Tag Archives: productivity

I just looked at my diary in shock. Lucy, our holiday lights will be lit in Bahnhofstrasse on Thursday. My agenda is full of evening events and the dentist popped the question first for 2017 “Do you already have all your Christmas presents?”. I think, he was kidding. Mid-November, who has Christmas presents already? Is that a thing?

 

It’s high time you and I discuss the secret to managing the year-end.

Maybe it is obvious to you but the secret to managing the year-end and every other transition phase is to take small steps, baby steps actually.

 

Most bigger projects in life such as an international assignment with a move to another country or a move to a new company seem stressful because we are trying to tackle everything at once.

 

Transitions force us to change and do stuff in a different way, which our whole body resists too. (I’ll spare you the long explanation but you can read about cultural transition phases if you like.)

I used to feel overwhelmed when trying to create more space on my laptop BUT two weeks ago, I had been to a coaching retreat where I reprogrammed my brain. Then I approached the laptop issue step-by-step. (@TK, no, I still don’t read instructions…I still go intuitively).

 

I updated my dropbox, so I can move the photo library to my bigger Mac. Then I cleared space for old files. Then I finally updated the laptop. Then I used a program called Gemini to find duplicates and now I have 19 GB free space and can work on the road again. (Not literally the road but when I am traveling.)

What we are trying before the Christmas holidays looks a bit like my laptop pre-retreat. We are trying to stuff more activities in the same amount of time and then our system blocks and goes into overdrive- We either explode or despair.

One of the qualities of Switzerland is planning. Here, we schedule in advance so that all processes can run smoothly and without clogging. Sometimes this feels very slow. When you come from an action-packed, high activity country, you might get impatient.

 

I had a hard time adjusting to planning for at least two years. Then I finally accepted that this is the way it is and since then I plan my lunches four weeks ahead. I take the next appointment for the hairdresser while I’m still sitting there.

Yes, this is the way the rabbit runs in Switzerland (literally translated from a German proverb).

You probably wonder how to take those baby steps. I recommend first of all that you start planning 2018 by buying a physical calendar that shows the whole year. You can already enter your industry events, vacation, seminars, and other long projects. Anything you already know you committed to. Also special days such as anniversaries, birthdays, children’s vacation where you probably won’t work a lot.

Then buy a pack of colorful post-it notes. Split your whiteboard into five sections for the time until the year-end. Write down headers as Week 47 to Week 51.

Now, add three post-its of the same color of the most important projects you have to complete in each week. You should come up with your 15 main professional priorities. I would suggest you use pink for those but it’s up to you. Then take a picture and send it to me. I will continue to explain next steps next week.

Have a productive week ahead (and start buying those Christmas presents).

 

Kind regards

Angie Weinberger

PS: Sign up on our mailing list, if you wish to receive information about the RockMe! Retreat 2018

Do you remember the last time you actually closed down your computer only to realize how many open documents and unfinished business you have? Or do you remember the five new business books you ordered from Amazon and when you wanted to dive into them after the first few pages you got a call and then, did you follow up on that?

I laugh at myself when I look through old diaries or notes that I have taken 10 years ago or even longer. I see that my essential challenges are still the same. They boil down to finances, back pain and imposture syndrome. On a bad day, I will probably fall into the trap of telling myself the same story all over again. I also notice that nowadays when I maintain my weekly “sanity rituals” I get out of that self-talk with my inner monster Gollum a lot faster. (I decided to call my inner critic “Gollum” because deep down inside I believe that I am Bilbo Baggins’ granddaughter.)

Do you still believe that it is the agenda and influence of your manager, the loud colleague from the other end of the open plan office or your wife that stop you from completing projects?

On the surface, it is easy to blame others for what we don’t do or don’t achieve. I find it wonderful to use the “I cannot afford it” excuse in order not to invest in my education or in new clothes for example.

When you say “I do”, how can you keep yourself on track?

Here are four approaches to improve your commitment to projects that are important to you.

1) The Engineering Approach

  • Prioritize your projects with an easy classifier such as ABC.
  • Set a deadline for the overall completion.
  • Break down the projects into milestones.
  • Write a project plan that breaks down every milestone into a task and plan time for completion.
  • Do it and tick off every achievement on a daily basis.

 

2) The People Approach

  • Visualize the end result and paint a detailed picture of it.
  • Add post-it notes of people you see connected to this end vision.
  • Consider which role they will play in your end vision.
  • Reach out to them and let them know that you need their help.
  • Find two commitment buddies who will check in with you on your success and report to them on a weekly basis.

