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Tips & Tricks

How to Form Good Habits

By | Tips & Tricks, Work Better

Tips & Tricks

Part 5

We all have things we’d like to change about our daily routines, whether it’s clearing out your inbox more consistently or getting more sleep each night. Sometimes it’s easier said than done – but by following certain techniques, you can make it more likely that your new habits will last!

1. Commit to 30 Days

There’s a lot of ideas circulating around how long a habit takes to form – with a lot of people citing the old myth that it takes 21 days to have something fully become part of your routine.

The truth is that it’s a bit more complex than that, with a study by Philippa Lally at University College London  showing that it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit.

However, researchers did find that the person, the behaviour and the circumstances did massively affect how long the new habit took to form. Some things only took 18 days, others took even longer than the two-month average. So simply put, if you want to start building something into your routine, a great way to start is to set yourself a month-long target and get yourself well on the way to that average benchmark.

2. Be Consistent

If you keep the circumstances of your new habit the same, it will be easier to make it become a natural part of your routine. For example, if you want to make sure you exercise more, try going at the same time, to the same place every day to do it.

By giving yourself specific place and time cues, you’re helping the habit to become automatic, as you’ll be used to recognising them as a signal that you need to be doing that activity.

 

3. Write it Down

When you write something down, you’re challenging your brain to process the idea in a new way. Writing down your new resolution will help you to focus on the end goal that you’re setting for yourself, which is a great first step to starting your new habit.

Also, having visual reminders around is never a bad idea – when things get hectic, it’s easy to forget that extra thing that you’re trying to fit into your daily routine. Why not leave strategic Post-It notes somewhere that you’ll see them throughout your day? For example, tucking one neatly onto your desk to remind you that you need to drink more water might be a great trigger to go and refill your bottle.

Need some Post-It Notes?

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4. Find a Buddy

If you ask a friend to join you in your new habit, then you’ll have someone to help remind and motivate you along the way! This does work particularly well when it’s an activity you can do together, whether it’s heading to the gym as a team after work or grabbing a healthier lunch together.

Even if the habit is one that you’ll carry out separately (like getting to sleep earlier each night or adding some extra skincare to your morning routine), you’ll benefit from having someone else who you can chat to about your progress – and celebrate when it becomes an automatic part of your day!

5. Don’t Beat Yourself Up About It!

This one is tricky when you’re working hard to form a new habit, but it’s important not to feel negative if you do slip up. In the study cited above, researchers did find that “missing one opportunity to perform the behaviour did not materially affect the habit formation process.” So there’s no need to kick yourself if you do miss a day in your new routine!

It’s also important to remember that whatever positive new behaviour you’re trying to reinforce will take as long as it takes – even if you restart the process multiple times, you simply can’t get to day 100 of your great new habit without doing day 1 first.

So give yourself credit for all the days you do manage, instead of beating yourself up about any that you don’t!

We hope these tips help you get out there and start making some positive changes to your day. If you come up with any more, let us know!

Have a great week!

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How to Beat the Post-Holiday Blues

By | Tips & Tricks, Work Better

Tips & Tricks

Part 4

The wonderful thing about this season is you might be looking forward to taking a proper break (or maybe you’ve just had one?) But it can be a bit of a culture shock to jump straight back in to your daily work routine.

Here’s our top advice for how to soften the blow…

1. De-clutter your desk

There’s something about coming back to mess that can feel like an unfortunate metaphor on a rainy Monday morning… so make sure your desk feels like a haven, not a burden! 

Giving your desk a good tidy and clean is a good activity to get you back in the headspace to work – the few minutes you spend sorting it gives you a chance to think over what other tasks you need to prioritise now you’re getting back into the swing of things. Which brings us to tip number two…

2. Get perspective on your to-do list

One of the advantages of taking a break is it can be a great way to show up where your priorities need to be. Chances are, anything truly urgent is now clearly your next step, whereas other tasks which coped without you for a week or so maybe aren’t needing as much of your time and attention as you always thought. 

Working out how to tackle your back-to-work to-do list is a great way to get you in good habits for sorting your ongoing workload. Our favourite method is to organise that pile of things to pick up using the 1-3-5 rule (we’ve even written a handy guide to get you started). 

But don’t let your new sense of perspective stop there! You should also consider…

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3. Think about how your break made you feel

It’s okay to admit that you’ve got post-holiday blues… but sometimes it’s worth recognising that they’re a symptom of a bigger problem. Was there anything in particular that felt good to walk away from? 

While it’s almost impossible to love every part of your working day, you shouldn’t feel bad about wanting to change things for the better. If you take this opportunity to work out the things you missed (maybe a task you always get great satisfaction from, or a colleague you miss chatting with), and the things you really didn’t, it might help you reshape your workday for the better. 

Think about how you could include more of the positives in your workday. Maybe that’s asking your manager for more training and opportunities in a part of your job that you love, maybe it’s asking for more team support in a part of your job that you struggle with. It might even just be setting aside one lunch break a week for a proper catch-up with that office friend who makes working life more bearable!

4. Give your body a boost

Be honest… do you end up indulging more when you’re away? 

