How to deal with criticism

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“I really struggle when my work is criticised. I take it personally and can feel stressed for days afterwards. I become really nervous and worry that my work will never be good enough. What can I do to stop myself feeling like this?”

It can be really difficult to accept criticism. You can end up feeling angry, frustrated and demotivated. Criticism can also really knock your confidence.

Dealing with your emotions after being given criticism can be difficult and so here are a few tips to help you deal with it constructively:

  1. Accept that no one is perfect. Placing unrealistic expectations on yourself can cause a lot of stress so ensure your expectations are reasonable.
  2. Replace the word ‘criticism’ with ‘feedback’. Feedback is a more positive word and can put you in a better frame of mind to deal with it. Ask yourself what you can learn from the feedback to help you move forward.
  3. When you are being given feedback, ensure you understand it properly and be open to what the other person is saying before you respond. Once you have this understanding, you can ask questions to clarify what the person giving you feedback is wanting from you and what changes you can make to improve your work. This gives the conversation a positive forward thinking focus.
  4. Don’t take it personally. Perhaps model yourself on someone you know who takes feedback well. How do they behave? How do they talk and act? Write down 10 qualities you admire about this person. Now identify what they do, that you currently do not do and think about what you need to believe in order to behave in the same way. Next time you receive feedback, use this new belief and try a different response.       Keep going until you start seeing the difference!

Throughout your career, there will always be someone who may criticise you. You are not alone. Even the most successful people are criticised. It is how you deal with it that is important. Keep in control and use any constructive criticism to enable you to become an even better employee.

www.tessaarmstrong.co.uk

9 ways to improve your time management skills

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‘I never seem to have enough time to complete my work. I work really long hours and no longer have time to do the things I enjoy out of work. It is making me feel stressed.’

It can be really difficult managing a large workload. You can end up feeing exhausted and extremely stressed.

If this sounds familiar, perhaps take some time to review how you spend your time at work.   Use the following points to assist:

  1. Every morning make a list of the tasks you must complete that day and a separate list of tasks that you would like to complete if you had time.
  2. Do the thing you least want to do first. You will be so pleased when you have achieved it and feel motivated for the rest of the day.
  3. Eliminate all distractions when working on a large piece of work. For instance, turn your mobile off and close your emails.
  4. Focus on one thing at a time. For example, allocate part of the day to making telephone calls and another part to responding to emails and clearing your inbox.
  5. Are you expected to do everything yourself? If possible, delegate some of your work.
  6. Learn to say ‘no’ when you have too much work to do and to explain the reason why.
  7. If you are struggling with a piece of work, ask for help. Feeling that something is beyond your capabilities can make you feel out of control.
  8. Do you need to work late every day? Ensuring you leave work on time at least once or twice a week will free up time for your personal life.
  9. Plan to do something you enjoy at least once a week.

Often the smallest alteration to your working day can make the biggest difference in enabling you to work more quickly and effectively. It can also ease feelings of stress and allow you to enjoy your life again.

www.tessaarmstrong.co.uk

For lawyers – What to do when you feel dissatisfied at work

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‘I have been wondering whether law is the right career for me for a while now. I don’t feel very motivated or satisfied at work but my options are limited as my skills are so specialised.’

It is not uncommon for lawyers to consider a career change when they are feeling demotivated or dissatisfied at work.   If a recent event has made you feel this way then wait until the situation has calmed down or you have managed to resolve it before you make any decisions.

Also, take a look at your current situation. What specifically is bothering you about your current situation –   is it the working environment, the subject matter, your work-life balance or something else? A career change may be the answer but consider other solutions too such as changing law firm, changing specialism, in-house work, further training and development, seeking help from your supervisor or even pursuing a hobby out of work.

If you do decide that a career change is right for you, the good news is that you do have transferrable skills. Start having a think about them now. Your skills are likely to include people skills, advanced drafting skills, research and problem-solving skills, excellent oral skills as well as many others that make you employable. You can then start investigating career options that closely match your set of skills.

Remember, with all challenges you face, if you keep doing what you are doing you will keep getting the same result. Try new techniques and tools to help you succeed and if you think a career change is for you, start your investigations now!

www.tessaarmstrong.co.uk

Does perfectionism hold you back?

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I have coached many people who define themselves as perfectionists. They approach me because they are struggling to move forward with their career for fear of making the wrong decision.

Perfectionists do not want to ‘fail’. They often want to ensure that any decision they make is absolutely perfect before proceeding with it. However, the only way they will know if their decision is right is by giving it a go and taking a risk. This turns into a catch-22 situation and the decision making process becomes extremely difficult and stressful.

