Did Excel Cause the Government to Lose Covid Testing Data?

At the end of last month, there were a lot of headlines and articles about the fact that nearly 16,000 Covid-19 cases had gone unreported. To be precise, between the 25th September and the 2nd October, 15,841 cases had been left out of the government’s daily figures for England. Whilst all of the cases had been immediately informed that their test result was positive, there were significant delays in speaking to them to complete any contact tracing that might be required.

Speaking in the House of Commons on 5 October the Health secretary Matt Hancock said the issue had been caused by Public Health England (PHE) using a “legacy system” and he described the problem as a “glitch”. It then emerged that the issue was also something to do with the use of Microsoft Excel. So, what exactly was the problem?

The error was caused because of the process used by the PHE to consolidate data. Commercial firms paid to analyse Covid tests, submitted results as text-based lists called CSV (Comma Separated Value) files. These caused no problems. It was the file format PHE’s developers were using that led to cases being missed.

An old Excel file format known as XLS, which dates back to 1987 was being used. Microsoft replaced it with an updated version, XLSX, in 2007. An XLS file can only hold around 65,000 rows of data (65,536 precisely). The current version of Excel is capable of holding over a million rows of data.

Although there were, at that point, nowhere near 65,000 positive cases a day being identified, each test result created several rows of data, so any one XLS worksheet could only hold 1,400 cases. Once the worksheet had been filled, further cases were simply left off. Although many articles talk about exceeding Maximum file size, this is misleading, as maximum file size refers to something else entirely.

The big question is why an older Excel file format was used in the first place. If the most up to date version of Excel had been used, it would have handled 16 times the number of cases, which would have, at the very least, stopped this problem from occurring until the number of tests being processed was much higher.

The older format could have been used because XLS file format allows macros, whereas the newer XLSM does not, but an Excel file is very easily saved in the XLSM format, which does allow macros.

It was the fact that the PHE had, as Matt Hancock said used a “legacy system” that may be the real reason that the older format was chosen. On YouTube, Stand-up Maths posted on this subject and quoted an anonymous source in the NHS:

“Even up until very recently…this year (2020), they were using an old database within the NHS which has been around for over a decade and if they wanted to export a selection of those data points, because of a compatibility issue they could only export it as a XLS format”.

It seems that this could be the likely explanation. The NHS has been involved in a number of events in recent years, when using outdated software has caused it problems.

In the end, however, some have argued that it wasn’t the use of an outdated version of Excel that was the problem, it was the use of Excel at all, saying that Excel isn’t designed to handle such large amounts of data. That just isn’t true though. The row limit in the newest version of Excel is over 1 million, as noted earlier, but even this can be exceeded by using tools that come built into the program.

Rather than blame the tool used, the Association of Professional Healthcare Analysts, writing to the Health Secretary said:” This is not an IT glitch… This is a systematic failure that… can only be improved by long term investment in infrastructure and training.”.

It is understandable that the system to collate the data on Covid testing was put together quickly, but given the billions of pounds that have been spent on the Test and Trace system, this mistake should not have happened. And we certainly shouldn’t be blaming Excel.

World Vegan Month

November is World Vegan Month. Most people think of a vegan as someone who does not eat animals. That is certainly the case, but Veganism extends beyond this. It is a way of life that tries to avoid all forms of cruelty to animals for food, products, or any other purpose. Eating only a plant-based diet is at the heart of veganism, but it is only the beginning of it. Vegans not only do not eat meat; they also avoid fish, dairy, eggs, and honey. They will also not wear or use products like leather or fur.

“Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” – The Vegan Society

There are a number of good, proven reasons to become vegan:

  • For your own health. Studies have shown that consuming animal fats and proteins is linked to heart disease, colon and lung cancer, diabetes, obesity, and other conditions.
  • There is even some evidence that becoming a vegan treats/reverses health conditions you may already have. It is not a magic cure all, but a good balanced vegan diet would, in most cases, help with weight loss, which would, in turn, help with conditions like diabetes and heart problems.
  • Weight loss, in itself, is a good goal to help to stay healthy, even if you already are. Many animal products are calorie-dense. Sticking to a plant-based diet helps you lose weight and, more importantly, stay slim. 
  • Avoid food poisoning. Animal products can contain bacteria and other toxins. Not only that, but intensively farmed meat may also be laced with such things as antibiotics and hormones. The spectre of chlorine washed chicken being on UK supermarket shelves may make more people think of the Vegan option.
  • The wide variety of new meals. Rather than restricting you in what you eat, Veganism can lead you to try amazing new meals! There are more than 20,000 kinds of edible plants in the world. With spices, herbs and the right accompaniments, the possibilities are almost endless.
  • There has never been a better and easier time to become vegan. Supermarkets have entire sections of vegan food. Nearly every restaurant offers at least one vegan option and most more. Veganism is also becoming more and more popular.

