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Avoid Burnout With These 5 Strategies

Avoid Burnout

What is Burnout?

Burnout is the by-product of continuous hard work, mixed with a lack of wellbeing, often served with a side of repetition. It can be brought on by prolonged emotional strain, and/or physical exertion. Sometimes life throws a curveball that sends us into a spiral of endless stress and anxiety, in a desperate attempt to keep up with the pace of our responsibilities and aspirations. Perhaps it’s the monotony of your daily tasks that has you questioning your mundane existence… Or maybe you’re praying for a boring, mundane existence after an extended period of hard work. Whatever the case, the road to success is not supposed to be easy. So, simply giving up isn’t a healthy way to avoid burnout. Instead, like anything, it needs to be managed. There are a variety of strategies that you can implement in order to avoid burnout, so we’ve listed 5 to get you back to being the highly effective individual that you are…

Decrease Your Stress Levels

If you choose to challenge yourself, stress becomes unavoidable. Sometimes, it can motivate us to work harder, and improve our situation. Other times, it can create a feeling of constant anxiety, and contribute to burnout. So, take positive action towards decreasing your stress levels by learning how to manage it better. The first rule of stress management is ‘do not worry about what you cannot control’. As individuals, we have the ability to affect certain situations. These are the things that you should work to improve. However, some situations/actions are outside of our control. You can plan for various outcomes to alleviate your stress, although you may not be able to prevent them. So, do what you can, when you can, and worry not about what you cannot.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise has a number of proven benefits which make it a great all-round solution for many of life’s problems. Some of the more relevant benefits to help you avoid burnout are increased energy levels, improved brain health and memory, and most notably, it can make you feel happier! When you exercise, your body increases the production of endorphins, which can help to alleviate stress and anxiety. The other consideration of regular exercise is that it can help to improve sleep quality and relaxation. This is typically an area of concern for individuals facing burnout, with rest being one of our 5 effective strategies to combat the condition. So, grab your exercise guide and start your program today!

Maintain a Healthy Diet

What you put into your body will greatly effect what you get out of it. No, we’re not referring to the ‘ins and outs’ of the digestive system, but rather the relationship between energy and productivity. Maintaining a healthy diet can sometimes seem complicated, and the variety of choices at your local food store only makes matters worse. There are a variety of simple resources to help you make better food choices, which will in-turn contribute to increased energy levels, and increased general wellbeing. All of these benefits are combatants against burnout, and play an important role in increased mental and physical health.

Learn to Manage Your Time

Time management is another big consideration when it comes to avoiding burnout. Planning, organising, and prioritising are all considerations of effectively managing your time. They can help to decrease the stress and feeling of constant anxiety associated with burnout, and help you to use your time more efficiently and productively, alleviating time pressure. A common misconception when someone is under pressure is that there is ‘no time to plan’. But contrary to that statement, a good plan can save a considerable amount of time in the long run. As the saying goes, ‘if you don’t have a plan, then you plan to fail’.

Allow Yourself Rest

Similar to our last point, rest can seem like a luxury that one cannot afford when under immense pressure. But, without sufficient rest, we cannot expect to operate at our full potential. Decision-making, awareness, mood and overall productivity are all greatly affected by a lack of sleep and rest. So, it is important to ‘switch off’ and find the time to refuel your body and your mind. Taking steps to ensure you’re at optimal health will help you to better manage the stress and anxiety of pressure situations on a day-to-day basis, decreasing your chances of experiencing burnout.

Final Note

All of our above strategies are about being proactive, and recognising when you are most susceptible to experiencing burnout. Get on top of any stress and anxiety early, and take steps to decrease/manage it better. Don’t wait until a situation seems so unbearable that you’re ready to give up. Just remember, any task you undertake is compiled by a series of smaller tasks. Plan, prioritise, and give yourself the best chance of avoiding burnout by being proactive with your approach. Good luck on the road to success! As always, thanks for reading, and we’d love to hear your experiences with burnout and the management thereof in the comments below.

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How To Be A Good Leader: 7 Effective Leadership Traits

Effective Leadership Traits

Effective Leadership Traits

The ability to motivate and inspire comes to mind, upon reflecting on some of the world’s current leaders. Pivotal, of course, but unfortunately this alone does not qualify as effective leadership. We’ve seen many leaders capture the attention of the masses, because they have the charisma and language to do so. Their communication skills may be strong, but are they self-aware, and willing to listen and learn? Point is, there are many important traits that are required in order to be an effective leader. Below, we’ve listed 7 of these effective leadership traits, although the list could certainly go on…

Strong Communication Skills

Know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. And sometimes, it doesn’t even need to be said. Communication doesn’t refer solely to spoken or written language either. The ability to articulate your thoughts is great, but more important is the thought itself. Some leaders may be able to get their message across with a look, or touch. Whatever the mode of communication, it’s about getting the message across. Any action that sends a message can be considered a form of communication. Expectations surrounding work ethic and commitment, might be communicated in the leader’s daily activities, as well as being written and verbalised. Taking this into consideration, strong communication skills are the most important of our 7 effective leadership traits. Also to be considered as part of this point is emotional intelligence.

