Today is blog action day, and this year it’s all about the environment, and the Climate change it seems the world is experiencing at moment. The UN Climate Change summit in Copenhagen will starts in less than two months, hopefully giving more results than any other similar summit before. Whether or not you are concerned with the state of the environment, and whether or not you believe there is a climate change caused by humanity, there are things you can do which benefit yourself and humanity at least as much as nature around us. Here at I Work Me, it’s all about the people and growing as such, so we looked at what can be done to improve yourself while also doing something positive for the environment, and came up with the following list:

  • Stop the car; Taking the bicycle for a spin or walking to the store gives you exercise, freeing up endorphins for a positive mind and of course also leads to a longer and healthier life where you might not have to huff and puff to walk up the stairs. With fuel prices waiting to rise again, you will also save some money by finding alternate means of transportation.
  • Eat less meat; Some people say that humans should be vegetarians, and that eating meat is wrong. I wouldn’t go that far, but vegetables contains much more healthy nutrition in general than meat, and should be a great portion of your daily intake. However, I still believe having a mix with different types of meat – although you could consider the origin of the meat you buy if you want to care for the environment as well as yourself.
  • Grow your own vegetables; If you want to save money on food, growing your own vegetables is a great place to start – there are quite a few herbs and vegetables which can grow in the kitchen window, on the balcony or of course if you already have a garden.
  • Use energy-saving bulbs; Saving energy saves the environment, your economy and probably your healthswitching bulbs is an easy way to get started. Other things to think about in the home could be the insulation and getting solar panels or starting a wind power initiative in your community, which could of course also lead to new friendships, a lot of fun and saving more money in the long term.
  • Plant a tree; Setting up a community garden or putting in some time to refresh your back garden is not only good for the air around you, but also gives you a new spot for relaxation and meditation. In some cities across the world, community gardens have popped up over night with ‘Guerrilla Gardening

Do you have any other thoughts on things you could do to benefit both yourself and the environment? Did you write a post for Blog action day? In that case, tell us in the comments

Inconvenience of Life I, Dec 2007.
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If you haven’t had any exercise for a while, and believe now is a good time to start, you are probably right – unless you have any serious injury or something else you need to consult a physician about. Deciding to start exercising is a great step to take, and I would like to congratulate anyone who takes the decision, although it should be taken with a motivated mindset and having set one or more goals you want to achieve. I would also suggest a doctors appointment if you don’t do it on a regular basis, and to remember starting slow. There are a few things I would recommend you to keep in mind to stay motivated and keeping away from injuries:

