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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Advice from a Life Coach

The COVID pandemic has changed the way we work in myriad ways. Many people are still working from home (WFH) either part-time or full-time, and some have decided that this is the method they prefer. Many of our meetings have moved online, through platforms such as Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts. Instead of flying across the country for business trips, people are opting for virtual chats instead (often saving time and saving the company hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars). And there’s another change that has become quite popular:

Working from a location other than your home or office.

Last year, many people opted to work out-of-state or out of the country for weeks, or even months, at a time. They reasoned, “If I can do all my work from home, why can’t I do the same work from an oceanside cottage in Florida? Or near the Rocky Mountains in Colorado? Or from an eco-tourism lodge in Costa Rica?”

And, why not? If you’ve proven that you can complete all your work from a home office, why couldn’t you pack up and work somewhere else for a while? Working from a new location can be energizing and give you a much-needed productivity boost. It’s healthy to have a change of scenery every once in a while (especially if you’re stuck inside during a long winter, like we often are in Minnesota!). I usually bring my work to my home state of Delaware and work remotely there; and my assistant spent six weeks last winter working in Florida and Alabama.

However, if you decide to work remotely in a location that isn’t your home, you do face several unknowns. To help make your remote working experience run smoothly, here are a few tips:

Scope Out Office Essentials

When you’re considering renting a house, apartment, or hotel for an extended stay, it is crucial to investigate the essential components that make your work possible. Does the rental have enough space to comfortably accommodate you and whoever you’re traveling with? Is there enough desk or table space for you (and any travel mates) to do your work? Is there Wi-Fi, and how fast and reliable is it? Lastly: Is it quiet?

You can glean much of this information from either the renter (sites like AirBnB and VRBO allow you to have direct communication with the renter) or from reviews of the rental property. If, for instance, several people indicate that there is a lot of street noise, that’s definitely a red flag! You should also consider whether you’ll be sharing a wall with another renter, or if you’ll be part of an apartment complex or duplex. It’s difficult to predict how noisy or respectful your neighbors will be.

Rent Long-Term

Many rental listings offer deep discounts for month-long rentals. If you’re on a budget, it’s a good idea to opt for a long-term rental.

Have a Food Plan

How often will you be eating out or ordering takeout? How often will you be staying in and cooking? If you’re staying somewhere long-term, you’ll likely need access to a well-stocked kitchen. If the items in your rental’s kitchen are not listed, it’s a good idea to ask the leaser about specific items.

Furthermore, it’s smart to scope out nearby restaurants and grocery stores before putting money down on a rental. Having easy access to quality food could turn your work vacation from good to great!

Drive Instead of Flying

Even though flying is quicker, driving allows for greater flexibility. You can bring important items from home (an external monitor, for example, or favorite board games). You can even bring the family dog, provided the rental unit is pet-friendly!

Not only that, but you’ll save yourself the hassle (and money!) of having to rent a vehicle once you arrive at your destination. Even if you’re hoping to opt for public transit and ride share programs, having a car on hand is a good idea anyway, in case of emergencies.

There are some limitations to this tip, of course, such as if you’re planning to travel internationally. In which case…

If Traveling Abroad, Do Your Homework

Before working in a foreign country, it pays to do a little research to familiarize yourself with the currency, language (even learning a few phrases is helpful and shows respect!), and customs. You’ll also want to pick a rental unit that is easily accessible and is relatively close to a grocery store, pharmacy, and clinic/hospital. And don’t forget to bring your power adapter/voltage converter! The last thing you want is to blow out your work laptop by plugging it into an outlet that uses a different voltage.

Remember: You can always buy some necessities once you arrive at your destination. To lighten your travel load, consider leaving behind extra toiletries (sunscreen, lotion, etc.), unnecessary articles of clothing, or towels (which your rental probably has anyway).

If you usually use an external monitor for your work, it may be difficult to go without one for a long stretch of time. Consider purchasing a portable monitor, or buying a (new or used) external monitor once you arrive at your destination.

Lastly, make sure your phone will function abroad! Many carriers do offer coverage in foreign countries. Talk to you carrier about how to do this. In some cases, you’ll have to buy a special SIM card upon arrival.

Working from a location that isn’t your home takes a little extra planning, but it is usually worth it! The change of scenery is great for energizing and motivating you, and can help you get out of the WFH rut. Pick a few top choices, do some research, and start planning your remote work getaway!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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To live magnanimously and care about others is, by and large, a good thing. The generosity of people fuels positive change and makes this (sometimes troubled) world a better place to live. Generous people help alleviate hunger, fight for social justice, and help clean up our water and air through environmental initiatives. These actions, of course, are good things. But can a person ever be too generous?

