High chances are you’re struggling with lockdown fatigue —the inevitable psychological fallout of Covid-19 and all it has brought with it. It’s the reason so many people are feeling exhausted, irritable, drained of energy and motivation — when they’re doing less than ever.  The way in which our lives have transformed in such a short space of time has heavily impacted our daily routines, as many individuals no longer have to wake up at a certain time in order to be punctual for work or college. With such unending disruption to our normal lives, affecting every activity and social interaction we have, it is important to focus on what we can control. So, what can we do to address some of this lethargy?  The routines in our daily lives can be a good place to start as these will give us a structure to hang our day upon and bring us a guaranteed level of certainty, which is so lacking right now: Don’t be so hard on yourself One of the most common things people do when they are experiencing fatigue is beat themselves up for not doing more.  This is counter-productive and results in feeling even more downbeat about lacking motivation.  Instead, tell yourself that the feelings of lethargy will pass and are only temporary.  Give yourself a break – stay in bed a little bit longer, stay up watching TV a little later and eat whatever gets you through that day.  The key thing here is this is a temporary situation. Give yourself the day off and start afresh the next morning. Refresh your routines It’s fair to say that as we are all feeling drained and despondent, thinking “what’s the point” with it all, it would be easy to allow the routines that give us structure and meaning in our day can be discarded too quickly.  It is important to adapt and refresh these instead. Changing small details about our routines can make them easier to stick to - taking a walk outside before you start your day, introducing a no-screen coffee break during your morning, or committing to making a connection with one friend or family member every day – either a phone call, social media connection or email.   Equally, so all the days don’t blend into one, create new routines for different days – yoga on Monday and Sunday, gardening on Tuesdays, baking on Thursdays, pampering spa nights on Fridays and so on.  The trick here is to break the monotony but not the positive habits that bring us comfort. Get up and move! We all know the many benefits we can enjoy from a little exercise. It is the one sure way of elevating our mood – creating a bubble bath of chemicals in the brain!  Taking a 20-minute walk outside, building in some stretches or yoga into our day, or jumping into the sea if we have access to the coast will help to reinvigorate our energy levels. Incorporating any movement into your day is vital in counteracting the damage of sitting crouched over your laptop for eight hours or more. The most important aspect here taking it day-by-day and step-by-step. Change your mindset This is easier said than done but can pay dividends to our mental health. Instead of reminding ourselves how hard the current lockdown is, how bored we are, how we miss our friends and family, or how much we need a holiday, try practising acceptance instead. Repeating the same negative mantras can retrigger your despair and frustration. By reframing your negative thoughts into more positive ones of acceptance, life starts to look very difficult before too long. Learning about re-framing the negative from someone like Edith Edgar in her book The Choice is a good place to start. She asserts that happiness is a choice, and acceptance is a key part of this. This strategy helped her survive and thrive despite spending years in Auschwitz’s concentration camp during the WWII.  She explores how we can be imprisoned in our own minds and shows us how to find the key to freedom. As Oprah Winfrey said of her story: “The Choice is a reminder of what courage looks like in the worst of times and that we all have the ability to pay attention to what we've lost, or to pay attention to what we still have”. And, so to sleep. It cannot be overstated how important getting plenty of shut eye is.  It is the one single wellbeing routine that we can practice which delivers the biggest return on our health. An optimum of 7-8 hours allow us to enjoy 5 REM cycles which is key in obtaining that deep sleep so important in maintaining our circadian rhythms which keep us physically and mentally fit. Avoiding caffeine from 12 noon and blue light two hours before bedtime, while ensuring a cool, completely dark room will all help you maintain a great sleep routine. Dee France, manager of CA Support. Members and students who need emotional or wellbeing support, can contact CA Support on 01 637 7342 or 086 024 3294, by email casupport@charteredaccountants.ie or online at www.charteredaccountants.ie/casupport