  • Start slow; If you decide to start running or jogging and haven’t done much leg work for a long time, it’s usually a good idea to be careful when getting started. Try to not go more often than every second or third day when starting up, to avoid injuries and to avoid muscle problems.
  • Find variation; Even if you have found the one kind of exercise you truly love, your body will love you back even more if you find variation to keep more muscle groups alert while improving stamina. For example you could combine jogging with wall climbing and squash or volleyball.
  • Stretch; One of the most important parts of exercise is actually the stretching – which too many people forget. If you go for a jog in the afternoon after work and feel pressured for time, it’s usually better to jog for five minutes less and use those minutes for stretching instead. Your body and muscles will thank you for the attention by not feeling sore the next days and by improving the next time you jog, instead of possibly feeling worse. I used to cycle every morning without stretching and was surprised when I started feeling the muscle tire more easily – after I started with some simple stretches after the ride both my stamina and my muscles started feeling better shortly.
  • Eat right; Depending on your current stamina and state of health, there is a right time to eat before and after exercise. However, for anyone who starts a new exercise regime, it’s important to look at what you eat before your workout, and stay away from candy, soda and any food with empty calories not giving you the energy for reaching your goal.
  • Drink; The human body is mostly water, so it’s not strange that we get thirsty and need to drink more than two litres even if sitting in a chair all day. If you do some exercise, it’s even more important to get your fluids, and like always water is the best option. Don’t forget that energy drinks are made for athletes and people who exercise on a high level, so in general there’s no need for it – actually, energy drinks often give so many calories that it goes against the reason many people start exercising. If you’re exercising to drop some weight, don’t forget to look at the calorie amount in what you drink.
  • Warm up; Whether you’re new to exercise or a professional athlete, one of the most important parts of the workout to get your muscles warmed up and ready for what they are about to perform. Neglecting the warming up of your muscles means you are putting a much higher risk of injury.
  • Have fun; No matter who you are, you probably won’t have the discipline to continue working out if you don’t enjoy it. In other words, find something you like to do – if you like walking there’s either hiking or golf and if you like nature there’s mountain climbing to have as a goal,
  • Set goals; No matter where or how you start, there’s nothing more motivating than setting goals for your workout – set short term goals to run faster one week from now or climb a higher wall, find a long term goal to decrease your weight or increase your stamina, or set a goal to get a longer walk each day to work by getting off the bus one stop earlier than usual (and then another stop… and another…). However, remember not to have too many or too difficult goals, as it’s the number one and two reasons people stop exercising shortly after starting. Know yourself and set the goals at the pace you can handle.
  • Know your limits; If your body tells you to stop, then it means you should stop. If you feel you have to slow down, it means you should slow down. There is no fast track to long lasting better stamina, decreased weight or better health – you have to work on it..
  • Bring friends; Doing something with a friend keeps your motivation up, lets you have fun together and can make it more competitive – great motivating factors to keep you going!
  • Consider your outfit; If you’re jogging or running, the shoes you wear can keep you from injuries or at least help your progress.  There are quite a few different types of exercise where shoes or other gear matters, so if you’re just about to start something new, don’t forget to do the research so you can do your best. Furthermore, I have found that looking great while working out gave me more motivation to take on the extra mile.
  • Keep a diary; Looking back at your level just a month ago is a great motivator, and now there are so many different ways to do it – how about connecting your running shoes to your iPod which uploads to your online running diary when you sync your music?
  • Reward yourself; Don’t forget to reward yourself when you reach the goals you have set. Even if you start with the simplest of goals it can be a great motivator to reward yourself with something “you shouldn’t do”, such as sharing some champagne with a loved one, having a piece of carrot cake with a tall decaf soy latte at your local Starbucks (if that’s your type of reward) or simply relaxing with a movie marathon for a full day
  • Listen to experts; If you can afford it, a personal trainer is a great asset and the perfect motivator who can give you enough tips to make this blog post look like it’s for beginners (hmmm, yes it is for beginners, but anyone is welcome). If you can’t afford the personal trainer there are many gyms where you can get free advice from
  • Try something different; If you have never tried conditioning workouts such as Pilates, Yoga or Tai Chi, consider the options – it might be a good place to start slow, and many of those have free trial offers to let you see if you like it.
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Remote work is not for everyone – typically you work alone, far away from colleagues and interaction with your peers. Although there are ways to get around this lonely setting, there is a higher level of responsibility which comes with the freedom of choosing your own work location. You also need to consider how to separate work and leisure time if you work from home, and create a working system where you can show remote co-workers and managers the work you have performed without having to waste your energy on unnecessary administration or having to work extra time. Some tips for working from home are:

  • Balance; Find the right balance between work and leisure time, and don’t let one interrupt the other. Set a schedule for what is work time and what is play time, and be strict about it, both to get things done while working and to get the rest you deserve while at your own time.
  • Create realistic Goals and Targets; Understand your limitations, and even though working to improve the limitations, don’t drive up expectations too much before improving to the point where you can handle more tasks. Knowing your limits is a great way to lower stress.
  • Minimize extra time; Give yourself time for relaxation, personal growth, planning and fun. Don’t overplan and don’t stay after hours – going hand in hand with a daily work/life balance.
  • Sort, prioritze and delegate; Look at what is more or less important, delegate to others if this makes the handling of a task more efficient and don’t mess with tasks where you wouldn’t make a difference – instead concentrate on your own tasks and expertize.
  • Don’t waste energy; Becoming upset by petty things is one of the greatest energy wasters out there – don’t expect disaster to happen. Find a way around a small problem usually gives you energy and motivation, instead of wasting it, which is often the case when you get upset over nothing.
  • Reflect and evaluate; Find out which situations are a cause of stress for you, and how you react. Consider how available you need to be at different times (can you for example turn off the phone or ignore mail for a few hours per day?). Look at what you can do to change the attitude of yourself and others around you, to create the balance and work environment you need.
  • Optimize the work environment; Don’t work by the kitchen table, but instead create a special office space only used for work. Remember to have good light, a comfortable enough chair and a good enough computer work space. Having this in your home is a great way to get started, but you might also benefit from occassional work from the local coffee shop to meet other people.
  • Go to meetings; Since you won’t have much social interaction with colleagues when working from home, take the chances you get to interact with them. This will also increase the times you are noticed by the employer, and get your work seen in another light.

Did you try working remote? Have you considered working from home without taking the step, and in that case what stopped you?

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I recently noticed a question on LinkedIn, regarding things interfering with job satisfaction, and thought this was an interesting topic to look at. Just a couple of days previous, I had seen popular questions about what people would change in their work environment, career or goals if they could, and how they would look back at the recent past in a few years.