 

3) The Agile Approach

  • Focus on one project at the time
  • Pick the one that has the highest lever for you.
  • Work from the bottom up by defining what you would like to achieve in the next three weeks (“sprint”).
  • Spend 80% of your work time on this sprint.
  • Then take a week of reflection, check what worked and what didn’t and take a long weekend off.

 

4) The No-Pain, No-Gain Approach

  • Pick a skill that you would like to have and that you always avoid.
  • Invest an incredible amount of money in order to force yourself to commit (an example could be a personal trainer to follow your fitness routine, or an MBA or a course in Excel).
  • Tell your mother about it and see what happens.

 

I would suggest that you try to work with the approach that speaks to you most. Whichever approach you take you will probably notice that you are committing yourself to DOING rather than just THINKING ABOUT DOING.

What I’ve thought about before writing this was that I would like to share a secret with you. I took an important decision for next year. I’ve applied to a Masters programme in “International Human Resource Management and Global Mobility”. While the thought of spending two intensive weeks with GM Professionals from around Europe totally excites me, I also feel anxiety creeping in as I have graduated back in 97 and universities have changed a fair bit since then. It’s one thing to teach in a program and another to actually go through it yourself. I’m also considering an additional coaching education that will require funding and time. Imagine me running my business and doing a double degree in one year. I’m taking a mix of a no-pain, no-gain approach and a people approach here. Step 1 completed.

Have an inspired week!

Angie


This article sums up our discussion over the last weeks:

Forget Robots! The Attention-Robbers Are Hurting Your Job Prospects More  – J.T. O’Donnell

An exciting year comes to the end and despite the turmoil in the world, despite the political agendas and against the current “polaristic worldview“* I am proud to say that our global team has further expanded. We work with freelancers in Pakistan, Finland, the US and Switzerland and some of our clients join us via Skype from New York City, Pune and the UK. Living diversity and being with clients and people from all over the world is the best gift for me. So, I don’t really have any further wishes for the holidays.

I wish that you find time to relax and spend quality time with your loved ones. Also, that all your career aims and life aspirations will materialize in 2017.

Happy Holidays!

Angie and the Global People Transitions Team

PS: We still have space in our HireMe! Groups! If you are looking for a career change or want to find that job in Switzerland come to see me.

 

*”Polaristic worldview”: According to Milton Bennett this happens in the second phase of intercultural sensitivity development (called defense) where we fight the existence of intercultural differences and argue in a them versus us narrative. Read more.

 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/forget-robots-attention-robbers-hurting-your-job-more-j-t-o-donnell?trk=prof-post


When you are in the workforce and have a fully packed diary there is nothing you want more than a day without meetings and conference calls. You want a day in which you can decide what you want to do and how to prioritize from hour to hour.

People who watch netflix in the afternoon

When you take time off, you realize how hard it is to follow your own wishes because for the longest time you have done and followed the targets and needs of others. Maybe you are also a mother and used to take care of several persons in your household. Maybe you are a father and feel the pressure of earning an income. Did you ever have that fantasy of staying at home like an “unemployed” bum and watching netflix during the day (when all your friends are at work)? For me this would feel like missing school. Not ok. I am the pupil who had a bad conscience when she missed a day of school. I hated to miss lectures at uni. Showing up is part of my deal. Even when I am unwell.

For me to get to a point where I could not get out of bed and had to stay at home during my professional career was probably the lowest it ever got.

The vicious cycle of hustle

Taking time out to re-think yourself can be a healing experience but once you return from your yoga retreat, you feel the immediate need to get back into the vicious cycle of hustle, which includes maintaining a diary, checking your mailbox and dating for lunch. It also includes doing favors and running small errands for others, forwarding resumes and establishing connections, mentoring juniors and serving on committees or in the local fire brigade. Your days never seem to end. Once you get home there is a mess waiting to be cleaned up or you stumble upon clothes that should be washed / dry-cleaned or ironed. Unless you are really affluent, you will do these tasks yourself.

In egalitarian Switzerland your hairdresser has a higher productivity rate than your executive coach and your cleaner earns more by the hour than most undergraduates in other developed markets, so outsourcing is only a limited option.

Structure is the key to simplicity

After a long journey in the corporate world which sometimes feels a bit unreal I fell out of the structure of “having work” to go to. Four years into running my own business I can assure you that routine is back and having four days off feels like being away for weeks. A day spent walking in nature and studying medieval architecture seems as long as a normal working week. When we run on our programs, in our little rat cage the beautiful world outside seems unreachable. It’s strange that we live in one of the most beautiful places on earth and still we have so many stressed and unhappy people. Most of us in my view have built up such a high standard of living that we lost the ability to appreciate simplicity. We strive for more and more becomes the equivalent of better. I would call this idea delusional.