It is really important to be aware of when perfectionism is helping you move forward and when it is hindering you. It can be a great characteristic for doing work brilliantly (although it can be unrealistically expected of individuals) but it can also hold you back from making decisions and attempting new things. For example, delaying a career change for fear of failing or choosing not to apply for a job because you believe other people will be better than you.

If you feel perfectionism is holding you back, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the worst that can happen?
  • How can you make it better?
  • What small step can you take now to bring you one step closer?

Also, have a think about the standards you are setting yourself. Are they too high?

Always set standards that are high, but achievable. Setting standards that are too high can be like setting yourself up to fail. How about lowering the bar, making your goals something you know you can and will do rather than something that is always beyond your reach.

www.tessaarmstrong.co.uk

Do you want to be happy at work?

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Do you want to be happy at work or is your salary a big enough incentive to keep you going?

How important is enjoyment at work for you?

Provided you are on a reasonable salary and have a relatively secure job, I believe enjoyment at work can be just as important as the money you earn. This is because being unhappy at work can have a huge impact on your life; your motivation and commitment may decrease and your  stress levels will increase.  Your enthusiasm for life will diminish.

Sound familiar? When you realise that your misery at work is all you can think and talk about, it is definitely time to accept that you should do something about it.

What causes unhappiness at work?

A number of factors can cause unhappiness at work including:

  • Lack of control and fairness.
  • Micro management.
  • Long, inflexible hours.
  • Unmanageable workload and deadlines.

In an ideal world, to improve wellbeing at work, we would be allowed to work shorter or flexible hours, have manageable deadlines and workloads and have a good manager. In the absence of these things, it is down to you to make some changes. Here are some ideas:

In work:

  • Be organised – every morning make a list of the tasks and do the least attractive task first.
  • Dress confidently.
  • Take breaks – drink plenty of water and eat healthy snacks.
  • Arrange a lunch date.
  • Delegate work where possible.
  • Ask for feedback.
  • At the end of each day, remind yourself of what you have achieved.

Out of work:

  • Pursue a hobby and do some exercise.
  • Take a holiday.
  • Set some goals.
  • Instruct a career coach.
  • Plan something nice to do each week.

You may think this is common sense but when you are feeling unhappy, it is easy to forget the little things that make a difference. Often the smallest alteration to a working day can make the biggest difference to your happiness and wellbeing at work.

Make some changes now – you will achieve more in your career and feel much better for it!

www.tessaarmstrong.co.uk

Is it time to make your career dreams a reality?

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Success doesn’t come to you… you go to it. (Marva Collins)

As Christmas approaches, our minds start to wander into next year. Whilst reflecting on 2014, we think about what we would now like to achieve in 2015.  Perhaps you didn’t achieve everything you set out to achieve in 2014 or you may still have some important decisions to make in specific areas of your life. Whatever your situation may be, is it now time to put an action plan in place to enable you to achieve what you want to achieve in 2015?

An action plan can really focus the mind and help you to put small steps in place to enable you to achieve your personal goals/objectives in life. These goals may be solely focused on your career or cover all aspects of your life.

Here are some action points to help you start planning:

  1. What are your objectives?
  2. How are you going to achieve your objectives? Think about this in detail.
  3. How would you rate your commitment in achieving these objectives on a scale of 1 – 10 (anything less than 8 may need your further attention!)?
  4. How realistic are your objectives on a scale of 1 – 10?
  5. By what date do you want to achieve your objectives?
  6. When will you review your progress?

By putting a plan in place, your dreams can start becoming a reality.

Do not fear going forward slowly; fear only standing still.

http://www.tessaarmstrong.co.uk

Is it time to stop blaming other people?

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It always seems to be someone else’s fault

I am sure you all know someone who always blames someone else when things go wrong. If they had a bad appraisal, it was the fault of their boss. If they had an argument at home, it was the fault of their partner. If they were late for an appointment, someone else had delayed them. It is never their fault.

Sometimes other people or organisations are to blame when things go wrong but here I am talking about day to day problems. Those problems that can be dealt with quickly by blaming someone else and avoiding having to do anything about it.

I attract dramas everywhere I go!

People who deal with problems this way are often surrounded by dramas. Everywhere they go, something happens for them to moan about. They do not take responsibility for their own actions and therefore nothing changes and they simply move on to the next crisis creating a life of drama for themselves.

Gradually, their life becomes increasingly stressful and their view of other people becomes extremely negative. Negativity and stress prevent us from moving forward and creating the life that we desire.

I want to create a stress free life!

What can you do to limit the dramas you experience in your life?

Next time you experience a problem, take a deep breath and stop yourself from immediately looking for someone else to blame. Instead, have a think about how your actions may have affected the outcome. Were you entirely blameless?!

Now think about what you can do to prevent or overcome these problems from happening again in the future. Take control of the situation.