When it comes to things interfering with job satisfaction, there seems to be a focus on the current state of world economy and on personal job security, having the right work/life balance and compensation, but I would believe people are afraid to answer such questions with great detail in a public forum (although one person answered that “dealing with mindlessly penny-pinching clients” was the one thing interfering from his job satisfaction). None of the answers showed a person who loves their job – although quite a few seemed negative due to unemployment instead of fighting the situation and making it a good time to evaluate their lives – maybe it’s time to try something different, such as a ‘workcation‘.

In the other discussions about looking back ‘from the future’ on career and goals, people asked for less negativity/more positivity from co-workers, getting rid of the HR department, getting “nicer management”, being taller etc while a few considered that every stage in life is relative, and that it is part of human nature to never be completely satisfied. Looking at more answers, some critisized themselves for their need to be or appear succesful, being less stressed and other situations or traits relating to what we are trying to walk away from with this blog. Looking back at the discussions, it is clear that the answers depend much on how a question is given, considering the negativity in one thread (looking at interference of satisfaction) while seeing many positive responses in other threads (discussing how you would look back at your past a number of years from now).

One career-related story I enjoy hearing is the Mexican fisher parable (as seen in ‘4-Hour Work Week‘ by Tim Ferris, and other places) – about a fisherman who talks to an American with a Harvard MBA, who tries to convince him that creating an fishing ‘empire’ would be a good thing, even though it would only lead him to the situation he is in already. Think about where you want to go, and realise what you already have. Don’t forget that difficulty is part of life, rising to challenges is part of the human spirit, and that if you want to feel at ease with yourself and your life, you need to start looking more at what is right than at what is wrong in your life.

If an evaluation of your current situation tells you something is wrong in your work life, such as being at the wrong company, having the wrong colleagues or being on the wrong career path, try to start with small changes – ignore the unimportant to stay focused on the positive, exercise to produce endorphins leading to a more positive mindset, challenge yourself and give yourself great awards and put up some extra positive reminders in your place of work of how amazing life can be – I have a photo of my niece smiling, a laughing Buddha statue and a set of photos of places I want to visit and things I want to do and achieve. If you feel you have tried enough to make changes in your current situation, consider which part of it you don’t like about it. Look at if it’s the current colleagues, the physical work environment, the management or something else putting you down. Finding on what puts you down lets you focus your efforts, and decide between possibilities, such as:

  • Career shifting; Usually, creating a completely new career is demanding work, but can also be very rewarding. However, often people who consider a change of career are unhappy with parts of their situation which don’t relate directly to the actual work they do, but instead has to do with people, work environment, location or other things which could be changed without an actual career shift. Have a look at the 10-step Workthing+ guide to career shifting or Careershifters if you consider this type of change
  • Change of department or location; In large corporation, there is often a possibility of changing to another department or moving to a new city or even a new country. Consider if you are actually unhappy with your current location or department, and could be energized by a change of scenery.
  • Remote work; Not all people are comfortable with the idea of working from home (or from the coffee shop around the corner), or believe they have the possibility to move their work outside the office, but with more connectivity comes more possibility, and working away from the office becomes easier every day. If you work on a computer, there is excellent collaboration software available (ranging from free to the cost of small diamonds) which is becoming more common even when working in the same office. Ask the manager for working from home one day per week as a trial, do your best on the remote work days, and then ask for more days when you can show proof that working from home is your most productive time. I recommend reading ‘4-Hour Work Week‘ for more tips on remote work.
  • Start your own business; Something you can do while still employed is to start your own business – everyone has at least one great idea, and should take the opportunity to show the world what it is. This doesn’t mean you should rush into anything, but instead take the time you can spare to research the possibilities, start networking and create a prototype – or perhaps create a website. There are many tools available for entrepreneurs, and there’s no reason to hold back. If you want ot know how to get started, write in the comments and we could write about it soon (other requests are of course also welcome)

Do you have any ideas and experiences to share for someone stuck in a job but afraid to quit in these difficult economic times? Have you made positive changes in your work environment to give you new motivation and a different view of the situation? In a later post, we will have a look at what you can do to improve your current work situation, giving tips on things you can do to change your physical work environment for the better. We will also have a look at the possibility and benefits or drawback of working remote instead of in the office.

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The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about Working Better By Working Less, a subject also featured at the Zen Habits blog, who advices to Reduce Task Friction To Get To Task Completion. In its essence, both articles focus on doing less and focusing more, which would lead to a higher quality and quicker completion of the most important task at hand. In other words, less multi-tasking and more focus give you more time, higher quality and a more value while also giving you more time.