Become a bum once in a while

Sometimes you need to become a bum to appreciate your other life. I know it is hard to be out of the “workforce”. I know how it feels not to belong to the “inner circle” anymore, not being able to afford opera tickets, bar nights and luncheons. I understand the embarrassment you might feel when you have to decline a friend’s visit because you cannot even offer a glass of wine. Still, I would advise all of you to be a bum once in a while. Give your soul a rest from hustle by being out of a job. If you really think you can’t afford this experience try one of those four suggestions:

  • Have you sat in a café at the street by yourself and watched people?
  • Did you meet a friend for lunch and asked him about his parents?
  • Have you picked flowers in a garden lately instead of checking your twitter followers?
  • Did you spend time playing a game with children in the neighborhood?

I would be very interested in your experience and what you are taking away from it. Schedule your first meeting with me here.

You take your phone out as soon as you sit on the train. You skim through your email. Another attachment fail. You forgot to save the legal document before you attached it. Your colleague across the ocean is confused. After three emails you clear the confusion. You clarify your ask to her and apologize. You know you must come across stressed. Even though you know that you have worked at higher stress levels in your life, you know that there is a nagging voice inside you that screams “I need a holiday.” You wonder how this happened as it seems your last holiday was only four weeks back. Could the issue be deeper you ask yourself? Is something wrong with me? Do I need therapy?
 
Then you become aware of all the bullshit that  you need to handle every day in your job. It is not the job itself. You love your work. It is not the team. You have shared your vision, mission, brand and values with your team. They follow you eagerly because they see a brighter future with you. Your team buys into your cause and wants you to succeed but the politics in the management team have become unbearable. The blame-storm that follows every client issue and the loss of ground with your big clients have made you look bad. You are concerned about losing your job, not performing well and not delivering what you promised to deliver. Your wife looks at you for support with the children. Your daughter has behaved difficult lately. She needs your guidance. You want to support but you feel drained on every corner of your life. 
 
You had started a hobby about a year ago because a friend advised you to do “something for yourself”. In the beginning you were so thrilled about the new friends you made there but now it just feels like another obligation, another point on your task list of never-ending topics.
 
You snap when friends ask you if you want to go out for a beer and your mother’s voice is in your head. “You said you would come for a visit with the children on Sunday.” And there is this mortgage on the house that needs refinancing.
 
In short: You feel the weight of responsibility of being the provider. You feel that weight in your shoulders and your back. You identify with it through pain.

 

Stress written all over your body?

 
Many of us have stress written all over their body. Even though you will find a lot of methods of reducing stress when you look online many of us have issues to focus nowadays. There are too many distractions that pull us into different directions every minute. We also have too many “shoulds”. We should go to the gym more often, we should recycle the bottles, we should save money. Our mind spends a lot of time thinking about the “shoulds”. Here are the three quickies to get in control again.

1) Take one hour out of your busy schedule and consult a therapist

Sometimes we feel like we have tried everything possible to please everyone else but lost ourselves in the process. It helps in such situations to consult a therapist. Sometimes you might not really need therapy but in most cases you will. I am a fan of prevention and I know that we can improve our physical symptoms if we seek support early enough. Unfortunately in my experience, many managers look for external support when it is too late as they are stuck in an ideal of playing superhero. Alternatively, they are sent to a business coach. A serious coach should send you to a therapist or doctor as soon as you cannot confirm anymore that you feel psychologically and physically healthy. And some of you might seek a doctor before they seek a therapist, because you do not believe that your psyche could play tricks on you. It’s up to you! Do something about it before your family loses you for good.
 

2) Go for light exercise rather than the gym such as a daily walk outside

If you feel stressed but still in control it can help to prescribe yourself a daily dose of light exercise such as a 20 minute walk. I have written about getting healthy earlier in this post about my favorite productivity hacks. Be sure that you don’t distract yourself with your phone when you go for a walk. Build the walk into a routine such as your commute to work or your coffee run in the morning.
 

3) Clean up your workspace daily and mono-task

It sounds simple but is a commonly known ZEN practice. You can get rid of the constant distractions by developing a regular routine of cleaning up and only working on one topic at the time. The stream of information you are letting in can be directed in the right channel. One example: If you think I should file my documents do it the same day. Spend five minutes every evening before you rush home to clean up your desk. Throw away everything that you don’t need. Before you start your workday write down your top three priorities for the day.
 
Let me know how you handle stress in the comments.