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How To Learn Speed Reading Effectively

How to learn speed reading

About the Author

Jimmy from myspeedreading.com has agreed to share some helpful tips to start you on your reading journey – speed reading that is! It’s a great way to acquire new knowledge in an efficient and time effective manner. So, if you’re someone who struggles with time management, then perhaps speed reading is for you! Today we hear from a speed reading pro, so be sure to read slowly, and take it all in ;).

The Benefits of Reading

In any age, information will always be the key element of understanding for every human being. Through information one gains knowledge. And, to acquire information, we must read. There is an almost-infinite amount of information in the world, which can be acquired through regular reading. If a person is not reading, he/she is missing out on current events and a vast array of knowledge on different subjects.

Much like exercise for your brain, reading increases concentration, thinking ability and creativity. It is said that a book can change a person. So, if one book can do that, imagine what will happen if you read a wide variety of books! Now that we know how important reading is, we need to understand how we can read all types of books in a shorter amount of time.

Speed Reading

There are a variety of wonderful books out there and so much information in the world to absorb. How would we absorb all this information in a limited amount of time? We are a busy bunch of people, working 9-5 and looking after our families. So, when we get a chance to read a book, we should make the most out of the time we have. Now, how do we do that? We must resort to reading at a faster pace than we normally do. An average person can read around 200 to 250 words per minute. With practice however, we can train ourselves to read at least 400 to 800 words per minute. When you’re reading information that requires you to absorb and remember facts and figures, you may need to slow down on your reading. Take the time to process and memorize information. 

1. Time your reading speed

There are websites and reading apps that can track your reading speed. Download these apps and get a feel for your reading speed and comprehension. You can also do it yourself by simply reading a page and keeping time manually. The next day, read a paragraph or page more than the previous day in the same amount of time. Repeat this exercise every day by increasing the number of paragraphs or pages, in the same amount of time. This exercise requires a lot of patience and effort in order to speed read, and comprehend what you’re reading. Initially, you may stumble, but don’t give up on practicing.

2. Train your eyes

Sight is the most important sense that you require for reading. You’ll need to train your eyes to read without going back and forth, which our eyes have a natural tendency to do. This is difficult to overcome, but nothing is impossible if we practice. To train your eyes, just focus on one sentence or line at a time. Make a conscious effort to avoid going back to read the same sentence or words again. Initially, take it slow. Read a sentence and then slowly go to the next sentence and then the next. Make sure that you don’t let your eyes go back and forth to read the sentences again. 

3. Sub-vocalization

When reading, we tend to pronounce every word in our heads. This is called sub-vocalization. If you observe yourself, your lips will be moving even though you’re not reading aloud. When you say every word in your head, your reading will slow down. Now, stopping your subconscious mind from reading every word is not easy. You must practice and make an effort to stop sub-vocalizing. One simple tip is to keep a finger on your lips or chew gum to avoid reading in your head. Make a conscious effort to just run your eyes through what you’re reading. Have patience and keep practicing, and you will see the results. 

4. Pointer Method

When we read, we tend to lose track of the sentence we are reading. At times, we might end up re-reading the same line again or even miss a line. To manoeuvre from one line to the next, keep a finger or pen below the line you’re reading and just follow your eyes from left to right. Keep moving the finger or pen to the next line. This will increase your concentration on what you’re reading and your eyes will not go back and forth to read the words or sentences again. This method is easier than the other techniques to practice and will help tremendously in increasing your reading speed.

5. Skimming and Scanning

Not every word in a sentence is as important as the next. So, scan the sentence and just read the important words. For example: If I read this sentence – “this rose is red”. I am reading 4 words. I can ignore “this” and “is” and if I just read “rose red”, I will be reading 2 words. Yet, I will understand the meaning of the sentence even though I have skipped some words. If you read a lesser number of words and read only the important ones, you will see the difference in speed. This technique requires a lot of practice.

Once you acquire the skill of skimming through a sentence, you can skim through a paragraph as well. Read the first and the second line, and then read the last line of the paragraph. Then scan through the important words in between the paragraph and you will gauge what the paragraph is about. Train yourself regularly and eventually, you will be good at skimming through pages without even realising you’re doing it!

