Category Archives for "Motivation"

Overwhelmed at Work
Feb 04

6 ways to use your time more effectively at work

By Felicity Dwyer | Career development , Motivation , Productivity

It is common to feel overstretched or even overwhelmed at work. Our culture often seems to value busyness and expects us to be always switched on. If this affects you, there are steps that you can take to regain control of your time.

It is vital to keep your values and priorities in mind, and either find space for them in your life as it is, or find a way to change jobs or careers so that you can do more of what you love everyday.

Here are six strategies that I have used successfully to overcome overwhelm and be more effective at work.

One main focus

Try to keep to one main focus or objective each day – decide on the most important thing to get done, and fit other tasks around that. If this seems unrealistic, choose a focus for the morning and one for the afternoon. This doesn’t mean you throw away your to-do list. But if you give absolute priority to one objective each day, you’ll go home with a sense of achievement, and probably find you get a lot of other things done too.

Group similar tasks together

I try to allow a solid hour or two at a time for more complex tasks such as writing blogs or proposals, because it takes less energy doing it that way that picking up on odd bits here and there. This works well for phone calls too. Experiment with different patterns. If you have a blog or report to write, does it work better for you to spend a solid two hours on it. Or does it suit you better to start with a rough draft and then come back to it later in the day or week or work on it in small bursts.

Follow your energy as much as you can

If your energy levels are low, then it can make sense to switch to basic admin tasks, if you are feeling energised and creative then tap into that as much as you can. But don’t let low energy be an excuse for delaying an important piece of work. If you are struggling to get started then…

Chunk it down

If you have a big and possibly daunting task, then break it down into a series of small ones. Keep breaking down a task until you have an action that you can do now. Even if it’s the first action is just looking up a phone number, or a quick piece of internet research, or sending an email, or even just scheduling the next step into your diary – DO something to make a start.

Sorting your emailsHave a system for emails

Keep on top of emails. Once I’ve opened an email I either delete it, move it to a suitable folder for future reference, action it now, or flag it for future action.

If you get a lot of email newsletters you can use software like to collate and organise them for you. If you find yourself regularly deleting the same newsletters before opening them, it’s time to unsubscribe.

Tidy up to get unstuck

When I feel stuck or unmotivated at work, I tidy my office. I find it easier to think with a tidy space, and it provides a sense of satisfaction that can then motivate me to tackle my other tasks. Nigel Risner has said that space management is even more important than time management. This makes sense as working in a mess slows you down and brings your energy levels down. But one person’s idea of tidy is another person’s clutter – you will know what works for you. For me, it’s about having a clear desk, and organising my project work in tidy piles or magazine folders.

I’d love to hear your tips, please share in the comments box below.

Reflecting on work
Dec 23

4 questions to help you reflect on and celebrate your work

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Motivation

This time of year is one for reflection and celebration. It offers a natural pause point, and is a good time to reflect on your career and review the past year.

It’s natural to think about the future and to set goals as we go forward into the new year. But before we forge ahead with goal setting, it is valuable to take time to appreciate and learn from what has gone before.

Appreciative questions

In reflecting on this year, you might like to ask yourself these questions:

What am I grateful for in my work?

What achievements would I like to celebrate?

What have I learned this year?

What would I like to take forward into 2015?

These questions provide a positive base for assessing where you are now, and from which to move forward. The next step is to think about what you would like to be different next year, and what goals you would like to set yourself for the coming twelve months.

I’d love to hear your answers to one or more of these questions, please share in the comments box below.

Sharing success

In thinking about my year, I feel grateful to have discovered a coaching niche where I both find the work itself incredibly interesting, and which has a positive impact on the lives of my wonderful clients, along with opportunities to celebrate their success.

This lovely email arrived on my last full working day of the year. One of my career coaching clients had just been offered a fantastic new job, and wrote…

“I’m massively excited about the role and think it offers me a chance to really develop my experience in a number of areas, while also just being genuinely exciting in and of itself! …without your help and support I don’t think I would have been able to identify so clearly what the right kind of next step would be for me at this point in my career, or even that the time was right to move on. I also just love the poetry of having had the interview the day after my last coaching session!”