In the past being a Vegan was not as easy as it currently is, with food-stores not offering vegan alternatives and restaurants not having not vegan options. Now there are meat substitutes and even honey and butter substitutes, so that being a vegan has never been easier and you don’t have to give up on things that you once would have missed.

World Vegan Month was established in 1994 to celebrate fifty years since the creation of The Vegan Society in the UK. There are celebrations and festivals to mark it, although, obviously this year celebrations are likely to be different. However, there are still some events occurring and you can find out more here.

You can also try out some Vegan recipes:

5 Minute Vegan Pancakes

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Creamy Vegan Pasta

Pumpkin curry with chickpeas

Veganism goes beyond diet and what you eat, however. Some would argue that it also entails practicing a cruelty free life style. Not using animal products for other purposes and being aware that many things we use every day can contain animal products or may have been tested on animals, and this can be everything from lipstick to deodorant. Veganism can also be about social responsibility and helping to preserve and improve the environment.

Websites:

Go Vegan

The Vegan Society

Hashtag  #VeganMonth

10 Top Tips for National Novel Writing Month

It is said that everyone has a novel in them, but if you have always wanted to write one, but never had the time, or if you’ve started novels, but never finished them, then perhaps you should sign up to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It takes place in November and is an annual event where participants commit to writing a 50,000-word novel between November 1-30. It has to be a novel, not a play, or poem (or even the sentence “I can’t do this”, typed over and over again).

Starting at midnight (local time) on November 1st, writers can draft a new novel or re-write an old one, although you cannot continue a work-in-progress. Planning and outlining beforehand are, however, allowed.

“Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you.” – Neil Gaiman

There are no prizes. You ‘win’ by completing the challenge of writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. This means you’ll need to write an average of 1,667 words per day. You can sign up at NaNoWriMo website  and upload your completed novel there to verify your word count.

It seems like a daunting task, but here are 10 tips to make the whole challenge a little less intimidating.

1.LOVE the book you’re writing. Write the book or story that you really want to write, rather than one that you think would be commercial, or that you should write.

2. Work backwards. Plan only the ending of your story first and start writing. Once you have reached the end, you can go back and rework the novel, putting in elements that relate to the ending, ensuring that you reach it seamlessly.

3. Try writing for just a number of short periods a day. Surprisingly, two 15-minute bursts of writing every day may be enough. Even if you are not producing enough words initially, you will start to write more and more, and hopefully catch up.

4. Really know your characters. Know them better than your partner, your child, or your best friend. Give them a challenge, understand their character’s motivations and think how they will react to given situations. Ask yourself what would cause them the most conflict. See where your characters take you; you may have an outline, but your characters may take you off on an unexpected tangent. Let them.

5. Don’t expect your writing or novel to be perfect.  You won’t have every plot detail, or character motivation before you even begin. You can even think of the novel’s first draft as a way of gathering material and collecting as many ideas together as possible that can be then used later as part of your masterpiece.

6. ‘Build’ the world of your novel. Plan its backstory, geography, infrastructure and culture to ensure a tight internal continuity.

7. Try to distil the premise of your story into one sentence, defining the protagonist and his or her journey. Or you can just plot the most important scenes, even if you don’t know what happens between them, it still means you will have a roadmap to work with.

8. Don’t try to Edit as you write. Get everything down first, letting the words and ideas flow. Remember, this is not the finished novel; it is just the first draft.

9. Set aside a certain amount of time every day, whether it’s half an hour, or two hours, to write. Write at the same time every day, if having the routine makes it more likely that you will do the writing. 

10. If you suffer the dreaded writer’s block then stop writing the part you are writing and write something else. A different chapter, something that was not going to happen for another four chapters. Anything. Just make a note of what you were trying to do at that point you got stuck and you can go back and finish it later.