Final Note

These 5 techniques are important methods to acquire the skill of speed reading. But, they can only be mastered through practice. Initially you’ll need to have a lot of patience. So don’t be too hard on yourself, and remember, failure is but a stepping stone on the road to success! Also, remind yourself that reading is a wonderful habit. Consider how much knowledge you can gain through reading different books and articles. Reading without understanding however is a total waste of time. It’s only effective when balanced with pace and comprehension. So, while practicing speed reading, don’t compromise on comprehension. As you start to enjoy reading, you will be a good judge of balancing your reading speed. Practice makes perfect, so get over to myspeedreading.com today and begin your speed reading journey!

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Thoughtful Christmas Gifts: A How-To Guide

Thoughtful Christmas Gifts The Short Advice

Thoughtful Christmas Gifts Don’t Grow on Trees

Yet another year has flown by, and you’re faced with the challenging task of finding thoughtful Christmas gifts for your friends and family (again). The good news is, there is any easier way than leaving it all to Christmas Eve, jumping over the crowds of shoppers, and pulling your hair out. If you’re reading this at 11:59am on the 24th of December though, skip straight to point 5, and then checkout our time management tips… Thoughtful Christmas gifts are personalised, and reflective of the unique relationship between ‘gift-er’ and ‘gift-ee’. By putting just a little bit of extra time and thought into a gift idea, you can create a lasting memory of happiness, and really make someone’s day. So, checkout our 5 tips below to make sure your thoughtful Christmas gifts tick all of the boxes this season!

1. Time, Not Money

Don’t be fooled! It’s not all about how much cash you can splash. Thoughtful Christmas gifts require time and effort, not just a Santa-sack full of money. Besides, if you work, study or do a combination of the two, your time is probably limited. And thus, valuable. You can show your loved ones just how much they mean to you, by dedicating the time to create something beautiful for them. Or, if you’re not that way inclined, you can organise a customised gift too. Either way, your time and effort will always be appreciated. After all, true friendship is something that money simply cannot buy.

2. Reflect on the Relationship

What makes your relationship with this person so special? What jokes and experiences have you shared? Think about all of the great things about your friend/family member and build an equally great gift idea. Perhaps they’ve had a rough year, and you’d like to let them know that you’re on their side… Find a gift that represents when you met, and another that represents your relationship now. Remind them that you were there then, you’re here now, and you’ll still be there later. “You can’t get rid of me” – You.

3. Get Them Talking

Finding thoughtful Christmas gifts sometimes involves a healthy and necessary level of deception… If you’re struggling to come up with something, you can try tricking someone into spilling what they want for Christmas! Talk about some of the best gifts you ever received, and some of the things you’d like to receive. Try doing it in front of a group, so as not to raise suspicion… Get them talking about what they really want for Christmas, and then surprise them on the day with everything they ever wanted! A sneaky means to an ends, that might not work two years in a row…

4. Make the Card Count

Cards are an important part of any thoughtful Christmas gift. Pick a card that speaks to the nature of your relationship, but more importantly, write with humour and sincerity! Again, reflect on the relationship. Reference the year passed and congratulate them on any obstacles they overcame that they might have forgotten to acknowledge themselves. Let them know why you appreciated them again this year, and be specific when you can. If humour isn’t your thing, sincerity works equally as well. Make them laugh, make them cry… The art of Christmas card writing – don’t underestimate it!

5. Amazon Gift Finder

If you’re still out of ideas (or time), you can use Amazon’s gift finder tool to browse through a collection of items, filtered by gender, age group and interests. You might just stumble across a whole bunch of thoughtful Christmas gifts in the process! Theres a pretty impressive variety of categories, and you can checkout whats been trending too. This is particularly handy if you’re buying for a child, who’s interests are dependent on channels that you are just not tuned in to anymore!

Final Note

In the true spirit of Christmas, everyone should just be happy that you’ve thought about them. But, if you really want to leave an impression, you can find all of the thoughtful Christmas gifts you need using the tips above. Also, don’t forget to checkout our store too! Our road to success goal map is a great gift idea to help people plan for success in the new year. Thanks for reading, and good luck with your Christmas shopping! Merry Christmas all!

