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Is Driving Only Useful For Chauffeurs?

 

 

The answer is no, of course, driving is a useful skill for many people in both professional and domestic situations.  In our culture you could call it an essential life skill, especially since the vast majority of Australians who are old enough to hold a driver's licence do so and very few households don't have a car.

Another prolific tool nowadays is computers.  Most houses and business have them but their most basic use, typing, is a seemingly overlooked life skill.  It is a task that many people carry out repetitively, day-in day-out.  Making small adjustments to repetitive tasks can dramatically improve output but this one is often ignored when it comes to increasing productivity.

Most of us are self-taught typers which means we are very likely to have bad habits.  Touch typing has been shown to increase productivity by a massive 40% and luckily there are some free and easy tools out there to help improve this vital skill.  And, not only will your typing efficiency improve but you'll soon stop wasting time navigating frequently used applications with your mouse.

My recommendation for online typing lessons is Typing Club.  This free website allows you to log in and track progress as you move through their short lessons.  Each lesson breaks down one aspect of touch typing and just a few minutes practice each day allows you to learn the skill bit by bit.  This small time investment could lead to a significant increase in your productivity, what have you got to lose?

 


 

Why You Shouldn't Multi-task


Turn off your phone and your emails for just one hour and see how much work you get done!

We have heard so many times that we need to multi-task in order to be efficient and get everything done in our day, but this could not be further from the truth.

In this day and age where an alert pops up and we look at it immediately, distracting us from our original task and making us loose our train of thought.  Yet we keep doing it.

The human brain is not designed to jump from one task to another, it actually increases the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.  Being stressed makes us less productive, more anxious and clouds our concentration.

Multi-tasking only works for tasks that are second-nature and routine or use different parts of the brain, for example we are quite good at eating and talking because the motor skills that are used are different.

Generally speaking mono-tasking (doing one task at a time) will ensure a better output and more efficient use of time.

Here are some tips for mono-tasking:

  • Remove distractions - put your phone away, turn your email alerts off and close browser windows that you don't need for the task at hand
  • Ensure your desk is clean - clutter on the desk often can increase stress levels (even if it is sub-conscious) and can also serve as a distraction.
  • Plan ahead - have a to-do list and allocate time for each task, important tasks should be allocated for times of the day where you are least likely to be distracted
  • Set up blocks of time for each task - generally, you shouldn't work on the same task for more than 1.5 hours without a break as your brain will become less effective after this time.

So try putting away the distractions and see how much work you get done and the quality of that work!


 

 

Why?

 

Arguably this is the most important question in the world but how often do we apply it to business?

 

The Overells partners recently went to a leadership conference where this was one of the central themes.  One idea that was discussed was "The Golden Circle," which was conceived by Simon Sinek, a leading business speaker.  The concept is summarised in this image:

 

For a detailed explanation check out this TED Talk video.

 

The foundation of The Golden Circle is 'find your why'.  It is important for leaders, business owners, team members (everyone!) to understand why they do what they do.  What are their motivations on a short- and long-term basis?   

 

Most people and companies know what they sell and how they sell it but neglect the why.  With the three questions together there is a filter through which to make decisions (from a company or client level).  There is a foundation for innovation and for building trust.  When the three questions are in balance others will be able to say with clarity and certainty "We know who you are" and "We know what you stand for".

 

Profit is never the why, it is a result.  The why is about impact and contribution to others, it inspires us.  Can you think of an example where you've had a great customer experience?  What made it such a great experience?  We asked the Overells team these questions and with all the different answers the underlying cause of greatness was that the company seemed to show genuine care for the customer as a person, not just as a way of making money.  People don't buy a product the buy value.  When values are aligned a relationship can be built between a company and its customer.  Can you use your answers to these questions to help influence your why, your purpose?

 

More tools to help you are available on Simon Sinek's website.  If you are after some thought-provoking, blunt articles to help you find your purpose/why check out Mark Manson's website.

