productivity at the office. Take a few minutes to assess your current office set up and see if there are any changes that you need to make.

  1. Make sure that your chair and desk are at the right height and if you can work at a variable desk try standing for a few hours every day – you will really notice the difference. I tend to sit at my desk in the morning and then stand in the afternoon which helps me stay more alert especially at 3pm when I find my energy levels are at their lowest.
  2. If you’re allowed pictures in your office then have one of a nature scene as research shows this will help calm you.

3. Try and shut out noise as much as you can or have a white noise playing in the background. This will help you zone out of the other noise in the office.   I use Calm wesbite  https://www.calm.com and have the Mountain Lake noise playing on my computer. It has the added benefit of being nice to look at on your screen when you’re on the phone.

8. Personal well being

Looking after your self will make a big difference to your wellbeing, which in turn will help you to be more productive at work.

1. If you’re new to mindfulness then check out my blog “Benefits of Mindfulness” which gives practical tips for practicing mindfulness.

http://carolinearnoldcoaching.co.uk/blog/

2. Get exercise – if you can, get at least thirty minutes of exercise every day then you will really notice a difference in your work productivity.. As the weather gets nicer why don’t you grab your colleagues and go for a walk together at lunchtime? This way you’re getting exercise while building stronger relationships with your team.

3. Read Miracle Mornings by Hal Elrod, this is a great book, which will help you start the day on a really strong footing.   http://amzn.to/1XEFlxC

4. It’s important to get up and move occasionally so set a reminder on your computer and every 90 minutes get out of your chair even it’s only  to walk to the printer or top up your water glass.

9. Nutrition 

Looking after your body by being aware of what you are drinking and eating will help you maintain your energy and concentration levels.  Try drinking at least 2 litres of water, eating a great brain boosting breakfast and having healthy snacks by your desk such as fruit, cut up vegetables and nuts.

 

If you’ve found this blog helpful then why don’t you come over to my website and sign up to my newsletter so that you don’t miss the next blog.

 

Caroline Arnold 

Executive Coach

M: 07886 794 742

E: info@carolinearnoldcoaching.com

T: @carnoldcoaching

F: Caroline Arnold Coaching

W: www.carolinearnoldcoaching.com

How To Nail That Interview

I recall an incident about 10 years ago.  I was applying for an internal job and I asked colleagues for any advice that might help me prepare for the interview.

The advice I received was to wear a short skirt. Not quite what I was expecting. But rather than responding to it in some way  I simply kept my skirt length where it was and  went for the interview.

Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that I should indeed have commented. As I think about it now, I can see that it was really rather shocking that someone should say such a thing. However, I didn’t want to make a scene and I really wanted the job.

Since then I’ve had numerous job interviews and have also been the interviewer for hundreds of candidates. You can definitely see the difference between the candidates that have prepared for an interview and those that have simply rocked up and not given it much thought.

So, how do you succeed at interview especially – if you haven’t been for one for a while.  Here are some tips to help you to interview success:

1. Research 

LinkedIn – Have a look at the profiles of the interviewers and some of their team and senior management. Look for what experience they have, their length of service with the company and if they’ve either been promoted or made any lateral moves – and how often. Remember this is a two-way process so you want to know if people are leaving after a year or so or if people stay and are promoted.

  • Job description – go through the JD and write down against each competency a couple of examples of when you achieved this. If there are any points where you can’t think of anything don’t worry – simply think about what training or support you may need to achieve that.
  • The Company  – have a look at their website, familiarize yourself with their accounts, how many employees there are, what their mission is etc. I remember one interview where the hiring manager’s last question was about the company’s previous day’s share price. Luckily I knew this.  So it is worth spending time to get to know the company.
  • How will you get there –  I remember interviewing someone that would have to walk and then take a long train journey and then a bus.  I was sceptical that they could manage the journey every day and be on time. However, the candidate had checked all the options and worked out that if there was a problem with one method of transport then they had alternative routes. Do consider though if you want a long journey in rush hour every day. If the answer to that is ‘no’ then look  for a role closer to you.

2. CV 

Go through your CV, know the facts and figures that you have stated, the dates when you were at particular companies and be comfortable expanding on any of the achievements listed.