Feb 11, 2021
Member Profile

Three Chartered Accountants talk to Accountancy Ireland about what worked and what didn’t in 2020, and the changes they have made to ensure success in both their work and personal lives in 2021. As we moved into 2021, so did the pandemic, lockdowns and working from home. Three members of Chartered Accountants Ireland – Larissa Feeney, CEO of Accountants Online; Maeve Hunt, Associate Director at Grant Thornton; and Kevin Nyhan, Credit Manager at AIB – describe what made their 2020 difficult, how they overcame those challenges, and what they hope to change this year. Goal-setting and disconnecting Larissa Feeney, founder and CEO of Accountant Online, has found that making realistic goals and not loading up her task list has kept her going during the pandemic. As a company, we were lucky when the pandemic hit as we were accustomed to remote working and automation, but adapting to working from home during a lockdown is challenging for everyone. I put a routine in place from early on: get up at 6.30am to do some reading, yoga and meditation before going for a walk. I am ready for work at 9am. If I keep to that routine consistently, it keeps me focused for the day and on an even keel.  Every Sunday evening, when I am relaxed, I set out all my weekly goals – both work and personal – and there is a great satisfaction to ticking those off during the week. At the start, I tried to motivate myself by putting lots of things on the list but that only served to make me feel stressed, overwhelmed and anxious, so I ensure the list is realistic and follows SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) principles. All my weekly goals contribute towards my monthly goals, my annual goals and my five-year goals. I know that I have higher energy in the early part of the week, so I take on the harder tasks during those days.  I have three children at home, so homeschooling means that you can’t give both home or work life 100%, but we are all doing our best. We have to go easy on ourselves and know that we cannot operate at the same level as before the pandemic, but we will get back to those levels one day.  To disconnect, I read in the evenings – but books that are good for the soul, rather than the business and leadership books I read in the mornings. Walking and getting out in the fresh air always helps. At home, a different person makes the lunch and the dinner every day and we take turns to pick a family movie to watch together.  Apart from ‘getting back to normal’, what I would like to change this year is the further evolution and development of the team and further investment in automation and innovation. Personally, I will continue to work on the home/business divide, which can always do with improvement. Stick with a routine in 2021  Maeve Hunt, Director of Audit and Assurance at  Grant Thornton, first thought the same day-to-day routine would get her down, but it has proved to be a winning habit.  When the pandemic hit last March, we scrambled to leave our offices and head home with monitors under the arm (quite literally) to enter this new way of working. For many, it was a balancing act of working at home in shifts and looking after children. For others, it was an isolating moment in time with no one sharing their working environment. What we needed was a new ‘routine’ of working. Is there a word that is more uninspiring and dull than ‘routine’?  It is a word we want to escape from. We want to travel the world and hide from routine, and seek exciting new opportunities. Can we be creative if we are in a routine?  If we have learned anything from the last year, it’s that routine may be dull, but it is familiar and dependable. A good routine has been key in order to live a somewhat enjoyable and productive working and personal life through the pandemic.  What worked for me was starting my working day earlier, taking an extended break in the middle of the day to ensure I homeschool my five-year-old and play with my two-year-old.  Inevitably, this meant working at night but I found that the shorter, focused periods of work I was completing actually made me more productive. That became a good motivator for me. What I found most challenging in that first lockdown period was how easy it was to go from day to day without talking to another member of my team. I quickly realised that the part I loved most about my job, and missed most during the health crisis, was collaboration.  Scheduling a daily chat with a member of the team has really helped with this. These social calls have helped me disconnect and give me energy for the rest of the working day.  So where do we go from here? There are many things I would change about the last year, but I think I’ve learned a lot about the importance of sticking to a routine that offers a bit of variety. It may not be the traditional working day in the office, but it is all about balance.  It is ensuring you disconnect in the day and take extended breaks. The beauty of working at home is the ability to get back time, cutting out commutes, inevitable down time and unproductive moments in the office. Use this time! Use it to clear your head, go for a walk, read a book, play with the kids. You will be all the more productive for it. A few tweaks to that dreaded routine, which we believe kills all imagination, might end up providing us with enthusiasm and energy for our daily life.   The importance of connections and disconnection  Kevin Nyhan, Credit Manager at AIB, has gone into 2021 wanting to reconnect with his colleagues and knowing the importance of leaving work behind at the end of the day. I was fortunate in that I had been able to work from home a few days each month before the COVID-19 crisis, so it wasn’t a completely new experience to me. However, there’s a big difference between doing it occasionally and working remotely on a permanent basis.  From the start, I’ve made sure to form and try to keep a daily routine, similar to what I did when I was in the office. I get up at the same time each day, try to start and finish at the same time, as well as taking breaks and lunch around the same as I would have done in the office. I have found that really helps to maintain some sort of difference between work and home.  Working on my own all day, I do miss the social interaction of work. At the start of the pandemic, like most, I tried group zoom calls and quizzes but, as we all know, it’s hard to have group discussions via video call. Instead, I now make the point of scheduling a short video call each week with a colleague or friend to have a coffee and a chat and that does help keep in touch with people. I’m fortunate to have a spare room to work from so I can close the door in the evening and try to leave work behind. However, it can be difficult to switch off when you’re just walking from one room to another at the end of the day. The commute between the office and home was useful to disconnect from work-mode and I do miss that break between home and work. I now take a short walk in the evening after I finish work. That 20 minutes really helps me to disconnect. Plus, my dog is delighted with all the walks he is getting these days.

