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Talking

A guest post by Romée Jager

Do you also feel overwhelmed and overloaded before the day has even started? Then don’t worry, you are not alone. It is 7:30 AM and I started working half an hour ago. Even though it is only the beginning of my working day, I already feel that I am way behind on my tasks. I am staring at my screen and scrolling through my emails, opening a few, marking them as unread again and giving them a colour code. 

I feel overwhelmed and do not know where to start. My solution? Preparing myself a cup of coffee. While the smell of fresh roasted coffee beans reaches my nostrils, I think about how to structure my tasks for the day ahead. 

I am wondering why we ‘’only’’ have 24 hours in a day and I start wondering whether I will make it in time for my dinner appointment, as I will probably have to work late again. I feel like my mind is going in a downward spiral and suddenly I remember something that Angie Weinberger once told me: ‘’it is not that we need more hours in a day, instead we should prioritize better’’. 

I mean it would be great if somebody could invent a time machine and could double the time we have in a day. But let’s face it, as the time machine is not invented (yet), we need to find ways to boost our productivity to simply get more done in the time we have. 

Manage your Energy

If you enter ‘’Improving Productivity’’ on Google more than 226 million results pop up including many articles providing productivity hacks. We already provided your Angie’s seven productivity hacks.

However, when implementing those tips it is fundamental to consider your biorhythm. Knowing your chronotype is key.

Instead of just scrolling through our emails and randomly doing some of our tasks, we should carefully reconsider when we do certain tasks in order to increase our productivity. According to Daniel Pink, international best selling author of six provocative books about business and human behavior, big chances of performance can be seen depending on time of day. Therefore, instead of just doing our tasks randomly, we should carefully plan and structure our day. Our day is divided into three periods of productivity that Pink calls: Peak, Through, and Recovery. 

As you plan your day ahead, you need to consider your different periods of productivity. Do you recognize any of the mentioned productivity periods? Consider when you are in which productivity period. When do you have the most energy during the day? 

During which part of the day are you the most focused? Try to identify for yourself the different levels of productivity during the day and plan your tasks accordingly. Personally, my peak time is during the morning until lunch, therefore, this is the time for me to do some highly focused work. After lunch, my productivity drops and I see myself scrolling through my emails again. 

As I already had three cups of coffee, it is not the time to get another one. Instead, this is the time for me to start on the administrative tasks and routine activities. During my ‘’Through’’ period I start feeling that the ‘’Recovery’’ is coming and I move to more creative and insightful tasks again. 

Everybody has their own subjective understanding of chronological time. 

How to get started

Maintaining a Have-Done Diary could be a great help to recognize how you use your daily time and to give you an understanding of when you are focused. When you have identified your different productivity periods, the next step is to plan your tasks accordingly. After a while you can see your productivity skyrocketing and your pile of work slinking. 

As a consequence, you can peacefully shut down your work computer and feel satisfied. You can even plan your tasks for tomorrow already. You can now be at ease and can attend the dinner parties with your loved ones. You might even sing along with the radio while driving home, because you got things done! You come home and your mind is where it needs to be, present in the moment. 

If you want to learn more about timing and our hidden patterns then we recommend you to read the book ‘’When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing’’ by Daniel Pink. 

Do you find it challenging to identify your productivity periods? Or do you feel that you need to reset yourself again? Then our RockMeRetreat from 18 to 25 November 2021 is for you! 

During the RockMeRetreat we will work on boosting your productivity. Hopefully, once you come back from this week you will feel refreshed and inspired again and ready to tackle whatever challenges arise. Does this sound interesting to you? Then you can sign up here to be invited or Angie will be happy to set up a meeting with you to discuss your participation. 

About the Author

Romée Jager is the Academic Intern at Global People Transitions. She loves travelling and is passionate about exploring new cultures. As a soon to be graduate in Intercultural Management, she considers herself as an interculturalist. She has been working in a Dutch governmental youth panel for over 7 years where her aim was to give the youth a voice in the Dutch political system. She believes in continuous learning and is passionate about exploring and doing research. She wrote her master thesis about Defensive Nationalism and is interested in furthering her research. She is wishing to pursue a PhD in social sciences. 

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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.

TheGlobalMobilityWorkbook

I feel that the era of treating people as numbers on a spreadsheet needs to change, don’t you?

Steps in the right direction are already being taken and I believe that Global Mobility professionals and their increasing value in businesses is the example to rally behind. For the uninitiated, let’s talk today about how you as Human Resources or Global Mobility Professionals can demonstrate and amplify the value they bring to organizations. We had our guest blogger Kevin Castro tackle this very topic last year and it remains highly relevant today, so we are re-sharing the main ideas.

Agile is Fragile

First and foremost, Global Mobility professionals need to be agile. The goal posts are shifting all the time – organizations are reevaluating what is critical to business needs rapidly and adjusting the focus of their teams accordingly. Not only do you need to be aware of these changes as they happen, but you also need to be ready to adapt at a moment’s notice. Agility is the name of the game the most successful professionals in the industry right now are those on top of these trends.

That said, we have yet to test the boundaries of agility and how quickly we can adapt in the face of great change, for instance, how we can use integrated vendor platforms such as TOPIA with all the data protection regulations within Europe. There’s also the issue of adoption of agile technologies. For instance, I find that sometimes, even using a shared document on Google Drive or OneDrive already seems to be considered innovative for many companies I work with. (Some often still have paper files!)

