How to remember names – every single time!

A guest blog by William Wadsworth.

‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ Maya Angelou

You’re out making waves in the world: networking with potential clients, donors, business partners, or simply meeting new friends. Nothing makes a person feel valued like you remembering their name. But there’s one problem: just how are you supposed to remember all those names and faces!?

Could there really be a version of ‘Future You’ where you can wander around a room effortlessly soaking up new names, secure in the knowledge that you won’t forget a single one?

Where the next time you see someone, you’ll not only greet them by name confidently, but also go on to ask about their job, kids, or anything else you talked about first time round?

With the help of these four memory strategies – firmly rooted in the science of memory – that future could be yours.

How to remember names

As with anything in life, you get out what you put in, so I’ve organised the strategies into four levels, depending on how far you want to go with your ‘how to remember names’ mastery.

Start with Strategy 1 for some easily achievable ‘good’ results.

Add in the techniques from Strategy 2 (‘better’) and 3 (‘best’) to really go above average on this important career / life skill.

Or if you really want to get incredible with names – like, future-presidential-candidate incredible at names – then keep going all the way through to Strategy 4 for some next-level tactics.

Ready to get amazing with names?

Let’s dive in:

Strategy 1. ‘Good’: Make Visual Connections

A quick name-learning hack that takes almost no extra effort is to build a visual image out of someone’s name.

Good things to picture for people’s names are:

  • A mental picture that represents what their name means as a word (or could mean, if you’re being imaginative!)
  • Someone you already know with that name (either a person in your life, or a celeb)
  • Someone you know with a SIMILAR name. I find a lot of novel names I encounter can be made into a familiar name just by changing a single syllable or letter.

This is partly based on the psychological principle of chunking, where you find a way to ‘group’ lots of individual units of data into a smaller number of easier-to-remember ‘chunks’. Names can often have lots of syllables (= lots of individual units to remember = hard), so translating it into an image means you only have to remember one or two ‘things’ (your chosen mental image) rather than having to remember lots of things (the syllables).

Here are a few examples of this in action:

  • Rachel Cox? I’d imagine Rachel from friends coxing a rowing boat.
  • Max Shepherd? Easy. He’s an ENORMOUS shepherd.
  • Shakila Jones? I’m mentally mashing Tom Jones and Shakira.
  • Janet Slimings? Janet is surprisingly hard for me because I happen not to know many Janets first-hand, and there’s no obvious mental image for a ‘Janet’. So after a moment’s pause, I might think Jan = January, while ‘slimings’ makes me think of dieting. So she’d be one of those January diets. (Ugh.)

With a little practice, you can start to do this on the fly, mid-conversation… BUT that isn’t always easy. So to really get the most out of this trick, see Strategy 4, which is all about preparing in advance.

Strategy 2. ‘Better’: Test Yourself On The Name

If you ask a cognitive psychologist about the secret to learning anything, most will start by pointing you to retrieval practice.

‘Retrieval practice’ simply means testing yourself: bringing knowledge back to mind from memory. I.e. ‘practising’ the process of ‘retrieving’ information from your memory.

It’s a simple idea, but incredibly powerful.

You’ve probably heard the trick to repeat people’s names back to them after they introduce themselves to you.

This is a great idea.

Not only does it give you a chance to check your pronunciation, it also gives you a first valuable round of practice at retrieving that name from memory.

Repetition is key here, so look for subsequent opportunities to retrieve that name from memory again through the conversation (don’t force it too much!), and at the very least, as you say goodbye.

‘It’s been so lovely to meet, Janet!’.

Strategy 3. ‘Best’: Space Out Your Learning

Any retrieval practice is excellent.

But spaced retrieval practice is even better.

Because no matter how well you learn something initially, your memory fades over time. (That phenomenon even has a name to memory psychologists: the forgetting curve.)

So how do you overcome the forgetting curve and remember for good?

The answer lies in spaced learning: the science of revisiting what you’ve previously learned at different time intervals – later that day, tomorrow, a few days later.

