Decluttering – it works for business too

Bullshit button


There is always much talk in January about decluttering. Some invest in the Marie Kondo style of tidying up, but the mainly the application is to personal/home lives.

But we wanted to take a look at how this can be used within your business environment.

Bringing joy

One of the key guidelines used by various experts in the field is to hold an object and if it “brings joy” you put it on the keep pile. Now this might be useful for a treasured jumper or picture, but is less easy when staring at the hole-punch or stapler on your desk!

Similarly it’s not recommended for using this method to declutter a difficult work colleague from your environment.

With the practical things around us at work, think about how and why you use the objects. You may have a favourite pen, or indeed stapler. Is there other “clutter” that impacts on how you perform at your work station. By taking a step back and critically looking at just what is on your desk, does anything need to go?

I’ve just counted up at least 3 coasters (only 1 in use), 4 paperweights (only 1 in use) and 6 pens (currently none in use), second pair of glasses (how many can you wear at one time?), a light up glass eye that’s just frankly weird, and our often used “Bulls…t” button. This is roundly whacked every time there is nonsense spoken by us or someone else, and definitely brings joy, so that’s staying!

Does this clutter impact on the ability to do a good job? We’d all say not, but until you clear some space how can you honestly know? Having a clear space can give you the focus you need when undertaking projects, reports or planning strategies.

Take a dispassionate view of your workspace…what could you do without and what’s just hanging around because you’ve not really looked before?

Career decluttering

This can take a number of forms.

  1. You may want to take time to look at where you are currently in your role – does your job spark joy? Do you need it to in order to progress on the path you’ve identified? Where you are aiming to be going forward and do you need to make big changes in your career? If so, what do you need to plan to make this happen?
  2. Or it could be as simple as deciding not to attend so many meetings where there’s lots of talking but few actionable outcomes.
  3. Reviewing the use of your time in work (see 2 above) – whether remotely working or sat at your desk – is there a better way for you to make changes that benefit you both professionally and personally?
  4. Difficult colleagues – are they draining you of energy? Do you need to tackle the impact they are having on your wellbeing? Are they affecting others too? Is it time to speak with management and do something proactive about dealing with their negativity or underperformance? The easier path is to accept the status quo and do nothing, but taking a step back and deciding that you are going to “declutter” their attitude may enhance your time at work.

The standard decluttering boxes of Keep, Donate, Dump can be used for your work environment.

  • Keep what you need to do your job effectively and those things that spark some form of joy and fun in the workplace;
  • Donate – anything that others may find useful – maybe that leadership book that you read and now would be of interest to a young manager coming up through the ranks
  • Dump – anything that impacts on your ability to do a good job, whether that be a broken stapler, or a colleague that is draining your energy and enthusiasm for what you do.

Decluttering personally or professionally can be daunting – but using the method of starting small, creating a habit, focusing on what’s important to you and doing it regularly, make a start and see where it takes you.

Managing yourself and your time – what works for you?


#Timemanagement  is a finite resource.  Unfortunately unlike your bank savings, you can’t transfer saved up minutes or hours to another day.

So what can you do?

The only thing in your control is how you manage yourself

But different things work for different people –

  • some love a to-do list;
  • some limit their email views;
  • some are assertive about not letting others’ mismanagement of time impact on their own schedule.
  • some love using technology to monitor their time
  • others prefer to work with a diary or note-book


What can you do to manage yourself and your time to best effect?

Book onto our Time Management – Getting the most out of your day



01892 832059 to book.

£199 per person or Bring a friend & use our #buddydiscount

January 2020 newsletter out today



Our first 2020 newsletter is out today – topics covered for January include:

  • Fear Bubbles & Victim Status;
  • IR35 changes;
  • Infinite mindsets; resolutions vs intentions;
  • top tips for using Outlook
  • current public courses for individuals.

If you’d like a copy, just email & if you would like to share any upcoming events of your own with our readers, do let me know. #newsletter #content #publiciseevents

Wishing all clients & suppliers a very Happy Christmas and busy 2020


We’re coming to the end of our Reverse Advent Calendar for 2019.  Whilst we donate to the Paddock Wood Foodstore in place of Christmas cards, we do want to wish all our clients, suppliers, trainers and friends a very happy and relaxing Christmas and New Year break.

We appreciate your support and investment in your staff training and development and look forward to working with you on exciting and innovative projects in 2020.

Whilst we are closing the office on 20th December to 6th January, being home-based means we’ll pick up emails and phone calls all over the festive period, so we’re not really closed at all!

