Mondays are the start of the work week which offer new beginnings 52 times a year!

David Dweck
How to embrace Monday mornings and combat the “Blues”.

How to embrace Monday mornings and combat the “Blues”.

Posted by martin.parnell |

Every Monday morning, I open my emails and there’s a message from someone I know in the UK. Alan Stevens, also known as The Media Coach, who posts a weekly 5 minute video on tips to improve your speaking career. Sometimes they are practical, sometimes inspirational, but always worth listening to. I enjoy them because, apart from being very useful, they offer positive messages about how to enhance what I’m already doing and are a positive way to kick-start the week.

For a lot of people, on Monday mornings they feel anything but inspired and positive about the day ahead. They suffer from what is known as the “Monday Blues”. For some people, it starts on a Sunday and can ruin the final part of their weekend. They are daunted about going into work the next day, they are stressed and anxious and, come Monday morning, feel lethargic, negative and miserable.

Unfortunately, feeling this way, can have a negative impact on your performance and productivity—as well as the people around you.

In her article “11 Ways to Beat the Monday Blues”, Forbes staff writer, Jacquelyn Smith, quotes Rita Friedman, a Philadelphia-based career coach says “If you enjoy your job and are passionate about what you're doing, going in to work Monday morning is another opportunity to do what you love". “But if you're feeling under-appreciated or unsatisfied with your job, it can be especially difficult to start another seemingly endless workweek.”

So, what can be done to help deal with this feeling of dread at going back to work at the start of a new week? Smith offers these ideas:

Identify the problem. If you have the Monday Blues most weeks, then this is not something you should laugh off or just live with. It's a significant sign that you are unhappy at work and you need to fix it or move on and find another job. Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs suggests making a list of the things that are bringing you down in your job. “Maybe it’s a negative co-worker or a meeting with your boss first thing on Monday morning, or maybe it’s that you don’t feel challenged--or maybe it’s all of the above,” she says. “In either case, clarifying what is bothering you can help you try to be active in finding solutions. It’s a way of empowering you to take charge and try to improve the situation.” 

Prepare for Monday on Friday. Friedman says. “By taking care of the things you least want to handle at the end of one work week, you're making the start of the next that much better. If you do have any unpleasant tasks awaiting your attention Monday morning, get them done as early as possible so that you don't spend the rest of the day procrastinating.” Alexander  Kjerulf,  founder and Chief Happiness Officer of WooHoo Inc.  “Sunday evening, make a list of three things you look forward to at work that week. This might put you in a more positive mood.” 

Unplug for the weekend. If possible, try to avoid checking work e-mail or voicemail over the weekend, especially if you're not going to respond until Monday anyway, Friedman says. "It can be tempting to know what's waiting for you, but drawing clearly defined boundaries between work and personal time can help keep things in check. Sometimes going back to work on Monday feels especially frustrating because you let it creep into your off-time, and so it never even feels like you had a weekend at all." 

Get enough sleep and wake up early. Go to bed a little early on Sunday night and be sure to get enough sleep so that you wake up feeling well-rested. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, waking up an extra 15 to 30 minutes early on Monday morning can actually make going back to the office easier.

Dress for success.  Sara Sutton Fell, says “When you look good, you feel good. “Feeling good about yourself is half of the battle because rather than being deflated by work you want to face it with confidence.”

Be positive. Try to start the week out with a positive attitude. “When you get to the office, do your best not to be a complainer. In the same vein, don't listen to other people's Monday gripes.” Friedman adds. 

Make someone else happy. Kjerulf says we know from research in positive psychology that one of the best ways to cheer yourself up is to make someone else happy. “You might compliment a co-worker, do something nice for a customer or find some other way to make someone else's day a little better.” 

Keep your Monday schedule light. Knowing that Mondays are traditionally busy days at the office, a good strategy is keep you Monday schedule as clear as possible, Kahn says. “When you’re planning meetings ahead, try to schedule them for Tuesdays and Wednesdays. This will help you to come into Monday with more ease.” 

Have fun at work. Take it upon yourself to take a quick break to catch up with friend in the office. Sharing stories about the weekend with co-workers can be fun and also is a great way to strengthen your interoffice network. 

Have a post-work plan.  Your day shouldn't just be about trudging through Monday to get it over with, but about looking forward to something. “By making Monday a special day where you get to go out with friends or make your favourite dinner the day doesn't have to be all about getting up to go into the office,” Friedman says. You could also plan a favourite activity or hobby for Monday evening.