Understanding People/Behaviours

Understanding people and their behaviours in general is important. When it comes to a team environment, understanding your people is even more important. What are their strengths and weaknesses? What motivates them? How can you inspire their true potential? As individuals, each team member has different wants and needs. A good leader will create an environment that meets these needs, leveraging the strengths of each team member. Having a better understanding of your people will also help to build a rapport with team members, building trust, commitment and respect.

Self-Awareness

As well as understanding those around you, you also need to understand yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What do you need to be operating at your optimal level? This involves the ability to critically reflect on past experiences, and learning to recognise particular behaviours that you need to be wary of. Being self-aware will ultimately help you to develop your strengths, and counter your weaknesses. In doing this, a leader is able to further develop and refine their effective leadership traits. They’re also likely to experience positive development on a personal level too. If you can’t lead your own improvement, how can you be expected to help others do the same?

The Ability to Adapt

Change can be difficult, and thats why the ability to adapt to changing environments made our list of effective leadership traits. Challenging circumstances and obstacles to success are inevitable. A team’s ability to manage these changes depends greatly on leadership. A good leader will be task-focused in the face of change/challenges, rationalising the best process, rather than being overcome by emotion. The ability to face a situation rationally, calmly, and with the best intentions of the team at heart exemplifies a good leader. It also encourages the rest of the team to take a similar approach to change/challenges, which brings us to our next point; lead by example.

Lead By Example

If my leader won’t do it, why should I? Demonstrating exemplary behaviour is one of the most important effective leadership traits. If you require a certain level of commitment and work ethic from your team, then you need to show them what that looks like. The same applies to effective communication, responding to challenges, being accountable, and virtually every other leadership trait you can think of. A good leader understands and embraces the fact that they are always being watched, and that they must hold themselves to a very high standard. The way they act will set the guidelines for the rest of their team/organisation, and communicates their expectations and their values.

The Will to Listen/Learn

A good leader understands that they are imperfect. Mistakes are inevitable, and are seen as valuable tools for learning. Opinions and advice are always considered, before decisions are executed with confidence. Involving team members in the decision-making process when necessary instils trust and responsibility. It also shows that team members are valued, and their experience and expertise are a regularly exercised resource. Creating an environment that values and supports people to be their best, in turn produces the best results. With open ears and an open mind, a good leader can become a great one.

Responsibility/Accountability

The successes and failures of a team/organisation rest in the hands of leadership. When something goes wrong, or a mistake has been made, a good leader assumes responsibility. This does not mean distributing blame equally amongst the team, but rather accepting that mistakes were made under their leadership, for which they are accountable. By accepting this responsibility, they are then able to plan for success and improve the current situation. If they choose not to accept responsibility, then they forgo control and are powerless to exact change. If the mistake is not theirs, how can they fix it, or avoid it next time?

Final Note

There are many important effective leadership traits that are required to make a great leader. The list above are just some of the important qualities that need to be considered when you find yourself in a leadership position. They can be applied to any leadership position, from a corporate environment, to a sporting team, or even a family. Wherever teamwork can exist, so too can a great leader. Once again, thanks for reading, and we invite you to add to our effective leadership traits list in the comments section below.

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How To Be A Successful Project Manager: PRINCE2

Vinnie PRINCE2

About the Author

Vince Giacchi began working for Mercedes Benz Australia Pacific as an IBL (working student) towards the end of his International Business Degree in 2012. After a successful IBL tenure Vince took a position with the parent company Daimler AG, at their headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Now back home in Melbourne, and having recently completed his PRINCE2 certification, Vince has found his calling as the SAP Project Manager at Daimler Truck and Bus Australia Pacific. Below, Vince has summarised the PRINCE2 methodology, providing professional insight into effective project management practices.

What is PRINCE2?

PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a structured project management approach. It is recognised as a leading project management methodology, with over one million certified professionals worldwide. It was formed through the analysis and interpretation of a multitude of projects and the experiences offered by their respective managers, teams and sponsors. A PRINCE2 project is governed by seven principles, themes and processes which we will touch on below.

