Tag Archives | resourcing yourself


Capacity. Right now we’re all fighting the problem of capacity. In organisations as they have become more streamlined there is just no extra capacity other than that which is quantifiably needed to deliver what needs to be delivered.

There is NO spare capacity in organisations anymore. No buffer, no extra capacity or resource built in for when for example something unexpected happens in our business plans, no spare capacity in our teams when we have more than one person off longer-term.

The simple fact is that now most of you reading this will be doing the workload of more than one person. Admirably doing your best to fulfil a role that was originally done by two or more people. That means that what once was delivered by two must now be delivered by just one – so now more than ever we need to be working at our best, making sure that we have the maximum internal capacity available to deal with the day-to-day issues that will inevitably come our way.

When we are at our very best, when we’re firing on all cylinders, it’s amazing what we can achieve. When we are on form, there’s almost nothing that phases us and we can deal with almost any issue or problem that comes our way. That’s why in this busy, even crazy world of work that we currently live in it’s more important than ever to build our own internal capacity so that we can be at our best more often.

OK so here’s where I get a little technical, a little ‘science-y’ and explain why it’s so important to look after yourself and more importantly understand how your brain works in order for you to be at your very best. Don’t worry though, if you, like me weren’t that good at science at school, this is what we call – ‘Blue Peter Science – it should be pretty simple to understand.

During our working day we use both our conscious and sub-conscious parts of our brain. The conscious part of our brain, helps us to reason things through, communicate effectively, problem solve, be creative, make multi-level decisions, make pro-active choices, prioritise, decipher what needs to be done when, pay attention, concentrate (amongst many other things). Effectively the conscious part of your brain is VITAL for you as a leader to do pretty much everything that needs to be done in an average working day. The subconscious and unconscious control everything else, they control your neurology, all your body functions like breathing, digesting etc. and your automatic responses to things, things you don’t have to even think about, what some call your ‘auto-pilot’.

What is useful to know here is that the conscious part of your brain, the bit we all need to function effectively in our working day has a very small capacity. It is tiny in comparison to the total capacity of the brain and is comparable to your smartphone’s memory and processing ability compared to a super-computer’s.

During every night, just like your computer at home the content from the day that has been filling your conscious mind is downloaded into the sub-conscious. Both the factual content and the emotional content is downloaded and stored in the internal hard-drive of your brain.

The problem is that most people right now are interrupting their sleep at the most important part – the R.E.M, second deep-sleep stage of sleep, which means that the all important emotional download is interrupted and you wake up with your storage capacity still half–full from yesterday’s content.

Think about this a moment – What happens when you put too many photos, videos and songs into your smartphone? What happens when it gets close to full capacity, it’s memory is full? – It GOES SLOW right? It starts to stop functioning properly. It takes a long time to load information or process anything.

Well, in simple ‘blue peter science’ terms it’s EXACTLY the same with your brain! When it’s running close to its capacity, that’s when we struggle at work with even the most basic of tasks. You’ve all been there, reading that report late at the office, you know the one where you read it over and over but it’s just not going in? That’s because you’re brain is running at pretty close to full capacity. It needs downloading; it needs rest and space to recover itself.

The GOOD NEWS is that the brain is a remarkable instrument. It’s incredibly adaptable and when used well, it will serve you brilliantly. The fact is that right now, we’re not looking after ourselves or our brains well enough and as a result we’re all suffering from a loss of performance, just like our smart phones do when we’ve loaded too much content on them.

So what can we do?
Well first thing to do is to just bear in mind that your brain (and body) just like your phone or pad or computer needs energy in order to work.

What happens if you don’t charge your phone, plug it in for 24hours? Likelihood is, unless you’ve got an amazing battery life on your phone, that it will run out of juice and stop working. And yet, what do we do at work now? Most of us don’t listen to our bodies telling us to stop and take a break and most of us don’t take a lunch break anymore. Is it any wonder that we run out and can’t read that email later on in the day?

Here are some principles to follow that that should enable you and your brain to build capacity and lead at your best:

PRINCIPLE 1: Your brain (and you) need fuel to work at their best

If we are expected to work like the computers we sit in front of, then we, just like our computers need to be fuelled on a regular basis. Remember this isn’t just food and drink, it’s energy, and so anything that gives you and your brain an energetic boost is good.

PRINCIPLE 2: Take your breaks – give you and your brain some rest

I want you to think of your brain as a muscle. (It isn’t a muscle strictly speaking but go with me, it’s a useful metaphor). When you go down the gym, or you want to get fit, if you want your muscles to perform at their best it’s important to warm them up, warm them down and to take breaks between sessions. It’s just the same with your brain, give it time and space to ‘warm up’ and take regular breaks. When you take a break it clears capacity and enables you to come back more refreshed and work at a sustainably high performance level.