Bonus Tip – Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t write. There will be delays, things will interrupt you; you will just be simply too tired. Accept these times, because they will just happen. Carry on again when you can.

NaNoWriMo can be a lot of fun and it can help you with your writing ambitions. It isn’t easy, but it can be incredibly rewarding and even if you don’t quite get to the magic 50, 000 words, you are still left with much more experience and the start (or even the start and middle) of a novel that you can continue on with after the challenge is over.

Computer Learning/Emotional Intelligence Month

October is Computer Learning Month. It is also Emotional Intelligence month. Although these seem quite diverse subjects, they are both about improving our own skills. They are also both about connecting with other people, either through understanding emotions or by being able to use all the digital methods of communication.

Computer Learning Month

Computers are now in every part of our lives. From the smartphones that we spend so much time using, to the laptops and desktops in all businesses. However, although for some, computers have always been part of their lives, in relative terms, it is not really that long they were not as ubiquitous as they now are. Although it is easy to assume that everyone is able to use computers, that isn’t the case. Computer Learning Month is for those who have difficulty working with computers, or just need a refresher.

People may not be familiar with computers because of a lack of opportunity, or because they are from a generation before computers were widely used. While many people will live their lives quite happily without using computers, it is increasingly disadvantageous not to have basic computer skills.

Computer Learning Month was established to encourage those who aren’t familiar with computers. It highlights the opportunities available to learn more about computers, such as classes at local libraries starting with courses on things such as basic internet usage.

Computer Learning is essential because computers are involved in almost everything, such as paying bills, scheduling appointments, and finding information on almost everything, so it’s important that people are not left behind. There is already, an increasing digital divide, between those who do and don’t have access to a computer.

You can celebrate Computer Learning Month, by enrolling in classes to build on your skills. Of course, at Infero, we offer courses at all levels. However, even if you already have good computer skills, there is always something new you can learn to help enhance your abilities.

Better knowledge of computing enables people to stay in touch with friends, families and friends, especially in the current situation. We have a previous post that gives some tips on increasing your Computer Learning here.

#ComputerLearningMonth

Emotional Intelligence Month

October is also Emotional Intelligence month and its annual campaign to educate people about the subject began in 2006. The Emotional Intelligence Institute organizes Emotional Intelligence Month and offers free educational materials for free on the non-profit’s website.

Managing and developing our emotions and understanding those of others is critical for all of us. As well as the information available we have 10 ways to improve your Emotional Intelligence here.

#EmotionalIntelligenceAwarenessMonth

10 Ways to Improve Your Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) or emotional quotient (EQ) is the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others. It is not only recognising your own emotions; it is being able manage these appropriately and being able to help others manage their’s. Emotional Intelligence also allows us to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving.

Although there is no Test for Emotional Intelligence in the same way that there are IQ tests, the idea of emotional Intelligence has gained wide acceptance. Some employers incorporate emotional intelligence assessment into their interview processes, as someone high in emotional intelligence makes a better leader or co-worker.

 Although the term Emotional Intelligence first appeared in 1964, it gained popularity in the 1995 book ‘Emotional Intelligence’, written by the science journalist Daniel Goleman.

However good your own emotional intelligence you can use the 10 simple ideas below to improve and develop your self-awareness and empathy.

1. Practice Observing How You Feel

Given the pace of many of our lives it is easy to lose touch with our emotions and miss out on the valuable information these emotions contain.  Paying attention to how we’re feeling helps us to learn to trust our emotions, and become more adept at managing them.

You can practice by setting a time to notice how you’re feeling emotionally. Is an emotion showing up as a physical feeling in your body and what does the sensation feels like?

2. Pay Attention to How You Behave

By paying attention to your behaviour and noticing how you act when experiencing certain emotions, you can begin to understand how these impact your communication with others, your productivity and sense of well-being. Be careful not to slip into judging your own behaviour too much however.

3. Use an Assertive Communication Style

Assertive communication earns respect without being too aggressive or too passive. Strong Emotional intelligence allows you to communicate your opinions directly while still respecting others.

4. Maintain Motivation.

Self-motivation is a characteristic of emotionally intelligent people. Setting goals and being resilient in the face of challenges also helps them motivate others.

