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Feeling cynical about New Year’s Resolutions? Try a New Year’s Visualisation instead

650 280 Caroline Flanagan

Women's eye - looking forward. Isolated on white.

So, what are you going to do differently this year? Have you written your New Year’s Resolutions yet?

This is me, with the voice of an overexcited kid who’s been given another chance to go into the sweet shop to get a taste of something new or experience something better than last year. I’ve asked these questions of practically every one I’ve come into contact with since the New Year started – even the quiet, unassuming man in my local Dry Cleaners just this afternoon: So, what are you going to do differently this year?

But every single response has been the same: a huge helping of cynicism topped with a dollop of disdain, mockingly sandwiched between thick slices of laughter. How’s it so? Am I the only one who still believes?


To say I love New Year’s Resolutions is something of an understatement. I’ve been making them since I can remember, and my diary – which for the majority of the year lies idle and neglected at the bottom of a drawer – takes on a kind of biblical importance in those special days between Christmas and New Year. I love using this time to reflect on the year that has passed. It is both cathartic and sobering to try to catalogue the good things I achieved, and face up to the reality of the number of last year’s goals I didn’t quite manage. For me this period is sacred. It’s the amnesty in which I can surrender the failings or disappointments of the previous year without judgement or punishment. So I didn’t get my book finished as I swore that absolutely, this year definitely, no matter what, I would. So I didn’t get 100 likes on my Facebook business page, or get my Twitter following up to 1000. I fell short of my target of 10 new corporate clients. No matter! The clock has been reset and hey presto, I’ve got another 365 days! If I can get this excited about New Year’s Resolutions, why can’t anybody else?


Of course you only need to listen to some of the conversations on this topic – be they online, in the interminably long post office queue or over the first Costa coffee of the morning – to discover the answer: nobody gets excited about New Year’s Resolutions because nobody believes they work. Most of us know either from our own experiences or the experiences of those around us that most resolutions are dead in the water by January 2nd, and that’s assuming they actually came to life in the first place. That new gym membership you just paid 4 figures for? Ha! Giving up alcohol/smoking/eating/swearing … whatever’s on the list you can bet that most people have fallen off the wagon long before they’ve stopped accidentally writing 2014 on their letterhead.


I know all of this of course because I’m just as bad. I too have a history of slipping back into my old habits sooner or later (though I pride myself on hanging in there until at least February). How ironic that I spend my working life helping others to realise their goals while year after year the same resolutions end up back on the shelf awaiting fulfilment.


That is, until now.

This year is different. I can smell it in the air when I jump out of bed, and feel it in the pit of my stomach when I turn off the light at night it. Twelve days into the New Year and my hunger, focus and determination to achieve this year’s goals is more powerful than ever (come hell or high water that book is getting written!). I’ve come closer to fulfilling this year’s Resolutions in 12 days than I came in six months last year. Those goals are so alive I feel I could reach out my hand and physically touch them. And it’s all down to one thing:


Visualisation – the art of using all of your senses to create a visual and emotional realisation of your goal, and living that experience everyday until it becomes a reality.


If you haven’t come across Visualisations before, let me explain. Want to quit smoking? You’re best investment is taking fifteen minutes, at least three times a day, to picture yourself – your new non-smoking self – as clearly, vividly and emotionally as you can: What do you look like without a cigarette in your hand and what are you holding instead? What do you smell of now you no longer smell of smoke? What are you buying now that you have more money in your pocket? What colour are your teeth, and what is the taste in your mouth when you wake up in the morning? How do you feel when you are exercising with clean, nicotine-free blood coursing through your veins?


Imagine every single detail of your new glorious life and imagine it every single day, as often as you can. See yourself crossing that finish line over and over again, whenever you have the chance. What I love about Visualisations is you can do them anywhere – in a queue, on the tube, while walking home, on the toilet (who’s going to know?). All you need is a vivid imagination and a desire to see it work.


For 10 days now I’ve been visualising the moment when my book – yes, the one I haven’t written yet – becomes a best seller, the day I fly Upper Class to New York to celebrate and the day I’m interviewed by Oprah Winfrey because even she thinks it’s fabulous. I see the book’s shiny glossy cover, I feel it’s weight and I delight in the faint smell of wood chip and lavender that radiates from its pages. I taste the champagne bubbles on my tongue, and see delight and pride on the faces of those who helped me get to this point. The images are so vivid they fill my stomach with butterflies – the ones you get when you know something truly amazing is going to happen.


