Expert Author Susan Leigh
Staff are the backbone of an organisation. Their behaviour is how your customers and clients judge your operation and its professionalism. Having an effective, motivated workforce is often the key to a business doing well. Treat your staff well and they will work hard for you, treat them badly and they will watch the clock and be inflexible in their jobs. Here are some simple and effective tips to motivate staff, manage workplace stress and ensure that they are loyal, committed and work hard for you.
- Communicate. Tell people what is going on. Nothing travels faster than a rumour and company morale can be devastated almost overnight. Staff who feel included, informed and respected will be loyal as a result.
- Mediate. In dispute situations try to arbitrate. Deal with situations promptly and get all the information from the involved parties. All concerned will have a valid point of view and they need to be listened to and respected. Try to get the main parties round a table to discuss it. Mediation is about finding the common ground and then moving forward a step at a time.
- Be fair. Being fair and being seen to be fair is very important. People will often accept a decision made against them if they can see and understand that they were dealt with fairly.
- Listen to your staff. They may have excellent ideas for improvement. Some of the most successful businessmen regularly visit the shop floor and chat to staff. They understand that the shop floor and sales staff see the business at the sharp end and their views and feedback is really valuable. Sometimes the most obvious inefficiencies can be missed from the boardroom. Appreciate and value your staff caring enough to pass on ideas for improvement. Encourage it.
- Encourage them to progress. Some staff are happy to stay in one job all their lives, but a company progresses when its staff are dynamic, motivated and enthusiastic. Committed staff have to be noticed, developed and given the opportunity to progress or else they may well leave and take their talent elsewhere.
- Train them. Use staff appraisals to discover where staff interests and skills lie. Then have company training programmes available for the interested members of the business.
- Reward good results. Money and bonuses are one way to motivate staff, but not all companies have the financial resources to pay bonuses and reward schemes. Sometimes a company 'employee of the month' scheme can be well received, where a staff member has their photograph put on a wall of honour. Being acknowledged for their efforts can be an important motivator.
- Avoid being too flashy. When staff are being told that times are hard and budgets are being squeezed it can feel insulting and de-motivational to see management arriving in expensive cars and suits and taking fabulous holidays. Be aware that it is reasonable to be seen to be doing well, earning the right to have rewards for all the years of sacrifice put into building the business. However if you expect staff to work hard and take cuts then they will expect to see you do the same.
- Admit when you are wrong. Sometimes saying that you have tried something but have been unsuccessful can be a very powerful thing to do. It can humanise a manager in front of his staff. Clearly, people need to feel confident in their management and be able to trust them, but if a policy or strategy clearly has not worked, admitting that and saying that the experience has been learned from is a positive step.
Expert Author Susan Leigh
Often in business the important parts are seen to be the dynamic activities of selling, growth, new ideas and innovations, but in reality the behind the scenes elements can be even more important. It can be all too easy to lose everything overnight. A little forward planning can make all the difference.
- Staff flexibility. If a key member of staff is suddenly indisposed then there can be the danger that all that persons' knowledge and business input has gone with them. It is important for staff to share their knowledge, have inter-changeable skills as far as possible, so that if something unfortunate does happen then the business can continue with relatively minimal disruption.
- Inter-changeable skills includes the boss too. Many company directors and owners have all their key facts in their heads. Knowledge might equal power, but if that knowledge is suddenly removed from the business it can be disastrous. Also, keeping staff informed and included in the business helps to keep a loyal and motivated workforce.
- Backup your data. Most businesses now use computer technology for everything, from staff payrolls, to invoicing, ordering, stock-taking. It is amazing how few companies backup their data, so that if the computer system went off-line the business would come to a standstill, and if that information were then to be lost completely the business would be in a crisis because so much important information is held solely on their computer systems.
- Insurance is important but can be treated as an irritating, unnecessary overhead, until there is a fire or a burglary. Only then do business owners appreciate how vital it is. It is bad enough picking up the pieces after a fire or burglary, but to then discover that the business is under-insured or not insured at all can have serious implications. The whole business could potentially be lost.
- Have a good Accountant. They can advise on pricing, profit margins, let you know how you are doing in terms of profitability, being paid on time, which parts of the business may be under-performing. A good accountant keeps you up-to-date and clear about how your business is faring and can draw your attention to any areas that may need to be looked at in more detail.
