hand-814694_640Most of us face an incredible amount of pressure each day. The deadlines, demanding schedules, and other frustrations that we deal with can wreak havoc on our physical and mental health. The impact of stress on our brain, however, is particularly significant.

Strain and tension lead to the rise of cortisol, adrenaline and other hormones in the body, which can shorten one’s attention span, lead to impaired memory, alter our mood and even interfere with our ability to sleep. The following tips will help you to be able to better cope with the effects of stress and keep your brain healthy!

Use it or Lose it

One of the best ways to preserve your brain function is to use it! When our brains are actively engaged in learning something new, it takes the focus of our attention away from what is causing us to feel stressed out. So, keep your mind actively engaged in something new, and meaningful, to help you beat the effects of stress on the mind. Sign up for a class in a new language, join a book club, or volunteer for a worthy cause to help keep your mind active and increase your resiliency to stress.

Work it Out

Activities that really get our hearts to pumping and increase the circulation of our oxygen rich blood to our brains can also help us beat the effects of stress. Look for ways to increase your physical activity level each day to improve both your cardiovascular health and the health of your brain. Take a short, but brisk, 15 to 20 minute walk during your lunch break, take up dancing, or even consider riding a bicycle to work are all easy ways to increase your activity level each day.

Fill Up on the Right Fuel

If we want our bodies, including our brain, to be able to perform at their peak level, it’s important that we provide them with the right fuel. Look for ways to increase your overall health to make certain that your brain has the right stuff to operate at a high level.

Skip foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt and eat a balanced diet that includes more nutritious foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean, heart healthy proteins such as baked, steamed or poached fish to provide your brain with the fuel that it needs to beat the effects of stress. Other habits that are good fuel for your brain include getting a good night’s rest on a daily basis and getting regular checkups with your doctor to monitor the condition of your overall health and well-being.

Take Breaks and Learn to Focus

Most of us have so much on our daily plate that we feel constantly pulled in a dozen different directions. It’s tempting to try to multi-task in an attempt to try to get more done, but, some research now suggests that being distracted as we work on a task increases our stress and frustration and actually makes a less productive. If you find that you really aren’t getting a lot done during your day, consider setting aside small blocks of time for each of your tasks and truly focus on one task at a time before you move on to your next assignment. Don’t forget to take frequent breaks throughout your day to help relieve some of the pressure and help your mind to be more alert and active.

Less is More so Lighten Your Load

According to an article published earlier this year at ABC News, research conducted at the University of Melbourne indicates that working more hours can actually increases our stress levels and decreases our productivity levels. This is especially true for workers over the age of 40. So, you can decrease your level of stress, and increase your effectiveness by looking for ways to work smarter rather than harder and longer.

Consider decreasing the hours that you work each week, and look for ways to get others on board with helping you complete your tasks. Look for ways to increase camaraderie and trust as well as cooperation and collaboration in your office. By working together and helping one another out, it’s likely that you and your team will accomplish more, and have a more enjoyable and less stressful time accomplishing the work.

It’s impossible to avoid all stress in our daily life, and, some studies indicate that small doses of stress can actually increase our brain’s ability to process information and complete tasks. Taking steps to reduce the amount of stress that you deal with on a daily basis, and increase your brain’s endurance and resilience to pressure will help reduce the negative effects of stress on your brain and improve your sense of well-being.

pexels-photo-29210If not careful, it is too easy to become stuck in a rut with our creativity and our businesses. You need to find ways to grow new ideas and look for ways to enhance current business practices. Sometimes it is easier said than done. Here are some ways to help you come up with some ideas to take your business to the next level.

Breakfast brainstorming

There is no better way to get the brain juices than to brainstorm. Order in the coffee and croissants and see what happens. Make it fun and spontaneous with no pressure. Mixing up routines can lead to great suggestions.

Take the brainstorming session outdoors

Sometimes a stale office environment fails to help creative suggestions. Take the team for a walk around the park or get them outdoors. Exercise can do wonders for our creativity and allows us to come up with ideas that we may not have thought of in a traditional setting.

Let the noise in

You might feel you want to shut your door to concentrate, but ambient noise and chatter can actually promote creativity. So open those windows and doors and let the outside activity come in.

Put a deadline on it

If you want the team to come up with some new ideas, then put a deadline on it. It is amazing what our brains can do when we know we are close to a meeting looming in the distance. We often come up with the best ideas at the last minute.

Minimise distractions

If you are consistently checking the emails or looking at your phone, then your creativity will be lost among the myriad of distractions presented to us in an office situation. If you want time to focus then switch them off and turn your attention to the task at hand.

