Personally Virtual Blog

Working from the dining room table on a wooden dining chair? Sat for long periods of time at a low desk that you have to hunch over? Even if you’ve been working from home for a long period of time, there’s a possibility that your existing office set up isn’t hugely beneficial to your posture and overall wellbeing. For many, supportive office chairs, ergonomic keyboards, foot supports and screens at an appropriate height are a luxury and not a priority – it’s the billable hours that are most important, right? I’m afraid not.  Long periods of time sat in an uncomfortable and unsupported position can result in long term pain and discomfort, which in turn can hamper your productivity.

Don’t worry though, there are simple things that you can do to make your office a healthy and happy space:

Invest in a supportive office chair that provides adequate support for your lower back – this is an absolute must! Yes, a stool or dining chair may be convenient (and cheap), but if you work from home long-term, a good quality, supportive office chair is an important investment.  The Evening Standard recently wrote an article on affordable, quality office chairs - you can find it here if you’d like to learn more: https://www.standard.co.uk/shopping/esbest/home-garden/best-ergonomic-office-chairs-home-a4469786.html 

Raise your screen to eye level – looking down (or up!) at your computer screen can cause neck and back discomfort.  If you can invest in a large screen for your computer, I would strongly recommend it to ensure that both your eyes and neck aren’t overly strained by looking down at a small laptop.  Alternatively, why not raise your screen up on a box or specialist stand? If you’ve got a laptop, you can purchase separate keyboards that you can keep at desk level to help ensure that you aren’t over stretching your arms by raising your machine!

Don’t over reach for your keyboard, mouse, phone, etc. – keep everything close and in front of you! Twisting and over-reaching for long periods of time can cause pain and discomfort. Keep your keyboard in front of you and your mouse close to tackle this.

Try anti-glare glasses – if you are on your computer, or looking at screens for long periods of time throughout the day, why not consider some anti-glare and blue-light blocking glasses (or lenses, if you are already a glasses wearer)? This can help reduce eye strain and help to tackle the negative impact of blue-light on your brain, which can interfere with sleep[1] and have an impact on your mental wellbeing.

Take regular breaks – 5 minutes break in every hour is an absolute must if you have a sedentary job.  Yes, if you’re in the flow of work, it may feel like an unwelcome distraction, but it’s really important when it comes to your physical and mental wellbeing.  In addition to this, make sure that you take a lunch break, and if you can, go for a short walk too. It’s essential to keep moving throughout the day to reduce the negative impact that long periods of sitting down can have on the body.

I recently purchased a sit/stand desk and I can't tell you how much difference it's made - not only to my back but also my energy levels. 

The NHS website has some further useful tips – you can find them here: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-sit-correctly/

If you’ve got a few minutes to spare today, why not take a look at your desk set up and see what can be done to help make it a healthier and happier space for you.

 


11th January, 2021

I don’t know about you, but 2021 has had its ups and downs already! With lockdown 3.0 in force, the usual January ‘New Year, New You’ clamour to be more successful AND productive AND organised, and customers returning to work after the festive break, there’s quite a bit going on!  Generally, the thought of a fresh planner and a quarterly planning session is something to be enjoyed, but this year – with regulations seemingly changing every three and a half minutes – it is difficult to raise those excitement levels at the thought of getting prepared! So I’ve pulled together some ideas to help you focus and work productively, but in a way that acknowledges that madness of the moment!

1. Be kind to yourself – The last thing you need on top of external stresses is the guilt of not working hard enough or achieving enough. Productivity guilt is a real issue, arising when “we link our behaviour, our performance, our productivity, with our self-worth,” according to Julie de Azevedo Hanks, Ph.D, LCSW. When feelings of guilt slip into your thoughts, take a step back; focus on the things you have achieved and take a few moments to do something for you – a quick walk in the fresh air, a cup of coffee and a biscuit… Try to acknowledge that these feelings aren’t helpful at increasing productivity or efficiency, and that the only way that will really happen is if you feel positive and motivated enough to achieve.  For more information about tackling productivity guild, visit the Psych Central link below.

2. Be realistic about what can be achieved on a daily/weekly basis – Who hasn’t got a to-do list that’s at least 50 items long at the moment? The point is, even if your list of tasks is as long as your desk, it’s important to note that there are only so many things you can physically complete in a day. In addition to this, there’s always the odd urgent task that sneaks in via your emails, or a task that takes longer than you anticipated to carry out. As a result, try and factor in some time every day that doesn’t have a specific task associated with it – some ‘just in case’ time! Even If you don’t need it for today’s work, there is something magical about completing tasks that were on your list for tomorrow, so treat yourself to the satisfaction of getting ahead!

3. Have a business task ‘wishlist’ – During the last lockdown, I had a jar full of ‘wishlist’ items; some important business tasks, some household related, and some self-care related.  Whenever I had a gap in my schedule, I pulled out one of these tasks (each individually written on a strip of paper), and set about completing whatever was on the paper.  These were all short tasks that would take no more than 60 minutes to complete, but helped to keep my motivation levels up, as I never knew whether I was going to get a treat or end up filing for an hour!