 

Lastly, in the words of Albert Einstein, "Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value."

 


 

Vision For The Future


Where do you see yourself in ten years' time?  Really think about it - will you be in the same house, the same job, with the same friends?  Think back ten years, how have things changed in your life since then.  Could you have predicted where you would be today?

For me, the answer is a definite no!  Ten years ago I was living in the UK, recently graduated from university, living in a share house and working as technician for events and theatres.  I could not have imagined that I would be in Australia, working in an accounting firm, married, owner of my home and (finally!) owner of a dog. 

Despite all the business planning and personal goals in the world we cannot (yet) predict the future, so how can we help ourselves achieve or evolve our dreams?

One useful tool is vision boards.  You may have heard about these in the context of business planning and personal goal setting; in summary they are a collage of images which remind you of what you want to achieve.  They are more inspirational than a to-do list (although these most definitely have place for short-term achievements) because people don't do very well with large amounts of text.  Reading can be overwhelming, our visual systems have evolved to process images as we see them whereas text requires us to scan the characters, recognise them, piece them into words, then sentences and so on to gain understanding.  Vision boards work because pictures stimulate your mind and your feelings without too much brain power, so how can we utilise them for day-to-day inspiration?

To start with, consider the intention of the life you want, the 'why', not just the 'what'.  Do you want to run your own business purely for the profit or are there other factors, for example working for yourself?  Do you want a big house as a status symbol or to fill it with family and friends?  To be effective vision boards need to be a constant reminder of why you are doing something.  If you are having a bad day they need to serve as a reminder of why you are doing what you are doing.

Perhaps you are not sure of your long-term goals yet but need help getting through things on a daily basis.  Picture collages can be used here as 'mood boards' to evoke a certain emotion.  My personal recommendation is to create a wall of photos that help you feel calm; being calm and grounded can help you through almost any situation. 

A good friend of mine has a great mood board which includes photos of snowy mountains (a favourite place), an island beer (conjuring great memories of a fun trip), sunset over the water (another fun holiday), the view skiing down a tree-lined alp (encompassing mountains, snow and a holiday), a favourite meal, and many more inspiring photos.  They are all good, calming memories; events where reoccurrence would be welcome.  A mood board is a reminder that even when you are having a bad day, or struggling with a task, there are lots of positives in life.  It serves as a reminder of the 'why' – work hard to be able to get more of your favourite things in life.

Possibilities for vision boards include:

-          Business targets

-          Personal goals

-          Team motivation

-          Design inspiration

-          Plans for the year ahead

-          Expansion of concepts and removal of limitations of ideas

-          Bringing awareness

Just one more thought – we (still) can't predict the future, it's ok to change your vision boards as things evolve.  Looking back on where I was ten years ago I think it's imperative to remember that dreams are allowed to change!


Building a Business For The Future

For the past three days I have been at a conference about social media and firms of the future.  There were a few points that really enlightened my view of the business world and the direction in which it is progressing.  Here are a few that can be applied to any business:

1.       You need to be completely self-aware and find your clarity in business.

This is for a few reasons.  Firstly, trust is crucial now more than ever and if you are not in touch with your purpose in business and your purpose in life, if you are not in touch with yourself and your motivation, you will not be able to provide value to your clients on a level that really resonates.  Many successful people take a leap of faith in the business world, they dare to be different, and this drive is shown in their work and their business so like-minded people gravitate towards them.

 

2.       Learn about your clients in a holistic sense

Too many businesses nowadays focus on the transaction rather than the interaction with their clients.  You should always be striving to know about your clients and their lives, this knowledge will enhance your client relationships and business practices.  Take an accounting firm for example, we have a few options to go about processing someone's accounts; we can just do what they ask and get the refund that they think they are entitled to, or we can talk to our clients, understand their business and their situation, and think about what else they might be entitled to, to ensure that all their hard work pays off accordingly.  This not only makes our clients happy and exceeds their expectations but also resonates highly with our company values and the personality of the team at Overells.

