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Work Life Balance

5 Ways to Stop Stress Before It Starts

Ellen Barnard realised she needed to make a change or stress would get the best of her.

Jane Porter




In 2008, at the tail end of a business trip that took her from Kenya to India to Romania, Ellen Barnard realised she needed to make a change or stress would get the best of her. She’d been co-owner and executive producer of the Atlanta-based production company, Tomorrow Pictures, for 12 years and hadn’t made much time for exercise or social commitments.

“I wasn’t just tired. I wasn’t just experiencing malaise. I was really stressed out,” Barnard says. “I had an ah-ha moment where I thought, ‘If I can get rid of some of this stress, I can be more productive.” So, she signed up for a knitting class. To this day, she meets with the group every Monday night. “It was sort of life changing for me,” she says.

Relax. We aren’t telling you to take up knitting. Calming as its proponents say it is, knitting itself isn’t what made the difference in Barnard’s stress levels. It was the simple act of spending time with people in a social setting. Now, Barnard also meets weekly with a group of women entrepreneurs and walks with her neighbours three times a week.

Rather than wait until you feel overwhelmed by stress, try taking these steps to prevent it:

  1. Make time for friends. Barnard’s story clearly shows that creating time for friends and family can make you feel less stressed – and perhaps even live longer. A 2010 Brigham Young University study found that a lack of social relationships is comparable to smoking in its negative health effects. But in the presence of other people, the brain produces oxytocin, a hormone that can help lower blood pressure, says Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of The Stress Institute, an Atlanta-based organisation that trains companies in stress resilience. Social relationships can even make the challenges you run up against seem more manageable. A 2012 study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that people who were alone estimated the steepness of a hill as sharper than people who were with friends. “Social connection will actually change your perceptions of the world around you,” says Heidi Hanna, author of The Sharp Solution: A Brain-Based Approach for Optimal Performance (Wiley, 2013) and a fellow at the American Institute of Stress, a Fort Worth, Texas-based clearinghouse of stress-related information. “It’s such a core survival need to be part of a tribe or a core community.”
  2. Get your nature fix. Being in a natural setting also may help prevent stress. That’s why eco-therapy, based on the premise that connecting with sounds and images in nature triggers a calming part of the brain, has been gaining popularity, Hall says. A 2007 study at the University of Essex in England found that people who walked outside in a natural setting experienced more relaxing feelings than those who walked indoors. But if you can’t escape the office for a stroll in the park, Hall recommends downloading a nature app to your mobile phone and spending a minimum of two minutes each day listening to anything from the sound of water to birds to rustling trees. If nature sounds aren’t your thing, consider listening to calming music, looking at images of natural settings or lighting scented candles, Hanna says. “If you can’t get to nature, bring nature to you.”
  3. Feed your brain. Your mother was right when she told you to eat your breakfast. “The first thing the brain needs in the morning is amino acids,” Hall says. Going too long without eating triggers a stress response that involves foggy thinking, slower digestion and other negative effects, Hanna says. What to eat to avoid this? A good start would be foods loaded with vitamin B6, which helps produce more of the calming hormone serotonin. These include tuna, turkey and bananas. Hall also recommends blueberries, which contain antioxidants and vitamin C. While coffee is fine in moderation, don’t overdo it and send your blood pressure rising.
  4. Take a few minutes to reset. Preventing stress doesn’t have to mean reconfiguring your daily schedule. Hanna recommends taking as little as three minutes between tasks to give your mind a break. “Those short little breaks give the system a chance to reset and decrease stress hormones in the brain,” she says. When you’re stressed, your body produces too much cortisol, interfering with your mental focus and productivity. It’s also important to take a few minutes for a mental break before eating, which helps decrease the stress hormones that hinder digestion. This could be as simple as taking a few deep breaths or visiting with a friend in the office.
  5. Move more. Exercise is critical in preventing stress. If you can’t get to the gym for a full workout, take a break to do two minutes of stretches or to walk a few laps around your office building. This will produce endorphins, which help you manage stress, Hall says. Taking that break before meals is important. It not only helps your body process food, but it also can prevent you from gaining stress-related weight around your belly.

Jane Porter is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in publications including BusinessWeek Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Men's Health and The Chronicle of Higher Education. She has a bachelor's degree in English from Brown University as well as a masters of fine arts in creative writing from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C.


