Easy Ways To Focus When You’ve Got Work To Do

This post originally appeared on CareerGirlDaily.com

It happens to the best of us. Whether you’re working from home or sitting in the office, there are just times when you cannot focus. You just don’t know how to concentrate on work without getting distracted, whether it’s because you love to chat, or whether you’re just feeling tired and distant.

No amount of coffee will help you if you’ve lost your focus, especially if you’re around distracting co-workers, too! Don’t worry, you can get your clarity of mind back in no time at all – here’s how…

1. Take five minutes to get it together

Get your head back in the game, whether that’s by splashing a bit of cold water on your face or going for a walk so you can clear your head. Once you feel a little bit better, you need to fix your mindset. Let’s be honest, your mindset is everything. You need positivity and motivation to get things done to the best of your ability.

Before you settle down to tackle the day’s tasks, take a few minutes to collect your thoughts and prepare yourself for what needs to be done. Perhaps you’ll want to take a few deep breaths to calm yourself. Don’t delve in with a worked up mind. Or perhaps you’d rather read something inspiring. Whatever gets you in the right mood for getting work done, do that.

2. Find the perfect work spot 

This tip applies mainly if you’re working from home; so if you’re at the office, you may want to skip this one. Sometimes I’m not always feeling like sitting in a rigid chair at my desk; so what I’ll do I find an alternative spot to work from. You’ll still want it to be somewhere you can concentrate, so don’t go for somewhere full of distractions.

Whether it’s your bed or your sofa, clear the area so that it’s tidy and appropriate for getting to work. Little factors like light and temperature are pretty important too, as you won’t be able to focus if you’re straining your eyes, or freezing cold!

3. Disconnect from your phone 

Our phones are wonderfully distracting little things, so sometimes it’s just best to put them away for a while or at least on silent. Turn off your social media notifications and really focus on the tasks you need to complete. You can always check your Insta or send that tweet when you take your short break.

When I’ve needed to knuckle down to work, I always found it best to completely ignore my phone and its notifications until I’d succeeded in doing a solid 30 or 40 minutes of work. You know, just up until my brain can take no more before it needs a breather. It’s very easy to get sucked into a scrolling session if you don’t stand firm and make sure your work is your priority.

4. Block out your time 

To get the most out of a day of work, you need to set yourself realistic goals. Decide how much you aim to get done in a certain amount of time. You can do this by breaking up your day into blocks of time using a planner or a notebook, or just setting a timer on your phone. Alternatively, there are great apps such asForest.

Forest is an app that will get you focusing on your work by letting you virtually ‘grow’ trees when you complete a certain amount of time working. What’s even cooler is that these virtual trees can become real ones. ‘When our users spend virtual coins they earn in Forest on planting real trees, Forest team donates our partner and create orders of planting.’ Cool huh?! Put your dedication to good use, for you, and for the planet.

5. Give Yourself A Break

Or a few, actually. Studies have shown that our minds stop absorbing information and paying attention after about 45 minutes; so there’s no point in working 6 solid hours, your mind and body will be exhausted. Take regular short breaks to give your mind some much-needed refreshment.

You may want to use this time to go outside for a few minutes and get some air. Or maybe catch up on your favorite vlogger, or read a few pages of a book. I find it helps if I time my breaks so that I don’t get carried away and forget I’ve got work to do! The app 30/30 seriously helps me schedule my time.

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How to Remain Flexible While Handling Multiple Priorities

This post originally appeared on PracticallyPerfectPA.com. While this post (and website) caters more towards Executive/Administrative Assistants, all of us (PAs or not) can take something away from these tips! 

You know that sinking feeling when you come back from a long break and you have a vast number of emails to sort through, you have loads of paper work to read and everyone wants you to deal with their urgent issue first?

Yes, well, welcome to the life of an assistant! That sinking feeling is an every day experience for us. We look at our packed to do list and we have to make a decision which tasks to tackle first when all of the work is a priority with imminent deadlines. We also have our colleagues interrupting us with their own urgent questions and multiple bosses wanting attention. Of course we also want to please and be helpful; no wonder the role of an assistant can be quite overwhelming! Due to the nature of our job we have to remain flexible while handling multiple priorities so how do we do this and where do we start?

Is it actually important?

