Archive for the 'Business Articles' Category

5 Helpful Tips to Help You Retain Important Information

It’s widely believed that our memories get worse at we get older. However, whilst it is true that the aging process causes changes in our brains that can mean that it takes longer to learn and recall information, we shouldn’t mistake this for true memory loss. It is normal to forget things once in a while as we age. But, however old we are, there are many things we can do it in our day-to-day lives to help keep our brain working at full capacity.

Here are five ways to help keep your memory sharp:

Sleep

Sleep is proven to be one the most important factors in having a good memory. It is during sleep that our brains perform the consolidation processes required to do things such as moving remembered events from short term to long term memory. Lack of sleep may cause issues with retaining new information and even make you struggle to recall information laid down in the past.

Research also suggests that getting a good night’s sleep before learning is also very advantageous, since sleep deprivation can affect our brain’s ability to memorise and consolidate any new information. Remember, before your next class, seminar or training day, try to be well-rested, as it will help you more than you think.

Exercise

Studies in human brains show that regular exercise can improve our memory. Fitness amongst older adults has even been shown to help to slow the decline of memory. Exercise is also helpful with spatial awareness, which will also improve your spatial memory. Spatial memory is the storage and retrieval of information within the brain needed to plan routes and to remember where objects are located.

The health benefits to exercising regularly are well known and documented, but regular exercise is shown to improve other cognitive abilities besides memory, so whilst you’re improving your health and your memory there are many other benefits.

Meditate

Regular meditation increases blood flow to the brain, which in turn strengthens the network of blood vessels in the cerebral cortex. This reinforces our memory capacity. A particular study has indicated that meditating for just 20 minutes a day boosts memory and concentration. Meditation can particularly help working memory, which stores information temporarily for short term use.

Research shows that participants with no experience in meditation can improve their memory recall in just eight weeks. As meditation also helps with concentration, it has been shown to improve test scores.

Test Yourself

Testing yourself can help your ability to retain information, since any re-visiting and repetition of a subject will always help to embed the knowledge. Ask a friend to test you or see if there are any online resources that will check your knowledge

Doing this you can consolidate your knowledge of a topic or area and transfer your learning to long-term memory, which will happen if you continue to actively use the information. As a bonus, it also helps you know what you don’t know and to determine which areas you need to revisit.

Write it down

Writing down new information is a practice that many people use to retain information. This works because writing by hand turns on parts of the brain involved in learning and memory. Taking notes by hand, rather than even using a keyboard, may boost how well new information is retained.

Studies have shown that writing notes by hand is much better for long-term memory of ideas, or conceptual information. This is vindication for all of us who have ever said “I remember it better when I write it down”.

If you need anymore help with work-life balance, Infero has Time Management and Stress Management Courses in these areas.

How You can Improve Your Presentations Skills With These Simple Steps

Public speaking and presenting are very important skills to master, especially in the workplace. Presentation skills are increasingly important in almost every role. In fact, in surveys of employers, good communication skills, both written and verbal, are seen as two of the top five most desirable attributes of employees.

Here are our guidelines to help you improve your presentation skills:

Confidence

Confidence is one of the most important traits to have whilst presenting. A confident speaker will have an authority that reassures their audience that they know what they are talking about. They are also much more likely to get their message across. However, saying that you should be confident and actually being confident are two different things. Luckily, there are methods that you can use to help to build your confidence:

Preparation: The three most important things that you should do for your presentation are; preparation, preparation and preparation. There is no substitute for taking the time to thoroughly plan, prepare and write your presentation. Preparation will not only make you confident about the material, it will enable to craft a coherent structure for your presentation that will most effectively get your message across. Remember, the more that you prepare, the better that you know your material and the more confident you will be.

Rehearse your Presentation: Once you have written the presentation, rehearsal allows you to see if it actually works. It lets you see if the presentation slides are effective and also if the overall timing is correct. The more you can rehearse the better, especially if you can rehearse in the place where you are going to be delivering the presentation. An added bonus is if you can practice the presentation in front of others. Even practising in front of friends or family can help to build your confidence.

Know your Audience: Being familiar with your audience can greatly help your confidence. If possible, analyse your audience prior to the presentation using research and surveys. If this isn’t possible, you can always take time to talk to and get to know your audience immediately prior to your delivery. This isn’t always easy, but getting to know and understand those that your are delivering to can definitely boost your confidence.