- Do not skimp on maintenance. It can seem to be yet another overhead, but keeping your premises working as efficiently and reliably as possible is an important result. Breakdowns do happen from time to time, but minimising the chances of the electrics blowing or a flood happening is a valuable expense. Also keeping maintenance up to date minimises the chances of accidents happening and insurance claims against the business. Keeping lighting efficient, paths gritted and the place safe is a worthwhile investment in the business.
Taking a few sensible steps allows for peace of mind, a contented workforce, and frees you to concentrate on the real business of driving your company forward to greater success.
Expert Author Susan Leigh
In business ones reputation is the key to success or failure. The way that your business is perceived can stay with you for years. It is important to recognise all the different factors that contribute to your brand being identified as a good, efficient and reliable supplier of your goods or services.
- Be clear as to your niche. Some businesses try to be everything to everybody and end up losing their way. It is important, especially in the early days, to define your role clearly and concisely. There is no need to be a jack of all trades. It is far more efficient and effective to form allegiances with associated companies if it appears that that would work well for all parties. That way you become recognised as a specialist and can tap into the other associated businesses leads too.
- Deal with complaints efficiently. Nothing travels as fast as bad news. Dealing with complaints and dissatisfaction speedily and respectfully can turn a bad situation into a good one. Everyone makes mistakes and people will accept that, but only if a mistake is acknowledged and put right quickly and with a good grace.
- Have an efficient answering service. Customers often get frustrated at having to queue to have their order, query or complaint dealt with. Try to have targets in place where phone lines are answered within an allotted time span.
- Train staff. Staff are often your customer facing part of the business. Ensure that they are clear as to their roles, the company ethics, the importance of being neat, smart and respectful to customers. Whatever the business, money has to change hands for staff to be paid. Sometimes staff can lose sight of that fact and they need to be reminded of it regularly.
- Recognise that whilst price is an important factor, often reliability, speed and quality of service are often equally important, if not more so. Providing what people want, when they want and need it is the most important aspect of building a successful, long lasting business reputation. Customer satisfaction is the key to longevity.
- Be inviting. Having the best product in the world in ugly packaging might work well as an occasional gimmick. But having an inviting looking product with clear user instructions is an important way to build up product loyalty.
- Customer feedback is a useful way to get opinions and different users viewpoints on your companys' performance. A short relevant survey can get specific information about your company that can be used to enhance any areas that need improvement.
- Taking customers email addresses is an efficient way to build a useful database that can keep in touch with customers, mail shot them about specific promotions and provide them with valuable information about developments in their business niche. By providing generous informative mail shots your customers may well keep them to hand and look out for them arriving in their in-box.
Expert Author Angela Loeb
The phone interview is such a crucial part of the hiring phase because if you can't make a good first impression on the phone, your chances of being invited for an in-person interview are nil. Below are 7 tips to keep in mind for successful phone interviews.
1. Choose a quiet environment. Be sure you're taking the call in a place where you won't be distracted and where you won't have background noises such as the television, radio, dogs barking, kids crying, etc. For example, if you are surprised by a call on your cell phone while at the grocery store, ask the person if you can call them right back or put them on hold until you can find a quiet, secluded place to speak. Better yet, ask the caller if you can schedule the interview for a mutually convenient time, preferably for when you can be away from the commotion and can take notes.
2. Prepare as you would for an in-person interview. You might be the type who can answer questions on the fly, and maybe you know the job description quite well by heart. Still, it's best to prepare ahead of time and have your notes, the job description, your resume, and whatever other reference materials you need within reach. The majority of phone interviews are efficient screening calls made by recruiters. They want to know if you fit the criteria of the job description and if your salary is in the ballpark. Experienced recruiters can usually determine this pretty quickly. However, you might find that some recruiters prefer to have a more in-depth conversation with you, and sometimes it's the hiring manager who conducts the phone interview. Just in case, you should prepare as you would for a full-fledged, in-person interview.
3. Be prepared to answer screening-out questions. The typical purpose of the phone interview is to screen out candidates. The interviewer is looking for red flags. He or she is trying to narrow the field of candidates and select the best matches to invite in for a face-to-face interview. You'll get questions like:
  • Why are you looking for a new position? (Answer in a positive way no matter how unhappy you are about your situation!)
