Three Strategies for Teleworking

The Coronavirus has made its presence known, and we’re all doing our part by social distancing and teleworking to make sure we keep it under control and contained. But if you’ve never teleworked before or aren’t used to it, it can be a significant adjustment.  That being the case, here are 3 things you can do right now to make teleworking more palatable, and maybe even enjoyable for yourself!

I. Create Physical Separation

One thing most people don’t think about is where to do work. You do your work in the living room while you’re watching TV, or on the dining table where you eat dinner, or in bed. A little known fact is that creating physical separation between where you actually do work and where you live your life and spend quality alone or family time is a huge contributor to stress levels. 

Your brain associates places with stress as much as it does the actual actions that happen in them. Creating that separation tells your brain, “It’s time to work” in your working space and, “It’s time to relax” in your other space.If you can create a physical location in your home where you either do all or a significant majority of your work, you will be less stressed while spending time in other parts of the home. 

II. Schedule and Observe Breaks

When you’re working from home, it’s easy to get caught up in work and end up working longer, more continuous hours.  It’s comfortable, you may be in your pajamas, and you can make yourself tea or coffee whenever you want and eat lunch while you do your work, right? Sure, but that will add significantly to your stress levels. 

Set specific times to take breaks, whether it’s to take a walk by yourself or with your dog, or whether it’s just to step away from the computer and get a break from the screen. This will create mental breaks that your mind needs throughout the day in order to keep working. Also make sure to not eat in front of your computer because then you’re not really taking a break from work at all.

III. Create a “Mindfulness Commute”

The last suggestion is a less obvious one because most people don’t think of their commute as being “a break” from anything. Many of us deal with traffic or frustrations while we’re commuting to work, but what you may not realize is that the time you spend commuting to work is time away from work, generally.  So create a “mindfulness commute” to work. It doesn’t have to be anywhere near as long as your regular commute; it just has to be long enough for you to create separation between your home life and your work life. You can even just walk from your bedroom to your office area and say to yourself, “time to go to work” before you engage in a breathing exercise.  Even if you have a small home and your work space is just a small corner of your apartment, you can still take a few minutes to yourself to breathe and mentally prepare to begin work. When you break for lunch or when you’ve finished work for the day, take another few minutes to mentally bring yourself back down from the day to relax and be home again.

Putting It All Together

I know it can be tempting to just jump in and start working from home from wherever you normally sit at home without giving it too much thought. The problem with this is that when you get used to that, you won’t have any place to really find solace away from work.  Eventually, you will integrate work into every physical space you inhabit, and that won’t be healthy. Instead, make sure to create the physical and mental space between your home life and your work life, and you will find that the stress becomes easier to manage.

Dhru Beeharilal, GUAA Career Coaching Partner

Taking Back the Narrative

“Everything can be taken from a [person] but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” 

– Viktor Frankl

Our situation with COVID-19 is one that can fill the most calm and steady of us with fear and uncertainty. What will happen to me, my family, my community? My job? Those most vulnerable? Because we biologically need and feed off of connection with others, we’re also affected by the thoughts, emotions, energy and narratives of other human beings and our collective narrative. Emotional contagion is a powerful phenomena. 

We look to our communities to help make sense of world events, but at times, we can be more drawn into fear, reactivity and stress that ultimately doesn’t help us. The inverse is also true: we can be calmed down by our communities and not all fear is negative. 

And yet, in a time when we feel like we have very few choices and the world is deciding how we live, we do still have a choice in the story we tell ourselves. We can choose where and on what we put our attention; how we interpret the data and information coming in. 

