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7th International Clean Out Your In-Box Week

Did you know that 20th January 2014 is the first day of the 7th International Clean Out Your In-Box Week? (Who comes up with these things?!)How-to-have-an-empty-email-inbox

Some of you will have heard of the zen-like calm that comes from having an empty in-box, some of you may have attempted to get there before and failed, and some of you may never have heard of this quest and be wondering what is so good about an empty in-box anyway!

You know the dread you feel as you turn on your e-mail each day, with the 1,000s of e-mails loading up on front of your eyes, some of which have been there for months or years, all are screaming at you to deal with THEM, the noise is loud, your brain goes into overdrive as you are reminded of all the things you mustn’t forget, by the time another 50 new e-mails have been added to your in-box your brain is wanting to shut down, it can’t cope, you don’t know where to start, you can’t see if there is anything truly urgent in the pile of subject lines shouting at you, the knot in your stomach tightens as another day doing e-mails stretches out in front of you.

Does this sound familiar? This is the feeling most people get when they turn on their e-mail. EMAIL has been described as “Endless Major Anxiety Increase List” by Rory Vaden. Instructor with Students in Computer Lab

Imagine instead:-

  • only seeing your new e-mails each time you log-in
  • seeing quickly what needs to be done first
  • never missing an important e-mail again
  • only spending 15 minutes a day “doing e-mails”
  • knowing exactly where all your important e-mails are
  • starting with a clean slate every morning

A clean in-box is perfectly possible, and I have helped many people to achieve this state. They report changed lives, feelings of control, freedom and a weight off their mind (see testimonials and video below). Not only do they achieve this clean in-box but they know how to maintain it.

No longer do they dread turning on their e-mail every day, it becomes just another tool they use in their lives, not a monster that dominates their working days.Business Meeting

The problem is that the number of e-mails we have in our in-boxes has exploded over the years, and most of us have never been trained to use the tool effectively. E-mail is not meant to be a to-list, it was not built for that and it doesn’t work.

Learning how to get your in-box clean is a simple process, and once you have set it up, you can easily maintain it.

I am running workshops over the next couple months to teach you all you need to know to get in control of your e-mail:-

Ipswich 18th February – Chamber of Commerce – 7.30am – 9.30am – full details of booking to follow shortly

Lowestoft – Chamber of Commerce – dates to be announced

Framlingham College – 2nd April (afternoon) – Suffolk Coast Business Exhibition – full details to follow


Here is 90 second video showing you what you can expect from the workshop – Taking the Stress Out of E-mail


This is what previous delegates said about the workshop:-

Thanks for a helpful + much needed workshop – I’m loving my new look inbox! Just need 2 get rid of some folders….. Alison Darrington, Darrington Training

Oh hooray, my inbox is empty! Thanks for very useful workshop, I feel much lighter now. Great but simple workshop in ‘Taking the stress out of emails’, I am able to easily manage my emails now without the worry of being drowned by the daily deluge and missing the important emails. Thanks Charlie, Tracy Healey, Marketing Manager, Ryan Insurance Group

It was a great session, thanks so much. And I still have zero in my inbox! The fact is I did think your course was a revelation – it does just what it says on the tin! Suzy Powling, Writer, Editor, Proof reader, Saxmundham

Charlie has just changed my life! Her workshop on ‘Taking the Stress Out of Emails’ is an absolute must for anyone who receives lots of emails every day. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not an oncoming train! James Davey, Assist with Solutions, Business Growth Coach



The Huge, Avoidable Mistake Training Buyers Make that Could Cost Your Business £1000s

Business Training Courses - Improving the Return

Get a better ROI on training investment

Training can deliver a high return on investment, but it can also drain away precious resources.  So how do you avoid pouring your training budget down the drain?

Over the years I have seen so much money, time and effort wasted on training, and I don’t mean because of poor content and delivery. Even the best, most inspiring trainers can’t achieve great results, when training suffers from this totally avoidable, but frequently ignored, mistake.

Here it is: The huge mistake training buyers make (that could be costing your business £1000s in lost ROI) is to assume that the value of training is all about what’s delivered in the classroom.