Opt for regular breaks

If you are feeling overworked, then it might be time to take a break. Schedule a long lunch or go for a quick walk around the office to clear your head. Stretch, recharge and grab some water to ensure you are feeling hydrated. Short breaks during the day do our brain a lot of good.

Take time off

Often we need a change of environment to get our minds thinking outside of the box. An extended weekend or even a mini holiday to lift some weight off your shoulders and get back into creativity mode can do wonders. Overstressing and overworking are two major hindrances to our natural creative successes.

You never know when the creativity surges will come. Keep a notepad and pen in your bag and jot down any ideas that come your way whether you are exercising or relaxing by the beach. Allow those singular creative moments to grow and inspire many more to come.

linkedin-400850_640The fifth edition of ‘Enhancing Not-for-Profit Annual and Financial Reporting’ has been released over at CharteredAccountants.com.au.

This is a valuable resource for NFPs, covering best practice guidance in their reporting and recent regulatory changes, including information for ACNC registered charities.

The guide incorporates the current requirements of the ACNC and other state-based regulators. It also places a focus on transparent reporting, which is a big issue with stakeholders and supporters.  As you know, the Admin Bandit software has been designed to encourage and support transparency of accounts.

Over the last three to four years, the sector has seen some significant regulatory changes that impact the nature and extent of NFP financial reporting. The changes in this edition include:

  • the introduction of the Australian Charities and Notfor-profits Commission (ACNC) from 3 December 2012, impacting reporting obligations for charities from 1 July 2013
  • changes to the financial reporting and audit requirements of incorporated associations legislation and regulations in some states and territories, including the anticipated introduction of the new Associations Incorporation Act 2015 (WA) from 1 July 2016
  • the introduction of the new-format audit report for financial years ending on or after 15 December 2016.

These events have been reflected in the guidance provided in this publication to the extent possible.

The guide is free and can be downloaded here.

It’s time we had a little humour around here and what better way to introduce it than by poking gentle fun at spreadsheets.

Yes, we think they are outdated for most uses and we believe that our software will give you a superior result without the stress.

If you’re on the side of the spreadsheets, you really do need to watch this clip. I doubt that your passion for them could match up!

Treat yourself to 13 minutes of nerd humour.

sport-1014015_640Whether or not your charity or association is involved in sports or some other athletic endeavour, there may come a time when you become involved in recruiting for your NFP. After all, even NFPs that don’t host actual teams often host sports events as part of their fundraising and other activities.

For your nonprofit to do well in competitive events, it’s important to find and recruit individuals with just the right mix of skills, talents and experience. Hopefully, you will be able to find someone that has “what it takes” to be able to quickly catch on and score for your side.

Is it Possible to Tell Who Has the Right Stuff at Just a Glance?

When scouting for the ideal recruit for your team, it’s normal to want to find someone that you believe will just be naturally great. It’s difficult to tell just on the surface of things, however, if someone has just the “right stuff,” to make them great at a specific position on a team, especially if they’ve never even previously played the game.

When it comes to being “great” at something, which do you think matters more when it comes time to perform specific tasks? Is it more important to relentlessly train and study your whole life, or are the genes that you are born with important as well?

Genes, Experience or Both?

According to a recent ASAP Science Video, it takes a combination of both natural born talent, and training to become a truly great athlete. According to information in the video, regardless of what type of physical endeavour was being measured, those who have the potential to become great at a particular sport tend to be born with traits that make them more likely to be high responders.

A high responder is someone that is genetically more likely to respond positively to training and physical conditioning, and over 50% of improvement that folks experience when they train comes down to their genetics. People that are high responders are more likely to experience greater growth and endurance regardless of how physically fit they might be before they begin training.

Research also shows that each of us also has a different baseline of relative physical ability and endurance before we even start training. A different set of genes is responsible for this trait.  This means that individuals can be either a high responder and have a faster, better response to training, or they can naturally have a higher baseline. Sometimes, individuals have the genes for both of these traits.

How Personal Leadership Impacts Both Genes and Training

Therefore it’s likely that the best athletes already have great genes that predispose them to improved athletic ability. These naturally athletic individuals are then able to further increase their results by additional training and conditioning. Rather than favouring one over the other, it appears that talent is, to some extent, trainable.

Success isn’t just genes and training, however. Ideally, you should seek recruits that exhibit a high potential for ability and talent, that also show personal responsibility. Without personal leadership, it’s impossible to stay motivated to stick with a training regimen. Without determination and accountability, athletes eventually neglect training and fail to improve their natural gifts and abilities and transform their talent into actual greatness.

While the studies looked at athletic ability, it’s likely that having the right mix of talent, training and determination also applies to other endeavours and areas of our lives. So, whether you are looking for your club’s next goalie or, need to hire someone to be an effective fundraiser, if you want to recruit someone for your team that’s likely to be great, look at that person’s record of personal responsibility and determination in addition to their talents and experiences.

