Thursday 21 April 2016

How to be a productive parent (Guest post by Matt Richards)


Change your outlook, change your world.

My name is Matt Richards. I work with people who want their lives to change. I show high-achievers, how to dream bigger than they ever thought possible - and then show them how to take small, strategic steps to achieve these ‘impossible’ goals.

Since becoming a professional coach 7 years ago I have worked with clients from all over the world, taking on a maximum of just 10 clients each year, to ensure I give every one my full, unwavering commitment.

It’s been a long journey for me to get to where I am but I’m in a great place right now because I’ve designed it that way. And if I can do it so can you.

 How To Be A Productive Parent

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that as a busy parent in the modern world it’s very easy to become demotivated and burnt out at times.

Not only do you have a million different people informing you of the ‘correct’ way to raise your child, but there’s the sleepless nights, the juggling of your own dreams and needs, not to mention the relatively uncertain future we all find ourselves in presently.

As an expert at helping people become more productive and happier I know that with just a little change in mindset and a commitment to self-investment, self-belief and taking strategic action, anything is possible.

I also understand that as a busy parent there are countless times when you might feel jaded and unproductive. But while this is true, there is no reason why you can’t combat these feelings and become not just a great parent but a powerful individual – someone who is productive and focused even when life threatens to drag them down.

To help with this then, I have highlighted below a few techniques to help you always aim for greatness - even when you’re running on empty.

1. Don’t blame yourself

The first point we need to set in stone here is that what you feel is normal. You are not different to any other parent. The same fears, moods, confusion and overwhelm you are experiencing are being felt all over the world.

That’s what being a parent is.

So please don’t blame yourself. Ever. There is so much pressure on you already; from society, from the media, from family members. Don’t be another voice adding to that pressure.

You don’t have to be Super Parent to raise your children as good, happy individuals. Indeed, trying too hard to be perfect is one sure-fire way you can actually become burnt out.

You can read every book on parenting out there - but with so much contradiction and methodologies it’s very easy to become overwhelmed. Instead go with your guts, they’re usually right. And more so, cut yourself some slack. Remind yourself that you are a good, loving parent who always does right by their children. And that is most of the battle won right there.

Achieving a relative balance between meeting the needs of your family as well as caring for yourself is extremely important if you are to be a productive and happy parent.

2. Recharge yourself strategically

This technique is really useful if you find yourself in unproductive slumps during the day.

The trick is to set 2 or 3 check-up points throughout the day where you’ll actively stop what you’re doing, recharge yourself a little and remind yourself that you are a happy, productive person.

So next time you’re feeling a little fogged and tired after being up since 4am simply stand up, shake yourself down and realign with yourself.

Do whatever works best for you: fist pump the air, shout at the top of your voice, loop self-belief thoughts, do some deep breathing exercises, power pose, dance…

It only needs to be for a few minutes. Just get up and move, become alive again and then you’ll be so fired up to take on the rest of your day.

Motion creates emotion.

Alongside this it’s also really useful to listen to crank up some of your favourite tunes now and again. Doing this will trigger the release of neurotransmitters in your brain, which boost alertness and attention.

3. Go for Re-Calibration Walks

I realised a few years ago that I always got all my best ideas when I was outside walking, with no distractions at all.

So I began taking myself away from things for just 20 mins a few times each week. I strip myself of all technology and just walk in nature for a while.

Try this yourself, go for recalibration walks, get your peripatetic system working and I’ll guarantee you’ll have an epiphany a week.

It’s an amazing way of just recalibrating and getting clear on things.

Plus, fresh air and exercise always works wonders.

Your body is designed to work on a circadian pattern. When that pattern is disrupted, your blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and heart rate all suffer.

Exercise helps develop adrenaline release, which makes us more alert so strap the baby in a buggy, splash your face with cold water and go for a walk around the block.

4. Create conscious intent for the day ahead.

Nothing focuses our reptilian brains more than intent. In essence, energy follows attention. But if you’ve ever felt flustered or overwhelmed its only because you’re unclear as to what you want.

We all know nature abhors a vacuum. So what that means is if you’re unfocused, your subconscious mind is going to start to look for things to focus on.

And in doing so it splurges all its energy on looking for focus and because of all this expended energy flying around, you end up feeling stressed and tired out.

So, how do we combat this?

By creating conscious intent - by having intentions planned out for your day.