Here’s a method to get centered, to reflect and begin to rewrite the story you’re in right now:

  1. First, check in with yourself. Find a place to sit and be still for a few minutes. Step outside into the natural world if you can. Take a few deep breaths. Lengthen your inhales and your exhales. Notice where you’re connected to your chair, the floor or the ground outside. Starting at the top of your head, scan down through your body. Without judging, what do you notice? Where do you notice it? You can place a hand over your heart and your gut to check in with both parts of your body. What is your body trying to tell you?
  2. Second, take a few minutes to reflect on how you are currently feeling and reacting. I feel…what (emotion)? In light of that, what is it that I need right now? Listen to the answer, whether it be a feeling, a word or phrase, or even an image that comes up. Consider writing it down so you can pull it out of your brain to more effectively process it.
  3. Third, take a step back. What’s the story you’re living in right now? If you’re having trouble imagining that, think of how you would simplify the elements to share it as a headline. What role are you playing in that narrative (victim, hero, frustrated bystander)? What’s your aspiration for changing that? What changes about your behavior if you can stand in that narrative and look at the world that way? What are some small ways that you can create that new narrative? Example: Instead of feeling obligated to respond to my phone, I can silence my notifications and take the morning off from reading texts or material that amplifies my stress. 

I’m well aware that we can’t erase the world’s events right now with a little thinking. However, we can take ownership of where we do have the most power: our freedom to tell the story our way.

GUAA Career Coaching Partner Miranda Holder

On Fear

Dear fellow Hoyas,

Over two decades ago, I was diagnosed with cancer.  I was in my 20s at the time, and I would like to share with you how I have learned to deal with uncertainty.

Uncertainty as we all know produces fear.  A common reason for this fear is the tendency we have in the absence of certainty to imagine worst-possible scenarios.  For me, fear shows up in two ways.  One is concrete, and the other is general.  Concrete fear is helpful.  I recognize it because it moves me to act productively.  Over the years, it has motivated me to eat well and keep my doctors’ appointments.  More recently, fear has moved me to stay on top of the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and to prepare my family for social distancing, and if necessary, sheltering in place.

General fear, on the other hand, feels more like I’m circling the drain.  It produces lots of spinning, but no helpful (and sometimes unhelpful) moves.  When I notice it, I know now to address it using one of the following approaches.

The first is to pay attention to my thoughts.  If I am imagining worst-case scenarios, for example, I try to remind myself of all the times I have worried and nothing bad has happened.  My great-uncle used to say that people are terribly one-sided.  We suffer in anticipation of bad outcomes, yet we rarely celebrate in anticipation of good ones, even when the odds are similar.

When questioning my fears doesn’t work, I shift to acceptance.  I experience feelings as having both a mental and a physical component.  When I am afraid, for example, I get a knot in my stomach.  If I stop what I am doing and focus all of my attention on the physical sensation (rather than the subject of my fear), the sensation passes.  Typically, it grows and then fades in less than a minute as long as I don’t try to interrupt or control it.

Lastly, when these strategies don’t work, I turn to distraction.  Centuries ago, the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne wrote about our natural capacity for distraction.  We’re really good at it, and in times like these, we may as well use it to our benefit.  If you have work, then work.  If you’ve been putting off learning a hobby, use the extra time now to develop it.  If neither of these appeals to you, do something that feels more generative.  My distraction these days is to enjoy funny videos sent by my family in Spain.  They are finding ways to laugh and that is a salve.

If there is a silver lining to all of this, it is that we are all going through this together.  We don’t have to wonder why somebody is having a hard day, and instead of reacting, we can respond with understanding and care.

May you be well,

Yolanda Ruisánchez Gruendel (L’95)

Hoya Highlight: Andrew Ahn (S’02)

Senior Business Strategy Manager, Sony Interactive Entertainment (PlayStation)

Career Reflections

What is the best career advice you’ve ever been given?
“Talk is free” – never turn down an opportunity to just talk with someone.

What is the hardest thing you’ve had to do professionally?
Completely resetting my career by switching function and industry.

What has been the most rewarding moment of your career?
Working in an industry that is closely aligned with one of my lifelong hobbies.

What do you wish you had done earlier in your career?
Invest in growing a professional network.

Your Time on the Hilltop

What was your favorite class at Georgetown?
“Map of the Modern World”

What is your favorite Georgetown memory?
Making lifelong friends who continue to accompany me on my life journey.

How has Georgetown shaped you?
Georgetown has empowered me with a strong combination of critical thinking skills, the ability to navigate day-to-day realpolitik, and the best of friends.

A Day in the Life

Who or what is a source of inspiration and strength in your life and why?
God gives me the strength and clarity of mind to discern what is truly important in life.