Over the years I have come to understand what people mean when they ask me to do something “urgent”.  There seems to be a varying degree of how important something actually is. Is it really urgent or have they left this to the last minute? Is it really urgent or are they just a bit over dramatic? Is it really urgent because they want to be a priority? Is it really urgent but the work you do then sit on their desk or inbox for the next week? The answers to these questions are unfortunately determined after you have completed a few tasks for these individuals. However once you master how “urgent” urgent actually is according to these colleagues it is easier to handle their expectations and priorities and schedule your work. The secret is for Assistants to look like they are dealing with the work urgently but actually you are dealing with the work as a normal day to day request.

The boss comes first

Many assistants are now taking on work outside of the 1-2-1 support for an executive. We all seem to have added lots of strings to our bows but I think the priority still has to be the support we provide our bosses. This should be made very obvious when taking on extra work and we should communicate this to our colleagues. We must also make our bosses aware of the extra work we take on. When it comes to juggling multiple priorities we really shouldn’t be dropping any tasks for the boss. They do write our performance reviews after all! Make sure you have clear communication with your manager so that you both have the same expectations when it comes to additional projects.

Make yourself organised

As you all know I love, love, love a list and I pretty much live by them so you will be correct to assume that I think the best way to handle multiple priorities is with lists. Getting really organised, working your way through tasks and being focussed will ensure you have a little wiggle room to say yes to your colleagues urgent requests: this will make you appear really flexible and really helpful. If you are up to your neck in work that day you can at least let your colleague know when you can take on their work and when you will deliver the results. Flexibility has to be on your own terms otherwise you will just find yourself drowning. 

Roll up your sleeves and get the job done

Sometimes you just have to dig deep and get the job done which means working longer hours to make sure you meet all of your deadlines. It also means not putting off the rubbish tasks until the last minute. In fact it is a good idea to get the rubbish jobs done as quickly as possible so that you can take your time with the fun stuff. I always like to help the colleagues that don’t often ask me for things or delegate much work. I think all assistants should have a little time put aside to provide support for those under real pressure.

You can’t do everything

Assistants can’t be flexible if they take on every piece of work that is left on their desk. Colleagues will take advantage and ultimately you will be working all hours without any help or support. Not good. If you have colleagues that are lazy and do take advantage you have to push back and say no. Your time should be used to support your executive first and foremost and then you can take on extra work and help others as and when you can. It is so much fun being able to help with additional projects or work with different departments so do try to be open to various opportunities, remain flexible and helpful in your approach but also remember that flexibility has to be on your terms and inline with your workload and priorities.

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How to Be a Good Personal Assistant

This post originally appeared on TheNest.com

By Molly Thompson

Being a personal assistant has — thankfully — evolved from the days of “Honey, come take a letter.” While you still need to be well-versed in basic administrative skills such as phone communications and business correspondence, a good personal assistant does so much more. You’ll need top-notch communication, time-management and interpersonal skills along with strong multitasking prowess. To be an effective personal assistant, you should know your boss almost as well as she knows herself. Your boss will be impressed when you stay one step ahead of her at all times, anticipating what she wants done and keeping her organized and on schedule.

Learn what your boss expects. The better you know her, the better you’ll be able to anticipate what she wants done and how best to structure your time. Talk to her directly to ensure that you know how she wants you to organize her schedule and handle her correspondence. Find out whether she prefers hard copy or electronic memos, for example, or morning or afternoon meetings. And the sooner you pick up on her quirks or pet peeves, the better. You will score big points by making sure to have items such as her favorite kind of tea available when she’s stressed and rushing to meet a deadline.

Stay organized. Keep your work spaces and files neat and organized. Ensure that everything you need to do your job is readily available. Increase your efficiency and responsiveness to your boss by keeping phone numbers, company stationery and other basic items within quick reach.

Look the part. As a personal assistant, you’re an extension of your boss and the image she wants to project. Even if your duties are largely administrative, dress professionally and in a style in keeping with that of your boss. This doesn’t mean you have to copy everything she wears. It does mean that if she’s a buttoned-down, conservative banker, leave the neon jewelry, T-shirt tops and casual pants at home.

Show that you are trustworthy and discrete. You’re likely to be entrusted with important private or confidential information, and your boss needs to feel confident that you won’t reveal any of this information to others. Don’t get caught up in office gossip or let yourself share tidbits of information with friends just because you have an inside line to what’s going on.

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How to Organize Your Life: 10 Habits of Really Organized People

This article originally appeared on LifeHack.org

By 

Really organized people are not born organized people. They have to cultivate healthy habits, which then help them to stay organized. Here are the essential ten habits they use to keep their lives in order:

1. Write Things Down

We all know someone that remembers every birthday and sends cards for every holiday. It’s not magic and they don’t use memorization. Trying to remember things will not help you to stay organized. You should try writing things down.

