Are you feeling isolated? We all need human connection

Isolated leader

When talking to prospective clients one of the things I try to do is delve a little into their personalities and their wishes for their work.  I ask questions such as ‘what makes you happy at work’, ‘what would you ideally like to accomplish’, ‘what do you think is your biggest challenge’, ‘how do you feel now’.

Some of the common words that have been cropping up recently in answer to the last question; ‘how do you feel now’ has surprised me.  “Lonely”, “Isolated”, “Alone”. Why would this be? Most companies I deal with still have offices teeming with people, many working in teams on various projects so how is it possible to feel isolated and alone?

Isolated Workplace

Leadership loneliness and being isolated at work

Exploring a little deeper I am finding that quite a few of the leaders have the idea that they cannot show any vulnerability as that will be seen as a sign of weakness.  They feel that they have to tread a lonely path so that they will be respected, be seen as the authority figure and have their orders obeyed.  I would suggest that idea of what a leader should be like is a misnomer.

When talking to team members it appears that many are using these words in terms of their tasks.  Some work from home the majority of the time and are feeling less connected with the rest of their team and office.  Some are given their task and then expected to go off and just get on with it with very little, if any, support. This leads to a sense of being isolated from the rest of the team.

As a solopreneur I am quite used to working on my own, it suits my personality.  However, I know that there is a danger of becoming isolated, separate from other people.  To stop this happening I make a point of arranging and going out to physically attend meetings.  My work, of course, means I am constantly meeting and mixing with new people and with new connections I encourage 1-2-1 coffee meetings so I can get to know them as people.  I would say I have a 50/50 balance between working alone and being with and around other people.

I can see that the newer, faster paced world of work requires people to concentrate on their job in hand and doing so alone negates unnecessary distractions, however, are we not in danger of forgetting a core essential for any high performing productive team? Is it healthy for people to feel isolated?

Feeling isolated is contrary to our DNA

Isolated & Alone

Social interaction is one of our basic human needs.  It is within our DNA and has been since the beginning of Homo Sapiens roaming the earth.  Whilst striving for more productivity we need to ensure that this fundamental need is catered for.  We need to be more genuine, authentic and open so that other people can relate, listen to and talk to us.  We should encourage and facilitate areas, events or times when people can get together and have a good old chin wag and we need to get better at asking others questions as to how they are feeling.

Everyone needs someone to lean on occasionally whether they are the very top executive, somewhere in the middle or on the front line.  Feeling isolated is not a necessary part of leadership or 21st century working, People are, first and foremost, people after all.

Share Your Vision

Part of my job now is to sit in on business leaders’ meetings with their teams to observe how they come across and interact with their colleagues.  I am not there to criticise or to nit-pick, I am there as an impartial observer who can then pass on my tips as a speaker as to how they can improve their presenting style to get their teams motivated and buying into the company vision or goal.

One of the most common omissions I keep seeing made again and again is the failure of properly sharing a vision, the goal, the target being aimed for. This then makes it much harder for others to aspire to the vision and put their full effort into making it happen.

As the great Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”

Do you have a properly defined vision?

 

vision puzzle

You may have a great, huge, wonderful vision of what you want to strive for but if you cannot share and articulate it properly no-one else is going to buy into it.  Or, as I suspect may be the case for the majority, you may not have clearly defined what your vision is apart from knowing that you need to do more of something to get more of something else which is simply too vague for anyone to get on board with.

It’s the basis of every talk and workshop that I do.  I paint a picture as to what I am going to be sharing and that provides a clear end result as to what I am trying to achieve with that particular engagement.  Everything else, the rest of the content, the steps, the tasks all fall into place from this one vision.  The result is that my audience buys into the overall vision from the start, they are inspired and motivated to act to achieve what it is I have set out as the ultimate goal.

Always start with your vision

When you think about it it’s the same for writing an article such as this.  Without having a clear vision as to the point you are trying to make and get across, the rest will be extremely hard work, confusing and may completely miss the target.

define your vision

Every business meeting, brainstorming session, discussion or general planning chit chat should always start with the vision.  The vision must be something that you have sat down and thought about prior and then be able to clearly see it in your mind’s eye.  You should write down exactly what that vision looks like, feels like, even sounds and smells like.  Don’t worry about how it is going to be achieved just define it precisely and then share it with your team/colleagues in such a way that they too can clearly see it.

In this way you build enthusiasm towards achievement and have a team that it pulling with and for you rather than fragmenting or pulling against you.