Concise and simple

Another key thing to remember is to keep things simple. We have all been in presentations where the presenter has overwhelmed us with too much information. Another of the benefits of all that rehearsal that we talked about earlier is that it will enable you to spot and remove any unnecessary information.

It almost goes without saying that you should avoid jargon, especially when you are talking to a group of people unfamiliar with your topic. Even when you are talking to peers and experts, keep technical terms to a minimum. If you must use them, spend time so that you are able explain them in simply.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

– Albert Einstein

Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm shows that you believe in your content. Enthusiasm is also infectious. If you care about your topic, your audience is liable to, too. It’s important, however, to convey that enthusiasm:

Change your Tone or Emphasis: It is vital that you vary the way you talk during the presentation. Speech is both verbal and vocal. How you say something is just as important as what you say. Emphasis for key words or concepts, pausing, speeding up or slowing down appropriately can all aid you greatly. This is somewhere else where rehearsal can help you greatly.

Speak Up: Vary the volume of your voice and the pitch. Again practice helps with this. You can even use emotion appropriately to convey your passion and enjoyment about the topic.

Research

It is almost redundant to say that you should have the best understanding possible for the topic you are discussing. If you are unsure, then this is likely to show. Knowing a subject well helps with your confidence too.

And don’t forget to prepare by researching potential questions that may come up. Not only will this help you to deal with these issues if they do occur, it is almost certain to improve your own understanding. Once again, you can ask colleagues or friends and family to mock-ask you possible questions to get practice answering them effectively.

Focus on your Audience Needs

Most importantly, you need to remember the prime reason you are doing the presentation in the first place and who it is for. The presentation is for your audience. It is not for you. When working and worrying about it, it is easy to forget this crucial point.

Always remember that it is what audience needs and wants to know, not what you can tell them, or want to tell them, that is of primary importance. And presentations are two way things, like all communication. As you deliver your presentation, always be focused on your audience’s reaction and respond appropriately to it.

For professional help from our dedicated team have a look at our communication skills courses or presentation courses to help you stand out in the workforce and impress your co-workers.

Fix Your Time Management Issues With These 5 Apps

Phones are constantly distracting us with their messages, notifications and updates. Sometimes the very gadgets that are meant to facilitate our productivity actually seem to stop us from working to our full potential and living our lives to the fullest. With all of the apps out there that are designed to steal your time and distract you, why not fight fire with fire and, instead, download one of the many that have been created to motivate and help us become more productive.

Here’s our list of the top 5 apps that can help you block out those distractions:  

Forest: 

Forest is an app that lets you grow your own virtual forest by staying focused on the tasks you should be doing, rather than procrastinating.  It works by getting you to set a timer, for a period of your choice, in which you will concentrate on work activities. If you don’t disturb Forest in that time more trees grow, but leaving the app before the end of your ‘promise’ means it will kill off the trees; a perfect visual reminder to keep you focused. 

Forest is designed to keep you away from your phone whilst working, as the longer your device is undisturbed the bigger your forest will be. A great feature of this app is that you can earn virtual coins by creating your forest. When you spend these, the team behind the app donate to real-life tree-planting organisations to help combat deforestation. Another great motivator, as it means you can have an real impact on the environment. 

The app is free on Android or £1.99 on iOS. It is also available as a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox.

Offtime 

Offtime, does exactly what it says on the tin, giving you time off from specific apps with a feature that locks you out of social media during times you have set throughout the day. For example, if you set the app to not allow you to access Facebook between 12-2 pm then you will not be able to open the Facebook app during that time. 

You can label these set periods such as “work time” or “family time” to help you keep track of your day and focused at all times. The app can even help you identify your biggest time wasters, by showing you the apps you use the most. It can screen calls, by only allowing those that you choose to get through, but be setup to send custom replies to callers while it is active. It will also record all messages and notifications until connectivity is restored, meaning you don’t miss anything.

The caveat is that Offtime will need to know when you have incoming calls and be able to access a lot of apps to mute them, so please make sure you have carefully read terms and conditions before using the app. There is a light version for iOS devices, at a small cost, but the free Android version is more comprehensive. Overall, Offtime is a good tool for keeping your tech use in check.

