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Whilst some businesses are beginning to return to office working, for many professionals and organisations, remote working is likely to remain an integrated part of corporate life, whether full time or for a few days a week.
Adapting to the new normal, professionals at all levels of business are being met with new remote communications challenges. RADA Business, the commercial subsidiary of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, reveals it has received a significant increase in leaders seeking professional guidance since the start of lockdown wishing to improve their communication skills via virtual mediums and tackle anxieties related to remote working.
Speaking to Life Coach Directory, RADA Business tutor, Kate Montague, shares her insights to help professionals ease communication-related anxiety whilst working from home.
Why do you think more of us are struggling with work-related anxiety while working remotely?
There are myriad reasons why remote working can take its toll. We are creatures of habit and anything that causes us to venture into the unknown can trigger our ‘fight or flight response’, or a sense of feeling threatened or overwhelmed, and this is bound to have an impact on how we think, feel, breathe and express ourselves.
Remote working means we are no longer surrounded by our usual support network of colleagues who have our backs and step in to help where needed; perhaps we’re struggling to get our hard work recognised, or the boss is constantly questioning our outputs whilst we’re at home and away from their watchful eye. And of course, with remote working, comes specific tech problems.
Difficult communication is one of the biggest causes of remote work-related anxiety, but once we understand this we can then begin to take steps to consider our interaction with others and improve our communication.
What can we do to manage work-related anxiety while working remotely?
Solid communication is pivotal in tackling remote working anxieties. A phone or video call is always going to be a clearer and more efficient method of communication than batting emails back and forth, or using multiple social messaging apps.
Setting aside time to have regular catch-ups with your team or clients can reduce the risk of miscommunications online and, as the saying goes, “a problem shared is a problem halved”. So often the act of talking through issues with someone else can help us to relax and declutter the mind.
At RADA Business we provide coaching on communications, but we also look at where stress is manifesting itself. Often, it takes a physical form in the spine and in our posture. When anxiety is particularly high, physical exercises and stretches can also help to relieve work-related anxiety.
Stretching upward to lengthen the spine, rolling out the shoulders, and gently releasing your neck, are a few simple and effective exercises we can do at home, between virtual calls, to release physical tension. It is a good idea to do this from standing so that you reclaim your body’s natural alignment, which will inevitably be compromised from too much sitting.
It takes 3-5 minutes of conscious breathing to reset the nervous system, calming the ‘fight or flight response’, helping to make us more comfortable both physically and mentally. To do this, take a moment to sit or stand tall, then allow yourself to become aware of your breath and breathe deeply and fully, in through the nose, releasing out through the mouth. Let yourself breathe up and down your body. Aim to breathe consciously, and more deeply than normal at periods throughout the day, particularly during stressful spells, to help relieve anxiety and clear the mind. This will help enable you to respond to situations rationally and empathetically rather than letting your emotions drive you.
What tips do you have for keeping communication smooth and productive when working remotely for both leaders and members within a team?
When using visual platforms, taking time to find a reliable video conferencing service can keep meetings efficient by reducing time lost to technical difficulties. Getting set up with a good camera and microphone helps us to land messages clearly. Be practical – check that you can be seen clearly – lighting from the front really helps.
Sitting with a window behind you, for example, will mean that you are seen only in silhouette. Headsets are useful for clarity and privacy in your own quiet zone, yet ensure that your headset is discrete and does not detract from your presence.
Temperamental video conferencing software and poor wi-fi connections can cause further communications issues, so be sure to check in with whomever you are speaking with and have them confirm that they’ve understood the points you are making. This will ensure your message has been received and has landed as you intended.
Create intimacy and connection through setting an appropriate tone with your listener. You can do this by connecting to a strong intention for each meeting: my intention, for example, is to help, or to mentor, or to support, or be flexible.
Speaking clearly on video calls is hugely helpful and it’s not just a wi-fi signal that can hinder this. Consider your posture: make sure you’re lengthening through the spine, and think of your pelvis as a foundation stone to your spine – let it relax into the base of the chair. Be sure to ground yourself with your feet flat on the floor, too, as this will help you to connect your breath to your speech so you’re able to communicate comfortably with depth of tone and clarity.
Do you think the pandemic has paved the way for more compassionate leadership at work?
During these challenging past few months, business leaders have seen how resilient they can be. In this Covid-era, we’re seeing an increased need to acknowledge strengths.
Simultaneously there is more willingness to acknowledge vulnerability at more senior levels. This is key as it develops our empathy and leads to deeper human connections – the bottom line of any business – and crucial for effective leadership.
Leaders who are willing to lead by example, and practise self-care and compassion are in a far better position to be more compassionate toward those working beneath them, and in turn will create an atmosphere where people feel freer to express themselves, more fully, including their vulnerability, rather than creating a culture of suppressed feelings and a lack of transparency.
As leaders, the relationship we have with our team is everything. Online and remote communication can only benefit from prioritising compassion. Rapport and intimacy become even more important if a team is downsized or colleagues are struggling with their own remote working anxieties.
In recent months, we’ve seen leaders adopting more regular check-ins to ensure their team’s workload is relatively balanced to prevent exhaustion and burnout amongst the ranks. Teams thrive on celebrating the wins, so we also encourage leaders to factor in time to thank the team in some way, either verbally or with small tokens of appreciation.
Whilst surviving the recent months have been stressful for us all, they have also helped us to learn about balance and to become more attuned to what we need in order to thrive, including how to be more responsive to our colleagues and clients, and maintain a relaxed and expressive connection within online forums.
How do you feel when you know you have a long stretch of work ahead of you? Do you feel calm, in control and content with what’s to come? Or do you have a sinking dread about what might happen? Or perhaps you simply feel… apathy?
We spend an average of 3,507 days at work in our lifetime so, of course, many of us want these days to be a little brighter. Not everyone will be in a position to work in their dream career right now, but there are ways we can make work a more enjoyable place to be.