Well, yes and no. Generosity on its own is a good thing, but it can go too far if you’re giving and giving at the expense of your own well-being and health. This is when generosity actually stops being generosity and becomes “self-sacrifice.”

Author and psychologist Adam Grant distinguishes generosity from self-sacrifice by saying that, “Generosity is not about sacrificing yourself for others — it’s about helping others without harming yourself. It’s not about giving to takers — it is giving in ways that nurture more givers.” Self-sacrifice, on the other hand, is one-sided and may not produce the same positive ripple that generosity does.

Grant uses the book The Giving Tree as an example of toxic self-sacrifice. The tree gives and gives of itself to the boy, until there is nothing left of the tree but a stump. Through its self-sacrifice (and eventual self-destruction), the tree is reduced to nothing, and the boy scarcely cares about her sacrifices. A valuable lesson is lost on the boy. As Grant suggests, he might have planted other trees—laying down a better future for his children and amplifying the tree’s sacrifice. But he didn’t.

Applying this metaphor to the real world, it’s a good idea to be cautious with generosity and make sure it doesn’t morph into self-sacrifice.

When you give endlessly, your well will eventually run dry, and that won’t do anyone (including yourself!) any good. Instead, focus on giving in ways that are sustainable for you and others. Instead of completing someone else’s reports, for instance, teach them how to fill out the reports. Instead of involving yourself in programs that occasionally give to communities (without their input or involvement), focus on programs that uplift and involve the people in those communities. For instance, the Urban Roots program in St. Paul, MN teaches young adults valuable life and leadership skills by teaching them how to garden, conserve, and cook.

This all goes back to the old adage, “If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; if you teach a man to fish; he’ll eat for a lifetime.”

Furthermore, if you feel yourself burning out from constantly giving to others, that’s a signal that you need to step back, take a break, and evaluate your next steps. It’s possible that the path you’re currently on is too demanding and requires too much self-sacrifice. What could you possibly change to ease your responsibilities? What support do you need?

Evaluating and making changes to your current situation and is not selfish. It’s necessary. Giving and giving can only take you so far—once your leafy branches are stripped away and your trunk is cut down, what then? Instead, be mindful of your generosity, intentionally plan how you will give to others, and make sure you’re not tiptoeing into self-sacrifice territory. Your intentional generosity will make a world of difference.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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With cold weather right around the corner for many of us, it’s tempting for introverts to give in to their natural instincts and simply spend the next several months in near-hibernation. While that may sound like heaven to some, it could also lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Most introverts need occasional human interaction (even a warm smile or a thoughtful note) to feel connected or help them through tough times. But…they may not seek it when they need it, or even know how to seek it. What to do? As an introvert, how can you comfortably seek companionship or human connection when you need it?

Try these four suggestions:

Dare to ask

Instead of waiting around, hoping someone will invite you to coffee or an event, take initiative and be the one to extend an invitation. If you’re asking an old friend, this may not be a big deal, but if you’re asking someone you don’t know terribly well, an invitation can feel downright daunting. Accept the vulnerability that comes with asking others to do something, and don’t be deterred if they say no. Either aim for a different date on the calendar or ask someone else.

To ease into asking someone to hang out, you could attend a meet-up with mutual friends or see if someone else is willing to arrange a get together (a spouse or a close friend) that involves meeting a couple new people.

Put parameters on interactions

If you know that long interactions with others can be draining for you, try setting a time limit on get togethers. When you invite someone out for coffee, for instance, frame your invitation like this: “I can meet from 9 a.m. to 10:30. Does that work for you, too?” No need to offer an explanation—just provide the parameters.

Alternatively, you could engage in an activity that has built-in time limits. Go to a movie, watch a play, or engage in a couple rounds of mini golf. When the activity is over, you can naturally part ways.

Seek comfortable settings

To put yourself at ease, hang out with new acquaintances in familiar settings. Suggest meeting at your favorite coffee shop or lunch spot, visiting a local book shop, or even meeting in your home (if that seems appropriate). When you’re in a familiar locale, that removes one more “question mark” from the interaction.

Seek anonymous hangouts

Not every group activity involves talking with strangers or mingling with a crowd. Activities such as yoga, community education classes, going to the movies, or visiting a museum allow you to be around others while you comfortably blend into the crowd. You might invite a friend to attend one of these outings with you, or you could choose to go solo.

Being introverted doesn’t necessarily doom you to a long, lonely string of months when the weather turns chilly. Aim for casual interactions in comfortable locales, and dare to be a tad vulnerable. These small interactions will help scratch your itch for human interactions when you need them most.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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