Monthly Archives: November 2020

 

I lay awake on a Saturday night that I had just enjoyed with my partner and our neighbors and even though it was only Saturday I felt a creeping dissatisfaction about all I wanted to achieve the next working week. I am not sure how you feel but the fact that I attend most meetings online now creates more anxiety when a topic is really important to me. I feel that in a physical meeting I would be able to show my emotions better and usually I can be very convincing in such situations and achieve what I would like to achieve. Oftentimes, the point of such a meeting is to bring the other person or persons to an action or a decision.

But then, when I started to think about my week I felt there were so many small and urgent tasks to worry about that I would not be able to adequately prepare those critical meetings where I would want to be fully present and prepared. And in order not to let anxiety dominate my thinking I did what I usually do in such situations: I fell asleep. I woke up refreshed, made myself a cup of coffee and started to work. Methodically I moved from one minor task to the next to set up my mind for success the next week. Then what happened next was that I was able to take my mind off the small tasks before the end of the weekend and I could focus on the “big wins” again.

And yes, it is easy to worry but usually action helps me the best to get out of the state of worry. What often blocks my flow is not a lack of motivation, it’s rather a feeling of having too much to do and too little time for fun and play. Here, as an entrepreneur I developed the habit of allowing myself to not be reachable for anybody on certain days and just work in my pyjamas if I feel like it. If I work on weekends, I usually schedule time in the morning so I can still go out and spend time with my loved ones in the afternoon. I even leave my phone in its bed for several hours on the weekend to be more present for my partner and friends.

I know what you are thinking now: “But what if a major client is trying to reach you and you are not responding for hours? Or what if there is an emergency? Or what if you wish to google something quickly? Or what if you forget important tasks because you have so much on your plate?” (And then, when you think of all that, you stop your activity and you decide not to follow your idea of starting a business because it suddenly seems “unrealistic” and “building castles in the skies”, and “it won’t be good for my old-age pension if I don’t get a regular salary…”, and “I don’t have enough experience, money, support to start my own business…”)

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt a major change was about to happen in your career or life but you were too frightened to even start? You might not call it “FEAR”, you will probably think it is “REASON”, but believe me my friend…all those stories you are telling yourself why it won’t work are based out of fear. This fearful voice was probably borne a long time ago when you were a child and you were probably born into a culture where taking risks was not encouraged, where everyone believed in planning, predicting and pushing through.

I think we all have experienced this issue before and I would like to call it the “mountain of tasks” that leads to a block in activity. It’s similar to sports. Once you stop doing sports it is really hard to be motivated again.

1 – Deal with Monday Anxiety

I believe that there are two ways to deal with the Monday Anxiety I am describing above. One is that you engage in your purpose. You clearly define why this task helps you to fulfil your purpose in life and on earth. 

The other trick is to hack the “mountain of tasks” into smaller bits and pieces, make it doable and start with a small baby step. Therefore it is important to create a system that helps you keep an overview of your tasks. Most of you probably have developed a system over the years to track tasks and projects.

However, what I am noticing and have talked about in the last two blog posts is that we are starting a lot of work and it remains stuck in Work-in-Progress because of various factors. I would like to encourage you to complete your Work-in-Progress before the year end and see how that makes you feel.

If you cannot fully complete a project, define a new milestone that you would like to have achieved by the end of the year. List all those milestones on a wall where you can see them, either by using post-it notes or a hand-written task list.

2 – Develop Weekly Practices

I read that you will perform a habit if you are able to run the same task on 21 consecutive days. Considering the year-end is approaching fast and we literally do not have a lot of time left before the Christmas holidays I would suggest you use this time to develop one weekly practice to enhance your visibility on social media and network more effectively on LinkedIn.

I would like to suggest that you develop your social media muscle. Here are a few ideas of what you could do. Remember to set the goal low. You could say: I will work on social media for 25 minutes every day.

These are the tasks I will try to perform in one week.

1) Start the week with LinkedIn endorsements. Endorse five of your contacts each week for 1 specific skill.

2) Reach out to at least two contacts for a virtual coffee meeting.

3) Write one blog post of at least 800 words and offer it to bloggers in your industry as a guest blog.

4) Read one industry report and write a short summary and share it with three LinkedIn groups in your industry.

5) Conduct a free webinar on a topic you have mastered and publish it.

 

3 – Declutter your Paper Mess

This is a good time to declutter your Paper Mess and either file or throw out whatever you no longer need. Scan everything, file it and throw away the paper. It will make you feel great.

 

 

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/getting-projects-completed/

This post is inspired by sundaebean.

We often hear our fellow expats complain about a lack of sleep and work taking over their lives -it seems that expat lives involve far too much work and impact sleep significantly. So for this edition, I thought I would talk about setting certain ground rules in our lives to get out of overdrive.

