Our self-improvement programmes are proven to boost
staff morale
and productivity

We help your people bring their whole self into work.

 Our programmes are proven to increase job performance by over 55%

You can tell who attended Life Clubs – we’re the ones with a smile on our face! 

Those who know, do. Those that understand manage.

 

With apologies to Aristotle

When the mind is happy, productivity follows like a shadow.

 

With apologies to Buddha

If you want to change your team start by changing yourself

 

With apologies to Confucius

The unexamined career is not worth having.

 

With apologies to Socrates

Blog text 62x34

All by myself...

Written By Life Clubs

My daily treat after a day at Life Clubs is to go to the park with my dog, knowing I will always meet at least two fellow dog owners out of a group of around twenty of us.

After several very happy years of ‘dog club’, when I went to the park for a few consecutive days and found no other members, I had to face the fact that our dog club days were over.

I felt lonely and sad. I missed my ‘gang’.
 
Loneliness is a big issue. It’s been in the press a lot recently. We all know of lonely elderly people and now lonely millennials (and dog owners), but being lonely at work isn’t spoken about so often and yet it’s a huge problem. It’s not just lonely at the top, it can be lonely in a new team or if friends have left the organisation or if you go somewhere every day where you haven’t got a best friend.
 
I remember an excellent article in The Guardian which spoke about how it feels to be alone in the workplace. It cited a couple of studies that back up what we all intuitively know, that loneliness at work influences performance. Lonely people focusing on when the day will end make less ‘discretionary effort’ than those who have friends they can talk to at work. And, of course, it can affect their mental health, leading to further issues for them and for you, their employers.
 

What to do..? I’ve put together a few tips and hints to help combat loneliness in your workplace. Some are tongue in cheek, but, in each case, underneath the flippancy is a good point, not to be ignored.

  • Buddies – give new people a buddy who can introduce them around the office when they first arrive. Then give them a new buddy every month for at least the first three months.
  • Create new teams – invite different members of your team each time to brainstorming sessions. Ask them all for their views and thoughts – keep them involved. Yes, even the introverts.
  • Explain purpose - ensure colleagues know what they’re doing and what you’re doing and why.
  • Ban instant messaging – if someone needs to ask someone a question, let them get off their chair and find that person or, at the very least, schedule a chat.
  • Flexible working - don’t rush to bring in blanket flexible working. Although ideal for some, it may make other colleagues feel even lonelier.
  • Invent a game - suggest each time a colleague sits next to someone they haven’t met before, that they spend five minutes trying to find ten things they have in common – anything from favourite holiday places to favourite coffee hangout at work.
  • Picnics – if budgets are tough, suggest picnic lunches as a team or that everyone brings in a dish one day a month.
  • Alcohol - do without it. Arrange alcohol-free events which mean that everyone can attend, no matter what their faith or diet.
  • Arrange clubs – make sure everyone joins a once a month club, whether it’s swimming, jogging, singing, drawing or helping at a charity.
  • And, of course (I would say this, wouldn’t I?) there’s always Life Clubs at Work to help bond your colleagues.

A few of our favourite books...

Written By Life Clubs

OK... yes, we love Penguins, especially old and battered ones. A few of our team have written about their favourite books - hope they inspire you.

Percy Jackson & The Olympians by Rick Riordan as loved by Rupert York

This series of books is a blend of Ancient Greek Myths and Modern day America. They follow a group of demi-gods (half-mortal and half-greek gods) as they adventure through the modern world meeting Ancient Greek monsters, and fighting them with cool swords and powerful godly abilities. A teenage boys dream.

Reading these books gave me a love of Mythology. I found myself having a deep understanding of the Gods and their stories without realising it, as lessons were wrapped up in compelling stories. I remember my parents’ amazement as I recited the twelve Olympians Gods and each of their domains.

The adventures of Percy Jackson have stayed with me since I read them, and I’ve retained a passion for storytelling ever since.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett as loved by Nina Grunfeld

A Little Princess (no spoilers, I promise) is about a girl who has grown up in luxury in India and been transplanted to a horrible boarding school in London. The plot is almost neither here nor there, what I loved about the eponymous lead was her amazing fighting spirit. No matter what happened to the Little Princess she (almost) always had a way of seeing the positive and understanding that no matter how bad things were for her, they were always worse for other people.

