Tag Archives: Work

How to make the most of your lunchbreak

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Photo by Rachel Sarai

Hands up, who remembers what a lunch break is? The government and media might be saying that things are getting better, but everyone I know is overworked and underpaid. Most of my friends and family struggle to get a lunch break and often skip it altogether despite not getting paid extra or claiming it back later. It’s easy to do once or twice, but then it becomes a routine and before you know it, it just becomes the expected thing, and you have to fight to get outside to buy a sandwich. Then what happens when you suddenly realise you’s working an extra five hours a week without pay or even acknowledgement? It’s easy to do and I know I’ve been guilty of doing this in the past – I carried on until I felt so burnt out I could barely be bothered to work my actual hours. I soon realised that no matter what extra I was doing, it was never acknowledged or appreciated by the company – I was putting myself out and suffering in the process without anyone actually noticing.

So what did I do? I drew the line. I made that decision to stop working all these extra hours, to stop giving 200% all the time because it was starting to make me hate my job. I cut back, took a back step and stopped being afraid to say no when I was given more work than my hours allowed. Yes, people were surprised at first because I had always been the type of person to take on all this work and never complain but had I gained any more respect or bonuses as a result? Nope. I would actually say that after making these changes I felt more respected in the workplace than ever. I was no longer a dogsbody who never said no, I was a valued member of the team who people then realised had been doing more than her fair share. It wasn’t an easy thing to realise or to make that change, but it has really changed both my attitude to work and my awareness of how much pressure I can put myself under before I can’t take any more.

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Photo by Mo Riza

Now I make sure I always get a lunch break, and when I work extra hours, I am sure to claim them back or claim extra pay because it is what I am owed. I don’t mind paying my dues and giving 110% all the time, but giving 200% is unrealistic and plain exhausting – especially when it is never appreciated. This is when people burn out and why so many have to take a break from work with stress. Making this change has left me with lovely hour-long lunch breaks and this post is all about how you can make the most of your break.

  • Always get away from the computer screen. Do your best to get outside and get some fresh air, this is a great time to get in some exercise which will help refresh you after all those emails. I like to go for a brisk walk around the town or by the river and always feel better for it.
  • Do your food shopping – why not save yourself from the Friday afternoon rush or free up some time on the weekend by taking on the supermarket in your lunch hour? If you live close enough, take the shopping home, or leave it in the fridge at work. If you don’t work or live close enough for either, why not order online and get it delivered?
  • Browse the shops. A lunch hour is a great time to whiz round the shops in town, although busy it is never as busy as a Saturday and you can use the time to try on clothes or stock up on make-up.
  • Getting your hair cut can be a perfect fit if like me you go for a wash, cut and blow dry. My hairdresser can do it perfectly in 45 minutes which still leaves me time to wolf down a sandwich. It also means you get instant comments from the rest of the office!
  • If you work close enough, why not pop to the gym or an exercise class? I would love to do this, but just don’t work close enough. A lunchtime swim or yoga class would be lovely.
  • A perfect lunch break for me is often spent escaping into another world when reading a good book in the sunshine by the river. A book is such a treat, but music will do the trick as well. Just a bit of escapism nicely relaxes you for when you head back to the office.
  • Meet with friends for lunch or a coffee and have a catch up – the hour will fly past and you’ll be racing back to the office. Plus if you all work close together but have busy lives outside of work, this can be a great way to find time for a catch up. If your partner works nearby, this could make a short but sweet date.
  • If you really can’t escape the screen and the weather outside is foul, why not use this time to blog, write or research? It keeps you busy, uses the time wisely and there is less to do when you get home.
  • For those who work in the centre of town or cultural areas, there are always exhibitions and events on at museums – you could pop along and learn something new (these are often free as well).
  • Take the time to prepare really nice lunches for yourself when at home – lovely salads or leftovers from last night’s dinner – if you have a lovely meal, you often go to more effort to eat and enjoy it. If you are wolfing down a soggy sandwich or a Cuppa Soup you’re more likely to rush it while working. Taking the time to enjoy your food makes a real difference to your attitude towards food as well.

How do you make the most of your lunch breaks? Have you got any good tips for ways of filling that lunch hour?

Navigate the Christmas work do and escape the New Year’s shame

It’s that time of year again, when the invites to the Christmas party whiz round the office and instantly your stomach either leaps at the excitement of a night-out with your workmates, or your heart sinks at the thought of yet another opportunity to shame yourself in front of your colleagues. Which will it be? Well, take a look at these top tips and hopefully you will survive the Christmas party this year, avoiding the embarrassment of going back to work in the New Year.

