Tag Archives: productivity
Performance

A study by Learnlight shows that four in ten international assignments are judged to be a failure. And yet the number of overseas assignments continues to rise. Global companies are under considerable pressure to determine what makes a successful overseas assignment and to understand why they so often fail. However, what has been so often overlooked is why it is difficult to measure expatriate performance. Since both assignment failure and success depends on how expats perform on the job, it becomes pertinent to consider how expats perform and why it is difficult to measure their performance. In the following points, I will highlight and elaborate on five reasons why it is difficult to measure expatriate performance.

  • Goals for Expats are often not clearly defined. They are often conflicting as they have to take into account the interests of the home and host company, or headquarters and subsidiaries. It becomes difficult to work effectively when expats are trying to achieve the home company goals while simultaneously trying to fit in the expectations of the host company. More expats would perform well if the goals of the host company align with the objectives of the home company.
  • Performance ratings have been calibrated for years. However, we know that there is an unconscious bias in the data. The first rater is usually a direct manager.  This person potentially judges their own weaknesses less and thinks that the expat is responsible for failure alone. However, often the manager in the host country does not help the expat to solve dilemmas. The home country manager should consider it a responsibility to make it seamless for the expatriate to integrate well into the system. One of the biggest factors that determine whether or not an assignee would be successful is who his or her line manager is. 
  • Cultural concepts of performance are biased. Definitions of “high performance” have been largely influenced by Western values and did not take team performance into account. The gig economy will need stronger team collaboration and fewer individual players. Eastern values and approaches might have an advantage now.
  • Management by Objectives is outdated. We need a new conceptual framework of performance. Even in the past setting annual targets was not always the best method of judging performance (irrespective of expat or local).
  • Expat managers usually lack the informal network and access to the host culture so it is not surprising if their performance drops in Y1. It is quite impossible to know how to navigate in a terrain that you are not familiar with. Also, they are busy adjusting and have a family to integrate into the new life abroad. One might think that we can accelerate the cultural adjustment and then just go “back to the normal way of judging performance” but I would advise against such thinking. It takes time to fit into the system and culture of a new location. Hence, the whole process of cultural adjustment takes its tolls on expat performance.

Expatriate Performance and Potential Assessment

Scullion, Collings (2011) describe the performance assessment system at Novartis which will be used as a generic example for global companies. The system “…grades employees on (a) business results (the “what”) and (b) values and behaviors (the “how”). While the business results are unique to each business area, the values and behaviors (ten in all) are common across the entire firm.” Together with the potential assessment talents are assessed in a nine-box matrix. (Scullion, Collings, 2011, p. 29)

Basing expats’ performance solely on business results may not give the overall picture of all that transpires to make an assignment either a success or a failure. There should be a holistic overview of all the processes that go into cultural adjustment and family acculturation. 

Expat adjustment as a success factor – The Term “Expat Failure” and what it commonly refers to

When discussing the success of an international assignment or project a common way to measure “success” is expat adjustment which in contradiction to “expat failure” is often equalized with completing an assignment for the planned assignment period.

“The authors leave open how long it may take an expatriate to attain the same level of applicability and clarity abroad as at home, stressing that one or two years may not suffice. To reach higher levels, the person may very well have experienced an identity transformation far more profound than passing through a cycle of adjustment.” Hippler, Haslberger, Brewster (2017, p.85)

“A “comprehensive model of success is missing” and Caligiuri’s (1997) suggestion that future studies should clarify what is meant by adjustment, as opposed to performance, indicated the need for definitional and discriminant clarity when examining performance.” Care and Donuhue (2017, p.107)

Talent management approaches in Germany and Switzerland and most of Europe are driven by the U.S.-based ideas about talent identification and definitions and use the “nine-box grid” to select key talents with a halo-effect towards white males. 

Influence of psychological contract on expatriate retention

An issue in expatriation is often the lack of clarity around the role after repatriation. A psychological contract exists between the expat and the company but there is no written agreement or clear understanding of the next role or roles in the process. Expectations are not properly managed and often expats are disappointed with their title, pay or role content in the next role when returning from an assignment.

Two years after repatriation there are several factors influencing retention significantly. 

