7 Ways to Get Inspired this Weekend


With so many people working such crazy hours how do we get inspiration? Here are ten ways you can get some inspiration this weekend.

1 Learn Something New

I’ve become a big fan of podcasts lately, partly because I can listen while I do domestic tasks. Here are a few of my favourites;

  • The Infinite Monkey Cage; a witty take on big science questions, the panel includes experts in the theme of the programme.
  • Click; ranging widely over topics in the digital world, including social and ethical issues.
  • Hidden Brain; more science, more on the human or psychological side.
  • The Broad Experience; women in business, partly discussion on the realities of the gender divide in business and some coaching style advice.

2 Break from Digital

Do something, anything, that doesn’t involve a screen. No TV, computer, phone, or kindle for at least an hour.  Leave your phone at home and go out. Read a book, one made with paper. Bake a cake – get the recipe from a book not a website.

It’s easy to get so absorbed online, there are always more posts to read, more videos to watch, more photos to see. But it is a time sink and it can be bad for our health.

If you struggle to stay off the screen try “gamifying” it, either give yourself a real life reward or try the Forest app, it’s designed as a productivity aid to monitor the time you’re not checking your phone and reward you with virtual trees. But you can also use it to break your phone-checking habit.


3 Be Creative

And that’s Creative, with a capital C. Take a pottery class, write poetry, paint a portrait, write, paint, pottery, play music, photography find a creative hobby. It does our brains good to use them for something creative and it’s a stress reducer.

One easy way for me to feel a little bit creative is to go for a walk and take photos for Instagram, I love this city and have fun finding new views of it. Plus the walking is exercise. And you can be surprisingly bad at taking photos and it’s all OK on Instagram.

4 Exercise

You knew this was coming! It doesn’t really matter what form the exercise takes, but exercise has benefits beyond physical health. It improves your immunity, lowers your stress, improves your sleep. You know all this. What you might not know is that regular exercise improves your thinking.

5 Music

Years ago I had a neighbour who played the piano after work, somehow it was always Beethoven when he’d had a really tough day. It was Beethoven quite often.  Music can be a de-stressor and it’s good for us in multiple ways.  Listening to some music outside your usual collection – search on YouTube for “classical music for exercise” for playlists of energetic tracks for example.

6 Change Your Surroundings

Best option is a city break; one of the joys of living in Amsterdam is that I’m a train trip away from Cologne, Brussels and Paris, and a short flight from any European city. A couple of days exploring a new city can give you a mental boost. I love Budapest for this – it’s a surprising city, lots to do but somehow not too touristy.

If going away is not an option trying changing up where you do things, take a book to a cafe, take your lap top to the library. Change it up for a new view on your world.

7 Laugh

Every day. Every day.

Laughing can relieve stress, among other health benefits.

For me there are four options;

What’s your “restart” button for new inspiration this weekend?

Image: Idea   |   Daniele Marlenek   |   CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

4 Approaches to Work-Life Balance

The first thing I read this morning was an SMS from a friend who’d just finished work, at 5am. No she’s not a shift worker, she and a colleague had worked through the night. I could feel the words “she’s insane” scrolling through my head, but really I’m not much better having worked a couple of 12+ hour days this week.

So what happened to the work-life balance?

One definition of work-life balance says that you should find both achievement and enjoyment each day in each of four quadrants of your life; work, family, friends and self.  But people still place different priorities on each quadrant, and find a different pattern to balance their priorities.

picture-161: Working 9 to 5

No, nothing to do with Dolly Parton. The idea of turning up at 9, leaving at 5 has a certain simplistic appeal. But for many roles it’s just not realistic – even in regular office jobs people often need to be more flexible.

This choice can make it easier to manage commitments to family, friends, non-work interests and self. But there can also be a trade-off, if your manager needs more from you and sees that you place a much lower priority on work you’re unlikely get that juicy assignment.

As a manager it’s important to know that some people have this attitude to their work, they’ve sold their skills and attention to you for a certain number of hours per week and that’s how they manage their commitments to work and family. From the work perspective this shouldn’t be a problem provided the role doesn’t require undue flexibility, the work culture can accommodate it and the person has realistic expectations in relation to career progress.

picture-1712: Live to work

I’m sure you recognise the pattern, maybe you use this approach. Focusing on the job is the number one priority and all your energy goes into the work. No sacrifice is too great as long as the work gets done. This approach requires a lot of energy, but the rewards in the work sphere are really high.

One speaker at a recent training course was scornful of aiming for a work life balance saying that afterall it’s all part of life. He went on to talk about the measures he has in place to have time with his children but it was very clear that for him it was OK to put all his energy into work.

However the trade-of is the impact on relationships with family and friends. It’s hard to sustain a partnership if you never see each other. It’s also not really sustainable for the individual – leading on occasion to chronic illness.

picture-223: Set limits

There are lots of jobs; executives, managers, consultants where the “live to work” culture is endemic, apparently “setting limits” is an approach with growing appeal.

The idea is that you choose and publicise your personal limit. You might decide that you are not contactable during the weekends and switch off your blackberry. You might decide, as one colleague has,  that you will only schedule meetings in the morning. I’ve decided I will limit my schedule to no more than 4 meetings per day – I find if I have more meetings than that I’m not able to achieve what I need to each day. I’m also going to excuse myself from meetings that lack a purpose. It’s not going to be popular but it will be effective.

picture-234: A 4-Hour Work-Week

Timothy Ferriss’ book “The 4-Hour Work-Week” has become enormously popular and has been featured on CNN, Fast company, USA today and Wired.

He takes a radical look at how we think about work and wealth, and says that our current philosophy of working for forty years, saving, and deferring all the fun stuff until retirement needs rethinking.

Instead he suggests that there is a new subculture, “the New Rich”, which has abandoned this work-life paradigm and instead have found a way to make enough money and free enough time to follow a luxury lifestyle now. The book provides tools to challenge your thinking on how you currently spend your time including a “Lifestyle Quotient” calculator.

I might never manage to fully automate my income, which would give me an LQ of 0, I might not even manage a 4 hour work day (this week’s was 40 hours in four days), but it did challenge me to think a little more in terms of what I really want to be spending my time on – and where I spend my best energy.  Well worth the read.

Image: balance