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Category: Work/life Balance

6 Inspirational Books That Changed My Life

Loveheart in sky

These are my must-read books…  the ones that when I was reading them it was like a light being switched on, the ones that made me think “I must do that now!”, the ones I keep on my bookcase and return to again and again. These books are my life and heart companions, and yet they are also the ones I frequently give away and have to reorder!

1. Games People Play – Eric Berne

I first read this when I was a teenager and the realisation that ordinary interactions could be ‘scripts’ was a revelation. Made sense of many things that had been puzzling me and it has been a constant guiding light over the years, especially when I feel that I am being ‘played’. His other books are great too, but this is the one that really changed my life.

  

2. Families and How to Survive Them – John Cleese & Robyn Skinner

This was also an early ‘find’ that I have returned to many times. It’s easy to read and amazingly insightful. No family is perfect and this helps you see the bigger picture – and realise that it’s all about patterns of behaviour and that you do have the power to change things, if only how you react! If you like this one, do read the companion volume ‘Life and How to Survive it” too.

 

3. Happy Children – Rudolf Dreikurs

My parenting bible, which helped inspire me to start Funky Angel back in 2003. ‘Happy Children’ is not just a highly practical and useable guide (which it really is, the best out there by far), it also helps us see how we and our relationships are shaped by family dynamics – and to make changes in the way we parent so we do it better. Highly recommended, not just for parents, but for all grown up children too – and yes, this is one I have lent, given away and repurchased many times 🙂

 

4. Inner Game of Tennis –  W Timothy Gallwey

This is so much more than an approach to playing tennis: it is a whole philosophy of life, helping you build your confidence and find your inner flow in everything you do. Brilliantly helpful in a work environment but also hugely inspirational for creatives too, especially when you are experiencing a ‘block’!

It’s one of the many books I read when I was training to be an NLP life/business coach and the one that has stayed with me after most of the others were given away.

 

5. Transform Your Life – Penny Ferguson

Great practical insights and case studies to help you challenge your thinking and ultimately change your life for the better. At age 50 Penny realised that her life was a disaster because of the way she was in herself, and she then read widely (from Louise Hay to Eckhart Tolle) to try and understand why she wasn’t happy and why everything was falling apart and then fix it – which she did very successfully.

This is my favourite of her books as I can open a page and immediately be inspired because it’s distilled wisdom and offers a hugely practical blueprint. However, I can also thoroughly recommend ‘The Living Leader’ and if  you want to take it to a whole other level, especially from a work perspective, seriously consider taking her (honestly) life-changing Personal Leadership Programme – I promise you won’t regret it!

 

6. Understanding and Healing Emotional Trauma – Daniela Sieff

Subtitled ‘Conversations with pioneering clinicians and researchers’ this is an amazingly insightful, and very easy to read and understand book. Pretty much everyone has a degree of childhood trauma – it’s part of being human – and these conversations with experts in their fields helps you make sense of it and gives you the tools to heal and overcome anything that is holding you back or affecting you deeply.

I attended a lecture that Daniela gave locally, and throughout it I felt I was being reminded of an inner truth I had been aware of, but hadn’t articulated, and then when I read the book (twice, back to back) it was like experiencing a series of revelations about myself, other people, and society in general. Mind blown. A must read for everyone.

 

I hope you found my list interesting and inspiring, and that if you haven’t read all (or even any) of them, that you will. Please do share any of your ‘must read’ books too in the comments – all light bulb moments happily received 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Myth of the Solo Entrepreneur

Myth of the Solo EntrepreneurThere is a prevalent myth in our society that an entrepreneur is a lone wolf who operates on his or her wits and doesn’t need a team to succeed.

Like all myths it’s very far from the truth.

Any entrepreneur who tries to do it all alone is likely to learn the hard way that regardless of how talented or clever you are, there are simply not enough hours in the day for you to succeed when you are working totally alone.

Like all myths the assumptions surrounding entrepreneurs are largely unspoken and so can lodge themselves in your subconscious, just waiting to trip you over. They include:

• ‘Real entrepreneurs’ just do it.
RESULT: If you can’t do it alone, you must be inadequate.

• ‘Real entrepreneurs’ instinctively know how to succeed
RESULT: You can’t ask for help without losing face.

• ‘Real entrepreneurs’ are supermen /superwomen.
RESULT: If you are an entrepreneur you must be the best at everything you do. This is particularly damaging for entrepreneurs who are also hands on parents, such as mumpreneurs – the pressure to be the best in both areas can be incredibly destructive.

• ‘Real entrepreneurs’ work alone 24/7 for years to succeed, and may fail many times before they succeed.
RESULT: Overworking and poverty are almost carried as a badge of honour, and it’s still seen as somehow suspect to not work at least 6 days a week and late into the evening.

• ‘Real entrepreneurs’ are always on their mobiles, wheeling and dealing, never missing a chance.
RESULT: You must always be available, on the end of the phone or email, day or night.

