Hello and welcome to my guest blog for Kirsty France.
My name is Chloe Clark, and I am the director at Astral Fitness Sports Massage based in Hinckley. You can find out more about me at www.astralfitness.co.uk .
I specialise in using the hands-on art of Sports Massage to solve desk working related acute and chronic aches and pains in your neck, shoulders, back, and hips. I often help solve issues with other muscles too.
Is your desk set up well for you to sit in an unrestricted way? Do you have one main screen set up well, and a secondary screen or laptop that you frequently look at? It is very important that you set yourself up well for both screens and have a swivel chair so that you can move your whole body to look at each screen rather than twisting your neck. Look at the guide below;
If you can install a standing desk for your work, it will be a game changer not only for your body, but for your brain as well. Your brain operates more efficiently with a better blood flow around the whole body, which, you guessed it, happens when standing and moving about while working.
Have you ever had a bit of a stretch at your desk and felt immediately better? But maybe you’re not sure if you’re stretching in a good way or if it’s doing any good? If it feels good- keep doing it. Stretching is a valuable tool to utilise several times a day to prevent aches and pains setting into your body and causing a longer-term issue. If you don’t stretch at your desk and want to know what to do, visit the below article by BUPA.
Regular movement is vital to having a healthy day at your desk. This could mean getting up and moving to get a drink once an hour, or simply standing and making more of your stretching time each day. If you work alone this is easy enough, and if you’re in an office you might get some stares! Start the trend of regular stretching, your colleagues will thank you for it.
Your body needs movement for optimum health, it is not a losing battle if you’ve got eight hours a day at a desk ahead of you. Any exercise can and will go a long way to keeping you able to work and play in a healthy and pain free manner.
If you don’t exercise regularly, start with something small, five minutes a day is enough to get started.
Try Yoga With Adriene – YouTube , she has hundreds of free videos available for complete beginners as well as the more advanced yogi. Keep a mat close to hand and fit it in during your day if you work from home.
Go for a brisk walk at lunchtime, my favourite of all exercise, and the simplest and easiest way to get started.
Walking in the countryside, a spa day, swimming, indulging in a hobby, getting a massage… the list is endless when it comes to self-care, but it should be something just for you, to allow you time to reset away from your desk so that you can return to it refreshed. This is also true if you run your business from your phone or tablet and often sit on a sofa!
Thank you for taking time to read my guest blog today. If you are struggling to get any of the above to work and need a little extra help, please do get in touch with me, Chloe, for an appointment at www.astralfitness.co.uk
DI Alan McLean sighed and looked at his watch. Only ten minutes until sunset. He could only guess what time Victor Alexander would return home from work and find whatever he was going to find. McLean pulled the file across the desk and opened it again. It was certainly an unusual case. He wondered whether he’d have been sent the file if half of the station hadn’t gone down with a spectacular vomiting bug. Probably not. It wasn’t a major crime yet, although it certainly had potential. At the moment it was a just bizarrely seasonal stalking.
The first photo in the file had been taken on 22nd December, when Mr Alexander had arrived home to find that the front of his house and two shrubberies had been festooned with fairy lights. It was the Santa dummy on the doorstep that had rattled him. Or rather, the sign around its neck that read ‘what will you be getting for Christmas little boy?’ He wasn’t alarmed – far too level-headed for that – but it was a nuisance. He wanted it on record in case something else happened. The Santa was certainly creepy. A real-life version coming down the chimney would have been enough to send you running away screaming. McLean had taken his daughters to a grotto with a far more avuncular specimen.
He looked at his watch again and wondered what they were doing with their Christmas Eve. Was there a festive movie playing at home? The sky had turned orange and it would soon be dark. Had they talked their mum into making hot chocolate yet? He didn’t yet know what time he’d get home. One call from the officers stationed outside Alexander’s house could give him an idea, but his phone remained silent.
He turned back to the file and another photograph. The 23rd of December had brought a new display. Mr Alexander arrived home to find a series of photographs showing happy families celebrating Christmas. They all looked happy, eating and drinking or exchanging presents. The photographs had been blu-tacked to his front door, along with a wreath saying ‘Merry Christmas’. The FIs hadn’t found any fingerprints but they’d sent the whole lot for further examination, just in case. McLean wondered whether they’d been decimated by vomit too.