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Positive Thinking: How To Be More Optimistic

Positive Thinking The Short Advice

The Benefits of Positive Thinking

Positive thinking is contagious, the same way negativity is. However, negativity is born with the upper hand… The human brain tends to have a negative bias, and so we need to work particularly hard to overcome this bias and be positive. Introducing positive thinking into our lives must be a focus if we are to overcome our natural relationship with negativity. So, how can you start being more positive? And why should you start being more positive?? The why, is that positivity breeds positivity, and the how has been outlined for you below…

Use Positive Language

It has been suggested that positive language actually has the ability to change the way you think, modifying brain functions and increasing motivational activity. In contrast, negative words may inhibit your ability to manage stress. Positive self-talk is one particular strategy that refers to the language you use, both in thought and verbally, to speak to yourself. Using positive phrases like “I can”, and “I will” can in time increase self-esteem and decrease negative thinking. So, next time you’ve made a mistake, let yourself know that you’re in it together with some positive self-reassurance!

Focus on Positivity

Placing a greater focus on your most positive attributes can in-fact produce improved results. A 1982 study required bowlers to rate their performance, with one group focusing solely on what they did well, and the other group focusing on not making the same mistakes twice. The first group showed significantly greater improvement. The conclusion, is that positivity can be a greater motivator towards success and improvement than negativity, but you probably guessed that already… If positive thinking and reflection will drive you to improve, why not try it?

Dance Your Way to Positivity

Movement and exercise has been linked to happiness, known to release endorphins that can make us feel great. Dr Peter Lovatt, or ‘Dr Dance’, suggests that one can ‘dance themselves happy’, which follows the above principal and builds on the relationship between exercise and positivity. Maybe you’re not a dancer, and that’s fine. The message really is to move, and generate positivity through action. Exercise has a number of other benefits that can contribute to one’s ability to be positive, like building confidence and resilience.

Balance Your Emotions

Negative emotions can’t be ignored if you expect to live with sustained positive thinking and optimism. Whilst there is a fine line between realism and pessimism, it is important to understand the purpose of negativity in order to create an acceptable balance. Our emotions all serve a purpose that can generally be linked to survival and pro-creation (which ultimately is the survival of our species). Fear can stop us from hurting ourselves, guilt can stop us from repeating poor behaviour and love can keep our families safe. So, positive thinking doesn’t mean you should ignore negativity altogether, but rather create a better balance between the two.

Reinforce Positivity

Challenge yourself and achieve a goal by applying an optimistic outlook to your situation. Fear and negativity are the greatest barrier in the way of achieving your goals on the road to success. Incorporate the positive thinking strategies outlined above, and put a plan into place. After all, one of the best ways to reinforce learning is through experience. Reflect on past situations, and consider the different outcomes and level of satisfaction you have achieved through positive thinking, as opposed to a negative bias.

Final Note

With our brains naturally inclined to lean towards negativity as a protective mechanism, it’s any wonder that positive thinking is a challenge. It’s sort of like having great posture. You have to actively think about it. When it leaves the forefront of your mind however, you might start to slouch. But, if you make a conscious effort to pull your shoulders back and stand up straight… Well, it just might become habit. Apply this principle to positive thought, and habitually engage in positive thinking – without even thinking about it! If you’ve got anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment below… Hopefully a positive one ;). As always, thanks for reading.

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Losing A Loved One: 5 Guiding Points

Losing A Loved One The Short Advice

Losing a Loved One is Hard.

The below 5 tips are not a definitive list or professional opinion, but rather a general set of guiding points to help you deal with losing a loved one. The sort of loss we are discussing in this article specifically is death, and if you’ve ever lost somebody you love, then you already know how difficult it can be. Coping with loss, in it’s many forms, is a topic that has been researched thoroughly, as loss has been known to cause illness if not properly dealt with. Medical research suggests that professional advice, or simply a hug, can assist those who are trying to cope with losing a loved one. So, don’t deny yourself a life of happiness… That is the last thing your loved one would want for you!

1. Allow Time to Grieve

Cry. Don’t cry. Be sad, be angry, ponder the future. Everybody will have their own different experience with grieving, and thats okay. Allow yourself to experience the emotions that you need to, in order to rationalise, and make sense of the very difficult and trying circumstances that losing a loved one presents. It takes time, and there are a number of stages in the grieving process that you may need to experience in order to move forward with your life. Also, while you are grieving, make sure you consider your own wellbeing too, as stress can mount during this time.

