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Your holiday is over and you’ve got to go back to work. You resist, don’t want to.  If  your work place is your home office, you wonder if anyone would notice if you didn’t do much for a day or so?

Of course, you could try to catch up once you feel a little more inspired. That’s exactly how I often feel after a holiday. You are so relaxed and chilled out and want the feeling to go on forever.

Even when  you have an important deadline coming up and a high workload to go with it, you figure that your work will make you the opposite of relaxed and chilled out. And perhaps you don’t really want to go there.

That happened to me too once. And then, two days later, not only had I tackled a long to-do list, including a whole long list of emails and a great number of calls, I had caught up with my social networking sites and made some important decisions in between.

After resisting on day 1, I ended up at my desk for 12 hours (not non-stop I hasten to add), enjoying my work against all the odds! I was totally focused too, got so much done and each accomplished task felt really good.

Here are a few tips you may wish to try if you feel reluctant about starting your work.

  • Make sure you write a task or to do list, and prioritise the items on it. It’s no good having jobs, projects or tasks in your head, where they can often cause more anxiety than necessary.
  • Use the timer trick to get you started. Plan to do 5 or 10 minutes on a particular task and before long, you’ll notice you don’t mind carrying on.
  • If you don’t want to use a timer, having a visible clock in your office may be OK. The best ones are the ones with an audible tick- they remind you that time doesn’t stand still.
  • After working for a couple of hours, make sure you have a break. Have a hot drink, stretch your legs, open a window, read a paper. 10-15 minutes should be fine.
  • Getting back into work mode after a break can be hard, so I do something that I enjoy – reading and updating one of my social media sites for 10-15 minutes (keeping an eye on the clock). This also makes me feel connected to the outside world. If you don’t do social networking, then why not make a call to a colleague instead?  Always keep an eye on the clock though.
  • Never ever be tempted to multitask thinking you’ll be quicker! Don’t have social media sites open in the background in order to go back to them from time to time. Single tasking is key to higher productivity – cutting out interruptions gives you higher levels of concentration. Task switching can not only be hard on the brain but will lose you time as your brain takes time to adapt to the different tasks.
  • Getting a difficult job out of the way first, will feel liberating and your work will flow much easier afterwards. Again you can use the timer method to get into the task.
  • At the end of the day, update your prioritised list for the following day, as it will help you to switch off!

What else has worked for you that you could share with our readers?

Ute Wieczorek-King is an experienced trainer, mentor and business & blogging coach. She helps busy passionate solopreneurs build a thriving small venture by being more visible and focused on what matters to them. Sign up for her free ‘Passion to Profit’ ebook at http://www.successnetwork.org.uk

(PS the above post was first published in 2010)

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Blue sky by Ute Wieczorek-King

As a new week unfolds, it is so easy for ultra-busy women to get sucked in to the to-do list without stopping long enough to take a breather.

Sometimes we drop tasks and reprioritise our action list on a whim, depending on what happens to us that day.

It may change like the weather in April: I recall days where we started with strong winds followed by torrential rain, which in turn was followed by glorious blue skies and sunshine.

I find it easy to admire the sunshine and appreciate the good weather after the grey of the rain but without that strong contrast, would I have really noticed the good weather or would I have taken it for granted?

It’s the same with the contrast of nice and not-so-nice tasks on your action list.

Have you got used to avoiding certain tasks?

Sometimes when your list is full of things you don’t like doing, or are not very good at, it may feel easier to ignore your important tasks and put them off. I have done this too from time to time especially with one of my least favourite tasks… following up leads.

But when you cherry pick, do you actually ‘enjoy’ doing what’s easiest? Or is the feeling of guilt when procrastinating preventing you from doing so?

It is so easy to become used to working in such a way, until a deadline threatens to derail us or a personal matter stops us in our tracks.

Then panic sets in.

Today as you trail through your action or task list, why not pay real attention to all of it – the good, the bad and the ugly?

Why it makes sense to embrace all tasks

Without dealing with the challenging, boring or uncomfortable tasks, you may miss out on valuable learning about yourself and the task in hand. You also deny yourself the opportunity to truly appreciate the positives and the fun activities. And then you are simply left with that niggling feeling of guilt that is so difficult to shake off!