We’re all guilty of choosing lots of treats when we’re on holiday – it is a lovely break from the normal routine, after all! But it’s important to recognise that your body might need a bit of TLC if you’ve spent the last couple of weeks thoroughly indulging yourself at an all-inclusive resort (or just going somewhere with great fish and chips). 

Make sure you drink plenty of water, and have some fresh fruit and veggies on hand to keep yourself out of trouble if your stomach is still on holiday time. Also, don’t underestimate your need for sleep after a holiday – while you might have been able to lounge on the beach more than usual, all the extra travel and activities can leave you feeling pretty wiped. Don’t feel guilty about booking in some early nights to get back on track!

5. Recognise your value

It sounds like an odd way to put it, but when you take a break from something, it forces you to think about what would happen if you’re not there. 

What jobs did you need to reassign? Whose workload got bigger? Did you feel that there was a lot of pressure not to go, or did reassigning your workload feel a bit underwhelming?

There’s nothing wrong with taking stock of what your absence means to your workplace, and looking at re-balancing your load accordingly. If the lack of your presence caused all manner of problems, maybe you’re being asked to shoulder too much without enough support. If you felt that there wasn’t a big enough impact, maybe you’re ready to take on some new opportunities and challenges.

Either way, it’s a great time to think about the value you bring, and how you deserve to strike the right balance between challenge and reward. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed these tips, and they help you beat those post-holiday blues. You’ll be back in the swing of things before you know it!

Have a great week!

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Top 5 Rules for Good Email Practice

By | Tips & Tricks, Work Better

Tips & Tricks

Part 3

It’s an undeniable fact that email is a huge part of the modern work environment. But how often has something landed in your inbox that has rubbed you up the wrong way? Avoid being that sender with our top 5 tips for good email practise…

1. Include a descriptive subject line

While it might be tempting to hook in your reader with a mysterious description, in reality, it’s going to be annoying for someone whose inbox is groaning and in need of prioritisation.

Being clear about the topic (and a deadline if relevant) in the subject line means your email stands a better chance of being read and dealt with in time.

2. Include an email signature

A good signature block gives your recipient extra context as to who you are, which is especially important when they’re not a well-known contact. Generally speaking, you should always at least include your name, job title and business at the bottom of every email.

It’s also important to ensure your recipients have more options than just hitting ‘reply’. If the subject you’re discussing is getting complex, or something time-sensitive comes up, it’s ideal to give them some extra contact details to reach you. Including your phone number is a good way to do this – and adding some social media details gives a great way to stay in touch less formally too.

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3. Use spell check/proof carefully

At the end of the day, email is a written medium – so it’s never going to look great if a badly-written message lands in someone’s inbox!

Spell check is an essential to make sure you haven’t made any obvious errors – but you should be careful about leaving it as your last line of defence. It’s easy to mess up by typing the wrong word that happens to be spelt correctly – and a spell check can’t be relied upon to catch that!

There are some interesting services out there like Grammarly and Ginger that can put your work through its paces, and help you pick up some of the things that a spell checker can’t. But even then, nothing beats a good old-fashioned human proof-read! If you’re not the strongest proof-reader but you’re sending out something super important, consider making your most grammar-savvy colleague a nice cup of coffee and asking them for a favour…

4. Think twice before hitting ‘reply all’

One of the cardinal sins of email etiquette is not knowing when something should be a group conversation. While it’s great to keep colleagues in the loop, almost everyone has a horror story about being caught in the wrong ‘reply all’.

One of the best ways to avoid this mistake is to consciously think about who is in your conversation every time you go to hit ‘reply’ or ‘reply all’. If your recipients were sat in a room with you, would you have announced the contents of your email to all of them, or taken one person aside? Hopefully visualising the recipient(s) will help you to pause and double check that you’re about to hit the right button…

 

5. Be cautious with humour

Very few people are blessed with the talent of being able to make anyone laugh, and being able to make anyone laugh in writing is much harder.

On the whole, unless you know your recipient well and have a pretty great understanding of their sense of humour, it’s best to avoid trying to be funny in emails.

When in doubt, leave it out…

BONUS TIP: Don’t email angry!

We’ve all been tempted to fire off an email in anger – especially when bad news has arrived in the form of an email itself.

However, there’s so many reasons why this isn’t a good plan – not only is it much harder to have a constructive conversation when you’re not able to properly judge the tone of the other person speaking, it’s also not a great idea to leave a written trail of things you’ve said in the heat of the moment.

One of the best tips we’ve heard is to write the email in a word processor instead (no chance of accidentally sending it that way) and sit on it for 24hrs, if possible. That way, if you still feel like it really should be sent after you’ve had time to reflect on it, you can feel much more assured in your decision.

We hope you’ve enjoyed these tips, and that they make sure you’re one of the best things in somebody’s inbox (with the notable exception of Office Needs offers, of course!) If you’ve got your own thoughts on what you like to see in email communication, why not let us know?

 

Have a great week!

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How to Beat the Summer Slump

By | Tips & Tricks, Work Better

Tips & Tricks

Part 2

Have you noticed a drop in productivity this summer? We have some tips to help you make the most of your team’s time, even when the temperature is rising!