The reality is that everyone has particular strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others, and by working within a team you balance each other out to create a strong ‘whole’. Solos are inherently weak, and by working in a team you can also achieve a good work/life balance more easily, something that is essential not just for you, but for the health and wellbeing of the people around you.

Teamwork will also help you avoid burn out, one of the greatest (and unspoken) issues facing entrepreneurs. Burn out occurs when you push yourself too hard without adequate downtime, and can lead to a number of problems, including poor judgment, low productivity, and developing an aversion to your business, which is obviously very bad for you, your business AND your reputation.

So, the myths that entrepreneurs fly solo, overwork by inclination, and are ‘superbeings’ are very bad for your health and your longterm prosperity if you buy into them – you have been warned!

Written for The Coaching Academy, 2010

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Remote Working and the Big Freeze

Snow never stops anything, unless the electric goes down, for virtual offices – great for business; rubbish for sloping off to go sledging with the kids because you ‘can’t get to work’.

This last winter more and more companies are turning to remote-working technologies in a bid to keep productivity levels up during the cold snap, an IT communications firm has reported.

As temperatures plummeted to lows of -23°C and many people were left unable to go to work due to transport problems, there was a sharp increase in firms enquiring about online working, according to outsourcing group Outsourcery.  This has been supported by many VAs, many of whom report being ‘swamped’ by requests. In addition, more and more and more firms are turning to hosted IT solutions such as virtualisation or remote server technologies, which are great when they work – and frustrating when they don’t!

However, it is wise for businesses to be utilising the flexibility offered by technology since business groups have widely predicted that the cost of absenteeism as a result of the snow could cost the UK economy up to £2 billion, with The Federation of Small Businesses reporting that 10 per cent of the UK’s 30 million workforce was unable to get to work on the 6th January, at a cost of £600 million.

Piers Linney, joint chief executive of Outsourcery, said: “The disruption caused by the recent snow has created immense problems for thousands of small businesses across the UK with many employees not being able to make face-to-face meetings.

“With large numbers of workers having to work away from the office in the harsh weather conditions, businesses are finding that they need more effective ways to stay in touch with their colleagues and clients.”

Mr Linney added that the current weather conditions would only “further underline” the importance of remote technologies in the modern business age.

However, experts at independent IT consultancy specialist NCC Group plc have warned that businesses face a number of challenges before implementing remote working to bolster their business continuity strategies, and believe a lack of education is hampering the effective use of this technology.

Roger Rawlinson, managing director of Assurance Division at NCC Group, said: “The business case for remote working is undoubtedly strong. Remote access to data, video conferencing, IP telephony and collaboration software all offer viable options for staff to work from home and allow business operations to remain unaffected by adverse weather conditions.

“However, what many vendors are not publicising is the challenges businesses face in implementing remote working. In most cases, this requires a dramatic shift in business culture and working practices, which, across large, medium and small businesses alike can mean significant planning, and a period of education and training. Some companies with entrenched processes often find considerable resistance to this new technology.

In addition, if an organisation forces, sorry encourages, its employees to work from home but without having put in place proper support and home based equipment, the results can be highly stressful for staff. Reports coming out of West Berkshire Council at the moment, for example, suggest that they have effectively forced their Social Services and Education Offices to ‘move out’ but with a ban on paper – so no files or printing at home because they haven’t provided guaranteed safe storage; no expenses allowance – so no heating or electric allowance for home use as an office and won’t allow them to post letters and claim it back as an expenses but instead insist that everything is posted from the office base – an hour’s rigmarole when you take in to account the travel and all the hassles and expenses of being unable to park near the office as they don’t have a parking council permit – because they work from home now, obviously; no cabling for internet connections , so it’s all slow wifi;. Staff are said to be very unhappy and it is a perfect example of what happens when an organisation moves a department out without having planned it first or set it up, or when front line staff are left out of the loop.

Interesting West Berks council are reported to cite Vodafone as their inspiration for implementing remote working, but if that is the case they certainly didn’t investigate Vodafone’s much admired ‘Best Practices’ very closely, else they wouldn’t be in such a pickle. And as staff say, “it’s not that we don’t want to work from home, it’s just the way its been implemented without due consideration for our needs that is so appallingly bad – and while services are continuing as usual at the moment, that’s only because of the sheer dedication of the staff.”

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The Pursuit of Happiness and the Death of Superwoman

I recently wrote an article that was triggered in part by two threads in one of the online clubs I belong to.

Entitled How to avoid burn out it was a response to the conversations, and also born out of my own experiences in being Superwoman balancing the everyday work that pays the bills, the domestic and family responsibilities that come along with being a (solo) mum and the pursuit of a better place in the future ie happiness and success, perhaps best encapsulated by the dream of paying off a mortgage or finally arriving at the sunlit upper pastures of the four hour week.

