We have all heard the term ‘writers block’ tossed around by those who identify themselves as writers; those talented individuals who depend on the free flow of words to give voice to the fantastic worlds floating around in their heads. I don’t claim to be a member of that class. I also have great appreciation for those types of writers who seem to have endless thoughts, ideas, and advise to share on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. If any of you happen to stumble across this blog, I’m in awe of your discipline and creativity and would love a sip of your secret sauce, and I’m amazed that writer’s block doesn’t hit you far more frequently!
But here’s the deal…even though I have a very full, satisfying, challenging, inspiring, rewarding, and fulfilling life, I totally get mental stagnation when it comes to narrowing down, or sifting through the swirl in my brain, and focusing on a theme, or topic, to articulate in words that will hopefully have some impact on a reader. All my life I have been a learner, and that has not changed, nor will it ever. I’m a business professor, researcher, remote worker, consultant/coach, international speaker (now that’s a privilege!), wife, mom, sister, grandmother, friend…I am truly blessed. Needless to say each of those ‘roles’ provide an endless array of learning and reward. Every conversation has potential to teach, inspire, drain, encourage, challenge, or even bore me.
So with all that input, why do I have such a difficult time putting words to paper? Certainly not because of lack of content! Perhaps the simple fact that there is so much input, or ‘information overload’, nothing is fully landing. It’s like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet and filling your plate with everything in sight because it all looks amazing, tastes great, and is available–right under my nose.
Even as I write this, my inner voice is sending me sarcastic messages…like ‘seriously, you don’t see an issue here? You know the answer, you know better!’ And that little voice is right.
The very things, the tools, that make constant contact possible, information access more readily available than ever before, communication between the person next to me or 3000 miles away as easy as breathing, are both the cause and the cure.
I’m currently preparing a workshop on self-management. Ironic, right? One of the questions I am asking is ‘what do we need to manage?’ Perhaps time, stress, commitments, multiple deadlines, or life balance. Yes to all of these, and more. For me, I do a great job of managing my commitments; I am organized and can discipline my time well. But as I write this I am again reminded that what I don’t manage well is time to reflect, to slow down and relish the moment I am in, to ponder those special moments that happen each day. To call up the smile on the face of a grandchild or grandniece you’ve had a chance to cuddle with, to share in the joy of good news offered, or to simply walk through the falling leaves of autumn. Check out this video by Manoush Zomorodi called Bored and Brilliant And…finally realize that when your body goes on autopilot, your brain gets busy forming new neural connections that connect ideas and solve problems.
What about you? What is cluttering your mind and keeping you from finding clarity around new opportunities; current and future? What can you do about it? What are you willing to do about it?
One day a week I dedicate time to researching and developing (R&D) my skills and understanding of the world of remote work. I really love those days. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the other elements of my professional life, but there’s something invigorating and exciting about setting time aside to focus on learning from various sources.
Today, for example:
- I had a virtual meeting from my home office with Ayush Jain from Remote Panda;
- enjoyed a research collaboration conversation with our son in Europe, while sipping coffee at one of my favourite cafes here in Kelowna, Canada;
- continued reading chapters from ‘Work Together Anywhere’ by Lisette Sutherland and ‘Remote Revolution’ by John Elston (I highly recommend both);
- attended a farewell lunch for a colleague at Okanagan School of Business where I’m a business professor;
- set up a November virtual meeting with some of our new faculty;
- researched resources for a winter course I am teaching on Organizational Change and Development;
- and perhaps the most important activity of the day, took time to reflect and journal about what I’m learning from various experiences and people who continue to cross my path as I continue to examine the world of remote work. (I journal with an actual paper journal using a Lamy fountain pen…definitely slows down my thinking and helps me process more effectively)
Even though I love these days, they don’t happen by accident…I have to intentionally schedule them into my week.
So why am I sharing these details of my day? So glad you asked. Technology is wonderful and is essential for just about all the work we do, even more so when the nature of your job calls for technology to connect you with your clients, teams, managers and other key people. However, for me it’s vital that I make sure part of this R&D time is spent unplugged. I need to cut out the ‘noise’ and meditate on the learning to allow time for it to connect with what is important, what’s relevant, and if necessary, file it away for further consideration, or for the ‘interesting but not vital’ file.
As a remote, (or co-located) worker, how are you building intentional time into your schedule to learn, to cultivate your craft, and to ponder the amazing experiences you are having? You’ll never regret it.
“We bring forth our best selves when we are fully activated as human beings, not just as workers.”
The Remote Revolution by John Elston
As I have been traveling in Portugal, Finland, Spain and England these past weeks, I have once again been struck by the commonalities we share as humans…both in our need for meaningful work and renewing play time. This balance is especially important for those who have chosen the path of remote work. However, the degree to which cultures intentionally plan for playtime is varied.
