3 Tips for Balancing Study and Work

Are you working full time, studying part time, trying to keep fit, eat well and fit in some kind of social life? Me too.

Study assignments and exams fall to the bottom of the to do list and before you know it, it’s 4am and you are rushing to get an essay in or cramming for tomorrows exam.

I am making a conscious effort, as some kind of new years resolution perhaps, to stop putting myself under that kind of pressure by adopting some new habits that seem to be working out. There might be a thing or two you can take from these 3 tips for balancing study and work that help you too.

1. Schedule study time (and stick to it)

Too often I would block out a couple of hours at the weekend to study only to find myself dreading it all weekend and procrastinating about getting it done. I changed my approach to a single hour 2-3 evenings on weekdays that I was less likely to have plans such as a Monday and Tuesday after dinner, and more often than not, once I was into it, I would happily spend another 30 minutes “just to finish the chapter”. It’s like getting to the gym in the morning, getting started is the hardest part, once you’re there, you’re away.

2. Shut down social media

I am a queen procrastinator – 10 minutes in and I used to be on Facebook or Instagram mindlessly scrolling wasting time that could have been spent getting what I needed to do done. I now position my phone out of reach so I am unable to access distracting notifications and I make a conscious effort not to use my PC until I really have to for online tests or access to study resources. I now get so much more done in less time and I have my weekends back.

3. Find a study method that works for you (and is kind of fun)

Through trial and error, I learned that creating “chapter posters” using A3 paper and brightly coloured markers is the best study method that works for me. I make notes about key points and then these posters grace my walls for the duration of the paper. It gives me easy access to notes to refer to for tests and exam revision. Just by way of being highly visible, I tend to review the notes more often, such as when I am getting ready for work, and this helps me with retention of key concepts.

There you have it, 3 tips for balancing study and work to prevent last minute cramming and late night assignment writing while juggling other responsibilities.

Share your tips for balancing study and work below.

3 Steps to Completing Your First Triathlon

You can swim well enough to not sink, you haven’t ridden a bike for years but you’re sure you would pick it up again fast enough and you suffer through a run but you feel pretty good afterwards for getting off the couch.

It’s not a matter of not being capable of doing a triathlon — just the whole idea of putting all three disciplines together in one event seems, well, a bit overwhelming. Where do you begin?

Here’s your 3 step guide to getting over the hurdle of completing your first triathlon.

1. Sign up to a race

If you have set a goal to complete a triathlon, and you’re serious about it, you need a deadline. What better motivation to train than to have the date of a race you have registered and paid for looming in the distance.

For your first triathlon, assuming you can swim one length of a pool, ride a bike continuously for about 20 minutes and jog/walk for 15 minutes, give yourself 12-16 weeks to train for a sprint distance triathlon. A sprint triathlon is a 750 metre swim, 20 kilometre bike ride and a 5 kilometre run and is an excellent race to begin with.

Check out the Totally Tri and the Tri NZ race calendars to find a race near you. It is great to start with something local as you won’t have the additional bother of finding accommodation, navigating an unfamiliar area and the best part is you can train where you will race. Many local event organisers run specific beginner triathlons too so keep an eye out for those, you may find some options shorter than a sprint distance triathlon that you could start with.

2. Find a beginner programme to follow

Unless you suffer from health issues that would make any type of exercise or change in training unsafe, there is no need to get fancy with a personalised training programme for your first triathlon.

There are many easy-to-follow training programme online available completely free.

Check out Tri Radar for free plans or Beginner Triathlete for affordable paid plans. Many of these plans also provide important advice about fuelling your body appropriately for the new training you will be doing and also for race day to ensure you don’t burn out before the finish line.

3. Use the gear you have or borrow it

There is no need to have flash gear to complete your first triathlon. The togs or wetsuit and goggles you have, the bike and helmet you can loan from a friend or neighbour as long as it’s comfortable to ride and the running shoes you already own are enough to get you through training and your first race.

Head to your local pool to get your swimming time in and spin classes or the treadmill at the gym are great ways to get time in the bike saddle or to get the running distances in – particularly if the weather is bad!

If you do have some money to spare, invest in a properly fitted pair of running shoes, this is important to prevent injury, particularly as the run can be the most fatigue inducing part of the race.