Remember the Milk 

Remember the Milk is a to-do-list app that lets you share tasks and lists with others. It can work across all of the devices and platforms you use and lets you create tasks, assign due dates and add other information to the tasks. The free version will allow you connect to Gmail, Google Calendar, and Evernote, but connecting to other services such as Outlook may require you to dig into your pocket for the paid for version. . 

 

The free version of Remember the Milk  allows you to share your to-do-lists with two other people, but the paid for version allows unlimited sharing and also allows you to share a task list with someone, but restrict their access to read-only, if you don’t want them to be able to edit these tasks.

 

Remember the Milk is available for Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, and browser extensions. It syncs across all devices, even when they’re offline and allows you to create an unlimited number of lists

Focus 

Focus is an easy to understand app which helps you break down the day into smaller intervals, giving yourself a set time to complete a task before a short break. The idea behind this is to prevent users from being overwhelmed with a massive task list, by breaking activities into 15/30/60 minute chunks.  

Focus lets you view your daily, weekly and monthly activity so you don’t lose sight of the big picture. It requires a subscription and can be used on Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch, but is not, at time of writing, available on Android.

 

Noisli 

Finally, we have Noisli, which is a little different to the other apps and offers a unique way of trying to keep people productive and focused by using ambient sound to create a working atmosphere. 

If you’re unable work in silence and need a noisy environment, especially when working from home, then this app can help as it offers many sounds ranging from thunderstorms, to light rain, to a busy café and more. 

For more tips and tricks on time management, check out our How You Can Reduce Stress With These Time Management Tips blog or our Time Management Courses 

How You Can Reduce Stress With These Time Management Tips

November 1st is the start of stress awareness week, a time to reflect about how we can deal and prevent overwhelming stress.

Retreating to the island of Erraid in Scotland (Like Ben Fogle did) is one way to escape life’s stress, but maybe not a practical one, so here is a few things you can do to help you live a stress-free life.

Not being able to manage your time correctly can lead to a stressful life, whether that’s through procrastinating or simply not giving yourself a decent work-life balance.

Create a Schedule

Creating a schedule and planning your days in advance can be a great way to add structure to your life, allowing you to relax knowing that you have set times for yourself throughout the day. It also allows you to be productive whilst working since you already have planned what to do ahead of time, but remember to be flexible in case anything urgent appears.

Use Modern Apps

There are many applications to help you become a time management expert, whether it’s keeping it simple with calendars and journals, or trying some specialised apps such as ‘Rescue Time’, an app that gives you weekly reports on how you’ve spent your time each day.

Specialised help

If you are looking for a more in-depth course on how to manage your time and reduce stress, we offer high quality time management and stress management courses.

Article: Leadership Competencies pt.1 – Passion In Star Wars Leaders

“Passion is the genesis of genius.”
— Anthony Robbins

 

Surely you noticed that people who really succeed in their career or life have a strong passion for what they do. From the ancient time we were fascinated by the great leaders – from Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan to Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates – just a few of those who has had the passion and achieved their vision. I am sure you personally know ‘passionate’ people around you.

 

Passion is one of the competencies a great leader whether in professional career or personal life, and the first topic of discussion in our blog.

 

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All copyrights for image belong to Disney and George Lucas Film.

 

All great achievements start with passion. Passion is an intense emotion that shapes the very core of who you  are and the choices you make, whether your inspirations are coming from spiritual, intellectual, political, economic, social, or technological reasons. When you wake up in the morning and all you think about is the thing you want to create, then you are passionate about it.

 

For a leader, passion is a key element; once they have this powerful feeling, they become unstoppable. And even when things turn bitter, and difficulties and challenges take over, this does not crush leaders because the love towards what they do takes over any negative emotions. This ‘fever’ lets them overcome any difficulties and move towards their ultimate goal.

 

In Star Wars, passion is perhaps the most controversial subject between the Jedi and Sith.

 

Sith believe that everything starts with passion – they embrace it, and their Code sums this up in the following verse.

 

“Peace is a lie. There is only passion.
Through Passion, I gain strength.
Through Strength, I gain Power.
Through Power, I gain Victory.
Through Victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall set me free.”

 

Jedi on the other side do not believe in passion. Here is what they think of it.