And the best way to ‘revisit’ information at those spaced intervals is to do retrieval practice.

Hence the term ‘spaced retrieval practice’.

Spaced retrieval practice is basically the most powerful and flexible way to memorise pretty well anything – here’s a nice free guide from some cognitive psychologist friends of mine (no email needed!).

Learning to remember names is no exception.

So how do you do spaced retrieval practice for names?

As well as repeating the person’s name there and then in the conversation (Strategy 2), consider repeating it later in the day, after a time delay.

You will find this harder!

But if you can fish that name out of your memory just before you would have otherwise forgotten it – maybe that night, maybe the next day – you’ll stand a much better chance of remembering it for good.

Try grabbing a bit of scrap paper when you get home from an event, and trying to recall those new names from your memory.

You might not keep the results of your scribblings (and it might not be appropriate to – so shred it when you’re done) but the exercise of retrieving the names from memory after a time delay will work wonders for getting the new names to stick.

If there’s that one name you couldn’t quite remember, first (and don’t be tempted to skip this bit!), try your best to remember the name with a good old rummage around in your memory. Then second, go look it up, either on the attendance list or with a quick LinkedIn scan.

Try and have another go at remembering it later on to see if it’s starting to stick (if not, rinse and repeat those two steps as necessary).

If you’re really committed to learning those names, you might even repeat this whole ‘scribble-them-down-from-memory’ exercise a second time a little later in the week.

Strategy 4. ‘Genius-Level’: Study For Success

I’m a great believer that you can’t always count on being the smartest person in the room, but if it matters to you enough, you can make sure you’re the best-prepared.

And so it can be with remembering names.

If you get a heads-up on the names at an event, brush up on them beforehand.

Some conference platforms will list out all the delegates online in advance of the event, sometimes with a headshot, if you’re lucky. This is a gift: take advantage, and study up!

And if you’re wondering HOW to study – our old friend from Strategy 2 /3, spaced retrieval practice, is here to help 😊. Test yourself on the names, perhaps by making flashcards with a printout of the face on one side, and the name on the back.

But what if you don’t get access to the names in advance?

If you’re really serious about becoming AMAZING with names, you can even start studying lists of names out of context.

Your objectives are to:

  1. make sure you’re FAMILIAR with all the common first names (and surnames if you’ll need them), then
  2. have a clear image ready-and-waiting (Strategy 1) for each common name.

Use Census data for your country to check out ALL the names people might be called. For example, in the UK, for first names, here are the top names for babies born 1904-1994, 1998-2008, and 2011-2019. Be targeted in your studying: if you don’t meet children in your work, don’t bother with the 2011-2019 lists. If you need to be good with surnames too, try here.

The end goal for this is to get to a point where this instant a new name comes up, you can jump straight to your go-to mental image for that name and jump-start the name-learning process instantly.

If you’re going for this ‘genius level’ approach, to remember names then little and often is key to effective studying. Consider making a daily ritual out of studying up on your names, and make sure you’re following the right steps to get the habit to stick.

However far you choose to take it, have fun getting at least a little better at name-learning!

William Wadsworth is a memory psychologist and exam success coach, who helps students ace their exams by studying smarter not harder, whether that’s at school, university, or professional qualifications in business, finance, medicine and more. He was also our guest expert on memory at the Lucidity Network. 

 Have you ever been subjected to an excruciating ice breaker?

Have you ever been to an idea workshop or ‘brainstorming session’ with the objective of generating new ideas and been subjected to an excruciating ice breaker or warm-up exercise?

My most painful one was a few years ago now and still sends shivers down my spine. There were about 15 of us and the facilitator made us stand in a circle. The first person had to throw a ball at someone else who had to catch it. As you threw the ball you had to say your own name. In addition to your name, you had to pair it with a supermarket shopping list. For example, I was Lucy lettuce. I threw the ball to someone who turned out to be Sarah sardine who threw to Dave donut who threw to Martin mango. You get the idea.