Once you’re through your first race, you will begin to learn about all of the gadgets and equipment available for triathletes – it does become addictive so don’t say you weren’t warned!

So what are you waiting for? Sign on up for a race 12-16 weeks from now, find an online training programme to follow and use or borrow the gear you have to get training and you are well on your way to becoming a triathlete!

Let us know how you get on and tag me in your training and finish line photos @samanthahowarth!

Tackling your ‘uncomfort’ zone

say-yes-kotilo_johanna-horkkoAbout six years ago I pulled myself out of a slump by deciding that I wanted to be more interesting. I wanted a better answer than “nothing much” or “same old” to “what have you been up to lately?” It sounds stupid actually writing that but it’s exactly how the scenario played out in my head.

Where did I start? 

The beginning of my ‘be more interesting’ mission started by acknowledging the things that I sucked at or the things that scared the shit out of me. Things that fell into my ‘uncomfort’ zone included public speaking, golf and performing arts.

What did I do next?

Without thinking about the ifs, buts or maybes, I signed up for Toastmasters, golf lessons and Burlesque classes – and I went to every single one. Terrifying? Yes! Exhilarating? Even more so!

Within a year I became a self-proclaimed ‘casual golfer’, ended up co-running a few public speaking courses and competed in a speaking competition to earn myself a rad participation certificate! I also learned that I am better off sticking to sporting activities – corsets and fishnets were fun for a term but Burlesque wasn’t something I pursued beyond ‘tassels and twirls 101’.

Then what happened?

After a couple of years, I re-evaluated. I had met a boy, agreed to marry him and we bought a house in an area where I knew nobody. After lugging a brand new glittering box of china teacups back to our new home from a trip to Melbourne I decided that the best way to meet some people was to start an afternoon tea club. This was the beginning of the High Tea Honeys. I think back to how impulsive that decision was. In all of one evening I dreamt up the name, registered the meetup group, designed a logo that would suffice and then launched it. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it would still be running over two years later.

And now?

All of these experiences that I made an impulsive decision to pursue have given me self-confidence, new skills and some amazing new friends. I have learned that I love inspiring people to tackle their own ‘uncomfort’ zones, that I am an entrepreneur at heart and that I am obsessed with tea and cake.

All of this because I wanted to be a little more interesting. Who would have thought?

Fall in love with your dreams

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I have hardly slept for the last two weeks and it’s not because I am suffering from insomnia. It’s because I have been far too excited about the business plans I have been working on.

I liken the feeling to falling in love but instead of falling in love with a person, I’ve fallen in love with my dreams. My ears have been ringing as I collapse into bed every night with a mind full of ideas. Once it starts, it manifests and before I know it, I’m making notes about new business concepts at 2am.

Even with the lack of sleep, I have managed to bounce out of bed in the morning, just to spend 30 minutes incorporating the new information into my business plan. I’ve even taken to working on my laptop during the 20 minute train commute in the mornings…

My point is, if you’re not bouncing out of bed in the morning to do something that you love, change your situation. Start by making a list of all of the things that you are passionate about, then make a list of the things you do every day. Compare the lists and adjust accordingly.

Tri Again

Two days ago I competed in my first triathlon, I am still feeling elated by the sense of achievement.

7 weeks ago I received an email from a local gym saying they were recruiting members for a beginners triathlon training squad. I have wanted to do a triathlon for atleast the last 5 years and for whatever reason, never made it to the start line. 

I bit the bullet, registered and paid and locked myself in. The training regime wasn’t too intense, a weekly run, ocean swim and a few rides on the Exercycle at the gym. 7 weeks quickly flew by and it was time to head to race day wetsuit and bicycle in tow.

Arriving at Scorching Bay was breathtaking in itself.  

Getting set up in transition wasn’t as logistically challenging as I anticipated.

 

 The first group heads into the icy waters

 

 And then it was my turn – swim, bike, run!

   

  

It was fantastic to do the race as part of a team. The camaraderie and support throughout training and race day was awesome. 

I found the race challenging but completely achievable and loved it so much, I am registering for the Rotorua quarter ironman in December with a goal of completing a half ironman in March 2016. Bring it on! 

