News & Articles

What is mindfulness and how can it help me?

We live in a high pressure society. In fact, the average adult in the UK encounters around two hours and 28 minutes of stress each day, which equates to six years and seven months for females and six years and two months for males in a lifetime. With so much stress we can often feel out of control and unable to cope. But what if there was a way to keep calm and relaxed when you are feeling particularly stressed or anxious?

The wandering mind
Mindfulness is based on the principle that our thoughts control how we feel. So, if you spend lots of time thinking about negative things then as a result you will feel lots of negative emotions. Our brains also spend lots of time thinking about things that haven’t yet occurred just yet which can make us feel anxious or worried, and also thinking about things that have already happened which can make us feel sad, angry, regretful or depressed.

Our minds are constantly wandering and according to some research we are only focused around 50% of the time such as when we are completing a mathematical problem or washing the dishes. So can mindfulness help us to feel more engaged and focused in the present moment?

Becoming focused
Mindfulness is derived from eastern practices which have been used for thousands of years to help people reduce their worries, stress and pains, whilst simultaneously helping them improve their concentration, creativity and health. What’s more mindfulness doesn’t require you to join a programme, read any books, download an app or part with any cash. You simply need to be willing to dedicate a small amount of time to it each day.

For 10-15 minutes find somewhere quiet and begin your mindfulness routine. Sit up with your back straight, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing either through your mouth or through your nose. Concentrate on your breaths, in and out until the 15 minutes are up and your timer goes.

Most people find that it is incredibly difficult to keep their brain concentrated like this. However, you shouldn’t be disappointed if that happens to you. It should be your long term goal and will come with practice. When your mind drifts you should note that it has drifted, accept that it has drifted and then bring your thoughts back to your breathing. Just keep trying for those 15 minutes every day and it will get easier each time.

Recognising the benefits
Mindful is a physical workout for your brain and mindfulness can have real benefits on your brain. In fact scientific research has shown that the parts of the brain responsible for creativity, happiness and emotional intelligence all begin to strengthen and even grow in people who practice mindfulness for just a couple of months, while the parts of the brain responsible for addictive behaviours, stress and depression weaken and start to shrink. Because of these benefits, mindfulness is being taken on board by more and more people and even by large organisations like the NHS, Google, Apple and even the armed forces who recognise the benefits for their employees. While in schools in Australia children are being taught to overcome their negative emotions by pausing, taking a breath and bringing themselves back to the present moment.

Have you tried mindfulness? Has it been helpful for you? Tweet us at @TimeForYouGroup and let us share your experience.  

5 reasons to leave your phone at home

We use our phones so much in the modern world that the idea of leaving home without it seems scary, if not downright absurd to some people. The action of patting down our pocket for our wallet or purse and keys is now less important than turning out our pockets to make sure we’ve remembered our smart phone. But in the process have we overlooked some important aspects of being human and some of the benefits of being – unplugged? Here are five reasons that you should leave your phone at home more often.

Mind your manners
In a survey by Mequillibrium, over 61% of people asked claimed that they couldn’t ignore their smart phones or resist the urge of checking their updates at least once within the hour. Sadly this amount of connection to social media and our emails means that we often can’t stop ourselves from swiping on our phones, even when we’re spending time with family, friends or even customers.  Whether looking down constantly while someone is talking to you to check an email, or looking at cat photos on Instagram while you’re supposed to be watching a film with your spouse, our phones can drive a wedge between our human relationships and give off the impression that we are rude – even if it is an ‘accepted’ level of rudeness.

Productivity
While some people have hailed smart phones as productivity boosters, the fact that the average user checks their phone around 110 times per day has to have some level of impact on your ‘bricks & mortar’ work each day. Smart phones invite us to procrastinate and put off our most important work while we scroll down our ‘feeds’.

Stress
According to HealthDay News recent research conducted in the UK has found a link between smart phone usage and rising stress levels, with some smart phone users claiming that they feel a pressure to maintain their ‘social network’ and keep their social channels constantly updated. Does this sound familiar to you? Try swapping your phone for a book or a newspaper next time you have some down time and see if your mood improves.

They aren’t essential
Despite what you have been conditioned to believe, smart phones aren’t an essential part of our daily life. Try and remember what life was like before you were glued to your smart phone. How would you navigate without Google Maps? How would you pay for things? How would you communicate with your friends? Sometimes switching off can change the way you experience something, making you feel less passive when you experience it instead of being guided by your phone.

Work can wait
While it’s true that in some jobs it is literally a matter of life or death as to whether you are contactable, nine times out of ten it’s not. So that email that pops up on your phone can wait until you’re back at your desk and even voice callers can leave a voicemail if it’s important. You’re leisure time is a valuable part of your daily routine and helps you to refresh yourself ready for your next working day.

