Personal Development

Personal Development

Ariful Bhuiyan ACA, Financial Accountant in Bank of Ireland Group, shares five tips on how to stay in the black and wait out a second lockdown. COVID-19 has already impacted business, education, health system, sports, entertainment, and environment. Moreover, it has left people worried about their current financial plans and how they should approach their day-to-day finances. Here are some smart ways you can manage your bank account during this crisis.  Suspend major spending If you were planning to buy a home or looking at purchasing an expensive car, this is not the right time. We don’t know when this pandemic will be over, nor where it will drive the economy. For now, it would be prudent to hold onto some of your savings to give yourself breathing room if any future uncertainty arises due to unemployment, illness, etc.  The best approach is to observe and react. For example, the property market can be volatile for the next few months, and you may benefit if the house prices fall in the future.  Reassess other expenses If you have cable service, Netflix, Amazon Prime videos, or any other streaming subscriptions, it is high time you look at which is best suited for you. For instance, if you are subscribed to a cable service just for sport, think about suspending your service as many sporting events will be on hold for the foreseeable future. It's also a good idea to check the phone plan and utility bills to see if these make sense for you and your family. Look for better offers from competitor companies.  No panic buying With Christmas right around the corner, you might be tempted to jump in and buy all your gifts right now – and this is reasonable given that shops will be closed until the beginning of December. However, when people panic buy, they can check out before they even realise what they are buying or for who. Does Aunt Mary really want a shawl, a bath bomb and wool slippers – or were they the first thing you saw online and put straight into your basket? Make considered purchases. Improve your saving profile and invest in undervalued stocks Most of us would have booked holidays and parties over the summer if the situation were normal. Due to the lockdown, many have been lucky enough to save some extra money.  Try taking advantage of the situation by building your saving profile. If you are continuing to work and earn your full income, it is a good opportunity to buy undervalued stocks. The valuation of many companies went down in April/May, and there is a chance that it may fall again in the coming months due to the surge in numbers. Take suggestions from the brokers and invest in some companies to make a good return in the future.  Avail of the reliefs available to you The government has implemented financial relief for people and businesses. Keep in mind that you might be using utilities for work purposes. It was just announced in Budget 2021 that some of these employment costs could go towards tax credits. 

Nov 02, 2020
Personal Development

Accountancy Ireland Extra has partnered with the team at SpunOut.ie to bring you some top nutrition tips for the exam season. Eating well is good for both your mental and physical health. When it comes to exams and studying, you want to be at your best – that means eating the right foods to ensure your concentration levels are where they need to be. We have put together some tips to ensure that you can eat your way to exam success. Avoid skipping meals No matter how rushed you are, try to avoid skipping meals – especially breakfast. Starting your day with breakfast gets your body going and maintains your concentration for the day. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables It might sound like hard work, but try to add fruit or vegetables to every meal if possible. Simple ways to increase your fruit and veg intake include smoothies, adding banana to toast, and adding fruit to porridge or breakfast cereals. Drink plenty of water Try to drink eight glasses of water per day to keep your body hydrated. By drinking enough water, you’re also less likely to be hungry. If you’re not a fan of water on its own, add a sugar-free diluted squash. Opt for healthy snacks It can be tempting when studying to reach for unhealthy snacks. Snack foods such as cakes, biscuits, chocolate and sweets can be high in sugars and saturated fat, and low in certain vitamins and minerals. Instead, keep fruit such as apples, blueberries or bananas on hand for those moments you need a snack. Check out our article on swapping your favourite snacks for healthier alternatives. Wholegrains The brain cannot function without the right energy, and it needs a constant supply throughout the day to ensure it functions correctly. Achieve this by eating wholegrains with a low glycaemic index (GI) such as brown pasta, brown rice or brown bread. Things to avoid… Avoid sugary snacks as they will result in a short-term high that will eventually come crashing down, leaving you feeling tired. Don’t overdo the caffeine. Coffee and soft drinks such as Diet Coke may give you a short-term energy boost but in the long run, it will result in an energy crash that just isn’t worth it. Avoid energy drinks like Red Bull, as they will result in a caffeine and sugar rush that won’t do your body any favours. And lastly, when you’re studying, alcohol is not your friend. It will dehydrate you, disturb your sleep and wreck your concentration the next day. Not worth it! This article was produced by Spunout.ie, Ireland’s youth information website. Five great brainfood-based snack ideas The last thing you need right now is to spend time researching what to eat in the run-up to your exam, so we’ve done the hard work for you! Here are our favourite brain food snacks, all of which are quick and easy to prepare... Hummus and carrot/celery sticks. You could make both from scratch or – to save time – pick up the end-product in your local supermarket. Apple slices with almond butter. The latter can be pricy but you’ll pick up a bag of apples for less than a euro, so it all balances out. Natural yogurt with chia seeds, banana, blueberries and nuts. This can also be a full breakfast, but it’s a superfood bonanza for the brain. Smashed avocado on wholegrain toast. A big snack that’ll keep you going for a couple of hours. Dark chocolate. A daily portion of dark chocolate has been found to improve blood flow to the brain, so treat yourself!