Feb 09, 2021
AI Extra

Just five years ago, Jason McIntosh was working in practice and didn’t know what the next five years would hold. Now a Finance Manager at Seagate Technology, he answers our six career questions. Five years ago, where did you think you would be now? Have you lived up to your own expectations? Five years ago, I had not long qualified as a Chartered Accountant and was still working in practice. (It doesn’t feel that long, so quantifying it is quite scary!) At that stage, I wasn’t sure where I would be in five years. I probably had this idea about what it would be like to be an accountant in industry, but I wasn’t sure it would be for me.  Having worked in industry for almost three years now, I’m delighted to have been wrong about that – I have a job that I really enjoy, working with great people and getting the opportunity to gain loads of experience in a global role within a global organisation.  Have I lived up to my own expectations? Probably yes – mostly because I didn’t know what to expect! I’m a big believer in constantly challenging yourself, so in that regard I think I’ve probably done that plenty over the last five years.  What do you wish you had known earlier in life? On a professional level: it’s never too early to build your network. I was given this advice on my first day working as an accountant, and probably didn’t take it seriously enough then. But it’s true. As you progress in your career, your network will invariably become something that you rely on from time to time. Looking after it is important, too; stay in touch with the people you meet.  Personally, probably the importance of spending time with your family. When you’re young, life seems so busy and we probably don’t take the time to spend with our parents and our grandparents while we can.  Where do you see yourself this time next year? Hopefully in the office at least a few days a week – without face masks! Like everyone, I’m missing the human interaction of an office. I’ve been working at home full-time for almost a year.  In my current role, I can still see huge opportunities to learn and so this time next year, I’ll hopefully still be doing just that.  Who inspires you personally and professionally?  It may be a little cliché, but my family inspires me. My son is turning three this year, and he approaches life with a curiosity and sense of humour that is infectious. And my wife, who is also a Chartered Accountant, inspires me in so many ways, as well.  Professionally, I try to take a little bit of inspiration from as many sources as possible. You can learn something from everyone, even if it’s what not to do!  If you weren’t a Chartered Accountant, what do you think you’d be doing? That’s a tough question! I studied law at university, and I would probably have pursued that further as I did really enjoy it. That or playing in midfield for Manchester United.   What advice do you have for those who will soon qualify as Chartered Accountants? Treat every day as an opportunity to learn and grow. Early in your career is the absolute best time to soak in every bit of experience you can. Make sure that your job allows you the opportunity to constantly challenge and develop yourself. In a similar vein, actively seek opportunities to learn something new and to learn from others. The best Chartered Accountants I know have breadth of experience as well as depth.  Don’t be afraid to take an opportunity when one arises. Great things never came from comfort zones. 