Will all this really come to pass? Time will tell of course. But in the mean time, know this: I have written 10,000 words in 10 days, which is 50% more than I managed to write the whole of last year. I can’t remember the last time I felt this focused, energised and motivated. Such is the power of pictures.


New Year’s Resolutions don’t work because they focus only on the physical: the physical act of not smoking, of dieting, of working less, of exercising more. But we can’t train our bodies to behave differently until we first change the thinking behind our actions. This is what makes New Year’s Visualisations a far better bet.


Whatever your goal, the first step to its realisation is to visualise it fully and frequently: use your imagination to see, feel, hear, smell and taste life as the new you. And see how much easier it becomes to achieve what you want.


What do you think about Visualisation? Do you think it could help you achieve your goals this year? I look forward to reading your comments.


Caroline Flanagan is founder of, where you’ll find inspiration, advice and resources for the career woman who wants it all.


Isle of Man: Why Are Family Office Services Becoming So Popular?

1024 913 Crowe Clark Whitehill


Family Offices are private wealth management advisory services offered to ultra-high net worth investors to centralise focus and control over family finances, legal, tax and administration issues. It is an outsourced solution to manage the financial and investment affairs of wealthy individuals or families. It works to provide the best solution for building, preserving and transferring family wealth onto future generations.

The first known family office was setup for the Rockefeller family of New York in the 19th Century. The family, faced with increased wealth management concerns, began hiring trusted advisors with certain expertise to assist with the management and protection of their family’s interests. Thus the concept of family office was born.

Family Offices are most commonly utilised because assets have grown in size and complexity, demanding full-time professional management. The world’s most wealthy families establish Family Offices to ensure their wealth is suitably preserved for future generations.

One of the main attractions of the use of a family office for wealthy families is having one central source for information and advice on the family’s financial matters. Having a dedicated team of professionals who are completely focused on the client’s goals and financial aspirations in a completely confidential manner who can ensure wealth management and future proofing of complex structures to ensure the wealth is managed effectively for future generations.

One of the most important parts of any family office is to consolidate all relevant financial information into one report and coordinate with various financial institutions to establish an overall investment strategy. This saves valuable time and resources for family members and can focus the mind on the main goals for the family’s wealth and is a pragmatic way to manage overall investment risk.

A family office may also act as a connection between family members and as a trusted advisor for younger generations. Research has shown that many wealthy families are not able to preserve their wealth for longer than three generations. This is often caused by a lack of strategy within the family or a lack of communication between the family members. A family office can build long-term relationships with all family members and involve and educate the younger generation on wealth management matters. As the family office is a third party, it is often easier for family members to discuss financial matters with the family office instead of dealing directly with each other.

It has been said that the most important considerations of any family office are a professional comprehensive service, discretion and extensive wealth management experience and at CCW we can offer all three.

If you are considering a family office for your family or are a trusted advisor who is looking to move a family office which is currently in existence we would be happy to discuss your needs. Crowe Clark Whitehill have looked after families and their needs for over 30 years, our people are highly skilled and qualified client professionals. We have extensive experience in the management of international structures and through our network we have links to professional advisors in almost every jurisdiction around the globe.

Crowe Clark Whitehill’s services are uniquely crafted to give each family exactly what they need. We will take the time to get to know you, your aspirations and concerns. We understand that there is nothing more important than family and that you will be in trusting personal matters to us, we will work with you to gain understanding and build long term relationships.



Focus on the “Extra Milers” to Improve Team Performance

947 467 iPerform


In any team, there will be at least one person who puts in the extra effort and the extra hours. These so called “Extra Milers” could also help a work team’s overall performance, according to a study by the University of Iowa.

The research, published by Ning Li, Helen H. Zhao, Sheryl L. Walter, Xin-an Zhang, Jia Yu in the Journal of Applied Psychology discovered that managers should focus on boosting the motivation of “Extra Milers” rather than distributing their efforts equally over the entire team. Researchers discovered that because they put in the extra effort, these employees are in the centre of the workflow within the team and are able to bring more team members on board because they are in greater contact with all of them.