1. Principles (Why?)

A project does not meet the PRINCE2 standard unless all seven principles are applied. They provide the framework for each project undertaken, that guide and empower project managers towards management best practice. The seven principles are:

  • Continued business justification (Does this project make sense?)
  • Learn from experience (Don’t make the same mistake twice)
  • Define roles and responsibilities (Know everyone’s role)
  • Manage by stages (Break large tasks into a series of smaller ones)
  • Manage by exception (Instil autonomy within the working group)
  • Focus on products (Output orientated)
  • Tailor to environment (Adapt to any unique working environment)

2. Themes (What?)

The seven PRINCE2 themes offer an insight into how a project can be best managed. They can be interpreted as putting principles into practice. The themes are relevant from the beginning right through to the end of a project. The seven themes are:

  • Business case – The purpose of this theme is to assess if the project is viable, linking directly to the ‘continued business justification’ principle.
  • Organisation – Defining the project structure, creating accountability and responsibility. This theme links to the third principle ‘define roles and responsibilities.
  • Quality – This encourages project teams to ensure each output meets the required standards, and is fit for purpose. Relating to the ‘focus on products’ principle.
  • Plans – The purpose of this theme is to communicate how targets will be achieved. It focuses on all measurables within a project, i.e. time, cost, who and how. This theme relates to multiple principles.
  • Risk – This theme helps to identify, assess and produce effective mitigation against uncertainty, improving the likelihood of a successful project outcome.
  • Change – Assessing and controlling any changes to the project baseline (initial business case). ‘Continued business justification’ and ‘learn from experience’ are two principles relevant to this theme.
  • Progress – This theme is about tracking where the project is in reality, in comparison to the project timeline.

3. Processes (How?)

A PRINCE2 project is broken up into seven processes, most of which are managed by the project manager. All of the seven processes must be approved by the project board. The seven PRINCE2 processes are:

  • Starting up a project (Is the project viable/worthwhile?)
  • Initiating a project (Establish foundations/Define roles/Understand what needs to be done)
  • Directing a project (Refers to management from a board level – key decision-making)
  • Controlling a stage (Refers to management from a project manager position – monitoring/delegating/corrective-action)
  • Managing product delivery (Project manager works with team managers to agree, accept, execute and deliver requirements)
  • Managing a stage boundary (Duties relating to the end of a stage – review stage success, seek approval for next stage from board)
  • Closing a project (Used by the board to assess and accept the final outcome ‘project product’)

PRINCE2 in Practice: Working Through the Stages

Throughout each stage of a project, the themes and principles offered by the PRINCE2 methodology are ever-present. Let’s look at ‘building a house’ as an example project to demonstrate these processes in practice.

Before starting any successful project, it’s most important to understand what the clients requirements are, or in PRINCE2 terminology, the ‘project product’. A well-written preliminary business case and project brief will help you to do this. In this case, our project product is to build a house.

Once a project brief has been submitted and approved by the board, it’s time to initiate the project. The most important element at this stage, and perhaps the entire project, is the Project Initiation Document (PID). This document details the most important aspects of a project including scope, approach, finalised business case, roles and responsibilities, quality, change, risk and communications management, as well as the project plan. The PID acts as a ‘contract’ between the project manager and the board. The board in this case is represented by the owner and the architect, and the PM is the builder.

It is important to mention the three primary roles on the board, which are the executive, the senior supplier and the senior user. The executive has overall responsibility of the project (the home owner). The senior supplier is the architect, providing knowledge and experience representing the suppliers interest and providing supplier resources, i.e house plans. They deliver quality. The senior user in our case is also the home owner, as they are accountable for ensuring users needs are specified, and the solution chosen suits the end user’s needs. They define quality. Moving on…

The PID has been signed off, the project foundations established, now it’s time to build a house. Controlling a stage is the engine room of any project. Within this stage, the project manager will monitor, problem-solve and escalate to the board if need be. It’s also the PM’s responsibility to authorise, review and receive completed work orders, or ‘work packages’, which have been delegated to different team leaders for completion. In our example this, these ‘team leaders’ are embodied by the plumber, electrician, carpenter and others tradesman. Each trade represents it’s own work package, reporting directly to the project manager. The action of accepting, executing and delivering a work package encompasses the managing product delivery stage.

Once a stage is nearing an end, we move towards managing the stage boundary. This involves assuring all work packages have been completed in accordance with the PID (e.g. quality management approach). This stage also gives the project manager the opportunity to update the board so they are able to assess the progress, accept identified risks, and confirm the projects continued business justification. “Are we on track to build this house on time, and on cost?”