3. Arrive early 

Leave yourself plenty of time to get to the interview. There is nothing worse as the interviewer then meeting a candidate who is hot & sweaty, out of breath and completely stressed out because they were running late. Instead, help yourself by arriving early and grabbing a coffee near by so that you go in to the interview relaxed and in a positive frame of mind.

4. First impressions

  • You only get one chance to make a great first impression so make it count.
  • Smile – when you see the interviewers smile at them, you want to appear approachable.
  • Make eye contact – this can make you look interested and trustworthy.
  • Firm handshake – this can help you look confident.

5. Give examples 

When you answer a question follow it up with a supporting example. That will show the interviewer how you work through problems as well as what experience you have.

6. Questions & next step

Have a couple of questions prepared. These questions may vary depending on your experience level. If you’ve come through a recruitment agency they may have answered, what sort of role you are going for but think about:

  • Why has the position become available?
  • What are the main objectives and responsibilities of the position?
  • How does the company expect these objectives to be met?
  • What obstacles are commonly encountered in reaching these objectives?
  • What is the desired time frame for reaching the objectives?
  • What can you expect from them in terms of development and support?
  • Where will the job fit into the team structure?
  • What’s the best thing about working at the company?
  • What is the turnover of staff like throughout the company?
  • Are there any plans for expansion?
  • How would they describe the company culture and management style?

7. Thank you 

It’s good practice to send an email or a message on LinkedIn after the interview to thank everyone for their time. You can add in that you are interested in the role and that you look forward to hearing from them.

If you’re going for an interview then I wish you all the luck. If one of your friends is going to an interview then please do forward this blog to them and come on over to the website to sign up to the weekly newsletter.

 

Caroline Arnold 

Executive Coach

T: @carnoldcoaching

F: Caroline Arnold Coaching

E: Info@carolinearnoldcoaching.com

W: www.carolinearnoldcoaching.com

View from the office

Why You Should Take That Lunch Break

The other day I looked out of my office window and thought how lucky I was to live in such a beautiful city as Bristol.

So taking advantage of the gorgeous spring day I threw on my trainers and went for a quick twenty-minute walk along the harbour. I came back had a salmon and avocado wrap followed by a banana and then sat down for the afternoon feeling more energized and focused than I had 45 minutes earlier.

So ladies I have a question for you. Do you take your lunch break?

“No, of course I don’t” is the usual reply. Followed by “I’m far too busy”, “It’s not encouraged in my office” or “I will be at work even later at the end of the day if I take a break”.

If you are the 1 in 5 who does take a lunch break then well done you. I hope that your colleagues learn from you as I can imagine that you are a lot more focused than they are in the afternoon.

If you currently aren’t taking a lunch break then it’s time to reassess and claim back your break. If you’re thinking to yourself: “I’d like to but I just don’t have time” then check out my latest blog for why you need to do it.

The benefits of a lunch break, even if it’s only for twenty minutes, can make a huge difference to your afternoon’s productivity. So it’s a shame that so many people work in a culture where lunch breaks are frowned upon. Or, worse still, not taking them is seen as something commendable – as saying ‘I’m far too busy and important to have a lunch break.’

I’m sure you don’t really need me to tell you that no one is that important. Nor how beneficial taking a break is. But if you’re reading this blog it’s likely that you don’t – so let’s remind ourselves:

Benefits

1. Increased energy 

By taking a break, especially if you’re able to get some fresh air and exercise, you avoid that afternoon slump so common at about 3pm. This is when the typical lunch of sandwich, crisps and a chocolate bar results in energy levels plummeting and a struggle to stay awake rather than getting work done.

2. Higher productivity 

As you benefit from an increase in energy you’ll find that you’re more productive because your concentration levels have increased making it easier to focus on your work. If you’ve been lucky enough to get a walk around a park you may find this a good time to do any creative work.

3. Team building 

Should you go out for lunch with your colleagues then this gives you an opportunity to build on your relationship with them and form stronger connections with those that you share the office with.