It’s interesting that both Rupert and I have chosen books we loved as children and in my case re-loved when reading them to my children. There is something amazingly vivid about the books you read as a child and the lessons I learnt from the Little Princess have stood me in good stead for the rest of my life.

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney as loved by Minal Vara

Reading was never my thing. I absolutely despised it throughout school, but I loved writing, I could write for days on end. Nevertheless, University changed my outlook on reading (not that I had much of a choice, I am doing an essay-based course).

Mystery books are like the cherry to my cake. The Girl Before is essentially that, a toe-tingling murder mystery flickering back and forth from the past to the present, as the main lead attempts to uncover the murderer of a woman who had an uncanny resemblance to her. What I loved the most about this book was that you never knew what to expect on the next page. 

Mystery books have a thrill to them - almost like rollercoaster. I can really put myself in the character’s position and enjoy the suspense, drama and page turning events.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

And

Workin' It! RuPaul's Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style by RuPaul both loved by Trish Roberts

Can I choose two? I hope I can, because these two books are so dissimilar that I can't just choose one.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is Maya Angelou’s first autobiography - but it’s so heartbreakingly beautiful and painful that it reads like fiction. Scenes from her childhood are described so vividly that they still linger in my mind, even though it’s years since I last read it.

Workin’ It! is a bit different. A self-help book by the most famous drag queen in the world, it can only be about 5,000 words but covers everything from mental health to colonic irrigation. The front cover is neon pink, there are plenty of pictures, and it leaves you feeling like you can tackle anything.

Let us know which of these you chose to read first and, of course, your favourite read.

Stop the chaos, 10 secrets to decluttering!

Written By Life Clubs

A mess. That’s what it was. Papers, books, pens, coffee, you name it, it was on my desk. If clutter was a person, it would be me. That’s when I knew it was finally time to make a change, but the question was how? Decluttering wasn’t easy, having a full inbox, messy desk and an overflowing diary made me feel important, nonetheless my desk was a complete and utter mess.

A cluttered desk is like getting on the underground at half 5 on a Monday after work (frustrating). Expectedly there are delays, detours, congestion and many other factors getting in your way making it harder to get your work done. The time and effort spent searching for the right file, or trying to find something as small as a paper clip derails your thought process and workflow.

There is a beauty in having a decluttered desk, it exposes you to a new environment, changing your outlook.

So, here are Life Clubs’ top 10 tips to decluttering.

  1. Stop making excuses - All those papers across your desk, its time to tidy them up
  2. Only do 10 minutes a day - Baby steps

  3. Start with a contained task - Buy a box, organise a drawer

  4. Throw away one item a day

  5. Focus on one job at a time - Slow and steady wins the race

  6. Give everything a home - If it doesn’t have a space, it’s a waste ;) – everything needs a home

  7. If you haven’t used something in six months, get rid of it - If it's not practical or beautiful, do you really need it?

  8. Make it your own – It’s your desk, design and decorate it how you please.

  9. Ask a friend to help - Keep track of your progress - don’t be afraid to ask for help

  10. Reward yourself - When you achieve 4 or more of these, go out and do something for you.

So, there you have it, decluttering made not so scary.

Feel free to leave a comment/thoughts about decluttering or tips and tricks you have for a decluttered life on our facebook page.

Written by Brunel Psychology student, Minal Vara

Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Written By Life Clubs

It’s World Mental Health day today. And in a rather roundabout way, that’s brought me to thinking about an amazing man whom I met a few years ago.

Three years ago I was sitting at the traffic lights minding my own business when a lorry drove smack into the back of me. I couldn’t drive anywhere and so I got out of the car, and as I got out I realised that I was clearly more shaken than I had at first thought.

As I left the car, there facing me was a Big Issue vendor who proceeded to take me under his wing. He gently guided a shaken Nina through getting all the details from the driver of the lorry, phoning the AA, cancelling my meeting and finally giving me his details as a witness. And then as we sat down to wait for the tow-away car, he told me all about himself.