The threads were written by two women, both of whom had been working excessively hard the last year or more to try bring their dreams to fruition, and both had recently achieved a level of success. However – and it’s a big however – in both cases the successes were less than what they had been hoping for and working towards, they were very tired, and inevitably they both hit a wall.

While I don’t want to get tangled up in a feminist discussion, I do think that there are distinct differences between men and women when it comes to entrepreneurialship, as well as in other areas. I haven’t analysed it in any great depth, so this is just my general view, but it does seem to have something to do with women not liking to ask for help, and wanting to be seen to be better or more competent than anyone else, and something to do with trying to be best in class in every area, whether that is he best mum, the best cook, the best dressed, and now, the best business women or entrepreneur. And this is particularly damaging in my view because few women seem to take the plunge until later in life when they are frequently trailing family responsibilities in a particularly hands on and domestic way that already means they are stretched thinly. And might just really want to be at home and see staring their own home business as a way to do that.

Because I have also noticed the disquietening rise ‘mumpreneur on a shoestring’ syndrome kicking in over recent years, and as many of you will be aware, I have written fairly extensively in Funky Angel and other places on how to keep work life balance, how to set up a business realistically, how to keep it going etc etc. While it is entirely possible to set up and start a business of a budget, it does bother me a little that some peeps seem to think that they can set up a thriving business on tuppence happenny and some goodwill, because although it is much much easier than ever before to set up a business, especially from home, equally it does take money and it does take effort and it does take time.

The broad problem is, I think, not so much a female problem but more a social one – the belief that all you need to succeed is determination and if you don’t then you are somehow lazy or inadequate, and just wanting ‘to be’ is somehow morally corrupt. I am sure it has its roots in our Puritanical period and the Protestant work ethic, but it really is a load of rubbish and extremely damaging for most people. All these stories of people making millions and achieving their dreams with a few pounds and a lot of hard work just aren’t realistic for most people and almost always lead to a deal of unhappiness and exhaustion and failed business that could have added so much to the economy.

There is nothing tougher, in my view, that working alone to achieve a dream, and I know this is a controversial statement, but doing it solo, especially with myriad responsibilities, is almost always doomed to fail, or perhaps ‘not succeed as well as it could’ would be better judgement. And this is not because of any lack of talent or industry or brilliant ideas on the part of the entrepreneur. No, not at all, as a business coach I am constantly amazed and humbled by the sheer quality and quantity of brilliant ideas, fabulous ability and breath-taking determination – this nation is still a nation of innovators and own business owners! No, the key points in achieving lasting success is to be realistic about how much you can accomplish in a day comfortably given your constitution and other responsibilities, that you can build yourself a team and recognise you are a human being who probably likes gardening or making cakes or reading and that time must be allocated for these things as well in order to achieve balance.

Try to do it all alone you and you will have to learn the hard way exactly what constitutes life/work balance and how it works in practice ie push yourself too hard and too obsessively and you will crash and burn – and it could take ages for you to recover and if there is no one else but you who is servicing your clients, running your marketing campaign and dealing with the admin? And if the answer to that is an “er…” then where does that leave your business?

People are not machines. People thrive on variety else they get stale and bored – they need routinue yes, but variety within that structure. People can handle change so long as they are ready for it. People get stuck when they don’t have other people to bounce off and interact with. Doing the same thing over and over again in the hope that this time it will work and will make you happy is sure recipe for failure.

Later last week I was talking to a client of mine, Jo Geraghty, who is very busy running two businesses – Beyond the Ladder Coaching and London Sightseeing Runs. Her approach to it is very different to the two entrepreneurs mentioned above – she has support and assistance, and her second business compliments her first in so much as it is a very active and relaxed whereas her main one is quite static, and so she can balance the smart, work based intense side of her life with something completely different. Another of our Agency client’s, The PR Network, is run by two business women and PR professionals with young children and they are extremely disciplined about days they work and very good at outsourcing all the bits of their business that they don’t want to or can’t do, and so have built themselves a truly hollow company in the process –and a highly respected and successful one to boot.

My work life is currently extremely busy but totally unstressful and very rewarding because I have excellent support and I am very organised and I understand when I need regular breaks and self care in order to keep on functioning at a high level. Two or three days a week I travel to London to work inhouse with Cision UK with my trusty netbook (AKA ‘home office on the move’) helping me cut down on the impact of commuting in lost hours and saving my shoulder from dying from a laptop’s weight! The rest of the time I work from home – business as usual.  I am in touch with The Funky Agency Team via Skype, email, mobile social media, at regular intervals, and the domestic side of things either face to face if I am home (there’s a novelty!) or via text, mobile and social media, so when I have down time with friends, family and the children I can concentrate on BEING with them because technology in all its glory has made it so much easier to juggle the various demands and to do so gracefully.