PRINCIPLE 3: Move your body, move your mind

When you get stuck on something or if you have something that you need to come up with a creative solution to, MOVE. When you move your body you move your mind, so use this as a conscious technique to get out of your ‘stuckness’ and into problem solving mode.

PRINCIPLE 4: Download and unwind at the end of your day

Because we are working later these days we are eating into what researchers say is a key part of every working day – The wind-down. This 1-1.5hour post work slot is a vital part of your day. Use it to download (write or record) anything that’s still buzzing around your head from the day and to consciously unwind and relax yourself. It will help you to get a better night’s sleep

PRINCIPLE 5: Get a good night’s sleep and let your brain recover

Sleep is our most important resource of all. Sleep is when our brain (and our body) regenerates, repairs, recovers and downloads. Follow the principles for a good night’s sleep in my previous linked in article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/sleep-your-most-vital-leadership-resource-all-part-2-jo-clarkson – and you’ll find that just by getting a good night’s sleep you will increase your brain capacity’s ability to deal with everything that a challenging day at work can throw at you.

PRINCIPLE 6: Be kind to your brain and your brain will be kind to you

Trust me when I say you want your brain to be your buddy not your enemy. Right now we are being unkind to our brains and as a result our brain is sometimes not there when we need it most! So don’t let your brain go on strike, treat it kindly. Look after it and it will most definitely look after you. The good news is that generally things that make YOU feel good make your BRAIN feel good, so do things that make you feel good and you’re half the way there.

In conclusion…

So there you have it, 6 principles that should enable you to get the most from your brain and as a result, increase your capacity to lead. Don’t run on empty anymore, don’t run yourself down, now is the time to be kinder to yourself and to your brain

The result? You’ll be able to function and perform at your best, and when you’re at your best? There’s nothing you can’t achieve and nothing you can’t deal with.

At Meta we’ve been supporting leaders and their organisations for nearly 20 years. We’re passionate about what we do and we’re passionate about finding the research that enables the busy executive and the busy workplace to become a more effective one. We think that with some simple shifts in working practices, some simple principles of smarter working, every leader and every workplace can excel.

We hope that you found the blog useful and if you’d like to find out more about what we can do for you and your organisation, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re always happy to talk about the principles of smarter working and we’re always happy to support enlightened leaders like you, because that’s what we’re in business for – We do what we do because we’re on a mission to change the world.

Happy capacity building everyone!
Jo x

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The phrase ‘work-life balance’ has been around for a long time now. The implication seems to be that they should weigh equally in some version of the scales of justice. Yet if you step back and reflect on it, it is obvious that life is the whole story, and work is a part of it – a balanced life is what we’re really talking about. If your life is primarily about your work, it’s out of balance!

If you look at it in this more holistic way, then you realise that we need a mixture of work/life ingredients, for our lives to be fulfilling, we may get some of it from work and some of it from other aspects of our lives. The important piece is that we look after our ecology. Just as the earth needs us to help balance its ecology, so we need to balance our own. Ecology means ‘the balance in the system’ and without balance we feel out of sorts, we get sick, we feel stressed. So if we can sort the balance in our lives, life and work funnily enough starts to just feel better! So what are the ingredients we need to get balance in our lives? Here’s a selection of the things that we think make the perfect recipe for a balanced, happy life. As with all recipes you’ll need to tweak it to suit your tastes, a little dash more of this, a touch less of that until it fits you just right!

  1. The bare necessities

We all need a roof over our head somewhere to call home. We need sustenance, food and drink, clothes on our backs and enough money to provide the essentials of life for ourselves. For most of us this means that we need to work, to earn an income to pay for these things. Without these bare necessities, life constantly feels like a struggle for survival.

  1. Relating to others

We are designed to be social animals and we thrive on relationships with others. This can be at work and at home, with colleagues, friends and family. Isolating ourselves from any of these social groups of relationship deprives us of something that is supposed to be part of our lives, a fundamental of life. Research shows that those who have more thriving and active social networks tend to have a more positive outlook on life and.. Live longer! Have you let your friends/family relationships slip because you’ve just not enough time? Maybe its time to get back in touch with that old friend and plan a time to reconnect.

  1. Mental stimulus

If we don’t use our minds enough, the brain loses its plasticity. Plasticity is the brains ability to create new neural pathways, in simple terms how we learn and retain information. We are designed to be learning creatures, and we love to be creative and problem-solve, so we need mental stimulus. Work may provide some of this, but we need life to create stimulus too! We need big conversations with friends, challenging debates that help us to shape our views of the world, to learn something new or just find out more about something that fascinates us – Where do you get your mental stimulus in life?

  1. Being active physically

Our bodies are made to move. If we lead a mostly sedentary life, we become more prone to illness and disease. Most of us no longer have a physically active component in our work, we’re mostly sat at our desks in front of our computers, so we need to ensure we do something active outside of work. This doesn’t mean we all have to go to the gym three times a week and life weights or do a zumba class, it could be: walking, swimming, cycling, gardening, getting out into nature, all get our body moving again – What do you do to keep your body active?