Something to start with when trying to focus on a single task is to cut out what London based newspaper Evening Standard call “Work Invaders” (with a lovely image of the old Space Invaders game accompanying the article). These work invaders include time spen reading blogs, regular emails, tweets, LinkedIn networking, Facebook friends and more, which takes time from your tasks.

Where the Wall Street Journal and the Harvard study their article refers to tells us that we working less, being less connected and getting enough rest away from work to achieve more during fewer hours, the Zen Habits post tells us that being focused on a single task (mono-tasking) makes for a better quality in shorter amount of time. Cutting out the work invaders mentioned in the Evening Standard article would be a great start for many people to achieve more in a shorter amount of time, so if you feel that you’re not getting enough done this is a great place to start:

  • Focus on one task at a time, and minimize the risk of distractions.
  • Take at least one (preferably more) evening per week where you are not available for work calls, to let yourself rest and rejuvenate your energy level while lowering stress level.
  • Schedule a maximum amount of time for social networking, and use tools such as Leechblock or RescueTime to keep yourself away from distracting websites. If you’re a writer, Dark Room might be a good solution for avoiding any distractions.
  • Set only two or three times per day for checking email, and don’t let alerts pop up at other times to distract you. To keep each email conversation short and efficient, be precise, only include the necessary recipients and try to follow basic email etiquette.

What’s your favorite method of staying away from distractions? Do you have any tips on how to stay productive in a busy environment? Write in the comments and tell us more…

Your work environment is an important part of your daily life, so I thought it would be a suitable subject to start a series focusing on your well-being and creating the life you want. This post looks at your physical and mental environment, mentioned in the previous post.

Looking at stress, there are a few things you should try to avoid in a daily work environment whether working in an office landscape or in an isolated location:

  • Lack of, too much or wrong type of assignment – If you are assigned too much or too little work compared to your competency and experience, it’s easy to become stressed, which can easily happen if you are asked to start a project which you are not comfortable with. The key here is to communicate that there is something wrong, and that the person who handed you the task may not have understood the scope of the project at hand. For example, a manager who has no experience in IT development projects might ask you to create a certain function, but hasn’t realised that the requested functionality requires a number of other, seemingly unrelated, tasks before the task at hand can even get started – thereby of course making the task larger than anticipated
  • Lack of control and daily influence of your own working methods and environment – If you feel that you have no control of the way you work and that you are constantly regulated by for example company policy, this might be a source of great stress. Again, the key to solving it is communication, to find a balance where you have enough control while the project gets done. Having enough control will probably make you more efficient as well, making everybody happy in the end.
  • Lack of reward or recognition – If you never get any feedback, such as a bonus, an “employee of the month” award or a raise, it’s easy to start wondering if you are doing well enough. To battle negative feelings from this, ask for an evaluation of your work and discuss how you could communicate your progress better with the employer/project manager/task master. Knowing that everything is going to plan (or better) serves you both to help improve any lacking areas.
  • Lack of social support and community – This one can be difficult to solve, especially if you are a freelancer, doing distance work or in another situation where you don’t work together with colleagues on a daily basis. If you are self-employed, a distance worker or similar, there is the possibility of finding a co-working environment in many major cities across the world. Another possibility is to find Meetups suitable for your interests (perhaps focusing on an area which you find lacking from the previous post about evaluating your life)
  • Lack of justice – Another difficult area to address, as many complaints in this area can be seen as immature. Some events which occur at a workplace may actually seem unfair but are motivated as such because of different level of salary (I wouldn’t expect someone at entry level having the same responsibility as the supervisor) or a different title (for example, if you’re in marketing you will do something different than the person who is creating the software which makes your job is easier). If you find something unfair, you should try communication with caution and consider if you need some evidence before approaching whoever can change the situation.

When evaluating your own physical environment, consider some of the following as possible signs of closing in on a future burnout:

  • Physical fatigue – if you are constantly tired even though you get enough sleep and excercise while eating healthy food, you might consider other methods to battle the fatigue. Signs include difficulty of sleeping, and lowered disease resistance.
  • Intelectual fatigue – If you can’t concentrate, keep forgetting things, keep postponing tasks or have too many projects running at the same time, you could be running into a brick wall when it comes to your mind. Try to slow down, take one task at a time and prioritize
  • Emotional fatigue – If you notice over sensitivity, self blame, emotional coldness, a concurrent sence of panic or a change in self-preception you need to take a step back and consider talking to someone about your situation.
  • Social fatigue – Signs of this include isolation, being out of touch with yourself and lacking in commitment. To find a way to get back to normal social life you might want to try slow methods with anonymous contact, such as creating an anonymous Twitter profile to communicate with others about your interests, or perhaps going to meetups to meet new people. Do what you feel comfortable with – don’t do too much at once, but don’t sit still either…
  • Spiritual fatigue – Losing your motivation to live life and pursue your dreams, lacking goals, inability to motivate yourself and find energy and depersonalization are signs of spiritual fatigue. This shouldn’t be confused with anything religious or new age, but rather be thought of as an area of motivation and goals.