The Importance of Influencers – Why You Should Aspire to Other Leaders

being an influencer

I think one of the fundamental steps towards trying to become a great leader is to think of who inspires you, great influencers you would most want to be like.  Perhaps it is part of the human psyche to search for someone worthy of our respect, attention and desire to emulate and for each of us they will be different people that we consider tick these boxes for ourselves.

great influencers

Great influencers impact your life

It doesn’t matter if you refer to them as mentors, teachers, hero’s or influencers.  Call them what you will, for you they are leaders as they have been before you and carved a path that you want to follow.  They have had a profound effect on your life and may well have moulded some of the beliefs or attitudes that you hold dear. However, remember, as with any human being they are not perfect.

Great influencers can be ordinary people

Of course, there is an almost inexhaustible list stretching back over the years of time of leaders that most people would look at and agree that they were pretty amazing, even if they personally do not hold them as one of their influencers.  However, don’t forget the smaller, quieter ones.  The primary or secondary school teachers who paid specific attention to you and encouraged your development.  Your parents who may have provided the opportunities for you to explore and test yourself. The colleague, boss, co-worker, who took you under their wing when you were starting out.  We travel such a varied path from babyhood to death that inspiring leaders and influencers will crop up all of the time and they won’t always be a big name and may even be younger than you.

However, again remember that even the most saintly of leaders will have bad bits to them, rotten ideas and questionable views or actions.  They’ve all had 2 arms, 2 legs, a head and torso which they’ve had to feed and expel from (how polite am I!) just as we do and that’s why I love the ones I look up to.  We should take heart that they are quite ordinary when boiled down as that is what makes their greatness, for us, achievable.

Choose aspects of influencers that match your own values

Picking the best bits from each one that truly resonates with you and your psyche is the way to be.  You can then seek to improve and expand on those traits that are good whilst also seeking to discard or eradicate the ones that are not.  And always leave room for expansion as more appear on your path.

If I can term it pictorially consider yourself as an abacus, you’ve seen a quantum computer and you sooo want to evolve and develop into that quantum computer.  As the abacus you won’t have a clue how you get there but there will be leaders in their fields who will have the knowledge and insight they can share with you to turn you into that super computer. From this state you will, yourself, be able to turn back and help other abacus become quantum computers or even go on to surpass you.  Now isn’t that the sort of great leader and influencer you’d want to be?

As a Leader, If You Aspire Towards Greatness Maybe, One Day, You Will Become One

Great leader

Being a great leader is not your decision…

‘How to be a great leader’ or derivatives around this title are often used by self-help books, courses and trainers but you aren’t the one who is going to decide whether you are great or not. Others, your colleagues, results, what you achieve in your lifetime and eventually history will. Therefore I’d concentrate instead on being a thoughtful, efficient and effective leader (though that doesn’t tick the ‘sexy’ box does it?) and perhaps, if you’re lucky, greatness will follow and some will believe you to be a great leader.

Also, while I’m at it, greatness will change (ie, what is and isn’t a great leader) as should your leadership style. If you develop a style and then stick with it for the rest of your working life you are going to get stuck in it, will not develop and grow and, in all likelihood neither will your team(s).

Great leaders understand the importance of change

If all of this is confusing you I’ll give you a personal example of what I mean:

Before the train crash, pre-crash Pam (as I term myself) was an owner of a financial services company responsible for 15 staff. It was an extremely male dominated industry (mind you, still seems to be even today which I find surprising) and I thought I had to develop a leadership style that mimicked theirs.

I decided to lead by example – tough but fair. I was in early, worked late, came in at weekends when necessary, turned over enormous volumes of work and expected my staff and colleagues to do the same. I was tough with my goal setting, tough with my expectations and woe-betide anyone who didn’t keep pace or live up to my expectations of them.

It worked in the sense that we made money. It worked in the sense that targets were hit. It worked in the sense that the company expanded rapidly in only a few years. However, looking back, I don’t think any of us were having fun and I now wouldn’t term my leadership as ‘great’.  I was not a great leader.

Then the train crash happened and that life was trashed.

great leader and leadership styles

A great leader adapts

Post-crash Pam (as I view myself now) suddenly became in charge of a totally new type of team – the Paddington Survivors Group. There were 81 of us and it didn’t take a genius to work out that if I ran the group as I had my company it wouldn’t take long before all those survivors would run away! I needed them if we were going to change the rail industry.