2. Celebrate Life

Sadness, devastation, shock, grief, despair. All emotions commonly associated with losing a loved one, and rightly so. You don’t have to suppress these emotions, but it’s also important to remember the good. As difficult as it is, these emotions are the perfect example of balance. To be so unfathomably upset in loss, the presence of your loved one must have brought much elation. So don’t be afraid to reflect on this happiness, and speak their name. Smile, laugh, joke and marvel at the priceless memories they’ve created. You’ll have negative emotions surrounding the loss itself, but you can also be thankful for your time together.

3. Honour The Memory

Losing a loved one is hard – but why? What was so fantastic about this person that makes their loss so difficult to bear? Consider their best attributes, and how you can add value to your life, and other lives, by being the embodiment of their great qualities. In doing this, their legacy can live on through you. The impact and influence that your loved one has had on your life, can continue doing good for you, and others, even after they’re gone. Were they strong? Summon this strength when you need it the most. Were they compassionate? Take the time to selflessly help somebody, as they would have.

4. Find Meaning and Purpose

When you lose somebody, particularly earlier than their due time, the common question one asks is “why?” The answer to this question is something we may never find out, similarly to the meaning of life. But we can find meaning and purpose in their passing if we choose to, although easier said than done. Is there something you can do to ensure that your loved one’s passing could save another’s life? Can you raise awareness for a charity, or donate, or simply urge friends and family to have the difficult conversations that so many avoid? Perhaps you can find purpose by embodying their best attributes, as stated above.

5. Accept

Sometimes its hard to believe that it has really happened. Shock and confusion is a normal part of losing a loved one, and often precedes the grieving stage. And, part of the grieving stage is trying to figure out how to move forward, without the presence of your loved one. Acceptance is a hurdle that needs to be overcome in order to move forward with your life, and be happy again. It is also considered to be the final stage of the grieving process. Nobody expects to be happy about what has happened, or even be okay with it. But in order to continue living, and remembering the good, and honouring the memory, one does need to accept the difficult realities of losing a loved one.

Final Note

Loss can take many forms, and each presents its own challenges. Losing a loved one can create a sense of hopelessness, which makes it seemingly impossible to continue your life as you used to know it, and you probably never will. Because the reality is that the experience has changed you forever, but it’s not all bad. Remember your loved one, and all of the great things about that person that caused the pain of loss in the first place. Honour their memory, and celebrate their life. It’s never as easy as it sounds when it’s written, and everybody will have a different experience. Remember that there are people to talk to, and others struggling with similar circumstances. You are not alone.

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Entering The Property Market (Part One): 5 Major Considerations

entering the property market the short advice

About the Author

Stephen Pace is an experienced commercial and residential mortgage broker with BCP Finance in Melbourne’s leafy suburb of Parkville, on the city fringe. He specialises in home and commercial loans, and has agreed to share some general advice when it comes to entering the property market. Today’s article is part one of a two-part series, so be sure to follow posts over the coming months for part two! So, if you’re considering entering the property market and you’re looking for a lender, look no further than the very knowledgable Mr. Pace, and here’s why…

Entering the Property Market

Financing a property is always challenging and as for most in the general public, it is very likely that you will have to think long and hard whether or not you’re ready and capable of making such a financial commitment. Buying a property is usually the single most expensive transaction a person will make in their life, and if done right, entering the property market can be both a smart expense and good investment.

1. Purpose – Owner Occupied Vs. Investment

The first primary factor when considering entering the property market is to determine the purpose of the purchase. Are you looking to purchase this property to live in? Or are you looking for an investment purchase seeking to obtain rental income?

The two key factors above impacts not only the buyers appetite but also the bank’s from a loan point of view, in regards to the minimum contribution, and also servicing factors. Making a decision can be tricky but is should be determined by your current financial and lifestyle position. Looking forward 1-3 years of your goals is a point recommended to help to assist your decision making. If you are seeking an investment purchase, there are 3 underlying factors which would determine if the property will make a good investment, these 3 simple things are; rental yield, capital growth potential and the underlying demand.