If you want to book any training whilst basting that turkey, or find a course you know will benefit someone whilst toasting in the New Year, just email or give us a ring on 01892 832059 and we’ll be here.  We may be in our PJs but we know you won’t mind that!!

Have a wonderful time with family and friends, use the time for some R&R, dance like no one is watching and we will hope to continue our partnerships with you for the new decade.

Review of the years 2010-2019

As things quieten down for the Christmas period, we’ve taken some time to reflect on the events of this year.  However, with a new decade on the horizon, we’ve also taken the opportunity to look back over the changes in the last 10 years.

  • Would you believe that 2010 saw Apple launch the iPad?  How many of us now use this or similar tablets as a routine means of communication – it seems to have been around forever. Has it improved time management or destroyed it??
  • 2012 saw the success of the London Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee, Windows 8 was released as was the Nintendo Wii….how many Christmas stockings did that fill in 2012?
  • 2014 witnessed the first gay marriage held in England and Wales, Scotland voted No to Independence and we were all moved by the installation of the poppies at the Tower of London in recognition of 100 years since WW1 started.
  • 2015 – The Hadron Collider reached maximum operating power and electric car ownership reached 1 million worldwide.
  • 2016 – Euro 2016 held in France – remember the England vs Iceland game!   The Rio Olympics were another sporting success and polymer bank notes were introduced by the Bank of England.  There was also the election of Donald Trump in the USA and Brexit entered the languages of the UK and Europe…and in some cases the wider world!
  • 2017 – The First HIV vaccine became commercially available and China established the largest megacity in the World.
  • 2018 – Polio eradicated – was this celebrated as widely as it should have been?
  • 2019 – Exomars rover touched down on Mars.  LEDs dominated the lighting industry and the UK gets its 4th Prime Minister of the decade.
  • On an entertainment front, everyone started talking about GoT (Game of Thrones), Harry Potter ended in 2011; Gangnam Style became a dance for all dads; David Attenborough’s Planet Earth impacted on public consciousness with unexpected responses about single use plastics.   We saw the start of Peaky Blinders, Bake Off, Killing Eve, Mad Men, Handmaids Tale and many more that become water cooler discussions on a Monday morning.

For us 2016 was a seismic year, returning to exclusively running Athelbrae full time. The decision to move away from a destructive working relationship in our second company was challenging and the future was uncertain. But realisation that change was essential (if not a little frightening) meant we took a leap of faith and what a positive outcome we’ve had from it both professionally and personally.   The enjoyment and pleasure we get from working in partnership with our fantastic clients and Associates has been the working highlight of the decade for us.  Expansion of the business continues with new Associate Trainers coming on board in 2019 and more for 2020.

The death of actor Robin Williams in 2016 from suicide brought the discussions on mental health and stress to the forefront of the national and international discussions and our specialist trainers continue to provide support, guidance and training to many organisations large and small across the UK and Ireland which has benefitted managers and staff alike.  There are extensive numbers of wellbeing sessions booked for 2020 and it’s great to see the positive message is being built upon across diverse industries.

GDPR hoved onto our horizons and our vocabulary in 2018 and we continue to work with clients in supporting them on their business risk and governance as part of their requirements under the Act.

The National Silver Award in July this year for the Family Business of the Year in Professional Services category was great recognition as we headed into our 21st year and the addition of our daughter, Fran, to the Operations team, means that the business continues to grow and flourish as a family based enterprise.

This decade has seen our son enter and leave University and he’s now working as an HR Business Partner with an emphasis on staff development, so there must be something in the genes!  Both children married in 2015 and 2016 and of course we celebrated the arrival of grandson Connor last year.   His absolute delight in learning and discovering new talents reminds us that learning can and should be fun whatever age you are and we should all sign up as lifelong learners both professionally and personally.

Like many, we have sadly lost family and friends over decade but reflection allows us to appreciate the time we had with them, the effect they had on our lives and to honour their memories.

So looking forward to the next decade there is much to be positive and excited about.  It can be easy to get swept up in the “twittersphere” of bad news and gloom but having some time to sit and reflect on what has gone well; positive changes made; good fortune and family,  is an end of year tradition…..but maybe we should do it more regularly throughout the year to really help us focus on the many downright great things that happen during the 12 month period.

Wishing all clients, suppliers, Associate trainers and colleagues a very Happy Christmas and here’s to a wonderful exciting new decade.


Exercise for Time Management

Module 5 of our Getting to Grips with Management,  New Managers Programme and today is Time Management and Delegation.