To start with though, what is it that makes us unhappy at work? Everyone’s situations will differ, but holistic life and career coach Rebecca Kirk says, in her experience, the following are common causes:
- A lack of autonomy and being micromanaged.
- A poor relationship with the boss or other team members.
- Feeling undervalued (being poorly remunerated or praised).
- Unrealistic expectations of what is achievable by one person or within a working day.
- Being out of alignment with your employer’s mission or culture.
- Lack of challenge and feeling bored by the work itself.
- Having poor work/life boundaries in place which leads to stress and burnout.
- Not being properly heard or able to contribute your skills and talent.
- Not wanting to get involved in any organisational politics.
- Lack of human contact and socialisation with colleagues (particularly being felt during lockdown as more people shift to working from home).
- Feeling like a round peg in a square hole!
I’m sure many of us will nod in recognition of at least some of these causes. Some may feel too big and difficult to change, but Rebecca highlights that the first step you can take when you feel unhappy at work is to recognise the power you have within yourself to change your situation and, then, start small.
“Start with one small, simple step – you don’t have to embark on a full-scale career change overnight! Recognise that your unhappiness can be your catalyst for transformation.”
Reframing the negative feelings you have towards work as a catalyst for change can help you regain power over your situation. As Rebecca says, small steps here are key – focus on the next step in front of you rather than the mountain you want to climb.
As a holistic life and career coach, Rebecca advocates a combined approach, focusing on body, mind and spirit. This, she notes, can offer a more empowering and sustainable way to improve happiness at work. So what does this look like? Rebecca shares some tips:
1. Connect to your intuition
Start listening out for your inner voice more and what it’s trying to tell you about your current work situation and what to do next. Go beyond the thinking mind even just for a few moments and instead try to feel what the right thing is to do for your highest good.
2. Start punctuating your working day with pauses
Use little gaps of space to switch off, ground yourself and allow yourself to just be (and to connect with any higher force you might believe is supporting you). This could be as simple as taking three deep breaths with both feet on the floor whilst at your desk or by going for a mindful walk in nature at lunchtime. Learn to become more present and still. You’ll also find more clarity, calm and balance in the process!
3. Don’t let your ego get in your way
Don’t let your ego get in the way of stopping you from doing a job you might be happier doing because of what others might think. Realise that your work identity is not who you truly are underneath.
4. Visualise what you want your working life to look and feel like
You can do this by creating a vision board. Meditate on this daily and feel the feelings of having it now. Give your thoughts and feelings a vacation from what you don’t want!
5. Practice gratitude for your current work
Even though you might not be loving it at the moment, there will be something you can be grateful for, even if it seems small. You can also be grateful for the challenge you might be facing as a potential catalyst for change. Gratitude can raise your vibration in an instant which, in turn, can attract more of what you do want into your life.
We hope these tips can help you start your journey to feeling happier at work and if you think you’d benefit from the guidance and support of a coach, use our search tool to find a career coach.
For some, productivity has become a holy grail. Something to kneel before and worship as the answer to all our work-related prayers. If only we could be more productive, then we would be less stressed and more on top of things.
It’s no surprise then that there are countless articles, videos, podcasts and apps on the topic, claiming they have the secrets of productivity. They whisper seductively in our ear, “just do this one thing and you’ll find what you’re looking for”.
The reality behind these claims is that becoming more productive is a complex and nuanced thing, buried under layers. We have to take context into consideration and we have to look at it through an individualised lens.
At the time of writing, for example, we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. Uncertainty and anxiety forms the backdrop to our working day and we wonder why productivity is evading us.
Those of us living with mental health conditions, learning differences and other behavioural conditions are often even more in the dark as we question why this tip others swear by isn’t working for us. Suffice to say, there’s no one-size-fits-all trick to becoming more productive. It often takes time and experimentation to see what works for you.
We also need to debunk the myth surrounding productivity.
This myth leads us to believe that being productive is about working more and more and more. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the years, it’s that this isn’t true.
Being productive isn’t about cramming as much as possible into your working day, actioning tasks like a robot designed for maximum efficiency. No, it’s about working with your energy levels. Identifying which tasks have the most impact. Setting boundaries and guarding your time fiercely. So how do we… do this?
In my experience, the real trick to productivity is (and this is going to sound controversial) not working at all. Taking a step back from work opens up a cavern of space to explore just what we need to be more productive. Here are just a few examples of how not working improves your productivity.
It allows you to rest and rejuvenate
When we stop working for a decent stretch of time and let ourselves switch off (literally and figuratively) we give our minds a chance to relax. The buzzing thoughts about your to-do list fall away and the volume of conversations you wish had gone differently lowers to a gentle hum. The muscles in your neck begin to loosen as your shoulders drop a little lower.
With this relaxation comes better sleep and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how important sleep is for productivity. But, just in case you need a gentle reminder, take a look at this TEDx talk from Dr Matthew Carter who dives into the paradox of too much work impacting sleep and productivity.
All this relaxation and better sleep lead to one thing – rejuvenation. Our energy levels begin to slowly rise, which leads me nicely onto my next point.
It helps you understand your energy levels better
Our energy levels are not constant; we’re not machines that can be turned on and off with the flick of a switch. Our energy fluctuates by the hour, day, week. If you menstruate, you no doubt know how your energy changes depending on where you are in your cycle.
Understanding the art of productivity means recognising these ebbs and flows and figuring out how to work with them. When you have time off work you can start to notice when you feel most energetic in your day, when do your ideas come? Without pushing yourself to complete a mountain of work tasks, when do you typically feel tired?
Consider how you can manipulate your working day to tune into this. If you don’t have flexible working options, think more in terms of the tasks you do. If you’re most energetic in the morning, plan your hardest tasks here. If it takes you a hot minute to wake up, on the other hand, make mornings about admin and other less brain-intensive tasks.