  • Walk me through your background. Why did you leave here, why did you leave there... ? (Always give a positive spin to your reason for leaving. Talk about what you did in your previous experience as it relates back to the position at hand.)
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • What was your biggest accomplishment during your last position?
  • What specific projects have you worked on?
  • Why are you interested in our position/company?
4. Engage with good questions. First of all, definitely ask questions. However, don't ask what could appear to be "it's all about me" questions. Also, at this stage, it's better for the interviewer to be the one who mentions money or benefits. These are topics that you might have to address when asked about them during a phone interview, but they're best left, if at all possible, until the later and/or final stages of the hiring process. Your only goal at this point should be to convince the interviewer that your skills and experience fit their needs. Ask the interviewer how success is defined for this position. Ask the interviewer what are the most important elements of the job description. Ask the interviewer why the position is open. Those are examples of good questions for a phone interview. And, of course, listen well to their responses, taking notes if you can.
5. Speak clearly. This might be an obvious tip, but it's such a vital thing to remember with phone interviews because it's through your words and your tone of voice that you get the chance to make a great impression. Keep the mouthpiece near your mouth. Don't chew gum, eat, drink, or smoke. Sounds are amplified over the phone - the sounds of smacking, chewing, swallowing, and inhaling/exhaling are certain to be picked up. Besides, if your mouth is busy with that other activity, you won't be as coherent as you need to be when you need to speak.
6. Use the name of your interviewer. Write down the name of the interviewer when you first hear it, and use it occasionally throughout the conversation. People like the sound of their own name, and this easy tip will go a long way in helping you to build rapport. Beware that you don't overdo it though. The key word here is "occasionally." Using a person's name every time you respond could sound contrived and unnatural.
7. Smile. Let the interviewer "hear the smile" in your voice. Some experts says that you should prop up a mirror where you are doing the interview so that you can observe yourself and, therefore, remind yourself to smile. If you prefer not to do that, at least have a post-it note with the word "smile" written on it, and put it where you'll see it during the call. Phone interviewing deprives you of the chance to communicate your excitement and interest through your facial expressions and eye contact. Your voice is the only way you have to project positive energy and convey how you feel. You'll naturally feel more enthusiastic when you smile, and your voice will definitely reflect your smile.
Expert Author Robert Reddin
Posting to relevant online forums is a tried and tested way of successfully marketing a product or service you are promoting as an affiliate and remains a popular technique with people who are serious about their Internet business and establishing their online reputation.
Forum posting should be an integral part of your overall marketing plan.
Online forums are a type of social networking site, but unlike many such sites, online forums are places where people regularly participate.
Often this is two to three times a week and may even be on a daily basis. They ask real questions because they want a solution to their problem or they want to make a helpful contribution to the discussion taking place.
Why you should participate in online forums
As a marketer promoting a product or service as an affiliate, there are two main reasons for forum marketing:
  1. The first reason for posting on forums serving the niche or market segment you are targeting is that your readers are already interested in your topic. They are a warm market, so there is no need to "qualify" them as you would have to with writing free reprint articles. Prospects from a warm market are much more likely to make a purchase than unqualified leads.

  2. The second reason is that your signature can contain a link back to your website. This is the equivalent of your resource box in article marketing. Your goal is to get the prospect to go to your website. It is there that the selling is done, not on the forum.
Forum commenting to promote a product or service as an affiliate is free, but it does take time and some effort on your part as it must be done in a subtle way.
Each forum has its own rules and has an etiquette to follow. Most online forums are moderated. That means your post will
have to be approved before it is published. Overtly promotional posts are unlikely to be published.
Take a little time to view some potentially suitable forums to get a feel for them and check out their rules.
How to promote your affiliate product or service
Forum marketing takes time, not only to do, but also before you will start to see the fruits of your labours. The following five steps will set you on the path to forum marketing success:
The first step is to select one or more suitable forums in your niche.
It would be a good idea to only join one forum if you are just starting out in this type of marketing. You can join other forums when you have become established in the first forum. You will, however, need to follow the remaining four steps, but they will be second nature to you by then.
To find suitable forums, make an Internet search for your niche + "forums". For example, "Type 2 diabetes forums".
The second step is to sign-up and complete your profile.
Make sure your forum signature includes a link to your website. If the forum allows it, include a good photograph of yourself. Properly and fully completing your profile is important because many forum members will view your profile. Putting a face to your name will help you stand out from the crowd.
