10 Incredibly Indulgent Chocolate Treats

The year we may have started with resolutions and cutting back after the excesses of Christmas, but as we move into February, it’s time to indulge ourselves a little and what better indulgence than chocolate.

Why do we love chocolate so much?

In raw form cocoa beans are intensely bitter, but roasting them releases a range of chemical compounds which, when combined with other aroma molecules creates a unique chemical signature our brains love.  Chocolate also contains a number of psychoactive chemicals, including anandamide, a neurotransmitter which stimulates our brain in much the same way that cannabis does.  It also contains tyramine and phenylethylamine, both of which have similar effects to amphetamines.

When making chocolate, we usually add sugar and fat in a ratio of about 1g of fat to 2g of sugars This is the same ratio of fats to sugars found in many biscuits, doughnuts, ice cream. In fact, this particular ratio is reflected in many of the foods that we find hard to resist.

Starting with just a block of chocolate, there are many, many things you could do, like swirl into ice cream, make a chocolate rich ganache or make hot chocolate.

Here are 10 incredibly indulgent things you can do with chocolate.

1. Chocolate Ganache

The perfect treat in and of itself, but also a base for many other chocolate bases, it can be used as a glaze, icing for cakes, sauce or a pastry filling. It’s very simple too;, all you need is a packet of chocolate and double cream.

2. Salted Caramel Filled Molten Chocolate Cake

Do you like Chocolate? Do you like Salted Caramel? Do you like Cake? You’ve come to the right place.

3. Double-Chocolate Mousse Cake

Double the chocolate, double the deliciousness. Start this recipe 1 day ahead.

4. Chocolate Bark

This couldn’t be easier. All that is required is melting a block of chocolate, pouring on a baking tray and adding on your favourite dry ingredients. Anything can be used; nuts and raisins, shredded coconut, crushed biscuits or swirl two types of chocolate for a marbled effect. Here’s one of our favourites.

5. Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake Trifle

There’s indulgent. There’s very indulgent. There is over-the-top indulgent. And then there’s Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake Trifle.

6. Nutella Tiramisu

Tiramisu. Nutella. Tiramisu and Nutella. To be honest, you had us at Tiramisu.

7. Hot Chocolate

Want the richest, most decadent and indulgent hot chocolate ever, just by using a spare block of chocolate. Try this.

8. Peanut Butter Chocolate Heaven

It’s peanut butter chocolate heaven time. Peanut butter chocolate heaven time

9. Decadent Chocolate Fudge Squares

We couldn’t leave out Chocolate fudge. These decadent delights will be a sure fire winner with anyone you share them with. Wait a minute! Share?

10. Malteser and Mars Slices

No baking required, just melting and mixing. Greatest. Thing. Ever!

There are many more incredibly indulgent chocolate treats to try. Don’t waste time reading this. Go and have some!

Over 50 Keyboard Shortcuts for Microsoft Excel

Working in MS Excel involves a lot of pointing, clicking, switching menus and general use of the mouse. And, as anyone who has ever tried to select a large range of cells within an Excel worksheet will tell you, using a mouse cursor is not always simple or efficient.

However, Keyboard shortcuts are efficient and time-saving. When you are not constantly reaching for the mouse and instead using shortcuts, there will be a boost to your productivity. For instance, selecting all of the charts in a particular worksheet can be achieved by using the key combination of Ctrl + A.  Key combinations also more accurate than even the best mouse when it comes to precise actions like this.

Using keyboard shortcuts can also have measurable health benefits, reducing the risk of  RSI (Repetitive Syndrome Injury) and ULD (Upper Limb Disorders), which repetitive tasks like mouse use can cause.

(NB: Many of the shortcuts below use the Control key, the Alt Key, the Tab key or the Shift key. In some cases, two or more of these are used in combination, along with other keys.)

The Most Frequently Used Shortcuts in Excel

To do thisPress
Close a workbookCtrl+W
Open a workbookCtrl+O
Go to the Home tabAlt+H
Save a workbookCtrl+S
CopyCtrl+C
PasteCtrl+V
UndoCtrl+Z
Choose a fill colorAlt+H, H
CutCtrl+X
Go to Insert tabAlt+N
BoldCtrl+B
Go to Page Layout tabAlt+P
Go to Data tabAlt+A
Go to View tabAlt+W
Add bordersAlt+H, B
Go to Formula tabAlt+M
Hide the selected rowsCtrl+9
Hide the selected columnsCtrl+0

Ribbon Keyboard Shortcuts

The different tabs on the Excel ribbon can also be accessed using keyboard shortcuts.

