Useful Work Tech Tools Actually Worth Your Time

MAKE 2017 MORE PRODUCTIVE WITH THESE USEFUL APPS AND ADD-ONS ...

There are literally hundreds and thousands of productivity-enhancing apps, add-ons and other technology services that promise to make your working life that little bit simpler and a whole lot easier. I often try out new bits here and there that I hope might make life a little more streamlined and efficient. However, I also delete or dismiss many things along the way as I just don't find them all that enhancing or useful. Like me, the last thing any of us need is a whole load of unwanted apps, emails or services clogging up our already overloaded daily online lives.

Image Source: Unsplash

Image Source: Unsplash

Over time there are a few things that I've tried and continued to use and love. Apps and other online services that actually really help me out and I hope might do the very same for you. I thought I'd start sharing some of these as and when I have a list of favourites worthy of a mention. So starting today, check out my current recommendations, plus let me know any failsafe, can't live without apps or tech that you use on a daily basis that you think myself or other readers might also fall in love with.

1. Grammarly

As I often spend a large proportion of my day writing blog posts, proposals and lengthy emails this free spelling and grammar checker that you can install as an extension to Google Chrome (as well as use it in many other ways) is a godsend. I only use the free version and should probably think about upgrading to premium to get more of the very beneficial features. However, the free extension alone helps me out no end. 

Grammarly checks your grammar, punctuation and style as you write and if there are any mistakes to be fixed it will underline them in red and a little red circle will appear for you to click on to view and make changes to any errors. Seeing as Squarespace, the platform I use for this blog, has no built in spell checker I find this extension absolutely invaluable. It works across everything I do online and I love it. It also emails you once a week with a little update on how many words you've written which I think is quite a nice added and motivating feature!

2. Unroll.Me

One of the biggest distractions in my day, and I'm sure in many other peoples, is the dreaded email. I especially hate all of those nonsense emails that I get throughout the day from things I may have subscribed to ages ago and no longer have any interest in - or even from things that I'm interested in but don't want to be distracted by too many times throughout the day or week. Plus there are all the irritating things that you inadvertently get subscribed to just because you happen to have ordered or attended one thing, one time. This leads to way too much time just trying to clean up my inbox in order to even have a chance of tackling the actual important stuff! So step forward the very useful free services of the email 'unsubscription' service Unroll.Me which trust me is very, very handy.

Unroll.Me is a quick and simple way to clean up even the messiest of inboxes. Sign up with your email and it will instantly provide you with a list of everything that you have ever subscribed to. Simply go through the list and check the boxes to say whether you wish to add emails from each company to one easy daily digest or 'rollup' as they call it, whether you wish to unsubscribe altogether or whether you wish to keep the emails coming to your inbox as usual. This makes such a glorious difference to my daily email influx and is such a simple service that I've personally found incredibly beneficial.

3. Wordswag

The usefulness of the Wordswag app will depend on what you do for a living but if you spend a lot of time on social media, writing blogs or other articles online and like to share things like beautiful quotes or wish to overlay a title on a beautiful image as part of that, then this will come in incredibly useful - especially on the go from your phone. The app costs £3.99 but it's worth it. In my opinion this is one of the most user-friendly apps for words and imagery with some of the best results. 

4. Pexels and Unsplash

When I started this blog I really wanted to try and use my own imagery as much as possible. I love beautiful photos to accompany a post and spend far too long worrying about how something looks instead of just getting down to business! As time went on I realised that not having the right photographs was sometimes holding me back from just cracking on with getting my ideas down on the blog and out into the world. Plus as I often talk about work related subjects, creating my own suitable imagery can be a bit of a task. There are only so many ways that I can personally think of to photograph my own desk!

When I don't have personal, good quality images worth sharing to accompany an idea that I still want to share with the world, I now turn to either Pexels or Unsplash for royalty free stock photographs that are actually nice enough to headline a professional and creative post. These sites have really helped me out since using them and if you're in need of something similar I'd recommend trying them out. You don't even have to credit the photographs or photographer (I just do it to set them apart from my own imagery in line with my disclaimer!)