5. Use Active Listening skills.

During conversations, emotionally intelligent people make sure they understand what is being said before responding, so do this. Also try to pay attention to the nonverbal details when conversing. You will avoid misunderstandings and respond properly to other people.

6. Have A Positive Attitude.

Attitudes are important and a negative attitude can affect others.  Emotionally intelligent people are aware of the moods of those around them and change their attitude accordingly. Create a positive environment by making time to notice what is going well and what you should be grateful for. This can be contagious to people around you too.

7. Practice Self-awareness.

Emotionally intelligent people are aware of their own emotions and how they can affect those around them. Make sure you are aware of your own and others’ emotions and use that information to enhance your communication skills.

8. Use Criticism Constructively

Being criticised is never easy, but part of increasing your emotional intelligence is seeing criticism as positively as possible. Don’t be offended or defensive, but take a few moments to understand where the critique is coming from.  Use this knowledge to constructively resolve any issues.

9. Empathise with Others.

Empathy is a trait that shows emotional strength. It helps us relate to others on a basic human level. Use empathy to promote mutual respect and understanding between people with differing opinions and situations.

10. Utilise Leadership Skills.

Emotionally intelligent people are excellent leaders. Because they have high standards for themselves, they set an example for others to follow. Good emotional intelligence promotes good decision making and problem-solving skills.

Bonus: Be Approachable and Sociable.

It is fairly obvious that emotionally intelligent people will be perceived by others as friendly and approachable. Focus on using appropriate social skills and communicating clearly with those around you in all social situations and see a boost to your own emotional intelligence.

There are individuals who are naturally empathetic and emotional intelligence skills come to them much more easily, but anyone can develop them. Being more self-aware and conscious of how you interact with others as well as following the methods outlined above will undoubtedly increase your emotional intelligence level. And Increasing emotional intelligence is an ongoing project; it is always possible to keep improving.

Live Half-Day Virtual Training

After the success of our Virtual Online Training, Infero is now able to offer Training that is even more flexible and convenient. It is now possible to divide your training into half-days, allowing you to complete your course whilst still maintaining your work schedule, attending important meetings and meeting other commitments. This is Remote learning tailored exactly to you and your organisation’s requirements.

“…delivered to suit you, your work-patterns and the requirements of your organisation.”

At Infero, we know how difficult it can be to schedule training, especially in the current situation; juggling the availability of team members and complex working can be hard to do, but there is a solution.

…full interaction with your trainer, and…having the flexibility of breaking your course into half day sessions.”

Infero can now offer all of our Training Courses, from Microsoft Office through to Time Management divided into half days of Virtual Online Training. This means that it is now possible to train for half a day, whilst working for the other half. You can choose either morning sessions for your training, or afternoon sessions, or even a mixture of both.

Infero’s Virtual Online Training has all of the advantages of Classroom study, but without the effort and cost of travelling. You get the full interaction with your trainer that you would expect in a normal course, whilst still being able to keep up with your day to day working commitments. Find out more about Virtual Online Training here.

“Virtual training is an online, interactive classroom where people meet live. Participants engage in learning activities and interact with the Trainer/Facilitator, as well as each other…allowing group discussion, individual questions and practice exercises, all in real time.”

 For our training at Infero, we use WebEx video training platform. It is exceptionally easy to check if your system meets WebEx requirements, but all you really need is an internet-connected computer or laptop, with either a built-in microphone or headphones with a mic. For some courses you may require an additional screen. This can be a second computer monitor, a normal TV (to which you can connect using a standard HDMI cable used to connect most peripherals), or even a tablet.

Infero had now made it possible to have Live, Online Training that provides full interaction with your trainer, and at the same time having the flexibility of breaking your course into half day sessions. This can then be delivered to suit you, your work-patterns and the requirements of your organisation.

6 Easy Ways to Improve Your Computer Skills

Computers are everywhere. They are in almost every workplace and, with the increase in Remote working, they have become even more important. This means that now, more than ever, it is important to have basic computer skills, or to be ‘computer literate’, as it is sometimes known. Computer literacy also makes you more efficient and productive in the workplace and increases your desirability to employers.

So just how do you develop and enhance your computer skills?