Apr 05, 2020
Personal Development

Thinking is the top-rated next generation skill, but the ability to think critically is rare. Follow these tips to stand out from your peers in the soft skills stakes. I was browsing LinkedIn recently when a headline caught my eye. It read: “The top skills companies need – and how to help your employees develop them”. I’m a sucker for a list, so I clicked in and scrolled down for the answer, whizzing past the verbiage in the process. To my surprise (and that of the article’s author, as I found out when I eventually read the intro), the leading ‘next generation skill’ is... thinking. We do it all the time but according to research from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, it’s the most important skill of the future followed by self-understanding, empathy, ethics and communication. Develop your critical thinking According to Georgetown professor, William T. Gormley, critical thinking consists of three elements: a capacity to spot weakness in other arguments, a passion for good evidence, and a capacity to reflect on your own views and values with an eye to possibly changing them. He elaborated on these points in a recent Harvard EdCast, which you can listen to here. But how can you develop these three elements and learn to think critically? According to an article published by NUI Galway, there are a number of ways to do this. You will likely know some of the points mentioned (join a debating society, get involved in class discussions etc.), but there some very noteworthy suggestions also. They include: Swap coursework with a classmate and critically evaluate each other’s arguments, use of evidence and conclusions; Accept that criticism and disagreement aren’t the same as conflict. It’s okay to hold different views to a classmate, friend or lecturer; Engage critically with course content, particularly with your assigned reading; and Remember that critical thinking is hard. As a set of ‘higher order’ skills, it isn’t something you can learn overnight. Keep trying. Ask for feedback – and learn from it. There’s some great material there, but the university’s Christopher Dwyer also suggested a very useful – and fun – means of honing this skill in his book entitled Critical Thinking: Conceptual Perspectives and Practical Guidelines: play devil’s advocate. In the era of groupthink and news bubbles, it’s easy to be convinced that there’s a right way and a wrong way. Seeking out alternatives, even seemingly irrational ones, could help you see things in a new light and this is what your future employers will be looking for - someone who is technically competent but can approach things with fresh perspectives. Let the debate begin!