 

3.       All of your energy sources need to be aligned for you to operate effectively.

We all know that to ensure a good output we need to put good food into our body get enough exercise and ensure we are well rested for the next day, Laura highlighted the importance of this in her blog on healthy eating.  What is often underestimated is the impact that the people surrounding us, our environment and our thoughts may have on us as well.  All of these aspects need to be in alignment to ensure maximum productivity, for example if your office is stuffy or the air conditioner is too cold, or your workmates are being uncooperative this will hinder your effectiveness and your internal satisfaction.

There were many things I learned at the conference however I feel that being self-aware and letting this into your business to show that you are genuine and authentic is key, possibly now more than ever in the business world.


FISH!

 

In our office we aim to have energy, passion and commitment for all our clients and each other on a daily basis.  This mindset is centred on the world famous FISH! Principles from Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle.  The philosophy encompasses the positive way which a work environment can inspire the team to flourish and be more productive.  There are four very basic principles which can be applied across all facets of life, and truly do make a difference to your day-to-day mindset.  They will teach you that small changes can alter the way it feels to work, live, communicate and lead!

 

So let me introduce them:

 

PLAY
We all know having fun makes time fly so why not apply this to every task.  No, this doesn't mean quit your everyday mundane tasks, it's about your mindset and attitude towards them.  Think outside the box, be creative and inventive in the way you problem-solve and complete tasks.  Try out a new method and encourage people to do things differently.  "Play" allows people to thrive and discover opportunities which may not have found.  It can energise a team and build a productive happy culture.  Everything can be boring if you make it, so don't!

MAKE THEIR DAY
Often the hardest to explain, "make their day" can create the biggest difference.  Here at Overells we try to make every interaction a positive, productive and most importantly, a meaningful experience.  "Make their day" is about simple and genuine actions, whether it be a smile, knowing a client by name or going the extra mile to help someone out with a problem.  When you treat people with kindness, patience and thoughtfulness the outcome is always better!  Not only is the interaction easier, you will most likely receive the same treatment back and who doesn't like to be treated nicely? 

BE PRESENT
This is by far the hardest principle to face on a daily basis.  With a million things going on, whether its balancing work, university, children, family or general life, we are all way too busy!  In today's world you are congratulated and praised for the art of multi-tasking and quite honestly none of us would survive without the skill.  However, when was the last time you completely focused on a conversation without making a coffee, doing the washing or cooking dinner.  I couldn't even walk to the train this morning without multitasking.  Not only was I walking, crossing roads, fixing my hair and checking I didn't forget anything, I was also on the phone to Mum.  How was I possibly taking in everything she said and making meaningful conversation?  This was also occurring at her end where she was on her computer, sending emails and scheduling her day.  So what was the point of this conversation?  Neither of us were 100% committed to the task.  "Be present" is all about being focused, listening and, well, being present without distraction or interruption.  So next time you are thoughtlessly going through the motions of everyday life, or multi-tasking a million things, stop.  Consider and re-adjust your mindset and priorities.  You may just realise all the things you are missing out on!

CHOOSE YOUR ATTITUDE
All of us have bad days and tend to remember the negatives in our lives.  "Choose your attitude" is exactly that - choose how you want to behave and react to the world around you!  On a daily basis we face challenges and problems which can simply get us down, however responding to these in a constructive and positive way can make all the difference.  Ensure you are appreciative for all the good things that occur and celebrate your success!  Every morning choose a positive attitude and look at the world through new eyes.  We are very lucky with what we have and should appreciate everything, not get bogged down by the bad bits.  Attitudes are infectious so spread the positivity!

Although simple these principles can change your outlook on life for the better! Try them out and let us know how you go.  If you are keen to learn more about the FISH! principles we have a short DVD which we can loan you, just contact our office.



Eat Your Way to Success

The team recently attended a seminar on communication and were surprised to be lectured instead on our eating and lifestyle habits.  It turns out that what we eat and how we live our life determines not only how we look and how long we will live, our eating habits also affect our effective communication and gives us the fuel we need to succeed.