  1. a) re-entry cultural adjustment, another 
  2. b) role expectation mismatch and 
  3. c) the lack of applicability of the learning from the previous assignment.

The Integration of Global Mobility and Global Talent Management

One of the reasons for this lack of synchronization is the missing integration of global mobility and global talent management activities and functions in today’s organizations. The only guidance focuses on academic concepts of expatriate return on investment.

A Holistic Competency Model is Needed

I claim that we not only need a better integration of Talent Management and Global Mobility (hence the term Talent Mobility) but we also need to look at our performance management systems, global competency models, recruiting and talent identification process under a new light. We finally need to advance HR to an interculturally competent function and reduce the inherent bias in all of our processes, tools and leaders. This will be a major task in a post-colonial BANI World.

My Global Competency Model has been an attempt to integrate Eastern and Western mindsets into a model. Our coaching approach builds on Eastern and Western coaching practices. We included the ethics by the International Coaching Federation (ICF). The holistic approach of my coach, educator Drs. Boudewijn Vermeulen, further developed by Dr. Eva Kinast into a holistic, body-oriented and intercultural coaching method. This method focuses on building and maintaining effective trust-based relationships, the body-mind-heart connection and is linked to the psychology of Carl Gustav Jung. 

The model also assumes weekly reflection, regular practices, which originate from Eastern mindsets and concepts such as ZEN. We integrated body learning which was taught to me by Dr. Jay Muneo Jay Yoshikawa in a course of Eastern Mindscapes (back in 2005 at the Summer Institute of Intercultural Communication in Portland, Oregon). Reflected experiences are based on the single-loop and double-loop learning theory of Argyris and Schoen. Also, experiential learning that I first learned from Thiaggi about 20 years ago and have further developed into all of my programs.

Trust and Relationships are Collaboration Glue

In almost every coaching session right now leaders talk to me about the need to get better at building trust (also in a virtual setting) and relationships. Relationships in my view are the glue to working well together within a monocultural but also multicultural environment. Collaboration (as opposed to Cooperation) requires a higher level of trust among project team members. Agile needs it. And Diversity, Equity and Inclusion demand it. 

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR GLOBAL MOBILITY?

“Better alignment between global mobility and companies’ global talent agenda is a precondition for making mobility truly strategic and helping companies achieve a significant return on investment with their international assignments.”

  • Widening the scope of Global Mobility to include international hires, cross-border commuters, international transfers, lifestyle assignments, global digital nomads and other groups of internationally mobile professionals.
  • Reviewing all HR models and processes to reduce bias and White Supremacy should be on the priority list of every HR leader but you can also make it your personal mission. Help us create a world where everyone has a chance and invite those to the table that are often overlooked.
  • Defining assignment objectives up front and tracking progress throughout assignment. You must ensure that not only the home company or headquarters have clear cut objectives for the expat  but also that the host company’s objectives are in sync and align with that of the headquarters. Coach the expat or send them to me for coaching. Help them be a success rather than a failure.
  • Improving productivity by addressing development areas such as communication, process and culture barriers. Key problem areas should be identified. Oftentimes, expats complain about loss of connection to the home company. Nobody from the headquarters or home company is interested in how they fare in the new environment. If expats feel deserted, it could adversely affect their performance output. Proffering viable solutions to pain points of expats, such as cultural roadblocks would help improve expats performance. Give them the vocabulary to speak about their blockers, send them to intercultural awareness training. 
  • Helping coordinate annual talent review of all expatriates. Reviews like this give expats the opportunity to express their perception of the international assignment. 
  • Increase the expat’s self-awareness. Let expats learn more about themselves. We use the IDI (Intercultural Development Inventory) and ICBI™ (Individual Cultural Blueprint Indicator) for example for self-awareness assessment and the outcomes can be a great conversation starter in a coaching session.

You already know that I am on a mission to bring the Human Touch back into Global Mobility and therefore we would also like to contribute to research in the growing body of knowledge around Global Mobility. Our Academic Intern Monica Kim Kuoy is running a research project and I hope you would like to support us by being an interview partner or sounding board for our ideas.

We look forward to hearing from you.

