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  1. Stress: We all encounter it, so how do we overcome it?

    December 2, 2013 by Jenna

    I think one of the biggest mistakes we make is that once we start feeling the level of stress build in our daily lives, for various reasons, we tend to push the feelings aside believing that it will either ‘blow over’ or that it will sort itself out. But the problem is, if we don’t take actions to start managing our stress levels it creates in the longer term reduced morale and health problems and overall decreased productivity.

    Sometimes the idea of tackling your stress head on can seem like a much larger task than what it actually is. We are never going to live a life that is stress-free, but here are some tips below that you can start applying slowly and steadily to start getting your work/life balance back on track:

    1. One thing at a time.

    There can be many things piling up at once that seem overwhelming and create a lot of anxiety. But the fact of the matter is you need to pick one at a time in order to truly manage the task effectively. Of course you will be expected to be a multi-tasker, but prioritise your tasks in terms of timeframe and urgency, clear away anything that could be a potential distraction or obstacle, and tackle the task now! Even if it is something you don’t enjoy doing as much, you may as well get it out of the way, otherwise it can put more pressure on you by saving items to the last minute, especially when you know you have other pending tasks awaiting.

    2. Simplify your schedule.

    The more items you have back-to-back the more increased your stress levels will be. I too struggle with saying no but sometimes you need to focus on your priorities and if you have appointments space them out so that you are not rushing from one meeting to the next! This will allow you to be covered in the event of delays or meetings running over time. And for those not so urgent priorities, most people are flexible if you re-schedule to a more suitable time where you can perform at your best and be in the right head space.

    3. Get moving.

    Do something each day to be active — walk, hike, play a sport, go for a run, do yoga. And it can be for any timeframe that suits you and doesn’t have to be extremely difficult. But being healthy sometimes means stepping away from your desk and computer to let your mind relax and keep your body fit and healthy. I live by this, the healthier you are the more productive you will be, not to mention refreshed.

    4. Develop one healthy habit this month.

    This ties in with number 3, as stress tends to keep us at our desks we either limit our food intake or help ourselves to unhealthy, easily accessible snacks such as chocolate, soft drink etc. If you only get one day of the week to shop why not pre-buy nuts, fruit and vegetables, protein bars etc. This week one of the girls in our office introduced Kale Chips to share with one another as a healthy alternative. Keep your insides clean and you will feel less sluggish.

    5. Do something calming.

    What do you enjoy that calms you down? For those that may be less inclined to step out and try kite surfing like I did last weekend, finding a relaxation method like reading a book, painting, taking a nap, gardening, etc. it is important to find a bit of ‘me’ time to shut out distractions and do something that makes you feel good! Why not even try something new and creative that you haven’t tried before?

    6. Simplify your finances.

    Finances always tend to be a contributor to stress, whether it’s bills to pay, living expenses and transport costs, unexpected repayments etc. But do you currently set yourself a budget or a payment plan?

    For example, I get paid once a month so I set out ahead of time what my total cost of bill repayments will be for the following month. I also include gifts or personal purchases that I may know of ahead of time or events that I need to pay for. Then I allocate myself a set amount to spend per week to spend on food, transport etc., while allowing myself to save some additional money on the side for any unexpected payments so that I am not left unprepared. That may sound like a lot of work but if you set this up as a routine, you will find this to be quite manageable and a great way to reduce financial stress.

    7. Declutter.

    Many of my colleagues will agree that a good ‘spring clean’ or even a 10-20 minute tidy of your desk and surrounds not only makes you feel better but it also allows you to manage your paperwork and tasks when you have enough room and you can see the tasks clearly laid out in front of you! It can be a very easy habit to be a hoarder or get side-tracked but getting organised with little tasks like this will help you tackle the larger tasks. Keep a routine so that you are doing this regularly.

    8. Be early.

    How many times do you tend to stress out because you are running late for your next appointment or meeting? Too many. When you are late you are filled with anxiety, regret and often you are unfocused and it can make you unprepared and not appear at your best. Similar to what I have covered in my previous blog about interview preparation, allowing yourself that extra time to get to a location will leave you more alert, refreshed and at ease.

    My parents for example are great creatures of habit. They get up every morning at 6.00am to have time to walk the dogs, have breakfast and watch the morning news, water their garden and head to work. They have been doing that for years and have never looked back and again they have set this routine for themselves so that they can better manage their time and prepare themselves for the day ahead.

    Do you have any handy tips that you follow daily to help cope with stress? What has worked for you previously and what hasn’t?

  2. Time Management Mistakes – Pitfalls to Avoid

    October 1, 2013 by Jenna

    My biggest time management mistake is I can’t say no.

    Outside of work, if you ask anyone, I am always busy! And most of the time I love it, but there has got to be a time to have a rest day or just say no otherwise I crash and burn. If I don’t prioritise my tasks properly to what suits my work, adventure lifestyle and alone time then I can end up letting other people down and also feel disappointed in myself. It’s not a nice feeling, it is so much better to know you have done your best and to feel a sense of achievement!

    This became a reality when I came back from completing the Kokoda Trail and I was skinny and very fatigued. Feeling more tired than usual I was finding it hard to pick up a routine again. I was then advised by a health professional that I was ‘over-training’ and should allow myself to rest for at least three weeks or the fatigue will continue to increase and it could take months to recover! Wow that was a reality check. Of course when I brought this up to my flatmate, she said, ‘And you have only realised this now?’

    So I guess what I have gained out of that experience is that in order to be my best I need to effectively rest. I can still enjoy the aspects of planning and doing many outdoor activities and working but I need to be in touch with my limits in order to continue to stretch and grow further in the future. And of course, occasionally say ‘no’.

    That’s not to say that is my only time management mistake, however, the more I start to make myself aware of these pitfalls, the easier I can avoid them. The other key time management mistakes I need to focus on, and some of you might relate to these as well, are:

    1. Failing to keep a to-do list

    Not only are to-do lists helpful for your memory with important tasks and deadlines, it also helps you prioritise the way in which you will complete each task. You can order them in terms of priority, by time period to complete them etc. It’s providing a written account of what you are responsible for, and if it’s written down you’ll have fewer excuses as to why you didn’t complete the task (it saves you procrastinating!).

    2. Not setting personal goals

    Goals give you a destination and vision to work towards. You will manage your time more effectively if you know the difference between what is a priority (something that drives you) or what is merely a distraction.

    3. Not prioritising

    What links to point number one, it is important to take note of timeframes for the high priority tasks to those that can be put on the backburner until a later time. There will be circumstances where you are taking on many tasks at once and may be unsure as to which one is more important. Make sure to communicate and confirm your priorities. Your manager may not realise that you are doing two other projects on the side before he/she walks over and hands over something else. Nothing looks worse than to accept a task and then fail to deliver because you didn’t ask enough questions. When you take on a task you are accountable.

    4. Not taking breaks

    While you may feel you are ‘saving time’ by working through your lunch break or sitting in front of your computer for long hours of the day, you could actually be doing yourself more harm than good. Just as the billboards advise when you have been driving on the road for many hours, ‘Stop, Revive, Survive’. The body needs time to recover, and it can be anything from a ten minute walk, having lunch outside away from your desk, having a five minute stretch or having a snack. Look after yourself so that you in turn can provide better results. Working like a robot will only leave you looking and behaving like a zombie!

    What time management mistakes are you guilty of? What advice have you given to someone on managing their time effectively?

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