I have been watching Jamie Oliver's new series on TV and he has got me thinking about nutrition and the food that we put into our bodies. 

A few tips that I have picked up along the way

1.       Eat the rainbow! (m&m's don't count)

Different coloured foods have full of all sorts of different vitamins and minerals.  It's amazing how our bodies react to different minerals and the interaction between the minerals.  For example, you may not think that selenium is an important part of your diet, but without it you won't be able to absorb as many important vitamins.

 

2.       Don't cut foods out, add more!

Focusing on what you CAN and SHOULD eat is so much easier than what you can't eat any more.  Adding little things like legumes, beans and seeds to our diet is as simple as remembering to buy them when you go to the supermarket, and because we are eating more of the good stuff, there is less room for the bad stuff (and I should mention at this point that two squares of dark chocolate is good for you, so that's a staple on the shopping list)!

 

3.       Eat the way nature intended

Light, low-fat and diet foods focus on one area of the food group and pack in another one to make the food still taste ok.  For example, low fat yoghurt is packed full of sugar.  A lot of diet soft drinks and low sugar foods have the same ingredient that is used to kill ants!  That can't be good for you.  Eating naturally means we get a balance of all the natural vitamins, minerals and important fats and oils.

 

4.       If you can't draw it, don't eat it.

This is a new one for me.  Try reading the ingredients list and if you can't draw an ingredient, it's probably not great for you.  I personally don't know what food colouring 253 looks like, but I could probably draw something that resembles an apple.

 

So when you break it down, nutrition doesn't need to be difficult.  Eat a variety of natural, colourful food and before you know it, you will feel like you have more energy, more confidence and you will be commanding a room in no time.


Our Dependency on the Internet

"Our website is currently unavailable.  We'll be back soon."

Words that no one wants to see in the year 2017 where we live and work online.  Just before Christmas all ATO websites, including our beloved Tax Agents Portal, went down for four days.  During this time, I found myself in a bit of a pickle as I had 14 urgent Activity Statements to prepare and lodge.  It also did not help that during this time our cloud accounting software, Xero, also decided to go down for 'maintenance'.  The ATO website going down just before Christmas had users asking the ATO to pay for their staff wages and if they had tried turning it off and on again.  Unable to work on the ATO website and Xero meant that I had some time to write my next blog and to reflect on the internet-dependent world we are beginning to live in.

A TED talk that was presented a couple of years ago by Danny Hills (who happens to be the third person to ever register a domain name on the Internet) pointed out that if the Internet was taken out by a virus, whether it be from an accident, or a deliberate, concentrated attack, we actually have no "plan B".  Today most of society is running on services and systems that rely on the internet so a collapse could see society simply ceasing to function.  Cue people screaming, looting and so on and so on.  Check out Danny's TED talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOEQ9GteWbg

The ease of the Google search engine has been an amazing step forward, but can also make people lazy and less intelligent.  I am a culprit of googling everything including 'funny office secret santa present'.

Last year at Overells, we made the big move to 'the cloud'.  This raised some questions such as "what if the internet goes down at office?".  The beauty of the cloud is that in such a situation we would be able to all go home and log into the cloud from our own internet.  I am fairly certain that most people would have a good grasp of backing up their computer and the importance of doing so, but do we have backups for the internet?

We are all becoming increasingly dependent on the internet in that we use it to pay our bills, store phone numbers and to give us reminders for upcoming appointments.  This personally scares me.  My iPhone is currently backed up to the cloud, so if the cloud were to go down I would lose years worth of photos, all the details of my future appointments and my Mum's phone number. 

What would you do if the internet crashed?  Do you have a Plan B?


Out of Your Comfort Zone

Himeji Castle, Hyogo, Japan.  Photo by Hannah Conway.

