Monthly Archive for January, 2022

A Simple Guide to Chinese New Year

History of the Chinese New Year 

This year Chinese New Year is on the 1st of February, with 2022 being the Year of the Tiger. Those born under this sign are supposedly courageous and active people who seek adventure and a challenge. Also known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is the most important among the traditional Chinese festivals and its origins can be traced back to around 3,500 years ago.

Historians believe that the festival was originally celebrated during the Shang Dynasty, when it is thought that people would hold sacrificial ceremonies in honour of the gods and their ancestors. The date of the festival, which is the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, was fixed in the Han Dynasty. 

The Republic of China now follows the Gregorian calendar but the lunar calendar is still used, popularly, for festivals. This lunar calendar has a repeating twelve-year cycle that assigns an animal and its attributes to each year in the cycle. It is often known as the Chinese zodiac although it differs from the western zodiac which is associated with constellations rather than to years. 

3 Ways People Celebrate Chinese New Year 

Cleaning and decorating your house:  

It’s common for Chinese New Year celebrations to involve cleaning your house, ready for the spring, representing ‘dusting away’ the bad fortune you may have endured in the last year and leaving room for good fortune to enter your house. 

People also decorate their house with red, the main colour of the celebration, believed to be a sign of future success. Red lanterns, red couplets as well as red paintings can be seen on houses, the streets and official buildings across China. 

Enjoying a Family reunion on New Year’s Eve: 

The Chinese New Year’s meal is called the “reunion meal” and is considered by some to be the most important meal of the year, with family members from several generations eating together.  As in the West, families in China will stay up late to celebrate the New Year as it happens, in the streets or by watching the Spring Gala, a very popular TV show in China.  

Gift Giving: 

Like Christmas, it’s very common to give and receive gifts for Chinese New Year. The most common of these being the red envelopes given to children or to retired seniors which represent good luck (and money) for the following year. 

Other gifts are also given, the most common ones being items such as alcohol, candy/sweets, tea, fruits and other foods. If you are planning to give someone a gift, however, don’t give black or white presents as these are associated with funerals and can represent bad luck.  

There are Chinese New Year celebrations throughout the UK in 2022, so there should be one fairly near to you.

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 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, 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 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.



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 

Hybrid Working: The New Permanent?

Covid-19 has changed the world forever, with the way we work being one of the biggest changes. Government directives over the last two years have been designed to slow down the spread of the virus, but during the first lockdown, companies were surprised to find that employees production rates did not seem to fall when they were at home and, in fact, many studies showed that productivity increased.

The Hybrid Model

This has led to many organisations moving to a hybrid model of working, where employees will work from home for a few days a week and commute into the office for the remainder. With the development of better remote working tools, Hybrid working was something more and more organisations were moving towards anyway. The Pandemic just accelerated this already existing trend.

At this point, after two years of a massive, enforced social experiment, it seems obvious that Hybrid Working is something that all companies should adopt and offer to their employees.

But is it?

Is Hybrid the best model for our workplaces in the future and what are the benefits and downsides for Employers and Employees? And what are the wider effects on the economy as a whole?


Many employees are reporting a better work-life balance, being able to spend more time with their families, especially those with children. Without the rush of early mornings and long or stressful commutes, many people have more time to do their work and say that they are able to complete it to a higher standard. Tasks can be concentrated on, without the constant interruptions that occur in the office. Economically, many families save on childcare, fuel and travel costs and expensive lunches bought in the 15 minutes that they get for lunch at the office.

But many people have missed the daily interactions and the human connection found in an office, along with boost to wellbeing that socialising with colleagues, clients and customers can bring. There are also concerns for some about professional development, as they don’t have the same relationships to those managers who control access to opportunity. Some would argue that group projects and other collaborations work much better face to face and many miss the after-work socialising that is part and parcel of working life in many organisations.

And of course, Employees working from home have many new expenses, such as heating their houses throughout winter, at times they normally wouldn’t. With Electricity and gas prices rapidly rising, this will be a significant cost for many. (We have some Helpful Tips to Save You Money This Winter.)