4. Keep on top of the important stuff – invoicing, paying bills, keeping your financial records up to date, re-registering with the ICO and checking your insurance is up to date, etc. These are the important things that keep our businesses running. It’s easy to lose motivation and focus sometimes, and let these slide a little, but it’s so important to set aside time for these so that you’re not suddenly hit with an unexpected bill, or have to rush to complete your self assessment. No one needs additional stress at the moment, so why not try the little and often approach? It could help to manage your stress levels over the coming months.

5.   Lean on your support network – if not for work, then for a brief check-in. If you’ve got colleagues or friends working remotely, why not book in for a 15 minute check in chat (or a virtual coffee if you’ve got a little more time to spare)? We all have wobbly moments, and that’s perfectly understandable, so keeping the lines of communication open can help to share the burden. A problem shared is a problem halved, and all that!

Take care and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to over-achieve this month. These are challenging times, and the odd not-quite-so productive day is understandable!

source: https://psychcentral.com/blog/reducing-your-guilt-about-not-being-productive


Yes, January the 1st is always a little bit of an anti-climax, but if you’ve managed to have a few days off over the festive period, at least you can come back to work with some renewed vigour, passion and focus! So if you’ve got a few days free over the festive period (or at the beginning of the new year), why not embrace the whole ‘New Year, New You!’ cliché and, as you are sipping on a spinach smoothie and limbering up for your first post-Christmas work out, start some business planning to make sure that 2021 is as productive and successful as possible!

Why not start with a financial review (yes, it’s always the fun stuff first!)? Are your books up together for the end of the 2020/21 financial year? Have you collated and reviewed all of your allowable expenses for the year to date? And how has your business fared financially through this challenging year?

If it has been an extremely financially challenging year for you, is it time to pivot? And by that, I mean either add some new products/services to your business, consider a change of direction and/or add some passive income streams to your business.  Offering a wider variety of services, based on what you found that people wanted most during the lockdowns this year, could be a good option to ensure that your business is robust enough to remain competitive.  In addition, opening a shop or embracing passive income via affiliate marketing schemes could be a way to bring in extra income with minimal effort from you (and either little or no financial outlay).

Once you’ve reviewed your finances and the products/services you offer, it’s time to ask yourself: “Are my skills up to date?” In an increasingly competitive market, it’s essential that we stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons, so it’s worth investing a little time and effort into making sure our skills (specifically relating to the products and services that we provide) are up to date.  It seems that every time I login to a software package that I’m familiar with, something on the platform has changed, so ensuring that you’re aware of the latest developments and functionality of the tool is important!

If you’ve got time, a quick review of your marketing materials is always beneficial! Does everything reflect your professional and business identity? Does it address the unique concerns and issues faced by your target audience? Does the branding ‘fit in’ with the look and feel of your website and social pages? If not, why not spend a couple of hours pulling together some new imagery using a tool like Canva - https://www.canva.com – or re-writing some of your sales/marketing content to ensure that it reflects what your business is all about? It’s better than pulling in the wrong customers – or none at all if they are confused about who you are and what you offer!

And finally – a question that’s on everyone’s mind at the beginning of the year: What do I want to achieve this year? If you’ve got some specific business goals (writing a book, completing a course, growing your team, etc.), why not write them down and map out a basic plan of action for how to achieve them? If you want to write a book, make sure you’ve got enough time set aside for you to do this. If you want to complete a course, why not contact the training provider now and find out what the course involves, how much it is, and how frequently it runs so that you can build it into your yearly plan.  Whatever you want to achieve, there’s a real chance you could achieve it in 2021 IF you’ve outlined the all-important ‘How do I get there?’ details.

Wishing you all a restful and enjoyable Christmas and New Year!

 

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article about ‘an organised Christmas’, and I thought that this year I’d re-write it with a 2020 twist, to help with some basic Christmas-related admin and try to rouse some festive jolliness a little earlier this year, because who doesn’t need a bit of festive cheer (especially in lockdown number 2)?!

1.)   Consider ditching the Christmas Cards… usually, I’m a big fan of post that isn’t bills, but with some people still being a little wary about what comes through their front door, why not opt for a virtual card and/or a telephone call this year? There are so many great e-card options out there, like https://www.dontsendmeacard.com/ (which donates what you would have spent on physical cards to a wide range of fabulous charities!).  As well as being germ free, you’re also helping the environment by saving trees, and potentially not sending a ‘glitter bomb’ to a friend or family member that they’ll still be finding pieces of in the Spring… There’s a lot of positives to an e-card, particularly if you follow it up with a check-in call – you never really need an excuse to catch up with a friend or family member (or colleague), but a festive call is always welcome and a great way to make sure that the people you care about are okay.