It was stressful.  Having to throw a ball to someone else felt fraught. The pressure of catching a ball and then the added indignity and anxiety of having to invent a shopping list name alliteration was dreadful.

Sound familiar?

What was the point?

I think the purpose of this ‘game’ was a ‘fun’ way to learn names.

My advice is if you want people in your workshop to know each other’s names, give people name badges and name cards where they are sitting and save people the anxiety of forced fun.

Why do these excruciating ice breakers exist?

Research shows that creativity and the flow of ideas come more easily for most people when they’re relaxed and in a playful mindset. So when you arrive at an ideas workshop, the use of warm-ups or ice breakers are intended to put participants at ease and create a relaxed atmosphere in order to get the most out of the session.

We all have engrained ways of thinking that can inhibit our creativity. We default to approaching problems in the same way that we have before, which is efficient on a day to basis, but can stifle new thoughts and creativity. In addition to helping people to relax, well facilitated warm-ups and ice breakers help to shift people away from ‘how we do things’ and help them come at the workshop challenge from a different perspective which can help creative ideas to flow.

A well thought through and well-executed warm up or ice breaker exercise can create the right environment and trust for generating ideas.

A badly thought through or poorly executed warm-up or icebreaker exercise can make people feel stressed out and do more harm than good.

My tips for warm-ups and ice breakers if you’re planning a workshop

  1. Think about your audience. What do you know about them? What are their usual ways of working? What might make them feel at ease, relaxed? What type of exercise is likely to change the dynamic without creating fear and anxiety?
  2. Think about the purpose of your warm-up exercise. Why are you doing it? This forms part of your workshop design. Is it to introduce people to each other? Is it to set the tone of the session? Is it to get people thinking about the topic? Think carefully about why you’re doing a warm-up exercise.
  3. Make it easy. For example, pose a question that anyone can answer. A question that connects people as human beings. Avoid anything that might have a judgement attached to it. For example, I’d avoid asking people who don’t know each other to share something ‘interesting’ about themselves. Participants worry that they’re not interesting enough and then struggle to think of anything at all. Ask something that’s less inviting for our inner critics to catastrophize over, ask something really simple that everyone can connect to like your favourite biscuit, first single or last film you watched. For putting people at ease and creating rapport, in my experience the more irreverent the better.
  4. Relate the warm-up to what the workshop is about. It can help to ask people a simple question that gets them thinking about the topic in an abstract way. For example, when I run storytelling training, I ask people to remember a favourite story from their childhood, if your workshop is about improving customer service you might ask for their best or worst customer service story, and if you’re running a big picture strategy session you might ask people for the big newspaper headline about their organisation’s achievements ten years from now.
  5. Drawing something. Drawing might feel risky but if delivered right can really help to get into a different mindset. You have to make it safe. For example, ask people to draw something that doesn’t have a right or wrong; a page of circles, a ball of tangled wool or abstract shapes. You show your not particularly good drawing first to put people at ease. Then get everyone else to show their different interpretation of the brief. Then ask them to draw something else simple, a cup of tea, an alien (no correct drawing here) or what’s on their desk. Drawing exercises, if you facilitate it well and are brave enough to ask people, in my experience are a fast track to shift peoples thinking and open up their creativity.

And my final tip is to invest in a facilitator. Having an independent person to design the flow of the workshop, including the warm-ups and ice breakers, and to facilitate to ensure everyone gets a voice, that the workshop keeps on topic and to ask the naive questions that you don’t even know to ask will help you get the most from the people in the room.

I hope this blog is helpful (and thank you to recent CIOF innovation and creativity training participants for the inspiration for this blog). And if you would like a facilitator to help you plan and deliver an ideas workshop without excruciating ice breakers then do drop me a line to lucylettuce@lucidity.org.uk or book a call here. 

Have you had enough of pointless meetings?