The third step is to introduce yourself to the forum.
Most forums will have an "Introductions" section, which is designed for this very purpose. Don't just say "Hi!" or "Hello forum", give it a bit of thought. Explain who you are and why you joined the forum (for example, to give and receive advice and offer assistance to other forum members).
The fourth step is to add value to the discussions in the forum.
You need people to notice you. You will need to post regularly for that to happen. If they notice your posts, it builds trust and they will also see your links. After you have created a great, informative topic or insightful reply, you will see your profile count grow and your signature URL clicks follow.
Establish yourself as someone that is there to improve the community.
Do not post unless you can add value to a conversation. This is where most people fail with forum marketing; they only post to get their links published. Spamming the forum will very quickly get you banned and all your posts removed.
The fifth step is to build up positive feed back.
Most forums have a feedback system. Give positive feedback to other posters. It will be reciprocated if your contributions benefit the forum.
Positive feedback helps to establish you as a reputable member
of the forum. Better still, if someone is looking for the product or services that you offer, they will come to you, over a new member with no reputation. So, don't let this golden opportunity pass you by.
Don't log onto a forum, make a post, and then stop posting just because you haven't been successful in attracting visitors to your website. The key to successful forum marketing is to be regularly involved. Aim to post at least two to three times a week. This should start to build up your overall credibility.
Online forums are a good place to establish your expertise in your subject and to build a relationship of trust and confidence, not only with other members of the forum, but also with forum visitors. Adding value to the forum and receiving positive feedback help establish your good reputation.
People prefer to do business with people they know and trust and will follow the link in your forum signature. This, after all, is why you are doing forum marketing.
When the visitor reaches your website:
  • give them even more helpful information;
  • provide a cogent reason for them to join your mailing list; and
  • make sure you tell the visitor what you want them to do.
They may not buy the product or service you are promoting on this visit, but you can keep in contact with them by email to continue building your relationship with them.
Expert Author Robert Reddin
As a responsible employer there are some HR policies and procedures that it is essential for your business to have. Your employees are probably the biggest cost to your business. To get the most from this valuable and expensive resource, you need to ensure that you are doing everything correctly, and that your HR policies and procedures are not only legal and appropriate, but that they are fit for purpose.
In many businesses, especially smaller enterprises, HR policies and procedures are often near the bottom of the list of priorities, that is if they even feature at all. In many such businesses, the HR function is the responsibility an employee who may have secretarial, payroll, or office management duties as well as other responsibilities. Often, their HR function is limited to dealing with new starters and leavers.
The daunting task facing many businesses is knowing where to start, and what HR policies and procedures they must have to be legally compliant.
There is a baker's dozen of HR policies and or procedures that every business ought to have. This article will walk you through each one, and briefly explain why it is essential for you to have it.
1. Job Specification and personal profiles:
It is important to get your recruitment process right so that you employ the best person for the job. That means you must have a written job specification, which adequately describes the job function. That is a start, but you also need its counterpart - the personal profile. This document describes the qualities, qualifications, and experiences needed to successfully perform the job function described in the job description.
These documents should be specific to the role. Without them, you cannot measure an employee's performance. Nor can you praise them, or take remedial action if you have never told them what is expected of them.
This topic is discussed in detail in the next article in this series: Why You Need a Job Specification and Personal Profile.
2. Contracts of Employment:
Certain terms and conditions of employment are required by law to be in writing, and given to the employee within eight weeks of the commencement of their employment. These include the main terms and conditions of employment, such as pay, payment of overtime, paid holidays, normal working hours, collective agreements, etc. The contract of employment should also direct your employee to other important policies and procedures they need to be aware of.
3. Managing Probation Periods:
This policy should set out the expectations and standards of behaviour, work, and attitude for all new employees. It is best made part of your induction process. Most new employees are put on a probationary period. This gives you to time to assess whether the new employee is cutting the mustard, or whether, given additional training, they will attain the required standard within a reasonable time, or whether it was a poor appointment. This policy should help guide the new employee and their managers when reviewing performance, and also in deciding whether to confirm the appointment at the end of the probationary period.
4. Performance Management:
This is closely linked to managing probationary periods as, in reality, it is an extension of that policy. It provides a clear and transparent method for dealing with any performance or capability issues. It is also linked to your disciplinary and dismissal policy as some cases of unacceptable performance may be wilful, and not caused by lack of training or capability.