If you’ve been working on a project in the morning that you’re struggling with then you could ask for their help or opinions and perhaps brainstorm some ideas that you hadn’t considered. They may have experienced similar problems and you could find that, when you return to your desk, you have the solution.

 

4. Fresh perspective 

By taking a break you can return to your desk with a fresh pair of eyes. That way you’ll find it easier to spot any mistakes that you may have made on any drafts you were working on. Plus you’ll have a clearer idea of what decisions need to be made to complete your work that afternoon.

5. Try new places

If you’re going out with your colleagues, as well as building a stronger team relationship, lunchtime might be a good opportunity to try new any new restaurants near the office. Plus there’s the additional benefit of taking the time to enjoy your food. Isn’t that better than a hastily eaten BLT at your desk? Or worse still devouring the contents of the biscuit tin. There’s a road to piling on the pounds if ever there was one.

6. Back to nature 

If you’re lucky enough to work near a park then lunch is the perfect time to get some fresh air and exercise. It will help improve your afternoon mood and levels of concentration and reduce your stress levels.

Invite your colleagues along with you and you can get fit together.  Getting outside will also top up your Vitamin D level, which encourages the production of serotonin (a hormone that plays an important part in the regulation of mood). Taking a break from your desk and moving around also prevents the onset of musculoskeletal disorders.

If you’re managing a team then encourage everyone to take a break. You may find that you notice reduced sickness and lower turnover as you have happy staff and an increase in customer service. With these benefits can you afford not to take a lunch break?

Still not convinced?  Why not give it a try every day next week and see the benefits for yourself. Go for lunch with colleagues, go for a walk together (ideally in a park), read a book, do a spinning or yoga class if there is a gym nearby and enjoy taking a break and the benefits that come with it in the afternoon.

So, put it in the diary and start on Monday. Don’t feel guilty that you’re taking a break and grab your whole team so that you can all benefit.

If you have found this blog helpful why don’t you come check out the website and you can sign up to the weekly newsletter.

Caroline Arnold 

Executive Coach

T: @carnoldcoaching

F: Caroline Arnold Coaching

W: www.carolinearnoldcoaching.com

Benefits of Mindfulness

Cycling in Haldon Forest

Cycling in Haldon Forest

At the weekend I went for a great bike ride at Haldon Forest:  http://www.forestry.gov.uk/haldonforestpark  And if you’re ever in the area I highly recommend it..

After the bike ride, and a much needed cheese and tomato toastie from the café , I realised that my breathing hadn’t quite returned to normal. Not wanting to blame my poor fitness level I checked my inhalers and realized that they had expired a year ago – oops!

So off I went to the doctors to get new ones. In the waiting room I noticed some leaflets about mindfulness. Now I’m a huge fan of mindfulness and all the benefits that it can bring. Indeed, I have used different mindfulness methods for years now so I am glad to see that the NHS is promoting the advantages of it.

I don’t know about you, but I feel that there are so many demands on us fabulous women that sometimes it can all get a bit too much. I remember in my last corporate job there were times I’d have to go into the toilets, put on my music and do breathing techniques to Beyonce or The Black Eyed Peas in order to psyche myself up for the rest of the day.

A research study published by the University of Oxford demonstrated the potential effectiveness of mindfulness and saw participants benefit from some impressive results:

A 58% reduction in anxiety levels
A 57% reduction in depression
A 40% reduction in stress

You can read more about their findings at Be Mindful: http://bemindful.co.uk

Given these benefits I thought I would write a blog on mindfulness and I hope that it helps you as much as it has done me.

What is Mindfulness?
I like Wikipedia’s definition of Mindfulness: “A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

We have Buddhism to thank for Mindfulness. Nowadays you can find an overwhelming amount of books, apps and classes on the subject so I have listed a few below that you may want to explore further.

Why do it?
10 years ago I suffered from awful depression. In fact it was so bad that I moved home and pretty much didn’t get out of bed for 4 months. Luckily for me and for everyone around me, I slowly got better and that was partly due to practising mindfulness.