A pen and some paper is our way of remembering things externally, and it’s much more permanent. You can also use a computer or a smart phone. You will only further complicate your life by trying to contain important dates and reminders in your head. Write down everything: shopping lists for groceries, holiday gifts, home decor, and important dates like meetings and birthdays.

As an experiment, try writing down people’s names shortly after you meet them (when they’re not looking). I’ll bet you remember a lot more names that way.

2. Make Schedules and Deadlines

Organized people don’t waste time. They recognize that keeping things organized goes hand-in-hand with staying productive. They make and keep schedules for the day and week. They make deadlines and set goals. And most importantly, they and stick to them! Similarly, by living a cluttered lifestyle, you will not have the time or space to make your deadlines or achieve your goals.

As an experiment, look at your bucket list or make one. Write down the things you want to achieve this year or in your life. Then write down what you need to do to achieve them.

3. Don’t Procrastinate

The longer you wait to do something, the more difficult it will be to get it done. If you want your life to be less stressful and less demanding, then organize as soon as you can. Putting in the effort to get things done as soon as possible will lift the weight off of you from doing it later.

As an experiment, think of one thing that you should organize in your life. Write it down. Then write down when you can do it and what you need to get it done. If you can get it done right now, then go do it!

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Monetize Your Passion: Inspiring Career Advice From 10 Female Entrepreneurs

This post originally appeared on Refinery29.com

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

What do ClassPass, Bumble, and Birchbox all have in common? Besides being universally loved by millennials, these companies were all founded by women. Every year more and more females are turning their creative ideas into successful businesses. In fact, women now make up 40% of all new entrepreneurs in the United States, the highest percentage since 1996. As we enter what some are calling “the golden age for female entrepreneurs,” now more than ever women are searching for places and opportunities to connect with like-minded aspiring business owners. No one knows this better than Create & Cultivate founder, Jaclyn Johnson.

When starting her own company at 24, Jaclyn felt isolated and alone. Frustrated with the lack of resources available for female entrepreneurs both online and offline, she launched Create & Cultivate, an online platform and IRL conference for women looking to create and cultivate the career of their dreams. “What I found was, I wasn’t alone,” said Johnson. “Women wanted a community and further wanted a place that not only gave them hard-hitting advice but spoke to them in a way that was authentic to the experience.”

Over 800 women flocked to this year’s Create & Cultivate conference in New York for a day full of inspirational panels, networking, and mentor “power hours” with female influencers and thought leaders. From complimentary hair and makeup applications to photo booths and chock-full swag bags, there were an endless amount of “insta-worthy” moments for attendees to take advantage of. However, hands down the best thing we took home was the brilliant career advice from powerhouses like Rebecca Minkoff, Gloria Steinem, and Refinery29’s very own, Piera Gelardi. Ahead, we’ve rounded up memorable quotes from the event along with some of our favorite photos of speakers and attendees.

Don’t Let Failure Define You

“Failing is part of the process, truly. Entrepreneurship ebbs and flows. There are good months and bad months, good years and bad years and it’s 100% normal.” – Jaclyn Johnson, Founder of Create & Cultivate

Own Your Individuality 

“It’s so important to be who you are, even if you don’t please everyone.” – Katia Beauchamp, Founder of Birchbox

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4 Ways To Put Life Before Work In Your Life-Work Balance

This post originally appeared on HuffingtonPost.com

By Raymond Wali

The common term for the balance between life and work is “work-life” balance. I would argue that we’re putting too much emphasis on work by putting it first. It’s time we start looking at creating more of a “life-work” balance. You should invest in yourself first – put your family, health, and personal time first. We all know how important it is to bring in money to live, but why does that have to drive how we live? When we talk about life-work balance, we are really talking about work-time-health-relationship balance.

To achieve a healthy life-work balance, you need to set up a few rules and routines for yourself that govern your personal life versus your work life. Here are four areas to focus on.

Find extra time

How many times have you said, “there are just not enough hours in the day.” If I had a dollar for every person that has said that, I would be a millionaire already. Although the solution is simple, many people get so caught up in the day-to-day that they forget to take a step back and see the bigger picture.