 

Which online tools or apps do you find most useful in your working lives? Anything you'd recommend me giving a go next for a more productive, inspired and creative 2017? I'd love to hear your favourites too!

Louise

 


Finding Your Hygge In The Workplace

EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT HYGGE BUT HOW CAN YOU HOO-GA AT WORK?

So here I am, jumping on the bandwagon, but there's a word that seems to be steadily making its way into mainstream consciousness lately and given its relationship to happiness and wellbeing, topics I love to discuss here on the blog, it would be foolish of me not to acknowledge it! Hygge is the latest Scandinavian concept to have found its way to our door, and being a huge fan of the autumn season and all things cosy and warm, I for one have been mightily happy to embrace the idea of hygge from the outset. 

Image Source: Unsplash

Image Source: Unsplash

WHAT IS HOO-GA AND HOW CAN IT ENHANCE OUR WELLBEING? Hygge, pronounced hoo-ga, derives from the Norwegian word for wellbeing, but is ultimately an idea that has been most embraced by the Danes in Denmark, a country that consistently takes the top spot as the happiest country in the world. It incorporates certain concepts and ideas all of which contribute toward helping you feel more hyggelig (hygee-like) in your daily life. These concepts include: atmosphere, presence, togetherness, comfort, gratitude and harmony and there are various ways in which the Danes in particular, make sure that they bring this into their everyday lives, be that through lighting, clothing, interiors or simply a steaming hot drink and a good old piece of delicious cake shared with friends and family.

SO WHAT IS THIS HYGGE AND WHY EXACTLY DOES IT MAKE PEOPLE SO HAPPY? "Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down." - Meik Wiking author of The Little Book Of Hygge, The Danish Way To Live Well.

SO HOW ON EARTH CAN I BRING HYGGE INTO MY WORKPLACE?  Well, it can be done! It might take a little thought, plus it does depend on your working environment and possible limitations or restrictions, but here are a few simple ways that you can embrace this cosy concept when at your desk during the daily 9 to 5. 

 

FIVE HYGGE FRIENDLY WORKPLACE TIPS

1. Keep Cosy With Hygge Friendly Wardrobe Extras: You can embrace that feeling of cosiness and comfort by making sure you have the right added extras at your desk ready for when it starts to feel a little chilly and therefore not very hygge. Have a cosy jumper, fleece or a warm scarf to wrap up in and sat ready and waiting on the back of your chair. Plus one great tip from the Hello Hygge website is to pop a spare pair of socks in your desk drawer. I'd never really considered this before but what a blessing if you've suffered a particularly soggy walk to work on colder, wintery days. Definitely a top tip to embrace asap!

2. Move Around Your Space: Does your entire working day really need to be bound to the confines of your desk? Take every opportunity to move around and mix it up a little. Perhaps you can hold a meeting in a slightly cosier and more relaxed area of the office? Or instead of pinging emails around all day from department to department, why not head upstairs or downstairs to said department and chat to that person face to face. Giving yourself a physical break and some healthy human interaction!

3. Make Sure You Enjoy Your Lunchbreak: I'm going to say it again, even though I say it all the time on here! Make sure you get away from your desk during your lunch break. Plus during that break, switch off from technology, enjoy your lunch and whatever you're eating and maybe use this time to embrace some more 'in real life' contact and connection with your colleagues. Wrap up warm and take a walk with someone from your office. Bond, connect, move, eat and enjoy. That's the hygge way!

4. Snack Well: Sometimes you just gotta snack in order to get you through a busy day. But choosing the right nibbles will help in a positive way, banishing those deskside blues and annoying afternoon slumps. If you want to snack smarter during your working day then try putting some of these treats together to take with you and keep in your office drawer: Snacking Smarter. Don't fall foul to that 3pm lull - here are some tips for how best to avoid a very non-hyggelig feeling on a cold and grey afternoon in the office: How To Beat That Annoying 3pm Slump.