So decide each morning that you are going to be happy and productive that day. It sounds simplistic and obvious but you’d be surprised. It’s something most people don’t ever really think about. But if you stop right now. Take a deep breath and tell yourself that today is going to go well. That today you will be happy and in control. Then you’ll feel be amazed at how confident and super powerful it leaves you feeling.

Wake up and thank the day then: ‘Today I will feel happy and in control’

And if that sounds a little trite then let me put this another way for you:

The only way to true happiness and be a productive parent is to create good energy and emotions from within. Never from external forces

If you take full responsibility for how you feel you’ll realise you can start to take control of it. And make it so.

Always create the state you want from within. Whether you use visualisations, affirmations, meditation, yoga or whatever you need to help with this.

The state you are in the most often becomes your default state.

So if you take responsibility for your happiness, keep a smile on and commit to having a good day it’s going to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The more happy and productive you act the more this will become who you are all the time. And very quickly will become your state without even thinking about it.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask

Finally if you need help ever, ask for help. Nobody gets successful without a little help. A big issue new parent’s face is that they’re focusing their attention so much harder than most people that they can begin to neglect themselves without even realising it.

So don’t be afraid to ask for a little time out. If you have people there to take youngster off your hands for an hour or so let them.

Allow yourself to just be you for a few hours.

To be a strong productive parent you need strong foundations. So there’s nothing wrong with letting others take control and getting to know you again from time to time.

It will make the rest of the time you are in parent-mode so much more rewarding, exciting and productive.

Matt Richards

High-Performance Coach

Connect with Matt:

Thursday 7 April 2016

Interview with travel bloggers, Rashmi and Chalukya


Hi, Please introduce yourself to our readers.

We are a couple from India. Software engineers by profession. I quit my corporate job to spend more time with my daughter and enjoy this phase of life. We started travelling in India to get away from our monotonous 9 to 6 jobs and soon travelling became an indispensable part of our life. Soon after our angel daughter was born we came to Switzerland on an onsite opportunity and grabbed this opportunity to explore Europe.

Which country do you come from/call home?

We are from Mumbai, India.

What is the first trip you remember taking together?

The first trip we took together was to the southernmost point of India - the Kanyakumari in 2007. Incidentally this is the trip where we were introduced to each other.  We were on our training for our first job and our common friends had planned this trip. 

Sunrise at Kanyakumari, 2007

Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?

We did have a couple of them but they were worth the trouble!

 1.After visiting Etretat we had to catch the last bus from Le Havre to Caen where we had booked our apartment. Due to heavy traffic, the bus from Etretat reached Le Havre late and we ended up missing the last bus to Caen. We were obviously annoyed but then decided to take a taxi. Taxi was probably a better option since we were travelling with a kid. And it gave us an oppurtunity to see the area, Etretat is so beautiful.

2.When travelling back from Edinburgh to London, our scheduled train got cancelled and we had to take the next train which was jam packed due to combined passengers from both previous and current trains. We had to sit on the train floor due to unavailability of seats. After about 10 minutes or so, we decided to have a chat with a train cafeteria employee, we got offered seats usually reserved for the staff. Later on, they arranged seats in first class for us. So all is well that ends well.

How do you decide on a destination? 

We had initially planned to cover all the neighboring countries of Switzerland, when we started travelling. But later on, we decided to visit locations that intrigued us, for instance: Etretat white cliffs, Mont Saint Michel and American cemetery (Normandy), Eiffel Tower (Paris, France), Neuschwanstein Castle (Germany), Santorini Greek Island (Greece).

Rashmi with Chhavi in Paris.

Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it.

Our bucket list is currently overflowing, but the 3 destinations on top of our list are: 
1. Turkey
2. Seven sister states of northeast India.
3. Safaris in South Africa

If you were not travelling, what would you be doing instead?

We would definitely be travelling but maybe not to international destinations. If not for the opportunity to work in Switzerland we would have found it harder to visit these countries. Once back in India, we are planning to save our pennies to continue pursuing our passion for travel.

What is your favorite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)

Car. It is always great to take wrong turns, explore the unexplored, stop whenever you want and start again. Travelling by car, we have many atimes changed the complete trip schedule by visiting new places or adding on new unplanned stops.

Many people are afraid of travelling with children, what is your best advice to make a family holiday a success?  

After having kids life changes, your lifestyle changes and you adopt new habits. You become more patient, more organized and multitasker. All these qualities help you become a better traveller. 
A little patience and preplanning would make your travel with kids more memorable.