5 and 6. Discipline and Dismissal Policy and Grievance Procedure:
It is a statutory requirement for you to have these policies and procedures. They should outline your disciplinary and dismissal policy and your grievance procedure, both of which must include an appeals mechanism.
7. Sickness Absence & Sick Pay:
This policy, which is apt for inclusion in the contract of employment, sets out your rules for notifying absence due to sickness or incapacity, whether the employee can self-certify their absence and, if so, for how long, and what payment they will be entitled to during any such periods of absence.
8. Holiday entitlement:
All full-time employees in the UK are entitled to at least 5.6 weeks paid holidays in a year. This is capped at 28 days, which can be inclusive of statutory Bank Holidays and public holidays. These are sometimes called Working Time or WTR holidays. If you give more than the statutory minimum holidays, you can set out rules for carrying over unused holidays into the next leave year. Be aware, however, that the WTR holidays cannot be carried over.
9. I.T. usage:
Especially with the temptations of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and the Internet, it is best to let your employees know clearly and in advance what I.T. usage is and is not acceptable. This policy should also cover employees using their own devices either during normal working hours or in the course of their work.
10. Data Protection Policy:
This is an important policy. It is not just about what data you store, including personal data and sensitive personal data, but how and where you store it, how and where it is processed, and how you safeguard it. Failure to protect this data could not only lead to a huge loss of customer goodwill, but also to a fine that is big enough, potentially, to seriously affect your company's future.
11. Equal Opportunities:
The Equality Act 2010 brought together in one place all the separate pieces of UK legislation relating to discrimination and harassment. It is very important to make sure you know and understand the obligations on your business, and for your employees to know what they should do as well as what they should not do or say.
12. Appraisal Policy:
Many businesses, especially smaller enterprises, consider a formal appraisal policy as being optional. I disagree. A good appraisal policy helps both you and your employee identify their weaknesses and enables you to devise an appropriate training programme to support them in making any necessary improvements.
Such a policy also gives you an objective basis for considering pay reviews.
13. The make-weight:
The requirements of health and safety legislation permeate all aspects of employment from choosing a piece of workplace equipment, risk assessing a task, to reporting accidents at work. As a legal minimum, you should have a health and safety policy statement. This is the basic information telling staff what you, and they, must do to make sure your business complies with health and safety law.
Health and safety policies are job, activity, and site specific. Because of this, it is common for businesses to incorporate their health and safety policy into their staff handbook by reference.
This baker's dozen of HR policies and procedures are the very minimum you need to have in place to ensure that your business is compliant.
How do your HR policies and procedures compare with this list? Are they up-to-date?
Each of these thirteen policies and procedures are discussed in more detail in separate articles in this series, starting with Why You Need a Job Specification and Personal Profile.

If you tried intermittent fasting and got some positive results, then you can continue with your own style. However, here is a very popular and effective method to get similar or better results than what you expect from traditional fasting. This is called 5:2 diet, which simply means that you eat normally 5 days a week, but restrict your food intake to minimal on 2 days. The slight difference between intermittent type and 5:2 diet is that you do not completely restrict your food intake when on a 5:2 diet plan. You essentially control your hunger systematically and in a controlled way.

Is 5:2 diet different form intermittent fasting?

Yes, the idea behind 5:2 dieting is to help you restrict your calorie intake or balance your additional calorie intake on weekdays by bringing it down to almost zero on the 2 fasting days. Care must be taken that you do not gorge on food or eat anything additional on normal days to make up for the calorie loss on fasting days. As it will defeat the whole purpose of dieting or appetite control, it is advisable that you limit your weekday diet to your normal diet.

Why choose 5:2 diet?

One of the most important features of this diet is that you need not restrict yourself on fasting days. You can eat up to 25% of your regular calories on fasting days. An average woman's calorie intake per day is approximately 2000, which means women can consume up to 500 calories on fast days. An average man's calorie consumption per days is approx.2400, so men need to restrict their calorie intake to 600 on fasting days. This is often not as difficult as following a complete fasting diet. You can eat 3 small meals spread throughout the day. As a smart dieter, you should choose fulfilling, natural and low-calorie food such as leafy vegetables and fruits.

Does 5:2 diet push your body to starvation mode?