To do thisPress
Open the File page and use Backstage view.Alt+F
Open the Home tab and format text and numbers and use the Find tool.Alt+H
Open the Insert tab and insert PivotTables, charts, add-ins, Sparklines, pictures, shapes, headers, or text boxes.Alt+N
Open the Page Layout tab and work with themes, page setup, scale, and alignment.Alt+P
Open the Formulas tab and insert, trace, and customize functions and calculations.Alt+M
Open the Data tab and connect to, sort, filter, analyze, and work with data.Alt+A
Open the Review tab and check spelling, add notes and threaded comments, and protect sheets and workbooks.Alt+R
Open the View tab and preview page breaks and layouts, show and hide gridlines and headings, set zoom magnification, manage windows and panes, and view macros.Alt+W

Keyboard Shortcuts for Moving around Worksheets

To do thisPress
Move to the previous cell in a worksheet or the previous option in a dialog.Shift+Tab
Move one cell up in a worksheet.Up arrow key
Move one cell down in a worksheet.Down arrow key
Move one cell left in a worksheet.Left arrow key
Move one cell right in a worksheet.Right arrow key
Move to the edge of the current data region in a worksheet.Ctrl+Arrow key
Move to the last cell on a worksheet, to the lowest used row of the rightmost used column.Ctrl+End
Extend the selection of cells to the last used cell on the worksheet (lower-right corner).Ctrl+Shift+End
Move to the beginning of a worksheet.Ctrl+Home
Move one screen down in a worksheet.Page Down
Move to the next sheet in a workbook.Ctrl+Page Down

Keyboard Shortcuts for Making Selections

To do thisPress
Select the entire worksheet.Ctrl+A or Ctrl+Shift+Spacebar
Select the current and previous sheet in a workbook.Ctrl+Shift+Page Up
Extend the selection of cells by one cell.Shift+Arrow key
Extend the selection of cells to the last nonblank cell in the same column or row as the active cell, or if the next cell is blank, to the next nonblank cell.Ctrl+Shift+Arrow key
Add a non-adjacent cell or range to a selection of cells by using the arrow keys.Shift+F8
Start a new line in the same cell.Alt+Enter
Fill the selected cell range with the current entry.Ctrl+Enter
Complete a cell entry and select the cell above.Shift+Enter
Select an entire row in a worksheet.Shift+Spacebar
Select the current region if the worksheet contains data. Press a second time to select the current region and its summary rows. Press a third time to select the entire worksheet.Ctrl+A or Ctrl+Shift+Spacebar
Select the first command on the menu when a menu or submenu is visible.Home
Repeat the last command or action, if possible.Ctrl+Y
Undo the last action.Ctrl+Z

Keyboard Shortcuts for Formatting Cells

To do thisPress
Open the Format Cells dialog.Ctrl+1
Enter the current time.Ctrl+Shift+colon (:)
Enter the current date.Ctrl+semi-colon (;)
Copy a formula from the cell above the active cell into the cell or the Formula Bar.Ctrl+apostrophe (‘)
Move the selected cells.Ctrl+X
Open the Paste Special dialog.Ctrl+Alt+V
Italicize text or remove italic formatting.Ctrl+I or Ctrl+3
Bold text or remove bold formatting.Ctrl+B or Ctrl+2
Underline text or remove underline.Ctrl+U or Ctrl+4
Switch between hiding objects, displaying objects, and displaying placeholders for objects.Ctrl+6
Display or hide the outline symbols.Ctrl+8
Use the Fill Down command to copy the contents and format of the topmost cell of a selected range into the cells below.Ctrl+D
Open the Insert hyperlink dialog.Ctrl+K
Display the Create Table dialog.Ctrl+L or Ctrl+T

There are many, many more Excel keyboard shortcuts.

Pancakes of The World

We all love pancakes. Sweet or savoury, of various thicknesses, tossed, stuffed or covered in sauce. But types of pancakes are incredibly diverse and it seems every country has a pancake of its own. Even if you think that you are a bit of a pancake expert, you might find that there are types that you haven’t come across before. And whether you like yours covered with butter and syrup, or rolled up with falafel and cheese, there may be something new to delight your palate.