2. Analyse and Evaluate the Financial Commitment

Once a buyer has determined the purpose of the purchase, each buyer should evaluate their finances. As mentioned above, entering the property market can be the single most expensive transaction a person can make, so don’t go in blindly! Do some research and educate yourself in regards to property areas, fluctuations in property prices and lender appetite and requirement. It’s also important to know what to look for when prospecting for a property, to ensure you’re not falling into a financial hole of additional costs outside of the purchase price.

a) Buy What You Can Afford

In this current market, with the rise of cost of living, you should buy the house you know you can afford, no point buying a house and then all your pay goes towards the mortgage repayments, you still need money for cost of living. Mapping out a plan of attack by creating a strict budget is a good idea. In the period of seeking a property, try and avoid overspending, as this could jeopardise your financial stability – from here you should only consider the ones that you budget can handle.

b) Understand The Various Expenses of Entering the Property Market

A point that also must be considered when evaluating your finances is working out and getting comfortable with the on-going expenses and commitments post-settlement. A lot of buyers drain their bank account and put their every last dollar into the purchase, but don’t take into account the maintenance costs of the house and insurances. The question then gets asked, is it worthwhile looking into a brand new house or buying an established house in an established area?

c) Inspecting For Potential Costs

If the house is established, when inspecting a house you should inspect it thoroughly, focus on the structural stuff, aging appliances, cracks/chips/mould in the walls any leaks or water damage – you may consider paying an external upfront building report. Enlisting a professional for the building report will cover off on factors mentioned above, as well as:-

  • Ensuring the foundation is solid
  • Is wiring up to code
  • Is the house structurally sound
  • Are you buying a property that has any wood eating pests? How will you know?

This is an important point as maintenance costs can end up eating heavily into your savings and budget, so it is worthwhile saving some money in your bank account for a rainy day.

3. Identifying the Area and Type of Property that suits You

Identifying a property, the underlying area and buying to suit your lifestyle is important. There are some factors that cannot be ignored, such as:

  • Do you actually require a house? Maybe a townhouse or a unit would suit?
  • Is the area close to work? Family? Friends?
  • Is the property close to public transport and schools?
  • How is the condition of real estate in the area?
  • Is your area prone to bush fires? Flooding? Is it in a flight path?

The prices of property tend to vary in different locations and suburbs which is derived from several different factors. For example, a house that is situated in close proximity to infrastructure, walking distances to public transport, shops and schools, will generally cost more than a house located further from such amenities. Each location and suburb will have its own niche advantages; find out what suits your budget and meets all of your needs before making a final decision on which property to purchase or invest in.

4. Obtaining a Pre-Approval

Once you have worked out your potential purpose, created a budget and identified a preferable property type, where to from here? There is no written rule that you require one, but anyone in the financial game in this day and age would advise that obtaining a pre-approval is highly recommended.

Obtaining a pre-approval with a lender or approaching a mortgage broker for a professional opinion and guidance is worthwhile – we deal with this stuff every day and have the ability to guide and educate you throughout the whole process.

A pre-approval is a powerful tool to have up your sleeve; no doubt there will always be some mitigating factors or conditions to meet before going to a final approval, but it provides any buyer the confidence that they have the support from a lender. This will enable a buyer to attend an auction or even a private sale arrangement and confidently bid within their limitations.

5. Representation

Having a pre-approval provides confidence to any buyer entering the property market, as you have a lender in you corner to guide and assist you. So, why not continue to bolster up your team?

a) Real Estate Agents

Having a realtor that works for you and an experienced solicitor round off your trio. The seller pays the commission to the real estate agent, so it makes sense to capitalise on their free service as a buyer! The realtor can:

  • Provide area and property data
  • Identify current and potential properties coming up in the area
  • Share knowledge regarding the area and suburbs you seek to buy
  • Negotiate with the seller
  • Assist in additional inspections

b) Solicitors

Secondly, having a solicitor is beneficial. Each property sale will come with a contract and there will be papers to sign. And more papers to sign… And more! The contract will contain a lot of legal jargon, so who better to review and provide advice than a solicitor? Their role is to ensure that the contract is sound and there aren’t any mitigating conditions popping out that will put their client (you) at risk. The contract is originally drawn up from the seller, so there is room for negotiations. Whether you need additional time to settle, or another inspection of the property, or to waive a condition, your solicitor will act on your behalf to do all of the heavy lifting. This helps to ensure that the contract will meet your requests and obligations.