Not at all. In fact, this is also one of the reasons that many people have achieved their weight loss goals by following this diet. Usually, your body kicks in starvation mode after 36 hours of reduced calorie intake, which is not the case with 5:2 diet. However, the trick here is to avoid fasting on two consecutive days. You can decide your normal and fasting days according to your convenience. Those fasting two days in a row may push their metabolism to starvation mode, which must be avoided to get the best result.

Benefits of 5:2 diet

An easy and effective fat loss plan
Improved metabolic health
Can be continued for long
Reduces fasting insulin levels in many diabetics
An effective solution for those who find restricting calories difficult
No additional or specific food is required
You can follow it regularly without any side-effects
What to eat and what to avoid to get the maximum possible health benefits of intermittent fasting, 5:2 or many other types of fasting, can be customised to suit your nutritional needs and lifestyle. However, care should be taken that you do not exceed the calorie intake of the frequency of snack beyond the recommended limits.

Article Source:
Expert Author Susan Leigh
So much of our lives are ruled by time, with school, work, appointments, transport connections all needing to be turned up promptly for. Even when we're looking forward to something like a run, a swim, a game of golf we may well be competing with others or trying to improve on our personal best.
It's good sometimes to be highly motivated to improve, or feel invigorated to push ourselves to beat someone else, but it's also important to notice if we ever switch off and at times ensure that we do. Think about slowing down, maybe changing down a gear at times.
Let's look at some important ways to switch off.
- Notice when your 'amber lights' start to flash. Just like traffic lights, red means stop, green means go and amber means slow down, proceed with caution, get ready to stop. Amber lights become noticeable when you're doing too much, are becoming stressed and overloaded.
Everyone has their own personal warning signs of stress. Yours may be when your sleeping patterns are affected, you're smoking or drinking more, your good humour has evaporated, your perspective has become more gloomy. Those niggles, irritations and mood changes alert us to the need to switch off and take a break. We need to take some 'me time', so intercepting that red light before it appears and causes everything to stop. Switch off for a while and return to a healthy 'green for go' state.
- Did you know that 19 million days of annual leave remain untaken in the UK each year? And that figure doesn't include the sole traders, small businesses and self-employed who regularly forgo holidays, feel they're too busy to switch off and take a holiday for fear of missing out on sales, business opportunities or out of concern at being unavailable and disappointing their clients.
But switching off for a time gives your mind a break and you'll often find that when you do return to work you're feeling refreshed, recharged and excited to be back. You may even have had time to reflect on your business and come up with stimulating new insights and ideas.
- Start that big task, the one that you've perhaps been dreading or avoiding. By being proactive and starting work on it you stop it from constantly playing on your mind, so preventing you from switching off. It may help to break it into parts; what you can do today, what you can't proceed with until you've had a response, those areas where you need someone else's help and expertise. Note what you've set into motion and then switch off until you're next in a position to continue.
- Do activities for their own sake. Not everything has to have a purpose or point to it. Clear time for painting, craft work, walking, even pottering about or people-watching in the shopping mall over coffee. Value the fun, satisfaction and therapeutic benefits they bring into your life.
- Spend an hour or so becoming immersed in reading a book, listening to music, tending your garden, watching a show. Remind yourself how lovely it is to switch off from the day's demands. Really focus on what you're doing so that you become oblivious to external distractions.
- Live in the moment. Appreciate the view, the weather, the scenery when you're taking a walk. Enjoy the coffee you're drinking or the food you're eating, value the company you're with. Give your full attention to whatever you're doing, the people you're with and find that your relationships improve as a consequence.
- Turn off your technology. Set aside specific times for checking online unless there's an emergency situation that needs regular monitoring. There are few things that can't want an hour or so and you may find that you become more time efficient when you fritter less in constant scanning of messages and updates.
- Designate a place as your oasis or haven, where you can go to truly switch off. For many their bedroom is their place of peace and calm. Include personal touches with your choice of fabrics, colours, decor. If you need a workstation in your bedroom, screen it off at the end of each working day.
- Wind down before bed, so giving your sleep and sleep quality the significance they deserve. Avoid that deep and meaningful conversation before bed. Save it for another more appropriate time. Take a bath, a relaxing shower and wash away the day's cares and stresses. If you have a tough mental job maybe enjoy some yoga or a leisurely walk before bed so that you're able to wind down gradually.