Work Life Balance

7 Reasons Why Keeping The Job You Have Might Be Your Smartest Career Move

Leaving your comfort zone is not automatically a brilliant idea.

Tracy Maylett




With U.S. unemployment coming in at a healthy low of 4.10 percent last quarter, and better-than-average employment figures across the globe, job seekers have new choices. “Get a new job!” may be at the top of many resolution lists, but before you push “send” on that employment application, you might want to take a few things into consideration:

1. Finding a new job is not as simple as it appears

The number of people looking to ditch their current jobs and find other employment was estimated by some to be as high as 50 percent in 2017 (although our DecisionWise employee survey results show that figure to be less than 20 percent). Whether it’s 20 percent or 50 percent of the world’s population on the job prowl, competition may be steeper than one might think.

Now, further complicate this with the notion that millennials will make up 50 percent of the workforce in 2020. In the competition for the perfect job, there is a high degree of likelihood that your job-hunting competitor may be very similar to you when it comes to skills, experience or education. And, while you’re actively searching for that ideal job, you may not be giving your current role the attention it (and your employer) deserves.

Related: How To Optimise Your Productivity After Quitting Your Job

2. You will be starting over

While the possibilities of that new job and compensation package may be enticing, that move may be financially taxing. Many companies have benefits policies that do not kick in for a period of time.

The paid time off and vacation time you’ve previously earned won’t transfer across companies. In many areas, you will be starting over.

3. Job switching is stressful

Workplace adjustments like changes to a different line of work, changes in work hours or location or new work responsibilities can significantly impact personal health. The Holmes and Rahe stress scale ranks a change in employment as one of the most significant when it comes to life’s stressors. When the average workweek for many of us is 45-55 hours, some of us spend as many as half our waking hours at the office. That’s a significant chunk of one’s life to disrupt.

4. You’ll be the newbie

Remember those new employees that you were asked to train – all of those questions and mistakes? Well, now that’s you! For the first three months of employment, you’re more of a liability than an asset, regardless of how valuable you think you are. Mastery takes time. Yet, mastery has repeatedly been shown as one of the key factors in job engagement. Institutional knowledge that comes through tenure is highly valued by most organisations.

Are you ready to spend a good part of 2018 as an apprentice again, acting as the learner rather than the expert? Many employees tie a sense of self-identity and worth to the expertise, title and necessity of their job. That change may have more of a psychological impact than you realise.

5. Relationships take time

A new job means a new team, new customers and a new boss or subordinates. Connection to others around you continues to show up as a primary factor in employee engagement, not to mention the ability to get things done. All that effort to build relationships in your current job won’t be transferred to your new role.

Additionally, trust typically must be earned over time, and that absence of trust may impede your short-term effectiveness. Relationships and trust take time to build. Remember, you will likely be starting over.

Related: 10 Things You Must Do Before Quitting Your Job To Start Your Company

6. Growth often involves pain

When professional growth opportunities are absent in an organisation, you get stagnation, boredom and attrition. Those who remain in growth-impaired environments are operating on autopilot. They aren’t mentally present; their minds are not on their work. Errors happen and quality drops. Indifference sets in when work becomes routine. While a no-stress job seems ideal to some, challenges and growth are key components of employee engagement.

Growth most often occurs when we are stretched beyond our comfort zone. Yet, when some people run up against challenges, they take the easy way out by looking outside the organisation. Consequently, they never grow because the grass is always greener elsewhere. Which brings up the next point.

7. Maybe the problem is you

In 2017, employee engagement firm DecisionWise analysed more than 24 million employee survey responses gathered over three years. When it came to disengagement, the findings weren’t completely surprising: fully disengaged employees rarely turned the engagement corner. According to the study, if I’m disengaged in my current job, I’m likely to disengage in my future job.

Why are you thinking of making the switch? Is it the working conditions? Compensation? Bad boss? These are valid reasons. However, often it’s not just this job; it has become a pattern. What’s the common denominator here? Are most team members always doing less work than you do? Are all companies made up of tyrants? Will the people at your new job really value you more than those at your current job? Or, maybe… just possibly…is the problem, you? Look in the mirror. As they say, “wherever you go, there you are.”

Before you rush out to fulfill that job-change resolution in 2018, consider the above. Maybe that switch isn’t what you want after all.