  1. Feeling fulfilled

We all thrive on feeling we’ve done something worthwhile. This may be through your work, but it may be that you need other elements: pursuing a hobby; helping out as a volunteer; making your home and garden beautiful; helping your children to learn and grow; working for the environment; working with animals. Without purpose, life just doesn’t feel quite right, so what are you doing that helps fulfils you?

  1. Enjoying yourself

Last but not least, we are supposed to enjoy our lives. If it’s not fun, what are we doing? We could die tomorrow! Anything that brings the fun in is GOOD in our books. Activities that make us laugh, relax us, bring us pleasure, are all essential for a balanced life. They help us to keep perspective and research shows that those that laugh more and have more fun tend to live longer and healthier lives – So what do you do that enables you to enjoy life more?

Now all these elements may overlap and some months you’ll need more of one and less of another but it’s essential that they are all in there. Work may provide you with some of the ingredients you need to make your life feel good, but it will never be enough on its own. It’ll lack that certain something, the spice of life that makes the adventure called life so interesting!

The recipe for a good life is an individual one, there is no one ‘catch all’ recipe, and you will need to perfect it for yourselves. You can tell whether the recipe is right or not by how your life feels: a balanced life feels great! You have an inner resilience and capacity to deal with almost anything life can throw at you when your life is in balance. And when it is out of balance, you can feel it; your fuel tank always seems to be running out of juice.

So check in with yourself today – what else do you need to bring the balance back into your life? What do you need a little more or a little less of? Get the ecology of life right, and that’s where the magic begins!

We hope this has been a useful blog for you! We write these blogs to hopefully give some insights into life and work and some practical things to do to make life and work that bit better, that’s what we’re in business for.

We think it’s important to get these messages out there to the wider world so many people are out of balance right now, so if you found it useful please DO share it, using the buttons below.

All our love,

Di and Jo xxx

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So many people these days seem to have no time to breathe, let alone reflect! Diaries are full for months in advance, the lists of things to do are never-ending, and then you go home and try to catch up on the tasks there despite your weariness.

Our belief that enhanced technology would free people up has well and truly backfired. In those moments between meetings, the phone is pinging with emails and messages, and there is an expectation that we will respond quickly, even if it is the evening or weekend.

What this constant barrage does to us is push us this way and that, without a clear direction. We end up doing whatever is next on the list, or whatever seems most urgent, and we lose our perspective of the bigger picture. And this leads to constant busyness, but not necessarily any feeling of progress or achievement.

Carving out a little time to reflect can make all the difference. We don’t mean just sitting there, exhausted, taking time to breathe – although that’s important too! – we mean reminding yourself of the bigger picture of your life and work.

When we are under stress and pressure to deliver our thinking tends to become very narrow and we lose the breadth of our vision. We can only seem to focus on the immediate ‘what next’ and because we are stuck in the stuff we struggle to see what’s really important, to get proper perspective.

It’s actually relatively easy to get some perspective, we just need to find a little time (could be as little as 15minutes) to stop and ask ourselves some reflective questions.

Reflection questions part 1 – to broaden the context beyond work:

Firstly we need to remind ourselves of the big context: what our lives are about. So we need to consider questions like:

  • What’s really important to me?
  • How do I want my life to be?
  • How do I keep some balance in my life?
  • How do I look after myself?

We don’t believe that any of us would spend the last few months of our lives on the things that so often fill our time. The time we had left would become precious to us and be about what really matters to us and gives us joy. So lets’ make sure that we have time for some of these things now. After all none of us know when those last few months may be. Let’s live our life rather than surviving it.

Reflection questions part 2 – to help us regain perspective on all those tasks that drive you along:

When we are stuck in the day to day tasks that we face at work, we forget that actually we are more in control of our to-do lists than we think. Sometimes just sitting down and asking ourselves what we really want to get out of our week can make all the difference – questions like:

  • What do I want to achieve in my work life this week? 
  • What do I want to achieve in my home life this week?
  • What will give me a feeling of progress towards my outcomes this week?
  • What would make my life easier and more enjoyable this week? 

When we stop and think about it, we can sort out our priorities rather than being driven by the urgent stuff. It gives us back a sense of control, of being in the driving seat, and it reminds us that, most of the time, we are not dealing with life or death situations, and some things really don’t need to be done at all! We all have an innate wisdom, that part of us that knows how to make our lives work. It requires a bit of time and space to switch it on – it gets buried when we just rush from one thing to the next.

So, turn off your phone and your computer for half an hour, once a week. Go on, why not put it into your online diary now – time for REFLECTION – Ask yourself these questions, or remind yourself of the answers you’ve come up with. Give yourself time to reflect and regain your perspective, and take back control.

