Enjoy the natural world. Life is amazing. Make a conscious effort during the day to go outside and enjoy all the amazing things going on. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll notice when you make an effort to do so. I love going for a walk early in the morning and listening to the birds singing. I heard a quote once that said, “People look for greatness only in the extraordinary and completely overlook the wonder of the ordinary”, I absolutely agree with this.
As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Phil Norton. Phil is the founder of Leave Dates, a simple online solution for small businesses to plan the leave and absence of their teams. His background is in IT management, where he found it difficult to keep track of when staff were off work. He kept finding key people off at the same time, causing stress and overwork to the rest of the team. He created Leave Dates as an easy to use solution to the problem.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
I’ve always enjoyed keeping fit and like to maintain a healthy work-life balance. It isn’t easy at times, particularly when starting a new business, but maintaining a healthy body is key to a healthy mind. My journey into ‘wellness’ came as I spoke to customers of Leave Dates, who were increasingly concerned about their employees’ wellbeing, and were putting policies, systems and processes in place to take better care of them. It’s an important topic as work-related stress is at an all-time high.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
I don’t like to dwell too much on my mistakes, although I have taken a lot of learnings from the journey of starting up. My most important learning has been that you should focus on marketing before your product is ready; way before! I had heard other people saying this, but never really understood how you could do it. So, like most people, I focused entirely on the product until it was ready to launch, and then launched to an empty room. I don’t come from a marketing background, so it has been a steep learning curve for me in this area.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
Gosh, well I’m definitely not an authority on fitness. If anyone is reading this looking for fitness advice then they have definitely come to the wrong place! In the world of wellness, I’m a practitioner of common sense. I don’t believe there are ‘hacks’ or ‘silver bullets’, but there are some simple things we can do to improve our overall sense of happiness and wellbeing.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Everyone you meet sculpts you in some way. Certainly, my parents gave me a great education, and instilled in me a belief that I could do anything. My dad was a successful business owner, but tragically died when I was at university, so hasn’t been able to offer any guidance for my entrepreneurial journey. I’d love to know what advice he would give me. My wife Liz has been an amazing support and positive influence in my life.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
It’s always a question of head vs heart. I know in my head I shouldn’t eat that chocolate biscuit, and certainly not the entire pack, but my heart wants them. I’m also great at making excuses — I know I should go for a run, but I’ve got some much on, and my knee is a little sore. Time is the last reason, everyone is so busy, it’s impossible to fit everything in, so something gives, and often good habits are the first to go (see my excuses point earlier!).
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)
1. Change your mindset
We all know someone who can see the negative in any situation. Try to be the opposite of this person. When life brings you lemons, make lemonade! There is a wonderful book written by the Dalai Lama called “The Art of Happiness” which talks about happiness and your influence over it; I’d definitely recommend reading this.
2. Work smarter
We’re working too much, too hard, too long, and it’s making us unwell. It doesn’t take a genius to deduce that illness, physical or mental, is bad for business — it’s bad for individual businesses, it’s bad for the economy and we should be taking mitigating actions.
Be honest with yourself: when you’re sat behind your desk, eight hours a day, are you working — I mean really working, full capacity, full concentration, maximum productivity — the whole time? Doubtful. If you added up all the time you spend making cups of tea, chatting with colleagues, getting distracted, distracting others, browsing Facebook, staring blankly at the wall, wishing you were at home… Wouldn’t it be better if you were?
Those minutes and hours are dead time – no good to you, certainly no good to your employer. What if you forced yourself to only work your contracted hours, take regular breaks, and work smarter? You would cover the same amount of work and enjoy some time back for you.
3. Ask for flexibility
Your company may have a wellness policy or a flexible working policy. Are you using it? It is there for employees to benefit from, and if you aren’t using it for your own needs then you’re missing out. Much of the stress we face in the workplace is because we try to fit our home lives in around inflexible working lives. If your company gives you a way to achieve this more easily, then you should be using it. On the other hand, if your employer doesn’t have any formal policies around this, you can always ask…
4. Enjoy the natural world
Life is amazing. Make a conscious effort during the day to go outside and enjoy all the amazing things going on. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll notice when you make an effort to do so. I love going for a walk early in the morning and listening to the birds singing. I heard a quote once that said, “People look for greatness only in the extraordinary and completely overlook the wonder of the ordinary”, I absolutely agree with this.
5. Build exercise into your day
It always amazes me when I see people driving to the gym or waiting for an elevator to go up one flight of stairs. The world seems to need times and places for everything. Is exercise now just for the gym and nowhere else? I always try to keep active during mundane activities. If I need to go upstairs, I don’t take the lift, I bound up the stairs two at a time. If I am running late, I don’t call to say I’m late, I run. If I take my children to the park to kick a football, I don’t watch them, I join in. There are so many opportunities to keep active, don’t miss out on them!
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
I mentioned “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama earlier. This is a wonderful book which really challenges the way you think about life.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d ban people from walking around looking at smartphones. It would force everyone to be in the moment and enjoy the world around us. I’m guilty of doing this and am trying to make a conscious effort to stop!
Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
When I was deciding whether to give up my regular job to pursue my dream of entrepreneurship, I spoke with a friend who had recently done the same thing. His journey in business wasn’t successful and he had been forced to return to the corporate world. He told me that he didn’t regret it for a second and would do it again tomorrow if he could. At this moment I realized there was no downside; if it worked for me then I’d be doing what I had always dreamed of doing, and if it didn’t then I still wouldn’t regret it. As Norman Vincent Peale once wrote “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Richard Branson has always been a great role model for me, so I’d happily meet him for brunch.
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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!