Like so many people in the UK, this man had struggled with his mental health for the majority of his adult life. In working with the Big Issue, he had found a certain level of peace. He told me that he loved making contact with people and having something not too stressful or time-based to focus on. The stability of the Big Issue meant that for the first time in a while, his relationship with work was relaxed and what many of us would describe as mindful.

As the AA arrived, we left each other to carry on with our days. Later I made a resolution: that, in his honour, I would always buy a magazine from a Big Issue vendor.

But recently I’ve noticed that I never have any money on me. I go out with my phone and my debit card in my pocket and nothing else. I travel light. Why do I need money? Why do any of us need money?

Whilst it may be convenient for us, a cashless economy is becoming a problem for Big Issue vendors. Many vendors don’t have the permanent address necessary to set up a bank account or the fancy smartphone required for a contactless machine. Our refusal to carry jingling coins has the danger of excluding a whole raft of people from participating in the economy and stable employment.

And so, I’ve made a new resolution: to make a conscious effort to carry at least five pounds with me at all times so that I can help those who can’t yet participate in society as we’ve created it. Why not join me… starting today.

If you buy Life Clubs workshops for your organisation this week (until October 17th), we pledge to run the same number for free for the mental health charity of your choice.

 

 

 

 

Enjoy that last puff...

Written By Life Clubs

Movember and Stoptober are the kind of achingly clever slogans that I really wish I’d come up with first. But despite their wittiness, I don’t feel the need to take part in either of them. Firstly, because I’ve never been able to grow a moustache, secondly, because I gave up smoking a long time ago and thirdly because I'm a rebel and doing something because I'm told to do it has never really appealed. But the NHS believe that if you can stop smoking for 28 days you're five times more likely to quit for good and that has to be worth trying.

I remember the way I gave up was cold turkey (and, sorry, NHS, I had to give up twice for it to work – even after a year of not smoking). I knew I really wanted to end my habit and the only way to do it was to not put myself near anything that reminded me of cigarettes. I drank milk or orange juice instead of coffee or wine. I spent more time with non-smokers or, ironically, I sat in such smoky environments that my eyes would water and the last thing I’d want was to add yet more smoke to the equation. The other thing I did was the classic glass jar. Every day I put in it the amount I saved by not smoking that day and watched the green notes (as they were then) grow. I found that amazingly helpful, although I can't remember the treat I bought for myself after that first month.

But smoking is very different now from when I gave up. Back in the day you could smoke anywhere – planes, trains, restaurants, pubs, your home… and, if someone didn’t like you smoking it was their problem. Now, smoking has become a ridiculously anti-social habit. Who wants curtains smelling of stale smoke or an ashtray breath? And yet, if you’re addicted, you’re addicted. There are hardly any places that welcome you having a quick cigarette, so smoking has become an excuse to move around, get fresh air and refocus when you’re working or socialising.

What do former-smokers do now when they want those fifteen minute breaks? You can mill around outside in the cold like a lemon, still craving a cigarette. But what other refreshing things can you do with fifteen minutes that don't involve tobacco? Maybe you could start by disturbing an industrious colleague, reading an interesting article, doing a few exercises or meditating.

Yes, even a few years after I gave up I still missed procrastinating with my cigarette. Having the cigarette both as a reward for when I’d achieved something – written a paragraph, for example – was very pleasant, and so too was having the cigarette as a procrastinating device for when ideas weren’t flowing as freely as they could. But the freedom I felt when I didn’t crave that cigarette, didn't have to worry about the cost and didn't have to worry if the shops were closed, was the most incredibly feeling in the world.

So, save some money, liberate your mind, get creative in your fifteen minute breaks and give up smoking now...

If you want some help, come to your local Life Clubs workshop or bring us into your organisation. We love inspiring people to stop doing what they don't want to.

Thank goodness I'm not Steve Jobs

Written By Life Clubs

Steve Jobs always used to say that each day he would check his calendar and ask himself ‘If today was the last day of my life, would I want to spend it like this?’ Apparently if the answer was ‘No’ for five days in a row, he’d begin to question what he was doing.

