by Charles

I have been on the phone these two weeks A LOT – connecting with clients, colleagues, and with aid workers who volunteered to do “emotional interviews” with me.  While I finalize my work on these emotional interviews, I wanted to give you a light surprise-outcome from these conversations.

Three concrete self-care strategies have emerged and they are good.  One is super practical, another offers a creative use of a technology, and the third is downright extreme, in a funny way.  I am going to share three strategies with you in hopes that they can support you to take better care of yourself this week.


Computer Fatigue bye-bye:  Sometimes aid work feels too much like being chained to a computer and this causes fatigue – the eyes get tired from staring at the screen and the body gets tired from sitting.  I was talking with Weh Yeoh from WhyDev (see the P.S. section to learn about the wonderful peer coaching network they are launching this spring) and this fatigue.  He showed me his #1 trick for combating computer fatigue – standing up.  Yes, he works standing up.  He swears this makes him feel less tired and increases his creativity as it allows him to move his body while working and not just sit there for hours on end.  I am using this tip right now and I have got to say that it is working! 

WANT TO START? Get a pile of heavy books and raise your computer so that you can stand up today while you work. 


Calendar-obey:  I don’t know about you but for me, my calendar is the key tool that makes or breaks my capacity to follow-through on a task.  I obey my calendar.  If it is in my calendar, I do it and don’t fall into the mental games that come with moving from idea into action.   If a task is not in my calendar, then chances are it will not be acted upon. 

Most of us use our calendar as a way to follow through on our responsibilities and rarely to support ourselves - our health, our creativity, our personal development.  If you are really serious about self-care, then put it in your calendar.

Whether you want to start a yoga practice, connect with your best friend in another continent, cook more of your own meals, read for pleasure, just do NOTHING and close your eyes for 10 minutes in the afternoon, go to that meditation retreat this summer, or make sure that you get enough sleep – put it DOWN in your calendar – own your time and value your needs because nobody else can do this part for you!  Make your calendar a document of self-love.

WANT TO START: Put 1 hour every day in your calendar for next week devoted to what you WANT.

AGGRESSIVE, in a good way

Phone lock-down:  If you feel that your smart phone is starting to make you feel dumb (in the truest sense of the word) this one is for you. 

This story had me laughing so hard, I had tears in my eyes.   I did an “emotional interview” with the Executive Director of an International NGO (Yeah I know, let’s give him a huge American style “shout out” for his volunteering his time to talk about emotions with me!).

He asked me “Have you ever worked in the field?” I said Yes. 

The follow-up question was “Did you use an outhouse?”

I said Yes. 

“You looked down the hole right?”

I started laughing because it is so true, the first time in an outhouse, you look down the hole! Everybody does!  

Similarly, we cannot help but look at the non-stop stream of emails like the outhouse hole – our curiosity always seems to win. This is called the "outhouse effect".

So he takes "extreme phone boundary measures".  While on vacation, he gives his phone to another person to lock in a safe that is not in his room. He does not know the security code.  The phone is in lock-down and that is that.  That means he cannot access his phone or emails for the duration of the vacation.  This is a sure way to create the mental space you crave. 

I turn off my phone and my computer for a 24 hour period every weekend  and I know of another colleague who goes on "communication holiday'" one entire weekend per month to get the break he needs. 

WANT TO START? Turn the technology off for 24 hours this weekend and see what happens.


P.S.  The guys (and women) over at WhyDev are trying to create a peer support network so that aid workers can support each other, using Skype, email or other methods. They ran a pilot program with some success and are now crowdfunding for the next iteration of the program: DevPeers. You can support their campaign here and register your interest for the programhere.


P.S.S. Are you currently in a professionally sticky situation and obsessing about it?  Well here's your chance to turn things around...Charles has two coaching spots opening this week.  If you are ready write to him here