5. Use Lighting To Create A Hygge Atmosphere:  Lighting plays a key part in the hygge way of life. Now I'm not stupid, I know that changing the lighting at most workplaces is going to be a difficult task. However, you may be able to increase that feeling of warmth and stave off the drawing winter nights with an additional lamp on your desk. Pick lamps with a warm and slightly orange light to give that candlelit kind of feel and a soft and calming glow. You could also use light to help start the working day in a more positive way. There are many lamps on the market now, like these ones from Lumie, that help you wake gradually to a soft pool of light. Instead of being woken rudely by your iPhone to the cold, stark darkness of a British winter morning!

 

I hope this helps you find a little hygge in the workplace during the autumn and winter months. Let me know your tips for creating a warmer, friendlier working environment during the colder season. I'd love to hear your ideas as well.

Louise

 


Don't Forget To Go Home On Time

AS NATIONAL WORK LIFE WEEK BEGINS IT'S #TIMETOREBALANCE AND GO HOME ON TIME

National work life week begins again today in the UK and if you've recently been feeling the pressure, no matter where you are in the world, then this is a great week to sit back and take a fresh look at your working life and where it is that you may wish to redress the balance. This Wednesday 5th October also marks the annual Go Home On Time Day as part of the week long campaign so if you're someone who always finds themselves stuck in the office long after you should have headed home then why not make a pledge this Wednesday to pack up and head home on time. Go and do something good for yourself to help you feel more balanced.

Image Source: Pexels

Image Source: Pexels

National work life week is a campaign run by Working Families UK who are at the forefront of helping UK workers find a more family friendly and flexible working life. But whatever our circumstances I'm sure we can all do with taking time now and again to check in with the balance or lack thereof in our lives. 

This week why not take a moment to ask yourself a few questions about your work and life.

  1. Which fulfilling activities do I enjoy doing that have no association with my working life?
  2. Do I build enough time into my week to make time for these activities?
  3. If not, how can I make more time to fit these in?

There are always some tasks that can ultimately wait, that maybe sap more time than they should, or that maybe you need to be willing to give up in order to make more time for something else. You have to make certain times in the week sacred whether that be after work or perhaps at the weekends. Times when you don't spend hours scrolling through social media, when you leave that last email that could actually be answered in the morning and you take the time to do something different. Even if that just means relaxing with your partner and watching the latest must see on Netflix! There has to be time each week that you let your mind off from thinking about the pressures of work.

Over the last couple of years interviewing different people for this blog I've come to pick up some useful tips about finding work-life balance from various people with all sorts of different commitments, deadlines and hectic schedules. Today I've gathered together some of the wisdom that they've imparted that I think is well worth re-thinking about during this week in particular.

 

HOW DO OTHERS DEFINE AND IMPLEMENT THEIR OWN WORK-LIFE BALANCE?

1. Erica Buist, Guardian Journalist and author of the blog 'How To Be Jobless' wisely says:

"Weekends are sacred. They are set aside for my fiancé and I to be together. If I absolutely have to work, we plan for him to be doing something at the same time, plan a mutual finish time and often go on a date to make up for it."

"Talking about work is allowed, but dwelling and repeating ourselves isn't. Once we've talked through a worry, we stop each other from getting stuck on it."

Read my full interview with Erica here: The Guardian's Erica Buist Talks Surviving Joblessness.

2. Louise Padmore, Co-Founder of Work Wellbeing talks about how she makes sure she finds a weekly balance:

"At the beginning of my week I always make sure to schedule into my diary the times of yoga classes that I will attend that week, times for catching up with friends or calling family, and time for my own free choice of doing whatever takes my fancy, be that reading, shopping or doing absolutely nothing! I treat these appointments as I would an important meeting with a client, and try my very best to never cancel or reschedule."

Read more about Louise's thoughts on wellbeing in the workplace (and beyond) here: Discussing Work Wellbeing With Louise Padmore.