A contract of sale is typically drawn up and available when a property is advertised; it becomes available from the acting seller’s real estate agent. Before attending an auction, try and obtain the draft version and provide this to your solicitor; they will advise accordingly if everything is in order. This way, you can attend an auction or bid on a private sale with confidence. If there are any clauses which jump out to them, they can be amended on the draft and reviewed by the seller before either party signs.

Final Note

Whether you are an experienced property investor or entering the property market for the first time, buying a property is both an exciting and stressful experience. You may not always find a likeable home and buy it first up; there are people whom have been unsuccessful multiple times at auctions… Just remember to remain calm and positive that there are always many more opportunities. It is important to keep the above mentioned points in mind and all that is involved, including the moving factors and components within it. The more educated you are, fire power you have up your sleeve and stronger team you have to represent you, the better off you will be! The experience will become so much easier and more enjoyable.

Stay tuned for our next guest post in the coming months, detailing the important considerations of finding a home loan.

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How To Be More Assertive At Work: 5 Assertive Actions

More Assertive in The Workplace The Short Advice

Assertive VS Rude

There is a difference. A big difference in fact. But too many people are unwilling to explore this difference, and end up becoming the victim of unmanageable workloads, and sometimes even workplace bullying. From a managerial perspective, it can mean giving instructions firmly, fairly and confidently. Being more assertive isn’t quite jumping on your desk and booting the computer across the room (as pictured above). But then again, your boss probably isn’t a Yeti… Rather, assertiveness is the ability to be heard with confidence and conviction. It’s standing up for yourself, and it’s getting things done that need to be done. In contrast, throwing insults around the workplace when you’re not getting your way would of course be rude!

Why You Need to be More Assertive in the Workplace

The workplace can be a stressful environment, and part of managing this stress is being more assertive. You have a workload to manage, same as the rest of your colleagues. But the reality is that some people manage this better than others. A manager needs to be assertive when giving instruction and ensuring deadlines are met, and protocols are followed. A team member needs to be assertive when their manager and colleagues are trying to handball their unwanted workloads off to somebody else. Whatever your role, it pays to stand up for yourself. Our 5 points below will help you to better understand just what that looks like…

1. Say ‘No’

We’ve started with this for a reason. Too many people feel rude saying ‘no’, when really, they’re helping themselves and others in the long run. If you bear the load of others too frequently, it might not be sustainable. It could cause you to be highly stressed over time, and even lead to burnout. Of course, we all want to help people. But, we need to put ourselves in a position of strength and power in order to be most effective for those we wish to help. Be more assertive, and empower yourself with the ability to say ‘no’ when appropriate, but do it politely. You’ll still be an effective team member, perhaps even more effective now that you’ve got the time to complete all of your tasks to the best of your ability.

2. Know Your Role

Job titles can be quite ambiguous, so it’s worth understanding exactly what roles and responsibilities your title comes with. From a managerial perspective, it’s also worth being explicit when providing these details, so that each team member is aware of the requirements of their role. Simply knowing your role will help you to be more assertive, as you can make better judgements on where you should focus your energy, and when you need to say ‘no’. It will also help you to justify ‘no’ as an appropriate response, when your more pressing responsibilities are clearly outlined for you.

3. Anticipate Problems

This refers to being aware of your environment, and the pressures and issues that can arise. In other words, you shouldn’t be surprised that other people will try to take advantage of the ‘yes’ man as frequently as possible. Sometimes they themselves are so unassertive that their stress and workload has them asking others for help so often. Being aware of this destructiveness will help you to identify it, and rise above it. You don’t want to find yourself stuck in either situation, so have your assertive actions prepared in advance.

4. Value Your Time

If you don’t, nor will anybody else. This is actually a great supporting argument when it comes to saying ‘no’ more often. If you are seen as the ‘yes’ man, people may perceive you to have an exorbitant amount of time on your hands, and respect your time less. Little do they know, your mountain of work is piling up. If however you place value on your time, and agree to help only when you are ‘able’ to, people will respect your time more, and tend to ask for favours less frequently. By placing greater value on your time, you are supporting your ability to be more assertive. If the mountain of work continues piling up however, maybe it’s time to checkout our time management tips!

5. Manage Expectations

If you are doing the right thing at work, and working hard towards your targets, then you have nothing to hide. You produce a high level of output, and are efficient in your duties, although your manager’s deadlines are still near-impossible to meet. In this case, questions need to be asked about your role and responsibilities, realistic deadlines, and breakdown of hours for a given task. If the expectation is that you slave away, take work home, get in early and stay late, and are underpaid, is this an expectation you’d like to continue supporting? Probably not. Being more assertive means negotiating more reasonable and realistic expectations for a sustainable/happier workplace environment. Stand up for yourself!