What is one part of your daily routine you couldn’t live without?
Hanging out with my kids.

What is on your desk right now?
A PlayStation 4.

Who is your favorite author?
J. R. R. Tolkien

Words to live by?
Have more than thou showest, speak less than thou knowest.

Hoya Highlight: Deanna Blackwell (C’14)

Owner & Founder, Gloria Becca

Career Reflections

What is the origin of your company’s name?
Gloria Becca is named for women from both sides of my family. My maternal great-grandmother Rebecca was a seamstress who gave me my first taste of fashion: I spent time with her in her basement while she sewed and would allow me to use fabric pieces to make clothes for my dolls. My maternal grandmother was also named Rebecca. She was also from the south and maintained that looking good was a symbol of confidence and pride. Lastly, my paternal grandmother is named Gloria. I’d play dress up in her closet with my sisters as a child and loved exploring her makeup and perfume collection. These women all dressed in elegant ways that we don’t see anymore. Part of their daily routine was making sure they looked their absolute best before they stepped outside into the world. That pride in appearance and elegance has been a huge inspiration to me, and I feel I’m paying homage to my family through my company.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
My older sister works in HR and has her MBA. I remember her saying “it’s not who you know, but who knows you.” This struck me as being profound because it’s true – it’s all about who is thinking of your business and your brand and what you’re producing. When people are talking about wedding dress companies, I want them to be talking about Gloria Becca!

What career advice do you have to share with others?
This comes from my grandfather, who was also an entrepreneur: “As long as you know there will be a point when you’re not always going to get it right, and as long as you know there will be moments of failure, you’ll be fine. You won’t have unrealistic expectations of always getting it right.”

What has been the most rewarding moment of your career?
Being in the custom clothing world and in bridal specifically, I’ve gotten to create gowns for weddings and incredibly special moments in peoples’ lives. I feel a strong sense of reward when someone really loves their gown.

We service most of our brides remotely through technology, and it’s a pretty techy process! We create 3D avatars of shapes and sizes of brides’ bodies, and we mail their dresses to them. I don’t always get to see the faces of my brides when they first put on their dresses, but when I do, it’s really awesome!

What’s the hardest thing you’ve done professionally?
Deciding to become an entrepreneur and start a business! Fashion is not an easy field to get into – it’s really hard and it takes a lot of energy, patience, trial, and error. It’s a test of will and strength. The initial startup phase is incredibly hard and the overall entrepreneur lifespan is really short. Knowing that businesses often crash within the first couple of years is scary, and the competition is fierce.

One thing I learned quickly is that you have to show your face and personality more instead of hiding behind your computer. Clients don’t want to connect with a computer; they want to connect with you. So, I make a point to get out and socialize in the community and network often. Authenticity shines through, and you can’t be afraid to introduce yourself to strangers!

Your Time on the Hilltop

Who was your favorite Georgetown professor?
My favorite professor—Gwendolyn Mikell—changed my life. She is truly a gem on the Hilltop! She’s the first African American to receive tenure on Georgetown’s main campus and the work she’s done over time is incredible! She encouraged me to major in Anthropology, and instilled a strong sense of self-confidence in me. She made it ok for me to explore, to study the African diaspora, and to think about the use of Anthropology in the arts and in fashion. She helped me look at fashion in a totally new way: it’s not just fabric, thread, and style…fashion is the reflection of culture.

What is your favorite Georgetown memory?
During the warmer months of the year, my friends and I loved to bring out blankets and laptops onto Copley Lawn to enjoy the weather (even though wifi didn’t reach that far!). These outdoor “study sessions” usually devolved into just hanging out and socializing with friends, playing music, and having a great time.

How has Georgetown shaped you?
Georgetown instilled a strong sense of confidence and “you can do it” attitude in me. Coming from Georgetown you feel like you can do anything! You can have a crazy idea, and people from Georgetown will support you. Through Jesuit values, contemplation in action, and focusing on social aspects of life, my education encouraged me to think about how I can contribute to the greater good and make a difference in society. Georgetown really makes you feel like you can do anything as long as you are grounded in values and have the drive to keep going.