The upshot is that I can therefore concentrate on being happy, putting myself first, enjoying my work and my closest best beloveds, and feeling balanced rather than desperately chasing my tail and trying to be Superwoman.

Superwoman? Pah, I’d rather just be happy…

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Relocation, Relocation, Relocation

Many Britains dream of relocating permanently to a 'place in the sun'

Many Britains dream of relocating permanently to a 'place in the sun'

Dreaming of big blue skies, sparkling white beaches, sipping a glass of wine outside at a table in the sun…? In short, are you dreaming of being anywhere else but here…? If so, you’re not alone. It is predicted that 10% of Britons emigrated to other countries in 2005, and these figures represent just the latest wave of wanderlust Brits to leave our shores for pastures new.

Strangely, given the furore recently about immigration into Britain from East European countries, we are actually the most likely nation to up sticks and move to a different country and culture. And this is nothing new: emigration is something Britons have done for centuries. Perhaps it stems from being an island nation of seafarers, explorers and colonisers that makes us restless. Whatever it is, the tug of resettlement, of going to live a life elsewhere, does seem to be stronger in the British psyche than it is in most other nations.

All of which is reassuring if you are finding yourself spending a disproportionately large amount of time dreaming of relocating abroad because that means it is a road well trodden. There are enclaves of Britons resident all over the world, from 1.3 million living in Australia, via 761,000 resident fulltime in Spain (and not all of them are retired), to the frankly amazing 900 Brits currently settled in the Ukraine. Each and everyone of these people had to go through the process of creating a new life and leaving their old one, so there are a huge amount of resources available to help you if you choose to do the same.

So who actually relocates abroad?
Emigration from Britain seems to go in waves, generally peaking every 200 years; we are currently witnessing a rising trend, and it is most popular amongst the 30-40 year old age groups. Emigration tends to be higher when our economy is buoyant coupled with a rise in the cost of living in the UK. Many émigrés cite conditions at home as reasons to move, although for most it is eventually the draw of something better that makes them up and leave, rather than home conditions driving them away. A smaller group move abroad because of international assignments, while another group retire abroad, often to Spain.

If you want to try before you buy, so to speak, have a look at www.transitionsabroad.com, which is good for temporary jobs and studying abroad, as well as ‘teaching English as a foreign language’ placements (also see www.tefl.co.uk). If you are specifically thinking of studying or teaching abroad then check out the Socrates-Erasmus programme’s website at www.kent.ac.uk/ERASMUS/erasmus, which organises student and teacher exchanges. If you are considering volunteering as a first taste, start by looking at www.vso.org.uk.

Visit www.escapeartisist.com for a comprehensive mini hub offering sound advice from people who have gone before you, as well as country profiles, jobs, properties for sale and rent, plus lots of links to other region-specific websites. They also have a section for people who are considering retiring abroad. The British expat mini hub and magazine can be found at www.britishexpat.com, and provides a lot of essential information for people planning to emigrate, and is especially strong on the financial side of things for before you go as well as once you arrive. www.justlanded.com is another good resource and expats in Western Europe also benefit from www.expatica.com, which covers Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, as well as featuring the only expat dating site! The HSBC lives up to its tag as the world’s local bank and provides some good information at www.offshore.hsbc.com.

Culture shock can be a problem, advises www.kwintessential.co.uk, the language and cultural specialists, who have a selection of really good resources and articles to help you, as well as providing the necessary resources and links to help you learn the language. And if you have a beloved pet you can’t leave behind, check out www.jets4pets.com for comprehensive advice and shipping.

The government’s own resource for can be found at www.direct.gov.uk/en/BritonsLivingAbroad/index.htm, and is good for getting the facts about tax, pensions, and the like, as well as advice about schooling and education. If you want to move to the USA, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, www.wwicsgroup.com is a good resource, as is www.overseas-emigration.co.uk, which also offers a comprehensive diy immigration kit as well as links, pro-departure seminars and immigration disaster recovery.

If you are looking to buy a property, whether to buy as your new home or as a second home ‘taster’, first get an overview at www.channel4.com/4homes/buyingabroad. Then spend some time searching the internet for your chosen country. You will find that the main destinations for Britons moving abroad will have dedicated websites, such as www.wisemovetospain.com, www.italymag.com, and www.livingfrance.com.

Tips for Moving Abroad

Advice is invaluable, especially if you are planning on moving overseas without support from your employer and you are buying, so here are some top tops from people who have blazed the trail before you and are already living la dolce vita…

• Learn the language. Vital, and anything is better than nothing – it shows you are making an effort and even just the basics will get you a lot further than you think if you make the effort. Offer free English conversation in exchange for chatting in the foreign language. Be aware that you will have good have language days and bad language days so don’t get discouraged!

• Research the country and areas you want to look at well in advance of going out and take a decent amount of time once you are there to look around.

• Use the internet, books and magazines, but don’t always trust what you read; people are sometimes out to make a quick buck off you, Don’t always believe the scare stories – they are very good for selling advice books!

