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Ted Talks and I Listen:
Ideas for Personal Growth

By Beth Biega, Vice President- Offshore.

During these unusual times we are currently experiencing, many people devote some time to thinking of how to improve our lives and look for ways to improve ourselves whether it be professionally or personally.

Such personal changes might seem a bit daunting given the many restrictions that are in place but it was either this or deep clean my kid’s playroom for the third time during the pandemic and I’m not sure I’m strong enough for that again. So I will endeavor to have a renewed focus on work tasks and obligations. To cite but one example, it has fallen to me to create a schedule for the rest of the year of training sessions, a task which I performed the previous year, as well. Last year, my resolve lasted well past January 31st to get these planned before my enthusiasm ultimately flagged by mid-summer. Starting this process in June, I should last through the end of the year. As part of this process, there are always annual training sessions on tax and accounting updates. While one is motivated to make these as interesting and interactive as possible, there is no avoiding the fact that they are still tax and accounting updates, which only a few individuals look forward to and enjoy. Frankly, I thought I had left these behind when I left public accounting, and yet I find that certain of life’s displeasures persist even as one’s career changes. Nonetheless, I have begun this task with renewed enthusiasm to make every training session as interesting, informative and pertinent as possible.

While I have no special fear of public speaking, neither am I overly creative and confess to some reservations about my ability to lead engaging conversations without some assistance. This acknowledgement led me to Ted Talks.

While these have been around for many years, I again must confess to being a bit behind the cultural curve, having only just taken my first venture into the vast and inspiring library. I quickly tapped “work-life balance” into my search window and, sure enough, down the rabbit hole I went, watching perhaps 20 or more videos to find the ones I thought would be best suited for kicking off our training sessions. I focused on this topic since more of us are working from home and may not be able to separate the two given there is no physical separation, especially noticed by me given my computer is on my kitchen table and my husband occupies the dining room table. I emerged armed with the conviction that the following three would be best suited, based on discussions held at the management level about how we can continue to make Atlas the best place to work and provide the best solutions and service to our clients.

• 10 ways to have a better conversation by Celeste Headlee
• The happy secret to better work by Shawn Achor
• How to turn off work thoughts during your free time by Guy Winch

Even though I now cringe at the preponderance of apps and websites where you can receive summaries of books in as few as 15 minutes, with each of them vying to provide the summary in the least amount of time of which I’m not a believer that these should be used as replacement for reading the full book. I am quite sure such sites are doing well, acknowledging this leads to a resolution I made for 2020 to spend more time reading which seems to have been replaced with completing many, many puzzles. Realizing that each person invariably garners something uniquely applicable to their own life, I hereby promise to only provide insight into why I chose each of them. This may inspire you to watch the 12-minute videos yourself and think about how you and your colleagues can improve your work lives in different ways.

10 ways to have a better conversation
One concern that has been raised in many of our meetings is how best to connect with our clients. To address this need effectively, we made the very ambitious goal of visiting all of our clients over the past three years. Based on feedback from the staff that performed the visits, as well as that of many of our clients, our effort was well received and created a more personable relationship.

Realizing that we may not be able to resume visiting our clients for quite some time, we delved deeper into the ways in which we can improve communication with our clients on an ongoing basis. And here, one comes up against the modern necessity of email. I chose this video in the awareness that our ability to have meaningful conversations is challenged by our reliance on digital communications. Indeed, it sometimes seems to be that our ability to communicate clearly is in jeopardy. Whether we encourage our staff to pick up the phone and call clients or whether they are meeting with clients in person, we are all charged with making these interactions as impactful as they should be.

The biggest lesson in this video, for me, was LISTENING. The speaker made me acutely aware of how our thoughts tend to wander in the midst of conversations. For me this awareness produced a resolution to improve my conversations with staff and clients in two simple ways. First, when someone enters my office to discuss any matter, I move to the conference table to steer the discussion away from the distractions on my desk. Secondly, when on a phone call, I close my Outlook so I don’t see any notifications. Last, it has sparked an idea for a further Ted Talk training session on how to have difficult conversations.

The happy secret to better work
I found this speaker to be inspiring for the simple insight that our happiness at work is reliant on successes. I know I for one LOVE being able to cross something off my to-do list and become very deflated when there are items I can’t solve in a reasonable amount of time, especially when they continue to linger. However, when I do accomplish a goal, the question arises: Do I celebrate the success or do I just move the goal posts and continue on, thereby never fully achieving true fulfillment. Unfortunately, I realized that I am inclined toward the latter and look forward to further training sessions with my colleagues to determine collectively whether others share this trait and, if so, how can we overcome it.

How to turn off work thoughts during your free time
This video I personally connected with the least, but present it to my colleagues here in the recognition that each of us is different. The speaker delivers valuable insights into how to keep work thoughts and “ruminating,” as Dr. Winch describes it, from invading home life. Personally, I find I am generally able to leave work at work except when I have not been able to cross things off my to-do list and realize they are capable of becoming much larger problems. Setting the deadline of no more work after 8pm, as the doctor suggests, is not an issue. Instead it can be when I’m ready to go to sleep or when I wake in the middle of the night that these “ruminating” thoughts are at their worst.

There is nothing worse than having problems pop into your head at 2 am. Not only can one do nothing about them, but their invasion of sleep magnifies their power to cause anxiety and stress. I once again look to see what idea sharing can be done. I herewith volunteer my way of separating work and life while on vacation by ONLY checking my emails once a day, first thing in the morning long before my children wake. My colleagues then know it will most likely not be until the next morning before they will hear anything further. This allows me to enjoy my vacation time with my family and not come back to work with 200+ unread emails.

Whilst I have developed the training session schedule, depending on how the first session goes, I may need to incorporate Ted Talks on a regular basis, building on the ones noted above by soliciting further ideas from my colleagues.

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