The slab was poured in January, the frame erected in March. The plastering and rough-ins were completed by the end of August, and the house has now been fit-off. We’re nearly ready to close the project. At this final stage the board needs to verify and agree that the project product has been achieved, before handing over the keys.

You might have noticed that theres one process missing from this example… Directing a project happens throughout all of the stages of a PRINCE2 project. As the project progresses through the various stages, the executive, or owner in our case, will oversee and manage by giving ad hoc direction, requesting status updates, approving progress, assessing change and providing final approval of the project product… A brand new house!

Final Note

The PRINCE2 project management methodology is in-depth, and this article is but a brief summary of how it can be implemented to give any project the best chance of being successful. As outlined above, the principles, themes and processes are all intertwined, defining the structure and operations of a well-organised and efficient project. To give your next project the best chance at success, implement the PRINCE2 project management method.

As always, thanks for listening, and thank-you Vince for sharing your expertise! If you have any questions about the article, you can post them in the comments section below.

 

 

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5 Reasons To Engage in Critical Self Reflection

Critical Self Reflection The Short Advice

Why Critical Self Reflection?

Critical self reflection is an essential, and necessary tool for the improvement of oneself. And it’s free! It can help us to improve across many facets of our lives, and plays an enormous role in achieving self-actualization. You can view the 12 characteristics of a self-actualized individual here. Included in this list of characteristics is the acceptance of oneself, particularly those attributes seen as weaknesses. In order to identify these areas, we first must engage in critical self reflection, and here’s why:

1. Awareness of Strengths and Weaknesses

Nobody is perfect, so don’t try to be. Sure, there may be some areas of your person that you would like to change, and that is fine. But however much you improve, you will never be perfect. And so, it is important to accept both our strengths and weaknesses. But first, we must be aware of what they actually are. That is where critical self reflection plays such an enormous role. Failed relationships, successful endeavours, job satisfaction and general happiness. Each scenario provides valuable lessons about our strengths and weaknesses, areas to improve, and sometimes the inter-dependent nature of our positive/negative attributes. That is to say, sometimes our greatest strength, can also be our greatest weakness. Consider how honesty, as a positive attribute, could also land you in some negative situations… But then, you are who you are.

2. Improve Decision Making Skills

Reflecting on past decisions can lay the groundwork for the next important decision. What outcome was I hoping for? What outcome did I get, and why? All important questions to ask yourself as part of the critical self-reflection process. Over time, you will better understand your tendency to make particular decisions, and how well you manage decision making under emotional duress. In the next emotional-fuelled decision making moment, you may recall the last poor decision you made in a frame of mind that was less-conducive to ‘checkmate moves’. If this encourages you to stop, breathe, think, and then act, your critical self reflection has been invaluable… You might just make the right decision this time around.

3. Position of Power

What is it that you really want? Whether a professional goal, relationship goal, or otherwise, it’s going to be a tough road if you don’t regularly engage in critical self-reflection. Empower yourself with the foresight that you didn’t have yesterday. Yes, the past is the past, and it cannot change. But if you don’t learn from the past, then your future may end up looking a lot like it. The point here, is that you can put yourself in a position of value, and a position to succeed, simply through reflection. Do you ever think about how you’d love to make life brilliant for the people that you love? Take their stressors away, and help them achieve sustainable happiness? Well, until you empower yourself with these gifts, you can’t expect to empower others. So, put yourself in a position of power through regular self reflection, and continued improvement.

4. Improve Efficiency/Productivity

Similar to our point on decision making above, reflecting on past experiences, whether successes or failures, can be an invaluable learning tool for the improvement of efficiency and productivity. When engaging in critical self-reflection you may consider the following:

  • Under what circumstances do I best operate?
  • What has worked for me (or not worked) in the past?

These questions of reflection may lead to questions of improvement/innovation:

  • How can I change my environment to improve my efficiency?
  • What adjustments can I make to improve the quality of my output?

5. Self-Actualization

This is the desire for a person to reach their potential, improving themselves, their circumstances and their environment. As described by Maslow in his hierarchy of needs, this is the theory that, once all of our more primary needs are met, we seek fulfillment by achieving our full potential and engaging in creative activities. In other words, we desire to achieve self-actualization. In order to attain this, we need to have engaged in much critical self reflection, and understand and accept ourselves, others and the universe as they each are. Whilst the concept is not so ambiguous, what it looks like to each individual can be tricky to identify. But, the more you understand about yourself, and your own needs, the greater the chance you will have of fulfilling those needs. This is how critical self reflection can put you on the path towards self-actualization.