Table Stakes

Table-Stakes-300x300“The problem with a lot of strategies is that they are full of non-choices. You only know that you’ve made a real strategic choice if you can say the opposite of what that choice is, and it’s not stupid. So, think about ‘customer centric.’ The opposite would be what? We ignore our customers? How does that work? Can you point out many companies that succeed and make lots of money ignoring their customers? Well, then being customer centric is not a strategic choice.”

This extract from here by Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Management on his thoughts around choices, planning and innovation is quite simply the best thing I have read all year. My previous Sales Manager, now dear friend, and I still talk about the concept of table stakes and Mr Martin has articulated it better than I ever could have.

Table stakes or non-choices, are the things that as an absolute bare minimum, a business should do well. They are not a strategic decision, nor should they be what make you unique, they are what your employees and customers should expect of you. They are simply what you do.

Here are my top 4:

1. Enable your people to be awesome at their jobs

How many jobs have you started where you have been thrown in the deep-end? Left to figure things out for yourself, there is no standardised way of doing anything – everyone is making it up as they go, or it feels like it. I’ve been there, done that, and it’s crap.

Having the right procedures, policies, templates and training programmes in place makes the world of difference for onboarding your people and ensuring on an ongoing basis that they know the expectations of their role and what it means to be awesome at it.

The result; things get done in a timely manner by people who know what they are doing and are trusted and empowered to make decisions on behalf of the business.

The benefits; quality product and service delivery; business continuity risk mitigation; employees are productive in less time, increased employee engagement and increased customer satisfaction.

2. Provide top notch customer service

Without our customers, we have no business. Period.

Imagine a world where your customers tell you that they wish all of their business partners and vendors treated them like you do. They feel heard and loved, you’re available when they need you and you know them well enough to make the right information available to them just as they need it – in my experience it doesn’t take much to stand out from the crowd in this area. It’s sad, but true, and a massive opportunity for you.

The result; your customers are your advocates and as a result you have people singing your praises all over town, all over your website and when you need them to be a reference for you.

The benefits; reduced customer churn and more business.

3. Be smart and realistic about your business tools

It seriously kills me to see people that are wasting the time doing things the way they did them 15 years ago because that’s how they have always been done – and it’s the only way their 1990’s Microsoft Access database allows them to do it. Not only are you losing out on productivity but it’ll be costing you a packet to maintain it on that server in the back room that is also on it’s last legs.

There are business applications available for just about everything these days without having the headache of worrying about developing a system from scratch. Figure out what it is you need and this doesn’t mean finding something that was developed in 2015 but to do exactly what the last thing did. Completely rethink your business processes with your team and your customers if need be, start from a blank piece of paper and then find solutions that do enough of the job to keep you moving forward. My other piece of advice is avoid customisation as much as possible, it’s a pain in the butt down the track.

The result; your people are less frustrated and more productive.

The benefit; more money and time for you and your employees to investigate other awesome opportunities that you haven’t even thought of yet.

4. Make sales and marketing activity a priority

Make sure you are able to be found on the internet and that you are proud of what can be found. If you’re not, do something about it now. If you’re on Facebook or you have a blog and your last post was 6-12 months ago, turn it off until you can commit to regular updates.

Sales and marketing activity should be frequent and be delivering a consistent message. This means the look of your logo and the tone of the language on your website, your social media pages and any other promotional material is the same. If it’s not, fix it.

The result; more leads with less effort, increased brand awareness.

The benefit; more business.

A model for a day

A month or so ago I received an exciting phone call during a regular Friday morning commute to work. It was Polly and Grant from The Hits radio station phoning to let me know that they had nominated me to be fast tracked to the final of the Specsavers Spectacle Wearer of the Year competition. I’m one of six finalists to be flown to Auckland for a photoshoot modelling Specsavers latest range of designer glasses and be wined, dined and entertained by Jeremy Corbett.
It’s Monday morning after the weekend spent in Auckland and as I am flicking back through the photos from the weekend I can’t help but smile.
After a wee bit of a travel inconvenience I arrived into Auckland on Saturday afternoon quite a bit later than expected but I was so excited to be there that any earlier feelings of frustration at a certain airline quickly faded away. I was introduced to Simone, an amazing Auckland based make up artist and hair stylist and she worked her magic on me. Before and After photos below.