Getting Out of Overdrive Mode in Life

Christine Hansen, sleep expert and founder of Sleep Like a Boss, has detailed and often surprising insight into how expats can improve their sleep hygiene. Let’s dive in:

  • Before any ground rules can be established, it is important to figure out why expats have such frequent complaints about their sleep. The root cause can be traced down, surprisingly, to expats themselves. We just want to do everything as international professionals. Work, explore new locales, experience the local food and culture and architecture, give time to the family back home in another time zone and engage the kids in activities. As a result, sleep is the first thing that gets sacrificed in the quest to make each day last longer.
  • Many people, expats or otherwise, still question the science behind needing to sleep a certain minimum amount. The evidence is clearly there in your daily productivity – work output is shoddier and error-prone and any time you theoretically “saved” by sleeping less is consumed in correcting those mistakes. The evidence is also there in the long-term effects of low sleep, our bodies deteriorate with age and too little sleep not only accelerates it, but it also leaves us vulnerable to a host of symptoms and illnesses. Is that really a price worth paying for “a little more time” every day?
  • Sticking to the scientific approach, a good approach for expats who want to do it all is to figure out precisely how much sleep they need. It may seem counter-intuitive, but you start by getting slightly less sleep than you need. Then, by keeping the time you wake up at unchanged for the next two weeks – maybe use an alarm, you work your way backward in increments of 30 minutes until you reach a point where you find yourself waking up just a few minutes before the alarm is supposed to go off. That point may be less than 8 hours for some people, more than that for others, but this exercise will allow you to pinpoint the right amount for yourself. That way, you can schedule the rest of your life around the optimal sleep time.
  • As with most things in life, consistency is key to establishing great sleep hygiene and getting optimal quality sleep. That can sometimes get difficult if you have kids and have to travel, jet lag is the ruin of any good sleep routine! That’s why it’s important to try and continue on that routine even during travel, it really helps! An interesting tip here, especially for children, is to make certain fragrances part of the “going to sleep” routine. Our bodies react really strongly to familiar scents, so you can take these fragrances everywhere you go and they will help maintain the same sort of sleep your children get in the comfort of their own beds. This works for adults too, our olfactory senses really are that amazing!
  • Let’s face it, most expats have busy lives. There are many however whose lives are so busy that they frequently have no time for themselves and they end up encroaching on sleep time for their hobbies. The recommendation for them, inflexible and tough as it sounds, is to schedule “me” time in advance. It’s really the only way to consistently squeeze in hobbies and relaxation time into the very busy schedules.
  • Throughout these suggestions, the recurring theme has been “add structure, plan your sleep and your life around sleep” which can seem boring, but the benefits reaped from high-quality sleep are immense! Tired people are irritable, prone to more illness and generally not nice to be around. I am sure we can all relate to that last one!
  • One thing that can really help you get into the right frame of mind to improve your sleep hygiene is to remind yourself why you are doing it: Whether it’s for better work performance, or quality time with family, reminding yourself why you want quality sleep will help you be motivated – it’s human nature to prioritize yourself last and choosing external motivators will prove more effective for this.

To wrap up, one last tip: Something you can do immediately to improve your sleep hygiene is to start a sleep journal. Just take five minutes out of your day to just jot down all the crap and rubbish and stress you face in a day. That way, you’ll take it out of your brain and see an immediate uptick in the quality of sleep you get.

I’m sure you have noticed the arrival of fall by now – the avalanche of brilliant red-golden leaves falling off trees, the shortening of precious daylight hours and the sudden briskness in the breeze.

While the beauty of a European fall is unparalleled, for some people the shorter days and cold weather heralds a period of demotivation and negative feelings. For me it is the “Zurich fog” in November that can get to me. 

Considering the current situation of Covid-19 and the consequent loss of freedom, the thought of November could be overwhelming. So I have thought about ways to make November bearable for all of us.

Dealing with feelings of loneliness is doubly tough when you are an expat who just arrived here. However, even international people who have lived here for years sometimes miss close friends in this city.

Feeling lonely, sad and unproductive can affect not just your work performance, but your everyday life too. So today, I’d like to talk about ways in which we can keep ourselves inspired and motivated through November and the impending winter months, especially if we don’t have a family here.

1 – Plan and stick to an exercise routine and meal plan

A productive routine is key to keeping your mind crisp, and exercise keeps both your mind and body in tip-top shape – combine the two and you have a recipe for staying motivated in the coming seasons! 

Exercise for most people means a trip to the gym. Don’t worry if you are one of those who cringe at the thought of indoor gyms. Instead, you can take advantage of the wonderful sights and sounds that fall affords us and take up cycling or jogging. The double endorphin release of exercise and beautiful scenery is a great way to stay positive and inspired about your daily life.