1. Start with the Basics

For some very good reasons, there are some people who still can’t accomplish basic tasks such as typing, powering a computer on and off, or learning keyboard commands. If you fall into this category, don’t worry. Many local authorities in the UK provide basic computer courses. The BBC also provides a beginner’s guide that can be downloaded and printed or viewed on a tablet or phone. If  you want to get know how to use Windows, there are lots of tutorials and other learning material on the Microsoft website. You can even start learning without a computer. There are many books that cover basic computer skills.

2. Just Try It

Don’t be afraid to try something on a computer. There are very few things (short of using a hammer) that will permanently break your machine. Just be sure that you have copies of anything important before you experiment. Like anything, regular practice will enhance your skills, making it easier to perform these tasks often. And learning more advanced computer skills will become less intimidating.

3. Search for Answers Online

Once you have mastered the basics, if you do come across something that confuses you, search online. Just ‘Google it’. You will be surprised how many step-by-step articles you will find that will cover what you want exactly. 

4. Take a Course

If you want to learn specific software like Microsoft Office, there are lots of courses you can find online, some of them even free. These will increase your knowledge and skills. Of course, Infero offers courses at all levels and for many different software packages. Not only that, we offer Virtual Courses, conducted online, with a live trainer, able to re-explain or go over any area and answer any questions.

5. Get Together with Other People

There may be a Computer Club near you that has meetings for beginnings. In the office, if you have a computer skill or program you want to learn but don’t have the resources, you can try talking to your managers. If there are other employees in the office with the same requirement, your company may be more willing to consider training if they know there is a general need, or if they see that it’s to their advantage.

6. Help Someone Else

Studies have shown that the best way to understand a concept yourself is to teach it to someone else. Also, the people you help may ask questions that you may not have ever thought of. Helping them will expand your own understanding and help someone in the process.

The thing to remember is not to be scared of Computers. Computers are designed to do exactly what you tell them to do and are really much simpler than you think. Who knows what you could accomplish!

How to Maintain Work Friendships when Remote Working

Many studies have shown that having friends at work is vital and makes you seven times more likely to be engaged in your job. People with workplace friendships are nearly 3 times more likely to say that they love their companies and 2 times less likely to be poached by another company. Good interaction has positive effects on our well-being.

“Connecting with people boosts our mood and our morale, and friendships provide us with the emotional and psychological strength to deal with whatever comes our way”

– Annie McKee

Friends at work make you more motivated and up to seven times more productive. There is no doubt that having someone in the workplace to cheer you up when you’re down or chat to when you’re bored can massively improve how much you enjoy your time at work. The work produced is better in fact; employees with a friend have a 35% higher dedication to quality than their counterparts.

People with friends at work have a much higher level of workplace satisfaction, are more loyal to the company and less likely to leave. They also act as brand ambassadors speaking well about the company and are less likely to leave, decreasing office turnover. People with good office friendships are just happier.

Of course, our relationships within the workplace should also remain positive and professional and not become inappropriate. Harassment, favouritism, and abuse of authority, can also stem from close social rapport between co-workers. It’s important to avoid all the pitfalls of office relationships and respect people’s boundaries. A good way to do this is to avoid office gossip. We should also ensure we include non-friends in work projects, and treat everybody, those we like and those we may not like so much, fairly and equally.

However, as long as a healthy balance is struck, leading scientists and psychologists agree that good social relationships are immensely beneficial. Organisations are simply a network of people. The better balanced the relationships between those people become, the better the organisation functions.

Is Working from Home the New Normal?

The Coronavirus Pandemic has meant that many people have been furloughed or working from home. As lockdown has been lifted, personal and professional remain distinctly different from before Covid-19. Since remote working does not seem to have harmed productivity, many believe that it is a ‘new normal’, with up to 75% of employees wanting to continue working from home.

Certainly staff are reporting improved productivity and job satisfaction and companies that continue working from home will be able to reduce fixed and overhead costs. No more stress  traffic and road rage on the office commute. Workers also have the freedom to  run errands usually unmanageable in  a 9-5 routine.

Some critics argue that the convenience of flexible working can’t compensate for what’s lost in creativity and connectedness. Are the figures on increased productivity misleading?

There’s strong evidence that working in teams yield better results. Social psychologist Floyd Allport found that people worked better in teams, even if they weren’t collaborating, establishing an effect known as ‘social facilitation’. So, employees and businesses alike must ask themselves whether working from home is actually as beneficial as it’s been made out to be.