It offers you the chance to set boundaries
Taking a break from work helps us gain perspective. It reminds us of who we are outside of work and what our priorities are. When we have this distance, we recognise that working to the point of burnout isn’t good for anyone – no matter how much we love what we do.
This knowledge can help us set clearer boundaries at work. We can create intentions around logging off on time and saying no when we’re already overwhelmed. We can think more about the big picture and whether or not every task we do is absolutely necessary. Time is something we all have equal amounts of, it’s about prioritising how we spend it.
It inspires creative thinking
When was the last time you felt truly inspired about something at work? For most of us, the game-changing ideas we have don’t arrive neatly on our desks when we want them to. Like mischievous nymphs, ideas like to show up when we least expect them.
Many of us will find they arrive when we’re doing something completely unrelated to work, like showering or going for a long drive in the country. It’s here, in these moments when our minds have space to wonder that creativity thrives.
Taking time off work to indulge in your hobbies and enjoy the space this offers can inspire more creative thinking which will serve you well on your return to work.
There are, no doubt, some helpful productivity tips and tricks out there (I’m a fan of the Pomodoro technique myself), but it’s important to go into this space with a critical eye. Understanding that we’re all different and that the secret of productivity really is this – self-awareness. But don’t take my word for it, take some time off and investigate for yourself.
And while you’re at it, try to shake off the societal pressure that demands constant productivity, especially right now. We are more than what we do and our worth cannot be measured by our output. Find your way of honouring your well-being while doing the work you love.
Whether your career journey has been a smooth ride or filled with twists and turns, chances are it’s taught you a lot. When was the last time you stopped to reflect on previous roles and what they’ve taught you? My career journey, as you’ll discover, has been a mixed bag, with dreams shifting and changing over time.
Looking back into the depths of my work history, blowing the dust off my memories and really asking myself ‘what was the lesson there?’ has revealed a lot. Here are just some of the lessons I’ve learnt and how they may be able to serve you, wherever you are in your career.
1. Taking pride in your work can make any job better
Almost all of us can remember a job we took purely for the money. For me, it was when I was 18 and desperate to go to my first music festival. My friends and I couldn’t afford the tickets, so we found a summer job at a nearby factory with awful shifts but decent pay.
After dallying with a few different machines, I found my sweet spot on the candle maker. My job was to watch candles go by on a conveyor belt and spot any with bubbles in the wax, moving them to the edge of the belt so they could get re-melted. Because the job was pretty monotonous, I was not only allowed to sit down while I worked, but I could listen to the radio too (trust me, this was a big deal).
With a job like this, it’s easy to clock-watch and hate every second, but I made a decision to be the best damn candle watcher they’d ever seen. I filled out a form every hour, noting how many candles had bubbles and prided myself on never missing a candle that needed re-melting.
I would be lying if I said I never got bored doing this job, but taking pride in what I did, and relishing the perks of the job (ie. singing along to every song I knew) made it so much more enjoyable. By the end of the summer, I had a newfound respect for everyone working there, putting their all into the job. I had also made enough money to go to the music festival and yes, it was totally worth it.
The takeaway: Even if you’re not currently in a job you love or see a future in, consider how you can do your very best at it right now. Taking pride in your work and learning what you can helps it feel more enjoyable and will put you in good stead when you do make your next move.
2. Working in alignment with your values is a must
After university, I had a writing degree in hand but wasn’t quite ready to leave my ‘student’ life behind. Along with several of my uni friends, I decided to stay in the city for another year and found a job as a fundraiser for a children’s charity. I was excited to do something that felt aligned with my values but was shocked at the reality.
During my training, I was taught tricks and techniques to encourage people to part ways with their money. I was told the more money I got from others, the more I would take home. Even though the charity was doing good work, something niggled at me about the methods being used.
Day one on the job was where it hit home. As I knocked on someone’s door and regurgitated the spiel I was taught to say, the stranger on the receiving end told me calmly but confidently that if they were going to give to a charity, they would do it of their own accord, not because they were bullied into it by someone on their doorstep.
I smiled, nodded and promptly walked away from that job. I realised then that working somewhere that didn’t align with my morals and values was never going to be an option, no matter how virtuous it looked from the outside.
The takeaway: Get to know your core values, write a list of deal-breakers when it comes to company values and use this to guide you in your career. Then, learn to trust your intuition when something feels off.
3. Boredom is where creativity thrives
When I left the charity I found a job at a shoe shop in town which was much less compromising morally. The shop itself was tiny, with wooden displays filled with skater shoes and quirky heels that made customers feel awesome.
I started as an assistant manager as I’d had some retail experience, and after a few months was promoted to manager. As the shop was so small and rarely busy, I often worked alone, with nothing but shoes and a blasting stereo system for company. I loved it.
After all the tasks were done and I had nothing left to do but serve customers when they showed up, I found myself staring out the entrance, watching shoppers walk by. Armed with a pen and paper I doodled and wrote notes. Shopping lists evolved into monologues about consumerism and scrawled houses led to poems about a life I didn’t know I wanted.
I took inspiration from customers and crafted characters for short stories in my head. I’d never been more bored or more full of ideas in my life. I realised boredom and white space is essential for creativity.
The takeaway: If your job involves a fair amount of downtime or white space, try not to resent it. Use this time to note ideas and think creatively. If you can’t remember what boredom feels like on the other hand, try to build some white space into your week to spark creativity.
4. Being good at something doesn’t mean it has to become your career
It turns out, I was pretty good at retail. After leaving the shoe shop and my university town, I found a new management role in a high street fashion store. This time I wanted to save money for travelling and figured I now had retail experience, so why stop?