We all know the English pancake, made with plain flour, eggs and milk. Although some drizzle them with golden syrup or wrap them around savoury fillings, they are traditionally topped with lemon juice and sugar. (Even now, the supermarkets are stuffed full of Jif on the run-up to pancake day.) The recipe for them is fairly simple and the secret is a very hot pan and a confident wrist action when flipping.

But If you want something slightly different, then there are many, many different types of pancakes to try:

French Crêpes

Although we usually associate them with France, this very thin pancake is also common in Belgium and Switzerland and other parts of Europe. They are probably the closest counterparts to English pancakes, although their ingredients contain sugar. They can also be served sweet or savoury, with almost any filling you could wish for. The key is to make them super-thin. There are some great tips for perfect crêpes here.

Dutch Baby Pancake

Don’t be fooled by the name. The pancake actually originates in German and it’s not small. It’s giant in size, baked in the oven rather than fried and actually resembles a Yorkshire pudding. Usually seasoned with cinnamon or vanilla, they are mainly served sweet. Here’s a version by Nigella.

Scotch Pancakes

These are similar to American pancakes and are made with flour, eggs, sugar, milk, salt and cream of tartar. Often called drop-scones, they are much smaller and thicker than a traditional English pancake. Scotch pancakes are often served with jam or cream, like normal scones.

Russian Blinis

Considered a symbol of the sun in pre-Christian times these light, thin pancakes and are still eaten during religious occasions. Typically served with sour cream, butter or caviar, Blinis are yeasted pancakes traditionally made from buckwheat flour. Mini blinis in the UK are often eaten with smoked salmon. They are the pancake most often found in a party buffet.

Uttapam

These pancakes usually found in southern India can be made with a batter of fermented rice and black lentil, mixed with spices and chopped onions. It’s a spicy variant on the pancake theme.

Potato pancakes (Irish Boxty)

Whilst we usually think of flour as the most important ingredient in pancakes; many Eastern European cuisines feature potatoes in their versions. Pan-fried and made with batter from grated potatoes, flour and egg, there are many different types, such as the Swedish Raggmunk. The Irish Boxty is a pancake-hash brown hybrid and is best served as a savoury snack.

Indonesian Serabi

Something completely different, this pancake is made with rice flour and coconut milk and only cooked on one side. Mostly Serabi are eaten sweet, but you can add cheese and meat for a savoury snack. Some recipes which add pandan leaf juice mean that the pancakes are green. Making them isn’t as straightforward as other types of pancake, but they are naturally gluten free.

Danish Aebleskiver

The pancake equivalent of doughnuts, Danish Aebleskiver are served hot, fluffy and round! You will need a special frying pan with deep holes for each pancake. They are even eaten like doughnuts; dipped in jam and sprinkled in sugar

Venezuela and Colombia: Cachapas

Part of traditional Venezuelan cuisine, these corn pancakes are usually folded over fresh melted cheese and are a popular “street” food.

Japan: Okonomiyaki

Savory pancakes, Okonomiyaki, comes from the word okonomi meaning “What you want” and “Yaki” meaning grilled. Made with flour, egg, cabbage and really whatever else you want.

American-Style Pancakes

Perhaps the most popular pancake type in the UK, even beating the traditional English style pancake, the American recipe uses a rising agent like baking powder to form thicker, fluffier pancakes. Traditionally served with maple syrup and bacon for breakfast, or often served with sweet toppings such as fruit, cream or yoghurt, it is possible it is possible to add batter mix-ins such as blueberries or chocolate chips.

There are many more types of pancake from around the world to find out about and enjoy.

The Best of Blogs

As it’s our last blog of the year, we thought we’d take a look back at some of our favourite blogs of 2020.

Back in May, we gave you 12 Unbelievable Facts about Excel, detailing some amazing trivia about our favourite spreadsheet programme.

June was the month that we told you How to Geta Job in Project Management and there were some Essential Ergonomic Tips for Home Workers in July. There was more bounty in July as we gave you not 10 but 12 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste in Your Office.

In August we thought, that if, like us, you find there are never enough hours in the day, you might want to know 10 Ways to Manage Time Effectively, whilst September provided 10 Ways to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence.

October saw us celebrating  World Vegan Month as well as telling you How to Get Microsoft Office for Free.

And Bringing us almost up to Date, we told you How to Beat Procrastination in November.