Planning your days properly can save you time. In conducting a time audit, you will be surprised at how much time you can find/save. This saved time can be re-invested in more important endeavours. Here are a few time-saving approaches that will help:

  • Don’t schedule meetings before 11 a.m.: Travelling anywhere in any city before that time is simply inefficient.
  • Run errands counter to other people’s schedule, if possible: Run your personal errands on a Wednesday morning (return items to a store on a Wednesday 10 a.m., haircut, get car washed, etc.)
  • Outsource: hire people to do the things that take too much of your time (accountant, lawn cutting, house cleaning, etc.). Use that time to connect with friends and loved ones. That is balance! And that is return on investment on time and finances.
  • Use technology: Technology exists to make life easier, so take advantage of it. For example, why would you spend time going into a store when you can use Amazon for shopping? When you do have to go somewhere, use technology to tell you how to get there fastest. I use Waze every time I get in the car.

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On the Therapeutic Power of Writing

We do a lot of writing around here and can often find it a great way to get out of our heads for a bit. Read this piece from Wit & Delight to learn about the therapeutic power of writing. 

“Coming to terms with the reality of a situation doesn’t just mean you understand or accept it. To come to terms with something, you must quite literally be able to put it into words.” And with that declaration, the scattered college professor was cemented in my memory as a Real Teacher. Two sentences cleared up one cliché phrase to show me why we write.

Some claims aren’t hard to sell: too much TV will rot our brains, cigarettes will rot our lungs, and leaving the fridge door open will cool the whole neighborhood. Mom said it all, I never asked for evidence. In this way, I didn’t argue when I was told that writing, journaling, or other written expression could be beneficial.

The research is there: scholars such as Dr. James Pennebaker say that emotional expression and disclosure can improve physical and emotional health, professional functioning, and success in relationships. These assertions held true for me. Recording my observations on my own thoughts and feelings would generally bring about self-knowledge and insight. Blank pages provided safety and space to express vulnerable topics or thoughts. Without an audience, I took the time to process complex issues. When I flipped back to past entries, I could see progress. The physical action of writing allowed me to process more deeply than when I just thought about the same topics.

But I was tired and overwhelmed. Or lazy. Or busy. Even a long list of benefits in the “pro” column didn’t move me to carve out writing time regularly. Taking time to pin down moving thoughts took concentration and energy. I could easily settle into the hazy cloud of unknowing when I forgot about how much I benefitted from those moments of awareness.

And so, for any who also suffer from a tendency to avoid the things that actually help, I offer you three brief examples of how you can move past the excuses and write for therapeutic benefit. The click-bait title of this article would be “Three Great Ways to Improve Immune Functioning, Process Psychological Distress and Construct a Coherent Narrative of Your Life!” True, but wordy.

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Self Preservation Society – A Journey in Self-Care.

This isn’t an article about the song ‘Self Preservation Society’ from the film The Italian Job or a kind of weird jam, but I think the title is apt and the subject something that I’ve been working on a lot recently.

I’ve been on a self-care journey for the past fifteen months. I got to a point where I was caring more for the people around me and taking no time to care for myself. You know that feeling of becoming so overwhelmed that in fact, you actually become completely unproductive? When you find that you can only do the bare minimum to get through the day, and you are existing ‘just because’? For me, mine was because I have a daughter, and because I have a job.

And then the tipping point came and it all came crashing down in June of last year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad for the crash in an odd way because if something hadn’t caved in I wouldn’t have known that the foundations had crumbled and I wouldn’t have known that I needed to rebuild.

The past fifteen months have been about that: rebuilding, rethinking, self-care, self preservation, and re-evaluating what I need to do in order to function and to make me an all-round better human being. Every day I feel as though I’m making positive changes, sometimes really small, hardly noticeable ones, but if I don’t manage to change something one day I won’t punish myself for it. Akin to going on a diet where you have one bad day so you throw the whole thing out of the window. I’m not doing that anymore, I’m not punishing myself for things that really don’t affect anyone else apart from me. If I don’t exercise one morning after I’d made a deal in my mind the night before it’ll be okay. The world won’t go all Chicken Licken’ and the sky definitely won’t fall in. I’ll exercise the following day instead.

My world is busy and I find it very easy to become consumed by everyone else’s needs and demands and make it all the more easy to forget my own, so little by little I’m putting systems in place. Systems work for me. It’s just me and the minx (and a tortoise) at home and a little forward thinking helps me enormously to keep ahead of myself which then allows time for me to find moments to breathe. Exercise works, even just a 20 minute walk, eating well – I make meal plans so I know exactly what to shop for and what I’m cooking. I used to be an avid reader but since becoming a mum I’ve found less time to lose myself in a book – now I’m forcing myself to sit down and read by scheduling it into my day. That might sound ludicrous but it works for me, and I really enjoy the switch off.