And that’s when I went through a crash course (excuse the pun) with my own leadership style. I had to develop ways of cajoling, being supportive, persuading, managing, developing, listening and being diplomatic with everyone – survivors, industry and government. Luckily it worked – we survivors stuck together for over 5 years and were able to substantially influence sweeping changes within the rail industry nationally.

It was exhausting changing such learned behaviour from before but, oh my, was it liberating. And you know what? Since that time it is these new skills that keep opening doors and opportunities for me and most of my old pre-crash Pam leadership style has evaporated.

Does this make me a great leader? Only history will ever know as I doubt I ever will. All I can do is continue to strive towards being the best leader I possibly can.  I still lead by example but now I rate compassion, co-operation, communication and self-improvement above anything else.

So the question is how will history be able to judge you as a leader?  What do you believe to be the necessary attributes of a great leader? I would love your feedback – do comment below

other attributes of a great leader

Lifelong Learning & Leadership – Do you really think you know it all?

lifelong learning is for all

This week I have been running several leadership workshops, some full day some half.  At one company there was a gathering of 13 leaders responsible for over 265 people between them.  The age range spanned from 30’s to 60’s and were a mixture of men and women.  (It was almost a 50/50 split between the genders which made a pleasant change).

Lifelong learning often starts with reflection

At this particular company, they had only booked me for a half day training session but specifically wanted my future-proofing leaders programme.  As this normally takes at least 2 days to deliver the entire programme I had to focus in (with their agreement) on the first, and most important aspect, which was getting the leaders to have a good, long, honest, hard look at themselves and their own styles of managing teams and people. This to me is a crucial aspect of lifelong learning- the ability to reflect and avoid the, “We’ve always done it this way” mentality.

lifelong learning

Lifelong learning is for all of us

What I found interesting was the difference in how the different leaders responded and what they took on board across the age range.

The ‘younger’ members were open and seemed willing to take on what was being imparted taking part enthusiastically with the activities.  It wasn’t that they had to learn, they had after all already achieved their rank and were actively managing their teams.  They just seemed to be more open to new ideas, thoughts and suggested tweaks to their management style.  They seemed to appreciate that you never finish learning, however high up you might ascend, and longevity for a leader is to keep evolving and embracing the new.  They embraced the notion of lifelong learning. This was borne out by their remarks on the feedback forms afterwards where they all stated they had enjoyed the course and had picked up some pointers that they had not thought of before.

The ‘older’ members appeared more reticent.  I got that they had been in their roles longer and had probably been on more courses then most of the rest of us, however their attitude was more jaded.  They did not willingly participate, there was a bit of grumbling and ideas that the younger members grasped quickly they were struggling with.  One gentleman specifically fed back that he didn’t personally feel a need to change but would get his team members to use the tools!  I am not sure how you get a team to follow your lead if you don’t set the example yourself. Lifelong learning is not just the province of your juniors, it should be something you model yourself.

lifelong learning leadership

In my opinion you never stop learning.  Granted, along the way, you may hear or see things that you have heard before put differently, but that doesn’t mean they are not right.  If any of us, including those at the very top, truly believe that they have nothing more to learn and are perfect in every way then I tremble for the future of those companies and hope that their tenure at the firm will come to a natural conclusion, in the not too distant future.

Weakness when confronted can become strengths

Weakness to strength

Are you willing to acknowledge your weaknesses?

 

This week I attended a leadership day where 12 leaders from large UK organisations were gathered. (Interestingly only 1 of the 12 was a woman which I made a note of in light of my previous article.)

 

I had been invited by the organisers as they are keen for me to become involved with their programme so my capacity this time was as an observer rather than a presenter.

 

The format of the day was different from the usual leadership days I have been on. Although it was obviously well structured I liked the more informal approach they were adopting. The activities they had planned were different, engaging and certainly got the points across.

 

At first the people gathered around the table appeared to be a little taken aback if not puzzled by the informal, interactive style of the day. However, this quickly turned into pleasure and enthusiasm and, bearing in mind most there were from different companies, an openness I have not witnessed before in such a room of august individuals.

 

Weaknesses define our humanity

weakness becomes strength

I know that many leaders at the top of their companies find the role very lonely and the old way of doing things promotes the idea that being lonely at the top is a given. However, on this day, some of the revelations that came out were quite personal and gave a great insight into the human being that was behind that leader.