It’s your life, don’t waste it on things that, when you reflect on them, don’t really matter as much as you think they do!

We think that reflection time will make a real difference to how you feel, and the only cost is 30 minutes from your working week. We reckon it’ll give you a great return on that small investment of time!

Have a great month everyone,

Jo and Di xx

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It’s winter, and nearly Christmas. We are biologically designed to slow down at this time of year, to sleep more, to do less, to rest before the busyness of spring. Yet most people seem to be more hectic than ever, planning for Christmas as well as trying to get stuff done at work before they take their time off.

We all feel as if we have less time anyway, with the shortness of daylight hours and the extra things to be done, and this leaves us tending towards grumpiness!!

Yet Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace and goodwill towards all. So how about starting by showing some peace and goodwill towards yourself?

You could let yourself off some of that pressure and be a little more kind to yourself.

  • Have a few nights of extra sleep – you need it to build your energy
  • Remember that no-one else will be working over Christmas, and you will probably do some of those tasks you have set yourself more effectively after a few days off, so check whether it is really necessary to do it now
  • Remember that Christmas only means a couple of days without shopping these days, so you don’t need to stock up for a major famine!
  • Make sure your Christmas plans include a little ‘me time’, doing something you want to do to just please yourself

Once you have been a little more kind to yourself, you can look at ways of showing peace and goodwill towards others: your family, your friends, your work colleagues. The most precious gift of all is to give our love and attention to others. Presents and cards are just a representation of that, so what else can we do to demonstrate our love?

  • Snuggle up with the family and watch a film you can all enjoy
  • Make their favourite meal one day
  • Put a short message on that Christmas card to tell them how much you appreciate them

It’s time we brought back the essential elements of this season of the year, and allowed ourselves a little more leeway.

It’s all about love and kindness, and it starts with you, so please be kinder to yourself – you deserve it!

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The phrase work/life balance has been around for a long time now, yet we still don’t really pay it enough attention. For many people nowadays, it means trying to take their holiday entitlement and occasionally getting home at a reasonable hour. Yet it means so much more than this.

Yes, it does mean that working all the hours God sends is not good for your health and well-being – or your productivity! It is important to get away from work and take a break. Yet often we only use this time to do more ‘work’ – the household chores, ferrying children to and from activities, making sure we visit family. That is not balance, that is doing two or more jobs!

We find balance when our life outside work takes us out of work mode, so that we satisfy other aspects of who we are. If we do physical work at work, maybe we need something mentally stimulating in our life outside work. If work is very analytical or logical, maybe we need to do something with the creative part of our mind outside work. If work is stressful, we need things that relax us – the list goes on!

Many of us have an over-emphasis on one aspect of who we are through our work, and leave other aspects untapped and unused. Yet all of us are a mixture of characteristics, which need to be used for us to feel whole and satisfied. Research clearly shows that those who use a mixture of their characteristics are far more likely to stay physically and mentally healthy than those who are over-using one part of themselves.

And remember that being creative doesn’t have to be ‘artistic’: it could be cooking a different meal, or re-arranging a room in your house. Similarly, doing something physical doesn’t have to be exercise in the gym: it could be gardening or going for a walk in the park.

What does matter is that we engage in activities that use a different part of our mind and give us a different sense of satisfaction.

This isn’t about having to do yet more in your busy life, it’s about feeding your soul, growing into who you really are. However much we love our work, we all need to expand into a life beyond work, rather than just do what needs to be done and then get back to work.

So go on, bake that cake, arrange the lunch with friends, go for that walk, increase that balance in your life!

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Last month I looked at ways of helping yourself to work more in the flow of how you work best. This month I want to look at some of those things that stop us from applying those principles.

Let’s start with the problems we cause ourselves! We often don’t allow ourselves a realistic amount of time to be able to think about what we’re doing.

Weekly Planning

Taking a bit of time to plan your week can pay off enormously. I don’t mean that long list of things to do; I mean getting clear in your own mind where the different things to do fit in to your week. There are a couple of things to bear in mind when doing this:

  1. Where possible, put different things in slots that match with the type of thing it is, and the best times (see last month)
  2. Keep it realistic. Are you really going to feel like writing that report after 4 back-to-back meetings? Can you really do those 6 things in the hour you allotted to them?

Making an overall plan for the week helps you to build in some of those things that do matter, but often drop off the list: starting something before the deadline looms; preparing properly for an important meeting; spending a bit of time with a colleague that isn’t driven by an urgent request. It also helps your mind-set for the week, by giving you a clear intention rather than ‘just getting it all done’.

Daily Planning

Applying the same principle on a daily basis also helps. Just take 5 minutes at the end of the day to check out where you are up to. Don’t forget to be pleased with yourself for what you have achieved or made progress on – that gives you a bit of a boost!