It’s easy for things to get less productive in the summer – if your office gets too warm (or too cold from overenthusiastic AC), your customers or colleagues are on holiday, or the sunshine outside is just looking so distractingly tempting… but there are a few good ways to make sure that this time works well for you.

1. Make space for projects

Every single team will have certain things sitting on the backburner, waiting for an opportunity when the regular workload lets up. This might be something as simple as needing to take time to re-organise your filing, or as big as brainstorming your plans for the next year ahead.

Whatever your looming project may be, take advantage of slightly quieter phone lines and less busy offices – is now a good moment to book out the meeting room and crack on with what you’ve been putting off? While it may be tempting to leave everything hanging because you’ve got team members on holiday, don’t forget that your absent colleague can offer the crucial role of an outside eye – presenting your thoughts to them on their return can give a good opportunity for some critical feedback, adding massive benefits to your second draft.

2. Make space… in general!

We mentioned re-organising your filing… there’s really no better time to be making physical changes in your office than when you’ve got people away on holiday, as it gives more space to move things about without falling over each other.

Of course you should always diplomatically check before re-purposing your colleague’s desk for a week, but most people won’t mind if their empty desk becomes a re-organisation station while they’re enjoying some well-deserved sunshine!

Plus, for real Office Hero points, look at making those furniture purchases you’ve been putting off while your team-mates are absent. That way, your hard-working team get to come back to a fresh new workspace!

 

3. Embrace the idea of taking time out

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that we love to discuss the importance of taking breaks, and we hope you take our advice! Working without any kind of respite leads to serious burnout, and in the long run, is hugely less productive.

The quieter summer months can offer a great time to encourage the natural over-workers in your office to take some well-deserved rest. Even if it’s just a long weekend, or leaving early on a Friday, it’s important to encourage the idea of getting outside and soaking up some mood- and productivity-boosting Vitamin D.

4. And finally… work together!

This might sound obvious, but if you’re feeling unproductive, chances are your team is too. This makes for the perfect opportunity for open discussion about what you all enjoy to get through a slow afternoon – would a bit of communal music be welcome, or a distraction? Would you like to co-ordinate breaks to keep you all focused in between?

By having these conversations at a time when the problem is pretty universal, it becomes easier to raise the issue later in the year. So if you’re sitting there this winter, struggling through a project, you can ask to crank up the tunes while safely knowing you’ll have an appreciative audience!

We hope you’ve enjoyed these tips, and that they help you stay productive all summer. If you’ve got your own thoughts on how to keep your team moving, why not let us know?

 

Have a great week!

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How to Plan Better Projects…

By | Tips & Tricks, Work Better

Tips & Tricks

Part 1

Do you have an upcoming project on your mind, and are trying to wrestle with lots of factors and potential scenarios? We have one easy tip to help you get instantly better at contingency planning!

This advice came to me when I was at university, when our rather amazing Activities Co-Ordinator had the Herculean task of trying to make lots of groups of students better at organising projects. This one tip genuinely made us better at organisation almost instantly… and I’ve used it ever since!

 

The advice is basically this… split your choices into Donkeys, Horses, and Unicorns!

There’s method in the madness…

The idea is that you divide your potential options into the minimum requirement to get the job done (the donkey), the amazing version that would get the job done, but might be more than you need (the unicorn), and then find the middle ground that becomes just right (the horse).

Think of it like the three bears story… but with more unicorns!

 

So how might this work in practise?

Let’s take a potential office-based scenario that could happen in most workplaces – you need to refurbish your office, so you’ve been asked to find bench desks that will suit all of your colleagues. Within this team, some people will be in every single day working 9-5, so you’ve been asked whether it’s possible to give them the option not to sit down all day.

The donkey: The most basic thing you could do would be to find the cheapest desk possible, that can be arranged in a bench of the right size, and will simply give everyone the option to sit down. You choose the cheapest finish that won’t look horrendous in the room. This option functions, but it’s not the best!

The unicorn: Sit-stand desks… sit-stand desks everywhere! You choose a full bench of independently adjustable sit-stand desks, and select top and leg finishes that not only blend well with your corporate colours, but actively make you nervous to put coffee down on them, they look that good. This option is incredible, but might blow your budget (although honestly, you would be amazed how often people overestimate the cost of these brilliant desks, so ALWAYS ask before dismissing this kind of fabulous unicorn idea).

The horse: You choose some great-looking bench desks with lovely leg and desk top finishes, and then integrate sit-stand units into part of the bench, so your colleagues spending the most intense time sitting down (or having the most postural issues) have access to the resources they need. You work with a company like Office Needs to make sure the furniture looks good and matches your space well, but stays nicely within budget!

Is the scenario above feeling familiar?

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So why not try this today?

Above is just one simple example of how to apply this approach – you can use this method for all your decision making! And if you ever find yourself looking at different options for your office supplies, print, furniture or shredding and want some guidance as to how to find your perfect ‘horse’, our team would love to chat through options with you.

 

Have a great week!

Join us next week for the first part of a new topic!

If you’ve got thoughts on what you’d like us to cover next, why not get in touch with us on social media? We’d love to hear from you!

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