Conquer your procrastination now!

Procrastination is the enemy of productivity, racking up costs in terms of time, money and even happiness. The good news is, there are ways to manage it and get back on track.

The Greek poet Hesiod wrote “Do not put your work off till tomorrow and the day after; for a sluggish worker does not fill his barn”. That was around two and half thousand years ago, long before the invention of the internet, social media and a hundred other distractions.

These days, approximately one in five adults and half of students are procrastinators. Defined as the voluntary delay of work or activity despite a negative outcome, procrastination costs the average British person 24 days a year.
Is procrastination really a problem?
It would be reassuring to hear ‘no’, but the answer’s a fairly emphatic ‘yes’. While some studies have found procrastination increases creativity or overall productiveness, most find it has a negative impact overall. Alongside wasting considerable amounts of our limited time...

 

 

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Who’s asking the questions?

How can it be so difficult to ask a question? And why are men almost twice as likely to do it than women?

It’s the end of a research talk. You are easily the second most qualified person in the room after the speaker. A question comes readily to mind. And yet… somehow… your arm remains by your side. Before you know it, six men have asked 'questions' that demonstrate either that they weren’t listening or want to talk about their own, not necessarily relevant, research. Afterwards you berate yourself for yet again not raising your hand. How can it be this hard?

The fear does not necessarily diminish with age or seniority. In April 2014 I decided to go for it at a climate change meeting. As I raised my hand, my heart pounded. I mumbled my question into the microphone, having to restart at least once. To this day I can remember neither the question I asked nor the answer, only the panic and flight-response to the adrenalin surge. I was not an early career researcher. I had been a cli...

 

 

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The deep roots of impostor syndrome

Impostor syndrome is widespread amongst women and can have a negative effect on their careers. Where does it start, and what can we do about it?

"I don’t belong here. I'm a fraud. I’ve tricked my way into my position, and it’s only a matter of time before someone finds me out."

Unless by some small chance you happen to be a professional con artist, the above is likely not true. But those kinds of thoughts will strike a chord with around seven out of ten people reading this.

“With every good grade I was afraid that I didn't deserve it, and had somehow fooled the examiners,” said Daniela, a physics PhD at the University of Sussex, who first experienced anxiety during her bachelor’s degree. It only intensified during her master’s.

“The feeling of not being good enough, not living up to the expectations and having managed to trick my application committee for the PhD into believing I was good enough was overwhelming. I'm a really self-critical person, and with those feelings on...

 

 

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In defence of small talk

Small talk, or “polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters” as the dictionary has it, has an unfairly bad reputation. For a lot of people, small talk feels awkward or difficult, and for many others it just seems like a total waste of time, especially in a business context. But small talk has an important purpose and learning how to make great small talk will serve you in good stead.

Opportunities for small talk are surprisingly frequent during the work day and, for people who feel comfortable with it, they pass without regard. In the lift, at the beginning of meetings, walking up the stairs, waiting for the kettle to boil when making tea, we’re chatting away to all and sundry about seemingly meaningless things… or we’re suffering in uncomfortable silence, wishing we either knew what to say or could just be left alone. So why do we do it?

Small talk is a form of ‘phatic communication’ – that is communication that has no informational or transactional content ...

 

 

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Seven ways to improve your empathy skills

Empathy is fast becoming recognised as an essential skill that improves relationships between individuals and contributes to business success. Research into the impact of increased empathy goes back decades, and businesses recognise its importance. Ford Motor Company has even asked its engineers, who are mostly men, to wear the Empathy Belly so that they can experience some of the physical effects of pregnancy.

What is less widely understood is that empathy is a skill that people can learn, improve and strengthen, like any other skill. We all know people who seem to be naturally empathic, but we never question whether that’s an innate ability or whether they’ve actually just learnt well and use the skill a lot. Indeed, women are expected to be more empathic than men, but this is a self-fulfilling prophecy where women get a lot more practice as empathic burdens are placed disproportionately on their shoulders.

Women are assumed to be 'naturally empathic', but in reality we learn...

 

 

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