There are many more articles on our blog for you to enjoy.

Motivation – That’s What You Need!

Motivation helps us to make things happen, but how motivated are you? Let’s be honest, most of us feel unmotivated some of the time and sometimes we don’t feel motivated at all. As we look forward to a New Year, we thought we’d share some tips on how to get and stay motivated, as well as some of our favourite motivational quotes.

Set a goal. This will be something to focus on. Ideally choose a goal that interests you, as you are much more likely to stay motivated if you are working towards something that you really want to achieve. If you have a goal that doesn’t interest you, then find something in the goal that does. If you also make your goal public, by, perhaps, posting it on social media or writing it down, then you will be more motivated to achieve it.

Don’t try to do too many things at once; it saps energy and motivation.  Some say that the secret of getting things done is focus. Choose One Goal. It’s hard to maintain energy if you are trying to do two or more goals at once. Choose one goal, for now, and focus everything on it. You can get to the other goals once this one is done.

Even if you don’t feel like you are motivated, act like you do. Research has shown by acting as if you are a certain type of person, you become that person, happy, sad or, yes, motivated. Act as if you are motivated and pretty quickly you actually start to feel motivated and enthusiastic.

Try starting small. It is much easier to be motivated to do something if it is only a small task. Instead of starting with two hours of exercise a day, start with two minutes a day. It is much easier to commit to that and to stick to it. Two minutes is so easy, that you are almost certain to do it. Next week increase it to five. And keep doing it. It may take a while, but you will get to your two hours a day.

If you can’t get motivated at all, then do something – anything – just to get started. Clean your desk, or wash the dishes. Finish one small task and you will feel much more ready to do something else. Just getting started will boost your motivation. Have you ever thought that those really ‘productive’ days were sometimes started by doing one, small thing?

Look for inspiration and motivation wherever you can. Read books, blogs, magazines. Talk to other people about your goals. Google how other people achieved your current goal and maybe get some tips. (You can visit Infero’s social media every Tuesday to see the best motivational quotes!)

Think about benefits, not difficulties. It is really easy to focus on how hard something is and to convince ourselves that we can’t do it. Focus instead on what you will achieve at the end; how good you will feel at the end of the run and how much healthier you will be if you keep up with your exercising.

If you can, do the hardest thing on your to-do list first. Once it is done and out of the way, you will feel much better and more motivated for the rest of the things that you need to do.

Have fun. If you have fun doing a task, you will be far more motivated. And if there is no fun in a particular task, create some. And don’t be afraid of failing. Things will sometimes not go as you want them to go. Failure can be re-defined as feedback that helps you go on to bigger and better things.

Don’t give up. No-one is motivated every day, but even if you aren’t feeling inspired, remember that this isn’t the whole story. Stay with it for the long run and realise that there will be stops and starts and days when things don’t go right, but don’t lose sight of your goal and you will get there.

Finally remember that no-one is motivated all of the time. Don’t be hard on yourself if you are just not inspired today. Motivation is waiting for you, just around the corner.

10 Top Tips for Keeping Your New Year Resolutions

It’s the time of year when many of us make resolutions. A New Year seems like a great time to make a fresh start and to change our habits. But we’ve all made resolutions and then ended breaking them. However, if you can resolve to improve your health and stick to it, then the chances are your whole year will be better.

Keeping resolutions is not as hard as you might think. There are simple things that you can do that will improve your chances of success.  Actually making a resolution is a good start. According to a study, those who make New Year’s resolutions are 10 times more likely to actually change their behaviour than people who don’t.

Here are 10 tips to make sure that this is the year you keep your resolutions:

1.  Be Realistic and Specific

If you resolve to change your whole lifestyle and have a long list of resolutions, it is very much more likely that you will fail. It is better to have a small number of resolutions, or even just one. Think carefully and choose the resolution that will have the greatest impact on your happiness and health, which will also provide the greatest sense of achievement.

And ensure that resolutions that you do make are realistic. Having vague resolutions of ‘losing weight’ or ‘getting fit will quickly be broken. Specific, realistic goals such as losing 10 pounds, or training for a 5-mile charity run will give you something to aim for. Trying to do too much will all at once will almost certainly lead to failure. We need to remember that establishing new behavioural patterns takes time. Remember that achieving even small goals can boost your self-belief.