The truth is, maximising value depends on a process that starts way before the training is delivered and does not end until well afterwards.

Why?  Quite simply, it’s not training that ultimately delivers the return on your investment, it’s learning.

The assumption that what training does for your business is down to the discrete “training” activity that begins and ends in the training room is the best way to minimise the learning and, waste your time and the business’s money.  Instead, you need to consider what makes a successful training process.

The Training Process: Investing in Success

In order to maximise the learning achieved from training (and reap the extensive benefits possible) businesses must go through a number of vital stages that involve the set-up, delivery and follow-up to the actual training delivery.

I’ve identified 7 stages (outlined below) that are vital to maximise value from any training delivered in your business.

Each one of these will stop you pouring £1,000s down the drain, and wasting the time and energy of everyone involved.

In this article, I have kept the points brief to give you an idea of what needs to be considered. I will be expanding on all of these in forthcoming articles.

The 7 Stages of a Successful Training Process

1)      Get a clear idea of what successful training would be

Business Training Success

What constitutes training success?

I know that the effectiveness of training is notoriously difficult to measure, but you must achieve a clear idea of what success will look like before any programme of training is undertaken.

For compliance related training this is easier to do, having individuals adequately complete the course is a success. For professional qualifications, the fact that delegates pass exams or tests measures one kind of success.  But even so, what about the desired benefits to your business?

For soft skills, defining success is trickier still, but just as important. Improved performance? Better communication? More confident managers? How would you know that success has been achieved?  Who decides?

(Which leads us on to stage 2…)

2)      Decide and agree whose project this is and who is responsible for success

Identifying a training need, and organising the delivery, will often be carried out by two different teams. Perhaps an operations manager wants their team to learn some particular new skills. They will approach the Learning & Development or Human Recourses team to organise the training.

But who has responsibility for the overall success of the training? And will success be the same for both teams? I would suggest that frequently success is different. For L&D and HR success could be to have the training delivered and receive positive feedback from the delegates, while for operations they want to see higher skills levels in their team going forward.

So, responsibility for overall success must be decided and agreed. Someone has to get agreement on the outcomes for each team and make sure they are aligned.  Who?

Generating training success

Senior management buy-in means more successful training

3)      Obtain buy-in from senior managers

Having decided that training is required, what success would look like and who is responsible, obtaining senior management buy-in is crucial to success. Without this the training can so easily be perceived as just a tick-box exercise, and delegates feel they are being “processed” without any real value to them or the business. Staff can become very cynical if training seems to be taking place in a vacuum, without the support and sponsorship of “management”.

Having senior managers openly discussing the training by talking about it in team meetings for example, can provide the context and explain the value to the organisation of investing in these specific skills.

4)      Understand and Promote the importance of line-managers

Line managers are perhaps the most important people in ensuring that the value of training is maximised. Without their contribution, again individuals feel “processed” and don’t get the full benefit of the training.  Or worse, see the training as pointless.

However, line managers are seldom aware of their responsibilities or role in ensuring successful training. Having established the need, they assume that HR is responsible for the success of the training.  This must be addressed and the line-managers brought into the loop in two ways:

  • As part of the training set-up, line managers are best placed to
    • identify the training needs within their team, and
    • effectively communicate this, so participants experience training as directly affecting the outcomes they can deliver for their department, and themselves
  • Post training-delivery, line managers are able to provide relevant work to embed the training, or set aside time to provide coaching support. They are also well placed to give an evaluation of the training because they will see the changes in their team member’s performance, behaviour, skills etc.

(There will be more discussion of the “how-to” detail of each of these stages in forthcoming articles.  Stay tuned.)

Let's Make You More Effective

Let’s Make You More Effective

5)      Know how to get the delegates fully engaged

Delegates need to know why they are going on the course, and, what is expected of them afterwards – i.e. share the vision of success. Time and again this step is skipped. Delegates are “put” on a course, they don’t understand fully why they are there, how the training fits with their or the organisation’s development, what is expected of them. This creates a feeling of disengagement and being part of a tick-box exercise.

L&D, HR, senior management and line managers all need to play their part in explaining the training and how it fits in with the individual’s and the organisation’s goals. And this communication should not be done by e-mail alone!