  1. If you want to get out of drinking altogether, why not just say that you are driving? Offer to give people a lift to the do and that way they’ll be so grateful not to have to pay for expensive taxis that you might get away with it with minimal peer pressure. Or, if you don’t have a car, try the ‘I’m on antibiotics’ one – it works every time, just tell them you have an ear infection.
  2. Learn to say no. It’s hard to refuse a drink here, or a snack there at Christmastime, but they soon add up and you’ve eaten 1,000 calories worth of junk before dinner, or you’ve drunk the whole bottle and have a stinking hangover. If your workmates are the type to keep offering drinks and pushing more wine on you, just say no thanks then move the conversation on – after a while they’ll stop offering if you keep distracting them.
  3. If you do drink, try lying. Fair enough, telling lies is not nice, but Santa will forgive some little white lies if they will preserve your head on Christmas Day and you’ll thank yourself when you have some extra cash in the New Year. Just try telling people you’re drinking doubles and actually order a single. Or, say you are drinking vodka and a mixer, then just have the mixer! So simple, just don’t let anyone else accidentally have your drink! Avoid cocktails at all costs.
  4. Say you are really skint and can’t afford rounds, this gives you more control over how much you drink, rather than ending up with a new drink in your hand every five minutes… it might save you some cash as well!
  5. If you are drinking but don’t want to get smashed in front of your work pals, try having one glass of water to each glass of wine, it will keep you hydrated and stop you getting as drunk as quick. It will also make you drink more slowly. If at a meal, ask for water for the table.
  6. Not drinking? Or sticking to just a couple? Give yourself a curfew and avoid any chance of getting smashed later on and making a fool of yourself. If you set yourself a home time, you are a lot less likely to be sucked into a round of shots right before you leave which means you are less likely to stay and drink until you pass out. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with leaving before the end of a party – after a certain point, things just get messy and people get very silly.
  7. EAT! Food is your best friend when it comes to a party with drinks. Line your stomach with a big breakfast and make sure you have a carb-heavy dinner or lunch to help soak up the booze. If you go for a meal at the party, be sure you eat something sensible and don’t get too distracted by the wine. Keep an eye on how much you drink with your meal – this is where the water might be handy.
  8. Dress appropriately.  The Christmas party is not a time to wear a skirt that is the size of a belt, boob tube, new sexy sequinned nightclub number or to push the boundaries on how many buttons you leave undone.
  9. Free bar? I know it’s tempting, but hold yourself back. It’s not worth the humiliation that will follow for as long as you work there.
  10. Chat to your boss and your seniors early on in the evening when you’re at your best. A heavy discussion about increasing your salary and their nose hairs is not a good idea at 1am after four bottles of wine.
  11. NO SNOGGING and NO AGGRO! Take the time to chat to people you wouldn’t normally at the do, but don’t use it as an opportunity to ‘get to know’ Tony from accounting or to finally sort out Bekki and her attitude problem. And don’t get emotional – you and your boyfriend may have just broken up and you and your mum may have had a huge fight, but drunk at the work do is not  the time to sob on your boss’ shoulder about it all!
  12. Avoid anyone who is taking pictures after 10.30pm – this is the cut off point for when you will probably start to be a bit tiddly, the photos are never flattering and you can’t trust anyone not to post them everywhere.

Good luck!

 

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Tick tock says the clock – but how do you fit it all in?

I am the beginning of the end, and the end of time and space. I am essential to creation, and I surround every place. What am I?

I’ve had a few people comment lately on how I can possibly manage to fit everything I do into each week. One woman that I work with was astonished that I manage to work full time, write and edit a festival website, run a blog, go to the gym several times a week and get on with my NCTJ training as well as having a busy social life. Well, I can’t be the only person out there burning the candle at both ends to fit everything in, especially if you’re having to follow your passion outside of a job that is not quite as fulfilling as they might like. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I manage to do it and keep it going, but here are some of my top tips for keeping track of everything and managing your time well:

