A Vision of work / life balance

So it’s Friday as I write this and this has prompted me to post about work / life balance.

Are you saying ‘thank god it’s Friday’?

‘I would love to have a great weekend; however I have so much work to do’

‘I am totally stressed and shattered’

This weekend I would ask you to think about what you would like your life to be like in regards to work / life balance and formulate a vision statement for this. It should be no longer than 15 words.

This may seem very formal, however most successful companies use vision statements to motivate people and allow it to create strategy and planning. If you want to change anything in life you need to have a strategy and a plan

e.g. ‘My life is about family, friends and allowing me time to enjoy life more’

From this you can formulate strategies to help you achieve this vision

  1. Spend more quality time with my family
  2. Ensure that I stay in contact with friends
  3. Allow time for me

Make the planning part simple to start with; look at small changes.

A tool to help you is Start Stop & Continue

Write down all the things that you want to start doing, stop doing and how to continue doing the things that feels write in your life.

Be warned the bit inside you that doesn’t like change will start saying things like

  • I don’t have time for this
  • It will affect my work
  • I will have time to do this when I retire or kids leave home

As Nigel Marsh says in the attached TED video, success should not be based on who has the most money when they die.

Nobody can make these changes except you

Hope you enjoy the TED video, if you have any anecdotes or things that have helped you with work life balance please comment.

Hope you have a great weekend

Entering the matrix


The world of business is changing rapidly with more and more companies

  • Cutting back on travel
  • Manager’s having ‘virtual teams’
  • Training  conducted by webinar or YouTube style training video
  • The rise of teleconference and video conferencing

All of this makes sense in the tough economic times we live in; however, how often are people receiving training not only on the technical side but the behavioural side of using virtual meeting technologies?

Being competent in using the software isn’t enough e.g. PowerPoint was launched in 1990… nearly 22 years ago, how often do you see really good presentations using PowerPoint?

Running an effective meeting face to face is a skill and requires real leadership to keep people engaged, feel comfortable to speak up and share ideas, ultimately reach the objectives of the meeting and leave motivated.

So I thought I would share some tips for virtual meetings

  • Start with a small team in the company and give them the support and development to become really effective at using the software and the identifying the behavioural aspects that really work; then let it go viral in your workplace
  • Have short, concise objectives for the meeting and display these throughout so that the attendees know what’s next and how much progress you have made. Send these out before hand to allow time for preparation
  • People’s attention will waiver after slide 3 on a webinar so make it interactive with polls, questions, whiteboard etc.
  • The chairperson should be there 15 minutes before the start and know how to mute and unmute
  • Facilitate discussion by using open questions followed by people’s names
  • Be aware when some delegates are one room together and the rest are virtual e.g. the whispered side chat in the room is distracting and can create them and us mentality. If there is silence in the room full of people narrate what is going on
  • Set expectations or ground rules if its the first time everyone has got together using this medium e.g. everyone gets a chance to speak, participation,use your name when joining the discussion (webinar / teleconference)
  • Be aware of background noise
  • Stay out of emails and turn mobiles of, unless you would normally do this in a normal face to face meeting?

These are only a selection of tips, please feel free to add any amusing anecdotes, pet peeves or tips in the comment section

Potential 37% increase in productivity by being happy

Not something new that if people are happy in their work then they will potentially be more productive.

So ask yourself

What was the last thing you, your boss or department did something to increase morale?

What is regularly being done in your workplace to increase / maintain positivity?

Remember that fad celebrating success at work….when was the last time you did this?

Some replies to this are ‘we don’t have a budget, we’re too busy…..’

If you have 12 minutes today and want to hear, something motivational, funny and with concrete ideas that cost nothing then I would recommend the ted video below.

‘We believe that we should work to be happy, but could that be backwards? In this fast-moving and entertaining talk from TEDxBloomington, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that actually happiness inspires productivity.’

If you enjoyed that video you can learn more here http://www.shawnachor.com/

Give your emails the STAR treatment

Emails are a massive part of our business lives and they can be immensely useful, however, they can cause real headaches when they are not constructed well.

Ask yourself:

  • How many times have you received a chain email from colleagues and do not know what it is really about until you read through all the attached emails?
  • Ever read a long winded email from someone and you are not sure what the person is asking you to do?
  • An email that assumes that the recipient has a great network
  • Why am I being asked to do this?

It wastes time and is frustrating

It’s time to give you and your team’s emails the STAR treatment.

Subject – Be specific about what the email is about not some generic heading

Tasks – List everything you want them to do

Additional Support – let the recipient know who may be able to help them or who will definitely be able to help them or whether they should come back to you if they have questions

Results – What does success look like? What, by when, who etc. also what is in it for them / the team / department etc.? Where it fits in the big picture.

If you find the above structure is taking too long, then maybe it is an indication you should just call the person. It always surprises me the amount of emails being sent back and forward when a 5 minute chat sorts things out.

It may not work for every email but it’s a great tool when you want to keep emails clear, concise and to the point

Listen your way to success

You are probably thinking that I have lost my marbles with the title of this post, however stay with me.

We put so much emphasis on clever pitches, presentations and influencing people (all important) in meetings or waxing lyrical to our partners and family about our day that we tend not to consider our listening skills.

Are we truly listening or are we just waiting for our chance to put across our point of view that matches our agenda / objective, maybe even satisfying our ego?

Test yourself; do you do any of these in

Important meetings

  • Think about the amount of work you have already on your desk
  • Think about the previous meeting that didn’t go so well
  • Check your blackberry etc.?
  • Concentrate solely on what you want or your ideas
  • On telephone conferences put yourself on mute and work your way through emails
  • Take copious amounts of notes

At home

  • Talk about your day in front of the telly, computer or whilst doing something else

If you have mentally ticked yes to any of these then you may not be ‘living in the moment’ and truly listening and have the potential to miss important chances to communicate or influence someone in the most effective way. You may be treating symptoms not the root cause and so they are less likely to see the merits in your solution. Switch off any ‘interference’ that can affect your listening.

‘I have so much work and so many meetings that I need to multi-task’ is a common objection to this, however this is more about saying yes rather than no which I will cover in future post.

Listening effectively will help time management as you will not have to cover the same ground again; you have closed the sale or articulated your point or feelings in a persuasive way.

Stephen covey said ‘seek to understand before being understood’ – 7 Habits of Highly Effective people. https://www.stephencovey.com/ (his new 8th habit is great too)

He talks about listening with your ears, eyes and heart

5 levels of listening

5. Empathetic – as active however, you are putting yourself in their shoes, noting body language, tone, pace and volume of speech

4. Active – Verbal and non-verbal nods, asking pertinent questions, recapping offering relevant insights or challenges

3. Selective – Hearing what you want to hear

2. Pretending – Nodding dog syndrome

1. Ignoring – off in your own wee world – lights are on but nobody is home

Ok so sometimes I am in the zones of 1 – 3 (clothes shopping springs to mind!) I am not perfect. It does take hard work and effort to listen well

If you have an important meeting then you need to be in zone 5 as sometimes… what is not being said is as important as what is.

Ever heard someone say ‘I dont need solutions or help I just want someone to listen’

So my challenge is to practice empathetic listening at least once a day and record how you get on. You might want to start with family members or friends, remove any distractions TV etc. sit down and ask them about their day and stay in zone 5!

Feel free to post results in the comments box. Hope you are having a great week