Something really important to me when I started my company was how we were going to give back and how we were going to make a change in the world. In the fashion industry, there’s gross abuse of resources, abuse of labor, and lots of waste. All of our dresses are made in the USA and our labor force is local people who are here in Philadelphia. We strive to meet standards of sustainability and responsible resource management.

A Day in the Life

What is on your desk right now?
I work from home preparing the designs and patterns before sending them to our amazing dressmakers. Usually you’ll find me working at my dining table. There I have my laptop, my sewing machine, sewing supplies, sketchbooks, and a cup of tea. My workspace is not conventional: I’m surrounded by supplies, big rolls of muslin and silk fabrics, and a Swarovski crystal chart that I have handy to reference at all times. Even when I’m not sketching or working on a dress design, I sit at my table. It feels good to always be in a space of creativity!

Sewing machine with pin cushion and scissors . dress sketch with pencil and pen

What is one part of your daily routine you couldn’t live without?
My husband Jordan (also a Hoya) says “make sure you’re doing a life-giving activity every day.” I love fashion, and being in this world was a life-giving activity before it became my job. Now that it’s my job, it’s turned into something different, so I need to find other things that are life-giving so that I continue to love my work. I love to run, walk, garden, and cook, and it’s important to do something that I love that’s not fashion-related. If you do too much work-related stuff, you’ll burn out and get tired.

I also try to stick to a schedule so that I can spend time with my husband and my friends, watch TV, relax, etc. There’s this perception that entrepreneurs have to be working 24/7, and I try not to do that by giving my day designated start and end times as much as possible.

Who or what is a source of inspiration in your life?
God first and foremost. Work is tough, but when you feel passionate about something and you put in the effort, and you see things eventually lining up, it’s proof that God is working on your behalf.

Who is your favorite author?
Toni Morrison.

Words to live by?
“Work is a form of worshipping God.” Remember that, and you’ll always put out your very best.

Hoya Highlight: Deanna Singh (L’04)

Chief Change Agent, Flying Elephant

Career Reflections

What is the best career advice you’ve ever been given?
Chart your own course, and always do what you think will have the most impact.

What is the hardest thing you’ve had to do professionally?
Pivot to something different when I knew I wasn’t in alignment with my purpose. Lots of people advised me to, “Go for the title! Go for the money! Suck it up!” I tried, but I was never good at it. For me, being in strong alignment with my purpose gives me confirmation that I’m doing the right thing mentally, spiritually, and intellectually. Especially when I was young, it was tough to move away from a comfortable job to pursue work that was in alignment with my purpose. But now, I can’t imagine working any other way. Once you’ve acted in your purpose and know how good that feels, it feels awkward to be out of it.

What has been the most rewarding moment of your career?
There is no one big rewarding moment – instead, there have been lots of small rewarding moments. The common theme throughout all these moments is that I feel rewarded when I get to see other people thrive. Knowing I had some small part in helping people get to where they want to be is incredibly fulfilling. In my career I teach, I write, I support amazing organizations, coach social entrepreneurs, I give presentations, and I help deliver babies as a doula. All of these provide me with moments when I am able to help others reach their potential.

What do you wish you had done earlier in your career?
I would have started writing earlier. There is power in putting pen to paper that I didn’t fully understand until later in my career. I’ve always really liked writing, but I never thought about it as something I would pursue professionally by becoming an author. Writing really came out of my desire to be more efficient and effective. So many people were reaching out to me for guidance on similar topics, and I was struggling to find the time to respond to all the questions and to share insights with everyone. So, I wrote books! Personal Hustle and Boy and Girl of Color came out of this desire to be responsive to all the questions I was getting. These books allowed me to participate in helping to change existing narratives, and to respond to everyone who’d written to me. There is so much power in the written word and through writing I’ve gotten to address deep issues: equity, inclusion, empowerment, etc.