As with all jobs, there were elements I disliked (working weekends, rude customers, being on your feet all day), but there were other elements I not only liked, but was good at. I enjoyed interacting with different people all day and thinking of creative ways to display the clothes and accessories. I liked the variety in my days and helping customers feel good about themselves.
My managers told me I was a natural and always mentioned other opportunities in the business. I could climb the retail ladder, move to bigger stores, take on more responsibility. Even though I knew I probably could do this and be successful, deep down I knew it wasn’t the right move for me. I had a writing degree burning a hole in my pocket and a dream to chase that didn’t involve sales targets.
The takeaway: Even if you have a natural talent for something, if it isn’t what you truly want to do, you don’t have to do it. Nothing is ever set in stone in our careers and ideally, you’ll also be good at the thing you dream about. You are multi-faceted and unique, don’t let that scare you.
5. Your ‘dream job’ can change
After travelling and doing a lot of free work at various writing internships, I found myself about to start at what I thought was my dream job. I would be working on a fashion website in London. The dream hadn’t quite been nailed on the head (I wanted to be a fashion writer) but along with customer service duties and packing orders, any spare time I got could be spent writing blogs, attending fashion shoots and running the company’s social media accounts.
After a couple of months, the new-job shine had worn off and I wondered what on earth I was doing. Along with some frankly awful management, I quickly realised fashion was not the right industry for me. I simply didn’t have enough passion to fuel a career here. I stuck at it for a year and a half, hoping things would change, but they only got worse and I decided to let that particular dream go.
I frantically looked for a different job closer to home (London also wasn’t the dream I thought it would be) and was relieved when I found an advert for a company that worked in the mental health and wellness industry. This, I thought… this I can work with. I’d experienced poor mental health in my teens and was always interested in ways to support others going through something similar, perhaps I could do this with my writing.
The takeaway: When we haven’t worked in our dream industry, it’s easy to see it in this way – a dream. Reality can sometimes surprise us and make us reevaluate what our dream job really is. This is OK – we evolve, learn and change over time so it’s only natural that what we want from our career changes too.
6. You can step off the ladder
When I landed at my job here at Happiful, I felt like I’d finally found what I’d been looking for. A job that aligned with my values, a job where I could use my writing skills and a job where I could support others… and, I was right. It was exactly what I was looking for.
As time went on I climbed the ladder, becoming the manager of the content team. I thought this climb would continue, but it suddenly became shaky.
Alongside my day job, I’d been building a blog and an emerging coaching business on the side, working evenings and weekends. One day the room began to spin at work and I started experiencing anxiety symptoms. Having written about it before, I knew what it was and sought cognitive behavioural therapy to support me, but I knew something more drastic had to change.
A conversation with the director of the company led to me stepping down from my managerial position and reducing my hours.
I let go of the ladder and grabbed onto something new.
I welcomed more work-life balance and found my groove doing what I do best – writing. It’s not the career choice most would make, but it’s without a doubt been the best decision I’ve made in my career and life.
The takeaway: Your career path is not laid out in front of you. You have options and can forge new paths if you want to or turn around and start somewhere totally new. Wherever you are in your career, you have skills and lessons within you that will serve you wherever you want to go. All you need is the courage to start.
I wouldn’t have found my way in my career without speaking to a coach who helped me see that what I wanted was within my grasp. If you’re looking for support, courage or guidance within your career, use our search tool to find a coach near you.
It sounds like the dream doesn’t it? To turn what you love into a living. But let’s dive into this topic because it’s a bit more nuanced than simply doing what you love and hoping the money will fall out of the sky.
It’s good to start with the ideal, then we can see how close we can get to it. So here’s a question for you: What would you do if I gave you a year’s salary?
Imagine I just gave you all the money you need for a year off. What would you do when you don’t need to earn anything? Yes, you might escape to the beach and drink cocktails for a month or two, but eventually even that will become boring and empty. Humans are only truly happy when we are being useful.
So what would you do? Think about this for a moment – this coming Friday is now your last day in your current job. What is it you’re going to do in this precious year of total freedom? What projects would you want to tackle? Which topics would you dive deeper into? What business or non-profit would you start up?
Would you do up your home, get serious about your photography, hold your own exhibition, get into futurology, attend conferences and share what you learn on YouTube, become a public speaker, get into TV, go work alongside a hero of yours, or change some piece of the world for the better?
Even if your answers seem impossible to you now, it’s still important information. If something seems too out there to make a reality, don’t just discard it. Ask yourself, “What is the experience I want to have?” If your dream is to be a rockstar but you’re tone deaf, perhaps you want to experience the status that comes with it, or perhaps it’s the self-expression or the freedom to go wherever you want. Whatever the experience is that you’re craving, there will be other ways to get it if you don’t want to go for the far-out dream.
Aristotle cracked it 2000 years ago
Now you’ve done the blue-sky thinking let’s get a little more practical. Here’s the thing, there are lots of activities we could all write down that we love doing but won’t ever get paid for. I love scrolling through funny memes but no one’s about to send me a cheque for it!
The key to getting paid is to provide value to people. So, if you can find a way to do what you love in a way that meets people’s needs (is useful, entertaining, educational, helpful, or makes them feel better), you can be pretty sure you can get paid for it.
Joel Ostrovsky loved funny memes but he used his love to do something of value to others. He created the outrageous online personality of ‘The Fat Jew’ on Instagram (@thefatjewish), shared the most outrageous memes he could find, and attracted 10 million followers eager for a moment of comic relief. He then used his personal brand to launch a wine brand then went on to be bought by one of the largest drinks conglomerates in the world.
If you want to get paid to do what you love, take the advice of Aristotle who said 2,300 years ago, “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.” It was superb advice but sadly there was no Instagram at the time so few people have heard it (if only he could have written it as a caption for a moody sunset pic).