 

RESOURCES

Who is an Expatriate Employee?

https://expatfinancial.com/who-is-an-expatriate-employee/ 

https://feibv.nl/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Master-Thesis_Weinberger-Angela_Jan-2019_Final.pdf

Performance
Expat Performance
Entsorgung

“Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person’s ideas and none of my own ideas are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming me.” – Carl R. Rogers, On Becoming a Person, 1954

When I was a teenager, we had set meal times and would actually sit on a table together at least twice a day. Our family brunch on Sundays would often lead to a conversation about a “problem”. My dad was studying to be a Carl Rogers client-centered therapist at the time and I am not sure if he sometimes tried to use a questioning method or if he was just very skilled in giving me and my sister the space and safety in which we could just “let it out”. 

Having this kind of open environment in which you would be able to talk through anything is a family tradition which we still live with when we are together. Even though my dad and sister have left this earth already a long time ago, my mum, my aunt and I often sit down and just talk through anything, we love to analyze why a person shows a certain behaviour and how we can solve relationship issues. For me, this is so normal that I sometimes need to remind myself that it is not at all “normal” but rather extraordinary, especially in the German context. I would assume other families have a stronger discussion around political topics, money issues (how to save it) or even more mundane topics like sports.

I, on the other hand, have realized in a conversation with friends that sharing problems and openly talking about feelings, insecurities or areas of your life where you might not feel like “Wonder Woman” could be misinterpreted or it could come across as if you don’t really know where you are going. 

Which is funny, because right now I feel completely safe and on the right path of my life. I have a strong sense of alignment between my strengths and my life’s work. Insecurities of artistic types are normal because we expose ourselves to critiques a lot more often than the average business professional but most companies also train people to use other words than “problem” or we are not allowed to use words such as “drama”. 

It took me years to weed out the “corporate speak” in my writing and even a word like “alignment” creeps me out a bit as it feels “corporate”. This year during a meditation I chose the word “Roots” for my word of 2021. Solving problems is one of my roots and hence I wanted to share four beliefs behind problems with you.

Problems remind us of Math in High School

When I think of problems I think of my favorite math teacher (who also died rather young) and his gigantic triangle. He had the outer appearance of a garden dwarf but he was a great math and physics teacher. He even made me like physics at some stage. In math we had to solve problems all the time and sometimes this would cause stress. I can’t remember this from school or university but I know that I personally don’t like those psychometric tests which are sometimes still used in banks and consulting firms to weed out candidates. The classical IQ tests focussing on calculations in your head can be stressful if you grew up using a calculator. “Being bad with numbers” is a common stereotype of women and often used against women. I’m concerned that women might often not be “bad with numbers” but with the pressure of solving a mathematical problem without using EXCEL or without a calculator and under time constraints. If you take this into consideration with a bit of practice and a good teacher every math problem usually is solvable. And this is exactly what I mean with a “problem”. It’s a riddle that is complex and will need time, practice and different angles to be solved. Do you like crossword puzzles? Could you imagine an upcoming “issue” or pickle to be approached like a crossword puzzle? Write down all the pieces, paint a picture and see if a solution shows up.

Problems seem to be too complex to solve

Sometimes solving problems alone is not possible. Problems might seem too complex to solve. You might have a machine in front of you and you always follow the same steps and always end up with the same error messages. For this kind of problem you either need Google or you need to ask someone who understands the machine better than you do. You need to potentially try several times and several different approaches. You can write down what you did to solve the problem, you can ask a bot for help or you can ask around in your network. Maybe someone else has encountered the same problem and has a solution or a workaround. My advice is usually to break the problem into smaller tasks or to paint an image to understand the components and how they are interconnected. Are you confronted with a problem you cannot solve? Which steps have you taken and tried already? Would it be time to ask for help? If you aren’t getting help, should you escalate the issue to the next level now? What is at stake? Can you allow yourself a bit of discomfort?