While in Finland I was honored to be part of a Global Faculty Colloquium held at JAMK University of Applied Sciences in Jyvascula; 18 individual from around the globe presented their practices related to applied research in the post secondary classroom. Inspiring, informative, and innovative ideas were shared, and each brought their unique culture and perspective to the conversation. However, the learning that left the strongest impression on me was the intentionality demonstrated by the Finnish people…our hosts. These people are hard workers, but take seriously their time to step back and enjoy the wonder of the country they are blessed to live in. Time and again, we heard guides and locals alike refer to ‘living room spaces’…spaces where people take time out of their work to simply sit, visit, get to know one another, and reflect on life. Time to be still, to think, to watch, to simply…be. I would suggest this is one of the two most important tools for a remote worker, the pre-cursor to innovative and creative thinking.
You may have intentional playtime all figured out, but for many this is a necessity that all to easily gets pushed aside. There is almost a panic that sets in if we are not doing something that contributes to existing contracts or to the pursuit of new business. While in Helsinki it was a treat to sit among the many people taking time out of their busyness to enjoy a pastry and coffee from one of the many sidewalk cafes, or simply sit on a bench along the city’s central linear park…intentionally taking advantage of the many ‘living room spaces’. But this is not a new concept…we are all keenly aware of the need for such ‘playtime’…aware, of , but perhaps not committed to .
I was also stuck by the intentionality of the Finns regarding building relationships in business. The value they place on taking time to create a foundation of trust before moving forward with business dealings is commendable; people first, business second. Read the rest of this entry »
This summer was supposed to be all about relax, refresh and rejuvenate…I haven’t been doing so well at that. In all fairness there have been good reasons for the lack of follow through. Since my last blog, life has happened; teaching, case writing, surgery (I slightly under estimated recovery time), supporting our son and family through a decision to accept a position with Facebook in Ireland, and, most recently, listing our home. More than ever I need the 3 ‘R’s.
The good news is that we are now on holidays…by the ocean! As I write this blog my husband and I have just finished a relaxing walk along the beach—wading in the ocean—and are now sitting on some driftwood enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of what, to me, is the most rejuvenating place to be.
There truly is something about the ocean that brings perspective to life…perhaps it’s the rhythm of the waves lapping as they inch closer to high tide, or maybe the total submission of beached jellyfish as they wait for the water to rise high enough to once more embrace them in its gentle eb and flow. Or could it possibly be the absence of schedules and deadlines that happens when we ‘clock out’ and allow for deep breaths, stillness and reflection. There’s a verse that encourages us to ‘Be still and know that I am God’. Sitting here, right now, pondering life and reflecting on recent happenings, watching and recognizing the power of the ocean, certainly brings this verse into focus.
Without the intentionality of stillness, we loose sight of the fact that we are not the boss of our lives! Yes, we are responsible for our decisions and choices, and need to be wise stewards of how we use our skills and abilities. Stillness provides the opportunity to do so; what are the decision I need to consider in the days, weeks and months to come? Will I have difficult choices to make? Who do I need to seek help and input from? Planning times of stillness provides the clarity and mind space to work through such questions. And…it also provides a time of healing for the mind following an intense period of personal and professional life demands.
My time over the next couple of weeks, by the ocean, is to once again re-focus by relaxing, and doing things that bring refreshment and rejuvenation, laying a healthy mental foundation for a busy time ahead.
I am just about finished marking my final projects and exams for the term…my brain feels like mush! It’s amazing how tiring it is to read and mark the results of someone else’s work; perhaps it has something to do with the connection between how successful we have been as teachers and how much our learners are walking away from the term having learned.
The end of term is certainly bitter sweet. Having spent 4 months with various groups of students, I finally feel like I’ve have gotten to know them…then my time with them is done. One particular class so inspired me with their final projects that I want to keep them for another term!
As teachers we so much want to inspire our students to expand their learning, their worldview. We want to help them catch a glimpse of the exciting adventures ahead of them, and prepare them for that journey. We can set the stage for that learning, we can create the thirst for that learning, but as Maryellen Weimer reminds us in her book, Learner Centered Teaching, we can’t make them drink. http://www.facultyfocus.com/topic/articles/teaching-professor-blog/
So what can we do? Well, I think the first thing we can do is to stay thirsty ourselves, and continually work towards quenching that thirst. School’s out, but that doesn’t mean it’s time for our brains to vacate. True, we need to take time to relax, but we also need to be refreshed and rejuvenated…we need to be inspired so that we can be an inspiration. (The 3 ‘Rs’)
Summer session starts for me right away in May and goes until the end of June…not quite time to close the books. However, the full workload is greatly reduced allowing time to slow down, and fill up. This also means that I have time once again to contribute on a more regular basis to my blog. I continue to probe and ponder topics, issues and concepts, but for the next 4 months the focus will be on ‘How do I relax, refresh and rejuvenate’, so that when September hits, I’m ready to hit the ground running.
I invite you to journey along with me, add your own experiences, and then learn together.