This article was originally posted here on

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Company Posts

Business Travel Is Alive And Paying Off

The rise of conference calls and video conferencing systems like Skype and Google Hangouts may seem like the end of face-to-face business encounters, but experts don’t agree.

Kulula Work



business travel

A number of business leaders and industrial psychologists reckon that there’s no substitute for meeting someone in person, especially at critical junctures in a business relationship, like introducing yourself or closing a deal.

So how do you make business travel easier and worth your while? Dawn Weir, Head of kulula work, suggests the following:

Maximise the business benefits

Business travel can benefit the individual traveller and their business, whether it’s a small enterprise or a multinational conglomerate. kulula work for example, guarantees you the best fares of the day on and British Airways (operated by Comair), and you won’t pay booking or flight change fees — only the difference in fare and the airport taxes. You can now also earn and redeem Avios loyalty points whilst flying with Not only will earning more Avios graduate you to higher tiers where you can, for example, get cabin upgrades and access to business lounges, but you can also use the points to, say, take your family on a business and leisure holiday
with you.

Related: How To Take The Hassle Out Of Business Travel With Kulula Work

Go paperless

Get rid of unnecessary paperwork that can weigh you down and store your boarding pass on your smartphone wallet app when you check in 24 hours ahead of departure.

Take a breather

Airport lounges provide a haven from the hubbub of departure lounges, but not all are equal by any means. The best ones have space for some work, fast WiFi, a good selection of food, a decent wine list, and facilities to shower and freshen up. The Slow Lounges at a number of South African airports have these facilities. There’s even one at the Radisson Blu Hotel opposite the Sandton Gautrain station, SLOW in the City that provides boardrooms, lounges, and can arrange for quiet areas to do media interviews. A new lounge called SLOW XS, has also opened at Lanseria International Airport and has, among its many attractions, wine tastings offered by local drinks specialists Winesense.

Add some colour

Many business travellers will go to great lengths to ensure they only travel with cabin luggage, but if you do have to check luggage into the hold, take a moment to familiarise yourself with bag-drop arrangements and any restrictions on the size of cabin luggage. Also, many travellers find it helpful to mark their luggage with a brightly-coloured tag of some sort that makes it readily recognisable on the conveyor.

Stash it all

So, you have your boarding pass on your smartphone and you’ve stashed keys, wallet and change in your carry-on baggage, to save you time passing through the metal-detectors at the security checkpoint. If you’re travelling internationally, you may have opted to wear slip-on shoes and to pack your belt in your carry-on luggage to avoid having to take them off and put them back on again at security. We’ve all stood behind fellow travellers who arrive at the checkpoint with coins and keys in every pocket, and electronic devices in the bottom of a suitcase. There’s not much you can do about that, but you can make your own passage through the metal-detectors easier.

Related: Kulula: Erik Venter and Gidon Novick

Remember to rest

Many business travellers tend to put in more working hours when away from the office and home. Rather than thinking that every mail in your inbox must be answered immediately, get some work-life balance by taking a walk or a run, or just a nap.

To make sure you are on time — every time — comfortable, refreshed, organised and stress-free when you seal your next deal, use kulula work to take care of your travel arrangements. Our team includes professionals dedicated to your account who will assess your business travel needs so that you have a healthy combination of work and play, on your road to success.

The following is exclusively available when your next business trip is booked via kulula work:

  • Best fares of the day on and British Airways (operated by Comair)
  • Flexible flight changes (only the difference in fare and taxes will apply)
  • No booking fees
  • Competitive car hire rates with Europcar and Avis
  • Great hotel rates with Protea Hotels and City Lodge Hotel Group
  • Invoicing and reporting
  • Account management
  • Access to our qualified Corporate Reservations team. *

For that work-life balance you’re after contact kulula work on +27 (0)11 285 3050, email or visit

* Legal stuff applies

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Work Life Balance

Managing Your Schedule Like A Boss: Tips The Experts Never Tell You

Time management is at the top of the short list of reasons why some people succeed and most don’t.

John Rampton




Lou Gerstner, the former CEO of IBM, once said, “Never let anyone own your schedule.”

I don’t know about you, but I love that quote. It’s so simple, yet true. After all being deliberate with your time is one of the best ways to have a happy life in the business world. Of course, try as hard as you can, that’s not always the reality. Life is kind of known for throwing a monkey wrench into your plans every now and then.