Problems harm our “Wonder-Woman” self-image

Having problems is often associated with shortcomings and hence harms our self-image of being a perfect “Wonder Woman”. However, this self-image also creates a lot of harm, especially when life isn’t perfect. For example, when I was in my thirties and forties not being able to get pregnant, nor holding my marriage together in two locations with two careers was a real problem. Up until then I was living in this illusion that life was planable and that all you had to do was to take action and be a go-getter. I might have exaggerated this a bit too much since I lost half of my family rather early in life. I probably thought “okay, from now on I will just plan this better.” (I really love plans, spreadsheets and to-do lists.)

Life isn’t like that and during my coach training I learned to accept that. I also learned that you cannot change other people, you can only change yourself. And do you know who is really a “Wonder Woman”? It’s a woman who loves herself anyway, despite the failure of her body at producing offspring, despite her failed marriage and despite the stain on her top. Ask yourself if you could accept a little more each day and what it would take to “be yourself”? What does it mean for you? Maybe start with a small change, like wearing a different outfit or letting your hair down.

Problems could show us a dependency we are not happy about.

Often a problem is a conflict of two or three different interests pulling into different directions. It can also stem from opposing beliefs and constructs of reality. If we cannot seem to solve a problem alone we might feel dependent and many of us don’t like to ask for help. It’s a common stereotype that men don’t like to ask for directions. However, I don’t like to ask for directions either. Mainly because I have a hard time differentiating left and right sometimes and again asking for how something is done best could show a weakness of sorts. Are you afraid to ask for help? Are you unhappy to depend on a colleague, a mentor or a friend? If so, ask yourself why that is? What is so shameful about asking for help?

Problems are here to guide us on our past. Obstacles are learning opportunities and pain is useful. Approach your day with a small problem you wish to solve and add a weekly practice to your RockMeApp around solving problems.

If you feel overwhelmed with a bigger problem and you don’t know how to ask for help or who to turn to, maybe it’s time to talk to me about a coaching program or the RockMeRetreat. Please reply “Magic” to this email and we will make an appointment for a free consultation of 30 minutes.

Have Done Diary

When clients ask me how they can fit more into their day I tell them to forget time management. We manage our time when we have enough of it. When we are stressed and under the pressure of delivering something on time we forget all of the methods and act like crazy headless chicken or chucks.

Over the years of my early career having worked with bankers, I learned that time is money, and efficiency is considered a must. Responsiveness during the job meant that I would call back immediately and respond to emails as fast as possible. Today, I feel this paradigm has shifted to social media, WhatsApp and other messaging systems. 

When you are constantly in response mode it is hard to get any work done. With the pandemic and all of us sitting on video calls all day you might often feel drained in the evening and as if you did not get a lot of important work done during the day. If this feeling continues during the week and then several weeks you might not only feel drained but also frustrated with yourself.

If you also struggle with productivity these seven tips will help you to claim back your diary. Do you want to have more time with family and friends? Do you want to start a new hobby or continue one you started years ago and then dropped? 

If your answer is “Yes, but I don’t have time”, practice one or two of the methods given below.

1- Have-Done Diary

In consulting firms, you have to maintain a timesheet in which you document daily how you use your time. This can be great to give you an understanding of where you are focused and where your priorities lie. Similarly, you can increase the value of this exercise by maintaining a daily diary in which you document your accomplished tasks (Have-Done-Diary). I recommend a notebook and handwriting for this exercise.

2 – The Pomodoro Method

Find your most productive time in the day and block 90 minutes for creative and conceptual work. Set a kitchen timer for the task to 25 minutes. Work without picking up the phone or checking emails or social media. Then take a five minutes break where you actually get up from your chair and move.

Then work for another 25 minutes and take another 5 minutes break and a third junk. See how much you accomplish with this method. This is called Pomodoro-Method and you can even get a timer on your browser.

For many professionals, the most important brain time is the early morning but I hear there is the other camp of night owls as well. So it is up to you to find your best 90 minutes in a day.

3 – The Eisenhower Matrix

When you are overwhelmed use an easy categorizer. So when you’re backed up on work and overwhelmed, using an easy categorizer will help manage your tasks. Work with an A, B, C, D categorization system whenever you add a task to your diary or task list. Use your time block for A tasks, schedule B tasks and delegate C tasks. If you can’t delegate to anyone think about blocking an hour in the afternoon to just work on those C tasks.

Very similar, but not exactly the same is to work with the next one.