2. Have a Plan

If you were undertaking a major project at work, you would not proceed without a plan. Making a major behaviour change needs just as much thought and planning. Don’t wait until New Year’s Eve. Take some time before to consider how you are going to achieve our goals and consider any problems you might encounter and how you would deal with them. How will you deal with temptation, or the days that you don’t want to go to the gym?

3. Start Small

Trying to do everything at once is one of the main reason’s resolutions fail. Break goals down to manageable chunks and take small steps at first. If you have resolved to run a marathon, start out by going for a jog two or three times a week. Eating more healthily can begin with replacing one or two of your favourite junk foods with healthier options. It may take longer to get to your goal, but you are much more likely to stick to this.

4. Don’t Give Up

Slip-ups are inevitable, but relapsing into an old habit doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. Set-backs can be learning opportunities, allowing you to plan to avoid it next time. There will always be challenges and times when things don’t go as you would want them to, but don’t beat yourself up about it and don’t let this become an excuse to give up. Instead of focussing on what went wrong, think of what you have achieved so far and tell yourself that you are starting again now

5. Remember That Change Is a Process

It probably took you years to develop the habits that you are trying to get rid of, so it is unrealistic to think you can change them in a few days or even weeks or months. It is probably going to take longer than you would like to achieve your goals; it takes around 21 days for a new activity to become a habit and six months for it to become part of your personality. Changing your behaviour is something that you will continue to improve on for years and years to come.

6. Get Help and Support

Tell friends and family about your resolutions and enlist their support and help in achieving your objectives. Having a good support system will keep you motivated. Ideally find someone who shares your New Year’s Resolution, or something similar and form a buddy system to support each other. Or, you can join a group, such as a running club, that shares your goal.

7. Track How You Are Progressing

Ensure you are keeping track of each accomplishment, as these will keep you motivated. We know that short-term goals are easier to keep. If we think about losing the first five pounds, rather than focusing on the 30 pounds loss that may be our ultimate goal, it will help to stay on track. Assessing short term progress against a long-term goal reminds us that we are succeeding.

8. Give Yourself A Reward

You have planned carefully to keep your Resolution and part of that planning should be to put in place rewards and treats that you give yourself when you reach an important milestone. But make the rewards appropriate. Don’t eat an entire box of chocolates because you have you have manged to eat healthily for a month. A little is ok, but you could perhaps reward yourself with trip to the cinema or some new clothes.

9. Keep Trying

New Year’s resolutions are easy to make and may be easy to keep for a few days or even weeks. But if by the end of February, you have totally run out of motivation, remind yourself why you are doing this and find sources of inspiration to keep you going. If all else fails, start over again. Tell yourself that you are going to recommit to your resolution for just 24 hours, which is fairly easy. And then do that again. A few of these will build on each other and you will soon be back on track.

10. Realise That You are in Control

Remember that all of this is in your power. If you have planned your resolutions carefully, then they are achievable. You have friends to help and support you, but it will ultimately be you and what you do that will achieve the results you want. These achievements are under your control – other people can advise and support you but it’s your actions which need to change to see the results you want.

It may not be easy, but it is something you can do and achieving your goals is definitely worth the time and effort it will take. Good luck!

10 Fantastic Features in Microsoft 365

The vast majority of businesses use Microsoft software for their everyday office tasks and many of us also use the same programmes on our own personal laptops. Whichever category you fall into, here’s our guide to the latest and best features that you should be using in Microsoft 365.

On April 21, 2020, Microsoft officially changed the name of its productivity suite from Office 365 to Microsoft 365. It includes applications like Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint, which will be familiar to most of us. As it is the de facto standard for most companies, it pays to keep up to date with all the new developments within Microsoft 365.

Office 2019 was the last standalone version of Microsoft’s software. Whilst there are rumours of a new standalone version being released in 2021, Microsoft 365 is based around the 2019 edition. If you have an earlier version of the software, then many of the features in this article may be unavailable to you and, unfortunately, they may never be, as Microsoft doesn’t update older versions with all new functionality.

The programmes that most of us are familiar with are the ones that are considered the core apps and services:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • Outlook
  • OneNote
  • OneDrive
  • Teams

However, there are many, many more apps that may not be so familiar such as Intune, Forms and Exchange. Microsoft has adapted its productivity suite to cater for the massive increase in remote working and online collaboration, so if you are not using the new tools available, you are missing out om a chance to become much more productive.