Business Acumen and Language

Second, and this one is for those who interact with business leaders, start engaging with them on matters that concern the business directly. By conversing with the various team leaders, you will gain a better understanding of business goals and targets – this understanding will help you make the right suggestions that help the business get closer to those goals! In addition, this sort of engagement will put you in a better position to demonstrate your value – more on that in the next section. A great example would be to understand the growth markets of the company you work for and gaining deeper insights into their legislation. For example, if your growth potential is in India, try to at least understand an Indian payroll slip. (I know that this is almost impossible, but hey we love challenges.)

Communication

An important but often ignored part of demonstrating one’s value is the simplest: communication. Communication is key to a successful personal life but it’s equally important to the well-being of your professional one! It’s a well-known secret that many organizations slip up when it keeps to assignment tracking, so why not remind them, regularly? It’s for your good, after all. A presentation, an email, a newsletter, highlighting key successes and listing all that you’ve accomplished will go a long way in ensuring that senior leadership is aware of the value you bring the company. When was the last time you mentioned a successful expatriation of key talent to the C-Suite? When did you create a report that showed the company the cost-saving you achieved by creating a more effective compensation and operating model?

Expertise

Finally, it is critical for any GM professional to know how to flaunt their expertise. This sounds like common sense but in my experience, I’ve found it surprising just how many people express hesitation or reluctance when it comes to the subject of selling one’s skills. It’s important for all professionals, doubly so for GM professionals! You are the expert of your field, that’s why you were hired after all – you should demonstrate this expertise more often.

Our domain is a rapidly evolving playing field of ever-shifting requirements, technologies, and expectations. This is in addition to the language, cultural and geographical integration requirements. You –  are expected to have a multitude of knowledge, attitude, skills and you need to learn to constantly reflect your experiences and integrate body learning into your attributes.

Develop and Grow Global Competency

I tackled this topic in detail on last week’s “Club Sandwich”, you can catch up with the post here.

One way to build your knowledge base is to join the Global Mobility courses at the Expatise Academy in Rotterdam, Holland.  I’m currently teaching several courses, which are all now available to YOU, online. My courses deal with Global Mobility Competencies, while also focusing on intercultural competency, building solid international assignment business cases and most importantly, bringing the human touch back into our processes. There are all sorts of other technical courses available as well, by experts in the fields of immigration, taxation, social security, and employment law.


PRO TIP

Check out the new and shiny “Educate Yourself Platform” by Expatise Academy now.  

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Let’s keep our momentum going and aim to be even better at what we do. I believe in the “Future of Global Mobility” (#FoGM) and that we will grow in scope and influence.

 

 

You could be a #GlobalMobility rockstar with a few tricks of the trade.

I held a talk at the Forum for Expatriate Management event in Rotterdam a few years back. Every word is true today. I am nowadays more involved in operational global mobility topics than I ever was and while the constant filling of payroll instructions, hypo tax calculations, and balance sheet updates reminds me of the Sysiphus tasks I mentioned in the talk, I have learned a great deal over the last few years and I don’t mind the operational work so much anymore as long as I can still coach expats and their families.

I am contemplating that even expatriate payroll is so much more interesting than normal payroll and that we need professionals with intercultural competence to ensure that the expats get paid correctly. You would think this is easy but believe me with all the technology, processes sometimes seem more complicated than in 1999. At that time we used to calculate net payments on paper.

In the last few weeks, I used a calculator every day and excel became my second best friend. On a few occasions, we don’t seem to get it right in the first attempt. The bonus is wrong, the expat unhappy and we get a new calculation. Then we start again. The third time it’s easier.

In a case from the UK, I notice that the pension contribution has changed from the previous year. In one from Madagascar, a figure was not transferred automatically into the next record of the assignee. A lot of checking and cross-checking is needed.

Once you think that you finally have created the right balance sheet you send it to the assignee and they tell you that it is a joke. They challenge your figures and you need to go back to the provider and explain why the tax system in the UK reduces your personal allowance once your salary reaches 100k GBP so that your bonus is taxed at an unimaginable tax rate. Or why the INR has devalued against the EUR and how that is reflected in the Cost of Living Adjustment. Then they ask why the COLA is calculated on spendable income only and how we came up with that figure.

You need to see every step along the way as learning towards what you can contribute to the world. If you don’t enjoy this process, tell yourself that it is only once a year and it pays your rent. I see exciting challenges for the GM Professionals but even if you are in a different field you might relate to these topics too. Here are seven current issues that seem to be examples for GM Professionals around the world

  1. We solve issues with manual workarounds that we cannot seem to handle with technology.

  2. We need good working relationships with our colleagues and the expats around the world to solve those dilemmas.

  3. We need superior technical skills in tax, social security and immigration and other subject matter areas so we don’t lose oversight of the full process.

  4. Without the experience of at least 200 cases, it is really hard to see patterns in your problem-solving approach as every case poses a different country combination and needs to be tackled individually.

  5. We need high levels of focus and productivity to deliver excellent solutions.

  6. We work too many hours and it is hard for us to keep healthy.

  7. Many of us are women and at a career and pay level that is way below our background, competence, and qualification.

One of the reasons why I started my company Global People Transitions was to help Global Mobility Professionals develop further. I would like to encourage you and support you with advice on how to get your develop your global competency further.

You can buy “The Global Mobility Workbook” (2019) for further explanations, apply to become a tester of our RockMeApp and you can book 1:1 coaching sessions with Angie Weinberger.