Now it was Christmas Eve. Time to find out whether Mr Alexander would come home to another prank or something more serious. He read Alexander’s statements again. He was the senior partner in a firm of accountants based in Leicester city centre. It clearly paid well – the house was large and in an affluent part of town. Yet he lived alone. Conversations with his neighbours revealed a man who worked long hours and didn’t socialise. Perhaps that was why they hadn’t noticed the new decorations being added to his house. McLean wondered whether he should feel sorry for the man, or whether he liked things that way. He drummed his fingers on the desk. It was finally dark. Surely something had to happen soon. There were two plain clothes officers in a car outside the house and a patrol car nearby. His phone buzzed. Mr Alexander had arrived home and there was no obvious sign of any interference with his property. Maybe it had just been a strange practical joke that had fizzled out. Hopefully that meant that he could go home soon. He liked Christmas Eve better than Christmas Day; there was something wonderful about the anticipation. He’d loved sharing the traditions from his childhood in Glasgow too. Most of them had been the same as the English customs, except one. His wife had never heard that you should light a candle and put it in your front window to welcome strangers. Their children had turned it into a candle to welcome Santa instead. He smiled, wondering if the candle would be there to light him home. The phone rang.
“Go ahead. Understood. I’m on my way.”
Alexander’s house looked even more impressive in real life than it did in the photos. The fact that there was a top of the range Jaguar parked in the drive didn’t hurt. McLean knew the plain clothes officer who answered the door.
“Evening sir. We found him in the garage, turning off the power. He’s in the living room now. Mr Alexander wanted a word.” He ended on an eye roll. It had obviously been a trying night already.
As McLean entered the room, his eyes were immediately drawn to the display on the wall next to the fireplace. ‘How does it feel to spend Christmas alone in the dark?’ It had been created by a projector that sat on the carpet.
Another officer rose from the sofa as he entered the room. He’d been sitting next to a pale young man in handcuffs, who was shaking so much McLean wasn’t sure he was capable of standing. It was a stark contrast to the beetle-browed man in the armchair. McLean knew it was Victor Alexander before he stood up to identify himself and shake hands. He had a firm handshake and a piercing gaze. McLean remembered his neighbours’ comments and wondered what it would be like to work for him. You certainly wouldn’t argue with him. The man was physically unremarkable yet somehow, he had force.
“I know it’s not the usual form, but I wanted to hear his explanation before you took him away.”
McLean nodded. “Have you had an explanation?”
Alexander shook his head. “I’m waiting for him to stop trembling. Come on, pull yourself together man!”
There was another chair opposite the sofa and McLean sank into it. He looked into the eyes of the handcuffed man and saw the effort that he was making to form a sentence. Finally, with a gulp and a deep breath, he spoke.
“He doesn’t remember who I am.”
“We’ve met a few times. I used to come and pick Fiona up when she was working late, save her getting the bus home.” He glanced at Alexander. “That happened quite a lot.”
“Fiona?” Alexander said. “Do you mean Fiona Mitchell?”
“My wife. I’m Mark Mitchell.”
“She was a good worker; I was sorry to lose her.”
“I bet you were. All that overtime for no extra pay.”
“She was dedicated.”
“She was overworked!”
“Is that what this is about?” McLean asked. “Getting your own back on your wife’s old boss? Why?”
Mark was shaking his head. “That’s not it. Let me explain.”
He fell silent until Alexander ran out of patience and told him to get on with it.
“I met Fiona when she was a trainee accountant. She was already working for Mr Alexander’s firm and they were paying for her training. I had quite a few friends who’d gone into law and finance so I knew you had to work hard to make it. The trouble was it never stopped. She told me that once she was qualified, she’d have more of her own clients so she could plan her workload. No more late nights because one of the partners needed her to do something urgent. Except it didn’t work that way. She became a safe pair of hands, someone he,” he nodded at Mr Alexander, “could rely on for sensitive work.”
Alexander nodded. “That’s true enough.”
“When we got married, she had to beg for two weeks off to go on honeymoon. Her Dad had a heart attack and he rang her to ask her to come in while he was still in surgery.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Of course you didn’t. You don’t exactly encourage personal confidences. But how hard is it to realise that you don’t call someone into work on a day their relative is near death?”
Alexander didn’t reply.
“Christmases were the worst. They always open because tax returns are due at the end of January and their clients often use their Christmas down time to get up to date. Somehow Fiona always ended up working because she didn’t have children.”
“That wasn’t my decision. I left all of that to the office manager.”