Treat switching off as important and you'll find that you manage your stress levels more effectively, often achieving a better work/life balance and a happier, healthier quality of life.
Expert Author Susan Leigh
There are times when being in auto-pilot is a very positive state to be in. If we've a long day ahead of us, a huge portion of our tasks are boring or routine, or we're going through an especially busy or stressful time, at those times auto-pilot can allow us to zone out, manage stress and continue doing what needs to be done, often without really having to think too much about it. It's a great way to conserve our mental energy.
At those times we may not need to be fully alert and concentrating. Just as driving a car becomes something we're able to do automatically, we may not need to have too much input into a particular task. We've become unconsciously competent through having the requisite skills etched into our minds. But it's also true when driving, that if we saw brake lights ahead of us, saw someone crossing the road in front of us or became aware that we were nearing our destination we'd immediately snap out of our trance-like state and return to full consciousness.
But, there are times when you need to turn off your auto-pilot:
- It can become addictive to live in auto-pilot or cruise-control. Before too long we can get used to drifting along in that trance-like state, not really focussing or concentrating on what we're doing. That might be helpful in some instances, allowing us to do routine or boring jobs with ease, conserve our energy, manage stress, but it stops us from fully engaging in whatever we're doing.
- Life in auto-pilot can ultimately become mediocre and flat, going through the motions. Whilst we don't always want to be living in super-charge mode and need to introduce ways to manage stress, we need to be aware that it can become the norm to pick the easy route. Days, weeks and months can pass us by without us making any real investment in our choices if we're not careful.
- We can end up somewhere we didn't really want or intend to go. I bet you too have had times when you've automatically driven your usual route, only to suddenly realise you'd meant to go somewhere else on that particular occasion. Auto-pilot can guide you seamlessly along, but you need to monitor the results or you can end up in the wrong place.
- Creativity and fresh thinking can be stifled. When we're driving in a fully alert state we're paying attention and maybe questioning what we're doing, the direction in which we're heading. We may come up with better choices, insights and interesting alternatives when we're alert, aware and fully engaged.
- When we zone out we're not receptive to other people's suggestions; their hints and clues may be ignored or missed. New opportunities may not be spotted when we're living in our auto-pilot state of going through the motions. Invitations may pass us by as we drift in the comfortable, familiar haze of doing what we always do.
But being in auto-pilot can help us manage stress and conserve energy. When we trust that our unconscious knows what needs to be done we can let it get on with it. At times when we're busy or stressed it's good to take a mental break and simply go through the motions for a while.
And don't forget that when many of us comfortably use air travel we're happy to trust that the plane frequently flies itself, using auto-pilot to navigate the routine parts of the journey. We trust that the two human pilots on board will intercept when more complex navigation is needed. At other times they let the computer do its job. Auto-pilot is a valuable aid but sometimes we need to turn it off.
Expert Author Susan Leigh
We've all had relationships that have stalled at times, where something has gone wrong, been misinterpreted or been genuinely perceived as an abuse of the relationship. If you feel the relationship is worth saving, are unable to simply walk away, still have to meet each other or can't avoid each other it's important to navigate ways through the situation and sort out the tension in your relationship.
- Discuss it. There may be times when don't want to talk about what's happened or feel there's no point, we've hit an impasse where neither will agree. Indeed sometimes talking can exacerbate tensions and make the situation worse. But there are times when it can help and even improve your relationship. It may allow you to gain a better understanding of each other's point of view and an insight into how you're perceived.
- Appreciate the role of a mediator. This doesn't have to a formal arrangement, but it may be helpful to include a third-party who's acceptable to you both and keeps any discussions on track. Agree to meet in a neutral place and be sure that both of you've allowed enough time so that your session doesn't need to be rushed.
- Relax your reaction. Rather than adopting the role of victim, where you feel that the tension in your relationship is directed at you, instead entertain the notion that the other person's behaviour may have been innocent. For example, they may not have ignored you, but instead didn't see you. They may not have invited you along to an event because they thought you'd not be interested. Sometimes thoughtless behaviour can be misinterpreted as offensive or rude. And those momentary lapses can often be compounded over time, with each further slight reinforcing the problem. Nip tension in the bud, is it really such a big deal? Now it's time to move on.