  1. Most importantly, buy a diary. Make sure it has plenty of space to write your jobs for each day and USE it. Don’t just stick to it for a week. If you tend to flit from job to job without finishing things then make sure you tick something off before you move onto the next thing. Set yourself the task of writing all your jobs for the day in each morning and then work your way through them – it might be hard at first, but after a while you’ll wonder how you ever managed without a diary for your appointments. It’s also great for keeping track of all your nights out, meals with friends, work do’s etc so that you don’t end up getting double-booked.
  2. The to-do list is very important when it comes to time management -you need to go into each day with a list of everything you must achieve in order to have any concept of how much you have achieved by the end of the day. Each morning when I arrive at work, I set myself a list of targets and jobs that need doing – no matter how small it is important to list them so you get the pleasure of a job well done when you tick it off your list. I then make sure any social engagements are listed and training time, then after this I list time for blogging/editing/writing. By setting it out into a new timetable each day, it is easy to change according to how demanding your work/social schedule happens to be that week – a steady timetable is hard to keep with if, like me, you are quite a spontaneous person.
  3. Refuse to give up your social life and the things you enjoy. It is important to stay balanced and spend time doing the things you enjoy as well as grafting, otherwise you lose your motivation and rewards system. The way to use this is to use the naughty step/Pavlov’s dogs theory of good behaviour = reward, while lack of work = punishment. Train yourself to understand that by putting the work in, you deserve your time to kick back and relax. I tend to spend three nights a week working on coursework, with the other two week nights spent at the gym and writing for my blog – these are my treat nights.
  4. Prioritise – you must always realise that the work you are being paid for and that which will pay off more in the long run (i.e. training) are more important – even if they are more boring or less satisfying. You are lucky to have a job in the current climate and must not let your work suffer because you want to stay up all night blogging. Be responsible and it will pay off.
  5. Use your lunch breaks wisely. I work in the town centre so it is bloody tempting to go out every lunchtime and spend my hard earned wages on useless crap or clothes I don’t need. I went through several months of this when I started, but now I am trying to make the most of the hour by using it to study my law books and shorthand, and blogging/editing the website. It means that spending an hour doing the website at work gives me an extra hour free when I am home in the evening to be spent at the gym or doing something else.
  6. Don’t feel bad for saying no. This is the hardest one for me, which I really struggle with even now. I hate disappointing people or letting them down by saying no to a social engagement – even if I really cannot afford it/have the time to do it. I always feel bad for letting people down, but when you have a lot of friends in different social groups, it is difficult to share out your limited social time between them. Let them know that they mean a lot to you and that you are sorry, then make plans to spend time with them in the coming weeks when you are a bit freer. Again, you could use the lunch breaks or gym time wisely by combining gossip catch up with a bite to eat or a workout. Look for ways to combine jobs and duties.
  7. No matter how much you love your blogging/writing/editing/creative activities, remember that they are solo activities. We humans are social creatures and you must remember to put the people in your life above all else every now and again – don’t miss out on social occasions because of a blog post that could have waited – you’ll regret it in the long run.
  8. Create a network of useful friends in similar fields – for example, I run the entertainment section of the newspaper and have worked hard to build a packed little black book of contacts in theatre, music, dance, arts etc – not only have I made the contacts, but I have maintained them by making the odd phone call to catch up, meeting for a quick coffee and so on, to make these contacts feel valued and to make sure that I am the first on their list when it comes to latest news and updates. By doing small and steady amounts to maintain these friendships, they pay off a lot by providing me with plenty of material for each week’s paper without my hours of searching for stories.
  9. Put yourself first every once in a while. It is easy to get swept up in keeping all these jobs going and making sure you are up to speed with everything. It’s bloody exhausting. Give yourself a little time off every now and again. A few days away from all work, no checking emails, stay off social networks and keep your mind on other things. Relax and forget it all.
  10. The second most important thing – you must want to do it. So many people fail to fit everything in because they lack the motivation and can’t really be bothered. You have to really want to do everything and to want to do it well – otherwise you will end up doing an average job at everything rather than impressing in all areas. And no-one wants to be average!

Hope these tips help you – this was all I could think of. But I really think it is down to the individual as we all have our own ways of working efficiently. What works for me might not suit you, and vice versa. What is your top tip for managing your time well?

 

(And the answer to the riddle is the letter E)

 

 

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Reunited and reliving those precious memories of university

After a long six months, the House of Boobs girls (as we were nicknamed at University of Hertfordshire) were finally reunited for a weekend of catching up, drinking champagne and cocktails, eating copious amounts of chips and dip, and most of all, making enough memories to tide us over until the next meet-up.