So when faced with jobs that that make you feel disheartened this week, try to feel grateful for what you are learning about yourself and your tasks as you carry them out.

And if that feels a little strange at the beginning, look for something else to feel grateful for – even if it’s just the sunshine or the blue sky.

You may be amazed by how good it feels to apply an attitude of gratitude in your day-to-day work.

As William Arthur Ward said, “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

Ute Wieczorek-King is an experienced Mentor who helps busy women to be visible and focused in business. You can connect with Ute on Twitter , Facebook or Instagram or get her free Money ebook for passionate solopreneurs on the Success Network website.

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The following blog post was republished on 14 November 2013 by Huffington Post – with my permission- on their Small Business Blog pages.

Most micro business owners experience periods where there is so much to do that it can be really difficult to stay in control of your time and get everything done – fileslike the first time you take on a major contract! Suddenly you find yourself juggling all your smaller clients, perhaps struggling to look after them as well as you used to. At times the pressure to keep up with the different demands on your time can be relentless!

A workload that stays consistently high may be the first sign that you can’t avoid outsourcing any longer, especially if you don’t want to risk losing any customers! But if you know your high workload is only short-term, why not try the following tips to help you stay focused and get everything done?

  1. Work with your natural biorhythm. Whether you are a morning or evening person, do your important work tasks when you know you’re feeling alert.
  2. Always do the most important thing first; this can take the pressure off you later, and also help with concentration.
  3. Stop reacting to everything that happens. Responding appropriately may not mean having to jump straight into action just because something has landed on your desk or in your inbox, or because you ‘should’ be carrying out certain tasks at specific times.
  4. When concentrating intensely during important tasks, it pays to have a break after about 90 minutes. This allows your brain to have a rest, as you continue with some less intense tasks. These may include answering e-mail or returning calls. Having a hot drink at this point may then also help you return to more intense ‘focus time’.
  5. During your ‘focus time’, avoid distraction from browser windows that don’t need to be open. Turn email reminders off, in fact why not close your inbox and even put your mobile on silent. Reducing other external noise (if possible) can help too, since your brain may thank you for not having to deal with interruptions, and you don’t lose the adjustment time your brain needs to help you switch between tasks.
  6. Set a timer for social networking tasks, or for reading articles (whether this is part of your work or not). Decide on a length of time before you start- just 15 minutes of totally focused time can be very effective.
  7. If you are stressed by having too much to do, it helps to write everything down. Particularly at night, when people often lie awake, feeling overwhelmed and anxious, taking notes of your concerns or writing a list can relieve your brain of some of the ‘weight’ and allow you to get the sleep that you need.

So, by using the old adage of ‘more haste less speed’ you will actually be improving your effectiveness, end overwhelm and find your overall work performance increasing.

What helps you to stay focused? Please share your tips with other readers below!

Ute2010About the author: Ute Wieczorek-King provides business support for passionate fempreneurs who want to take their micro-business from good to great. Get Ute’s daily business tips on Facebook or sign up on the Success Network website to receive two free ebooks to help you grow your business and make it more profitable. http://www.successnetwork.org.uk

Copyright, 2009-2013 Ute Wieczorek-KIng

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Lack of concentration and focus, problems with sleep or hormones, stress, domestic distractions and interruptions can all take their toll on women’s productivity when working from home. Sometimes you can push through a productivity lull and it will pass by itself, but at other times pure persistence without any tactical changes in behaviour may actually be counterproductive.

I certainly find that on a bad day it can take me two to three times longer to complete even the most ordinary office tasks. I may flit from task to task not able to finish any as I can’t focus for long enough.

Sharpening your thinking by consuming lots of caffeine doesn’t always work either and the only option left may be to diversify! This is usually a good move as it prevents that false sense of ‘busy-ness’ which can get mistaken for effective productivity.

But what are the warning signs that tell you that it’s time to diversify?

This may vary from person to person- for me it can be hopping from task to task on my computer and noticing that I have more browser windows open than I need. Or it can be reading an email, and having to re-read it, because I’m just not taking in the information. Another sign may be that when checking my inbox I forget to assign actions, such as flagging the email, setting up a reminder, or adding the reply as a task to my to do list.

So the first thing to work out is what your own personal warning signs are, so you can recognise when to break your current routine.