Jan 13, 2021

This time of year is about setting objectives and goals. However, these usually fail within the first month. How can you empower yourself to stick with them for the whole year? Dawn Leane outlines five ways that can help. It’s the time of year when we set ourselves new goals, whether personal or professional. But often, by the time spring arrives, our good intentions are just a distant memory. Setting objectives is always a good idea, but we can set ourselves up to fall short unless we have the right mindset. Here are five ways to empower yourself in 2021 and beyond. 1. Start with the end in mind A goal without a plan is just a wish, as the saying goes. Stephen Covey advises us to “begin with the end in mind”. Having a clear understanding of what ‘future-perfect’ looks like makes it easier to know where we’re going, assess where we are now, and work out all the steps in between. By breaking our journey into a series of smaller goals, we are more likely to stay on track. 2. Give yourself a break Strike a balance between having ambition and setting unrealistic expectations. For example, if you tend to leave things to the last minute, you may decide to focus on improving your time management. We usually approach this by trying to change ourselves, expending much energy in the process. Or you could accept that you work best with an impending deadline and change how you structure your time instead. Self-acceptance is the most empowering act of all. 3. Build your network There is little we can achieve alone. A strong, strategically developed network is essential to success in any endeavour. Your network should consist of people who can provide you with information and further connections, give honest feedback, provide personal support, and help you maintain a positive work-life balance. Ensure that the people in your network know what you want to accomplish. It will be easier for them to help if they can recognise the opportunity, information or introduction that will benefit you. 4. Review regularly We live in a VUCA world: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Review your goals regularly to ensure that they are still relevant, that you are on track, and have the right resources. If your original objective is unrealistic or your circumstances change, don’t judge yourself. Instead of doubling down or quitting, reassess what you want to achieve. Revisit your concept of ‘future-perfect’ and ask if it is still valid. If not, what can you change to make it so? 5. Just do it Motivation is a myth. John Maxwell writes: “The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever. Do it without motivation. And then, guess what? After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.” The key to empowerment is taking control. That doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes or have bad days. But if you learn from those experiences and refine your approach, your capacity will continually develop. Dawn Leane is CEO of Leane Leaders, supporting leadership development through training, executive coaching, mentoring and consultancy.

Jan 08, 2021

We are in unpredictable times and 2020 taught us to cherish what we have, particularly family and friends, take nothing for granted and look after our physical and mental health. Certainly, getting a fresh start in 2021 is really appealing and creating some new year resolutions or goals means we start off on the right foot.  New habits and behaviours can be challenging they don’t happen overnight and can take commitment and dedication.  The brain does not like swift, abrupt change, but benefits can be very worthwhile, so think of this as an investment in yourself. The top ten resolutions each year include: Exercise more Lose weight Get organized Learn a new skill or hobby  Live life to the fullest Save more money / spend less money Quit smoking Spend more time with family and friends Travel more Read more Most of us can relate to some or all the resolutions listed. Resolutions and goals are unique to each of us, so perhaps before you create them consider the questions below: How would you like to feel? Will the resolution help you get there? Would you recommend this resolution to a friend of colleague? How will the resolution impact you? Are you removing something and simply making a change? What is the improvement you want to make and why? When it comes to new year resolutions almost half of us are unsuccessful at fulfilling them, so perhaps we need to consider how we approach them? Below are some tips which may help to keep you on track and ensure success in 2021 Be mindful When embarking on changing a habit or behaviour it is important to prepare mentally by taking a step back and taking stock. When thinking about any change try to keep in mind: Change should be gradual Build on smaller changes Remain positive Accept that there could be setbacks and allow for them Own them Ensure the goals you have set are yours and that this is something you want and not something which you think you should be aiming for. You have a far better chance for success if you are intrinsically motivated to reach your goal Be realistic Do not create a long list, limit the number of resolutions you commit to. Be selective about the ones which mean the most and are the most attainable for you.  Be specific It’s easy to set goals which we cannot achieve, so take some time to ensure they are achievable. A good suggestion is to use SMART to help you create them: Specific - What do you want to achieve, break it down be specific Measurable - How can you measure if you have achieved it e.g., walk a mile in 20 minutes or lose 10% of your weight Attainable – Is the goal or resolution attainable e.g., this is not a good year to include world travel, but it might a good year to travel your corner of the world Relevant - Keep it relevant to you, your life and how you want to improve it Timeline – Give yourself an appropriate deadline to work towards Small wins Break them up into small pieces.  As you tick off each box, your confidence will grow with each small success and spur you on. Share them By keeping the resolution to yourself you can fall into a trap and give up at the first hurdle. By sharing these with others you become accountable and less likely to forget or give in. You could also find that by sharing, other like-minded people may join you. Keep going Setbacks happen, but it is how you handle them that counts. Own the setback, understand how and why it happened and move on. Remember “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” Lao Tzu.   CA Support is here to support our students, members, and their families. Contact the CA Support team on mobile: (353) 86 024 3294 or email:  casupport@charteredaccountants.ie