Here’s how to use Aristotle’s advice today…
Use the three P’s
To find the best career direction or business focus for you, find the thing that scores highest on your three P’s:
The first P is for ‘Play’ – this is the doing what you love bit. What kind of work would you find interesting and rewarding even if you didn’t get paid for it? We’re looking for something that feels like it naturally suits your interests and personality. You should have several possibilities here. The ultimate destination is to get paid for doing something you’d happily do even if you didn’t need the money. That’s what I call getting paid to play.
The second P is for ‘Practised’ – it’s faster to make money from something you have a track record in. You don’t have to do exactly what you did in your job if you don’t enjoy it. What are some of the things you know you’re good at that you could use in an area you’d find more interesting? Have you got great people skills? Are you good with technology? Have you been reading and studying psychology for years? Choose a path that uses it and you’ll be at an advantage.
The third P is for ‘Profit’ – check you’re choosing something that people have a real need for and are happy to pay for. If you want to make sure there is money to be made, the simplest thing to do is to check whether people are already paying for this from other people or businesses.
For real flexibility, work for yourself. There’s no doubt that working for yourself or having your own business gives you a lot more room to direct your career exactly where you want to go for maximum enjoyment and fulfilment. And when the world is in a state of flux and uncertainty as it is now, working for yourself is actually safer because you are in control of your own career and you’re not dependent on one person – your boss – for your income.
Want to make money? Solve a problem
If you want to get something going fairly soon, make sure you’re doing something that solves a problem for people.
People new to working for themselves often start out with broad, vague pitches that end up a nice to have rather than a must have. This makes it much harder to get people to pay you.
Life coaches are often guilty of this. They say they can help anyone do anything. That may be true, but it makes it very difficult for the prospective client to choose who to work with. We prefer specialists and when we see someone who focuses intensely on helping people who are in exactly our situation, it’s very enticing.
So avoid describing what you do in vague, broad terms. Set out to solve one really specific problem people have. I’ve spent the last 15 years and written three books to help people create a successful one-of-a-kind business they love. It never gets boring because I spend all day being creative with other people’s ideas – and every idea and every person is different.
What I do solves real problems – wanting to escape the 9-5 but not knowing exactly what to do, starting a business without the endless aimless slog, and doubling your prices without losing clients.
What are the problems you would enjoy solving for people?
Think big start small
You don’t need to quit your current work to get started. In fact it’s often better not to. Instead, start your new business on the side. Start by talking to people who could be clients/customers and find out what they really want. Look for how you can hit that sweet spot of all three P’s.
When you get clearer on what you could provide, reach out to everyone you know and see if you can get your first clients, customers or sales. You could start by discounting your offer for the first five or 10 people. Tell them what your final pricing will be and explain that this is a reduced price offer for a limited number of people in exchange for giving you feedback that you could quote from.
When you have more demand than you can fit into your evenings and weekends, you might be ready to go part-time or quit altogether. And once you’re out, things will really speed up because now you can dedicate all your time to making this new business of yours fly.
Get ready for one of the most rewarding adventures possible in life. And it’s one you can take as far as you want you go.
John Williams is the author of the new book F**k Work Let’s Play: Do what you love and get paid for it published by Pearson. Download a free chapter or join John’s free 5-Day Business Startup Challenge at fworkletsplay.com
Remote work has been on the rise for years. But before March 2020, it was still seen mostly as a perk for people looking for a little more work/life balance. These days? It’s a necessity. With millions of people working from home for the first time in the wake of COVID-19, people have had to learn new ways of managing schedules and communicating with colleagues.
Most people who try working from home like it enough to stick with it, but like any skill, it can be challenging at first. These tips can help you work from your new corner office productively and ambitiously.
Manage by task, not time
When you work in an office, you know when the day is done – when everyone starts leaving. When you work from home, it’s harder to know for sure if you’ve put in an honest day’s labour. So, try creating challenging but doable task lists for each day – for yourself, or anyone you manage. When the tasks are done, the day is done, and you can feel proud of your accomplishments.
Get the rhythm right
Come up with some ritual to start and end the day. Maybe you walk your dog, and then return to your home in work mode. Maybe you write in a journal. You can end the day by calling a colleague to say goodbye or reviewing tomorrow’s to-do list. Rituals give structure to the day, and establish boundaries (to keep you from working all night).
People get distracted when they’re tired, so proactively plan in breaks during the workday for the times when your energy dips. For most people, this is mid-morning, lunch, and mid-afternoon. Aim for breaks that add to your energy levels, such as going outside for a few minutes, or chatting with a friend. You’ll return to work far more refreshed.
Match the right work to the right time
When you work from home, you can often set your own schedule, so figure out what kind of work each part of the day is best suited for. Most people are more focused in the morning. If that’s you, tackle your biggest task then. Save the low-stakes meetings and inbox cleaning for later in the day when you’re tired.
Your dining room chairs can work for a week or two, but if you’re working from home long-term, you need a work set-up that can handle a 40-hour workweek. Get a real desk and work chair and adjust them to the right height. If a second monitor would help with your posture, that’s a good investment.
Find a spot in the house with a door (for privacy) and a window (for natural light). If that’s your bedroom, fine – just find a way to be able to conceal your work when you’re trying to sleep (a folding screen could work).
Pick up the phone
In offices, lots of work gets done through informal conversations. You stop by someone’s office and quickly get approval for a project, or nudge someone to send a response. Since those conversations don’t happen in home offices, people schedule formal meetings to try to accomplish the same goals. When everyone does this, schedules quickly fill up.
Instead of scheduling a meeting, just pick up the phone and call your colleagues when you need a quick answer. You don’t need permission to do this – if they’re busy, they won’t pick up, and you can try again. But you’re likely to move things along more efficiently.
You can still connect with colleagues and others when working from home. Start meetings with a few minutes of social conversation. Get in the habit of reaching out to new professional connections at least once a week for conversations. Doing this will build a robust network over time. And finally, when it’s safe to do so, get together with colleagues and connections in person on occasion.