Then assess what didn’t get done, and whether it is possible to fit it in to the next day, or if you need to reassign the tasks for that day. By taking a moment to do this, you set yourself up to be ready to go the next day.


During the day, we often spend the majority of our time sitting – and even worse, in front of a computer! I talked last time about knowing when to stop because you’re no longer being effective. We are not designed to just sit all day, so when you ‘run out’, move. There is a lot of research that suggests that most of us don’t move enough, and that it adversely affects our health, and it is a good way to help yourself to recover your flow. When the body moves, the mind tends to ‘unstick’ itself as well. If you feel you need a reason to get up from your desk, go for a pee or to rinse your face, make a cuppa, pick up some papers and walk briskly through the office – it all helps!


Those are all the things we can do something about, but what about those interruptions that disrupt our train of thought or our concentration?

  1. If you operate an ‘open door’ policy, remember that it doesn’t have to be ‘open all hours’! You can allocate times when it’s OK to interrupt in a day, and make that clear to others.
  2. You can move away from your usual space to do work that requires concentration for an hour or two to the café, a meeting room, or work from home.
  3. You can ask the person if their query could wait for 30 minutes, so you can pay them proper attention.
  4. And turn the ‘ping’ off that signals emails or texts arriving!

Applying the principles of working smarter

It can be hard to be the one who isn’t rushing, busy, stressed, if that’s the general environment you’re in. You feel guilty for being less ‘busy’ than the others. So experiment with introducing just a few more of these ideas into your day; change it a bit at a time. And notice the positive effect on you, and on others. I guarantee you will feel better, and others will benefit from you being more present when you’re with them.

Go on, work a bit smarter – you deserve it!

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THERE IS AN ‘I’ IN TEAM – ‘looking after you’ for the benefit of all

Whilst doing a recent excellent team workshop with a large charity I was made aware by the head of the leadership team we were working with that actually there is an ‘I’ in team! – When you write the word TEAM in block capitals you’ll notice that within the A there is actually a capital I!

It was a bit of a revelation to me to find that I in ‘TEAM’ because at Meta we’ve always stressed how important it is to start with yourself when it comes to team working. Right now many of you will be working longer hours than you ever have and work no longer has the boundaries that it traditionally used to have – (Mainly that once you were out of the office the work stopped!)

It is vital therefore that you look after yourselves, and as any of you who have worked with us will know we put it at the forefront of the work we do, not just because its really important but because it leads to a greater capacity to work and enables you to be more effective and efficient.

With the advent of mobile technologies – the smart phone, the blackberry, the laptop – now office time has become extended to wherever you take your phone or laptop with you. That means that whereas before you did all your work at the office now many of you will work at home or on the way home. This extension of the office by mobile technology means the insatiable beast of our workloads now seeps into our home lives. The boundaries have become blurred between home life and work life and indeed for many of you this will mean working on the way home on the train, or finishing a report on the table in kitchen at home before dinner, or clearing your emails on a Sunday evening so that you have a clearer inbox before you start your working week in the office on a Monday morning.

Not enough of us are challenging this invasion into our home lives made by the never-ending demands of our workplaces. It leads to many of us having less time with our families and I hear all too often the complaint that children’s bedtimes are missed and weekend time with the family impinged upon.

It’s so important to start putting in firm boundaries to stop the flow of the unceasing tide of work into our personal and family time. First of all, make a record of how much time you spend working in an average week. What work is done in the office (and what times do you arrive/leave) and what work is done at home? – Be honest with yourself and after you’ve recorded it, review it and decide what you find acceptable and what is not acceptable to you.

The things that you decide are not acceptable are what I call the outer boundaries. They are the sea wall, put there to stop the excessive tides of work from overwhelming and flooding into your personal life to damaging effect. To the sports fans reading this, its like the outer boards on a cricket pitch, they don’t mark the boundary they are an outer (unmovable) boundary to protect the spectators. Then to continue with the cricketing metaphor there is the rope boundary (which is the actual scoring boundary), this is moved in and out dependent on where the cricket pitch is actually situated in the ground. Once you have established the outer boundaries – these are what I call your ‘non-negotiables’ for example – I will be home every evening in time to put my son/daughter to bed, I won’t do work on the weekends unless its an emergency, I won’t answer emails at home after a certain agreed time – then you can begin to work on the inner flexible boundaries.

What’s interesting is that when these outer boundaries are in place, you’ll soon see that actually no one is forcing you to do the work at those hours and if they are? Well that’s a conversation to be had with those that are asking these unreasonable things of you!

Then you can start to experiment with that inner rope boundary. Remember this is more flexible but no less important to creating that sense of balance in your work/life – perhaps coming home a little earlier (try 15 minutes earlier than normal at a time, not too drastic) or going in a little later. Perhaps banning work from home, or at least stopping doing any work at home? The fear is that if you’re not getting enough work done now, that you’ll get even less done if you do less hours, however the opposite is true IF it is done in the right way (See note below on state and energy) – don’t take my word for it though, do you own empirical research and see!