Your Time on the Hilltop

Who was your favorite professor at Georgetown?
There are too many to name them all! But Dean Bellamy, Professor Roe, Professor Emma Jordan and Professor Edelman were some of my favorites! I kept the materials from Professor Edelman’s class for over a decade, and I found myself referencing articles he shared with us in my work. I had a chance to visit with him in Fall 2018 when he was on a book tour, and I finally got the opportunity to thank him for the impact he made on me. He did an amazing job of making us look at things objectively and providing us with the historical context we needed. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be around so many brilliant people!

What is your favorite Georgetown memory?
The program my classmates and I developed in our Street Law class comes to mind immediately. We were tasked with putting together a Street Law program for Milwaukee, WI, and we spent the whole semester creating this project. Finally, we got to come to Wisconsin and implement it. Now, the project is in its 15th year of operation!

I also fondly remember the people who worked on campus at the Law Center – especially the security guards. There were four security guard who knew me by name. Knowing they were looking out for me and that they took the time to know who I was made a big difference.

Finally, as part of the Black Law Students Association, I helped to organize the largest demonstration ever at the Supreme Court for an affirmative action case that was brought before the Supreme Court. Leading that as a student with the support of others on campus was amazing! I was called to the podium to speak in front of thousands of people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The history and impact of that moment hit me hard – where I was standing and why I was standing there. That whole experience was made possible by my being at Georgetown: I got to use the city as an extension of campus.

How has Georgetown shaped you?
I loved that I found a place that nurtured me to use my law degree in a non-traditional way. My professors and fellow students and alumni were all encouraging of how a law degree can be used toward the greater good of others.

A Day in the Life

Who is a source of inspiration and strength in your life and why?
My children. I see the way they look at the world and their vision of how the world could be. I want to make their vision a reality. They see a world where people are treated with respect and love and encouraged to be creative.

What is one part of your daily routine you couldn’t live without?
Starting every day with 15 minutes of prayer and reflections of gratitude, followed by cuddling with my kids.

What is on your desk right now?
I always keep a picture of my family within my line of sight. At the end of the day, they and God are who measure me and that it’s their opinions that matter the most.

Who is your favorite author?
Toni Morrison

Words to live by?
At the end of my life, I want to be able to tell God I’ve used everything given to me. I use this desire to guide my life. I ask myself all of the time if there is something else I could be doing that would be more impactful? How do I multiply the blessings, opportunities and experiences I have received?

Building Your Interpersonal Skills: Change the Lens

Guest Post by: Miranda Holder, GUAA Coaching Partner

Improving your interpersonal skills is about changing your point of focus. I studied art alongside literature in college and spent as much time as humanly possible in the darkroom. I will never forget the blissful feeling of my brain shutting off and my hands taking over. In a photo, much of the power of the image comes from where and on what you choose to focus.

This same principle is true of our interpersonal skills. When we try to appear capable socially or interpersonally, our focus is on ourselves because that’s what concerns us. It feels counterintuitive, but letting go of your internal dialogue and turning your focus on the other person is what strengthens those skills. Your subject can feel when they have your complete attention. We are hungry to be seen, to be heard and to have someone truly give us their energy. Whether or not we are aware of it, we are also looking for a real connection. You have amazing internal muscles that you can strengthen as you practice this: the muscles that support deep listening and attentiveness to another.

Reflect
Although we studiously avoid it, a little reflection for yourself can go a long way. Take a moment and a few deep breaths. What do you feel concerned, nervous or anxious about in social situations? If you could wave a magic wand, what would change about those situations to make you feel excited or comfortable about them? What support systems can you create to help you? What assumptions are you making about other people in social situations? The answers to these questions may provide you with some insight that help you personalize your plan.

Plan + Prepare
If the thought of extemporaneous speaking makes you feel queasy, take a few minutes before you head to an event and write out a few questions to which you are genuinely interested in hearing the answer. This will help internalize them for you. You can keep them on your phone if you blank when you walk into the room! Come prepared with a few anecdotes for yourself, as well. What’s exciting you these days? What are you surprised about, or what you have learned recently that interests you? Do you have a goal that you’re working toward? This way, you’ll have something prepared for the lull in the conversation.

Listen Deeply + Let Go
Nearly all humans are not listening, not really, even when their mouths are shut. They are listening enough to be thinking about how to respond with their own thoughts, because that’s what we’ve been taught. It can feel utterly nerve-wracking to not prepare what we are going to say in advance. This lack of listening kills our ability to be present.