Note, though, that it is important to strike the right balance with the rest of your routine. Most people enter exercise with a lot of passion and overdo it, which kills motivation very quickly. 

Start slow, perhaps with a 25 minute walk on two or three days a week and try to follow the schedule. That is more important than straining your body too much.

You should also develop a meal plan for every day which includes a lot of fresh vegetables and greens. Make sure you include lemons, apples and other Vitamin-C deliverers.

2 – Improve your Sleep Cycle

Another critical component of improving your health is to fix and improve your sleep regimen. In today’s always-on era, we are all guilty, to a certain extent, or taking actions that poorly affect the quality of our sleep. So here is a short primer on how to get better, more refreshing sleep daily: 

Take your mobile devices to bed. Give them a place in your home outside of your bedroom where you place them by 9 pm. After you’ve put your phone to bed, don’t touch it anymore. Use the “sleep” mode to block incoming messages. Turn off the buzzers.

Stop using all electronic devices two hours before you want to sleep. Studies show that the light emitted by screens can interfere with the body’s natural sleep-wake rhythms. Instead, consider going to bed with a novel or other light reading (again, not on devices). 

Practice relaxation techniques such as PMR. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is especially beneficial for reducing muscle tension caused by psychological stress and has a proven rejuvenating effect if practiced regularly. 

Get up at the same time every morning. This loops back to the discussion on how routine-building is beneficial to physical and mental health. 

3 – Don’t fall into the trap of worry

Worry is a feeling or a state of being anxious and troubled over potential problems. Worry is a type of futuristic thinking about events in a way that leaves you anxious and apprehensive. The back and forth around integrating into and adapting with a new culture as an expat can be inundating. From experiencing culture shock to trying to create a new professional network and then to the thought of being cautious not to catch Coronavirus. The most appealing response to this type of situation is obviously “Worry”. 

Ironically, what we worry about most times often does not happen. Worry is just a mental clutter that incapacitates you from taking any meaningful step and doing anything worthwhile. It blocks your brain from being productive. 

Hence, try not to fall into that trap! You may want to ask how. Let’s see.

Be present. Whilst it is good to be futuristic in one’s approach, do not allow the thought of tomorrow still the joy of today away from you.

Read a book. It is proven that reading helps reduce stress and anxiety. Simply by opening a book, you allow yourself to be invited into a literary world that distracts you from your daily stressors.

Ask for help. As simply as this sounds, it is a proven means of easing tension and offloading burdens. Asking for help from the right person is not a sign of weakness. It is, in fact, a sign of how strong you have been. 

4 – Learn a Creative Skill

An unforeseen consequence of expatriation is just how much every aspect of it takes over your life – from the learning curve of the new job to the transactional tasks of integrating into a new culture (send an email to angela@globalpeopletransitions.com to get the excel version of the checklist) and country. By the end of the day you may find yourself with no time left for your own growth.

In the scenario described above, it can be tough to carve out regular time for developing creative skills that interest you, especially if you don’t have an accountability buddy or coach to keep you motivated.

How does one find inspiration? I find that duplicating, or being a part of what the creative community does every fall is an excellent way to both build new relationships and spend time on yourself. You could participate in National Novel Writing Month (NoNoWriMo) where large swathes of communities online and offline get together to create and explore their artistic sides daily for the duration of that month. We have our very own Zurich writer’s community supporting you with the Woolf.

If such creative endeavours appeal to you, definitely pursue them! Otherwise, you can utilize the same template for whatever skill you are looking to develop. Devote a fixed amount of time daily where, distraction free, you engage in a certain skill-building activity. As with the previous suggestion on exercise, routine and regularity is key! 

This is the reason why I encourage you to write those 25 minutes practices into your RockMeApp and tick them off at the end of the week. A good practice would be: “On 5 days out of 7, I’m writing my long-hand diary 25 minutes a day to develop a writing routine”.

5 – Join a Special Interest Group such as our Theatre Nights

Last year we started a special interest group for going to the theatre since the Schauspielhaus Zurich introduced English-speaking surtitles. This is an example of a group you could join. Search on Meet-Up for anything you are interested in and I am sure you will find it. 

6 – Support and Help as a Volunteer

I recommend that if you are feeling a bit low in November that you find a group where you can help out as a volunteer. Helping others for the sake of being a good human being and without an agenda behind it usually raises your energy level. You can limit it to 3 hours a week so you don’t burn out but try if this works for you. If you have no idea how to volunteer contact us. We have an overview of associations and we also can recommend contacts for you. Also, we have four requests for volunteers that we shared in our Global People Club Facebook Group.