1. Real-Time Co-Authoring

It’s possible to collaborate online and see changes as they happen with real-time co-authoring in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Files can be saved to OneDrive or SharePoint so others can work on it Using the integrated sidebar you can share it directly from the application.

2. Microsoft Translator Built-in Support

This is a new feature added to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Access by opening the Review tab, locate the language group and you will see the new Translate and Language commands. It is possible portions of text, either the entire or a selected portion.

3. Chat with co-workers in Office apps

You will be aware that Microsoft Teams is one of the biggest pieces of software of 2020, but may not be aware it has in-app integration in Microsoft 365.  It is possible to chat, share screens and have conversations with colleagues without leaving the application you’re working in.

 4. Add Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG)

These don’t sound exciting, but Scalable Vector Graphics Office 2019, which can be inserted in Excel, Word, and PowerPoint documents can be easily rotated, moved, coloured, and resized without affecting the quality of the images. To add these, click the Insert tab and look for the new Icon Command button.

5. Send Links to Files Instead of Entire Documents

If a file is uploaded to Microsoft 365’s cloud storage then co-workers can easily access it. Using Outlook, email the person who needs to edit the document, inserting a link to it. Outlook will automatically grant edit permission to the recipient of the email.

 6. Morph in PowerPoint

A new transition called Morph is now available in PowerPoint. This, ostensibly, allows a transition from one slide to another using animation, but in effect, allows you to create animations within seconds. Using Morph, first duplicate a slide, then move, resize, or edit the objects on the duplicated slide. Choose the Transitions tab and then morph. This will automatically create a smooth animation from the original slide to the duplicated one.

7. Power Map in Excel: Turning data into a map

Power Map allows you to transform rows of data into a 3D interactive map, with the ability to filter the data used. It’s enhanced by Power BI, which is available to anyone as a free download.

8. Reply to an Email Without Opening It

Now the Reading Pane in Outlook allows you to not only preview an email’s content, but by hitting reply, it is possible to send a response in the same main Outlook window.

9. Working Anywhere on Any Device

Office Web Apps are part of a Microsoft 365 subscription (and also free to anyone who signs up to a Microsoft account). This means that your cloud files can accessed from any internet connected device, with a suitable browser. Office Mobile Apps, again free to download from the relevant app store, allow you to access files, using Word, Excel and PowerPoint, using a smartphone or tablet.

10. Resume Reading Feature

you have been given long documents to read, it may not be possible do this in one session. The Resume Reading feature in Office 365 allows you to drop in and out of the document and pick up straight from where you left off, even if you are using a different device.

These are by no means the only new and useful features available in Office 365. There are others, including managing your finances with Money in Excel. You can find out more here.

Is it Time for a Dry January?

Among a myriad of New Year’s traditions, resolutions and etc., Dry January became a popular challenge for many. The concept is simple – give up alcohol entirely from your diet for the duration of January. For some, it’s a way to take a break from excessive drinking during holidays, for others it’s a way to “detox” and kick start health-related New Year’s resolutions.

Officially, Dry January is known as a campaign run by Alcohol Concern, a charity which is tackling problems with overconsumption of alcohol and the many issues it can potentially cause. Since 2015 they have been working with Public Health England, which also encourages people to participate, as according to their words, it can continue to help people with their drinking habits for weeks, even months after the challenge.

And it works too! Not only do 72% of participants improve their drinking habits, even 6 months later, but many sources also confirm other benefits of participating. Big drinker or not, giving up alcohol for a month would show a few health improvements. And with that recurring resolution to get healthy in the new year, why not give this challenge a go?

Here’s a list of reasons why you might like to try the challenge:

1. Rethinking your habits

Dry January is an opportunity to rethink how one consumes alcohol and in what situations. The unfortunate reality is that many of us can feel pressured in drinking environments, ending up consuming far more than we originally planned. But, if we dedicate the whole month to not having a drop of alcohol, we can find a way to decline social pressure or just have a good reflection on our own habits. Some people may find that they need alcohol far less to enjoy themselves, or not need it at all.

2. Saving money

Whether you go for your drinks to a fancy bar, a local pub or just get your fill at the corner shop, alcohol always costs a pretty penny. By not consuming it, an average participant can save some money, which can either be spent on something else of course or be donated to the charity itself!