The study investigated 87 separate teams at a Petroleum Plant where each team averaged 8 members. The University of Iowa identified the “Extra Miler” in each team through talking to their managers and conducting interviews with their team mates. These Extra Milers extolled two important traits which the researchers termed “Helping” and “Voice”

In their trait of Helping, Extra Milers were more likely to physically help and assist other team members to do their jobs, especially if they were ill or were not capable of doing the job to a required standard.

Secondly a “Voice” trait among Extra Milers tended to be demonstrated in greater leadership, recommending changes to the workflow with managers so the rest of the team could do their jobs far more easily.

In addition, the position of the Extra Miler in the workflow was also important. In higher performing teams within the Petroleum plant, these hard working team members were located in the centre of the workflow, meaning they were in constant contact with other team members, keeping projects on track and taking up the slack of those teammates who weren’t able to contribute as much. This is crucial for improved overall team performance according to Professor of Management Sciences at the University of Iowa and lead researcher Ning Li:

“The extra miler has more of an influence in the centre because they have more contact with other workers and because others can see what they’re doing. Through this role modelling, everyone on the team becomes better. If the extra miler is on the periphery, they don’t come into contact with as many team members and nobody notices them.”


Why ‘Multi-Tasking’ is Failing You and How You Can Become More Productive

1024 512 Deborah Newton, life-coach for Clear Skies Coaching Limited


Multi-tasking can feel like an addiction. We live in a fast-paced, technologically fuelled society. The average American checks social media 17 times a day. Staggered at that number? It’s small compared to an impressive daily average of 40 times for smartphone users in Thailand, Argentina, Mexico and South Africa.

Writing this article has certainly been an eye-opener. I was always very proud of my supposed multi-tasking abilities. That was before I learnt that feeling terribly busy and pumped up from juggling several balls simultaneously is not the most efficient use of my time. In fact, this behaviour is to the detriment of my productivity. So I’m going cold-turkey. I’m attempting to finish this article with my phone on airplane mode. Social media, emails and a fresh cup of tea must all wait. Keep calm and carry on…

multi tasking

The Reality of Multi-Tasking

So what do we mean by ‘multi-tasking’? It is the ability to do several things at the same time. How fantastic! Except that the reality is we are generally not multi-tasking at all. Rather, we are ‘task-shifting’.

The brain cannot function on more than one task at a time. Flitting from a phone call to a word document to YouTube to an email is NOT multi-tasking. We switch task, rapidly shifting from one thing to another. Which means we are interrupting ourselves unproductively whilst losing time in the process. Doesn’t sound so great anymore…

Why Are We Such Serial ‘Task-Shifters’?

We live in a fast-paced society. We are increasingly becoming accustomed to having instant access to information and communication. It has become the norm for us to flick through Facebook whilst socialising, respond to emails at the same time as unconsciously eating breakfast, and the standard 21st century behaviour: talk on the phone or text while blindly walking down the street. My dad used to comment that whenever he called me, I would always be running for a bus.

Beware of your procrastinator self. It loves you to avoid that thing by busying yourself with anything but that thing. Giving one’s full attention to a task we don’t want to do can feel very uncomfortable.


How Task-Shifting Is Failing Us

According to a whole raft of studies:

• Each task-shift might only amount to wasting 1/10th of a second. However, if you do a lot of task-shifting in a day it can add up to a whopping 40% reduction in productivity.
• Desk job employees are distracted on average every 10.5 minutes by tweets and IMs.
• The average desk job employee loses 2.1 hours per day due to interruptions or distractions.
• Being distracted by calls or emails can lead to a drop in IQ. Some reports claim up to 10 IQ points – this is akin to missing out on a night’s sleep.
• The more we “task-shift”, the worse we get at it and the more unproductive we are. Practice does not always make perfect!
• Drivers using a hands-free mobile phone are slower at recognising and reacting to hazards.
• University of California Irvine researchers measured the heart rates of employees with and without constant access to office email. They found that those who received a steady stream of messages remained in a constant “high alert” mode with higher heart rates. Those without continuous email access did less task-shifting and were less stressed because of it.