A good tip is to vary the type of your business activities regularly. Some people even have a to-do list of special short and easy to complete office tasks, just for times of low concentration!

If you don’t have such a list, why not move on to the next items on your to-do list, until you find something that you are able to complete, or at least make some inroads. But beware: don’t keep browser windows of your previous projects or social media platforms open! You want to avoid ‘window’ or task hopping at all cost, as dipping in and out of tasks can be a real time waster.

I often find creative tasks helpful, like working on a blog post or article. As creativity tends to use the other side of your brain, this will usually help me lift my brain fog. And in case I’m still feeling unfocused afterwards, I get up to have a break, preferably outdoors. I may spend half an hour in the garden or go for a walk round the block to clear the cobwebs. Also, when feeling stressed, leaving your desk can actually give you a better bird’s-eye view of what’s going on.

Very occasionally, I will abandon my to-do list altogether and take the rest of the day off. To prevent a backlog of tasks, I usually trade the lost time for an evening or some time at the weekend. However, strictly speaking, this isn’t actually ‘lost’ time, since you weren’t productive and effective in the first place!

So, no matter how you feel on a day-to-day basis, how you choose to work is always in your control, and why not choose to work when you are at your best? As you are your own boss, there is no need to ignore the warning signs of low productivity; it is essentially up to you what you do with your time.

Bad hair days’ can teach you self-awareness as well as help you make your own choices and decisions about how you work. And the more proactive you are the more self-aware, accountable and productive you usually become!

Ute Wieczorek-King is an experienced trainer, mentor and business coach who specialises in helping busy women to be more focused, efficient, visible and profitable in business.

If you like this post, why not leave a comment below or connect with Ute via Twitterthe Success Network Community on Linkedin, or Success Network Recipes on Facebook.

To sign up to her monthly newsletter, please visit the Success Network website.

Copyright  2011, Ute Wieczorek-King

‘Bad Hair Day’ Photo Credit: Style Tips 101

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Is there anything about the way you work that you would really like to improve?

Maybe you have tried to be more productive before but haven’t managed to see things through. Committing to doing something differently can be so much easier if you take the necessary time to think things through, then plan and act accordingly. Very often we try to make too many changes at once, with goals focused on the distant future; if so, it can be too easy to give up!

Image by Success Network

One way of achieving better results is to see what you can change in seven days. Most people can plan a week ahead and the knowledge that this is a limited period may make it easier to stay on track.

Let me give you some ideas about the kind of things you could do in that time. Never attempt to tackle several things in one go – just stick to one type of change or action per day, and try and fit this in every day for seven days in a row.

For example:

  • Can you reorganize your office in a week? Do a little every day to make a difference?
  • How many calls can you make in seven days? Think of all the overdue cold (or ‘warm’) calls you could make in a week. How many could you commit to every day?
  • Would you like to establish a social media presence in a week? Sign up, start updating and do a bit more online every day.
  • How about improving your productivity by starting your day with 5-10 minutes of planning and writing a to-do list?

You get the idea!

Once you’ve decided to take up the 7-day challenge, let someone know what you will be focusing on. This will help you to feel more accountable and it will be harder to give up.

Then make sure you think through how much time you need to set aside every day and when you will make the time. You could consider dropping a lower-priority activity for a while.

Always be sure it is a realistic plan, and then get started.

Your seven days can start on any day of the week, so if you start on a Monday morning, you finish on Sunday evening. Maybe at the weekend, you can substitute the office task for a similar domestic task so you don’t interrupt the flow.

When the first seven days are up, choose whether you want to start another 7-day challenge. If the first seven days worked well continue to do the same thing for a week, and then perhaps consider adding a new small task into the mix. Always check though that your intentions are realistic.

And if the seven day challenge didn’t work for you don’t worry, try again another time. Until you try, you won’t know what it’s like to do something differently and there really is nothing to lose!

Ute Wieczorek-King is an experienced trainer, mentor and business coach who specialises in helping busy women be more efficient, productive and profitable in business. Author of the e-book “How to Write a Simple 12 Month Plan”, Ute also runs Success Network and the Inner Circle Business Clubs which provide peer-to-peer business mentoring and support.