Nov 01, 2018
Personal Development

In an always-on world, it can be difficult to strike the right balance between work and relaxation, but here are eight tips to help you tip the scales. For many in the workforce, achieving any type of work-life balance can be a myth – especially since technology allows us to be accessible around the clock. So how do we do it? I found myself back at work after maternity leave with a 10-month old working full-time and sharing a business with my husband. I remember feeling so overwhelmed and hugely distracted. To overcome this, I devised a list of top tips for balancing work and life. STEP 1 Firstly, take a deep breath. It will all be ok. STEP 2 Work life balance doesn’t happen automatically. It involves making deliberate choices about what you want out of life. Having a roadmap plan and committing to it. Realising what is important to you and working smarter not harder to ensure you can spend your time how you want to.  STEP 3 Communication is key. I still don’t believe we talk to each other enough. You need to be open about what’s working and what’s not. Work will always be there; however, you need to have your personal life and routine in check as a strong foundation. If you feel like you’re veering off course, reach out and talk to someone. STEP 4 Set aside time for your interests, family and friends. Make a point of planning and booking time off work to do the things that are important to you. Don’t wait to see what time is left over as I can guarantee that there won’t be any. Your list of tasks will never be complete and there’s never a good time. STEP 5 Set your own parameters around what success looks like to you. Having a strong sense of who you are, your values and what drives you will help you better understand what makes you happy and to get more of that in your life.  STEP 6 Turn off your distractions. It’s learning the skill of turning off the technology and enjoying the quality time. STEP 7 It’s also important to align your goals in pursuing your passion. Those that do achieve this balance usually have a defined plan around timeframes and what they are willing to sacrifice to get what they want in the end. Don’t let the situation control you, take hold of it head on. STEP 8 The most important tip to achieving work-life balance is building your A Team, also known as your support network. People who are successful and achieve good balance have a strong support network who help them through the tough times. Sorcha Pollack is an Audit Senior at EY Ireland.

Mar 06, 2018
Personal Development

Acknowledging our vulnerabilities and improving our self-awareness can allow us to succeed in our personal and professional lives. “What are your strengths and weaknesses” is a question frequently asked at interviews and one that interviewees are often least prepared to answer. While few have difficulty rhyming off strengths, describing one’s weaknesses or vulnerabilities is another matter. Doing so requires a level of disclosure that few of us are willing to make to ourselves, much less to others.  As Abraham Maslow, American psychologist who is known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, said, “We tend to be afraid of any knowledge that would cause us…to make us feel inferior, weak…We protect ourselves and our ideal image of ourselves by repression and similar defences”. However, research shows that vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. We connect to others through vulnerabilities. They are key to our self-awareness and how we manage ourselves socially.  This article is designed to equip you with some means to identify and explore those vulnerabilities and improve your self-awareness.     Focus on the here and now Begin with noticing and self-reflecting. When interacting with others, you should slow yourself down and take notice of your emotions, thoughts and behaviours as situations unfold. Try to concentrate on what is happening to you in the moment. Studies show that we are able to concentrate on up to four voices at one time. One of those voices should be our own.  The ability to focus on the present can and should be practiced regularly by using mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness is simply concentrating on the present moment and focusing on one element to keep you in that moment, such as your breathing. Through mindfulness practice, we learn not to engage with passing thoughts but rather to observe them and take notice of recurring negative thoughts that may be affecting us. By practicing mindfulness privately, we develop skills that we can call on to ground ourselves when we feel stressed or unfocused. These skills help us to avoid being distracted by anticipatory thoughts and give us the ability to stay focused when circumstances demand.  Numerous apps are available to help develop or improve concentration skills. Headspace is one such option. Thinking errors How do we identify emotional or cognitive barriers to self-awareness? Be on the lookout for ‘thinking errors’ in your internal dialogues. These are harmful thinking patterns that may habitually hold us hostage so that we behave at the will of others or as victims of circumstance. Some examples of these include: ‘Awfulisation’: “That was the worst interview ever. I was awful.”; Blame-throwing: “It’s all his fault, he should have highlighted the difference.”; Demands: “He has to listen to me because this report is late”, “She should have pointed that out, she knew it was important.”; Extreme thinking: “she never listens”, “he’s always late” Globalising: “I failed my exam. That proves I’m a failure.”; Personalisation: “If I ask my manager for support, he’ll think I’m incompetent”. Such thinking errors should be intercepted and challenged by considering their usefulness. Are these beliefs helpful? Are they true? Is there evidence to support them?  Group dynamics While mindful meditation and self-reflection are useful tools for improving self-awareness, our reflection in other people is more informative. When working in a team, it is important to stay aware of how others react to our behaviours. Noticing such reactions provides us with valuable feedback. Active listening and observation can help us to recognise and then adjust any negative behaviours of our own.  A simple tool called the PFAT scan can help here. With it, we pay attention to: physical body reactions in other members of the group. Are they blushing, sweating, fidgeting, clenching their teeth or fists? others’ feelings suggested through their mannerisms or behaviours. Are they defensive, anxious, worried, bored, tense, challenged, or angry? the appearance of negative body language. Are they retreating or lunging forward? Are they stammering or yelling?; and  where their thoughts are focused. Are they speaking on task or are they defending their position, discrediting others, and redeeming themselves?    To gain greater insight into our relational habits, we should pay attention to group dynamics, focusing not only on how we think and what we observe but also on how we feel during teamwork or group work. Certain situations or people may trigger negative reactions within us. We may discover that what we are experiencing is the mirroring of past behavioural patterns seen in close family members. We should also seek feedback from trusted people seniors in your company and peers. Receiving such feedback openly and sharing our vulnerabilities can prove edifying. By accepting our vulnerabilities with reasonable self-compassion, we can start to accommodate them and to build on our strengths. March EI exercise Practice mindfulness and the reflective exercises described in this article.  Paul Price is is an Executive Coach at Dynamic Connections.