6)      Take the opportunity to get feedback from the trainer

Trainers are experts in their field, and when they are external providers, they can provide valuable insights and feedback to the business.

Delegates will often talk more openly with external providers, I find this especially happens with stress management training. While maintaining individual confidentiality, I am able to comment on further training needs, trends, requests, mood, and ideas for improving communication and performance.

Excellent training rooms

The right venue can make or break your training.

This is hugely valuable to businesses.  Yet most forget, or don’t bother to follow-up in this way.

7)       Get the right venue

This may seem a minor point, but believe me it is really important to delegates. The training venue is seen as a reflection on how the business values the delegates and the training. Being stuck in a cramped, dark, uninspiring space is perceived as “the business doesn’t care about us”.

Also refreshments (or lack of) create a huge amount of comment in training sessions! Again, if these are missing (and I haven’t seen biscuits in the public sector for years now) it makes delegates feel unvalued.  (And hence unmotivated, unengaged, even cynical.  All of which negatively impacts your ROI.)

So for the sake of £20, get decent refreshments and make the delegates feel that you value them and the process of training.

More Help and Information on the 7 Stages of the Training Success Process

Getting each of these steps right will maximise your training budget. You will get great value for money, and business performance will certainly improve.

Some of these steps may sound time consuming, and difficult to manage when there are so many other projects to deal with.  Yet without them, you may as well just pour your budget down the drain.   CLAssocates can help by providing tools, facilitation, advice and consultancy to enable you to develop and/or implement the Training Success Process in your business.

For example, we can facilitate meetings with the main stakeholders, make sure success is identified and establish responsibility. We can provide pro-formas and checklists to enable the communication between senior management, line managers and delegates.

And as I said earlier, I’ll be covering each stage outlined above in more detail in later articles, so make sure you are subscribed to my newsletter, and come back soon to read more.


7 Steps to Getting More Done in Less Time

Let’s face it, we are all trying to do more in less time. Whether you run your own business, you are employed or perhaps you have a couple of part-time roles to juggle, learning how to get more done each week would be helpful!

Here are 7 steps that will help you increase your productivity. Follow these and you will start to get the important stuff done. You may be busy, but are you productive?

It could be that you are already implementing some of these steps, if you are, well done and carry on. For the steps you are not, try doing one at a time and see the difference it makes.

  1. Know that you can’t do everything. No matter how hard you work, and how efficient you are, it is a fact that you will never be able to do everything you would like. So, the trick is to be very clear about your current priorities, and leave everything that does not fit with these for now. You can always come back to a project in a couple of month’s time.
  2. Long term plan. You need a plan of what you want in the next 3, 6 or 12 months (choose whatever time-frame suits you), both in your work-life and home-life. What are your top three priorities, and remember that you can’t do everything. Give yourself some quiet time to think about what is most important for you to do.
  3. Weekly review. This step is an absolute must. Each week you must make time to review where you are, what is coming up and set-up your priorities for the coming seven days. This way you can make sure you are working on the important things, and not wasting time and energy on the other stuff. Remember, are you being busy or productive?
  4. Dealing with distractions. You will have any number of distractions to deal with every day – people, social media (see point 5 below), meetings, phone calls, clutter, the list is endless. Being able to protect yourself from these distractions is vital. Learn to put boundaries around your time, for instance have one hour everyday when you are not to be disturbed. You can have a whole hour of total focus on your priority task.
  5. Communication technology. This is a real challenge for everyone in the modern workplace. Every day we are bombarded with e-mails, Tweets, Facebook posts, voice-mails, conference calls. It is impossible to get anything done when we are being distracted by the “noise” of technology. As in point 4, it is imperative to have “quiet” times during your day when you turn everything off, so you can concentrate on the task in hand.
  6. Breaks. It is really important to take regular breaks. So often people skip lunch, as they “don’t have time to take a break”. Nonsense! It is scientifically proved that you will be more productive in the afternoon if you have taken even a 20 minute break, away from your workstation. Also make sure that you take your holiday entitlement. This can be particularly challenging for the self-employed amongst you. Time away from your business is invaluable, you will have more ideas, more energy and more focus following time away.
  7. Doing and thinking. During your week there will be times when you need to think ie when you are planning or being creative. There will also be times when you need to simply “do” ie write the report, make the call, arrange the meeting, review the monthly accounts. It is really important to recognise the difference between the two activities. Schedule the thinking tasks when your mind is at it’s most alert. You can do the “doing” tasks at other times when you need a different kind of brain power.