If you have ideas, suggestions or comments, feel free to write a few lines below…

Everyone trying to cope with the demands of the modern world need to keep up with multiple tasks, events and information channels on a daily basis. This often leads to a situation where you don’t have ime to sit down and think about your goals, to consider what is happening at any moment or to look back and reflect on recent events.

In general, society tells us to have a career, a relationship, friends and family, to have and spend money, to develop our skills and to pay our taxes on time. Having this pressure can be daunting, and many simply go with the flow – working 9-5 on weekdays, going for a pint in the weekend and forgetting to evaluate the way of life, which just goes on without going forward. I recently wrote a shortpost on evaluating your life and goals each week, to find a point of focus for improvement. Today, I’d like to elaborate a bit on the points mentioned, and give a few short comments on each:

  • Physical environment; Your physical environemnt can make a huge difference for your state of mind, productivity and health. Sitting in a cubicle and staring at the same empty walls each could easily drive motivation down, thereby lowering productivity and the joy of doing whatever task you have set up to do. I suggest taking five minutes each hour where you leave the usual setting – for example getting a glass of water, going outside for some stretching and fresh air or maybe walking over to the neighbor (the one not currently too busy) and have a chat. An hourly break will revitalise your energy and give you motivation to continue even the most monotone task. If you have the possibility, an even better option could be to work a couple of hours from a local cafe (where you won’t be disturbed by too many co-workers coming to chat or loud people who are constantly on the phone), but more on this subject in a later post. To evaluate your physical environment, think about the physical settings you have been to in the past week compared to the typical settings you would enjoy the most, and give it a rating to reflect how far away you are in comparison. Easy improvements in an office could be putting up flowers or photos.
  • Health; Considering your health is vital to getting the best out of life, as negative health issues reflects on all other parts of life. Therefore consider having an annual checkup with your doctor, look at what you eat and drink, and don’t forget some excercise (even a daily walk to the store is better than not moving at all). Depending on what area of your health you would like to improve, there are multiple ways of getting support for each – for example, I lost 10kg (~22lbs) in the autumn of last year after joining the free Sparkpeople web site, even though I wasn’t very strict. This was done by simply thinking of what I eat, inputting the food and excercise on the site, thereby getting an indication of what I could adjust to live a healthier life while getting as much or as little support as I wanted from other people in similar situations.
  • Money; This is not about becoming a millionaire, but about having enough to lead the life you want for yourself, to survive comfortably enough if you get unexpected expences or have a loss of income and to be able to go for those trips you want and perhaps need to recharge your batteries. Think first about your needs, and second about your wants, but evaluate as a whole.
  • Personal Growth; Are you taking the steps needed to grow as a human being and to enhance your skills in the direction you want? Do you take the time to learn about yourself and understand areas that you need to reach your goals? What did you do this week to grow, to come a step closer to your dream?
  • Fun; Everyone needs some fun and relaxation in life – whether you’re the president of the EU or a farmer there needs to be something to put a smile on your face. Did you do something fun this week? If not, what could you do the coming week to have some fun and revitalise your motivation for life?
  • Relationship; Do you have the relationship you want? Are you comfortable with this area of life? If you are in a relationship, are you going in the same direction with enough differences to keep it interesting and enough similarities to keep a balance?
  • Career; Whether you want to work for yourself, have a career in global corporation or work with few other people for a common goal, reflect where you are now compared to where you want to be in one, five or maybe ten years. Did you do anything in the past week to work toward your career goals, or is it time to work on this area?
  • Friends; Many of us have friends, connections and similar over Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks, but are you taking the time to connect on a more personal level, hopefully in real life..?

From the different topics above, rate all to look at what you have done in the previous week to improve the area, look at where you are in life within the area and consider where you would like to be – the area of life where you notice that you have the lowest rating should be the focus of your primary attention the coming week. Focusing more on one area at a time makes you more efficient in your improvement while not trying to be all at once. Take one week at a time, and try to change the area each week, so that no area is left uncovered.

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