Breaking The Habit

My challenge for you is to refrain (or at least attempt to refrain) from task-shifting for one WHOLE week. Here are some tools to help you:

• Try putting your phone on airplane mode when in meetings, when with family or friends, and while you sleep.
• Limit how many times a day you check your emails.
• Block out time for each task (starting with the most important). Allow no distractions. That means no social media, no emails, no phone calls.
• Try setting a timer for your blocked-out time. Lawyers are well versed in completing work against the clock. Use that to your advantage. Play around with what time suits you best. I would suggest starting with 20 minutes followed by a 2-minute break. 20 minutes can be extended up to 90 minutes (with longer breaks).
• Notice when you have the greatest energy and focus. Use those periods for your most mentally challenging work.
• And finally, take a deep breath and slow down.

I would love to know how you get on so feel free to ping me an email. After you’ve finished whatever it is you’re doing of course…


switch off work

How To Switch Off From Work (Without Turning To The Bottle)

1024 680 Deborah Newton, life-coach for Clear Skies Coaching Limited

stress relief

It’s Tuesday evening. You’ve had another day from HELL. And you’re expecting a repeat performance tomorrow. How on earth can you switch off from work so you can enjoy your few hours outside of the office?

Here are some tips on how you can successfully separate work from your “non-work life”. And if you don’t recognise the concept of a “non-work life”, then CALL ME – we need to talk.


The Bad News

• A 2012 survey found that out of 1,000 employees:
– 50% checked emails while in bed
– 57% read work emails during family time
– 40% continued to work after 10pm
– 38% read work emails at the dinner table

• Another 2012 study found that people who work more 11 hours a day have a more-than-doubled-risk of a major depressive episode.

• A health psychologist at Surrey University found between two-thirds and three-quarters of people say they find it “difficult to unwind after work.” A full quarter said they think about work-related issues in their leisure time, including holidays, weekends and extended breaks.


• If you REALLY want to switch off, regularly checking emails outside of the office will not get you there. Of course, doing additional work at home may sometimes be necessary. If it’s not, then I urge you to consider how much of your life you are prepared to sacrifice for your job.

• As tempting as it is to slump in front of the TV as a way to relax, it won’t serve as a long-term mood enhancer if this is your daily method of switching off from work.

• Reaching for that second glass…third glass…fourth glass of wine as a stress-reliever may appear to help…in the moment. But over time, heavy drinking interferes with the neurotransmitters in the brain that are needed for good mental health. So while alcohol may help deal with stress in the short term, in the long run it can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety. And make stress harder to deal with.

Being Present

So you’re at home and you can’t stop thinking about work. First: identify whether this is problem-solving or ruminating. If it is the former, then process this. And then move on. If the latter, then you’re unnecessarily living in the past, which is also the case when you’re worrying about what may happen tomorrow. Successfully switching off from work at home is achieved when you focus on the present. Problem solved?! Sadly, staying present is an art in itself. And assuming you’re not a jedi, zen monk or similar, it’s very likely your monkey-mind will thwart any attempts to focus on the now. But that’s ok. Try not to beat yourself up about it. Instead, try the following…

stress free

How To Help Yourself Stay Present

• Observe where your mind has drifted off. And then bring it back to the present, gently. Annnnnnd…repeat.

• Stop whatever you’re doing. And take one big belly breath. Stay focusing on your breath just for a few seconds. Taking a pause like this is an excellent way of grounding yourself and gaining perspective when thoughts are spiralling out of control.

• Focus on what you’re experiencing in that moment. What do you hear…see…smell?

• Meditation is powerful training for your mind to stay more focused. I highly recommend using the ‘Headspace’ app for this.

Take Charge Of Your Life

• Get a hobby. Go for a run. Cook a nice meal. Spend time in the garden. Meditate. Find out whatever makes you feel alive and go do it. If you don’t make an effort to counteract stress with something different, your mind is more likely to quickly leap back to work. And sometimes the best tonic may be to simply rest – it’s how you rest that’s important.

• Consider additional support: speaking regularly to an outside person like a life-coach, therapist or mentor can help you implement stress-management practices and take control of your life.

• And lastly: life is full of ebbs and flows. It is constantly changing. Remember this when you’re going through a particularly stressful or busy period. You’ll get through it. But making some life changes may make all the difference…