Now it’s all fine and dandy to establish these boundaries, but it’s important to not only establish them but also to start to look after you as well. Your state is the most influential factor when it comes to how you experience life. If you are tired and stressed its amazing how difficult and hard life can be, and isn’t it amazing when you’re having ‘one of those days’ how many irritating and obnoxious people there are in the world??

I’m trying here to lighten the mood.. Because for many of us work and life has just become heavy and hard work. This leads to us being grumpy not just in work but outside of work too, when we let the tide of work come in and never push back, then it has a serious effect on our relationships at home too.

Clearly it’s time to have a re-think. Because right now what most of us are doing isn’t working for us, our family or ironically for employers either!

Think of your mind and body as a light bulb. In order to work, it requires energy (in this case electricity) and if it does not have enough energy it does not light up. Far too many of you are running the light bulb that is you on the lowest setting on the dimmer switch! There’s not much energy in you, so you barely light up or function.

You are a being of light! – No, I’ve not just gone all airy-fairy and spiritual on you, at the smallest sub-atomic levels you ARE pure energy. So if you are energy, surely its important to keep your energy topped up?

The first and quickest way to do this is to sleep well! Research that we revealed in an update from last year says that we need a minimum of 7 hours sleep to be effective, and ideally 8 to ensure we are functioning at our best. How many hours did you get last night?

Secondly it’s important to take your breaks when you are at work, AWAY from your desk! Back to back meetings are not conducive to working at your best, regular breaks are regularly highlighted in research as being needed to ensure consistently high levels of performance at work.

Thirdly top up your fuel tanks on a regular basis – at work, on your way to and fro from work, and at home. Make a list of 20 things that give you that energy boost that can help you top up your internal fuel tank and make sure you have the list with you at all times. When you wake up in the morning ask yourself the question – “where is MY fuel tank today?” – if its low then make sure you have plenty of things to top it up before you get to work!

When you look after yourself and fill your fuel tank on a daily basis, as well as putting in firm boundaries when it comes to your work patterns, you’ll notice that work and life just gets easier. Its not rocket science, and yet most of us have let these things slip in the last few years.

So make a stand for you, and actually it won’t just be your family that thanks you, it’ll be your employer too. Why? Because working in a more natural, energy efficient way like this ensures that you’ll get MORE not less work done at a higher, more consistent quality.

Wishing you a great month,

Jo xxx

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What sort of a day have you chosen to have today?

Most of us would respond to this question by starting with: ‘I was OK until such-and such happened,’ or ‘Well, I had to do such-and such, so I was affected by that’, or just with irritation: ‘If only I could choose!’

I’m here to remind you that those are all choices too – that’s the bad news! And the good news is that once we really grasp that it’s always a choice, we can choose differently and feel better for it.

So what do I mean when I say that we always choose? When I first came across this concept, I couldn’t make sense of it. I thought that there were too many outside influences on my life – my work, my relationships, the weather, the state of my finances, the traffic – the list goes on and on! So I rarely felt as if I could choose what my day was like; it depended on what was happening around me. I was a fairly typical victim of circumstance.

Then gradually I began to realise that maybe it was a choice of sorts, to be a victim of circumstance, and that just made me feel worse! When you get this, you just feel cowardly or stupid: why don’t I just walk away from this job, this relationship, that makes me feel like a victim of circumstance?

Eventually I began to grasp that it isn’t necessarily about running away from things that adversely affect you; in fact, that’s not possible. If we are used to being a victim of circumstance, then we will take that attitude into any situation. It is about becoming conscious of what choices we do have in any situation.

The essential distinction is between passive and active choices. A passive choice is where ‘they’ or ‘it’ have made us feel or react this way. We allow the circumstance to be in control of our destiny, our mood, our attitude, and we passively accept its influence. We say, ‘There’s nothing I can do about it.’

Yet this is not how we are naturally wired. For evidence, look at how we handle things as children, before we learn to be passive. Children don’t think, ‘Dad’s in a bad mood today, so I will have to keep quiet and not be a nuisance.’ They think, ‘Dad is in a bad mood today, so I will see if I can make him laugh, or I may go and play with my favourite toys and leave him to it – he’ll get over it.’ Children find a way of making it work for them, by choosing how they react.

We are intended to be in control of our own destiny and we have the ability to do it, by consciously choosing how we react to circumstances. It is up to me to decide how I will react to bad news, someone being unpleasant, a traffic jam, and this is what gives me control. It becomes an active choice.

We are capable of doing this – we all do it sometimes. For example, ‘I’m tired and I had a bad day, but I want to go and see my friends and have fun, so I’ll have a good shower out on my favourite perfume/after shave and put on my glad rags, and then I’ll be up for it.’  So let’s just choose to do this more often!!