• Make a list of what you want and what you are looking for. If you can tick off more than half the things on the list you’re doing really well! Don’t just be ruled by your heart, use your head – is it really a good idea to buy the nice chateau or villa or is it better to buy something smaller and/or scruffier and keep some money in the bank just in case?

• Take photos and lots of notes about the areas you are visiting, distances to the shops/schools/bars – airport train station, and why you liked it (or not). You will probably see lots of interesting places so it’s good to keep records with photo documentation, it makes it a lot easier to remember!

• Once you think you have found somewhere you like, move away and look at other areas. If the original area is still calling you back then you know you’re on the right track.

• Rent for a while in the area you want to move to and try different times of the year – you need to see an area at its worst as well as its best.

• Appreciate the culture you might be moving into. Not all cultures are to everyone’s taste and you remember you are moving to their country, so don’t judge your new country too harshly.

• Think about the reasons you are moving and write a list of pros and cons for moving – think them through carefully. Are you running away from something or towards something? The best moves are towards something.

• Look at the legal and health system. Don’t move without getting yourself covered, and check with the Inland Revenue to find out what you need to do well in advance. For example, if you are renting out a property in the UK you will still be liable to pay UK tax. Organise bank account/s well before departure – being stranded with no money is no joke.

• Over-budget and over-estimate everything. This is not a scare tactic, but you just never know and it’s always best to leave yourself some room for manoeuvre.

• Have a back-up plan if things go wrong. In fact, have two.

• Be prepared to feel homesick. You will be way out of your comfort zone but remember that this is an adventure most people will never have the chance to experience, so try and enjoy it!

• Don’t be shy. Ask everyone you meet in the areas you are going to about everything and anything you want to know, and ask your network for contact details of anyone they know in the area. Most people are only too delighted to help a new arrival find their feet.

• Get involved. Go to the local sports events, use the bars and the shops, try and get involved in the community as much as possible, including making new friends.

And most importantly – enjoy!

© Claire Burdett. Please only reproduce this article with permission, in its entirety and with a hyperlink to www.claireburdett.com. Thank you.

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10 Top Tips on How to Relax

When all around you is going off like a rocket, it can be hard not to get pulled in and affected by everyone else’s stress and bother. Calm yourself and relieve your stress by using these top tips for a more relaxing life.

• Choose Silence
Too much noise is as stressful as too much clutter, too much demanding your attention, a too long to-do list…in fact a too much of everything list. Calm down by switching off the noise, and if that isn’t possible, then by taking yourself away to somewhere that is quiet, such as the top of a hill, a walk in the park, the end of the garden, the garage…Somewhere. Really. Quiet.

• Breathe
Stress is fear, and fear makes us hold our breath and breathe more rapidly and shallowly, which makes us more anxious. Counteract this by breathing in slowly and evenly to the count of 10. Hold for a count of three, and breathe right out, emptying your lungs slowly and evenly. Once it feels like your lungs are empty, push out just a tiny bit more. Repeat.

• Clear Your Space
Clear all the debris that accumulates as a part of usual everyday life, tackle all the stuff you have waiting around pending, and address head on anything that is making you anxious or irritated. Clutter in your physical, emotional or mental space all has the same result – an inability to focus and a loss of clarity, which in turn leads to feeling overburdened and stressed.

• Scent The Air
The sense of scent is the oldest sense we have and located in the most primitive part of the brain. This is why smell is so instantly evocative and effective, so choose to fill your space with calming scents, such as rose, lavender, sandalwood and mandarin, and whether you prefer to use incense, oil burners or candles, feel yourself start to relax.

• Lie Down
Standing still puts strain on your knees, calves and lower back, especially if you do it all day. Sitting can cramp your bottom and put strain on your lower back and tense your upper back and shoulders…so lying down, even for just 10 minutes a day, with a pillow under your knees, will make the world of difference. Breathe slowly and deeply. Count strawberries. And when you get back up and re enter the real world, feel how much lighter and happier you are.

• Eat For Pleasure
There are reams and reams of books of books and magazines about eating healthily and dieting. It has, in fact, become of the most lucrative markets and one that thrives on making you feel anxious so you will keep on buying information and advice and diets! Stop and relax. Food is really simple. It is fuel and pleasure in one wonderful package. What you take in will either get used (and the more active you are the more fuel you require – like a car and petrol) or stored (against future deprivations – remember we didn’t always have 24-hour supermarkets and more-or-less world peace). And if you starve your body, it will immediately go into survival mode and increase its storage allocation, which is why strict dieting makes you fatter and more stressed. So make sure whatever you eat is what you need for your body and lifestyle and then make sure it is something that you like AND the best you can give your body. And that means being aware of what is known as provenance ie fresh, local, and from known suppliers. Home cooked is also better than pre-prepared, but you know all this unless you’ve been living on the moon for the last 10 years.
Main points then?
• Be aware of the provenance of what you are eating.
• Don’t overfill your fuel tank or try and run your body on too little or inferior food – aim for balance.
• Cook from scratch whenever you can.
• Choose to eat with friends and family rather than alone.
• ALWAYS, ALWAYS eat for pleasure.