We’ve all experienced pointless meetings. You arrive on time only to wait for the meeting to start 10 minutes late. There wasn’t an agenda so you’re not really sure what you’re there for. You should have asked but you were too busy attending another meeting to check. It’s not clear who’s running the meeting as the loudest person seems to get all the air space. Several people in the meeting are multi-tasking or perhaps private messaging each other about why they’re there. They’re not really present though and are preoccupied by their phones and laptops which is distracting for the people who are contributing. You don’t say much because you feel unsure of what is expected from you.  Nothing is really decided, and the meeting wraps up late. You’ve accumulated some actions that you won’t have time to complete because you’re off to another meeting that you’re already late for because this lousy meeting overran. You know you’ll have to complete your actions outside of working hours (again) because the rest of the working week is filled with more meetings.

Sound familiar?

Too many meetings and poorly organised meetings are not just a waste of your time, they can cause stress and frustration about your own work and tasks, as well as negative feelings about colleagues. They can also have a negative impact on moral, motivation and productivity across a whole organisation.

How many times have you felt in the flow with your work, and that you’re making great progress, perhaps you’re even ahead of time and then a meeting request gets put in the diary and interrupts your progress. The meeting wasn’t great, you weren’t sure why you had to be there, and it rumbled on for ages. After the meeting you feel less motivated. You’ve lost track of where you were and the momentum you had earlier is gone. You don’t feel as driven or as committed to finishing the task as you did before you attended the meeting.

Ineffective meetings are exhausting and can interrupt productivity. They can also create negative energy which can stay with employees after the meeting. Pointless meetings waste huge amounts of time, energy and money. *A survey of 6,500 people from the USA, UK, and Germany found that among the 19 million meetings that were observed, the ineffective meetings cost UK businesses an estimated £41 billion.

On the other hand, effective meetings are important. They inspire and drive people to do better. When well-managed, meetings can be an effective way to debate and discuss, collaborate and co-operate, motivate and inspire and accelerate progress.

If you’re tired of pointless meetings here’s 4 tips to help you save time and to make sure your meetings are positive and productive.

1. Be clear on the purpose of the meeting

If it’s your meeting, be really clear on what the meeting is for and make sure the people you invite know too. Set an agenda. Make sure attendees are clear on why they’re being invited and what’s expected of them. If you’re inviting them ‘for information only’ consider if their time would be better spent reading the information after the meeting rather than attending. And if you’re invited to a meeting and you’re not clear on the purpose and your role, then it’s your responsibility to ask the organiser.

You should never go to a meeting or make a telephone call without a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve.Steve Jobs

2. Only invite the people who need to be there

If you’re organising a meeting, really consider who you invite and what their role is. I’ve observed some organisations with a meeting culture which means that everyone gets invited to everything. This can be because of a lack of clarity of roles and responsibilities, and sometimes it’s caused by lack of confidence or fear of failure. Whatever the reason it’s a massive waste of time, energy and resource to invite more people than are required to a meeting.

3. Be ruthless about the meetings you attend

Research shows that managers spend at least 50% of their time in meetings and four hours a week preparing for status updates, not leaving much time to actually do the work. This has increased in the last year, according the Harvard Business School, employees have been attending more virtual meetings than in-person since we’ve been working remotely. Your time is precious, and it’s a finite resource. It’s your responsibility to use it wisely. Refer back to points 1 and 2 and if you’re unclear on your role in a meeting ask the organiser. If you are not required or there’s a more efficient way of getting the information, for example reading the meeting notes, politely ask the question about whether it’s the best use of your time to be there.

4. As a meeting participant, you have a responsibility

If you’ve ever been distracted in a meeting by the person arriving late, leaving early, getting on with their work or answering emails you’ll know how disruptive it can be. Often people attempt to get on with work because they resent being in the meeting or don’t understand why they need to be there. From now on I hope you’ll only be attending meetings that you need to be at, and you’ll understand your role. If you’re attending a meeting, as a participant, you have a responsibility to support the meeting organiser to help the meeting be successful. In addition to the basics like arriving on time and not multi-tasking, ask yourself during the meeting, ‘How can I help this meeting to work well?’ Your time and input are valuable, if you are attending a meeting make it count. Be present. Contribute.