Jan 05, 2021

Microsoft Ireland’s Katharine Mulcahy ACA talks about finding your purpose. I am fortunate to work for Microsoft where global diversity and inclusion is part of our strategy to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more. I am a Diversity Ally at Microsoft and I wear my Ally pin with pride. I have a keen interest in activities, initiatives or groups which support diversity, inclusion and equality of opportunity in our society, as well as in our workplaces. As a mother to two young children, a boy and a girl, I want them to grow up in an equal society with equal opportunities, whatever path they choose in life. We have come a long way, but there is still a lot more impetus and urgency needed. Each one of us can take inclusive actions each day by challenging stereotypes and bias, and forging positive visibility of diversity in our communities.    Cultivating interests is a fantastic way to foster your network and find your purpose. It keeps you grounded, connected and it helps create a healthy and broadened perspective on your life. Peer-to-peer networks are a valuable way to build a sense of community and provide support. I had an enriching experience participating in a Lean In Circle (leanincircles.org) set-up by Dina Talotta, an inspiring diversity coach. Members of circles meet in small groups once a month to support each other and learn new skills. I have now set up my own Lean In Circle so that others can benefit in the way I have done and build a network.  As a young teenager, I spent a year overseas in a German boarding school while knowing little German. Many of the boarders at the school were away from their families for prolonged periods of time. We really needed to be there for one another. The experience taught me about being brave and how empathy and kindness can transcend any barrier. I returned home with a keener appreciation for the circumstances and perspectives of others, and that’s reflected in my leadership style. I ground my working style in the concept of servant leadership, which is the belief that every person has value and deserves civility, trust and respect, and that people can accomplish much when inspired by a purpose beyond themselves.  I was fortunate to be awarded a scholarship by the 30% Club to attend the Rising Women Leaders Programme at Cambridge Judge Business School earlier this year. One of the sessions presented by Cath Bishop, Team GB silver medallist in rowing, was about finding your purpose. The question was put to us, ‘What gets you out of bed in the morning?’ and the answer could not be your family or the alarm clock. It inspired us to think about what that motivation is for each of us. If you can figure out that motivation for yourself, you can find your purpose and be fulfilled.  Microsoft offers a great deal of flexibility and I am fortunate to be able to balance my professional and personal commitments. I try to focus on being present in whatever I am doing. I lean on my support system of amazing friends, family and colleagues. I have learned to prioritise self-care. Sheila O’Malley runs a parenting course in Microsoft and she teaches that unless your own glass is full, you cannot fill up the glasses of others. I’ve found that to be absolutely true in all aspects of my life. MY BOOKSHELF A Good Time to be a Girl by Dame Helena Morrissey  Dame Morrissey is the founder of the 30% Club campaign, CEO and mother of nine. Making a compelling case for diversity, she provides an uplifting account of how we can change the system for the better. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck Growth mindset is founded on the belief that potential is nurtured and not predetermined. We all have elements of a fixed mindset and this book provides insight on how we can challenge those belief systems.   Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella This book provides a powerful account into Nadella’s life story, his management style and discusses the future of technology in terms of artificial intelligence, mixed reality and quantum computing. 

Jun 01, 2018