• Chew Slowly
One of the key places we hold tension is in the jaw, hence why so many people grind their teeth at night and why the phrase “to grit your teeth” is commonplace! So concentrate on your food and chew slowly, focusing on what you are doing and the flavours in your food, rather than galloping through your meal quickly, while your attention is elsewhere (such as on the television or computer screen!). Relax your jaw once a day by doing the following exercise, taken from the marvellous Eva Fraser’s Facial Workout book:

1. Sit or stand with a straight spine. Tilt your head up and back slightly. Now jut out your chin.
2. In this position, keeping your head still, open your mouth wide by lowering your jaw. Now grin widely.
3. Bring your back teeth together gently. Now – still grinning – lower and raise your jaw 10 times.
4. Relax and breathe.

NB Don’t gnash your teeth, or tense your eyes or forehead.

• Drink And Be Merry
No, not alcohol because much as we all love it, that’s like drinking liquid butter when it comes to gaining weight, as well dehydrating you, making you feel depressed after the initial rush, and putting your liver under strain, which causes you to sleep fitfully, and so lowers your immune system. So the upshot of drinking lots? You look rougher and older, and get more colds, you feel down in the dumps more often, find it difficult to concentrate as well as you should, and you gain weight…sigh. So basically it’s best to keep alcohol as a pleasurable treat, rather than a main food group (binge drinking is the worst, by the way), and so generally choose to drink:
• Water – dehydration makes us feel rubbish and tired and look older.
Tea – contains anti oxidents thought to guard against cancer. If you add milk, you’ll gain extra bonus of calcium, but sugar makes you more stressed (it gives you a blood sugar rush) so avoid it.
Soya milk – contains isoflavones that are mildly oestrogenic; use it in smoothies and froth for chocolate and lattes if you can’t face it straight.
• Real hot chocolate – chocolate contains chemicals that improve your mood and energy.
Smoothies – get your 5-a-day, extra hydration, and all those lovely vitamins in an easy-to-swallow format. Bonus.

• Rest Your Eyes
Working on a computer, a key part of the 21st century work life for many families, can easily lead to eye strain. This is because we can get so engrossed in what we are doing that we forget to look away, or to blink, both of which are detrimental for our eyes. Twenty minutes is the maximum you should focus on one spot, such as a computer screen, without looking away and letting your eyes refocus to give them a break. Also remind yourself to blink, and generally humidify the air by placing a small saucer of water near or on your radiator or having a vase of flowers or damp-loving plants (and spray them daily) on your desk. Also check your light levels and sources. Too much contrast around your screen can mean your eyes are constantly having to readjust. And then have lovely things to look at…a beautiful picture of the seaside, or of your children, a lovely view of the garden, or a pretty vase of flowers. Whatever it is, make sure you relax your eyes and look at it OFTEN.

• Indulge Your Sense of Touch
Often neglected and yet utterly fundamental, our sense of touch is essential to ground ourselves. It also release wellbeing chemicals and hormones and has been shown in studies to facilitate physical and psychological functioning, particularly in terms of reducing stress, relieving pain, increasing the ability to cope, and general health ratings.
So what are you waiting for?

• Get a furry blanket or cushion and stroke it when you have a coffee break, answer the phone, or sit down to do some research.
• Stroke the cat. Or dog. Or guinea pig. Or rat. Snakes and lizards probably don’t count.
• Hug your child, parents, partner, and friends. Often.
• Stroke your face by running your fingertips over your temples, eyes, ears and scalp.
• Get an Indian Head Massage regularly, or buy a copper head massager and do it yourself.

© Claire Burdett. Please only reproduce this article with permission, in its entirety and with a hyperlink to www.claireburdett.com. Thank you.

First published on www.funkyangel.co.uk, the ultimate lifestyle website for WAHM and Home Businesses.

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The Joy of the Pre-Teen Years

Big changes happen between the ages of 10 and becoming a teenager at 13, from taking responsibility at the top of Junior school in that final year, before leaving buddies they’ve spent their entire lives with and moving into the next (exciting, daunting, demanding) phase ie secondary school.

Fashion, sport, mobile phones and the internet become an increasingly important part of their lives and the tussle between waiting to be all wrapped up safely at home and wanting independence really starts with a vengeance. They stop believing in Father Christmas and don’t want you to hold their hands anymore (crumbs, sometimes they don’t even want to be seen walking with you!).

So if your cherubs are on the turn, and you and your children are at that ‘inbetweenie’ stage, where is the joy or is it all downhill towards teenager hell from now on? Not at all – the key is a shift of attitude – yours and theirs!