The Perfect Recruit Leads

Being responsible and self-motivated, constantly pushing, and training, towards excellence, are the key traits upon which other leadership skills are based. Whether it’s the ball field or the board room, there is a genuine need to find and recruit more leaders to turn natural ability and effort into greatness.  Want a great player, volunteer or staff member for your NFP’s team on and off the field? Look for those who are already leading themselves, and others, to greatness in other areas of their lives.

good leadersSo what makes a great leader? If I asked a variety of people from different backgrounds, I would be given a myriad of responses from good communication to honesty and a whole list of other things in between. Leadership is indeed a complicated topic, and there are, of course, many ingredients that go into making a great leader.

Simon Sinek, management theorist and author, suggests that a good leader is someone who makes their employees feel secure, and it is indeed an interesting thought process. By drawing your team into a circle of trust, there is nothing that cannot be achieved as a group. But this trust and safety does not come overnight. You cannot automatically ask someone to trust you without offering any reason to do so; it just doesn’t happen this way.

As a leader, you have to show your employees that their job is 100% secure and that they are supported every step of the way. If there is risk or insecurity within their particular role or set of responsibilities, then trust will not be rewarded. If your employees are scared about breaking rules or losing their job, then the safety net is broken. Once employers know that you have their back, then naturally you will be rewarded in kind with their commitment to the role and the company.

Simon Sinek described the situation accurately in a TED Talk on this subject.

“I was flying on a trip, and I was witness to an incident where a passenger attempted to board before their number was called, and I watched the gate agent treat this man like he had broken the law, like a criminal. He was yelled at for attempting to board one group too soon. So I said something. I said, “Why do you have treat us like cattle? Why can’t you treat us like human beings?” And this is exactly what she said to me. She said, “Sir, if I don’t follow the rules, I could get in trouble or lose my job.” All she was telling me is that she doesn’t feel safe.

The above example is not an environment that any of us would want to work in. The leaders in that organisation obviously don’t value their employees and don’t know the first thing about ensuring job safety or indeed, satisfaction. This scaremongering is common particularly in industries where people are being let go of on a regular basis. Imagine going to work being fearful of your job! How can you work to your best ability under those circumstances?

Being a leader is a choice. It is not just a rank as determined by a title. Leaders should be the ones who lead – who aren’t afraid to go first or to make mistakes. They are the ones who should sacrifice their bonuses for their team members. And when the going gets tough in an organisation, real leaders are the ones who should stand up for their members and fight for their jobs despite backlash or the challenges ahead.

Now that’s a leader I would want to work for. One who would fight for me – one who would give me respect first and foremost. We need to see more leaders who will ‘lead’ the way and show the future generations of leaders to come how it is done.

Safety is paramount to the leadership cause and when trust is inclusive in the role, the sky’s the limit for results and expectations.

interior-design-828545_640Setting rules around minute taking is one of those management issues that most organisations put off improving. After all, isn’t there more important work to be done than fine-tuning a process that doesn’t have earth-shattering results? There is a lot to be gained from streamlining how notes are taken at meetings. Even small, non-profit groups are advised to insist on a certain, consistent standard, for the good of the attendees, the minute taker, and the organisation as a whole. Let’s look at some of the steps NFPs can take towards making sure meeting minutes are up to standard.

Set a suitable agenda

To a certain extent, what goes on in a meeting can be predicted by how the meeting agenda is set. An agenda with a few broad, sweeping topics could lead to a meeting of brainstorming and tangental conversation. A more structured agenda, with a list of concise, finite topics, or firm decisions to be made can run at a different pace, and will produce a different looking set of minutes too. Meeting minute templates can be set out in advance of the meeting, reflecting the agenda, and making it easy for people in the meeting to fill in the details as the meeting unfolds.

The details deserve to be dealt with

As well as being consistent and thorough about taking down exactly who is in a meeting, and when it takes place, other details that will always be relevant include motions moved and passed, and what was said about each individual item on the agenda. Decisions about next steps to projects in full swing should be noted, including who is responsible for further follow ups.

Aim for Clarity and Thoroughness

When recorded properly, meeting minutes will fill in a reader about every important occurrence at any given meeting. Through the minutes, the reader should be able to catch up without being in attendance, as well as find out if topics were covered or missed, if decisions were made or put off, and who to ask for the latest details about meeting topics. They are helpful for communicating how the organisation is run, and how decisions are made, and can be drawn from to confirm understandings or solve discrepancies in knowledge.

For more details and advice about taking minutes for meetings, click on this link to order the Institute of Community Director’s “The Minutes Handbook: A Complete Guide For Not-For-Profit Boards”.