Here, our delegates are undertaking an Organisation and Time Management exercise to demonstrate the importance of planning, organising resources and delegating tasks.

Role Play – why do delegates fear it so much?

We used to love role playing!untitled

Delegates universally enter the training room in fear and apprehension that at some point in the day they’ll be forced into a dreaded role play. It’s usually one of the first questions they ask about the day, and can then spend the entire time worrying about the few minutes they’ll be “put on the spot” and be laughed at by their colleagues. Undoubtedly this can then affect their learning and absorption of information because all they do is fret about it.

Yet we used to love role playing. Who hasn’t spent time as a child being a doctor, fireman, Bob the Builder, listened to the dog’s heartbeat with a toy stethoscope as a vet, or changed the toy doll as a mummy or daddy?

We used our imaginations, had conversations in our head (or even out loud) and recreated real life scenarios where we acted out our response, oblivious to who was watching or listening.

So why do we hate it as adults?

Basically we shy away from situations that we fear will make us look stupid/inadequate/awkward, especially in front of our professional colleagues. Unless you are a born actor, we can spend more time worrying about what other people think of us than concentrating on the reason for the role play.

What’s the point then, if so many fear it? How can it be effective?

Jacob Morena, Viennese Psychologist, stated that “people gain more from acting out their problems than talking about them”.

It is true that there are huge positive benefits to not only taking part, but watching how others handle situations and as such, role playing is a cracking learning tool in the training room….BUT it needs to be used correctly to avoid causing more harm than good.

Having a structure is critical – it’s not about the “drama”, but sets a scene that provides the opportunity to re-enforce the right behaviours for dealing with situations and allowing feedback that benefits the learning for individuals and groups as a whole.

What is unhelpful are the “spontaneous” role-plays. We’ve probably all been in a situation where the facilitator has said “can I have a volunteer” and launches into a scenario with no preparation, causing anxiety from the unfortunate who has been landed with the role, and amusement/relief from those who haven’t been picked on! This is no way to learn effectively.

Script Analysis

For those who feel that role playing is an anathema and a block in the training room, another option is script analysis. This is where an interaction is written down – say between a manager and an underperforming member of staff – and the group reads through the responses. After each section, the group of learners evaluates the response given and then suggests alternatives that might be better or equally effective.

It has the benefit of structure, discussing how you may react to a situation or scenario and has reflective thinking time for offering alternatives.

This does need to be well prepared by your training provider, but removes the stigma of “acting” from the group which can be beneficial if there are real concerns about how the delegates will react to the pressure of role play.

Top tips for preparing and undertaking role plays

  1. It is important for the delegates to have the tools to know how they should behave before they are launched into a role play situation. Essentially don’t put them into a difficult situation without first having given them the opportunity to understand what they need to do, and how to react to a scenario. If they are left floundering, trying to find an answer under pressure, they’ll give up and fear both the real life situation when it arises and feel a failure for the rest of the day.
  2. Use professionals! Great corporate actors are skilled in their craft. They flex and adapt the situations; they don’t over-dramatise, as colleagues can sometimes do; they understand the outcome is to provide support and practical guidance for the delegates on future behaviours and are an aid to the learning, not an impedement.
  3. Planning….don’t wing it! Real life scenarios take time to plan and execute accurately and by just making up a situation and making it as hard as possible for the learners isn’t productive or helpful. Your training provider should work with you closely on the types of situations faced by your staff so they can accurately portray this in the role play scenario.
  4. Time out – allowing time out to be called when a delegate is feeling under pressure and flustered is essential. The whole point of doing role play in a safe space is that it isn’t real life! You have the opportunity to stop, reflect, gather thoughts and start again. I know from experience how critical this can be when training to be a bereavement counsellor. No one is expecting you to be perfect first time….that’s the reason for having the role play in the first place!
  5. Learning by watching is especially helpful for interpersonal skills development and many will say that they learn more by seeing what someone else does. A delegate who has had the training and tools to know how to respond, will value the opportunity to practise their reactions and responses, being confident in their approach.

Will you ever get a delegate in a training room that says “yay, role play, great I can’t wait”….maybe not. Managing expectations and fears around those expectations will help and form part of the preparatory precourse work.

We can say that without doubt, whilst many may not claim to enjoy the experience at the time, they all categorically rate role play as one of the most effective and informative elements to a training session and how it has benefitted them in preparing for those real life scenarios. Done well, with planning, structure and ensuring everyone is supportive of one another, it is such a strong element to any training environment.