From an employer’s perspective, a lot of money can be saved in office rental and the maintenance of expensive buildings and premises. For many organisations, Hybrid Working means they much smaller spaces are needed, and many offices have been downsized. And there is the much-reported spike in productivity that has been associated with more people working from home.

Changing where your organisation is based and how it works also provides an opportunity to address geographic and economic inequality, and gives access to possible untapped talent pools in different parts of the UK. Remote workers can just as well be in Liverpool as in Luton.

But Hybrid working is a much more complicated matter for companies than just focusing on how many days per week people will be in, or what technology will be required. The changes being made have knock-on effects, cost implications and possible unforeseen consequences. Organisations need to address the issue holistically. Planning for it needs to be done from the top down, involving all parts of the company and not just HR.

Wider Society

Looking at wider benefits, less people commuting means less traffic on the road and less congestion and pollution, with the obvious, concomitant environmental benefits.

That said, many businesses, as we are often reminded, are losing out badly in the great Hybrid working revolution. City centre businesses such as lunch-time sandwich shops and retail in general, as well as wider hospitality, are losing a lot of the trade they formally enjoyed. Yet while this may hasten the decline of the city centre, it may also benefit the local high street, which gains the footfall lost from Town centre businesses.

Unfortunately, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that will suit all organisations and the option of doing nothing is not an option. Covid-19 has changed people’s expectations and forced them to reprioritise what they want in life. Nobody should be forced to return to the office and if any businesses force people to do so, it may be counter-productive. But just selling all their offices and telling everyone to work permanently at home is not a solution either. Hybrid working, in one form or another is almost certainly here to stay, but what it looks like, when the dust finally settles, is still to be determined.

Helpful Tips to Save You Money This Winter

Climate change means that weather is more unpredictable than ever, but we can still be fairly certain that winter will, at some point, bring some cold spells. For many reasons, including Covid, global politics and Brexit, gas and electric prices have been rising considerably and these may increase exponentially again, in the coming months. So it’s now more important than ever to find cheap ways to keep yourself warm during winter, especially if you’ll be spending more time working from home. 

Here are our top tips on keeping yourself warm for less this winter: 

Install a Smart Meter: 

A smart meter will help to track how much you are spending on heating. Contact your gas and electricity supplier and they should come and install one for you, free of charge.

With a smart meter, there is no need to submit readings. The meter will track your exact usage and what the electricity and gas you are using is costing. There is even the potential to check what individual appliances are costing to run and keep track of the exact amount of money you are spending on each. A smart meter may even help you to spot a faulty appliance, that is wasting electricity.

Having accurate information on what you are using will allow you to budget more effectively, with hopefully no unexpected costs at the end of the month. However, it needs to be remembered that smart meters will not reduce bills by themselves. They are merely a tool to help you budget.

Also remember that there is a lot of volitivity in the energy supply market at the moment, with suppliers going out of business on a regular basis. Keep this in mind and double check before you get your smart meter installed.

Set timers to your heating. 

Most systems allow you to set specific times for your heating being turned on and off automatically. Even if you are working from home you often don’t need heating to be on all day. Careful setting of a system can help to cut down on how much you’re spending whilst still keeping the house warm when needed.


Good times to have the heating on would be, perhaps, half an hour before you get up, or to warm the house for when you get back from work. Even if you’re working from home, it might be useful to set the heating to start for when you finish work, ready for when you’re relaxing at night when it gets colder. 

Layer Up 

The cheapest way to stay warm is to layer up. Wear a cosy jumper in the house, or a dressing gown, or even both if it’s a particularly cold day. The basic idea is that if you are feeling cold, just add a layer.

It’s important to keep your hands and feet warm as they are places you can potentially lose a lot of body heat. Time to whip out those thick, fluffy socks from the wardrobe. You can also invest in a warm blanket for when you’re lounging around or trying to sleep; it’ll keep you nice and toasty without having the break the bank and blankets can be used as nice decoration as well.