Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring forward

At the end of March, every year the clocks change and I always have to think hard if I am going to lose or gain an hour of sleep. The mantra “spring forward, fall back” helps with my thinking; however it also holds a message about the mood of the upcoming seasons. Spring is about longer days, lighter nights, growth, sunshine, potential and happiness – and maybe “fall” is about nurturing, warmth, reflection, hibernation!

Let’s stick with the spring message. Spring heralds colour, blooming plants, daffodils in the local parks – and our psychology can mirror all that growth and possibility. But sometimes we want to languish in the winter days, spending a little longer under the duvet than we should, wrapping ourselves up and making excuses.

Get a spring in your step, throw off the duvet and abandon the winter – here are some ideas:

1. Write a list of all the easy, simple things that you have done or would like to do that would make you smile or laugh or simply brighten your day – and then do one or two of them, or more! This will get you in the mood to reenergise. My list contained the following: Playing noughts and crosses with the kids, pillow fights, eating a ‘99’ ice cream, listening to Take That, watching a Billy Connelly DVD, having a hazelnut coffee at Starbucks, telling jokes with my mates.

2. Get excited about your goals – talk to others about them, build anticipation about how you will get there, get inspiration from your past successes and from other people. It is important to feel excited so you move towards your goals as excitement is a real magnet.

3. Socialise, don’t be isolated. Spend time with your support network and talk to them, keep it simple, have a coffee, go for a meal, to the cinema, bowling – whatever, but talking and sharing has a hugely positive effect on your energy and motivation.

4. Get outdoors – many GPs state that the most sustainable treatment for depression is exercise – not anti-depressants – and outdoors is the best. Bill Oddie, the BBC presenter of Springwatch, has no doubt that contact with nature has helped his depression. Our caveman friends saw lots of daylight; getting up at sunrise and going to sleep at sunset. Exposure to sunlight for 30 minutes a day helps keep your internal clock set. This circadian rhythm helps to regulate our sleep/wake cycle and insures a good night’s sleep which in turn, helps our physical and mental health.

So, when you read this, it may well be raining, but trust me, spring is here, the daffodils prove it, so pull yourself up and get a spring in your step!

I hope you enjoy the ‘99’ ice cream as much as I did!

Author: Gill McKay

Coping with emergencies

No matter how good you are at maintaining a good work-life balance, unforeseen emergencies will occur and throw your best laid plans out of the window.

How well you cope in a crisis and how quickly your recover from it are both aspects of resilience.  So what are the key approaches that can improve your personal resilience?

First there’s the state you are in when the emergency occurs. The more energy you have in reserve the better able you are to handle a crisis. If there’s already excessive stress in your life, you will have less to draw on to handle the unexpected.  That’s a good enough reason to have a sound work-life balance in the first place! If you already have too much to cope with, what’s going to happen when a crisis hits?

Second, how well prepared you are?  It is amazing how many crises could have been avoided with a bit of additional knowledge or planning.  For example, most people would struggle if they lost all the contact details of people stored in their mobile phone or if they had their laptop stolen, but relatively few people take the trouble to learn how to back-up their important data and to then do so on a regular basis.  Sometimes you can get the impression that people’s approach to the thought of crisis is to convince themselves that it will never happen!

Thirdly there the question of how well you react in a crisis.  Broadly speaking people’s reactions tend to fall into one of three categories; those who freeze with fear, those who panic, and those who act sensibly according to what the situation calls for.  Unfortunately, unless you have ever experienced a real crisis it is impossible to tell how you will react but you can be prepared.  Experts in the field always tell people to slow down, to take deep breaths and not to allow yourself to be rushed into making bad decisions.

Lastly there is the question of how quickly you will recover following a crisis.  There are no quick answers or simple techniques here, but all the experts point to the importance that friends, family and, in extreme cases, professional counsellors can play.

As a final thought, don’t be superstitious! Preparing yourself to better handle emergencies doesn’t make them happen!

Author: Nick Woodeson

Planning for Success

Society is gradually becoming more and more risk-averse – children are being stopped from playing conkers or climbing trees for fear that they might hurt themselves, the annual cheese-rolling competition in Gloucestershire has been cancelled on health and safety grounds, and in the latest act of madness, Northamptonshire Police Force have delayed the introduction of bicycles for its officers until they have each received 10 hours of training.  

The same is true in business where managers are increasingly being encouraged to plan for the worst:  What if we fail?  How much contingency is there in the plan?  Have you completed a risk assessment?

Against this background it is not surprising that very little effort is dedicated to the risk of success.  But just as an unanticipated risk can cause more damage than an anticipated one, so an unanticipated opportunity can result in reduced profitability over one that was anticipated.

Indeed, since profit is, by definition, the reward for risk, it may even be that viewed in a different way, even the risks themselves may present new opportunities.

In the same way as large companies will have contingency plans for the outbreak of Swine Flu, for terrorist attacks or for what would happen if their head office burned down, should they not also dedicate a similar amount of effort to ensure that they are just as prepared if a major competitor went out of business or if demand increased significantly?

Click here to read the main article on the Extensor web site.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Two Cow Capitalism (A Simple Lesson in Economics)

Whoever wrote this should be congratulated on simplifying and explaining an otherwise complex subject.

You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
You sell them and retire on the income.

You have 2 cows.
You give one to your neighbour.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and gives you some milk.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and sells you some milk.

You have 2 cows.
The EU takes one because otherwise you would be ‘over-quota’ in milk production, milks it, stores the milk in the form of milk powder in warehouses all over Europe so an not to perversely depress the global price of milk, taxes you to the hilt via your national Government and then gives the money to people who don’t produce milk in exchange for their commitment to continue not producing milk.

You have two cows.
You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt-for-equity swap with an associated public offering so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.
The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.
The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more.
You sell one cow to pay yourself a massive bonus, leaving you with nine cows.
When you file for bankruptcy the Government bails you out as what you have done is so complicated that no one knows what the consequences would be if they let you go bankrupt.
The Government then takes the credit for saving the economy while the public is forced to buy your bull.

You have two giraffes.
The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

You have two cows.
You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.
Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.

You have two cows.
You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you wish you had more.

You have two cows.
You bred cows at a rate faster than anyone would have believed and sold them all over the world.
Now you have to recall hundreds of thousands of cows due to a milking problem and explain yourself before a Senate committee in the US. However, there is a possibility of you getting off by blaming the udder guy.

You have two cows.
You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month and milk themselves.

You have two cows, but you don’t know where they are.
You decide to have lunch.

You have two cows.
You count them and learn you have five cows.
You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 2 cows.
You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you.
You charge the owners for storing them.

You have two cows.
You have 300 people milking them.
You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity.
You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

You have two cows.
You worship them.

Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.
You tell them that you have none.
No-one believes you, so they invade your country.
You still have no cows, but at least you are now a Democracy.

You have two cows.
Business seems pretty good.
You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.

You don’t have any money but you would like some cows.
You borrow massive amounts of money from a bank securitised against the value of the cows you then buy.
You pay the cows vast sums of money to play football only to find they are not really very good at it.
When the money runs out you go bankrupt, but it doesn't really matter as you paid yourself fabulously and can now afford to retire.