Thank you to Hayley Watts for your expertise and inspiration for writing this blog. If you’re serious about fixing meetings get yourself a copy of Hayley’s latest book ‘How to Fix Meetings’ here.

I’m delighted that Hayley is our guest expert at the Lucidity Network next month for a live webinar. If you’d like to join us it’s easy. Sign up to the Lucidity Network here.  

*Reference https://blog.otter.ai/meeting-statistics/

How having a meaningful ritual can improve your working day

Your alarm goes off. You turn it off. Count to ten. Stretch. Get up. Put the kettle on. Pat the dog. Have a shower. Make coffee. Turn on the news. Feel stressed. Turn off the news. Start work while drinking coffee.

Is that a daily ritual? Or is that just a routine?

The difference between a daily ritual and a routine

The difference between a daily ritual and a routine is how you think about it. It’s how you perceive your actions. Are they mundane chores that just need to be completed, or are they actions that bring meaning, learning or joy into your life? It’s all about your mindset.

And if, like many of my clients, you’re feeling bored right now and running out of motivation, shifting your mindset might also help you get through these next few months as we emerge from lockdown.

A daily routine is a series of tasks that you complete every day in the same order. For example getting up and going to work, stacking the dishwasher, brushing your teeth and getting the kids ready for school. A routine can feel mundane and boring because it’s something you have to do. You can complete your routines on autopilot. They might be efficient, but routines are not necessarily motivating or enjoyable. They are viewed as a chore.

A daily ritual is similar to a daily routine since they are also a series of tasks that are completed in the same order. But a daily ritual differs in its intention. Daily rituals are meaningful practices and are internally motivated. A daily ritual can provide energy and enjoyment along with efficiency and structure. A ritual is a carefully selected way of doing something that has a sense of purpose and a positive side effect in addition to the straightforward completion of the task.

In my last job, I used to get to the office early. I’d switch on my computer and while it was starting up, I’d put the kettle on. While the kettle was boiling, I’d log in and download my emails. Then I’d make my tea and make some porridge in the microwave. Then I’d go back to my desk and read my emails while drinking my tea and eating my porridge. When the porridge was finished, that’s when I kicked into work mode.

Was my series of tasks a daily ritual or just a routine?

It started out as a routine. Then I started to think about it and deliberately made it motivating. I bought a really lovely bowl for my porridge and beautiful cup for my tea. It started to become more pleasurable, meaningful and enjoyable. I reframed ‘getting through my emails’ to ‘mentally preparing for my day’. It was my quiet time. I found out much later that colleagues knew to leave me on my own until my porridge ritual was over!

There’s a balance to be found with routine and ritual. We’ll always have routines that we need to do to be efficient. There’s always stuff that simply needs to be done. But there’s a lot of value in finding routines, (or even parts of routines), that we can turn into rituals for the benefit of a better day.

Rituals can help us take the boredom or stress out of a regular activity, they can help us be more thoughtful, help us connect to our purpose and help us achieve our goals.

How to transform a routine into a ritual

The difference between a daily ritual and a routine is your subjective experience of the activity. While we may often associate rituals with religion or spirituality, I believe we can transform any routine into a ritual with the right attitude and perspective.

Positive affirmations – one very simple thing you can do is recite affirmations.

Affirmations are positive statements that can help you to challenge and overcome negative thoughts. Say them to yourself as a way of helping you to achieve a positive mindset.

For example, during my morning work ritual, I changed my internal dialogue to ‘I’m never going to get through all my work today’ to ‘I’m going to have a good day and get the important tasks done – and porridge time is where I prioritise what they are.’ This is just one way to turn something tedious into something more helpful.