Remote working is likely to become a big part of our future.  Some will enjoy the increased freedom and flexibility but others will long for the days before COVID reshaped the workplace and there are warnings of ‘ghost towns’ if staff do not return to the office. 

Given the importance of workplace relationships there are ways to improve connectivity among the workforce and measures can be implemented to create a connected workforce bridging physical gaps. Activities focusing on relationship building can be adapted to online work environments, with the addition of virtual coffee breaks, regular check-ins, virtual mentoring & lunch catch-ups. Companies should implement measures that build trust and show support. To achieve this, leaders within organisations must take action to provide support during times of excessive stress or concern.

The government is currently urging workers to return to work, if they can. If companies follow Government Guidelines correctly then returning to the workplace will be very different experience, with colleagues wearing masks, separated by partitions and one way systems. There will be fewer people in the office, as businesses will have to limit numbers in the office, to allow for social distancing.

Polls also show that many want to continue working from home. Some argue that what will emerge is a hybrid model, with much more flexibility. Whatever is eventually the outcome, it is certain that work friendships and the dynamics of office interaction will be different.

The Pandemic Is Changing Work Friendships

Co-workers had little choice but to bond when they spent 40 hours a week together. But if widespread remote work sticks around, those relationships will never be the same.  If having a close work friend does increase productivity, and even company loyalty, will these changes have long term effects?

“What we’re doing through virtual work is we’re neutralizing the social aspect of [work],”

–  Hilla Dotan

We may need to be proactive to maintain relationships that once were easy, since we are no longer spending thirty to forty hours in the company of colleagues.  Remote-work friendships may need extra effort, which will not be easy, especially as the longer term effects of the pandemic start to be seen. It is likely, though, that people will likely still go the extra mile for co-workers they really connect with. It is time to remember just how important the support of work place friends can be.

Friendship/Read A New Book Month

September is the ninth month of the year and the third of four months to have a length of 30 days. It is also Friendship Month and Read a New Book Month. Friendship Month celebrates the importance of friendship and what is means for us all, whilst Read a New Book Month is an opportunity to finally complete the novel you haven’t finished.

Friendship Month

We rely on our friends and we require friendships to feel emotionally and socially fulfilled. Friendship Month is all about celebrating what friendship can do for us. Friends can help us with problems and make us happier and better balanced. The time we spend with friends is vitally important and Friendship Month aims to recognise that fact.

Friendship Month is an opportunity to reach out to new people and make friends with them. We’re never too old to make new friends and that’s something that more people are now realising; in part, thanks to Friendship Month.

History of Friendship Month

Friendship month was founded in 2010 by The Oddfellows Friendly Society, who have no political or religious affiliations, stating “we’re here for everyone – from all walks of life and ages.”

How to Celebrate Friendship Month

There is a range of activities and events organised by Oddfellows that you can get involved with, for Friendship month. Even the current climate has not stopped this and they have lots of online social events planned and virtual open days, as well as a number of socially-distanced outdoor ones, too. You’ll have a good time and meet regulars who attend each year.

However, Friendship Month is something you can recognise privately if you wish, by spending more time with your friends and appreciating them. Or by getting back in touch with people who you may have lost touch with.

Use the excuse of Friendship Month to contact the people you perhaps have been meaning to get in touch with for a long time.

Hashtag  #FriendshipMonth

Read A New Book Month

There is nothing better than reading a book. When you open a book you enter new worlds, and find yourself swept up in the lives of extraordinary characters. Or the book may be a history book, an academic tome, an autobiography or an instructional manual.  The best books, even non-fiction, have a story that shares the vision of the author. During Read A New Book Month, dive into a novel or open that DIY manual you bought to finish that project

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” – Stephen King

History of Read A New Book Month

The first written word appeared in 3400BC, and the first story was The Epic of Gilgamesh, the ruler of the Sumerian city-state of Uruk between 2700-2500BC, told in a mythological style. This first tale was written on clay tablets, and through history books have been written on bark pages, rolled pages of papyrus, right up to the books and e-readers we’re familiar with today.

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” – Margaret Fuller

Celebrate Read A New Book Month

Read A Book Month encourages you to take in as many books as you can. At the least during the month, read one new book. If you want to be more ambitious try reading a new book every week, and swap books with friends and family. Join a book club or set up your own. And don’t let Read A New Book Month go by without trying a new author!