Are you the employer, team leader, manager or work in HR?  Being aware of how the “Monday Blues” is affecting your workforce is important. For most people, not wanting to go to work on Monday mornings is because weekends are great and they want them to continue, they are tired from the weekend or would just rather be doing other things and the start of another work week means they have to get through five days before the weekend comes around again. But, for most of them, once they are back, they settle in to a routine and that feeling passes.

 

However, if employees are suffering from lengthy periods of depression, beyond the phenomenon of Blue Monday, “they should be taken seriously and investigated if the workplace is the suspected or contributing cause.” says Alexander Kjerulf.

Hopefully, for most employees, the beginning of the working week is a time to set goals, embrace the challenge of a rewarding job and another opportunity to enjoy a sense of achievement.

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The trick is to understand that you are simply talking with your audience, sharing your thoughts. You’re not arguing. You’re not selling. You’re having a conversation. You’re giving them a gift.

Peter Coughter, Author
How to make your Presentation Pitch Perfect

How to make your Presentation Pitch Perfect

Posted by martin.parnell |

In my last blog, I mentioned the 5 minute video clips, I receive, every Monday, from Alan Stevens, The Media Coach. Last week, he gave advice about giving a keynote speech, with reference to William Gladstone’s “Six Rules for Speaking.”

In a career lasting over sixty years, William Ewart Gladstone, served as Britain’s Prime Minister four separate times (1868–74, 1880–85, February–July 1886 and 1892–94). Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister; he resigned for the final time when he was 84 years old and is consistently ranked as one of Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers.

After listening, to Alan’s reference to Gladstone, about giving a good speech, it struck me that those same rules might apply, when you are pitching an idea to your co-workers, your boss or a client. 

Here’s how: 

Rule 1.  Use simple words and short sentences. 

Rule 2.  Make sure that your diction is clear. 

Rule 3.  Know your subject. 

Rule 4.  Test your argument. 

Rule 5.  Make sure the facts are clear. 

Rule 6.  Watch your audience. 

Most of these are self – explanatory.  If your pitch is too complicated or if you are mumbling your words, people lose interest. Speak clearly and precisely.

You need to be prepared to answer questions, so it’s essential that you know your facts. Also, this will give you confidence when making your pitch. Don’t get caught out because you haven’t done your research. If, however, you are asked something that you have no answer for, be honest, don’t try to bluff, people will see right through it. It’s far better to say you honestly don’t know, but tell them that you can find out and when you can get back to them with an answer. "Staying positive and not getting on the defensively will always lead to a more natural and approachable cadence to your pitch,” writes Ben Schippers for TechCrunch. If you get a question you aren't comfortable answering or don't know how to answer, don't make something up or skirt around the issue. Schippers suggests responses like these:

  • "That’s a great question, give me a day or so to do some research and I’ll report back."
  • "I haven’t approached my research from that perspective, I’ll be sure to it -- great suggestion."

Rule 4 suggests you test your argument on a different audience. This may not be easy, You may not want to present your idea to colleagues beforehand and your friends and partners may have no idea about how your business works, but you might be able to get someone to sit for a few minutes and listen to part of your pitch, so that you can get some kind of reaction on the way you present it. 

Rule 6 is important because the way your audience is reacting, even if it’s only one person, may indicate that they are interested in what you have to say, would like more detail, have heard enough to give you a response or perhaps are even becoming bored and you have to change your approach. Another reason for watching your audience is because it is not a good idea to have your eyes down, reading from notes. Also, if you are using PowerPoint, make sure you are not turning your back and looking at your slides, have the board or any charts you are using, situated that you can glance at them, sideways, but stay facing your audience. 

 If you are going to use slides, make sure they are attractive, there’s nothing worse than having slides that are just a lot of print and only say exactly the same as you are. You may as well just give out photocopies of your pitch and that’s not a good idea. But, be careful not to make your slides distracting, you want them to be relevant and not take away from your message. In his publication "The Art of the Pitch: Persuasion and Presentation Skills that win Business" Peter Coughter states, “The words on the screen are usually a distraction to the audience. If you’re reading the words, by the time you’ve gotten around to mouthing the words, the audience has finished reading them and is getting bored by hearing you say them.” 

If you are pitching a new piece of technology or an item, make sure your pitch is interactive – give the person/people you are pitching to, something to touch or hold. Research shows the longer we touch or hold something,the more we feel ownership over it, and the more we want it. 