Connect to a bigger purpose

Take a step back and see the bigger picture and purpose behind your daily routines, and how they improve your life as a whole. Connect to this by asking yourself ‘why is this important?’ And keep asking ‘why?’

Why is cleaning my teeth important? Because healthy teeth and gums mean I can eat what you want. Why is that important?

For a healthy diet. Why is that important? Because when I’m healthy I feel better and can do more which makes me happy.

This will add more meaning and help you view your routines as more of a ritual because you understand how they are helping you to achieve a bigger purpose.

Adding intentions

Rituals are the foundation upon which great work is completed. The difference between a daily routine and a daily ritual is intention.

What are the things that you do every day that you could add intention and purpose to and make into a daily ritual?

Pick one of your routines and think about how you can turn it from an autopilot mundane task to a more meaningful experience in your day. For me, I bought a cup and a bowl and shifted my mindset from getting through emails to something more positive to turn my morning routine into a ritual.

Think about the list below and pick one routine to start:

Getting up in morning.  What can you do as part of your morning ritual to get your day off to a positive start? Examples might be to spend 3 minutes being mindful or doing some stretches before you do anything else.

Going to bed. There is now a huge body of research on the benefits of a good nights sleep. Turn your going to bed routine into a ritual for better sleep.

Preparing breakfast. Another morning routine that you can turn into something more intentional and therefore a daily ritual.

Eating. Slow down and be mindful. Reframe a rushed lunch as fuel for your afternoon productivity. A great resource for mindful eating is Work Fuel: The Productivity Ninja Guide to Nutrition by Collette Heneghan and Graham Allcott

Walking places. Can you reframe the walking you have to do in your day, for example walking to the bus stop, the shop or walking the dog, as a ritual, not a chore?

Doing exercise. Turn dragging yourself to the gym or for a run into a positive experience. Tell yourself you can do this! Alternatively, if you absolutely hate the gym and can’t ever imagine finding positive purpose there, work out how to make exercise an enjoyable ritual. My solution was that I got a dog. You can check his Instagram out here.

Doing the weekly food shop. You’re not doing a chore, you’re fuelling you and your family for success.

Being grateful. A good way to reframe your mindset to a positive one is to make being grateful a daily ritual. At the end of the day, list the things that you are grateful for – big and small.

Taking a shower. A great place to think, practice mindfulness and notice how the water feels.

Cleaning your teeth. Are you cleaning your teeth or keeping your mouth healthy and fresh?

Cleaning. Is it a chore or an opportunity to disconnect from your day?

Making your daily ritual a success

Now you’ve started to think about it, I expect you have dozens of routines that you might choose to turn into daily rituals. What’s important is that you develop your rituals that add meaning and purpose to your day. As you’re working through this, there are three simple things to remember:

Prepare Your Environment

Creating environmental change has a dramatic impact on what you do. For example, if you set your running shoes out before you go to bed, you’re more likely to run in the morning. Get yourself really good coffee and a great cup if you’re turning your morning coffee into a ritual.

Small steps

We’re more likely to be able to form rituals if we start small. For example, if you have a goal to start running, don’t aim to run very far on day one. Start small and build up. The Couch to 5k app is an excellent example of this as it takes you from your couch to being able to run 5k in small steps in 9 weeks.

If you want to live a mindful life, start with one minute of sitting. If you want to spend more time outside, walk once around the block each morning.

Better done than perfect

Spending time every day changing routines to rituals doesn’t mean that you will end up with something perfect first time. Don’t give up. Keep practising. Find something that works for you and makes the routine more meaningful.

Bottom line

You are a unique individual with your own purpose and set of goals that you want to achieve. There’s not a right or wrong set of rituals to follow, the secret to success is identifying your daily routines that can be turned into the rituals that inspire and motivate you to achieve your set of goals.

Good luck!

A version of the blog was first posted at Life Hack. 