Perhaps the actions of others were partly to blame but can you control this? No, probably not. If you rely solely on other people to rectify mistakes, change may never happen and you may be making life harder than it needs to be.

It is all about taking control, and giving yourself the power to make your life better. (You can also then take the credit for when things go right!)

When you take responsibility for your actions and control of the outcome, you will limit the dramas you experience and improve your life for the better. 

http://www.tessaarmstrong.co.uk

Lawyers – Are you fed up with stressful days and sleepless nights?

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The obsession with billable hours…

Many lawyers tell me they are becoming increasingly stressed at work. They do not enjoy their job and have no work/life balance. They are feeling really fed up and see no way out.

When I hear lawyers talking like this, I can usually predict the cause of this kind of stress and it normally comes down to targets and billable hours.

Each day a lawyer is faced with a battle against the clock of chargeable hours. Some days they win this battle and achieve their target hours and some days they do not. On the days they do not, they leave the office feeling drained and demotivated. After all, lawyers like to win!

When the days of winning become less frequent, the obsession with dividing the day into 6 minute units commences.

How have I only charged 6 hours when I have been sat at my desk for 12 hours? How can I stop writing off time? How can I ask for more work? Do I have time to waste a unit by making a cup of tea? How quickly can I run to the toilet?!

Slowly, the lawyer loses all perspective on life.

If you feel your stress levels are rising due to unachievable targets, please take some time to stop and review matters before you start counting how many units it takes to make a cup of tea. There may be changes you can make to your case load and working day that will make all the difference.

For example, if the hours you record are not a true reflection of the number of hours you have been sat at your desk, start making a detailed note of what you are doing during non-changeable time. Whilst doing this, have a think about the following questions:

  1. Do you need more work? If so, arrange a meeting with your boss to discuss your workload.
  2. How do you structure your day? Are you working in a productive manner or do you find yourself flitting between different tasks? It is very difficult to focus and record time accurately when flitting between tasks. Ensure you allocate specific times of the day to answer emails, make phone calls and review your post. When concentrating on one task, do not allow yourself to get distracted by the phone, your email or anyone else.
  3. Do you write off time? If you feel a piece of work has taken longer than it should have, perhaps check with your boss before choosing to write off time. It may be a piece of work that required you to take a long time.

As you become more productive, your billable time will increase and you will be able to enjoy life out of work again.

As an alternative, should we all be thinking about scrapping billable hours and target hours? According to Roll on Friday’s firm of the year, this is one of the reasons Slaughter and May usually rates higher in the work/life category than other Magic Circle firms. Perhaps this is the way forward?!

www.tessaarmstrong.co.uk

BREXIT – THE END OR THE BEGINNING?

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Brexit has triggered an explosion of emotions over the past week. On Friday 24th June it was announced that 52% of the UK had voted to leave the European Union. This meant that 48% did not want to leave and it is these 48% who are feeling shocked, angry and confused.

This result has triggered a reaction that has exposed us all to an intense build-up of negative emotion. It is surrounding us in everyday conversation and on the news. My Facebook thread has been dominated by unhappy and angry posts written by family and friends who feel really passionate about our country and care about what happens to our future. Through no choice of their own, the change and uncertainty which lies ahead has caused them, as well as millions of others, to feel fearful.

However, it is this fear that makes individuals feel even more out of control and anxious about their future. It is this fear that stops individuals from achieving the things they want to achieve. It is this fear that causes unhappiness.

I have already seen the impact this is having on some individuals and feel really sad about this. This is why I was so relieved to read Dr Rebecca Edwards’ recent post on Facebook. Rebecca is a very good friend of mine and extremely committed to her political views. This is her request:

‘If today you are feeling outraged, harness that energy and get involved in politics. There is great political uncertainty ahead, with changes in leadership in our political parties certain and a general election in Autumn most likely. We need people to step up and act as our representatives and for many more voices to be heard. Join a political party (even if it needs changing from within), write an informed blog piece, take part in a protest, deliver some leaflets or talk to a neighbour about why your viewpoint matters. Let’s take politics back.’

My request is similar. I now challenge you to decide what your positive beliefs are in reaction to Brexit and to start acting on these beliefs to move you forward towards an inspiring future. It may be a change to your personal life, it may be a career move or it may be, as Rebecca suggests, a political move. No matter how big or small, start making positive changes.

Some of you may now be thinking I am being unrealistic and there is nothing you can do anyway.  Yes, it probably feels like everyone is being unrealistic at the moment and there is not much happening to spur us on. However, isn’t the negative climate we are currently living in an even bigger reason to be driving yourself forward?

Being positive is the foundation for making good decisions, taking action and becoming top of your game. Please take action and create a fulfilling life for yourself.

www.tessaarmstrong.co.uk