Your attitude
They are no longer little children, and so your role changes from now on in from being a caretaker to being their manager. The demands of the average Tweenies’ social diary, from sleepovers to sports fixtures at 8am on a weekend, is likely to tax even the most organised WAHM, and this gives you the clue. While boundaries obviously need to be applied, they also constantly need reappraising as the children grow and change so that it fits in with you and the rest of the family, not dominates.

Their attitude
With your children’s increasing independence and wannabe consumerism comes increased responsibility. No longer little children needing to be shepherded and cossetted, that means they can now take on their share of the chores and jobs around and out of the house – and should be expected to as their contribution to the household. And what is best about tweenies is that they still want to be with their parents but they are much more their own people, so conversations and investigations become a central part of your daily lives as they notice and question everything around them. Yes, it is a bit like having toddlers again, but hopefully without the tantrums!

Helpfulness
By the time my two turned tweenie they were expected to go to the corner shop for milk and bread, tidy their rooms, set the table, and do the washing up. By ages 10 and 12, one is responsible for dusting the whole house on a weekly basis and the other for cleaning the bathroom. They walk the dog daily and do poo pick up from the garden, look after the cats and other pets, cook meals, wash and clean the car, set and clear the table, run errands and keep upstairs and their downstairs craft area tidy (ish). I haven’t taught them to iron yet (mainly because the younger one has a tendency to daydream, which could be dangerous!) but they take responsibility for their money (they have an allowance) and have mobile phones, which they are responsible for keeping charged up and safe so I can reach them or they can reach me at any time – they can make free calls to me and their father, but if they want to chat to their friends they have to use their allowance money or earn extra for top up by doing extra chores.

Adventures and Companionship
The other great joy of the tweenie is that they now become your companions in adventures and other activities. Trips out crayfishing, paintballing, surfing or ballooning, for example, become much more doable and fun now you don’t have to be constantly on red alert.

Shopping and lunching out (if they are female-flavoured) becomes a positive pleasure rather than an experience never to be repeated.

Just hanging out and having Top Nights In is fun because you like the same stuff, watch the same movies, play board games, whatever you like to do as an individual or couple now becomes stuff you do as a family. And that’s just how it should be, isn’t it?

That’s a proper family. So all hail the pre-teenie – and here’s looking forward to the fabulous teens they well become!

© Claire Burdett. Please only reproduce this article with permission, in its entirety and with a hyperlink to www.claireburdett.com. Thank you.

First published on www.funkyangel.co.uk, the ultimate lifestyle website for WAHM and Home Businesses.

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Your Family and Other Animals

Let’s be honest. While most women who work from home or run their own businesses around their families wouldn’t have it any other way, many find that their families, the very reason they are working from home in many instances, can be less than wonderful at times.

Most WAHMs cite the flexibility, the sense of achievement, the control of one’s destiny, and the ability to get close to a happy life/work balance at least sometimes as bonuses they couldn’t live without. Their family, however, is sometimes quite another matter!

So why is this?
Isn’t it supposed to be the answer to everyone’s prayers? Didn’t you decide to work from home so you could spend more time with the family?

Yes, obviously, and most of the time it is. However, sometimes, just sometimes, there is a degree of everyone else taking the working mum for granted creeping in. Perhaps it’s one too many request to ‘pick up that’ or deal with that that can make the WAHM feel like she isn’t actually a working person per se, let alone a business woman, more a glorified housekeeper. Mind you, that’s a scenerio that is hardly unique to WAHMs, but it can be magnified when work and life is in one basket with sometimes not even a closeable door  betwee them.

Maybe a child, partner or other live in relative may start feeling neglected because your attention is on a client, a report, a telephone call or an important email, rather than them, regardless of whether it’s the 30th time they’re interrupted you that morning.

Sometimes I hear tantrums have been thrown. Heck, sometimes I even throw them myself!

So why does it happen?
I mean, aren’t you providing a valuable service to the household budget, perhaps the only contribution to the household budget? Didn’t you talk about it in great detail before you started? Didn’t everyone promise they’d be supportive? Ahhh, well, disregard the lip service because what we’re talking about here is either a lack of consistent boundaries or deep held belief that are stopping them respecting those boundaries.

Setting boundaries
Difficult as this is for some people to do, it’s actually beneficial for you and your family to have set boundaries and to have theem consistently applied. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible for you to be successful as a WAHM if you don’t because there is no boss or manager fighting your corner saying “no, you can’t interrupt her at the moment, she’s busy on an important call” – there’s just you.

Having people trample all over you and your feelings is a fast track to making yourself stressed, overloaded and miserable, so if you’ve never been very good at being assertive, now would be a good time to learn how.