“Yeah, but plenty of people asked you to intervene because it was unfair. You could have done that, but you just closed your office door and let the office manager’s cronies get their own way. Every Christmas I’d have to go and visit my family on my own. Every year I’d sit there, seeing the sideways looks between my aunties. Their poor neglected nephew with a career woman for a wife. As if she had a choice. All because you don’t need a break if you haven’t got kids. The irony is, we really wanted them. It wasn’t for a lack of trying.”
“Is that why she left?” McLean asked.
“Yeah. She got home from work one Christmas Eve and just sobbed; she was exhausted. We had two days leave together before she had to be back in the office. I wanted to wrap her in a blanket and sit her on the sofa but she needed to see her family. We spent the whole time travelling around to visit everyone, then she went back to work. She handed her notice in a couple of weeks later.”
Alexander was nodding. “I remember. I still don’t understand why you did all of this. Were you trying to give me a terrible Christmas as some sort of revenge?”
“No. That wasn’t it. Have you read ‘A Christmas Carol’? Charles Dickens?”
Mark looked around the room, addressing the question to all of them. Someone muttered that they’d seen the film and McLean wondered if they meant the Muppet version. “Scrooge didn’t understand Christmas. He thought that life was all about money so he ended up alone and friendless, with no-one to mourn him. You reminded me of that story. You’re all alone in this lovely house until you go back to work. Maybe you’re happy that way, I don’t know. It sounds daft now I say it out loud, but I thought that if I could recreate the ghosts, it would help you to understand what Christmas is for. That it might make you think about your employees and look after them a bit better.” He went quiet but McLean had a strong impression that he was holding something back.
“Did you have something else to say?” McLean asked. “Now’s your chance.”
“It’s just – are you happy Mr Alexander?”
Alexander looked surprised. “I can’t remember the last time anyone asked me that. No, I don’t suppose I am. I grew up in a family where hard work and fun were equally important. Oh, we had the most wonderful Christmases back then.” His eyes shone as he spoke. “My father used to dress up as Father Christmas for the children’s party at the factory and I had to pretend I didn’t know it was him. Then over the years, hard work took over and the fun stopped. My wife, Belinda, died.” His voice faltered. “She had breast cancer. We didn’t have children so when she went I was all alone. It’s easier to bury yourself in work than to submit to the sympathy of well-meaning neighbours. Then one day you find that work is all you have.”
He looked up at Mark. “I’m sorry about Fiona, I didn’t realise she was so unhappy. The truth is, I liked it when she came in over Christmas. I don’t suppose she liked me very much, but she was kind. It reminded me of Belinda. She was good at looking after people, I expect Fiona’s the same.”
Mark nodded. “She is. Everyone except herself. I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you.” He looked up at McLean. “I don’t think I want to press charges. Am I able to do that? Can you just let him go?”
“We can. He broke into your garage, but that’s his only offence.”
Everyone stood up and the sergeant removed Mark’s handcuffs.
“There was one other thing.” Alexander said. “Why now? Fiona left nearly two years ago, what prompted you to visit me this year?”
Mark smiled and reached into a pocket for his phone. He found what he was looking for with a few taps and held it out towards Alexander. “This is our daughter, Angela. It’s her first Christmas.”
The sergeant went ahead of McLean to stand down the patrol car that had pulled up in front of the house. Victor and Andrew shook hands on the doorstep.
“I can’t supply you with a giant goose, but I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.”
“Thank you. The whole family are descending tomorrow so it’ll definitely be busy, but at least we’ll have a few quiet days afterwards. What will you do?”
“I don’t know. I’ll think of something.”
As they walked down the path, a woman of about fifty walked up. “I’m sorry to intrude, but I saw the police car; is everything all right?”
“Yes, thank you.” Victor replied. “Just a misunderstanding.”
“Oh, that’s good.” McLean saw her hesitate, biting her lip. “Look – I know we don’t really know each other, but Belinda was a good friend to me. I loved her very much and I don’t believe she’d want you to be on your own at Christmas. Would you like to come over for a drink?”
“Thank you, I’d like that.”
McLean smiled. It was a lovely gesture but he still felt as if he might throw up. He checked his watch. If he was lucky, he’d be home in time for hot chocolate.
It’s a cliché for a reason – people buy people. Most big brands don’t build themselves around the personality of the owner, but small businesses like ours have to. It can feel utterly squirm inducing to put yourself out there in your marketing, but it’s worth it. Your personality is the biggest difference between your business and every other similar one out there. Need more convincing? Read this. If you’re already sold on the idea of putting more of your personality into your marketing, read on. I’ve got some great ideas to get you started.