 

We all have strengths and weaknesses and sometimes it is hard to admit, own or appreciate your weaknesses. What tends to stop people is fear.  Fear of admitting you have a weakness or fear of asking for the help you need to tackle your weakness.  There is also a fear of acknowledging your own weakness in front of peers or colleagues because you will ‘lose face’ or authority.

 

And yet, as I always propound, identifying and admitting your weaknesses is the first step in finding the courage to change it.  Knowing what you are not good at or are lacking can be transformed into a strength. The key to doing so is always to be honest about them with yourself, others and then taking the actions needed to find the knowledge or information that will precipitate the transformation.

 

Here is one of mine: I am comfortable in admitting to myself, my colleagues, friends and family that I am too much of a perfectionist.  Striving for this perfection in everything I do is exhausting and consciously I know unattainable (there is no such thing as perfection).  Having acknowledged this major weakness I am working on lowering my expectations in this regard by getting those close to me to point out when I am exhibiting my perfectionist trait, taking advice from other people and encouraging constructive criticism from varied avenues.  It’s a work in progress however I am encouraged by the reduction in stress I am already experiencing. I feel almost ready to consider tackling another of my weaknesses.

Weakness overcome with help

Turn your weaknesses into strengths

Try it for yourself.  Think of just one weakness you have (don’t make a list as that would be too soul destroying) that hinders you enjoying what you do or is slowing your progress, and be brutally honest.  Think of the opposite trait that you would consider a strength and then work out what actions you need to take to move you from where you are now towards your desired strength.  Open up and tell other people about all of this and your plans, asking them for their feedback as you progress.

You are now committed so make a start!

Back to Work – Post Holiday Planning

Back to Work

Are you ready to get back to work?

I’ve often mused over the saying ‘the older you get the faster time goes’ as it does seem to generally hold true but I think I would now change it to ‘the older you get the faster change happens’.

It only seems like yesterday that it was New Year and new planning was being done for the coming months.  Those months seemed to stretch inexorably ahead and there seemed to be plenty of time to get everything done. After the holiday season, you and your clients are back to work and occasionally it can take some time to get back in the swing of things.

And then, in a flash, the end of the year is looming.  Certain plans made earlier are taking longer to come to fruition or have hit delaying obstacles if they haven’t withered and died along the way.  It won’t be long before another new year begins and progress assessment so far is not as bright as may have been hoped for.

At this stage a number of feelings can occur.  Frustration, exhaustion, general malaise, worry and even panic.

Don’t stress over getting back to work

I have written in the past about how plans must come with continual re-assessment and change of tack when necessary.  If you have been doing so then the situation I describe above should not happen as you will have been keeping pace with the ever changing scenarios and be ahead of the game.

However, if you have not been vigilant and flexible beforehand that the state I allude to may well be foremost in your mind. 

However, even if you are the latter there is no need for knee-jerk reactions or headless chicken antics.  The important thing is to concentrate on the NOW.

Use now, whenever that may be, to re-assess, re-group, re-plan, change direction.  The WHEN is not the important part the continual evolution and progress is if you still want to hit your goals.

Hopefully you will have recharged over the holiday period and learned some stress busting techniques. If you feel anxious about getting back to work after your break, then your first step is to take some deep breaths.

Your next step is to invest some time in reviewing your plans. This is worthwhile, because things will have changed, whether expected or unexpected.

Moving forwards after getting back to work

  • Be ruthless, you have three months left until Christmas. What is worth keeping from your plans, what should you junk?
  • Be realistic– some of your plans need more time to implement- don’t stress over these, put a note next to them to revisit in January.
  • Be rational. What can you truly get done in the time you have and what will give you the best return? I am a believer in dreams; implementing strategies that fulfil your true purpose, but I also know that bills must be paid! Be aware that for many industries January can be a quiet and unprofitable month. You need to maximise this quarter’s revenue to tide you over.

Don’t forget to connect. Your clients may also be feeling the stress of getting back to work and would welcome some clear advice from you. If you have gently kept in touch over the summer break, now is the time to capitalise on that relationship. Remind them of your discussion, help them clarify their own goals and you should find that you become top of mind when they need to implement their own changes.

Getting back to work after a holiday need not be difficult if you employ some stress reduction and keep a clarity of purpose.