There are other aspects to making a good pitch that are important, that will help you to be successful: 

Be confident – if you show confidence in your idea, it will resonate. If you are naturally funny, include some humour in your presentation, but don’t force it.  Being amusing can be engaging, if it comes naturally, but trying to crack jokes that don’t work can be really off-putting. 

Be fully prepared – not just in what you are going to say, the message you want to deliver it, but the way in which it is presented. If you are using any form of technology, be it a computer, screen, Skype, make sure it’s all working beforehand. 

Make sure you know the points of your pitch off by heart, just in case something should happen e.g. your technology fails, you lose your notes, you sat on your glasses – if you know the main points really well, you can use them to jolt your memory and the rest should flow from them. 

Giving any sort of presentation can be nerve-wracking. Whatever you do, stay calm and  keep a cool head. You thought this was a good idea, so why shouldn’t other people?

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Clear your stuff. Clear your mind.

Eric M. Riddle, STUFFology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter
Spring, a Time to Clear Your Mind

Spring, a Time to Clear Your Mind

Posted by martin.parnell |

Recently, I was in the doctor’s waiting room and picked up a magazine that had a detailed article on how to go about “Spring Cleaning”. It even went to the extent of providing a “check list” in order that one could tick off the tasks, as each one was accomplished. 

It got me thinking that this is an exercise that could also apply to your job. 

Maybe it’s a good time to take stock and have a clear out in that area too. It might be the really simple things, like ditching all those broken pencils that are in your desk drawer or de-cluttering your desk. It could be there are some bigger things; getting rid of all those manuals that are out-of-date, shredding that pile of paperwork you no longer need, getting around to all that filing you’ve been meaning to do. Set aside some time and get them done. 

You might need to tackle some larger issues, for instance, are those old policies up for review? Is that handbook out-of-date? Is there stuff you should have available online, rather than in paper form?  Do you need to be more organised? Getting rid of things can be cathartic, whether they are taking up space on a desk, in a drawer or on a laptop. 

That, of course, only applies to the practical side of things. But there’s another, important part of our lives that might need an overhaul and that’s all the clutter in our minds. Is all that stuff in your head preventing you from being productive? 

In an article on theYour Story website, entitled “Three ways to declutter your mind and maximise productivity”, Sonal Mishra suggests three ways that will help you make space for a stress-free, emotionally-calm and productive environment: 

Make a to-do list

You don’t need to store everything in your head. Whether digitally or on a paper, write down everything that comes into your mind. Choose a tool – it can be a notepad on your desktop, a smartphone, or even an app on your phone. Now use this device to store the bits and pieces of information that you need to remember. From paying bills to forming new marketing strategies and motivating the workforce, writing down your agenda for the week will help you find respite from the constant chatter inside your head. While writing down each point, observe and evaluate the significance of every task. 

Review and Compartmentalise

 It is difficult for two objects to occupy the same space at the same time. If you choose to clutter your mind with negative thoughts or irrelevant ones, motivational and positive thoughts will have to take a back seat and wait for their turn. This is definitely not the best practice, especially if you want to walk the path of success. You have to choose between negative and positive thoughts. Differentiate between productive and unproductive ones, and get rid of the ones that aren’t doing anything good for you. Spend five minutes every day to note down at least five things that you are grateful for. Appreciating what you have, which could be anything from a supportive family to an enthusiastic team will help you see the brighter shades of your life. 

Stop Multitasking

Stanford University research confirms that a spreading of our focus over too many activities is not in our best interests, stating that multitasking decreases productivity by as much as 40 percent. Since our brain is wired to only focus on one thing at a time, multitasking adversely impacts efficiency and performance in the long run. The brain lacks the ability and the capacity to perform more than two tasks successfully.  Follow your to-do list and stick to the schedule. While performing these steps, turn off your phone notifications and other distractions to minimise interruptions. Cell phones, e-mail, and all the other cool and slick gadgets in our daily lives can cause massive losses in our creative output and overall productivity. Your immediate surroundings play an important role in your mental health. 

Make sure you keep your room and workspace clutter-free as much as possible. By sticking to a routine, reorganising priorities, and evaluating the environment, you can avoid burning out and stay focused on both short and long term goals. 

Now’s the time. Make a list, give yourself a time limit, make it achievable and just do it. 

You’ll feel much better for it.

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Help! I need somebody. Help! Not just anybody. Help! You know I need someone. Help!