Joy in work

There is joy to be found when we discover the work that is right for us, and which feels both interesting and worthwhile.

I wish you joy, success and fulfilment at work.

Career Strengths
Nov 04

A strong way to find your ideal career

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Motivation

What are you good at? I mean REALLY good at?

An awareness of your strengths will help you to find or develop the right career path for you.

What are strengths

Strengths are ways of being and behaving that come easily to you, that tend to energise you, and that you enjoy. According to some theorists, strengths are a combination of your talents and skills.

Talents are innate. You will probably have displayed them from an early age, in different contexts.

Skills are learned competencies. They are things that you can do; that you have practiced and become good at, to a greater or lesser degree.

The power point is where the two overlap. As we go through life we develop a range of specialist and transferable skills that help us in our working lives, and allow us to take on increasingly challenging roles. But it is when we develop skills in our areas of natural strength that we can really shine. The right job or career for you is one where you can draw on your strengths most of the time. Not only will this make your working life more enjoyable, but will offer you greater potential for excellence and advancement.

So for example your skill-set might include research skills and writing skills, but what really energises you is when you combine this with a talent for engaging with others. As a result, a real strength might be working collaboratively to come up with creative ideas and concepts and then pull these together into a strategic plan.

How to identify your strengths

You might not always recognise your natural strengths as such, because they come so naturally to you. For example, do you find it easy to understanding how other people are feeling and to imagine yourself in their shoes? Do you thrive on taking charge of a situation and align others with the direction that you want to take. Are you naturally energised by competition and the chance to “win”? Do you find it easy to build and maintain deep relationships?

To identify your strengths, start by asking yourself some of the following questions:

  • What activities make me feel energised?
  • How do I naturally behave when I’m under pressure?
  • What have I always yearned to do?
  • What makes me feel good?

And ask others that you know, personally or professionally, to give their views too.

Your strengths and your career

When you honour your innate talents, and add in the life experience, knowledge and learned skills that make you unique, finding the right career path becomes a lot easier.

If you would like to find out more, the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 describes a robust strengths model based on extensive research from the Gallop organisation. And the book includes an access code for an online diagnostic, to identify your top 5 strengths.

And if you would value some impartial support with finding your career path, find out how  I can help.

Image courtesy of Colleen McMahon/Flickr

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit

Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Flexible worker balancing files
Jul 02

A more flexible career

By Felicity Dwyer | Career development , Motivation

Want to make changes in your working life, but can’t afford to leave your job? Your life may just have become easier.

From 30 June 2014, the right to request flexible working has been extended. This right used to be enjoyed by parents and carers, but is now available to anyone who has 26 weeks’ continuous employment with their employer. This could help you if you want to work towards a long term career change whilst staying in your current job, or just want a different work-life blend.

What is flexible working?

According the CIPD, it is “a type of working arrangement which gives some degree of flexibility on how long, where when and what times employees work.”

This can take a variety of forms, here are just a few examples:

  • part-time work, whether that be for a few hours each day, or one or more days a week
  • flexitime, where you can choose when your working day starts and finishes (within agreed parameters, for example there may be core hours when you need to be at work)
  • compressed hours, for example completing contracted full-time hours over four days instead of five
  • working from home for some of the week
  • a career break or sabbatical

Flexible working can open up opportunities that may not be available in a standard 9-5. You could spend a day a week studying towards a qualification or new career, spend more time on a hobby, or even start a part-time business. In the final example, you will need to be sure there isn’t a conflict of interest with your day job.

In my last salaried job, I was able to work flexi-time and this was a real benefit. It allowed me to avoid the worst of the rush hour and get to work feeling more relaxed and productive than I would have been otherwise. I have also worked part-time in the past, allowing me time to study.

How to request flexible working

Requests must be made in writing and must include: the date of your application, the change you are seeking, and when you would like it to come into effect. You need to consider the effect of the change on your employer and your opinion on how any such effect might be dealt with. You also need to state that it is a statutory request, and if and when you have made a previous application for flexible working. You are only allowed to make one request in any 12 month period.

In considering the effect of the change on your employer, you may want to demonstrate how it might help you to maintain or improve your performance at work. For example working from home can be really effective if you have a concentrated piece of work such as report to write. Research has shown that multi tasking is inefficient, and some home working can both increase productivity for your employer, and save you time and money on travelling to work that day.