3. Weight loss

We always hear that alcohol is empty calories, and it’s true! Depending on how much you drink usually, you can even lose a few pounds in a couple of weeks. Alcohol consumption also leads to the likelihood of increased junk food consumption, so if you cut back on alcohol, you might not feel the need to get a greasy takeaway afterwards.

But most importantly, Dry January heavily focuses on community and supporting each other, whether or not we have difficult relationships with alcohol. For some, it’s just a detox month, for others it’s a way to take back control, but we are more likely to succeed at it if we doing it together and supporting others. So next time you hear a friend or a family member trying the challenge, maybe offer to join them and see how it changes your life for yourself.

You can find out more about Dry January and even download resources here.

How to Help Our Wildlife This Winter

December is usually the month when a lot of our thoughts are focused on Christmas and the activities around the festival, but did you know that December the 4th is International Cheetah Day? Not only that, but the 21st of December is National Robin Day in the UK, the bird that almost epitomises Christmas. But as winter sets in, temperatures drop and food becomes scarce, it becomes very bleak for the wildlife in our gardens and countryside.  We can, however, do things to help. Most of them are very easy and some are absolutely free, but they can make all the difference for our animal friends!

1. Feed the Birds and the Wildlife

In the cold season, Animals will have difficulty finding their natural foods such as berries, insects and seeds, worms and all the other things they would normally eat. Whilst we shouldn’t put out too much food too often, as animals can come to depend on it, we can help them to get through the tougher times.

  • Birds – Provide a range of seeds, fresh unsalted peanuts and table scraps. Suet balls, mealworms, berries or chopped up fruits (apples, pears, plums) are also good.
  • Hedgehogs – Tinned dog/cat food (but not fish-based), minced meat or chopped boiled egg or scrambled egg. Don’t put milk out, even though they will drink it, as it can cause them problems.
  • Squirrels – love hazelnuts or walnuts. They also appreciate sunflower seeds and chopped carrot or spinach.
  • Badgers – Fruit (apples, grapes, pears), peanuts, lightly cooked meats, cheese, peanuts and fruit.
  • Small mammals – mixed seeds
  • Foxes: Cheese, boiled potatoes, chicken, bread and fat scraps left out at dusk.

Another thing to note is that if you live near a busy road, don’t leave out food if it encourages wildlife to cross it.

2. Leave out fresh water

Animals need to drink and bathe as they normally would in the hotter months, but ice can lock away moisture. A simple, free way to help animals this winter is to provide a source of water every day. Place a shallow dish or bowl of fresh water in your garden. Remember to check it throughout the day, pouring hot (not boiling) into it to melt any ice. You can also place a floating object into the water. This will provide an open hole for animals to drink from.

This will benefit all wildlife including birds. To do a little more you could invest in a bird bath to keep birds hydrated and clean.

3. Provide some shelter.

Investing in something like a Bird boxes or a hedgehog home or providing an undisturbed area in your garden can provide cosy shelters and habitats where wildlife can hibernate. A compost heap will make a perfect home for frogs, toads and other animals. Just gathering fallen leaves and placing these underneath hedges and shrubs can provide a safe home for hedgehogs and even insects!

You can even build your own hedgehog home if you are feeling creative.

When working in your garden over winter, check areas such as compost heaps and leaf before handling them. If you have areas where animals have taken refuge, remember not to disturb them until their hibernation is over and they have left.

4. Make a hole in your pond if it’s frozen

Making a hole in the ice on a pond allows wildlife access to the water in your pond can make all the difference. It also prevents toxic gases building up in the water, which can kill fish or frogs. The best and safest way to create a hole is to carefully place a saucepan filled with hot (not boiling) water on your pond until a hole has been melted. Don’t hit the ice to break it or pour boiling water directly onto the ice.

5. Check for Life Before Lighting a Fire

If you are planning a fire in your garden, remember logs, dead leaves, twigs etc, are havens for small creatures. If possible, rebuild your fire in a different place, carefully checking nothing is hiding or trying to sleep. Also carefully check compost heaps for life before turning them over with a sharp pitchfork or spade!

6. Consider Planting Fruit-Bearing Trees and Shrubs

This option is harder and takes a bit more effort and dedication, but is very worthwhile. Fruit bearing plants and are not only a valuable source of natural food for wildlife but also provide year-round homes and shelter.

