Would you like to earn £20,000 more than the average? If so you need to become a triathlete apparently. A report out recently found that playing organised sport on a regular (twice a month) basis equated with earning more money, the biggest gap coming from those who swim, bike and run. Now, they are not saying that if you start playing sport, you will get wealthy. But they are noticing a correlation between people who are active and people who earn.
The article in the Times that brought it to my attention quoted the Opinion Matter survey and suggested that a reason for this might be that the skils that we gain from taking part in sport are similar to those soft skills that employers are seeking. This is certinaly true. Communication, teamwork and confidence, that are used and can be enhanced through sport, are harder to train on the job than technical abilities. Consequently, a candidate in interview who can display these and relate stories of their competence is more likely to appeal. These candidates potentially get better remunerated jobs.
I would suggest though that there are other benefits that accrue; keeping physically active stimulats the brain and helps us think better. This must have an impact on how we work, which will eventually have an effect on how much we earn.
On top of this, having an interest outside work that helps us to switch off from the pressure and allows us to de-stress in productive ways, whilst giving us something interesting to chat about in those down-time moments in the office make us a more appealing colleague. This can't hurt our prospects either.
I'm not suggesting that we must all go out and do sport. But the fact that there are work benefits to be found in our leisure activities is worth considering. What are you currently doing 'for fun' and how does it impact on your job and how well you do it? How can you market those benefits to your advantage? If you want to chat through some ideas then feel free to get in touch.
It seems these days that parents have all the fear and children have none. Reading "No Fear; Growing Up in a Risk-Averse Society" by Tim Gill (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2007, London) has been quite enlightening. It talks of how all our adult fears about children's safety has seriously impacted on their freedom. Measures have been taken as knee-jerk reactions to one-off tragedies because we are scared it might happen again. Walking to school, seesaws and playing in the street (or even just remote from parental supervision) are all examples of freedoms that I had that many young children no longer enjoy. At the extreme end of the spectrum, Gill even quotes stories of children being penalised by the police for chalk pictures on the pavement (graffitti) or cautioned by a local authority for anti-social behaviour; a 3 year-old playing football.
So, children have no fear because they are never exposed to any real dangers nowadays. If we are happy to treat our young people as beings to be protected then this would probably be a good state of affairs. If, however, we want to see them grow and develop with an understanding of risks, (how to live with them, manage them and avoid being dealt serious harm by them) then it quite patently is bad. Yes, it will probably result in our children visiting A&E more often, having more bumps, scrapes and kneefuls of gravel. No, this won't signify that we are bad and uncaring adults. You never know, it might even allow them to grow up with a greater streak of resilience than a lot of adults display nowadays.
Since homes seem to be some of the most dangerous places for children (they are more at risk from family members or other acquantances than from strangers) lets help them in lots of ways by allowing them outside, out of sight even. Arthur Ransome's heroes didn't mean to go to sea - the current generation of children will be lucky to even smell the beach through the car window at the rate we are going. Let's make some changes in our communities, maybe by trusting in a community first of all.
For all this though, we adults might need to tackle our own fears.
As some of you may have noticed from my Tweet on Friday, I spent some time in a piano bar that evening. It was in Cologne airport on my way home from a seminar in Germany - very relaxing with good tunes like 'Fly me to Dunoon' that seemed appropriately apt for the occasion. However, we were still talking about the seminar a bit and about future work. So was it laid back work or job-related leisure? Likewise, I was in an outdoor centre yesterday where we had a bit of time to sit and wait for the clients. We sat drinking tea and chatting - as you do - but again, was that relaxing work or just catching up with friends but in work time?
In the old days, when far more of us used to work 9 to 5, I think the boundaries were a lot clearer. At 5 you left the office or wherever, switched off the work bit of your brain and went home. Whilst leisure as a concept didn't exist in the same way, at least you could relax from thinking about the stresses and strains of work, even if you had other worries to occupy you at home. Just like the students this weekend who were relaxing their maths brains by going gorge walking, so for us too, maybe a change is as good as a rest.
How can we make it easier to switch off, to stop thinking about work more quickly?
Maybe we just need to think less - possibly its a behavioural issue that is more problematic for some of us than others. Alternatively, do we need to actively think about other things, substituting 'happy thoughts' in place of our work worries? Another option would be to be active, where doing something focusses our mind elsewhere.
As well as contributing to our balance between work and other aspects of life, knowing what we can use to distract ourselves can also play a part in how resilient we are too, which in itself will make us better able to cope with the occasonal imbalances in how we use our time.
What works for you? When you are finding work is engaging too many of your out of office thoughts, what do you do to redress the balance?
Just to prove that I too am capable of balance in my life occasionally, and to disarm the critics that claim I work too much, I provide evidence in video form.
I watched The Social Network this weekend and it's definitely a good film worth seeing. If you aren't up to speed on it, it basically charts the creation of facebook and tells something of the story of Mark Zuckerberg its creator. Check out a plot summary here to find out more. Two things particularly struck me though:
1) When Sean Parker (founder of napster) asks him about his passion for building thefacebook it almost went without saying that not only did Zuckerberg breathe and live it but that this was somehow right. He is obviously a coding genius and absolutely committed to his project to the point of obsession but the chance of creating such a cultural landmark surely should not drive us to those kinds of lengths. Or should it? Is there an objective balance point beyond which none of us should ever stray in terms of spending long hours at work or is it subjective and down to us to find what is right for us? Discuss...
2) I realised again how addictive some people find facebook. I have often found it a source of distraction when I am supposed to be working and as I look back I can see times when I have had to work later because I have been less productive during my 'work hours'. Is this a symptom indicating that we are struggling to separate life and work? I think once these boundaries start to dissolve it is much harder to find your balance. Part of you feels guilty (maybe) for having been checking FB in work and feels you owe the boss the time but you can also see work not completed and know that it may be your own fault for having been distracted. You have now successfully justified staying late. If it happens with our fb use, does it happen for other things? How can we become 100% present in our work so that at the end of our allotted hours we can pack up with a clear conscience and walk away?
So it would seem that deleting distractions during work time may ultimately provide us with a life outside work in which to indulge the things that distract us from our work. Oh doesn't it sound so simple...
If you like this, sign up here for the occasional newsletter as well.
Nick has been writing for mass consumption ever since he was sending newsletters home from the Philippines 20+ years ago. He has carried on putting finger to keyboard, branching out into magazines, manuals and recently submitting lots of words for books. He has always aimed to be entertaining but at the same time challenging. If you like something, feel free to pass it on to someone else, but if you are challenged by it then even better - write a comment, start a debate, add to the fun.