I’m sure that you are all busy people. If you follow these tips, you will not only be busy but productive too!

Charlie Damonsing is a stress management specialist, and runs her own business CLAssociates. Charlie provides 1-2-1 and group training to help employed and self-employed individuals to Get More Done in Less Time. Please contact Charlie on 0771 559 6487 to have a “no obligation “chat about your productivity challenges!


National Stress Awareness Day – The Relaxing Lunch Break

CLAssociates is delighted to be organising the National Stress Awareness Day event in Ipswich on Wednesday 7th November 2012.

We have put together “The Relaxing Lunch Break” and you are all invited!

Why not take a proper lunchbreak and come along sample a range of therapies – absolutely FREE – be treated to a gorgeously, soothing massage, or reflexology taster session.

Take a free Personal Stress Test

Take home a fantastic Stress Free Goody Bag:-

  • Free e-book “The Secret to Happiness”
  • Free taster session – choice of Reflexology, Thai Massage
  • Free “Healthy Ambitions” Goody Bag

Come along to The Atrium, Endeavour House, 8 Russell Road, Ipswich between 12 noon and 2pm.

For more information call Charlie Damonsing on 0771 559 6487 or e-mail

The 4 A’s of Stress Management

Got something in your life that is causing you stress? There are two things you can do about it, change the situation or change your reaction to it. Here are four steps guaranteed to help you deal with the stress effectively:-

Change the Situation

To change the situation, consider exactly what is going on and ask yourself these questions:-

Can I avoid the cause of stress? Perhaps you need to start saying “no” more often! Taking on more than you can reasonably cope with is a recipe for stress. Set your boundaries and stick to them.

Are there particular people who stress you out? If so, minimise the amount of time you spend with them.

Look at your to-do list, how many “shoulds” are on there? If you are doing things because you think you should rather than want to, stop doing them and see what happens.

Delegate! You don’t have to do everything yourself. If you are not good at delegation, then learn how to be more effective. Don’t assume you have to do everything. Take a really objective view of your “to-list”, are you really the only person who can do each task?

Can I alter the cause of stress? If you can’t avoid a cause of stress, can you alter it?

Do you need to be more assertive with certain people so that they treat you differently?

Are there situations that you need to tackle to sort them out? Get on top of finances, paperwork, getting things fixed, make decisions instead of procrastinating.

Improving your time management can make a big difference. Check through all the things you do and when you do them. Can you combine some activities, are there better times to do things? Would you feel better if you planned ahead?

Change your Reaction

If you find that you can’t avoid or alter the cause of your stress, you will need to change your reaction to it. In order to do this, ask yourself these questions:-

How can I adapt to the cause of stress? Changing the way you think may seem like a huge task but here are a few questions you can ask yourself which will quickly get you thinking in a new way.

When you are in a stressful situation, ask yourself “What is good about this?”, this seems totally counter-intuitive, but it really works.

Remember the big picture. Maybe the stress will be short term, and if you are reminded of that you will be able to cope better.

Are you being a perfectionist or control freak which is causing you the stress? If so, learn to let go, stop demanding perfection or having complete control. Go with the flow for a change and see what happens.

How can I accept the cause of stress? If none of the above questions have totally solved your situation, you can work on acceptance. This is not a case of giving up, it is taking a very positive step and is much more effective than battling against something that you can’t change.

Accepting other people. Remember that you can’t change other people (however much you think you can!), so you need to work on accepting them as they are.

Life does have ups and downs, accept that times may be tough now but things will get better.

Forgiving other people, and yourself, for past mistakes is very effective. You will release all the anger and resentment inside you, which is causing negative thoughts and emotions.

You can only control the controllable. Recognise that there are many things which are simply out of your control. Concentrate on what you can control.