If your holiday has thrown up some issues about what you are doing with your life (this often happens) don’t make any hasty decisions, allow those thoughts to simmer. Sometimes we need a break to get perspective, but holiday dreams can wither in the harsh reality of Winter. If you know that change is needed- then apply your planning techniques to that change and if possible, test out a few of those holiday ideas. Any major change needs planning and if you can focus on what is needed for success this quarter you can create time for consideration of future, significant change.

Maintaining communication – keeping the connection

Keeping Open the Lines of Communication- maintaining communication is important

Most industries have a lull during their trading year.  There is almost always a month where not much is going on in sales or where the closure rate is no longer as imperative as it was in the other months. You may be making fewer sales calls but maintaining communication is still important.

Maybe a lot of your clients are on holiday and your business is not holiday related. Maybe you have taken a break too, come back, and found that customers are still quiet- saving up their spend for the next quarter.

Don’t consider this month as a fallow month.  It is an opportunity to get things done that have been left in abeyance such as clearing out, destroying old papers, re-organising systems, researching potential developments, implementing test projects in preparation of the busier times to follow.

You may have had a stressful year to date- so also take the time to reflect, consider how to buffer yourself against potential stress as things hot up again.

Another crucial factor to remember during this period is your connections.  This quieter period is an ideal time to foster those relations further.

I just called to say…hello- maintaining communication

Take the time to make a call just for a general discussion.  Attend more networking meetings to encourage new connections and how about going out for lunch with your most important connections? Maintaining communication without pressing for a deal may open up new possibilities.

Remember, at the end of the day, people will do business with you because they LIKE you. Give them the opportunity of having your personal connection and time devoted to them.

Caveat: Don’t use this quieter period as an excuse to take your foot of the accelerator – just be a little gentler with your revving. If you disconnect too much from work it can be hard to get back into the swing of things. The idea is to balance some work “housekeeping” with maintaining lines of communication with clients, potential clients and maybe potential joint ventures. You may find that busy person, impossible to get hold of usually, is available during the holiday season as they too take this time to reflect and regroup. Build the holiday season into your planning and use it as a useful review period to ensure you end the year on a positive note.

The Return Deadline

Come September people are going to be flooding back into the office.  Children will return to school, parents will have more time to concentrate back at work without the holiday distractions and suddenly the impetus will start climbing as things gather a new urgency with business managers keeping a wary eye on the approaching festive season and financial year end deadlines.

Because of the creative and useful time maintaining communication that you have spent in the preceding month you are going to be ready to take full advantage.

You will already know what targets to hit. You will have your strategies lined up with the assets ready to be sent out.  As the auto-replies come off email communications you will be one step ahead as cohesive, helpful suggestions with calls to action messages get distributed.

Take advantage of the few days or weeks that others will need to get back into the swing of things and progress your cause. Hopefully during this lull, you will have also recharged your batteries- learned some stress busting techniques  to get you through the coming hectic period.

 

 

Beating Stress & Having Fun; Hobbies & Interests

The importance of hobbies and interests in beating stress

Most of us pride ourselves on working so hard and effectively that we find we don’t have time to indulge our interests outside of work.  What we forget is that these outside interests may well make us more productive inside. Not only that- research shows that people who have hobbies and interests are far more effective at beating stress when it strikes.

When was the last time you took a whole day to read a book?  When you go on holiday do you put your phone/tablet away and leave work things until your return? Do you have periods where you switch off from work entirely? Most important of all what do you do for FUN?

Having fun and beating stress

I am as bad as the next person. I haven’t had a proper holiday now for 4 years and have a stack of books I have been meaning to read by my bedside.  However, this is somewhat offset by the fact that I travel for my speaking events and take a few days either before or after to explore where I am or lounge around near a beach.  I also started a rule some time ago that on Sunday’s (unless imperative) I will not turn on my pc or look at my tablet which has freed up my time to stick my nose in a book and lose myself for a few hours.

Explore what you might enjoy.  It might be going to the gym (yuk), it might be roaming the countryside and having a picnic, it might be taking up a new hobby (I’ve just taken up archaeology and am loving it).  It could be anything just make sure it is not work related and makes you smile and relax.

The beauty of a hobby is that you can switch off from work demands and literally, “go somewhere else”. When you are absorbed in an activity your brain can focus on that activity alone and the other concerns literally get filed away. This is like a holiday for your brain and all those neurons that over fire during anxiety can rest.

A side benefit of having a hobby or interest is not just beating stress but warding off disease.