Final Note

There are many ways in which you can be more assertive and they are all a far-cry from being rude. Assertiveness can help you to be more helpful, manage your time more effectively, and even increase job (and life) satisfaction. Approach situations confidently, knowing you are prepared for the pressures of your environment, and become a more effective member of your organisation in doing so. With the above assertive actions, you’ll be free to get on with your own work. As always, thanks for reading!

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How To Be A Critical Thinker: 5 Critical Thinking Questions

Critical Thinker Critical Thinking The Short Advice

Being a Critical Thinker

Being a critical thinker is less about being right or wrong, and more about deciding what is right and wrong. It’s a skill that is becoming increasingly more important, as more and more fake news and unverified information is being published to the internet every minute. A critical thinker has the ability to form their own views and opinions, and does not blindly follow others. So, next time you’re being fed some new info, consider how likely it is to be true before accepting it as the truth. Sometimes it pays to be skeptical…

Approaching a Theory With Critical Thinking

There are a multitude of conflicting views and opinions in the world. Contradicting evidence and research being used to prove one theory and exclude another makes it very difficult to know what is true, and what isn’t. That’s why we’ve compiled this short list of 5 questions to help you become a critical thinker and better decision-maker. So, give it a try next time you need to approach a situation with critical thinking!

1. What am I being asked to believe?

First, make sure you understand exactly what the person/source is telling you. Build your understanding with further research into the theory and try to decide whether it makes sense to you or not. Sometimes the use of language and vocabulary can make it difficult to understand exactly what is being communicated, so it might be worth finding out if there is another source that is supporting this same theory. This might help you get a better understanding of the theory, or even help you make a decision on whether or not your original source knows what they’re talking about!

2. Who is asking me to believe it?

Considering the source of the information you are analysing is a major part of being a critical thinker. This point raises further questions like ‘why do they want me to believe this theory?’, and ‘what is in it for them?’. This brings us to the point of potential bias. Sometimes, a person/source might stand to benefit from having people believe their theory. Depending on who is telling the story, the presence of bias might exist in persuasive language. Then again, a person can be both persuasive and truthful, no? This is another reason to research other sources who are offering the same/similar information. Is there any variation between different versions of the same theory/information. Has something been lost in translation? Do your research.

3. Is there evidence to support this theory?

Speaking of research, is the source claiming to present evidence-based information? Where and how have they collected their research? The various methods of collecting data can present many challenges in itself, and make way for serious bias. Now it’s time to research the research. If the source of information is claiming to have supporting evidence, you should review this evidence, and decide if you believe it is relevant. There’s always a chance that it’s completely invalid, or that the results of the research have simply been misinterpreted by the source of information. With too many variables that can cause an error in the information offered, it pays to do some independent research of your own.

4. What are the alternatives?

For almost every theory offered, there are conflicting/contradicting ones to match. Some people might still believe that the earth is flat, for example. No matter how certain you may be, it’s likely somebody, somewhere is certain of something else. This doesn’t mean that you’re wrong of course, but in some cases, it might mean that exploring the alternative theories offered is a good idea. You might agree with parts of one theory, and parts of another, forming your own views as a critical thinker. Fill yourself with knowledge, keep on learning, and foster independent thought.

5. What is the most reasonable conclusion?

‘Based on my knowledge, understanding and research, what makes the most sense to me?’ Once you’ve answered all of the above questions, it’s time to draw some conclusions. How reliable is the source? Could the information/data be biased? Does this theory actually make sense to you? A combination of your research, and your opinion based on experience should be considered. Rationality can be used to form theories and opinions, although it does need to be supported by research and experience/observation.

Final Note

The ability to be a competent critical thinker is something that we all need to develop. Critical thinking will help you to make sense of the world, forming your own views and opinions. Don’t blindly accept the truth, and don’t mistake rationalism for certainty. Always do your research, and you’ll be better equipped to start developing some theories of your own… Once again, thanks for reading! If you’ve got a critical thinking question you’d like to add, you can leave it in the comments section below.

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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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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.