This post was written by Charlie Damonsing of CLAssociates. CLAssociates specialises in helping businesses manage stress in the workplace, providing consultancy, training and 1-2-1 support. For further details please contact Charlie on 0771 559 6487.

Why men don’t seek help (until it is a real crisis)

I am going to make a sweeping generalisation (and in my own experience true) – men are not very good at asking for help! The majority of my clients are men, and when we get to work together they really benefit (their words not mine). However, men seem to take a long time getting round to dealing with a problem. Often clients will say that they wish that they had sought help earlier, and if they had known how useful and painless it would be, they would have done so.

So, as HR and Health and Safety professionals, when we are offering support to the men in our workplaces, we need to be aware of what stops men seeking help. Here are a few comments I have come across:-

  • Men aren’t supposed to have problems – it’s a sign of weakness
  • Men are meant to deal with problems themselves
  • Men should appear strong, intelligent and capable
  • Men should take care of others
  • “I don’t want to talk about it – it’s too personal”
  • “I might be laughed at”
  • “I feel so stupid – others don’t feel this way – they don’t have the same problems”
  • “If my mates knew I’d be ridiculed”

My line of work is coaching, and the particular reluctance to seek my help seems to centre on several misconceptions. These include that coaching (especially when it is paid for by the employer) is not really confidential; it’s only for people with serious mental problems; talking about how you feel is a sign of weakness or it’s shameful to talk about problems outside your family.

The challenge for me and the HR and H&S managers who are offering support is to address these fears directly. For example we need to be very clear about confidentiality, to assure the individual that nothing is reported back to anyone without their express permission. We also need to establish coaching as a routine, standard source of support. Coaching is available for everyone who wants to improve their performance at whatever level they are in the organisation.

Talking about feelings and emotions is tough, I am not denying that. However, that is my job to create a safe environment where individuals can explore their thoughts without fear of judgement.

When I have worked with clients, they find that coaching has the following benefits:-

  • relief of getting things off their chest
  • space to think straight
  • fresh perspectives
  • it’s easier to talk to someone they don’t know, outside the organisation
  • helps identify strategies for dealing with problems and feelings
  • feeling more confident in themselves and their decisions
  • things feel more manageable

So, when it comes to offering support to men, we have to emphasis the benefits, and make the process of seeking help easy and non-threatening. It is worth checking your procedures, are they simple and confidential, with as few people involved as possible? If not, how can you make support, which is much needed, as accessible as possible for all your staff, and particularly men?

This post was written by Charlie Damonsing of CLAssociates. CLAssociates specialises in helping businesses manage stress in the workplace, providing consultancy, training and 1-2-1 support. For further details please contact Charlie on 0771 559 6487.

Get Things Done – how to deal with distractions

This is the second article in the Get Things Done series. The last article looked at how to focus on what’s important. Below are some tips on how to deal with distractions.

If you did the Activity Time Sheet you will have noticed how much time in your week is “wasted” by interruptions, doing things at the wrong time, waiting, Facebook, Twitter and surfing the net (if you were honest!), meetings, etc, etc. There are so many distractions which can come our way, so here are some thoughts on how you can deal with these and improve your productivity:-

  1. Be in control of your time – I am sure you often feel that you have no control of your time. Especially when you are in an office or factory environment, with the demands of customers, colleagues and team members. However, it is important to assert as much control as you can on your time. If you manage a team, instead of having a constant open-door policy, have some time in each day when they can only interrupt you if it is an emergency. This gives you time to concentrate on your work for at least part of every day.
  2. What is your best time? - in every role there are different types of tasks which need doing – creative, administrative, talking to people, research etc. What is your best time for doing each one? When are you most creative or in the best frame of mind for detail? It could be that you “think” best in the morning in which case make sure you allocate time, with no interruptions, in the morning to do your thinking and planning work, and have your team meetings and customer calls in the afternoon.
  3. 90 minute focus – make sure you have at least 90 minutes each day of total focus on whatever your main priority is for the day. Turn-off your phone, e-mail, shut the door, go somewhere quiet and give this task total focus. Chose the best time of day for this type of task see point 2.
  4. Setting up your environment – in order to be productive you need to make sure that you have everything you need for each task. This sounds simple, but how often do are you frustrated by not having the correct information or equipment, and have to waste time finding it? Be prepared, get everything you need together before you start.
  5. Completing tasks – once you have finished your allocated time for a particular task it is important to finish it off properly. Is the task fully complete? If not, have you left it so it is easy to pick up again? This one step avoids so much wasted time when you come to work on that task again.