But, it’s still possible to manage your schedule like a boss by following these can’t-beat tips.

Create a routine

Next up you need to create, and stick, to a routine.

Start by blocking times for specific activities, such as checking emails, exercise and spending time with your family. You can then convert your calendar into a series of blocks for you to place activities in the prepared spaces. If something isn’t planned and placed into a block, don’t do it.

Keep in mind that your routine will probably change throughout the year. But, it’s better to have a plan that changes than no plan at all. For example, if you’re launching a start-up, then you should block times for activities like customer discovery, coding and hiring. Next year you may have to block out times for marketing, growing your business and customer service.

Related: Fighting Sleep Is A Losing Management Strategy. Let Your Employees Take Naps

Carry a schedule and record all your thoughts, conversations and activities for a week

“This will help you understand how much you can get done during the course of a day and where your precious moments are going,” write Joe Mathews, Don Debolt and Deb Percival on Entrepreneur.

“You’ll see how much time is actually spent producing results and how much time is wasted on unproductive thoughts, conversations and actions.”

Add time buffers to manage your schedule

Have you missed a couple of deadlines because you jumped from project to project? It’s probably because your didn’t add time buffers. A buffer is something like this:

You just landed a new client for your freelance business. They assign you a deadline to complete the task. Instead of entering their exact deadline, your put your own deadline that’s 24-48 earlier. Those hours are the buffer.

Why’s that such a big deal? When you have a buffer, and something happens that you can’t control, you still have those 24-48 hours to meet the deadline.

Schedule your calendar like a to-do-list

If you have things on your schedule that have to be done, I personally like scheduling out time on my calendar for them. Much like a meeting, they have a set and scheduled time for this task to be accomplished.

For some people like myself, this includes blocking out time for working out, eating, walks and other important activities in my life. If I don’t make time for them, other things will always get in the way. I find that when I block out those times on my schedule, I’m much more proactive as well as I feel better about myself.

Use batching and time-blocking

In my early days of freelancing I multitasked like it was going out of style. I eventually realised that doing more than one thing at a time is ineffective and stressful. I was stressed beyond endurance because, as research now shows, the human brain isn’t capable of multitasking.

Related: 5 Time-Management Tools for Small Businesses to Improve Productivity

A study conducted by Microsoft Research, shows that switching from task to task is less productive than staying on the same task, or the same types of tasks, over a block of time. That’s why batching is so awesome.

Batching is basically where you find similar tasks and then lump them all together to make a task-batch. You then sit down, set a timer, and focus only on those similar tasks. For example, setting aside 6 am to 7 am to check emails and then 8 am to 10 am to write blog posts.

Another strategy that you should try is using time-blocks. When you have outside meetings, block two and a half days per week for those meetings. Only attend those outside meetings during those time-blocks. To make blocking more effective, color-code your calendar so that you can visually glance at your calendar.

Chandler Bolt wrote a great book, The Productive Person, that you should read if you want to learn more about time-blocking.

Optimise time for different meeting types

To be honest, 30-minute meetings and 10-minute calls are ideal. A 10-minute phone call with a prospective client is more than enough for me to know what their needs are and if we click. Better yet, Google Hangout or Skype can be used to see the person instead of just hearing them.

If you have a remote team, you can host a virtual meeting via Zoom,RingCentral Business, Zoho Meeting, or GoToMeeting.

Here are some suggestions on the types of meetings that you might want to book and schedule:

  • 45-minute meeting that’s outside of the office. Allow 15 minutes for travel and 30 minutes for the meeting over coffee.
  • 30-minute weekly staff meeting.
  • 30-minute meeting in the office to get to know colleagues or catch up.
  • 15-minute daily standup if you’re a start-up or leading an engineering team.
  • 10-minute phone call to offer someone advice.

Related: Forget Time Management: Why You Should Practice Choice Management Instead

Whatever meetings you decide to hold a meeting, you should group them into blocks. If you think that a particular meeting needs more or less time, then you can adjust the block accordingly.

Still, just remember that it’s impossible to get everything done. “Also remember that odds are good that 20 percent of your thoughts, conversations and activities produce 80 percent of your results,” say Mathews, Debolt, and Percival.

This article was originally posted here on

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