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After hair and makeup I got to choose from the gorgeous range of Specsavers designer specs. I ended up going with a pink pair by designer Collette Dinnigan 😍

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The photo shoot was fun a and a whole lot less intimidating than I imagined, although we were short on time, the environment was cool, calm and collected. Big thanks goes to the team from Mango Communications, Eleisha and Sean who kept it that way.

After the photoshoot I made my way down the road to the hotel, got changed into something a bit more relaxed for dinner and enjoyed an amazing Teppanyaki experience at Katsura restaurant at the Rendezvous Hotel.

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After dinner we went to the Classic Comedy club to see a line up of up and coming stand up comedians. I was pleasantly suprised to see the sister of a friend on stage, I knew she was into stand up but had no idea how good she really was. It was awesome to see someone going against the mould a little and absolutely killing it. I was sure to snap a selfie with Jeremy Corbett before the night was done.

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All in all it was an awesome experience, I am grateful to The Hits for giving me the opportunity and Specsavers NZ and Mango for putting on an awesome event. The professional images will be released in the next couple of days and we should know who has won the grand prize to LA before the week is out. I had a once in a lifetime experience, can tick ‘be a model for a day’ off of my Wanderlust List and I made some lovely new friends on this trip so whatever happens, I feel like a winner already.

The Simple Things

I’m not generally one for new years resolutions, I am more of a creature of continuous improvement, but this year I promised David, my fiance, that I would slow down. I have coined 2014 as the year of the ‘rush’ for me – a somewhat stressful full-time job, part-time university study, co-ordinating over 50 High Tea Honeys events and somewhere in there squeezing in football and Toastmasters. Naturally, time for those closest to you ends up too far down the priority list, as do the simple things such as sleep, exercise and eating a well-balanced diet. Fortunately for me, David has supported me without complaint but one evening over dinner he politely asked me if I was going to take it a bit easier this year and I agreed that I would.

I finished up my sales job just before Christmas and am incredibly excited about starting in the consulting world next week. The five week break has been a blessing, it has done wonders for both my mental and physical health. I chose not to enrol to summer school, as tempting as it was to knock another uni paper off, and instead I have taken the opportunity to take a break from that feeling of always having something that I should be doing. Instead, I have focused my time and energy on the basics – daily exercise, nutritious meals and time with family and friends. I feel like a new person and I am determined not to slip into old habits. My focus is on adequate rest and executing my planning efforts.

These are the principles I have set for myself to abide by:

  • Practice meditation as daily as possible. I was recently introduced to an app called ‘1 Giant Mind’ (a by-product of actually having the time to contribute to online communities about things I am interested in). I absolutely love it. For someone who has always been curious about meditation and not that comfortable with the idea of sitting in a room full of strangers doing it for the first time, starting out proved to be a challenge. With 1 Giant Mind, I am learning to meditate in my own time and it’s perfect for me. I’m aiming for 30 minutes at the beginning of every day to calm my mind and prepare me for whatever the day throws at me.
  • 8 hours sleep. This is non-negotiable, no matter how much work or study I have on, it can wait. On top of this, phone/tablet/computer – all off at least 30 minutes before bed.
  • Get it done today and do it perfectly enough. Don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today. Also, note the term ‘perfectly enough’, striving for perfection can be a barrier for me, if I don’t think I can do something perfectly, I will procrastinate about it for weeks. In the last year or two I have become better at this but still something I struggle with, especially when it comes to work and study.
  • Be realistic about what I can fit in around the commitments I have made to myself. If ‘extra curricular’ activities are going to chew into the time I should be sleeping, meditating, exercising, preparing nutritious meals or spending time with my partner in a well planned out week then I have to say no.

I have already started this week with the decision to hang up my football boots for the season and by setting a goal this year to only complete half of the uni papers I completed last year. I am treating the simple things with the same importance as I would a work meeting by scheduling non-negotiable time for myself. I am enjoying my new lifestyle and I am committed to keeping it up, even after I have started my new job. Wish me luck.