Remote work doesn’t have to be either/or, and when you know you’ve got work-from-home days that will let you focus, you can relax and enjoy the social conversations that happen over lunches, happy hours, or the occasional day in the office. It’s really the best of both worlds.
The New Corner Office by Laura Vanderkam (£9.99) is published in audio and eBook on 20th August by Yellow Kite Books. Learn more about Laura’s work at lauravanderkam.com.
It’s safe to say, no matter what work situation you’re in, it’s likely to have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. When piled onto of the uncertainty that comes with a global pandemic, this change can affect our confidence and decision making abilities.
Here, life coach Belinda Raitt answers your questions on working during the pandemic and making changes in your working life.
I’ve been made redundant and am feeling lost. What are some next steps I can take?
Redundancy can feel hugely unsettling. Any change in our lives requires adjustment and we tend to attach a lot of meaning to our work. We often use it to define who we are, so when we no longer have a job, we struggle with a sense of identity, along with the other worries about whether we have enough savings to keep us going.
These concerns often make us jump into the first job that comes along, never mind whether it’s the right fit. Treat this pause as an opportunity to explore what you really want and need from your work (and life!). Be kind to yourself. We make better decisions when we are in a good place, so take time to relax and focus on your health (mental and physical) so that you stay positive and focused.
I’ve realised during lockdown that I’m unhappy in my job and want to launch my own business… but I’m scared to make the jump. Do you have any advice?
Go for it! Life is too short to be unhappy in your job. The Japanese have a concept called “ikigai”, which roughly translates as your sense of purpose, what gets you out of bed in the morning. For them, it’s a way of life, and to not feel a sense of enjoyment and purpose in your work is anathema.
If you have a chance to do something that gives you this sense of purpose, do it!
Change is scary – it’s the fear of the unknown – but experience shows that our brains imagine scenarios far worse than reality. Do your market research, don’t be afraid to ask advice from friends or others in the industry. Also, trust your instincts. A business plan helps to work out cash flow and where the money will come from. A business is more likely to succeed if you can be flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances.
I’m working from home and am struggling to maintain my boundary between work and life, what can I do?
It’s important to stick to a routine when you’re working from home and to keep a separation between your working day and time to yourself. Treat your working days as if you were getting up to go out to work, as you would normally do. Get up at the same time, put work clothes on. Stop for lunch and take some time to go outside and get some fresh air, clear your head.
If you have the space to have your online office set up in a different room or part of the house, this helps to maintain the boundary too: at the end of your working day, close the door to your office space, mentally and physically. Be clear with others that you are not available to answer emails or calls after hours, and be firm with yourself about ignoring emails or calls until the following morning!
I’ve been furloughed and feel lost without my job. Do you have any suggestions to help me reconnect with who I am outside of work?
We spend so much of our adult life working that this is an opportunity to take some time out to relax. Enjoy the break while you can. Use it to rest and reflect. Every day, find something to appreciate and savour. Start a gratitude journal, recording at least one thing a day that has been good and that you are thankful for. Keep up contact with friends and family, get in touch with people you usually don’t have time to because of work.
Treat yourself to good meals, cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients. Take a daily walk, actively observing your surroundings and tuning into your senses, how and what you are feeling at that moment. Spend some quiet time every day just sitting and reflecting, perhaps with yoga or meditation if that feels right for you. Take an online course. Have some fun and don’t feel guilty about it!
I’m feeling apprehensive about returning to the office, the culture can feel toxic. Do you have any thoughts on managing difficult relationships at work?
A toxic working environment can be very draining. Stress can take its toll on our overall wellbeing, so try to keep healthy by eating the right things, exercising and getting enough sleep. This will help you to keep a positive attitude. Often a difficult colleague is reflecting their own negative feelings about themselves onto you, so it can help to approach the relationship from one of understanding and trying to see things from the other person’s perspective, rather than taking it personally.
Perhaps they are not aware of the impact they are having on you, so sometimes an honest, non-confrontational conversation about how you are feeling (try to avoid any finger-pointing blaming them) can encourage a shift in behaviour. Seek out allies, supportive colleagues who will fight your corner and make your working day easier. Try to take time out during the day to go outside in the fresh air.
Top tips for those feeling lost in their career right now:
- Don’t be afraid of change. It’s the path to better times ahead. If it’s feeling overwhelming, just take it one small step at a time, until you are where you want to be.
- Spend some time thinking about what you really enjoy. Draw up a list of what you love doing (your values and motivators); what you are good at (your strengths) and what you can get paid for (your experience/skillset).
- Enlist the help of a career coach who will help you to work out what’s important to you, and how to go about finding work that gives you a sense of purpose.
No matter how well you perform at work, everyone experiences receiving negative feedback once in a while. Technically, feedback is feedback, we are the ones who judge it as being positive or negative. Feedback is about improving ourselves, even if that means continuing to do the good things we do.
But negative feedback can hurt. Our ego can be sensitive. It can go further and trigger feelings of shame or not being good enough. If negative feedback affects you in that way, then pay close attention to the tips below to better prepare yourself (and consider working with a coach, or even therapist, to get to the root of the issue). Here are things you can do before, during and after receiving feedback.
Before getting any feedback
Change your mindset about negative feedback
Think of it as constructive or developmental; meant to help you improve or be more effective (even if it’s delivered to you in a clumsy, less-than-ideal manner). Yes, this requires a bit of mental gymnastics. Often, it’s said that feedback is a gift (imagine a beautifully wrapped box). Think of it that way, so when it comes you have that visual to ground you in the positive.
Identify what feedback you would give yourself
Proactively think about the areas you could improve to increase your effectiveness right now. Chances are, you know the feedback others would probably give you (and sometimes we’re tougher on ourselves than others would be). What would you advise yourself to do differently to improve? How could some of your strengths help you make those improvements?