4 – The Pareto Principle

“What is important is rarely urgent, what is urgent is rarely important.”

20% of the most important tasks will have an 80% of impact on our success according to the Pareto principle. So it is critical that we understand what these important tasks are that we should spend time on. One example: You might think you don’t have time to make networking a priority even if we know that if you want to move ahead in your current job or if you are looking for a new job, this will clearly be a game-changer. You might know that you should sit down and write that book you have been dreaming about for the last five years but other operational work always seems more important. The book would catapult you into the league of experts in your field and enhance your personal brand and might even give you the peace of mind that you have accomplished one of your “Big Five”.

5 – The Peace Island

In your busy and tightly scheduled day, try to build one island of peace. The island can be lunch with a good friend, a massage, running, or sitting outside watching birds. Simply put, taking the time out to enjoy a peaceful moment in the day. The island of peace needs to  be a place where you cannot use your smartphone or have it be switched off to ensure no distractions and  you are not allowed to take away tasks from this place. This could be your meditation space, your garden, or a café you love. Ideally, you bring your diary with you and use your time there for reflection.

6 – Repetition Checklists

Repetition, routine, and checklists are great ways to take the stress out of tasks that need to be accomplished but do not require much of our focus. I personally prefer to work on such tasks in the late afternoon or evening as I feel more available then. Examples are packing for an event, preparing your travel cost claim and scheduling meetings and other appointments. 

To establish a weekly routine especially if you are working from home every day right now I recommend a weekly planner, where you schedule a few regular tasks on one day of the week, for example on Mondays you endorse contacts on LinkedIn and you return the glass bottles during your lunch break.

7 – Outsourcing Housework

I encourage you to outsource your housework from grocery shopping to cleaning, this idea might be new or odd to some but it makes the most sense. Most of the housework you might still be stuck with but at least you can win about three hours per week and more importantly some peace if your house is cleaned by another person. You will also notice that you keep the house tidier if you have regular external help.

Add one of these practices to the weekly practices in the RockMeApp and answer the four reflection questions in the RockMeApp on a weekly basis. Practice one method for several weeks and let me know what happened. If you wish to further work on your focus and productivity I recommend you join our RockMeRetreat from 18 to 25 November 2021 in Switzerland at Kloster Ilanz. Sign up here to be invited and we’ll set up a call to discuss this further.


How many times do you open your inbox and find over a hundred unread emails? And how often do you “clean your inbox” just to find it overflowing with emails again the day after? One of the reasons why I get stressed around emails is that I spend a whole day in a workshop and I cannot check my emails because it would distract my mind too much. Then I check my emails after the workshop, when I am already exhausted and know that I have a lot of tasks and queries to handle. When I worked in the corporate world I would often have a day full of meetings and calls and come back to my desk at 5 or 6 PM and “started to work productively”. Or, you probably know this: it’s Friday, 4.30 PM,  you are just about to start your weekend and then you see this one email and it keeps you at your desk for another hour. Your partner in the meantime is waiting for you to help with the groceries or wants you to be home early so that you can greet your friends that are coming by for dinner. There are different reasons why our body shows stress reactions and I thought it would help to break this phenomenon down to help you deal with it.

 

If you experience high levels of stress when you find too many unread emails in your inbox, you should know that you’re not alone. In fact, the phenomenon is so widespread that it became known as inbox anxiety

Inbox Anxiety Came with Emails

 

When emails were invented in the 1970s, nobody had a clue of how radically they were going to change the way we work. In time, they have become such an ubiquitous tool that, depending on your seniority, there’s a chance that you haven’t even experienced work without emails. I personally remember the days when we did not have emails at work yet and I went through several tech upgrades since then (desktop, laptop, blackberry, smartphone). Despite more than 25 years of experience with the technology I still don’t know exactly what to do when I get certain emails. One ground rule I established early in my career was: when I am angry I don’t send a response. I wait until I feel calm again. In fact, when I then go through the same email with a fresher approach, I sometimes even notice a certain positivity that I had overlooked earlier. 

 

You might be surprised that our generation still relies so much on email but inbox anxiety doesn’t only refer to email now.