Deep held beliefs
These are beliefs adults hold from a very early age that may have no bearing on reality or that person’s actual life as it is now. We all have them to varying degrees and they can pop up in strange situations or show up as completely out of character. Most of the time people aren’t aware they hold them, and depending on who is acting out they could be along the lines of “my time is more important than you”, “mum doesn’t mind”, or perhaps “working at home isn’t really working,” or maybe “women are there to serve their husbands, just like my mum was”.

It can even be your own deep belief that’s doing the sabotaging. Perhaps you don’t believe you can do, or think you are not entitled to be rich and/or successful. Perhaps secretly you’d much rather not being doing this and so let everything else get in the way so it all falls around your ears. Perhaps you simply can’t bring yourself to say no!

So what to do about it?

Dealing with your family – and other animals
• Be assertive – stop saying yes all the time and start saying no occasionally – and mean it, whether that’s to the kitten, the kids or your partner.

Set boundaries – perhaps you claim an undisturbed hour every day, when the door is going to be shut and no one can interrupt unless it’s a life or death emergency.

Believe in yourself – You want to do this, you can do this, you just need time and space to do it in, so don’t let that little voice allow you to be so distractable you can point at the family at a future point and say “I could have succeeded if it wasn’t for them”.

Deal with unhelpful deep beliefs – sometimes just having a think about your patterns of behaviour and talking it over with your closest and dearest is enough. Other times you might want to use the services of a life coach. Whichever route you follow, however, it’s worth doing – as I know to my cost, some of these unconscious beliefs can keep you poor and overstressed for years.

© Claire Burdett. Please only reproduce this article with permission, in its entirety and with a hyperlink to www.claireburdett.com. Thank you.

First published on www.funkyangel.co.uk, the ultimate lifestyle website for WAHM and Home Businesses.

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‘Work/life balance for CEOs’ – published in ‘1,000 CEOs’ by Dorling Kindersley, 2009

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Top Tips for Business Mums

Tips for business womenYou need the extra money and want to work, but you can’t find a ‘proper’ job in this economic climate and anyway, you really want to be at home for the kids. You have the skills and the contacts. You even have the technical know how to set up an website and do your own marketing and sales.

But still the question remains, is working from home really workable?

The answer is yes, as the huge amounts of work at home mums and home businesses in the UK at the moment testify. Yet many people still worry that they won’t be able to work at the same time as raising or caring for the children. And to be sure, some people can’t manage it, and much prefer to leave the house and escape to the relative calmness and structure of a 9-5 office.

For others, however, being the Director of Everything is perfect. And it is especially perfect for the ones who love taking responsibility and being in charge, whose families are all on side, who are dab hands at drawing boundaries, being flexible, going with the flow, and that dreaded word, multitasking.

Being flexible
If you want to start work at 9, have an hour for lunch at 12.30 and finish at 5.30, this is not the job for you. Working from home means you need to be be prepared to catch the moment and do a shedload of work when you get a chance and then be able to back pedal and take some time out when the family need you or there are other demands.

Drawing boundaries
Be assertive and firm about applying the boundaries – see our companion article Your Family and Other Animals for more on this.

Be organsied
Being on top of the home and work admin is a real bonus when you work from home – it can be like having an extra pair of hands for the amount of time and energy it saves when you need to find something.

Key points here are to keep it simple, file promptly and be consistent. No point looking for the dog insurance renewal in the pet file if you’ve gone and filed it in the insurance file, for example.

Back up all your contact numbers and business files, especially invoices. Keep a big family calender where everyone can see it and be religious about filling it in – back it up with a portable diary that has time slots marked in it. This is especially important as the children hit those tweenie years and start to get a social life that involves you being the taxi service that is bound to clash with that phone call you have to make or take.

Keep on top of the admin, especially your accounts, and if you need extra support, then look at hiring a part time virtual assistant – see our section on Virtual Assistants.

Be realistic
Once upon a time it was just you, a job and perhaps your own flat or a shared house. Now it’s you, the entourage (kids, pets, partner), the house, the car, the job, the business (some people have both), school (almost as demanding as a second job sometimes), the list of life laundry can be exhausting and seemingly endless. So being realistic about what you can achieve and by when is crucial. Case in point – it took me five months longer than I originally planned to relaunch the revamped Funky Angel site in 2008 because of illness, house repairs, school holidays, and work commitments. I used to beat myself up about things like this; now I just accept it  takes as long as it takes. That doesn’t mean I don’t set myself goals, it’s just they are now realistic goals!

Going with the flow
If you have children your hours are likely to follow their schedule – around naps in the early years, then playgroup and then school times. Evenings become work time instead of afternoons, and Sunday morning is often the favourite time for home business networking – online of course!

Have good support
Family support is essential in the success of your work-at-home venture and you need to get them onside and keep them there. See www.funkyangel.co.uk for further information.

© Claire Burdett. Please only reproduce this article with permission, in its entirety and with a hyperlink to www.claireburdett.com. Thank you.

First published on www.funkyangel.co.uk, the ultimate lifestyle website for WAHMs and Home Businesses.

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