Reflect on your past experiences of receiving feedback
What did you think and how did you feel? What was it about that feedback that caused you to feel that way? What did it remind you of in your past? What did you tell yourself about that feedback? Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and consider their perspective in giving you that feedback. It can often be what we imagine or assume about the feedback that threatens us, more than the feedback itself.
Listen to understand, not to respond or defend. Breathe while you are listening to stay present and not become reactive. Try to understand what the other person is saying.
During the feedback process
Listen, breathe, listen
Listen to understand, not to respond or defend. Breathe while you are listening to stay present and not become reactive. Try to understand what the other person is saying. My executive coaching clients find simply nodding signals listening and buys them time to compose themselves and put their attention on what’s being said rather than the icky feeling inside.
Ask questions to understand better
As Stephen Covey said decades ago, “seek first to understand before being understood”. Ask them to repeat it again (in case you didn’t hear it the first time because you were listening to the little voices in your head defending yourself). Ask for specific examples to help you understand. Ask, in a curious tone, questions about what they see or hear you doing that’s impeding your performance such as:
- Are there any behaviours that aren’t effective?
- What am I saying that has that impact?
- What specifically would you suggest I do or say?
- How should I do or say it differently to improve?
These types of questions can even help people that are poor at giving feedback to be better.
Acknowledge having heard the feedback
Restate what you have heard so you can confirm you’ve received it as intended. Tell the other person that you will go away and consider how to act on their feedback. Depending on the feedback, the situation and the individual who said it to you, you might want to say you will come back to them to talk it through further or share your improvements. Say thank you (even if it’s thanking them for just caring about your performance!).
After receiving feedback
Consciously decide where to ‘take’ the feedback
This tip relates back to the idea of feeling bad about ourselves when we receive negative feedback. There are different ‘lens’ through which you can ‘see’ the feedback. You can see it at a behavioural level (hence, why you ask them what they see or hear you doing, to focus them on giving you feedback about behaviours). At the other end, you can see it at an identity level, that you are a bad person or are not good enough for the role.
Decide what you will take on board
As with any gift, you can decide whether to receive it or not. Firstly, find the 2% truth in the feedback. You might not agree with anything the person is saying, and often there is 2% truth in there somewhere. You had an impact, and in the case of negative feedback, it was an ineffective impact. How that impact has been interpreted by the ‘giver of the feedback’ may not be entirely inaccurate. Putting your ego and self-doubt aside, what truth is in the feedback they are proposing? Secondly, decide if you will do anything with the feedback.
Depending on the feedback, the situation and the giver of the feedback you need to consciously decide what’s best for you personally, for your performance and potentially your career. Lastly, if you decide all or some of it is relevant, then develop a plan of action to improve it. You already have ideas from them when you asked what you could do differently to be more effective.
Follow up as necessary
You might want to follow up with the person that gave you the feedback to get more clarity by asking more questions. There is no harm in re-visiting it to understand more or to get suggestions on what to do better. You could also let them know what you are doing with the feedback, if anything.
Once again, this very much depends on the situation, the feedback and who gave it. Some of the positives of doing this are: positively reinforcing that person to continue to give feedback, creating a feedback culture, showing you value them and their observations, and potentially having them think more highly of you as you take your impact seriously.
Remember, just as you might have struggled with receiving negative feedback, others might too. Take that into consideration when you are giving feedback to others. Keep it focused on things they can change, such as behaviour, skills and capabilities. Don’t get personal, don’t give feedback at an identity level. Frame it as developmental and express your intention to help them improve their effectiveness.
Learn more about Anne on her website, Directions Coaching.
For more information on how to give feedback well, read her article, How to give constructive feedback to empower people. Anne’s book, Soft Skills, Hard Results: A Practical Guide to People Skills for Analytical Leaders, is available now.
Feeling confident giving and receiving feedback in a constructive way takes time and experience. You may well make mistakes, and that’s OK. If you’d like to develop your skills in giving and receiving feedback, consider working with a career coach. They can work with you to not only develop your self, helping you understand your goals and how to achieve them, but also develop your skills as an employee and manager.
Growing up, I was good at things. I loved to read, draw and was the first in my class to be ‘upgraded’ to the once-coveted red handwriting pen. Heck, there was once a time when I was even quite good at running.
This, of course, was back at primary school. Young, creative and without a care in the world.
But even then, at just five years old, we were being compared to our peers. Who had the best handwriting, who was still writing the alphabet in pencil? God forbid if you were picked to read aloud in class, and were a slow reader!
I say this when actually, I was very fortunate during these years – I had what was considered ‘talent’. I could read books that were way above my age group, I won competitions for my artwork and could spell any word asked of me.
Of course at that age, winning is the best thing ever and it makes you feel special, but do you really think of it as success?
Fast forward 10 years and we’re thrust into the claws of secondary school and puberty, forced to navigate a whole new world of social circles. You don’t need to be in the top set, but if you’re not smart, you best be in the popular crowd. There is no in-between. Where I was once successful and talented, now I was just about average. I grazed through exams, passing, but not exceeding and generally living day by day until I could leave.
While I’d lost my ‘success’, my passions stayed with me – I still loved to draw, write and read – but they weren’t my priority. I studied them, but other people were better. Other kids were surpassing expectations and growing, while I was falling behind.
Secondary school is tough in so many ways. Again, I was lucky enough to not have had a bad experience of school per se, though I can’t say I look back with fond memories. I wasn’t bullied, I wasn’t one of the ‘bad kids’ and I wasn’t in the top sets, in fact, somehow I found myself in the popular group. Somehow being the key word.