3. Film Director Matthew Harman discusses how he gets his balance back after a particularly full on period of work:

"There are times when work takes over my life, like when I’m away on a multiple day shoot, but then it’s important to take some time out when it’s all over. Step back and reconnect with your life, whether it’s catching up with friends, your hobbies, or just getting some exercise. It’s not just for your own health - it’s easy to burn out and make yourself ill - but it’s also because it gives you better perspective on your work."

Read more about Matthew in his full interview here: Loving Life In Film With Director Matthew Harmer.

 

So how is your work-life balance looking to you? What will you do this Wednesday? Go home on time and spend time for you? Or stick at your desk way beyond the close of the day? 

Not just this Wednesday but maybe at least once every week, why not make sure you definitely get away on time and fit in one of those life activities that you keep on meaning to do. Not work related, not chore related, purely life related that makes you feel much brighter and gives you time to unwind and reflect. Let me know what it is that you plan to do and get more involved in the conversation and share ideas with others using the hashtag #TimeToRebalance on social media.

Enjoy your week everyone.

Louise

 


5 Podcasts To Inspire, Intrigue And Motivate

I've been meaning to get into listening to podcasts for a long time but I've often been too distracted by other things to find time to listen to them properly. So whilst the world got well and truly on-board and really got inspired by all things audio I was still busy faffing around with other stuff! Recently though I've made time to tune in and finally listen to all sorts of podcasts to see what tickles my fancy and a special few are fast becoming a much appreciated source of ideas and enjoyment.

Image Source: Pexels

Image Source: Pexels

Now as you may already know, there are so, so many podcasts out there on all sorts of topics and covering many genres. Today I'm sharing but a handful of my current favourites incase you are new to the podcast game like me and looking to get started. Or perhaps you're a huge podcast fan already and after something new to excite the ears! These five podcasts all bring a little brightness and thoughtfulness to my day and I hope they do the same for you too.

 

MY TOP 5 PODCASTS TO INSPIRE, INTRIGUE AND MOTIVATE

1. Tough Girl Podcast by Sarah Williams is definitely one to tune in to if you're looking for motivation and inspiration. Sarah Williams interviews women from all over the world, in all sorts of professions, who have faced any number of challenges. Get inspired by their true stories and the grit and advice on offer to help you overcome your own hurdles.

2. Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon is a podcast that also focuses on interviews with inspirational guests but the theme is very much centered on the digital age and how the internet and social media has changed the world we live in forever. Emma is also the author of a bestselling book by the same title that I haven't yet had a chance to read so I'd be intrigued to hear if any of you have read it and what your thoughts are?

3. Spark True Stories Live is a collection of true stories told by anyone and everyone in all walks of life and on any subject that you can imagine. Spark hold live events in London, Preston and Bristol where people are invited on stage to share their tales. It's so true that good stories bring us closer together and listening to these will bring joy, laughter and sometimes tears. They are also very short which is a nice change from some of the much longer and more in depth podcasts out there. Small snippets of real life delivered by real people.

4. The Lively Show by Jess Lively has regularly been listed as one of the top podcasts that all female entrepreneurs should listen to and is a very positive and uplifting listen. Jess tackles everything with a thoughtful brightness and her subject matter is always relative to the struggles of today's modern world. The advice imparted by herself and her guests leaves food for thought and intentional, useful points for action.

5. Don't Salt My Game with Laura Thomas PhD is one for when you need to get back on track when it comes to your own health and wellness. As a registered nutritionist Laura talks to all sorts of guests on many positive wellness issues. From mindfulness to finding better balance in your life, join Laura and her pool of inspiring experts as they cover both the good and the bad and share their professional and incredibly handy tips and advice.

 

So that's my personal top five right now, especially when it comes to finding motivation or sources of positive encouragement within life and in the workplace.

Do you listen to any of the above or do you have any further recommendations that you think I should be downloading next? Let me know in the comments below and happy listening!

Louise