  • We can choose to make bad news a reason to allow ourselves an indulgence to make us feel better, or a prompt to make a change in our lives
  • We can choose to let someone being unpleasant keep their attitude to themselves and let it go past us – walk away and leave them to it
  • We can choose to use a traffic jam to listen to our favourite music or an audio-book

By making a conscious, active choice, we take back control of our own mood, our own attitude, our own state of mind. This helps us to make our lives work, no matter what, and keeps us in a place where we feel we can always make a positive difference, should we choose to.

Life is too short to be influenced by the negativity or adversity around us so let’s choose to enjoy our time here and make it work!!

in peace and love Di and Jo xxx

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Yes, we are talking to you!

Even if your don’t think you’re stressed, we know that you probably are. When we talk about being stressed, we are so far out of balance that it’s hard to come back to normal. So we want to encourage you to tackle the imbalance early, and make it easier for yourself to stay healthy and happy.

What we’re designed for

You see, biologically, we are still functioning as if we were hunter-gatherers. When we find something stressful, we release a mass of adrenaline and cortisol into our bloodstream. These hormones direct all the energy in our bodies into our arms and legs – for fight or flight – and to the instinctual part of our brains – for survival. Now this is really useful if you are facing a life or death situation – think of the stories of someone lifting a car off their child who’s been run over – but for most of us, the stresses are not about survival, they are more emotional and mental. So we have an excess of preparation for fight or flight that is not dissipated by using it for that purpose.

Causes of stress

And what causes that stress that we do have? Well, as I said, we are designed to be hunter-gatherers. That means we would have highly physical times, and then some downtime to recover. We would also live to the seasons, in touch with nature, awake in daylight hours, sleeping when it’s dark. We would eat natural unprocessed food, with a high proportion of fruit vegetables and grain. Instead we have become far more sedentary, we completely ignore seasonal changes, and we eat processed food a lot of the time. On top of that, we have a 24/7 culture, shopping after dark, online till the wee hours, responding instantly to communications. None of this is what we are biologically designed for, so puts stress on our system, before we even start to call things stressful.

Symptoms of stress

If you don’t think this applies to you, just consider whether you have any of these symptoms of stress in your system:

Do you know of someone who is suffering from difficulty in getting to sleep? Waking up in the middle of the night? Waking up with butterflies in their stomach? Suffering from low-level anxiety as they wake up or drive to work, for no obvious reason? Making snap/bad decisions? Not able to get over a cold? Getting ill easily and then being ill for a long time before recovering? Not being able to stop themselves saying something before they’ve said it? Feeling out of control? Wired? Uptight? Bad neck/back/shoulders? Stomach issues? Gut/digestion problems? Struggling to eat? Eating comfort food? Smoking/drinking too much? Jiggling their legs or fingers? Dropping things? These all can be signs of stress.

Effect of stress

Now you might say, ‘Oh well, that’s just the way it is’, but the effect on your physical and mental health of constantly having stress hormones in your body is significant. Those hormones take all the energy away from maintaining and repairing your vital organs, from using the evolved parts of your brain where you think things through, are creative and maintain perspective, and from your immune system which keeps you healthy. The other scary piece is that when stress hormones are in your body your cells do not regenerate. They just die off one by one and are not replaced.

The good news is, we can do something about it, by finding ways to re-balance our system, when we notice the signs of stress. As hunter-gatherers, we would have dissipated those stress hormones by our physical activity, and a successful hunt would lead us to release the health-giving hormones – dopamine and serotonin – which biologically re-balance the system, and re-direct our energy back to maintenance and repair of our bodies, and the more generally useful parts of our brain.

It’s important to emphasise here that actually stress is not our natural state, happiness, joy and fun is. You don’t see 3-4 year old kids stressed! You won’t find a 4-year-old sitting all depressed and moaning about everything, suffering from lack of sleep and suffering from anxiety! The vast majority of young children know how to look after themselves and actually our brains are wired not to make us feel bad, but to make us feel good. We are wired for happiness but we learn how to look for what’s wrong rather than what’s right. So it’s important to have our own strategies for getting ourselves de-stressed and back to our factory default setting of happiness!

Relieving stress/getting back to normal

Sometimes it’s not easy to just go back to default setting so it’s useful to have a number of strategies for de-stressing and getting back to normal.

We need to find our equivalents and consciously do something to correct the balance and help our bodies find their preferred state.

Anything physical helps, because it dissipates the effect of these stress hormones: have a run around the block to get rid of the excess adrenaline coursing through your body. Maybe you need to do some yoga to release the energy. Gardening helps, or just a walk in the park. Swimming, or the gym if that’s your thing. Even some energetic housework, if that doesn’t add to your stress! Just get your body moving.