Are you struggling to get a handle on the pressures of your daily routine? See our guide ‘20 proven ways to wind down and relax’ for more tips on stress busting.

Productivity Tips From Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld is most famous for his 90s, cult classic TV sitcom Seinfeld, where he played a fictional version of himself. Little did you know the American comedian, actor, writer, producer and director, owes his success to a simple but effective productivity technique he developed to help him write more and funnier material.

The Seinfeld technique is incredibly simple and super effective, all you need is a wall calendar and a big red marker. Here’s why he developed it and how it works.

 

Jerry Seinfeld wanted to be a better comic and to achieve that he needed to create better jokes. He decided the only way to do that was to write every day, to improve his skills and delivery. As he saw it, only time and effort equals reward.

So, he decided to buy a big wall calendar with a whole year on it and a big red marker. For every day that he wrote new material he simply marked a big red cross on the calendar and after a few days, he saw he had created a chain of red crosses. The chain motivated him to keep putting in the hours, he said:

"Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain."

Become an expert through small daily actions

You can use this technique to help you achieve anything whether that be learning a new skill, building a business or completing a project. It works because it’s consistent daily action that builds habits, which in turn creates extraordinary outcomes. This is much more effective than one big push and the repetitive practice helps you to reach expert level much quicker.

Don't break the chain

The only thing you need to remember is “don’t break the chain”. Skipping one day makes it easier to skip the next and before you know it your goal will be out of sight and impossible to achieve. 

For more productivity techniques, read our recent blog posts.

 

Written by Mike Pye

 

Learn to Look After Leather Furniture

Real leather furniture is expensive, but it's an investment. It’s durable, stylish and improves with age, but only if you look after it properly. Leather is an incredibly hard-wearing material but should be treated with care. Over the years, it will start to change in appearance. Its colour might become bolder and it may start to develop slight wrinkles, giving it a more distinguished look. However, it is important to attend to it regularly to keep it in the best possible condition. By following the tips in this guide, your leather with stay clean, supple and resistant to cracks and scuffs.

Don’t use the wrong cleaning products

Many people use the WRONG cleaning solutions on their leather furniture, reaching for common household cleaning products like furniture polish, washing up liquid or harsh antibacterial sprays. This is not a good idea. All leathers are different and as a result, cleaning products will have varying effects. Some will work fine, while others, particularly those that are bleach based could dry out the leather and cause it to crack. You should buy specialist leather cleaning products and test them on an inconspicuous area of the furniture first, just to make sure it has no negative effect.

Don’t neglect your leather

It’s so important to take the time to care for your leather furniture. Leather is a natural product and as such it has a natural lifespan that will be significantly shortened if you fail to give it the proper care and attention.

Tackle stains as soon as they occur

Leather is a hardy material. It’s naturally quite resistant to stains but that doesn’t mean it’s completely invincible. Alcohol, grease, chemical or acidic based spills will all have an effect if not dealt with quickly, so play close attention to fruit juices, wine, greasy food or cleaning product spillages. If a spill does occur, first blot the area to absorb most of the liquid. Then use a wet cloth to wipe the area clean. Grease spots need close attention and may need a specialist cleaner to deal with them properly.

Keep it clean and dust free

Keep your leather furniture free from dust and debris by giving it a regular hoover and dusting. This will avoid dirt from being worked into creases and wrinkles which cause your leather to look drab and worn.

Keep it conditioned

Because leather is a natural material made from animal hides, it requires moisturising and conditioning just like our own skin. Regularly applying a leather conditioner will help keep your leather soft and supple and prevent it from drying out. It will also give it an inviting and luxurious appearance. Conditioners can be bought from your local supermarket or DIY shop but olive oil works just as well, plus you’ll always have some in your kitchen so there’s no excuse not to regularly apply it.

Keep it covered

Keep your furniture covered when it’s not in use, particularly if you are leaving the house for long periods, such as while you are away on holiday. Covering your furniture will protect it from dirt and dust and avoid sun damage, which can dry it out causing cracks over time. You may feel that this tip is a bit over the top, but it really is effective at prolonging the lifespan of your leather.

Leather is an expensive material but one that adds a real touch of style to your home. By giving your leather furniture plenty of tender loving care, you will help to preserve it well into the future, keeping it from looking old and tired.

 

Written by Mike Pye

How to Get Rid of Insects in the Home

Creepy crawlies are a homeowner’s worst nightmare!

There are many off the shelf repellents and poisons available but they can be very dangerous to our health and even lethal if accidentally ingested or touched. They can also cause allergies or irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system. Household chemicals in pesticides and repellents are also damaging to the environment too!

Luckily there are natural alternatives to get rid of bugs and nasties. In this slide share, you can find out how to remove common insect invaders from your home.