Thank goodness I’m not Steve Jobs…

In many ways that question is a great way of focusing you on living each day to the max, but I can also see that it could be very depressing. What if you’re not doing something vital and world changing every day? What if you like variety and days of doing small nothings and days of doing larger nothings? What if you want to take what the day throws at you? I know I’d answer ‘If today was the last day of my life I’d want to be with my children’ and I’m sure, that if we did wind up spending every day together (I’m taking this to its logical conclusion), they’d end up hating me and I’d probably get fed up with hanging around with them all the time. I suppose I could then answer the question in a different way.

Most of us like variety, doing different things at different times. Most of us enjoy a degree of randomness, of spontaneity in our lives. Most of us don’t feel the need to control every minute of every day. Plus, I always find, that it takes the days when things go wrong to make you really appreciate the days when things go right. But then, I’m not a perfectionist.

What I do think is important to notice is what we do when we’re procrastinating, because that’s often the kind of thing we’d rather not be doing. I can waste time doing lots of silly little procrastinations, like cleaning the sink or emptying the bins and, if you’re generous, you can say it’s for me to give myself some calm thinking time to prepare for what I really want to do. You can say that filling in surveys for Metro Bank means that in the back of my mind I’m deciding what I’m going to write in my bulletin. But actually I’d rather never fill in another survey again. I’d like to spend all my time writing bulletins. So, my tip for this bulletin is to watch what you’re doing when you procrastinate, because that’s probably not going to be part of the last day of your life.

Yesterday I got told, and he was right...

Written By Life Clubs

I'm a reasonably formidable person and so it's a brave human being who ventures to tell me what I'm doing wrong. Yesterday someone did. Our lovely graphic designer, David, who I've known forever, came over. We were chatting about our weekends and I told him how most of my weekend was spent walking, sleeping and watching films. I was always exhausted. 
 
"You're doing it all wrong" he said. "Every day you have to stop work at 12.30 and take a lunch break until 2.00. You'll feel much more focused and energetic in the afternoon and you'll have far more life in you at the weekend."
 
This came as a huge shock. I spend much of my time working. I love it and don't feel I want or need to do much else, especially stop working at lunchtime. Apart from the fact that I spend most lunchtimes with clients, so not doing anything would be logistically difficult, what on earth would I do with 90 minutes of nothingness?
 
"I go home... have lunch... shut my eyes for 20 minutes and have a little walk if I have time" he replied. "But, if you're out most lunches so can't take a break then, start your working day ninety minutes later". Gosh...
 
That evening David's 'take regular breaks' case was confirmed by a piece of new research by Metro Bank which shows that 1 in 10 British workers never take a lunch break and over half of those that do, take less than 30 minutes. What's more, those that work for themselves, like David and me and, I'm sure, many of you, feel more pressure to be productive during their lunch break compared to their employed counterparts. Like David, Metro Bank are advocating the lunchtime break. 
 
So... this month, in honour of our July workshop, Achieving Optimum Balance, I'll be taking that time off at lunchtime and letting you know how I feel at the weekends. Let's call it the #LunchtimeChallenge. Come and join me and let me know (via Facebook/Twitter/Instagram) how you get on and what you do in that 90 minutes.
 
           

             

Leadership learnings from Wonder Woman

Written By Life Clubs

Having just designed a huge leadership programme I was interested in seeing what Wonder Woman could teach me about leadership and she delivered.



These are my five top leadership learnings from Wonder Woman herself:

1.    Be curious – always want to learn. Don’t let others put you off finding out what you want to

From a young age Wonder Woman wanted to understand how to be a fighter, strictly against her mother’s wishes, so instead she watched the fighters practise in secret. Her curiosity led her to take risks.

2.    Be determined – have a goal and get on with it

In her case, Wonder Woman wanted to go to war (WW1) and would let nothing and no-one stand in her way – although they tried. Once she knew what she wanted, she was like a missile. 

3. Be self-assured – have the confidence to let others know what you want and make sure you do it

Without even knowing the full extent of her power, Wonder Woman pushed forward and took on the entire German army (well, almost). She knew that she could do it and was happy to experiment on her own.

4.    Be direct – say what you think, don’t use filters

Spoiler alert here, but there’s a fun scene in which Wonder Woman tells the good-looking male hero in no uncertain terms that men are for procreation but not necessary for sexual enjoyment. Sometimes you have to talk straight and Wonder Woman is a great role model.