 

I have several other professional inboxes to manage as well (Facebook, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, XING, four email accounts, professional messages on FB pages, Instagram and Twitter direct messages). Sometimes, I feel like I should change my job description to “emailer”. 

 

With the Corona-crisis and the need to work from home, most of us probably worked even more with emails and messages than usual and despite the general reply-to-all rule in some organisations this is still not done so you are falling off a thread and then you have to follow up or update your colleagues in a different way.

 

In our team at GPT, we introduced Slack during the crisis. We had already failed at it in 2016 largely due to my inability to focus on too many channels so now I’m making a more concerted effort to use Slack instead of WhatsApp. I don’t really use it to replace emails but I notice it helps me write less follow up emails and also I can ask the Slack bot to remind me instead of asking our intern. 

 

I’m trying to find out where MY own inbox anxiety stems from and I hope to share this with you so you find ways to overcome this as well.

 

Switching Off and FOMO

One issue that creates inbox anxiety for me is the need to switch off completely for short and extended periods of time. Last year, I took the liberty not to be available for four weeks over the summer. Some of my email accounts were not checked while I was offline. That created stress when coming back. Same happened when I was out sick for three weeks with COVID19 this year.

There is enough research to show that you should completely switch off from work for at least two consecutive weeks each year. However, in most of your jobs it is still expected that you are available during vacation and weekends, especially during launches, emergencies, crisis and personnel related decisions.

As a matter of fact, according to a YouGov survey 60% of people check their work inboxes also during holidays. We don’t do it necessarily because we want to, but because we feel some sort of obligation to do it. The same research found that 80% of the respondents would actually prefer to “switch off completely”.

Being Responsive versus Productive

Another issue is that I would like to be responsive. It’s one of my trademarks. And there are certain limitations between being responsive and being productive. However, in order to be able to do “deep work” and to focus on quality time online with my clients I sometimes have to wait with a response until my work day is over or until I get a break. This might be only an issue when you are a small company and nobody else can cover for you. Most companies now don’t expect a response on weekends and responding within 24 hours still seems to be acceptable.

Underlying Relationship and Trust Issues

The third theme I notice has to do with email anxiety when you receive emails from certain persons. I assume that there is an underlying relationship or trust issue with this person. Maybe this person has treated you unfairly in the past or they have turned around something you wrote in an unacceptable way. Maybe they belittle you in their emails with their manager in cc or they shame you publicly. A good manager would give their feedback in more appropriate ways than emails but we know that there are a number of mediocre managers out there as well.

What is inbox anxiety and where does it come from? 

According to Ron Friedman, author and psychologist, the reason why we feel overwhelmed when we find a lot of emails in our inbox is that each message is a new demand of our time and it triggers one more decision to make. This leaves most of us with less energy for the work that matters. Another reason that could make you anxious might be the lack of clear expectations and etiquette especially in the intercultural context you live in as an expat. 

 

Also not having anybody to delegate emails to and feeling responsible for client service even when it’s not in your direct area of control could considerably make your stress level rise. In fact, studies have shown that checking email frequently leads to higher levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. 

 

We feel stressed also because we don’t feel productive. As we are constantly interrupted by a “PLING” our cognitive performance is reduced resulting in an attention deficit. According to research done on the negative effects of email on productivity, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the tasks after we’ve been interrupted. Now, think of how many times they interrupt you at work and make an average calculation. It’s scary.

There is one more issue related to inbox anxiety and this is known as “email apnea.” In fact, 80% of people tend to hold their breath unnaturally when going through their emails causing a change in  their normal breathing patterns. Holding your breath can contribute to stress-related diseases because it throws off the body’s balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitric oxide.

Seven Tips to Help you Take Back Control

Here are seven tips that will help you take back control of your inbox, time and productivity.

1 – Clarify the Purpose of Your Conversations

Make sure you know the communication policy and etiquette of the company where you work. This will also make clearer why and how you’re using emails and not other tools. 

2 – Build Better Relationships to the Senders and Receivers

If you don’t know the other person well, try to reciprocate their tone. You don’t want to come across as too friendly or too formal if the relationship is just at the beginning. When I communicate in German I struggle because the connotations between how you address a person are quite different depending on the cultural context. In English you can easily be far too informal and hurt somebody’s feelings. As a general rule, avoid emotions and emotional topics.