For more information please visit Success Network http://www.successnetwork.org.uk

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I’ve run my own training and coaching businesses for over 20 years and as many of my solopreneur clients are mums, I have always felt fortunate that my work goes quiet during the school holidays.  It gives me a welcome opportunity to catch up on some back office tasks and some writing, and having the freedom to go away and spend time with family and friends is a real bonus.

However, the practical side of managing any work tasks whilst preparing to get away can be a real challenge for busy solopreneurs with an office at home. The amount of stress generated through the sheer effort of getting away can be a little scary, even if the holiday itself is ultimately worth it!

As there always seems to be more to do than we can possibly manage, good preparation and not leaving things until the last minute are key when avoiding pre-holiday stress, especially for those who rely on that last-minute pressure to get things done.

Tip 1 – It helps to have two separate to-do lists in the run up to any holidays, one for domestic jobs, the other for business tasks. Start planning  what you will do well in advance so you you don’t get caught out by things or jobs you may have forgotten!

Tip 2 – Make sure neighbours and friends know of your plans, pets are looked after, and that colleagues and key clients are also informed in good time. Keep your work contacts up-to-date on deadlines, especially if you are likely to fall behind. Explain that any new projects may have to wait until you get back.

Tip 3Delegate any business tasks that can’t wait to a colleague or virtual assistant. Or transfer calls to an answering service, so that your landline calls still get answered. When working from home, you don’t really want to advertise your absence by leaving an out of office message.

Tip 4 – Whilst away, don’t be tempted to keep checking your email as you may do at home. Providing you prepared your contacts before you left for your holiday, you shouldn’t need to. In case you can’t avoid email altogether, why not decide to check your messages every two or three days only?

You probably don’t want to conduct business on a daily basis while on holiday, as this really defeats the objective of creating valuable downtime.

However in today’s high technology world, where work and life aren’t as distinct as they used to be, for some people balance may be easier to achieve by adopting an integrated approach between the two.

I take regular mini breaks, and usually have my netbook or ipad with me as I enjoy writing when away from work. If I also tidy up my inbox at least once during that time, I know I can hit the ground running on my first day back at work. It’s nice not to have that feeling of being overwhelmed when faced with an overflowing inbox especially as this can cause real stress according to.

What matters is that you take control of your communications rather allowing your email or phone to control you. There is nothing better than feeling relaxed and in control on your first day off as well as on your first day back at work!

Ute Wieczorek-King is a Business/Career Coach, Trainer and Facilitator of Success Network’s Inner Circle Business Clubs.

More top tips and articles can be found on this blog or the article page of the Success Network website

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RushingLack of time is one of the main challenges shared by busy women in business who have to balance lots of different commitments and are constantly on the go.

Before you think about how you manage your time, remember time management starts with good self-management.

Make sure you have set yourself achievable work and home goals, so you don’t overextend yourself. If you’re constantly rushing around and doing too much, you may need to make some changes.

Sometimes the first step to better time management is to let something go.

1. Always start your day with a good morning routine! Get up earlier if need be – it will help you to feel more in control.

2. Plan your diary on a weekly or daily basis and create designated time slots for everything from admin to emails, calls, meetings and social media.

3. Leave at least 30 minutes free during your work day, and use it as a buffer or valuable ‘me’ time.

4. Have an up-to-date to-do list and prioritise the tasks on it. Never just start your actual work without having written, reviewed or updated your list for the day.

5. Identify your time stealers and instead of allowing them to distract you from your priorities, become proactive in dealing with them – you are in charge!

6. Using a timer when working on tasks can also help you to stay focused and avoid distractions.

7. When working on important or complex tasks, focus just on the task in hand. Multitasking and constant task switching can waste time in the long run.

8. Take regular short breaks, they will energise you and increase your productivity.

9. Consider delegating, and if that’s not easy, make sure you say ‘No’ to anything that is not a priority and could sabotage your progress!

If, after all this you’re still too busy, have another go at reviewing your goals. Next, check whether you need to adjust the way you work or whether it is time to let something else go.

Ute Wieczorek-King is a Trainer, Facilitator and Business/Career Coach who specialises in helping busy women be more productive and effective in business and avoid stress. More of her top tips and articles can be found on this blog and on the article page of the Success Network website

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