Final Note

The reasons listed above are just some of the benefits of critical self reflection. The overall personal development we can experience by recognising our behavioural patterns and improving self-awareness can have an enormous positive impact on our lives. You don’t have to write things down to engage in reflection, but you might. Perhaps you best reflect by having a conversation with a close friend who can assist your self reflection, while you assist theirs. However it happens, it’s a good idea to make sure it does, and to take steps towards self-improvement. As always, thanks for reading. If you have a topic you’d like to understand more about, feel free to drop us a line on our homepage.

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How To Overcome Addiction: 5 Ways To Kick The Habit

Addiction - The Short Advice

The Nature of Addiction

Addiction feeds our need for instant gratification, providing short term gain, but often with negative long-term effects. It feels great when you’re doing it, so how can you know for sure whether you’re addicted, or you just like doing it? This is the very question that makes addiction both difficult to recognise, and accept. For a list of criteria specific to substance addiction, this article might be helpful in the recognising/accepting stage. Our 5 ways to beat addiction below assume that an addiction has already been recognised, and accepted. Remember, addiction can range from mild to severe, and does not have to be drug/alcohol related. Without further adieu…

1. List the Pros and Cons

Why are you addicted? Why do you want to break the addiction? Between these two questions, you should be able to list some of the positive and negative attributes of your addictive behaviours/activites. The first question asks what you have to gain from engaging in your addictive behaviour… After all, there must be something pretty great about it, otherwise it wouldn’t be addictive in the first place! The second question is encouraging you to consider why there is a need for change. Whilst it might feel good at the time, what are the longer-term issues that you’re creating for yourself, and possibly others? An analysis of your addiction, and some reflection on the effects, is a great starting point from which to build strategies to overcome it.

2. Replace the Pros

How can you replace the positive experience/emotions that your addiction provides in a way that is not damaging to your mental health/physical health? Consider your list of pros, and brainstorm ways that you could recreate those positive emotions/outcomes with an activity/course of action that is beneficial to your personal development as well. Take substance abuse as an example… In most cases, the feelings/emotions that many addictive substances make you feel are not new ones that are exclusive to that substance. However, the feelings are often quite intense, and minimal effort is required in order to experience them. And so, escapism and addiction is born. This brings us back around to the old saying, that nothing worth doing is ever easy. But often, the easy road is only easy for the first few kms…

3. Recognise the Triggers

Is there a particular situation or action that encourages you to engage in your addictive behaviour? Find out what it is, and be aware of it. You don’t necessarily have to avoid it as such, but it should help you to be more conscious of your decision-making process when relapse is beckoning. Understanding your triggers can also help you to decrease them. For example, if stress were a trigger, than you could put some thought into how you can better manage stress in your life to reduce the intensity and frequency of that trigger. You can have multiple triggers, or a trigger could be the combination of feelings/emotions/situations that drive your addictive behaviour. So, engage in some critical self-reflection and consider how you can limit your vulnerability.

4. Set a Goal

Set a goal that requires you to overcome your addiction in order to achieve your goal. The goal does not have to be centered around your addiction. For example, a heavy smoker may set a goal to run a marathon. Whilst this has nothing to do with smoking, it would be extremely difficult to achieve the required level of fitness to run a marathon with the lung capacity of a regular smoker. In doing this, it will highlight the effects of your addictive behaviour that are inhibiting you from leading the lifestyle you wish to lead. The smoker may turn back to nicotine in their hour of need, but they will pay for it later when their hands are on their knees in a coughing fit, after the first 500m. Nobody said it would be easy, but it’s a great way to keep yourself accountable.

5. Take Immediate Action

When will you choose to start fighting your addiction? Unfortunately, the most common answer is usually ‘tomorrow’. And it’s always the wrong answer. Thats your subconscious speaking, the part of you that doesn’t have to experience all of the negative effects. That part of you doesn’t want you to stop. That part of you is having the time of your life! So they’ll try to sell you on idea… “We’re too busy to stop now, let’s start on Monday”, or “NYE is around the corner, let’s make it our resolution”. Don’t get sucked in. This will only lead to more procrastinating and excuses. So, start right this very moment! Make the promise to yourself, and put a plan in place. How will you change for the better right now?

Final Note

There are a number of variables to consider when approaching addiction. It would be crazy to assume that one addiction could be overcome as simply as the next. Personality types, education, genetic disposition, resilience, environment etc… All of these factors have a role to play. Some addictions are far more severe than others, and some far less damaging than others. Whatever your vice, there is a way to overcome, you just have to be willing to put in some hard work.

As always, thanks for reading! Hopefully you’ll be able to apply these steps and overcome whatever it is that is holding you back from living the lifestyle you want to lead.