Write the way you talk
Grammar is a slippery little beast. I know the rules which means that I can bend and occasionally break them for effect. (Like starting a sentence with a conjunction – my ten-year-old was horrified by that one.) The great thing about content writing is that the overall effect is more important than sticking to the rules. You can write the way you speak and your content will often be better for it, as long as it gets your point across.
If you find it difficult to sit down and write, start by recording yourself. Imagine you’re explaining something to a customer and go from there. You’ll be able to hear the phrases you naturally use and include them in your writing. You can then edit your writing yourself or send it to someone like me.
Show your face
If this idea makes you want to hide under a rock, I get it. I’ve built up my confidence over time but there are still days where I’ve planned to go live and talk myself out of it. The reason I do it is because it helps people get to know me. When you show your face, it gets more personality into your marketing. It makes it more likely that people will pay attention because they recognise you from earlier posts or face to face networking. You stop being a faceless business owner and turn into someone they can trust.
The easiest ways to show your face involve video, whether it’s live, prerecorded or a reel. Plan what you’re going to say then just press the button and start talking. The more you do it, the easier it gets. If you really can’t face that yet, start with photos that have you in them and build from there.
Tell a story
The human brain loves stories. We associate them with happy childhood memories or good times with friends. Telling a story in your marketing can put your audience in the main character’s shoes or give them insight into your life. (Which gives them another opportunity to see you as a real human being.) Case studies are a great way to do this as you can tell them the story of someone you helped who is just like them. They can identify with their struggles and see you as the solution.
Sharing a story from your life is ideal if you share common ground with your audience. You might have been in their shoes in terms of life experience, for example as a parent. You could also have felt the same emotions, like overwhelm or imposter syndrome. It doesn’t mean sharing your life story but giving a bit of yourself will help you to build a relationship with your audience.
If you’d rather get to know me a bit first, you can sign up to my mailing list for blogging hints and tips straight to your inbox every month. You can unsubscribe whenever you like and I won’t share your information with anyone else.
When the Christmas scramble is over it’s time to turn your attention to a shiny new year. (If you’re really organised the best time to plan for the new year is before your Christmas marketing even starts.) If you plan your marketing on the hoof and never feel as if you’re quite on top of it, I’m here to help. Here are my 4 easy steps to help you plan your marketing for 2022.
Map your services to subject areas
This might sound like I’m stating the bleeding obvious, but your content needs to talk about stuff you want to sell. The key is to cover relevant topics in a way that shows your expertise but also lets your customers know that you understand them. You can keep things really broad at this stage and come up with general subject areas. For me, this part of the plan includes blogging, website copy and content marketing. Once you’ve come up with those, start to think about the challenges that your customers face that you can help with. Shifting your focus to the things that your audience care about will help you to come up with topics. Which brings me to…
Break the big ideas down into smaller topics
Within every big subject area there will be loads of smaller subjects. If you’re a beauty therapist one of your key areas might be skincare. Your audience will have different needs depending on their skin type, individual problems or even the time of year. Break them all down into the smallest topics you can think of. If you’re writing content for December your customers might be looking for Christmas gift ideas, ways to protect their skin in the colder weather or how to look after their skin during Christmas party season when they’re wearing make up more often. The narrower your topic, the more likely it is to be useful to your audience.
Choose a monthly focus
Marketing is pointless if it isn’t consistent. (You’ve probably heard me say that before.) We learn by repetition and studies suggest that someone needs to see your message at least 7 times before it sinks in. When you choose a monthly focus for your marketing it means that every piece of content sends the same core message. Even if your followers don’t see everything you share, the message sinks in and they understand what you offer. It also makes it easier for you to plan your marketing each month because everything comes back to the same central focus. It also means that you can use my next tip much more easily.
Repurpose your blog
A blog is a wonderful piece of content because it’s endlessly reusable. You can take each blog post and break it down into individual tips to share on social media. You can use each tip more than once, creating different types of content. That could include image posts, stories, Reels or other kinds of video just for starters. Look at your analytics to work out what your audience likes and try out new things to see what reaction you get. It saves you time because you don’t have to constantly plan new marketing content or write new words for each individual post. Don’t worry about repeating yourself because no-one sees everything you share.