It also works if we do anything which has a calming effect on us – it allows our body to find its natural balance: it may be a case of just sitting down for 5 minutes. Or take a break and have a cup of coffee. Maybe you could listen to a calming piece of music or phone a friend. Or just sit and relax and just breathe deeply to relieve the symptoms of stress.

Finally we can pro-actively use ways to release the dopamine and serotonin in our bodies, which counteract the negative effects of stress and quickly rebalance us. So do anything which makes you feel good, such as a favourite piece of music, reading a chapter of a good book, watching something that makes you laugh, or eating something that tastes good and is a natural food – anything which helps to shift your mood.

Whatever things work for you, it’s important to have a number of different ways to relieve stress for you, before it gets too unbalanced to deal with easily. This is not an indulgence, it is a necessary and vital rebalancing, if we want to function effectively and stay healthy. For the sake of our long-term heath, do pay attention to those symptoms of stress, and relieve them as quickly as possible. Your body, mind and spirit will all be grateful!!

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THE BLURRING OF BOUNDARIES – getting work and life back into balance

There has been talk of work/life balance in organisations for decades now.

When it first started, it was because people had begun to feel a pressure to stay late at work, to try and finish off their tasks, with the consequence that they had less time and energy for their home life.

Alas, instead of being an improved story now, the story has got a lot worse. With the advent of mobile phones as a necessary piece of kit for everybody, the real intrusion into home life began. No longer was the workday over when you set off for home. People began using their travelling time to make calls, instead of using it to wind down from the day. And having the work mobile switched on till mid-evening became the norm, in case someone needed to contact you.

Even that was not deemed to be enough of an intrusion. When laptops became widely available, and smartphones, communication by email also became the norm – we call it communication, although we all know that it is generally poor as a means of conveying messages and resolving issues.

Now the intrusion into home life was even more pervasive – we saw the ‘important’ message from the boss on our smartphone halfway through our dinner, and felt obliged to sort it out, or at least email a response, or a message to others who needed to be involved. What’s more, we were tempted into spending an hour or two trying to clear that damn in-box during the evening or at weekends, because we knew we wouldn’t have time at work.

Is this necessarily a bad thing? No, not if we did have work/life balance. Ricardo Semler wrote a book called ‘The Seven Day Weekend’ suggesting that, if we answer emails at the weekend, we should also be able to go to the movies on a Monday afternoon. In other words, if we are genuinely going to work flexibly, then that needs to be a two-way agreement with our workplace: rather then stretching our hours, it should mean that we manage our work/life balance in a more creative and flexible way for ourselves as well.

Sadly, very few people have felt able to adopt this way of seeing it. Instead, we are resigned to less time for home life, and have learnt to respond, like Pavlov’s dogs, to the ping of yet another email or voice message.

This means that even when they are at home people have their attention and thinking drawn towards work. And even if responding doesn’t take them long, it pulls them out of relaxing into their home life and allowing themselves to re-energise properly.

The blurring of the boundaries between work and home life has crept up on us: the intrusion has gradually increased, so that we have come to accept each stage as normal. But it’s not!! It’s not normal, and it’s not healthy for you or your organisation.

The insistence on work/life balance was not for altruistic reasons. It was because people need to have a proper break from work, and a rounded perspective on life, to be able to perform at their best at work. We are not machines that you can switch on whenever you want and get the same performance.

The effects of the blurring of these boundaries are: the cumulative exhaustion of people; the decline of happy home relationships; and poor reaction and decision-making at work, due to tiredness and resentment.

Isn’t it time you took back control of your world, and re-established some boundaries for yourself? After all, most of us are not working in places where taking time out away from work things will result in a disaster!

So, just stop and consider the following:

  1. Your journey to work: can you use it to get yourself in a positive mood for your workday?
  2. Your journey home: can you use it to wind down, re-energise yourself, and get ready to really be at home with your loved ones?
  3. Your laptop: can you leave it at work, or at the least allocate only a set period of time that you use it at home?
  4. Your smartphone: can you switch it off by 7 pm at the latest, and leave it switched off and have a whole weekend free sometimes?
  5. And if you can’t do any of these things, can you therefore go to the movies on a Monday afternoon?!!

Think for a moment about what is going to happen if you don’t do this to take back some control of your world: the intrusion will continue to grow – and may even be on your watch or TV screen, or even under your skin in a few years’ time! You will make those poor reactions/decisions that lead to more problems, because you are tired. Your family will give up on trying to involve you in their lives. And your inbox still won’t be empty!

Now compare this with what will happen if you do take back some control: some people may object to your lack of 24/7 availability, but they do get over it, particularly if you are clear about when you are available, and you work effectively in that time. Your family will love the ceasing of the constant interruption to life with them. And you will actually have some time to relax for a change!

Which would you prefer?!!!

We hope that you use this update to just take a little time to notice how blurred your boundaries between work and home have become and take back a little time for you, and your family.

Why? Because YOU deserve it!!

All our Love

Jo and Di xxx

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