No wonder working from home can feel stressful

2020 was series of unexpected events. Corona virus has had an impact on everything. Our health and stress levels, how we live and how we work. Many of us have had to change and adapt to a new way of living and it’s unlikely that we’ll return to ‘normal’ any time soon – if ever.

Months of adapting to change can take its toll. Many of the teams I’m working with are feeling exhausted, anxious and stressed out.

We’re all different and this sort of constant change and feelings of uncertainty affect us all in different ways. It’s true that we’re all in the same storm and yes, we’re all in very different boats.

Whatever boat you’re in, a useful tool is being able to spot your signs of stress early and then do something about them to stop stress escalating.

For me, I know that when I’m feeling stressed or under pressure I get clumsy, I’m irritable and I can’t concentrate or focus on anything.

You may experience physical signals, for example, headaches, feeling tired all the time, shallow breathing or the feeling that you’re not getting enough air.

What are your stress signals? What are the things that happen to you that signal ‘uh oh I’m getting stressed’?

When I used to say I was feeling stressed, sometimes people would helpfully suggest that I drink a glass of water or go for a walk round the block. It would really wind me up because having a drink or a walk felt like such an over simplified remedy for how I was feeling.

Then I did some research about what was happening in our bodies when we’re experiencing stress.

It turns out, that when we feel threatened, whether physically, for example feeling on edge walking down a dark street at night, or mentally, for example, threatened that our reputation is at risk if we don’t make a looming deadline our nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones. These hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol prepare the body for emergency action. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, and speed up your reaction time, preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand. This was very useful for survival if we had to run from, or fight a wild animal. It’s less helpful if you need to think slowly and carefully about the best way to respond to a difficult email from a colleague or customer.

So when we notice early signs of stress, we need to act. We need to kerb the flood of hormones preparing us to fight or flee. This is about changing our state. Which is why, if you act as soon as you feel the stress rising by changing your state by doing something as simple as having a glass of water or having a chat with someone, it can help reduce feelings of stress.

Stress and working at home

So lets think about this stress response when you’re working in an office.

You’re already feeling the pressure of a deadline, the internet is running slow and everything is taking ages to download and then you get an annoying email from your boss. ‘Argh’, you think. Enough.

You decide that rather than fire back an immediate angry response to your boss, to get a cup of tea, and have a think before you reply. You get up and walk to the kitchen. On your way you pass Steve’s desk, you say hello and offer him a cup of tea while you’re making one for yourself. He says he’ll come with you because he needs to put his lunch in the microwave queue. So you go to the kitchen together and have a chat while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. You head back to your desk feeling a whole lot better than when you left a few minutes before.

So without knowing it, your stress was rising and you stood up and changed your state, walked around and chatted with a colleague. By the time you’re back at your desk less than 10 minutes later your cortisol and adrenalin levels have reduced and you can think properly about how best to reply to the annoying email and get back to the pressing deadline.

In an office that’s how you reduce your stress and you often do it without even knowing it. When you’re at home on your own, you don’t have colleagues to chat to on the way to the kitchen, and so its easy for stress levels to escalate.

So when you’re working from home and managing your stress, it helps to be more deliberate then when you’re working in an office. Here’s our tips.

  1. Notice when your stress levels are rising – what are your early warning signs?
  2. Remember that your body is being flooded with cortisol and adrenaline and what you need to do is reduce the levels.
  3. You do this by changing your state which sounds complicated but the actions to do this are simple. We’re all different so you might need to experiment with what works best for you. Here’s some suggestions;
  • Stand up and stretch
  • Breath – slowly in and out for a few minutes
  • Get up and get a drink (preferably water, preferably not wine or gin)
  • Walk round the block
  • Walk round the lounge
  • Phone a friend
  • Water your plants
  • Make a fuss of the dog
  • Sing a song
  • Dance about.

Let us know how you get on. And if you’d like more practical help to boost your confidence then join me for this special one-day workshop that I am running with the excellent Charly White of Vivid Leadership on 13 October – 9.30 am – 4 pm.  More details and sign up here.