If you listen deeply, a question will naturally come up from inside. It will be there for you as you open your mouth to speak: coming up from your gut, your intuition or your heart as you process what you’re hearing. Deep listening often leads to more interesting questions and a better connection to your fellow human.

Learning to Bounce by GUAA Career Coaching Partner Friderike Butler

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I sent my email subscribers a challenge at the beginning of the month, encouraging them to practice bouncing.  I didn’t mean the kind of bouncing that children do on backyard trampolines though! The art of the bounce is all about practicing resilience when your “20 seconds of Insane Bravery” do not yield the results you were hoping for.

Sometimes risk taking may bring you standing ovations and sometimes you will hear cat calls and boos. Some of your ideas will have enthusiastic fans and some will bring out the harshest critics – and the most outside of the box ideas are likely to generate both.  Setbacks, letdowns and brutal criticism are practically a given once you begin to take risks, so developing the skills to recover gracefully and learn from them is vital to your growth as a leader.

How do you learn how to bounce?

  1. Explore your fears

Practice getting used to wins and losses, seek praise and reproach, get used to getting call-backs and being ignored. One way of doing this is to reflect on a feared outcome and ask yourself the question, “and then what?”. For example, if you are afraid you may experience severe criticism for your action, think about what it would feel like if it actually happened, and if the criticism came from someone you really respected. Ask yourself what would happen next? How would you respond? Keep asking yourself the “so what?” or “and then?” questions until you get to a place of accepting whatever the outcome is or the anticipated outcome becomes so outlandish that you realize the fear is overprojected, e.g. they will hate the idea, I will lose the gig, I will not find other work, I can’t pay the bills, I will be living in a tent in the woods… This is a great journaling exercise that can help you to uncover the real and imagined fear that is holding you back from stepping out in risk.

  1. Accept the existence of non-fans

It’s important to work on letting go of wanting to be liked by all and being known as a “nice person”. Ultimately, people are responding to the tape that is playing in their own head and their response is not a reflection of your worth and often not even an indication of the value of your idea. Learn what you can from your experience, allow people to have the reactions they have, mourn an unrealized opportunity if you need to and then turn to your next opportunity to reach for what you believe in.  Practice not responding immediately to negative comments (especially on social media platforms!) to give yourself time and space to assess whether that response really warrants any energy back from you. Try and notice if there could be different ways to interpret another person’s comments or responses. Is there anything that you can take away from it that will aid your leadership journey?

  1. Seek candid feedback

For an even riskier way to practice the bounce, take this practice outside just your personal journaling time and invite some real feedback: Ask someone who is NOT a raving fan of yours for candid feedback on a recent project, action, or behavior. Listen and ask open-ended, non-leading questions: What worked for that person and what didn’t? What was the perception on the receiving end? Are there suggestions for alternative approaches? Thank your conversation partner for the feedback. Allow the message to settle. Consider what is being said to you, whether you see validity in the comments and how it may help you handle a situation differently in the future. Take valuable comments and consider how to put them into action. Put the rest aside. Walk on. Really. Walk away from the comments that were not helpful to you. Shake them off. Take a deep breath. Connect with yourself and feel that you are still whole, with immense talents to share and valuable contributions to make.

  1. Cherish support and praise

On those rare occasions when you do get standing ovations after your moment of insane courage, enjoy the moment! Accept the praise graciously and thank those who contributed to the excellent outcome. Tease out what exactly lead to the success so you will be able to draw from the experience in a similar situation in the future.

Tigger

REFLECTION & ACTION

  • What is the criticism that you are most afraid of? What fear is triggered? What do you believe the criticism or failure would uncover?
  • What are other ways you could interpret criticism? What may be going on in the other person’s world may have played into a harsh response?
  • What part of the criticism is constructive (you agree with it and you can choose to do something about it) and what part is puzzling, unhelpful, perhaps ill-spirited?

Questions about this exercise or other leadership capacity building practices? Contact me via email or even better, schedule a free Discovery Coaching Callwith me! I love talking with people!