 

Your Spring Clean Planner

It's that time of year again when we give our homes an annual deep clean.  Use our handy planner to help you keep track of your cleaning to-dos.

  

You can download it in PDF format to print, here.

Spring Clean Planner.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Freshen Up Your Home With a Fragrant Simmer

Don’t you just love it when your home smells fresh and fragrant? There’s nothing better than walking in the door to the smell of baking bread or fresh flowers. Off the shelf air fresheners and home odorisers offer an easy solution, but do you ever worry about the chemicals they may contain?

There are plenty of natural alternatives, such as home made diffusers using essential oils or potpourri, but did you know you can make your own beautiful fragrancers using nothing but ingredients from your kitchen and garden and a humble saucepan?

Fragrant simmers are so quick and easy to make and leave your home smelling fresh for hours or even days. Recipes can be tailored to the season too, you could try ingredients like lemon and rosemary in the spring or orange and cloves during the festive season. Best of all you, can have some real fun with them and make up your own recipes using any spices, fruits, herbs, flowers or plants you have handy.

 

 

Here’s how to make them


Simply combine a few ingredients in a saucepan, in this case, we are using one orange (halved), a handful of cloves, a vanilla pod and water. Then just bring the pan to the boil, turn down to a simmer and leave for an hour or so, it’s that simple. Just be careful not to let all the water evaporate, as your ingredients will burn and leave a nasty smell, not the pleasant one you are looking for.

 

 

There are loads of different ingredients you could try, here’re just a few:

  • lemons
  • oranges
  • grapefruits
  • apples
  • cranberries
  • cinnamon sticks
  • whole cloves
  • fresh herbs
  • pine needles
  • bay leaves
  • flowers
  • ginger
  • nutmeg
  • rose water
  • almond extract
  • vanilla extract
  • essential oils

Happy simmering!

 

Written by Mike Pye

How to encourage teenagers to keep their rooms tidy

In today’s society teenagers have lots going on. Whether studying at school, completing home work, attending after school clubs and activities, visiting friends or socialising they often feel like they have a lot on their plate. Couple the stress of school with teenage angst and anxieties and it’s easy to understand why teenagers tend to get in a ‘strop’ when asked to clean their bedrooms – something that earlier on in their life was always done for them.

However, as parents we know that keeping a tidy room is much more than just a ‘pointless chore’ and that having a tidy and well organised space to spend your time in can help to bring some balance to daily routine rather than further the chaos. Our children aren’t as likely to see it that way though, so here are some tactics that you can use to encourage them to keep their room tidy.

Practice what you preach
If you aren’t setting a good example yourself then your argument is bound to fall down with an argumentative teenager ready to pick holes. Maintaining a positive and orderly approach to your home will have a positive impact elsewhere and when your teenager strolls up to their messy bedroom through a meticulously tidy and well-kept house they will know that they have some work to do!

Respect their property

Even though you probably paid for everything in their room, teenagers can be fiercely protective over their property.  Tearing down posters, packing away personal belongings in unfamiliar places and generally intruding can really get their backs up and won’t help solve the problem. Instead try picking out some shelving or a wardrobe that they like, involving them in the process and agreeing at the time where certain items will live. This will mean when you do help clean their room for them they’ll know where everything is.

Lay ground rules

Your teenager should know exactly what is expected of them. Rules like bringing plates down after they have eaten need to be followed, otherwise they will be banned from eating in their bedrooms. Dirty washing needs to be put in the laundry basket or it won’t be cleaned.  Offering money to encourage your teenager to clean their room can work but be careful not to overdo it.

A problem shared...
If your teenagers share a bedroom then you should make it clear to them that they are both responsible for any mess that you find. They will most likely shift the blame to each other so holding them both to account will encourage them to work together and even split chores between themselves, especially if you threaten to take away both of their pocket money.

Do you have any special tactics to encourage your teenager to maintain their bedroom? Tweet us at @TimeForYouGroup and let us know.

Recycling etiquette – how to recycle properly

Recycling is something that we struggle to get our heads around in the UK. In fact recent reports by the BBC claimed that as much as 338,000 tonnes of household waste is rejected annually from recycling facilities.

However, in an effort to clear up the confusion over recycling at home, recycling charity WRAP has begun working towards a set of nationally agreed guidelines which clear up any confusion over recycling, offering key advice over what exactly can and can’t be recycled. Here are some key takeaways which might help you to be a better recycler.

How to present your recycling

One of the biggest takeaway’s from WRAP’s guidelines is the importance of presenting your recycling in the right way. For example, did you know that most pizza boxes can usually be recycled but are commonly rejected? The reason for this is that pizza grease binds to the fibres of the box and makes it too difficult to recycle, so it then ends up being rejected when it reaches the recycling centre. Recycling charities are encouraging homeowners to be more mindful of not only what they recycle but also how they recycle in the hope that more household waste ends up being recycled rather than discarded in landfill sites.  