Lennon and McCartney
How to get by, with a Little Help

How to get by, with a Little Help

Posted by martin.parnell |

At 6pm on Saturday May 27th. I will be at the start line of the Confederation 150km ultra, which is one of the events taking place during this year’s Scotiabank Calgary Marathon. 

This once-in-a-lifetime running event is in celebration of Canada’s 150th Anniversary which coincides with the 2017 Scotiabank Calgary Marathon Race Weekend.  The event website explains “This overnight 150K solo will be on a certified and looped course and will be open to a limited field of solo runners and run simultaneously with the relay. There will be multiple start times and athletes will self-seed so as to complete the first 100K in under 13 hours and as close to 7AM (50KM start time) as possible.” I can’t wait.

I’ve completed numerous marathons and Ultra-marathons and my training had been going well. But then, 11 days ago, I felt a twinge in my right thigh. Experience has taught me, there are some things you can “run off” and, at other times, you just have to rest up, self-treat with a regime of icing and heating the area and, if necessary, seek professional treatment.

That is how, last Friday, I found myself lying on the table at my Chiropractor’s, having Deep Tissue Therapy and Manipulation. After several good night’s sleep, my thigh is feeling much better and, with a little TLC, I’m confident it will get me through next weekend.

No matter how well things might be going, whether it’s in sport, at work or just in life in general, there are always those little setbacks, waiting in the wings, to make an entry and change the course of things.

Therefore, it’s always best to be prepared for these occasions. In sport, I’m fortunate to have a great team of people I can go to, my family doctor, Bill Hanlon, my chiropractor, Greg Long and my physiotherapist, Serge Tessier, all excellent professionals who practice out of Cochrane.

When it comes to business, I’m pretty much on my own, but if the occasion should arise, I know I can consult my speaking coach, Jane Atkinson, my friends at the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS) and my wife and business partner, Sue. I also get weekly advice from a friend of mine, who is a very experienced and well-respected media coach, in the UK, Alan Stevens. His weekly newsletter is always full of great tips and advice.

So, who are your “go to” people? Do you have professionals who you can rely on to give great support and advice?

If you are in business, always keep a look out for people, in your field who share their knowledge. There are so many people out there, blogging and podcasting on subjects too numerous to mention.

But, be selective and look for people with a proven track record. 

Something else to consider is whether you have an area of expertise you could share with others.  Maybe you could be someone else’s support.

In business, as in life, it’s all about knowing when you need help or support and not being afraid to ask for it.

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A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Laughter, the Best Medicine, in the Right Dosage

Laughter, the Best Medicine, in the Right Dosage

Posted by martin.parnell |

In an article published by the University of Kentucky, studies confirmed there is some truth in the saying “Laughter is the best medicine” and that “Studies from around the world have shown that an atmosphere of humour results in better patient cure, less anesthesia time, less operating time, and shorter hospital stays.  It gives examples of some of the researched benefits of laughter;

• Blood Pressure – People who laugh heartily, on a regular basis, have a lower standing blood pressure than does the average person. When people have a good laugh, initially the blood pressure increases, but then it decreases to levels below normal.

 • Hormones – Laughter reduces at least four of the neuro-endocrine hormones associated with stress. These are epinephrine, cortisol, dopamine, and growth hormone.

• Immune System – Clinical studies by Lee Berk at Loma Linda University have shown that laughter strengthens the immune system by increasing infection-fighting antibodies.

 • Muscle Relaxation – Belly laughs result in muscle relaxation.

• Pain Reduction – In 1987, Texas Tech psychologist Rosemary Cogan used the discomfort of a pressure cuff to test the medical benefits of laughter on pain management. Subjects who watched a 20-minute comedy routine could tolerate a tighter cuff than those who had watched an informational tape or no tape at all.

 • Brain Function – Laughter stimulates both sides of the brain to enhance learning. It eases muscle tension and psychological stress, which keeps the brain alert and allows people to retain more information.

 • Respiration – Laughter empties your lungs of more air than it takes in, resulting in a cleansing effect – similar to deep-breathing. This deep breathing sends more oxygen-enriched blood and nutrients throughout the body.

 • The Heart – Laughter, along with an active sense of humor, may help protect you against a heart attack, according to a study at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

 • A Good Workout – Laughter can provide good cardiac, abdominal, facial, and back muscle conditioning, especially for those who are unable to perform physical exercise.

• Mental and Emotional Health – Humour and laughter are a powerful emotional medicine that can lower stress and dissolve anger

It appears there is a good case to be made for engaging our sense of humor in all aspects of our lives.  However, not everyone shares the same sense of humour. So, how can we encourage humor in the workplace and ensure that it is used appropriately?