If we don’t stop to breathe, and take it all in then what’s the point? It’ll pass us by in a flash and I for one want to be present and enjoy it all.

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How Women’s Networking is Transforming in London

Networking is important in every industry, but it is ESPECIALLY important in the world of PAs and freelancers. This great piece (originally from Standard.co.uk) talks about how networking for professional women is changing in London. 

Forget forced encounters in soulless venues — a wave of women-centric groups is putting the fun back into making connects, writes Alix O’Neill

Monday night at Jamavar, Mayfair’s hottest new Indian eatery. On the menu: small plates and small talk. Downstairs, women of varied ages and professions are milling around, champagne and gin cocktails in hand, while trays of malai stone bass tikka circle the candlelit room.

The vibe is chilled and welcoming. I arrive alone, but within minutes am happily chatting pregnancy and paneer (the veggie canapé is delicious) with a group of strangers.

It’s the restaurant’s inaugural Women’s Club — an evening of good food and scintillating conversation, featuring a different guest speaker each week. Tonight, journalist and former Polpetto head chef, Florence Knight, takes to the floor, dishing up the secrets to her success alongside the trials of working in a male-dominated field — the event was an instant sell-out. ‘Women want a relaxed environment where they can learn from one another,’ says Jamavar’s co-founder Samyukta Nair, 32.

‘Growing up surrounded by talented, powerful women, I learnt about the importance of self-belief. I started the Women’s Club not only as an antidote to Mayfair’s long-standing boys’ clubs, but also to share what my elders taught me.’ Although men are welcome, Nair believes women thrive in less conventional meet-and-greet set-ups. ‘It’s necessary to talk about our failures as well as our successes, and women are more comfortable than men in admitting their faults.’

Women’s networking is transforming. The days of having a business card shoved in your face as you nurse a glass of warm wine and a soggy vol-au-vent are over. A new wave of pop-ups and groups is providing a third space between work and play for London’s female professionals. The spirit is one of sharing, not selling. And there’s not a beige foodstuff in sight.

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How to Boost Your Immune System

It feels like proper Autumn here in London and with chilly weather (and back to school/work) comes illness. Here are some good tips to try and boost your immune system naturally. Originally posted on GoodtoKnow.co.uk. 

By Vicky Woollaston

If you think your immune system is weak or colder weather makes it weaker, just making 3 of these 10 changes can improve it dramatically.

1. Get plenty of sleep and rest. Your body rejuvenates and strengthens when it’s at rest so try and get between eight and ten hours a night.

2. Eat a balanced diet. Eating foods with high antioxidant levels (also known as superfoods) are great for your immune system. Fruit and vegetables, dairy products, melons, berries, dark greens, whole grains, and meat are all superfoods. Antioxidants are vitamins in your diet that can reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases and can give your immune system a boost.

3. Get moving! Exercise makes our body stronger, increases circulation of blood and nutrients, and helps flush the body of toxins. 

4. Drink plenty of water. This also helps flush the body of toxins and keeps you well hydrated.

5. Music cleanses the soul. Listening to your favorite music is a great way of reducing tension. You’ll know what kind of music gives you goosebumps or cheers you up so focus on those to lift your mood.

6. Turn down the volume though! Excessive noise can have an impact on your immune system and can leave you stressed or with a thumping headache so avoid having the TV turned right up, music blaring or the kids within 5 metres of you!

7. Laughter is the best medicine. It may be a cliche but it’s actually true. Laughing reduces stress hormones like adrenaline and increases your immune system cells that attack viruses.

8. Try not to take too many antibiotics or tablets. If you reach for a paracetamol every time you feel a headache coming on or regularly take antibiotics you could be damaging your immune system – your body will start to rely on the tablets rather than itself to get better.

9. Have more sex! When you’re ill it’s not exactly the first thing on your mind but increasing how much sex you have acts in the same way that exercise does. It releases ‘feel good’ hormones and gives you loads more energy. Energy your body needs to carry on fighting the diseases.

10. Give up smoking, or at least try cutting down. You don’t really need an excuse to give up the fags with all the warnings that are out there but it’s worth thinking long term about you and the people around you

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