I've recently been on a two-week trip travelling around Japan.  Prior to this holiday I'd only ever been to New Zealand so some may argue that I'd never really been overseas!  Having never been to a non-English speaking country, the lead up to my Japanese adventure was exciting but definitely nerve wracking.  I didn't have any idea what to expect except confusion, sushi and a LOT of people.  Here's what I found:

The transport: Use technology

Upon arrival into Narita there was definitely confusion stepping out straight into the train station.  We missed two trains despite being on the correct platform, purely because we were experiencing complete sensory overload, being surrounded by people and announcements that we had no chance of understanding.  One thing I do have to mention here is Hyperdia, a phone app for Japanese transport that allows you to search specifically for subway or Japan Rail (which is great for the JR pass holders!) timetables all over Japan – it was a complete lifesaver and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Japan.  (We were just so happy to see the new Apple iOS update that was released the week we got back, including full Japanese public transport timetables.  SO.  HAPPY.) 

The food: Do your homework

During our travels we definitely encountered sushi – though completely different to the western idea of sushi.  Restaurants seemed to love Wagyu beef and horseflesh sashimi.  Yes, raw horse and beef... very interesting.  I didn't feel the need to immerse myself in that particular part of culture.  Then there was the small restaurant in Osaka, that we were assured by our host was 'very good, big lines for lunch and dinner' so of course over our four night stay we attempted to get a seat every night.  By the last night one of the waiters recognised us and promised us a table.  We sat down to wait while looking at the menu for the first time, only to discover that it consisted entirely of 'Soup of Small Intestine'… also interesting.  We weren't exactly feeling that adventurous, and made a very swift exit; much to the dismay of the lovely waiter who proceeded to chase us down the street to let us know our table was ready… awkward!

The people: It'll all be good

The amount of people, wow.  I still can't comprehend that we were in Tokyo with 13.62 million other people.  I'm not one for crowds, but amazingly, not once did we feel uncomfortable.  Every city we visited had just adapted and grown into the amount of people they housed and everything just worked.  Everywhere you go systems are so efficient – because they have to be to survive in these cities of millions of people.  They have to be advanced and innovative. 

The result: Do it!

Clearly, Japan lived up to and completely exceeded my expectations.  The biggest thing I have taken away from the trip though, is how important it is to get out of your comfort zone.  I came back with an entirely different outlook on Australia, on tourists, on work, and as cliché as it is, on life.  It's made me realise how lucky we are to live here, how important it is to be open minded, communicative and kind to other people, whether they are foreigners or locals.  Oh – and how very important it is to ALWAYS read the menu first!


Gender Equality - Not Just a Women's Issue

Gender equality has been a hot topic in business over the past few years as we have started to see more and more businesses implement strategies to address the issue.  While the focus is predominantly on change required for women in the workplace, a topic that has taken my interest lately, is the change that is required for men as well.

My sister has recently had her first child and has faced many shocked reactions when telling people that she will be returning to work and her husband will taking on the stay-at-home parent duties.  The fact that they are able to do this shows the strides that have been made toward gender equality; however, people's reactions show that gender stereotypes are still very much entrenched in our society.

Although paternity leave is becoming increasingly available to fathers at work, few men actually use it and many that do, including my brother-in-law, face judgement.  There are only 3 per cent of Australian families with children under 15, where the mother works full-time and the father works part-time or not at all, compared to 60 per cent of the reverse.

We are starting to see a move toward addressing this issue.  I was amazed to find that in Sweden, for example, parents of whichever gender are entitled to maternity/paternity leave for a total of 480 days while receiving 80 per cent of their salary.  In addition, 60 of these must be taken by the father or all else are lost and families can receive an 'equality bonus' the more days are divided equally between the parents.

While this change isn't going to happen overnight, it's encouraging to know that it is being recognised.  To pave the way for more women in business it's important that society begins to shift its attitude towards gender roles of both women and men.  As it becomes more acceptable for men to utilise the same flexible work hours that women do, men and women will begin to be viewed more equally in the workplace.


3 Core Measurements for Success

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