Employers have a duty to consider a request in a reasonable manner and if they refuse, then this needs to be for a business reason.

Clearly some jobs lend themselves more easily to flexible working than others, and you might want to take this factor into account when you are job seeking.

Find out more

For research on multi tasking, see this summary from the American Psychological Association

For information on how to request flexible working, the ACAS website has advice and guidance.

You might also enjoy my article on portfolio careers

Flash point firework image
Jun 25

Triggers for career change

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Motivation

Many people who make a significant career change can trace this back to a trigger point, something that pushed them to re-evaluate where they were, and what they wanted to do and be. Sometimes this flash point can be quite dramatic, as was the case for Jane Hardy.

Health crisis

Jane had a high-powered job in sales in the financial sector, on the road, spending weekday nights in hotels, always looking for the next deal, the “kill.” Then her life changed dramatically when at the age of 42 she suffered a cardiac arrest. Only 5% of people survive this experience, and Jane was one of the lucky ones. As a result of this experience, she took at good hard look at her life. “I felt like she had been given a second chance and I wanted to make a difference.”

Jane retrained as a debt counsellor, working for different charities and starting her own debt counselling service. This led her to discover networking and eventually the Fabulous Women network where she said “I felt like I’d come home. It was all about collaboration, support, and supporting others to be successful.” Jane’s involvement in networking led to her third career. She joined Fabulous Women as a regional manager, and 18 months down the line, she now owns the company!

Fortunately for most people, the trigger will be a less dramatic but can still be life-changing. Events such as a significant birthday, starting a family, redundancy, or seeing children off to college, can push us to re-evaluate what matters in our working lives, and find a more satisfying future.

Milestone birthday

For Laura Geaves, hitting her 30th birthday was the trigger for a career change. Laura had been working as a PA. When she turned 30, she looked at where she was in her career and realised that there was no way up in the company and role she was in. This led her to asking herself some searching questions: “What am I actually achieving in life? What do I really enjoy?”

For Laura, marketing had always been something she thought was interesting and she decided to make it her career. She took her Chartered Institute of Marketing qualification and is now a Marketing Executive at KPC Creative Communications, a consultancy in Farnham, Surrey. Unlike her previous job, this business offers career progression, and Laura is working towards becoming an account manager. Laura’s advice for career changers is to “Look at what you are interested in, be committed, and believe in yourself.”

Time for a change?

However uncomfortable the trigger point, people commonly look back and see it as a step towards more positive and satisfying work. And you can sometimes avoid reaching a crisis point in the first place by picking up earlier on signs that you need a change, such as ongoing feelings of stress or boredom, or just a niggling feeling that something isn’t quite right.

If something is in your life, or inside yourself, is telling you that it’s time for a change, then it’s wise to take notice and spend some reviewing where you are, and where you want to be.

80/20 pie chart
May 28

How much time do you spend doing work you love?

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Motivation

Doing anything worthwhile takes hard work, there is no way around that. But what a difference there is between the soul-sapping grind of work, when you are in the wrong career or job, and the heart-lifting joy of work that plays to your strengths and skills and feels worthwhile. It may not even feel like work, hence the famous words from Chinese sage Confucius: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

In my own working life, I enjoy coaching and training so much that it doesn’t feel like work now. It also gives me an opportunity to do what I’m good at. But of course developing the skills and gaining the experience to make it feel easy has taken time and energy. And I like the fact that this is a line of work where there is always more to learn and master, so it never gets dull. But in order to have a business doing what I love, I also need to do things that I don’t enjoy such as keeping accounts, cross-referencing, proofreading.  To some extent these tasks can be outsourced, but the reality is that most of them are done by me, as part of what needs to be done to keep myself in business.

The 80/20 rule offers us a useful rule of thumb. Is more than 20 % of your time, one day out of five if you work full time, spent on work that you really dislike, or which you are not good at? If the answer is yes, then perhaps it is time to consider a change. This may be to a different career, a different organisation, or a different role.  And if you’re not sure what to do next in your working life, you might find career coaching helpful.

by Felicity Dwyer

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