Flexible Working in Practice

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When 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris 4 hour work week book  came out I wrongly concluded from the title that it was going to be about working in such a smart way you only had to ever work for four hours a week. I must admit before reading it I did think even for a mega organised person like myself getting my work week down to four hours and still being able to find my lifestyle as I chose did seem to be a big stretch goal.

When I eventually read the book however it wasn’t exactly how I had interpreted it from the title and Tim was suggesting a more creative approach to flexible working that had instant appeal. It was more about designing your work life so that you were able to take extended periods of time away from work so that in a whole year it averaged out at a four hour work week.

 So I read Tim’s book a few years ago now however the concept he suggested must have resonated in the background. I also listened to a few podcasts and read about other people who had decided to take time away from their work and travel in order to re energise themselves especially if they had been in the work place for many years and had never had more than the annual leave off for holidays.

 It suddenly dawned on me that I had never taken more than 2 weeks away from the workplace and indeed the last two week break I took was over twenty years ago. In recent years especially when initially starting the business the most holiday time I had taken was 10 days, opting normally for 3 breaks a year of about a week plus a couple of long weekends. It wasn’t until I sat back and reflected on this that I realised the short breaks that had become my norm. On the surface this wasn’t causing me a problem I enjoyed the pattern however starting with Tim’s book the seed of an idea began to sprout about taking a period of extended time away from the normal working week pattern.

 As many of my friends began to embark on early retirement patterns and travel or take the gap years they didn’t do back in the day I began to consider a less extreme option and some what of a halfway house solution to test some of the concepts in Tim’s book. This idea formulated into a plan to work based abroad for 4-8 weeks a year initially. In my work as a coach I have helped many entrepreneurs create businesses working remotely from many countries it was about time I actually role modelled this myself and at the time of writing I am halfway through the first month totally based in Palma Mallorca and guess what it is working fine thanks largely to technology.

  

Sandra works as a coach for business and private clients. She is also the author of Own It regain control and live life on your terms available here  Own It book link Amazon 

 

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Flexible Working Mindset

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As I was lucky enough to work for a very forward thinking multinational American based organisation in my early career I have always been a fan of flexible working. Even back in the 1980’s and 1990’s working for this company my performance was always measured on the results I achieved not the hours I spent in the office.

When I started a family, I was one of the first senior leaders to return to my role on a part time basis and another couple of my then colleagues were part of a pilot plan to prove a senior leadership role in the Marketing Function could be successfully be carried out on a job share basis (which they did prove!) Flexible working in many forms were supported and actively encouraged as a way of keeping high performers working for the organisation as their personal circumstances changed and recruiting replacements would have been time consuming and expensive.

Since leaving this organisation and having had the privilege of working with many more across a huge variety of industries also supporting SME’s and startups I still work with the ethos of encouraging leaders to do whatever they can to consider individual requests for flexible working/ part time contracts if a few things are carefully considered by both parties.

Firstly, the individual must have clearly defined role, specific areas of responsibility and a plan needs to be in place to cover the times when the individual is not available for work as per the agreed schedule. This is where job sharing can be of great benefit providing the necessary co-cover for each other. If job sharing isn’t an option, then there may be a developmental opportunity for another member of the same organisation to learn skills and provide cover. This ensures continuity of role especially important in client facing roles.

The second thing to consider is that the role needs to be manageable from both a business and a personal perspective using the flexible or reduced hours model. With increased technology this makes life a lot easier with remote access and cloud-based applications the norm now. There wasn’t this luxury back in those early years however we still made it work.

The mindset should however still be the same all these years on – if someone requests a flexible or reduced hour schedule and they have already proven they can do the job well it should simply be “what can we do to make this work from both a business case and a personal standpoint”

 

Sandra works as a coach for both businesses and private clients primarily based in Bristol UK however throughout the year also works in London and Palma Mallorca. More information can be found at www.sandrawebbercoaching.com.

 

The First 90 Days Concept and Practice

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Recently I have been working with a couple of people that have taken on new roles either from internal promotion or moving to a different company. We have been talking about how important it is to have a plan for the initial few months of the role. For many reasons adopting this methodology is helpful: to create a powerful professional first impression, it helps prioritise your time so that you learn as much as you can as quick as you can and you start building relationships with all the key stakeholders.

So what might this 90 day plan look like ? Take a look at a book entitled The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins for some more detailed material.

It should be a very personally created plan that is tailored to suit both you individually and the needs that success in the role require both short and long term.

As Steven Covey states in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People “ begin with the end in mind” even when planning for the first 90 day transition period. A few questions that might help you here are :

  1. If you imagine the new role in two years time what do you want to have achieved?
  2. What legacy do you want to leave?
  3. How can you add value to the role?
  4. What type of person do you want to be described as by your team/colleagues?
  5. Describe you short/medium/long term vision for role
  6. What do your stakeholders want from you
  7. How can you take the role to the next level

The next element of the plan is to assess the current resources that are available to you both people and otherwise? How well do you understand the different personalities and motivations of the individuals that are critical to your success? If the answers are difficult in this section the first 90 days might include an action to build this knowledge and assess the resources available.