5.    Be self-sufficient – be able to work alone for what you believe is right

Only by fighting alone did Wonder Woman come to realise the power of her strength. Sometimes you have to go your own path if you know something is the right thing to do. Your strength will come to you too.
 
Wonder Woman is a useful metaphor for wo/men finding their feet in life – becoming confident, understanding that we are all powerful.  
 
We like to think those who experience Life Clubs leadership and management programmes would come away with the same learnings, but it might take a little longer than 90 minutes!
 
Please get in touch if you’d like to experience how we work (see 3 above).

How I discovered that the job I loved was making me ill

Written By Life Clubs

Dear Nina,

I’ve been writing my story for a coaching course I’m attending and, as I wrote it, I realised that you and your work have played such a huge part in bringing me to this point and wanted to share that with you…

For nine years I had the big corporate marketing job. I was good at it and well respected but, returning to work part-time after my first child, I felt the job was a bit rocky. Even though the role had changed a lot, over time I began to think the problems I was experiencing were my fault, that there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t understand why the job that I once loved and had been doing for 9 years, was now making me ill. I decided to take a career break as things really weren’t working and I came away wondering what had happened – I just didn’t understand it.

I turned to a book to try to figure out the answers and I found your book, The Big Book of Me, via Psychologies Magazine. I did quite a few of the exercises and found an exercise on identifying and understanding my values which was transformational. I had never done anything like that before and it made me realise that my big corporate job was compromising every single one of my values and that I was in an impossible situation. I could see that my role had changed and that there was a lot going on in the company that I fundamentally didn’t agree with, but wasn’t allowed to speak to. I really struggled with that as freedom, honesty and authenticity are my main values. Doing that exercise it all became clear – it was a revelation. There was nothing wrong with me. Those were my values and they could not be honoured in that role.

Once I’d taken that ‘Oh, it’s my fault’ pressure off me, I got pregnant with my second child which forced me to slow down. I think otherwise I would have renegotiated the role and gone back which would have been a mistake. My son forced me to slow down and I left my job at the end of my maternity leave.

After a few years of full-time motherhood, I thought I better figure out a plan of what I wanted to do with my life when my youngest child started school. What better place to start than returning to The Big Book of Me. I did all the exercises and found the exercise to write about what you don't want, as a way to crystallise what you do want. Another revelation. After 10+ pages of frantic scribbling, a real stream of consciousness, I was VERY clear about what I didn't want, namely a corporate job and all its trappings. I completed all the exercises in The Big Book of Me, came to a Life Clubs workshop in February last year (all the way to London from Dorset) and bought two of your webinar series (Best Year Ever and Get More Out Of Work, which were both brilliant), and that was the start of my journey.

I found working through The Big Book of Me hugely transformational and realised I wanted to help other people through coaching. I knew that would fulfil me. Having completed my final training I realise that I would never have found this path without The Big Book of Me. I wanted to say THANK YOU. You and your work have shaped my life and I am so very grateful. For the first time in my working life, I know with 100% certainty that I am on the right path for me and I'm super-excited and energised about what the future might bring.

Thank you Nina.

And thank you, Emma, from all of us at Life Clubs for sharing your story.

A rare hug from Life Clubs...

Written By Life Clubs

Saturday was National Hug day… who knew? We certainly didn't.



I’m not actually a great hugger. On greeting friends and family, yes, but strangers I don’t really do… too British maybe..?

But hugging has been proven to build immunity and reduce stress so regular hugs have to be top of our ‘to-do’s’.

We don’t hug physically at Life Clubs, though there’s no reason why we shouldn’t.

Instead we hug emotionally, helping your colleagues feel engaged, happy, positive and raring to get on with life which, of course, includes work.
 
To understand what I mean is simple…
 
Either come to one of our 30-minute online breakfasts (our next is on 31st January at 9.00am) or grab your copy of HR Magazine and read our regular column, Finding Your Balance. It’s been created for all HR individuals because we don’t feel you always put yourselves first.
 
Looking forward to hugging you – once we’ve got to know you that is...
 

1 2 3 4 5 6