Behind all of these steps are plenty of tools and techniques to make them easier. The Productive Manager Programme provides all the resources and training, managers need to get things done.

For further details of The Productive Manager Programme call Charlie Damonsing on 0771 559 6487.

This post was written by Charlie Damonsing of CLAssociates. CLAssociates specialises in helping businesses manage stress in the workplace, providing consultancy, training and 1-2-1 support. For further details please contact Charlie on 0771 559 6487.

Get Things Done – how to focus on what is really important

In work, we are all being asked to do more with less. Managers are having to achieve higher targets with less people in their team and a squeeze on resources.

More than ever, being productive depends on focusing on the important things and minimising the distractions which inevitably come our way. This is the first of two articles and looks at focusing on what is important. In the second article you will discover how to deal with distractions.

A note of caution, being busy is not necessarily the same as being productive. You can run around all day doing things, but unless you are focusing on what is important, you are not going to be hitting your targets.

Here are a few thoughts on how to be more productive by focusing on what is important:

  1. Decide to change – it is vital that you are prepared to make changes. To become more productive you will need to change your approach. The best way is to start gradually, with a few changes at a time.
  2. How do you currently spend your time? – do you really know how you spend your time currently? It is a very valuable exercise to keep an Activity Time Sheet to show how your time is spent. Have a go at keeping a record of each 15 minutes and what you spend it doing. Download an Activity Time Sheet here and see where your time goes each week, you will be amazed!
  3. What have you got to do? – how do you keep track of all you have to do? Is it all on a neat, regularly reviewed to-do list? On an electronic calendar? On scraps of paper? In your head? It is critical to keep track of all you have to do in a place other than in your head. All the time your head is working to remember all the “to-dos”, it can’t be focusing properly on what is in front of you. How often do you sit down to concentrate, and your mind darts to other completely unrelated things that you have to do? Have one place where you write down or record everything that you have to do. This will help clear your head. There are whole training courses about to-lists and prioritising, and I don’t have the space here to go into detail. The two important steps are to record everything, and to review and clear your list regularly.
  4. Projects and actions – on your list there will be actions which are one-off tasks, and there will be projects. Projects are made up of a series of tasks, and when they are sitting on your to-do list they loom large and appear daunting. Projects can’t be done in one go, so record them on a different list. To effectively deal with projects the trick is to be clear about what you are aiming to do, and work out what the first step is. This step then becomes an action which you can put on your to-do list.
  5. Weekly review – have a weekly review and planning meeting. Go through your week and recognise what you achieved and what didn’t get done. Then take time to set your priorities for the next week, what are the three most important 3 results you want, and what do you need to do to achieve these? Put these actions on your to-do list.

Behind all of these steps are plenty of tools and techniques to make them easier. The Productive Manager Programme provides all the resources and training, managers need to get things done.

For further details of The Productive Manager Programme call Charlie Damonsing on 0771 559 6487.

This post was written by Charlie Damonsing of CLAssociates. CLAssociates specialises in helping businesses manage stress in the workplace, providing consultancy, training and 1-2-1 support. For further details please contact Charlie on 0771 559 6487.

International Stress Management Association – East Region Meeting 6th Sept 2012

The next meeting of the East Region ISMA (International Stress Management Association) will be held on 6th September 2012 at The Self Centre in Bury St Edmunds.National Stress Awareness Day

ISMA members and non-members are welcome to attend. The meeting is to discuss National Stress Awareness Day which will be held on 7th November 2012, and will be focusing on stress in the workplace.

The meeting is the perfect opportunity for stress management specialists and alternative health practitioners to come together and discuss how to use the NSAD to promote stress awareness in the East Region.

Price for ISMA members – £10, non-ISMA members – £15.

Please contact Charlie Damonsing for further details and to book a place – 0771 559 6487 – e-mail –