After living together and spending nearly all of our time together over the three years of university – supporting each other through the course stresses and deadlines, cheering each other up over boy trouble, staying up into the wee hours with drunken tears, celebrating each other’s achievements and having each others’ backs on every night out. We’ve been through a hell of a lot together over the years and we’ve all come out of it stronger than ever. Boys truly have come and gone in that time, as have jobs and other friends – but the one thing that has stayed constant is that we are all – without fail – always there for each other no matter what.

After arriving in a village near Chelmsford, Essex, at one of my former housemate’s house, we unpacked the mountains of stuff we had brought along, tucked into a delicious dinner and had a quick catch up before heading upstairs to get ready. We all glammed up in our high heels and fabulous outfits – my top is from Missguided and skirt from Ark – and after a couple of glasses of wine and making sure we had all remembered our ID’s, we clambered into the cars and headed out to Leigh-On-Sea.

Our destination was a bar called Bellinis, which was quite small but served great cocktails! To be honest, we could have been anywhere and I wouldn’t have noticed what was going on around us – we were all having so much fun dancing like loons, drinking Jam Doughnut shots and laughing, a lot! It was amazing to be surrounded by the girls again, because they are all the type of women who I wish existed everywhere – none of them will ever put you down or say a bad word about you if they have your back. It was so nice to be surrounded by such supportive friends who were nothing but happy to hear everyone’s news and celebrate everything going on in their lives. It is rare to find a group of girls who honestly act this way, who don’t put each other down, and I am proud to have friends like these.

I have such fabulous friends. Nearly all of them are in very happy, loving relationships with great guys (not something that they could boast in university!) and the ones who are not are confident and happy in going solo. Some are nearly finished battling through their PGCEs and are now teaching classes of little ones, while another is working in Asos marketing department, another travels to Germany and America regularly for work. Another is heading off travelling around South-East Asia and Australia at the end of the year and another is working as a para-legal and loving it. I am proud of everything they have achieved and have yet to.

Am really looking forward to the next meet-up and hopefully we won’t have long to wait. The main DJ from our old student union is holding a huge reunion party so hopefully we will all make it along to that.

Age is just a number – and you better believe it!

I, as I’m sure many university graduates and young people, am getting rather frustrated with being patronised.

It is incredibly disrespectful, and seems to be a growing problem as I enter the working world. They always said while I was growing up, “respect your elders”, but respect works both ways and is necessary if anything productive is going to be achieved.

I understand fully that as a recent entrant into the world of journalism I am very naive and lacking knowledge of many aspects of the journalistic world, such as law and public affairs, and will remain so until I have completed my diploma. But it would be nice to be given credit for what I do know rather than being patronised and questioned at length.

I think that graduates who are entering the working world need to remember their worth – while I understand that each and every one of us must be prepared to start at the bottom of the ladder and pay our dues – we also have to remember not to give everything away at once, not to work beyond our means just to satisfy a new boss when they are expecting us to do far beyond our expected workload.

It is so easy to get stuck into a routine of working up to an extra three hours a day now that we are in a recession and companies are short staffed. If you arrive early to work and start immediately, work through your lunch and stay late at the end of the day, you are essentially giving up your life for a job that – at the end of the day – might just make you redundant or the company may go under at any time with such an unpredictable economy.

I have done this cycle and received no thanks for all my extra efforts – always claim your time back – and now I choose not to do this. I will work extra, but always take the time back. Just because people are older and more experienced in whatever your field, it doesn’t mean they know more than you – they just know different stuff! You are coming into the industry with a more modern and younger viewpoint, you have a fresh take on old ideas, you have new knowledge of the digital world we now live in whereas the older generation in your office – or those more set in their ways – might struggle.

I actually run the website in my office and am the go-to person for all things digital. It is important to make yourself indispensable (even the editor comes to ask me questions) but don’t give them lots of extra because they will come to expect it – and trust me you will get no thanks!

The problem is that now I am finding, and friends of mine, that the reaction to this attitude and knowledge is sometimes that other members of the office become patronising towards me. They pass it off as a joke, but their comments are out of order and certainly not funny. To any other graduates out there experiencing the same thing – don’t put up with it, but certainly don’t cause a problem about it. Just continue being endlessly helpful and proving them wrong by showing them how they are failing at certain things you know more about.

Never doubt your abilities because you have as much knowledge and as many ideas as any other member of the office. It is easy to let things like this get to you, heaven knows I do, but hey, look at me – I’ve just been made an editor at 23-years-old! Look at your qualities and assess their worth before you let anyone else beat you down – your age doesn’t mean you are worth any less!