The final element is what actions are required to close the gap and what are the quick wins that can be accomplished in the first 90 day’s. In addition for the longer term action items, when they are broken down into chunks which are the chunks that can be realistically set down as goals to achieve in this 90 day period and which what chunks need to be assigned to the 180 day plus part of the strategic plan

The final step is to pull all the elements of the 90 day plan above into an easy to update one page top level summary that you can carry around with you as a working reminder and communication tool for the next 90 day’s,

 

Sandra works as a coach with both business and private clients. More information can be found at http://www.sandrawebbercoaching.com 

Avoid the Trap of the Busy Fool

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Whether you are employed, self employed, running a small business or juggling a portfolio career its important to stop falling into this trap. Everyone we meet now is very busy, it is rare that you meet someone who isn’t, some people are always frantically running from one thing to another or burning the candle at both ends working on various things or meeting the demands of others.

Periodically it is good to take time out and evaluate whether you are spending time on the right things, especially if you are starting to feel frazzled and unhealthy on a regular basis.

So, what are the right things? Anything or anyone that is important to you is the ideal answer. If the activity you are currently working on is an important part of your job, if it is aligned to a key goal you have set yourself or if it involves spending time with someone who inspires, encourages you and makes you feel good then that is probably time well spent. Obviously in all our lives we have necessary tasks to do that aren’t that exciting e.g. Paying bills, sorting out household chores, general life admin etc. and with these types of things it is best to set aside blocks of time and rattle through as quick as possible with minimum interruption. In a funny way if I take this approach there is a sense of satisfaction when I can tick these mundane things off my list and move into more enjoyable activities.

The dangerous trap you need to avoid is the busy fool one…. This is where we are busy however we are spending time on non-value added, unnecessary and unenjoyable experiences. If you look back in how you spent your day, week or weekend and you are thinking that the time spent ticked any of these boxes then maybe changes need to be made. For any activity where you feel that way you can decide to either a) not do it again b) find a way of doing it more effectively so spending less time it or c) get someone else to do it.

The other way you find yourself in the busy fool territory is when you are spending too long on something that doesn’t warrant it either because you are a perfectionist and the task doesn’t need that level of perfectionism or you are spending too long on one task as an avoidance strategy or procrastinating to prevent the more important task you should be doing but don’t want to do.

So, look back at last week’s diary did you spend time on the right things and with the right people? If not, what changes can you make to your schedule next week and in the future to prevent this happening again. Oh, and leave some space for downtime and recharge… scheduling time for this is important for your wellbeing so that you don’t become a burnt-out fool.

 

Sandra Webber works as a coach for businesses and private clients and is the author of Own It – regain control and live life in your terms available from Amazon http://amzn.to/2m3l8Vl

 

Bite Sized Chunks

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One of the many training courses I went on during my corporate career was Time Management. We all got sent away after two days with a black Filofax and a binder of course notes. I must admit I still use the Filofax system to this day having had various attempts at putting it all on an electronic device it still works best for me. On this course however I remember hearing about ‘eating elephants’ as a way of tackling very big and complicated tasks. Again, although I don’t use the phrase eating elephants the concept of breaking projects down into bite sized chunks is still part of my everyday life and a technique that is recommended for any type of goal or project that initially seems scarily unachievable at the onset.

Many years later during my NLP training the concept of chunking came up as a technique like on the time management course but this training coincided with a major challenge I had set myself an Ironman Triathlon. The bit that scared me the most was the open water 3.8k swim for many reasons, I couldn’t swim front crawl proficiently and the whole exposure of open water with no safe pool sides to escape too sent me into a cold sweat. The way I got through that swim in August 2006 was breaking that massive scary swim down into bite sized chunks I literally swam from buoy to buoy only looking at the orange plastic thing in front of me in the dark water and then on the next one and the next one. It worked and amazingly I reached the end of the swim to face the 112-mile bike ride. Again, chunking worked it was a three-lap course and I broke each lap down into half so I had 6 bite sized chunks. Same with the marathon run, we had to run out of the town onto a dual carriage way and then out and back twice along the long hilly route before returning through the town back to the finish line, another 6 bite sized pieces. The whole 15-hour event I broke down in my head to manageable achievable elements.

The same approach can be applied to anything e.g. Decide what type of job you want, who advertises these jobs, who do you know who has access to these jobs, what type of CV is needed, interview practice, apply, get feedback, repeat etc.

 

Sandra Webber is author of Own It Book – regain control and live life on your terms. If you are interested in more information on action planning grab a copy on Amazon  http://amzn.to/2m3l8Vl and work though some of the exercises at the end of each chapter.