2.)   Get that shopping order in soon! Slots for Christmas deliveries are filling up quickly (even faster than usual, with fewer people wanting to brave the shops in person when they are busy around Christmas), but with more and more businesses going ‘online’ for food deliveries, there’s more choice than ever before when it comes to ordering your Christmas feast online.  If you can’t book a slot with one of the big supermarket chains, get in touch with local farm shops to find out if they can help.  Put a call out on your local Facebook group if you’re struggling to find somewhere, there’s always someone out there with a great local food contact.

3.)   Shop local – if you can! As a small business owner, I can confirm that this year has been tough.  Other business owners I know have gone out of business, or had to put staff on furlough as they have struggled to keep the business going.  As a result, if you can get your gifts from local suppliers, I’m certain that they’ll appreciate it – and you can rest happy in the knowledge that you’ve got great gifts for loved ones AND helped a small business owner a little during a tough year!

4.)   Learn to delegate! In your business, you probably find it relatively simple to hand the tasks you don’t enjoy to other members of your team, or to outsource them entirely – why not do the same at Christmas? You don’t need to be a martyr to the cause and insist on carrying out everything yourself – this year has been a tough one, and if it all feels a little bit too much then you are perfectly within your rights to ask for help. Whether it’s a big family event (dependent on local lockdown restrictions – unannounced at the time of writing) or a small gathering, make the most of sharing your festive season with the people you like, as when you’re enjoying yourself, even peeling vegetables and wrapping presents can be an enjoyable and festive experience, particularly if you’ve got Christmas hits blaring in the background, and some mulled wine (or non-alcoholic punch) on the go for that extra Christmas pzazz.

5.)   Make sure that you take time to relax and refresh – I regularly talk about the importance of self-care for business owners and entrepreneurs, and it’s never seemed quite so important as it has this year!  It’s easy to get caught up in the shopping, the festive events (socially distanced, of course), and the general rushing about, but take some time to pause and enjoy yourself; watch a film you like, have a glass of mulled wine (or two) and open that box of extra special M & S truffles that you’ve been saving for a special occasion. The special occasion is now – enjoy it!

Take care this festive season, whatever form it takes!

13th October, 2020

It’s one thing working from home in the balmy, never ending days of summer (hello daylight and midday breaks in the garden), but working from home in the winter is another kettle of fish entirely…. For a start, the 0.5 hours of daylight can become a little soul destroying, particularly if you don’t actually get to make the most of it because you are eyeball deep in zoom calls.

Having worked from home successfully for a fair few years now, here are my top tips for surviving the British Winter when you work from home.

1.)    Consider adjusting your routine. Consider changing your routing a little during the winter months. You know that millisecond of daylight I mentioned earlier? My recommendation is to try to get out in it for a brisk walk and some fresh air everyday if you can, even if it is raining sideways.  It’s amazing how much better you feel after a little exercise and some mood boosting sunlight.  This can be particularly beneficial if you are suffering with Seasonal Affective Disorder and seeking additional support from your GP.  So if you are feeling lower than usual and need a boost, why not try blocking out a chunk of time around midday every day to get out and about? I’ve got two dogs, plus regular additions in the form of foster dogs, so I have an added incentive to go out (as they make it well known when they haven’t received adequate outdoor time!).  If you can’t shift your working day earlier or later to fit in time for a midday walk, you could always invest in a daylight lamp – a desktop lamp designed to replicate sunlight – which could help to positively lift your mood.

2.)    Unlock the thermostat. If you live with someone who can sense you even thinking about turning the heating up and is a firm believer in the ‘put a jumper on’ mentality, it’s worth letting them know that studies have shown that workplace performance increases with temperatures up to between 21 and 22 degrees Celsius, with the highest productivity at around 22 degrees Celcius (according to a study published in 2006 by researchers from the Helsinki University of Technology). So feel free to pop the thermostat to a comfortable level – productivity demands it!

3.)    Embrace the Hygge! Hygge (pronounced Hoo-guh) is the Danish word for cosy contentment, and covers everything from hot chocolate to hand knitted jumpers and festive spiced candles, whatever makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Need inspiration when it comes to making your working space ‘hug’ you this Winter? There are more than 4 million posts on Instagram with the hashtag #hygge, which is a great place to start!

4.)    Actively avoid burnout. Winter can be a germ fest, so do what you can to keep yourself as healthy and happy as possible.  Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, drink plenty of water, eat a balanced diet with plenty of vitamin-packed fruit and vegetables, and try to get out in the fresh air regularly for some exercise.  Yes, I know that eating a whole bar of Galaxy under a duvet on the sofa is much more appealing, but working from home is far easier when you are happy and healthy.  Of course, anyone can come down with a bug, so if you do find yourself under the weather this winter, take my advice and step away from the computer for a day or two! It’s easy to carry on working when you can work from your actual bed, but taking a little time to switch off and recuperate is absolutely essential if you want to avoid burnout and prolonged illness this winter.

How do you cope in the long, dark and damp British Winters when you work from home? I’d love to hear your top tips – feel free to share them on one of my Social Media pages!


Photo by Csaba Balazson Unsplash


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