When you aren’t familiar with the sender, another good alternative is picking up the phone. If you are a millenial calling someone you don’t know might not be your preference, but I still think it’s the best way to establish first contact with someone. 

3 – Stop Escalations and Solve the Real Issue

I love to watch escalation bingo on email only when I’m not in the firing line and cc-ed but not cause of anger. I personally read too many emails that are escalated to the appropriate management level too late. We are then often reading a lot of blame-storms and cover-your-back when the real underlying relationship issue is not addressed. I’m pretty good at NOT responding and I’m often slow when it’s heated or emotional. The reason is that I often need a break from the emotions that are triggered. 

I can leave emails drafted for days only to discard them. It’s a skill I learned. Sometimes I might come across rude or negligent…It even happens that I forget an email. However, it’s often not that important or the person can find another route to talk to me. If the person knows me, they will reach out by phone, text message or just resend. 

4 – Stop flagging, sorting, deleting and trust your inner priority manager

I hear people are still flagging, filing in folders, reading and answering emails all the time although I notice that response time has become from 1 minute to 1 week to ghosting. Frankly speaking, I sometimes don’t respond to an email because I don’t feel that I have anything to say. In some cultural contexts this is a perfectly acceptable behavior, however, in some others this could come across as rude. 

5 – Limit the times you check inboxes and respond

Role model the change you would like to see in this world. If you don’t want to be bothered by emails after 7 pm, either you are powerful enough not to respond anymore or you also stop sending emails after “normal office hours”.

6 – Apply a Filter, Deactivate Notifications and Practice Writing Better Headers for Receivers

Have a policy for all your media who you accept and what kind of messages you will respond to. Instead of responding to every tweet I have now connected Twitter to Slack. I can check first if I want to respond or if it is a random tag.

I get a lot of system notifications, newsletters and promotions that I just scan but usually I only need to read the header or key words to know if it’s worth going deeper.

7 –  Track how much time you spend emailing, messaging and with whom

Try using RescueTime to track how much time you spend emailing. By doing this, you can realistically plan how you can gradually reduce the time you spend emailing. You might try to reduce by 5 to 10 percent weekly the time you spend on your inbox. One way to do this is to practice writing shorter emails. 

If you notice that you are so busy because you spend an hour sending cat videos to friends and family you might want to change that. And you might not know right away what you want to change and how. I recommend you call me for a 15-minute chat. Maybe I can give you guidance on how to reduce your inbox anxiety. A helpful program would be our RockMe! program.

Kind regards

Angie

Resources

My favourite Productivity Hacks – Seven Tips to claim back your Diary

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/in-practice/201805/3-types-email-anxiety-and-solutions

https://www.businessinsider.fr/us/heres-why-email-makes-us-so-stressed-out-2015-2

https://happiful.com/how-to-deal-with-inbox-anxiety/

https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/the-6-rules-of-email-how-to-eliminate-email-anxiety-and-take-control-of-your-inbox

https://www.businessinsider.fr/us/email-apnea-how-email-change-breathing-2012-12

https://www.rescuetime.com/

https://blog.trello.com/work-life-boundaries-as-a-remote-worker 

References

Mark, G., Gudit, D. and Klocke, U. (2008). The cost of interrupted work: more speed and less stress. Conference Paper, DOI: 10.1145/1357054.1357072, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221518077_The_cost_of_interrupted_work_More_speed_and_stress

Mark, G., Voida, S. & Cardello, A. (2012). A pace not dictated by electrons: An empirical study of work without email. Conference Paper, https://sites.oxy.edu/clint/physio/article/APaceNotDictatedbyElectronsAnEmpiricalStudyofWorkWithoutEmail.pdf

Waldersee, V. (2018). The majority of employees check work emails while on holiday. YouGov, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/economy/articles-reports/2018/08/15/majority-employees-check-work-emails-while-holiday


I’m sure you have been told countless times in recent years that in this driven, fast-changing world, the agile will reign supreme. I’m sure you have also wondered, what exactly does that mean?