Research has suggested that combining good nutrition with mental, social and physical activities may have a greater benefit in maintaining or improving brain health than any single activity.

http://www.alz.org/brain-health/brain_health_overview.asp

Stress is bad for your brain health and as you get older you may find yourself becoming forgetful or unable to focus. By giving your brain a break from the demands of your workload, you improve its cognitive ability and this can be helpful in not just beating stress overload but also in warding off diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Making time for hobbies and beating stress is possible

And if you are still saying “I don’t have enough time” – yes you do. In a week, there are 168 hours of which you sleep 56 and 40 are normal business hours – that still leaves you 72 hours per week to do something else if you want to.

It does take planning and commitment and sometimes the best way to do this is to schedule your downtime. If your calendar looks full, find a slot each day/week that you block off just for “you time”.

Plan breaks between periods of activity to allow the business of the day to filter down to your subconscious (where lots of ideas and solutions lurk). I find that walking away from a problem for a while often helps a solution to present itself. So, engaging in a hobby for an hour- or just doing a crossword, reading a chapter of a book etc. allows your brain to rest and think through a problem in your subconscious while your conscious brain is having fun.

If you are a workaholic- you will find that after a while you become less effective. It is not “heroic” to keep pushing yourself through this- it is counter-productive. Beating stress is not an option- it can severely compromise your ability to function. So, do yourself a favour, step back, take some time out and when you return to your work you will be refreshed and more effective.

The Dangers of Stress – And How to Overcome Stress

Is it important to overcome stress?

It’s been well documented the work hours lost attributed to stress.  An expensive condition to both employee, employer and the self-employed.  And yet we still push ourselves to the limit and don’t raise our heads enough to notice that this month is a perfect time to slow down a little.

According to medical research the physical problems related to chronic stress include the lowering of the immune response, chronic muscle tension, and increased blood pressure. These problems can eventually lead to serious life-threatening illnesses such as heart attacks, kidney disease, and cancer.

When your immune system is compromised you are prone to catching colds, fevers and any bug in proximity- you literally cannot fight off infection. You may find that as soon as you relax, such as go on holiday, you get ill and then as you are forced to rest you recover and eventually feel much better than prior to the illness. The adrenaline of working can keep your immune response functioning but all you are doing is stacking up the impact of the underlying stress for later.

Stress leads to everyday niggles such as headaches, insomnia, panic attacks, general aches and pains and a feeling of being “under the weather”. More serious long term effects of stress are depression, weight loss or gain and mood swings that disrupt your work and family life.

Take a stress break

A vast swathe of the working population is now entering the summer holiday season when their sprogs are off school and need catering for in other ways.  Noting that the ideal is not to leave them glued to their phones or game consoles thoughts turn to taking off for an annual getaway. How best to keep them entertained…How best to deal with the increased costs of looking after them….They might get 7 weeks off but can you afford to?  All this induces a different kind of stress which is equally as damaging. You are supposed to be taking a break and overcoming stress but all that is happening is the stress triggers have changed.

For us childless people August brings another type of stress.  With so many others off work for large chunks of time our work automatically slows down as fewer decisions are made or are deferred until after the summer break.  Particularly for the self-employed this can be extremely frustrating e.g. not many companies have conferences in August so my work dries up!

However, the trick is to embrace this change of pace.  It’s going to happen and there is nothing you can do to stop it so accept it and make the best of the slower period ahead.

Overcoming stress – some practical tips

Don’t wait until your holidays to tackle your stress- but make the most of this break to set yourself up with some good habits.

It’s all about pacing yourself. That means getting a regular good night’s sleep and eating properly as the basics.

Taking care of yourself is not selfish, it is necessary.

If you are working then your organisation may offer some stress busting activities as part of their staff welfare program- take advantage of them

If you are self-employed, then when you do your annual planning, identify your peaks and troughs. Build in a break in the quiet times and use those times for long term planning that will save you time when you are busy.

If you are a parent- planning activities you all enjoy can be as simple as playing sports, going for walks, or playing card games when it rains. The holiday away may not be within your budget but kids value your time more than expensive holidays so stop beating yourself up about it.

Overall, take the impact of stress seriously. If you have a constant headache, feel ill and fed up most of the time- chances are you are experiencing stress. Take some time each day for some deep breathing. Plan your weeks to minimise stressful situations and when all else fails, get outside in the fresh air and walk. Studies show that nature is one of the best cures for feeling stressed.

I will be covering some stress busting techniques in later articles, but would be interested to hear any of your tips- just comment below.