Sorting
To get started with recycling you will need to sort your waste according to type and keep it separated. So glass, plastics and metals should all be divided up, while paper and cardboard can normally be kept together. Crush and fold any large boxes, or cut them up to create extra room. Some examples of specific things to avoid include electronics, garden waste, multi-material products like Pringles tubes, foil-card, padded-card, mirrors, plates of glass, paint tins, wires and cables, meat, carpet and cushions.

Wash and squash
A great way to ensure that your recycling is free of contamination is to wash and squash wherever possible. This means scraping out food, pouring away any leftover liquids, rinsing containers with washing up liquid and generally making sure they are relatively clean. Next you should crush metal cans such as beer and food cans and squeeze plastic bottles to flatten them and expel as much air as you can.

Lids
The importance of removing labels, caps and lids from bottles and jars really depends on the type of container. With plastic bottles it is very important to throw away plastic caps from bottles in your general waste wherever you can. The reason for this is that the plastic used in caps differs from that of bottles and has a different melting point so can’t be recycled together. However, with glass bottles and jars it’s less important as they are generally crushed and re-washed.

The amount of detail that you put into your recycling efforts will depend on how strict your local council is with their rules. You may have bins, bags or boxes to separate your recycling into and this may influence how you prepare your recycling for removal. Click here to read the full guidelines from WRAP which provide clear and easy to understand guidelines over how to recycle your household waste.

Five Tips to Help You Be More Productive at Work

With workloads becoming more challenging and the working day growing increasingly longer, it’s vitally important to be more productive to help you keep a healthy work-life balance. Whether you work from home or from the office, there are always plenty of distractions which take your eye off the ball. Here’re five simple techniques to help you achieve more in your working day.

Optimise your time

I have two important questions for you. 

1. Do you know how long all your daily tasks take?
2. Do you know which are your most important tasks that you should give more time to? 

If you know the answers to these questions, then managing your day should be easy. If you don’t then you’ve got a problem, but here’s how to solve it.

Record how long each of your daily tasks takes you. You could do this the old-fashioned way or use a tool like Toggl (which is simple and easy to use). Find out how long your tasks are taking you and decide how important each task is to your daily goals. Then, assign yourself a time limit for each task, based on their importance. By doing this you can ensure you are not wasting too much time on tasks with low importance, which in turn, will help you create more time for those important tasks that require more time and energy.

Don’t let others ‘steal’ your time

Be strict with the time you’re willing to give up for meetings. Some meetings are important and vital to the successful execution of your projects or tasks, however, many companies suffer from meeting overload! You may get sucked into attending a meeting where you are a bystander for much of the agenda, or you may not be needed at all. 

Before agreeing to attend every meeting you get invited to, ask yourself if it will help you achieve your objectives. If it doesn’t, see if there is another way you can contribute, perhaps by submitting information in advance or attending in a less time-consuming way, perhaps by phone or virtual meeting software.

Take regular breaks

None of us can focus with 100% concentration all day. In fact, attempting to do so is counterproductive. Take short breaks of around five minutes in between heavy going tasks to allow your brain to recover and refocus. Do something light, that you ‘want’ to do, to give your brain the reward it deserves. Regularly rewarding yourself in this way will help you focus more during ‘work’ time.

It’s also important to use break times to get away from your desk for a while. Get some exercise by taking a walk around the office, or even better, get outside for a short walk. This will not only help improve your health but help you to clear your head and refocus.

Don’t be distracted by notifications

One of the biggest causes of lost productivity is the technology designed to help us be more productive! Phones, tablets and computers, with their continuous alerts and notifications can be very distracting. Yes, they can be a help, when we are waiting for an important email or message, but notifications can cause us to quickly lose our focus, resulting in tasks taking much longer than they should. Turn your phone notifications off, shut down your email and devote your time to the completion of your tasks. When you’re finished, you can turn them back on again and address them when you have the time to do so.

Experiment with productivity techniques

There are many productivity techniques out there that can really help you improve your efficiency, and we’ve written about quite a few of them here on the Time for You blog. Research a few of them and start to experiment to find out which best suits your working style. Some are incredibly simple, while others are a little more complicated. You may find that you like elements of a few different techniques and create your own strategy. 

For me, a combination of techniques helps me tackle different tasks and workloads. The Pomodoro technique helps me focus on big tasks that require a lot of brain power, whilst ‘to-do’ list techniques, such as the Eisenhower matrix, helps me to structure my working day or week more efficiently.


You can read more about some very effective productivity techniques in the following articles.

Written by Mike Pye