I think the simplest answer to that is: Professionals who can keep up to date with their skill set are the ones who will find sustained success. Keeping your skills and knowledge in tip-top condition is something I’ve touched on in a previous Club Sandwich too, but today I’d like to focus on the aspect of digital competency. For many professionals, maintaining a current skill set as this new world gets more digital-centric is the real challenge. This means asking yourself, are you someone with a robust IT skill set or do you ‘just get by’?

If your answer is the latter, perhaps it is time to consider ramping up the attention you give to this aspect. Being able to work with a few basic apps and systems will no longer take you the distance. I understand that getting to grips with this rapid change can be too much for some professionals, who feel that their learning progress has hit a brick wall, or become a slow crawl. This can naturally lead to a feeling of frustration and impatience for ‘not getting it’, which may directly affect your productivity and self esteem.

What I’d like to do today is to help you boost your productivity in ways that may also bolster your digital competence. The following are a few methods I’ve used personally and have assisted clients as well. Let’s do this!

Have a read through of Jane Piper’s excellent book Focus in the Age of Distraction
Jane Piper is a digital wellbeing expert who draws on her experience in Focus, highlight key consequences of living in the digital age that can impact productivity. There have been several studies on how digital apps, especially networking ones have affected our ability to focus and engage – something that is now visible in workplaces around the world. For those among us who find themselves struggling to focus and perform at their peak, this book is a must read!

Start using a productivity app
Now, don’t get scared! Most productivity apps on the market can appear daunting, and hide most features behind a paywall, that is, they let you use their basic version for free but require you to pay a one-time or recurring cost for premium features. That means you never know if the money spent will be worth it. Instead, I’ll focus you towards the best apps that offer these features for free, allowing you to find your own groove.

A productivity or task management app can be something as simple as Gmail’s Tasks list, or something more elaborate like Microsoft To-Do and Todoist. What is similar about these apps and what you will learn is this: lists help your mind declutter and refocus. These apps provide additional help by providing reminders, categorization options and cross-system(platform) support.

The unique thing each app brings is what will determine if they are something you will wish to use long-term. People who enjoy the satisfaction of making lists will prefer Todoist, while those who may require organizational options will go for Microsoft To-Do.

Find the app that works for you and start planning your day better!

Are You More of a Visual Thinker? Then Play to Your Strength! 
Productivity apps are great but only if you can harness their power effectively. For those among us who are more visual thinkers, or work with visuals and design, will definitely find themselves flocking to Trello and its card-based approach. It’s like having a digital corkboard to map out your tasks, and definitely worth trying out.

Experiment with Global Virtual Team Collaboration Apps
For those among us who run teams, there are group productivity and task management/collaboration tools such as Slack and Asana that are worth looking into. A note on Slack usage: It is primarily a team collaboration tool but its productivity boosting capabilities come from its ability to integrate with Google Drive/Dropbox and Salesforce. I find it important that you experiment with your team and review after a few months what worked well and what didn’t work well. You might notice generational differences in app usage and effectiveness.

Simplify and find tools that work for your team or collective
Yesterday, I listed all the tools we are using in one of our collectives on a flipchart paper. I tried to paint the icons without looking at my iphone and had to smile later because they actually look slightly different. However, I realized that we often use many tools already but we haven’t agreed on simple communication principles. So the work only starts when you have identified the right tools. (The hammer alone doesn’t help. You also need to bring in energy to slam in the nail.) We will continue to discuss global virtual team collaboration in the upcoming issues.

Unplug and keep a have-done diary
One aspect (that is also addressed in Jane Piper’s book) is how the pressure and stress of work combined with the always-on digital aspects can put us in a state of mind where we are unable to focus on anything, much fewer deliverables and time management. 

Here’s what you do: List down your completed daily tasks. I recommend a notebook and handwriting for this exercise. Not only will this give you a break from the screen but help you analyze your productivity cycle, its peaks and low points. I’ve learned this method from my coach educator Boudewijn Vermeulen and it served me well during hectic times.

I talk about more productivity hacks that can help you reclaim your diary here. Practice one of these hacks per week and let me know how your experience went in the RockMeApp! You can add them to your “weekly practices”.