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx

Hashtag  #ReadANewBookMonth

10 Ways to Manage Time Effectively

Do you manage your time well or are there never enough hours in the day? For many, Lockdown and the increased trend for working from home has been a been a boon for productivity, but if you struggle to keep on top of work wherever you are, these tips are for you.

The UK has had a productivity problem for a while now. The figure, which is measured by output per hour worked, has flatlined over the last decade and was even dropping quite sharply at the end of 2019, and we have yet to see the effects that the Covid-19 pandemic will have. Having effective Time management skills will increase your own productivity and your value to the business you work for. They are also very useful in your personal life. Following the tips below will be a great start to improving your managing of Time.

1. Have a way to Check the Time

It sounds obvious, but have a clock or watch placed visibly in front of you. Keep a check on what you are doing and don’t spend an hour on emails instead of completing important projects.

2. Set a Time Limit

Decide that you need to finish Task A by 10am, Task B by 3pm, and Task C by 5:30pm etc. Don’t allow tasks to drag on and take time from other activities. You can even ‘Time Box’ your activities, which means allocating a fixed time period to a planned activity, working on the activity for that period and stopping when the time is up.

3. Have a To-Do List

Everyone had tried this, but just having a list of things to do does not make you into a Time Management wizard. If you only spend five minutes writing your To-Do list, then it will probably be of no help at all. A To-Do list requires thought. Plan too many big tasks in your daily list and it is inevitable that you will not get them done. Creating a task list is not secondary thing to try to do as quickly as possible. Making a task list realistic will mean completing it will be less stressful for you.

Not Too Many Tasks for One Day – It is difficult to say how many tasks you should plan for, but the biggest mistake most people make is to have too many on their list. Obviously, it depends on the work you are doing, but 5-10 tasks should be enough for a day.

Balanced – The task list contains both important and less important tasks. We may be tempted to work only on the most important tasks, but we have to take care of the less important tasks as well.

Flexible – What happens when you have planned a task, but cannot do it for whatever reason? Have a plan B in place. Know what you are going to do if your To-Do list does not go to plan

4. Do the Most Important Tasks First

Get the most important tasks done in the morning. The large, most important and stressful tasks should be tackled as early as possible. You have the most energy in the morning, so that’s when you are better equipped to do the most difficult tasks. It will also give you a feeling of accomplishment and make the rest of the day that much better.

5. Plan Ahead

Time management will just not work unless you plan ahead. And plan ahead as far as possible. For the next year, or month, or week or at very least the next day. If you know what is required in advance, large tasks can be broken down over days or even weeks, making them much easier to achieve. Good planning will transform how you work.

6. Delegate

If you need to focus on bigger or more complicated tasks, then perhaps other tasks can be delegated to others. Or trust other people to complete more complex tasks by themselves, so that your own time is freed. If it makes sense you can even outsource the work to an outside agency.

7. Focus on One Task at a Time

Multitasking is something that computers do. For human beings, it is a myth. If you start a task, finish it. Don’t, for instance, abandon writing a report to start to check and reply to email. Momentum is lost, as well as concentration and your time management suffers. Close any applications and browser tabs that you don’t need and focus solely on what you’re doing.

8. Target to Be Early

Be clear on when you need to finish your tasks and mark deadlines in your calendar and organizer. If fact, target to be early. If you target to be on time, then you may actually end up being late. Target to be early and even if you take longer, you can still be on time.

9. Prioritise

It is impossible to do everything, so do learn to prioritise. Apply the 80/20 principle which states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. That is, by ensuring that you get the top 20% most important tasks done, you should receive 80% of the benefits of completing all your work.

10. Don’t Try to be Perfect

Do your best work and don’t be careless, but don’t try to make everything perfect. Once you’ve finished a task and given it your best, then move on.

And some quick, bonus tips:

  • Use a Calendar and or Organiser
  • Block out Distractions 
  • Batch Similar Tasks Together
  • Eliminate Time Wasters like Social Media
  • Plan 10 to 15 minutes for transition between tasks

Effective time management, ultimately, is having the right attitude. Whatever you do, remember to take time to rest and relax. There is a lot more to Time Management, Delegation and other related areas. Infero has a range of courses to help you get better in all of these.