 

“There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force. ”

 

It seems like that fundamentally if you have a passion for something then you turn to the Dark side. Sorry the creators of the worlds of Star Wars – I do not agree. I could never understand the dilemma in the most culminating moment in the 1st Star Wars Trilogy – the battle between Luke and his father the Darth Vader. I could never understand why he could not fight back, as he believed that fighting back will make him turn to the Dark side and become like his father. It feels that Luke was driven by fear of not becoming the ‘baddy’. What about fighting in the name of love and friendship – to save his sister, to save his friends from an imminent death?

 

Perhaps humans are more complex than Siths or Jedis.

 

Perhaps we can embrace both sides. Mother Theresa was a passionate woman whose passion was to help those less fortunate, and she certainly did not turn to the Dark side. So as Gandhi, who practiced nonviolence whilst fighting for independent India. And that does not include only missionaries or political figures but also entrepreneurs. By 2013 Bill Gates donated $28 billion of this fortune to his charity to fight poverty and improve healthcare, and continues his donations. In our human world if you want to achieve the great, you certainly need some passion.

 

What are you passionate about? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Article: How Music can Boost Productivity

How many of us put a music on whilst we are working? I certainly do when I work in a kitchen, whether I do dishes or cook a feast for my friends and family. Music puts me in a better mood and as a result makes me so productive.

 

However, a cognitive neuroscientist Daniel Levitin has a different opinion, which is described in his book ‘This is Your Brain on Music’. He believes that listening to music whilst working making us less productive since it negatively affects our memory and attentional capacity. However, for repetitive or monotonous tasks it has a positive effect since music helps to get rid of boredom. Looks like he is right with my kitchen work there.

Love Music

 

 

Levitin explains that listening to music makes us less productive while working because we have fewer resources left for the task we are working on.

 

So what shall we do?

 

Levitin suggests listening to music for 10 to 15 minutes before we start working, like for studying or writing, and then work in a quiet environment with regular breaks. However for boring tasks, we should put the music on whilst we are working.

 

What is your experience with music whilst you are working? Leave us a comment and why not also let us know what type of music you listen when you work.

 

Remember follow us on Facebook and Twitterand check out our Blog for more great articles.

Article: To Succeed With Great First Impressions

Competence and Trust are the key factors that people look for when they first meet you. According to Harvard Psychologist Amy Cuddy, people ask two questions when they meet you, they are:

 

  • Can I trust this person?
  • Can I respect this person?

 

Unfortunately, most of the time in the business world, we focus our energies on Competence. In her Book “Presence”, Cuddy says that most of us want to be seen as able to do the job at hand. After all, to move up in a business environment, you have to prove that you are smart and talented enough to do the job.

 

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However, according to Cuddy, trust or warmth should the most important factors we focus on. We base a lot of our decisions on whether or not we can trust someone enough for them to the job at hand, and this is no different in the business sector.

 

 

Although competence is important, focusing too much on showing how strong you are can lead people to mistrusting you. “If someone you’re trying to influence doesn’t trust you, you’re not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion because you come across as manipulative,” Cuddy says. “A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.”

 

 

There are ways to establish Credibility at business meetings and presentations. In our Effective Presentation Course, we focus on persuasive techniques and how to establish credibility. Positive attitude and effectiveness are just two easy ways to establish trust, warmth and credibility. However, explaining your background and emphasizing similarities between yourself and the client you are meeting or even at a job interview could help establish a connection with the person or people you are meeting.

 

 

We hope this article was insightful and can help benefit your business. For any other business related information that could boost your business , check out the business courses we offer.

 

 

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Article: Introducing Leadership Competencies in Star Wars

J.J. Abram’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens burst into cinemas last month like a force-choke out of hell, smashing most sales records as surely as the Empire smashed the rebels on Alderaan.

 

The remarkable cinematic success was exactly what the Star Wars franchise needed, and was a glowing confirmation that Disney’s purchase of LucasFilm in 2012 for over $4 billion was the right move.

 

I loved the film and everyone I’ve spoken to who has seen it so far agrees.

 

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Prior to me seeing the movie, over the Christmas holiday, I took the opportunity to have a Star Wars marathon for the first time since the second trilogy came out a decade ago, and it reminded me how much Star Wars characters impacted us. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca and others have taken their place in our memories, much like James Bond or Superman have done over the decades. However, I believe the Star Wars’ characters remind us of the people we need in every season of our life and their certain characteristics are those which healthy leaders intentionally maintain.

 

So let’s look at Leadership Competencies in Star Wars. Why? Because it is more fun that way.