The numerous benefits of mindfulness include:

  1. Lowered stress levels
  2. Reduced depression
  3. Help with anxiety
  4. Getting you to take time out of your hectic schedule
  5. Greater focus
  6. Having some ‘you’ time
  7. Becoming more productive
  8. Gaining perspective on a problem

How to do it
When it comes to mindfulness I like to keep it simple and something that I will stick to. My current routine takes 5 minutes first thing in the morning and goes something like this:

Sitting on a chair I close my eyes and focus on my breathing. If my mind starts to wander to such thoughts as ‘what’s for breakfast’ then I repeat to myself ‘breathe in confidence – exhale love.’

I’ve recently signed up to a 30-day Bikram yoga programme. This is complementing my morning mindfulness routine wonderfully. I’ve found that I am getting better at breathing in and out for longer and doing the right technique – which should mean that the stomach expands rather than the chest going up and down.

Where to practice
I practice at home on a chair but if you’re thinking to yourself, ‘I don’t have time for this’ then start to do it in the shower or whilst you’re brushing your teeth or even on your bus or train journey to work.

I find that by doing it first thing in the morning that I’m more focused and positive the rest of the day and I don’t forget to do it later.

Where to get more information
Books
The Miracle Morning  – The 6 Habits that will transform your life before 8am. I absolutely love this book and hope that you enjoy it to.
http://amzn.to/1YiSTig

NHS 
http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/mindfulness.aspx

App
Headspace  https://www.headspace.com

Courses and Talks
I use to go to mediation classes in London but unfortunately I can’t find them anymore but I have been recommended this place. I personally haven’t been but if you are in London they offer free classes so why not go check it you.
http://www.innerspace.org.uk

If you feel that this has helped you please forward to a friend and maybe you can try mindfullness together or go and experience a mediation class.

Caroline Arnold 

Executive Coach

T: @carnoldcoaching

F: Caroline Arnold Coaching

W: www.carolinearnoldcoaching.com

Making the most of LinkedIn

Making the most of LinkedIn

There are now 414 millions users on LinkedIn making it the world’s largest professional network. So, if you’re thinking of changing jobs it’s a great tool to become familiar with.

Every time I thought about moving roles my first port of call was always LinkedIn. It’s an invaluable professional platform that can increase your network and may help you get a new job – so here are some tips on how to get the most out of it.

1.  Settings 

Before making any changes to your profile you may want to consider editing your settings so that your connections aren’t alerted to every change that you may make. Remember though, just before you do the last edit, to turn on the alert setting again. That way people will be notified that you have made a change and hopefully will click on your new updated profile.

2. Photo

I suggest that you use a professional photo. Using a good professional photo on your profile reputedly makes you 14 times more likely to be found on LinkedIn.

I’ve heard that some recruitment agencies won’t even click on your name if you don’t have a photo as they presume the profile is not current. So don’t be one of those people.

Whilst you are updating your LinkedIn photo it’s a good idea to double check your other social media channels and update if necessary.

2. Connections

Connect with as many relevant people as possible. You never know who they may be connected with and therefore potentially able to introduce you.

LinkedIn makes it easy to search for people by your current company or ex-colleagues, school and university. You can then see if there’s anyone you’d care to connect with on a professional basis.

 

3. Profile & Summary 

I am going to be honest with you here, I used to copy and paste the content of my CV into my LinkedIn profile. It demonstrated my key achievements and responsibilities in a format that I was really happy with so I personally didn’t see the point of rewriting my experience.

If you have different material you can use that instead but remember you can edit the profile at any time so there’s no need to spend all day on it in the first instance.

4. Testimonials

This is one area that I haven’t fully embraced yet but it is on my action plan for April so I wanted to have it as a tip for you to action as well.

Draw up a list of possible people that you could ask to write a testimonial such as customers, clients, managers, and colleagues. Email them separately asking if they can write you a testimonial for your time at Xworkplace and offer to write them one in return. You may want to suggest a format for them to complete such as: How well you knew each other, what you helped them to achieve, what impact you had on them or their business and what’s better now as a result of the work you did.

8. Contact details

Your details will only be available to your connections but make sure it is up-to-date so people can contact you easily.

 

9. Education

Although it may be a long time since you left university it is worth updating these details and reconnecting with school and university friends who may be in companies that you would love to work for or vice versa.

I hope that you find these tips helpful. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.