“You don’t fit in with the popular group you hang out with, you’re too nice.” Someone said to me once. At the time I thought it was odd, what did they mean I didn’t fit in with them? They were my friends. It stuck with me for a long time, but now that I’m in my late 20s, I think I understand what they meant. They weren’t intending to offend, they were simply stating that I didn’t fit into the mould that was considered the popular crowd. I was just me.
Despite not fitting that mould and being completely average grade-wise, I’m now in a job that I very much love. I have wonderful colleagues, friends and family, I’m a homeowner and am in the midst of planning my wedding. I’m incredibly privileged. And while I’m not sure exactly what the future holds, I’m looking forward to it.
Yet despite all this, I still find myself scrolling through my Instagram feed, reading articles, and comparing my life with the more glamorous one I’m looking at. It’s daft and ridiculous, comparing yourself to strangers, and yet, we all do it.
I was lucky enough to have missed the social media generation – just – with the likes of Myspace and Facebook not entering our circle until the latter half of our school lives. But even back then, we were dragged into the black hole that is social media and suddenly, our lives were published online, ready to be judged by a new set of eyes.
But I have decided now that I don’t need to compare. I don’t know these strangers and I probably never will, so why should it affect me? People may look at me the same way. Do they know this question goes through my head? How do we know that magazine editors, company directors and innovators aren’t asking themselves the same thing?
What is success, anyway?
It’s easy to think of success as a one-way street. If you’re successful, it means you have money, a car, a good house. Society may assume that you’re not a very nice person; you’re bossy, cut-throat and ruthless.
However, the Oxford English Dictionary defines success as the following.
Success – noun – the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
So, success means different things for different people. After all, it depends on what you want from your life. Is it money, happiness, love, or adventure? It’s the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. What might be one person’s aim isn’t necessarily yours.
As I get older, I often think about success and whether I’m ‘doing well for my age’ or if actually, I’m still that teenager, grazing along. There are days when people will ask how things are, and I’ll automatically respond with an “Oh you know, just getting on.”
But no, I’m not just doing anything. I’m doing pretty well and I’m happy and healthy. What more could I need? Does that make me cocky or overly confident? Maybe. And as a young woman, I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or not. Times are changing after all, and by saying, “yes, I am doing well and I’m very proud of myself,” that’s not me comparing myself to friends or even strangers, that’s me focusing on who I am right now and acknowledging my achievements.
Life is different for all of us. Circumstance takes us down many paths, but for now, I think yes – I am successful. I am happy, passionate and driven, with enough imagination and freedom to push me to still take risks, challenge myself and get into a little trouble.
Ask yourself, what does success mean to you? What are your aims, and does that make you successful? Does it even really matter?
It can be difficult to know where to start when planning a talk. However, by following these steps, you will be able to prepare in a time-efficient way and will reduce the chance of nerves getting in the way of your performance.
Public speaking isn’t easy and let’s face it, only a small handful of people actually like the action of speaking publicly. Whether it’s panic or anxiety over saying the wrong thing, or a dislike of the attention being on you, presenting to a room full of people – however large – is frankly terrifying for many of us. So with that, why should you plan and prepare your speech or public speaking event?
There are many benefits to planning ahead, such as:
- you will start with the end in mind
- everything will be focused towards that desired outcome
- the content you need will become more obvious
- your talk will have a logical progression
- your selection of visuals will be straightforward
- you will be less likely to miss things
6 steps to plan your speech and reduce nerves
Think of the audience
“Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it: ‘To Whom It May Concern’.” – Ken Haemer, former Presentation Research Manager AT&T.
With that in mind, ask yourself:
- Who will be in the audience?
- Why are they attending?
- What are their expectations?
- How many will be there?
- What is their level of knowledge about your topic?
- What might their attitude be towards your talk?
Set outcomes and objectives
Just like planning a journey, first think about where you want to get to. Set your desired outcome and look beyond the talk.
Set your objectives
These are what you need to achieve in the talk in order to increase the chances of achieving your desired outcome.
There are three types of objectives:
- imparting knowledge
- developing skills
- changing attitudes or beliefs – usually intending to motivate people to action
Useful phrasing for each of the three types of objectives could be:
By the end of my presentation the audience will:
- understand or know…
- be able to do…
- commit to take action…
Examples for each type of objective include:
- Understanding: the team will be able to explain the 10 safe working practices (e.g. they acquire knowledge, therefore understand).
- Being able to: students will be able to use visual memory techniques (e.g. they can do).
- Committing to action (influencing attitudes and beliefs): the panel will be convinced that we can benefit their business and will decide to hire us.
Consider time and environment
What other factors will influence the plan for your talk?
- How long do you have?
- Does that include time for questions?
- Is there flexibility?
- How big is the room?
- How are people seated?
- What equipment will be available?
Different set-ups will influence the feel of the occasion, such as making it formal or informal.
What can you do to get the set-up how you would ideally like it to be?
Follow three steps:
- brainstorm all potential content
- decide on content to keep or discard
- sequence the content in a logical ‘story’
Now your content is sorted, you are in a position to decide on visuals. Ask yourself, ‘Do I actually need visuals?’ because you may not.
Rehearsing is useful for developing your talk as well as practising a finished version.
Trying out your talk while it is still being prepared will enable you to:
- see how well it works
- come up with great phrases and ways of explaining ideas
- get feedback
- adjust and finalise the design
- develop your script or guide notes
Once your talk is ready, you can work on rehearsing your delivery. By practising repeatedly you can perfect your performance.
By working with a coach, you can tackle presentation nerves, build confidence and develop and build upon skills that can benefit you personally and professionally. With over 1,000 coaches offering online coaching, you can access support whenever and wherever you are.
Alternatively, if it’s a fear of public speaking you’re experiencing, consider hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy for public speaking (also known as glossophobia) is highly effective and can help you understand where the fear has stemmed from, how to manage this fear and ultimately, overcome it. Search for a hypnotherapist on Hypnotherapy Directory.