Mar 06, 2018
Personal Development

Build trust, gain influence and get meaningful work done with these simple but effective ‘soft skills’ challenges. In the collaborative workplace, soft skills play an increasingly important role – particularly if you’re looking to set yourself apart from your peers. But how do your improve your soft skills? And what are they anyway? Here are four prominent soft skills and some challenges to help you put them into action. Communication When we think about communication, the output often springs to mind – what we say and how we say it. But communication also involves eye contact, posture and active listening. Great leaders are, generally speaking, great listeners so challenge yourself to striking up a conversation with one colleague each day where you focus on what they have to say. Of course, communication works best as a two-way process so there will be an element of give and take, but focus on giving your colleague the opportunity to tell you about their weekend, work project or hobby. Doing so will position you as an approachable and affable colleague and potential leadership material. Influence You might think that influence comes with seniority but in truth, everyone has the ability to influence irrespective of their role or status. This elusive skill is the sole subject of one of the bestselling business books of all time – Influence by Robert Cialdini – but to get you started, try this simple challenge: refer to colleagues by name and offer a little praise. It might sound superfluous but as Dale Carnegie, another famous writer and lecturer, noted: “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language”. Add to this a compliment or two and you will greatly improve your chances of getting what you want – even from distant colleagues. Time and priority management The ability to identify what’s important and prioritise accordingly is an admirable trait, and one your superiors will cherish. In his book entitled Deep Work, Cal Newport defined this concept as the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. If you don’t schedule time for deep work, however, it’s unlikely to happen as you get dragged from one meeting to the next. So leave your smartphone to one side and refuse to allow your inbox to dictate your day; but most importantly, schedule time in your calendar for deep work each week. If you don’t ring-fence time for value-add activity, the likelihood is that someone will fill the void for you. Critical thinking According to the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking, critical thinking is “the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skilfully conceptualising, applying, analysing, synthesising, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action”. In simpler terms, it’s the process of making reasoned judgements that are logical and well-thought out. To improve your critical thinking skills, begin by asking yourself how a colleague or friend might approach an issue before making a decision. Too often, we approach challenges solely from our own point of view and spring into action in the firm belief that we are doing the right thing. By looking at issues through the eyes of another, however, you will be better placed to bypass your own biases and make more informed decisions. Summary You now have four simple tasks to help you hone your most valuable soft skills: chat to a colleague each day; refer to colleagues by name and add a compliment or two; book time in your calendar for deep work; and push yourself to look at things from the viewpoints of others. If you allow these challenges to develop into habits, you will reap benefits in many areas from productivity to professional relationships.

Sep 01, 2017