- Change your perspective. Sometimes one person in a relationship may feel that the other has changed and they're at a loss as to how to deal with the new you. Why couldn't things stay the same! If they're happy as they are and are resistant to moving out of their comfort zone they may feel that you flying high, forging a new life for yourself, moving away from the 'old life' highlights their complacency or lack of ambition. They may feel frustrated, defensive at their own lack of drive and inertia, irritated that things are being stirred and shaken up. We all have different goals and dreams; different paths suit different people. Be sensitive to theirs whilst enjoying your own.
- Listen and practise empathy. You know your own motivations, understand your feelings but haven't we all had exchanges where someone else's comment or logic has revolutionised our outlook in an, 'I never thought of it like that' way. Listening allows for subtle as well as momentous insights to transform our thinking.
- Seek to understand. You know deep down that the other person isn't bad or evil. If you've been friends or had a relationship for a while you know the tension in your relationship could be the consequence of a personal situation they're struggling with. They may be in the midst of something they're perhaps too ashamed or embarrassed to share. Be generous. There may be some merit in allowing them a little latitude.
- Remove your ego from the story. We can feel hurt, angry, upset, dismayed and run with a 'how could they, why me, don't they appreciate how nice/lovely/tolerant/understanding I am!' mindset. When there's tension in our relationship we're often able to justify our own feelings, but that interpretation is usually distorted by our personal viewpoint of what's been said or done. Remove your ego and stop explaining yourself, arguing your case or making 'witness testimony'. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, human and even criticised. Really listen to what the other person has to say.
- Present a charm offensive. If you know the other person is acting out of character, suspect they're in a bad place or are perhaps jealous, lonely or feeling unloved you could significantly improve the tension in your relationship by being extra nice and winning them over with kindness and charm. There may be no excuse for their bad behaviour but you may well oil the wheels of your relationship and make for a more pleasant environment. That in itself could be worth it, may be worth letting things go for!
Sometimes all it takes is a little time, thought and insight to help sort out the tension in your relationship. Any or all of the points raised here can add real benefits to those potentially damaging situations.
Expert Author Ngozi Nwoke
What is Christmas to you? Many people have different reasons for celebrating Christmas; including time for holiday, feasting, traveling, shopping and reunions. However, the main reason for the celebration is normally not remembered, it is now Christmas without Christ. This is very unfortunate and should be corrected in the minds and lives of Christians. This article encourages believers in Christ to focus more on Jesus during Christmas season since He is the reason for the celebration.
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given... - Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV).
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,... and when they had come into the house... And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh - Matthew 2:1, 11 (NKJV).
Christmas has been turned to different celebrations other than the celebration of the birth of Jesus. What is Christmas without Christ? Unbelievers celebrate it without knowing the reason for the season. The children are more after "Father Christmas", the Christmas gifts, lights and decorations. People prepare so much for this celebration, yet, most people don't have encounter with Christ as part of the preparation.
Christmas is the accepted birthday for Jesus Christ, so the celebration should be all centered on Him. When you are celebrating your birthday, the celebration is centered on you. People gather because of you, the preparations are for the people coming because of you, the prayers are said for you and the gifts are for you. Sometimes, people may even ask you what you want for your birthday and they will be ready to do exactly what you desire. But during Christ's birthday, the highest thing done most of the time is for churches to dramatize the birth of Jesus Christ and preach about His birth. This is good, but we need to do more than that.
What are you going to do this Christmas for and because of Jesus? Jesus was given by God the Father to save us because of His love for us. One important thing you can do is to give God heart-felt thanks for giving Christ to us. Also thank God for Jesus and for all He had done in your life. It should be a season of thanksgiving unto God. The birth of the Lord gave birth to so many blessings from God, including the salvation of our souls.
Furthermore, the celebration of Christ's birth is a celebration of the love of God, which goes with giving. You need to ask the Lord what He wants you to do for Him and do exactly that. That will be a great gift from you that He would really appreciate and reward you for. Jesus is still accepting gifts. This gift could be in cash or in kind for the spread of the gospel. It could be in sharing the love of Jesus with others by meeting their needs, both spiritual and physical needs, emphasizing that Jesus loves them and that they are part of the reason why He was born. Christmas celebration should be centered on Christ.
What more can I say? The best Christmas is one spent at the feet of Jesus. Decide to spend time with Christ this season and you will be glad you did for you will never be the same again. There is no true Christmas without Christ!

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