 

I’ve realised that writing about all of them in one long article, could be very discouraging to read, so instead I separated them in nine blog instalments which will be rolled out over the course of 2016 and will each focus on the importance of a particular competency of leadership: passion, humour, courage, integrity and trust, energy/vitality/enthusiasm, building a team, setting priorities, creativity, and vision. The idea behind this is to identify and define these components of character.

 

Our first blog will look at the Leadership Competency: Passion. This is perhaps is the most controversial subject in Star Wars between the codes of Jedi and Sith.

 

Stay tuned. I’ll look forward to your comments, challenges and opinions along the way.

Article: Time Management

The Most Important Time Management Technique

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Ever looked at your list of tasks wondering what to do first? Well, you are not alone.

 

 

The Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848–1923) suggested that the results and the causes of those results are unequally distributed in the ratio of 80:20. The Pareto Principle, more commonly referred as the 80/20 Rule, states that:

 

  • 20% of your activities will generate 80% of your success, or
  • 20% of a well time managed effort will generate 80% of the desired results.

 

Although the ratio 80/20 is not always this precise, it is used to put emphasis on how much is lost or how much can be gained with time management. It is not a surprise that identifying the critical 20% is the key factor to success.

 

A simple Time Management course can certainly help you to learn some tips and tricks and teach you using yourtime efficiently. But what can we do NOW to minimise our time wastage?

 

The key in identifying those critical 20% is by prioritising your tasks. You may use the Eisenhower Method to help you with that. It said that former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower used this method in prioritising his daily tasks.

 

To determine your priorities you will need to use a matrix, where you evaluate each task according to its Importance and Urgency. If you use this matrix then you will need to focus on Important tasks. If your tasks are:

  • Important and Urgent, then do them immediately
  • Important but Not Urgent, then enter them into your calendar to keep track of them
  • Urgent and Not Important, then delegate them to a competent person
  • Not Urgent and Not Important are time wasters, so minimise them

 

This is common sense but you would be surprised how much this method will positively affect your productivity. For more info, read our future blog articles, or come to our Effective Time Management Courses.

Three Tips for Truly Top Managers

Welcome Mat to Forest for ManagersEvery employee has an important part to play in a business. But there’s no doubt that a company’s success still very much depends on the people at the top. The number of people entering managerial roles has increased significantly, with managers taking on a growing range of responsibilities. But while managers think about keeping their team’s skills up to date, do they recognise how management training could benefit them? After all, managing people is a complex task, only slightly less demanding than herding cats. So here are three top tips for happier managers, more motivated staff and a healthier business.

 

Tip one: Engage your ears.

 

What makes your employees turn up to work every day? No, it’s not simply boredom or the need to pay the bills. Every one of us has individual motivations, interests and values. And these lie behind your employees’ choice to work at your company and not the place down the road.

 

Find out what interests your people and you’ll find fresh ways to boost their performance. You don’t need any special equipment. Just your ears. They can be very powerful tools when used properly, for example to find out what people actually think about their jobs. This is valuable information – so act on it. Identify ways to support your employees’ interests, for example sports-mad staff might jump at the chance of a company footie team with time out to train. What about listening out for changes to an employee’s family situation and recognising how a little more flexibility could make a huge difference to their busy day? Acknowledge what’s important to your staff and they’ll reward you with even more commitment.

 

 

Tip two: Lead the way – but don’t shoulder the weight.

 

Ever heard of the conductor who played all the instruments himself? Well that’s how crazy it is to be a manager and try to do everything yourself! You’re there to lead, whether that’s an orchestra, an assembly line or a department. You need to match your talent at what you do with a gift for delegation. This will help you manage your time better, improve your organisation’s performance and win the commitment of your staff.

 

 

Tip three: Put down the welcome mat

 

Ok, a ‘welcome’ mat on the floor outside your office isn’t actually necessary, but you’d be amazed at the impact of a friendly ’open door’ approach to your staff. When you’re busy conducting that orchestra, it’s all too easy to see visits from employees as a distraction. And that’s when communication breaks down. Regularly remind people that you’re happy to hear about any questions or concerns they might have. See these issues as a great opportunity to show your team how much you want your company to be a good place to work. Do that and your staff will help make your organisation even more successful.

 

 

Learn more great management secrets on our course What Good Managers Do: the First 100 days.