7. Donate Food and Supplies to a Wildlife Sanctuary or Charity

Find out where your local wildlife sanctuary is and donate; food, supplies or even volunteer help. Or you can go to a wildlife charities website and donate directly.

8. Take Time to Observe What You’ve Achieved

It doesn’t help them directly, but observing the wildlife in your garden, as you sit indoors, will inspire you to carry on your efforts all winter long.

There are lots of things you can do this year, to make sure our animal friends have a happy Christmas.

How to Beat Procrastination

We’ve all been there. An important project or piece of work is imminently due. You have very little time left to complete it, but you know it has to be done, so you are working in a frenzy to finish it, but you still have so much left to do. The thing is, you were given this task weeks, even months ago. You have had plenty of time. Why didn’t you do it earlier? Is it because, like almost everyone else, you procrastinated?

Procrastination is the habit of delaying an important task, usually by focusing on less urgent and easier activities instead. Procrastination isn’t laziness, which is the unwillingness to act. It is actually an active process – you choose to do something else instead of the task that you should be doing. And none of us are immune; according to research, 95 percent of us procrastinate to some degree.

Even minor episodes of procrastination can make us feel guilty, but over a long period, it can demotivate us and lead to a loss of productivity that could have serious consequences. So, it’s important we do something to prevent it. The first step to overcoming procrastination is to recognize that we are doing it.

Are You Procrastinating?

Procrastination, as we said, is a habit and like all habits, we can overcome it. It may be that sometimes that we are putting off an important task for a good reason, but if we are constantly filling our days with low priority tasks, or starting high importance projects and then breaking off to do something else, or completing unimportant tasks that other people have asked us to do, then we are probably procrastinating.

Why are You Procrastinating?

There are a number of things that could lead to procrastination. Do you find a particular task boring or unpleasant? If that is the case, get it out of the way quickly, so that you can focus on more enjoyable tasks.

Poor organization can cause procrastination. You could use To-Do Lists to organize your tasks by priority and deadline.

It’s possible that you just feel overwhelmed by a task. If you have doubts about your own ability to compete a task, it is much more likely that you will put it off and complete the tasks that you know that you’re capable of doing.

How to Overcome Procrastination

“Do first what you don’t want to do most.” ― Clifford Cohen

Any habit is something that you won’t get rid of immediately. Procrastination will only stop being a habit when stop doing it. Here are some strategies to help:

Forgive yourself for procrastinating in the past: it can make you feel more positive about yourself and reduce the likelihood of procrastination in the future.

  • Commit to the task. Focus on doing, not avoiding and promise yourself a reward if you complete a difficult task on time
  • Minimize distractions by turn off your email and social media. If you are working from home, turn off that TV.
  • Complete the tasks you hate as soon in the working day as possible.  That means you have the rest of the day to concentrate on work that you find more enjoyable.
  • Identify and focus on the long-term benefits of completing a particular task, rather than the short-term gain. Think also about what will happen if you don’t complete the work? How might it affect your personal, team or organizational goals?
  • Break down tasks into more manageable chunks. Organize projects into smaller tasks or create an Action Plan to organize your project, starting with quick and small tasks first. Getting “small wins” can provide a sense of achievement and give you some momentum.
  • You can set up Reminders on a daily or even hourly basis, to remind you that you should be working on that important project.
  • Spend 15 minutes a day or just clean and clear things as you go (email, physical cleaning, tasks, etc.). Otherwise you may leave these things and they can become overwhelming, leading to procrastination.
  • Just Do It. It is easier said than done, certainly, but the company who slogan it is has a guide: The Nike Guide to Overcoming Procrastination.
  • Automate if you can. If there are repetitive, simple everyday tasks that can be automated, then do this time and allow yourself to concentrate on more important, interesting things. Tools like Zapier and IFTTT are free for personal use, although they may have some limitations.
  • Realize that you will not achieve perfection. Nothing is perfect, but if you work hard and consistently, you may be surprised at how good what you produce ends up being.
  • Counterintuitively, it might help to work less. Stop trying to do too many things at once. Multitasking is a myth. You can’t do six things at once. As we’ve previously said, focus on the task that’s most important and do that.

“Doing things at the last minute reminds us of the importance of doing things at the first minute.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo

Remember, don’t be too hard on yourself. You will not beat procrastination overnight and if you are finding it difficult, then you are not alone. Give yourself a break now and again. And don’t believe that that you can never beat procrastination. You really can.