In his book, “The Humor Advantage”, speaker and author, Michael Kerr endorses the importance of humour in the workplace; ‘Having a sense of humor in the workplace is not about telling jokes, being a stand-up comedian, or being the office clown. It’s not about being an extrovert or practicing fake enthusiasm. It’s not even always about being funny (I can already hear you sighing with relief). Having a sense of humor is about adopting a spirit of playfulness and fun. It’s about appreciating the incongruous events and absurd moments that flitter by us every day. It’s about embracing a sense of balance, a sense of perspective, and a sense of humanity. And like our other senses, humor is a way of interpreting and filtering the events in the world around us.”

Kerr emphasizes the fact that he is not promoting any behaviour that might be construed as unprofessional, but that being “professional” does not mean that we need to “ downplay or even banish any semblance of fun and humor at work. Having a sense of humor is also about being authentic. After all, rarely are we more real than when we laugh. We are never more human than when humor shatters the professional masks we sometimes wear to reveal the true human being lurking beneath the corporate façade. This is likely why studies show a positive correlation between humor and trust: We tend to trust people more when we sense they are the real deal, and humor helps us appear more vulnerable and more genuine. He goes on to say “humor is a comfort, a catalyst, and a connector that any front line employee, sales rep, leader or even CEO, can include in their toolkit to help them achieve better results. And it’s a powerfully effective way to inject some life into your business brand that will help your business stand out from the herd to be heard like never before.”

In business, a good sense of humour might give you an advantage.  In his article, Making Sense of Humour in the Workplace, on the Canada One website, Steve Bannister tells us that “Many businesses are now beginning to realize that the punch line can benefit the bottom line. Robert Half International, an executive recruitment firm, conducted a survey of 1,000 executives and discovered that 84 percent of respondents felt that workers with a sense of humour do a better job. Another survey by Hodge-Cronin & Associates found that of 737 CEOs surveyed, 98 percent preferred job candidates with a sense of humour to those without. Employers are looking for the same characteristics which are inherent in those people who have a good sense of humour, namely; more creativity and productivity, fewer absentees and sick days, and better decision-making capabilities.

In his view, the essence of developing a good sense of humour is not taking yourself too seriously and keeping a positive attitude. Bannister explains what he calls “The Four Senses of Humour” and illustrates thepros and cons of using the various types;

1. Self-Deprecating Humour - Poking fun of oneself can provide a much needed relief from tense situations. Conversely, an excess of this type of humour may make other people uncomfortable and lead to serious low self-esteem issues.

2. Put-Down Humour - This type of humour involves teasing, sarcasm and ridicule and it tends to be a popular form of humour around the water cooler. If aimed at politicians, actors etc. it is harmless and can help to form social bonds, although if aimed at fellow workers, it can become a form of social aggression.

3. Bonding Humour - People who exhibit bonding humour are generally fun to be around. They tell funny jokes, lighten the mood and partake in witty banter. Bonding humour can either provide a sense of togetherness or it can isolate individual employees.

4. Observational Humour - Observational humour is the healthiest of all of the four types. People who use this type of humour have a unique outlook on life. They are always able to see the bright side of things and they don't take themselves too seriously. This enables them to deal more easily with daily stress in their life at work and at home. Observational humour is the only type of humour which can be enjoyed alone. As a result, studies linking humour with health have tended to concentrate on this type of humour.

Bannister then goes on to give advice for using appropriate types of humour, in the workplace;

  • Suffocate sarcasm - It has too much potential to be taken the wrong way in a work environment.
  • Justify your jokes - Don't just memorize the latest joke making the rounds on email. Tailor your jokes to the individual and keep them clean.
  • Be frugally funny - Making a funny comment to diffuse tension during a meeting is a great idea, but don't overdo it.
  • Join a friendly neighbourhood - Hang around funny friends. Spend time with those who are upbeat and avoid negative people whenever possible.
  • Giggle with the gang - You can be seen as having a great sense of humour without ever telling a joke. Just listen to those around you and share in their laughter.
  • Get with it - Remind yourself to have fun every day. Place humorous cartoons and quotes in your personal workspace.
  • Partake in periodic personal putdowns - This can put others at ease and you don't risk offending anyone. Be sure to keep a light mood and don't make it a habit.

Why not try to find ways to integrate humour into your working day? It could be of benefit to you and your colleagues in all manner of ways, as long as it is used appropriately.

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