How many countries have you travelled to so far? Do you have a dream destination you haven’t managed to go to yet? 

Including India, we have travelled to 19 countries so far.
Our Chhavi has accompanied us to all the countries except one, our honeymoon to Malaysia! 
Yes, Turkey has long been on our wish list!

You visited many countries: do you have a favorite so far?  In which countries did you find travelling with children the hardest?  Why?

Our favorite will always be Switzerland. It is a paradise for travel lovers and great to travel with kids too. So far we have covered the countries in Europe and Europe is best to travel with kids. 

Rashmi, Chalukya and Chhavi, Neuwachstein Castle

How did you find travelling with a 6-month-old? 

We have learnt a lot with time. We always plan ahead, book all the tickets to attractions in advance to avoid the queues. We have to carry extra set of clothes, food, toys. Everything and anything, we think may or may not be required.
If it was only the two of us, we would have travelled without booking hotels with just a pair of jeans and shirts. Survived on limited sleep, biked through snowcapped mountains, hiked through rainy forests and stayed in villages, travelling without any planning whatsoever! But kids change you a lot, don't they?

Were there any surprises while travelling with a child?

We have been denied rides in Switzerland. Recently we cancelled our long planned trip to Mont Blanc because they don't allow kids below 3.
We had to cut short a trip to Venice because the weather turned out too windy.
And wasted a day in Florence because it started raining suddenly out of nowhere on a sunny day. 
If it was for the two of us, weather wouldn't have mattered much.

What kind of packer are you: carry-on only or everything in sight? Is there one item you never leave home, no matter where you go or how long for?  

As for two of us it is simple: jeans and pair of shirts.
As for our daughter, we have a two-page checklist depending on whether it is a day trip or night stay. 90% of our luggage is stuff for our daughter. We pack everything for her considering all climates. 

And the one thing we never leave home without, is our daughter's teddy. Our daughter wants her teddy beside her all the time, while she is having her food, sleeping or running around in the garden.

Etretat, Normandy

How do you prepare for a trip? Which website do you use to make travel and accommodation arrangements?

We use Airbnb for apartments. And we book flights ourself after some research.

Do you get travel anxiety? How do you overcome it?

Yes, we do get anxious sometimes because we are travelling with a kid and we are not sure how the facilities, weather  and, in general, thecity would turn out to be. But until now Europe has not disappointed us in anyway. Europe is in fact the most kid-friendly of all places, with clean diaper changing rooms, washrooms and stroller friendly public transport.

We take complete care to have the sightseeing maps, tour circuit, public transport information, bookings and tickets printed out.
We check and recheck them several times to see if we have missed out on anything.

What do you bring back from your trips? What’s your favorite souvenir?

We are not very much into collecting physical souvenirs. We have a couple of collector boxes, a Venetian mask and tiny Eiffel towers. But our best souvenirs are the pictures we took and the memories we made, which we are going to cherish for a lifetime.

Do you have any funny travel stories?

1.On our way back to Geneva from Prague, we reached the airport on time and looked for our flight's check-in counter and were surprised not to find our flight details. On enquiring with information counter, they said that no such flight exists. We were in an utter shock didn't know what to do and waited there at the counter. Then after 5 to 10 minutes the lady called up and confirmed with someone and told us that the flight was cancelled and they gave us tickets for some other flight to Geneva which was via Amsterdam.

2.Our first international trip was to Italy and we decided to drive all around Italy. Verona was our very first stop. Unaware of the fact that our GPS setting was wrong and was set as to exclude all highways, we drove through several villages on gravel filled roads for an hour or so. We were so confused as to why there was no highway connecting Geneva to Verona. Then we realized our mistake and corrected the GPS setting.

3. We have had a couple of experiences where we had to run through the airport to catch our flights. When returning from Lisbon we came to the airport well before time, almost 3 hours early. We were happy that this time we would not have to rush through and it would be a relaxed flight back to home. Unfortunately only 30 min before boarding we realized that we were waiting in the wrong terminal and again had to rush through the airport. Even worse, we had to take a 10 min shuttle to the other terminal and so the story repeats itself!

Munnar,Kerala 2013
You can connect with Rashmi and Chalukya on Facebook and Instagram too!

Pinterest: @gobeyondbounds 

Twitter: @gobeyondbounds

Wednesday 23 March 2016

5 things blogging taught me about myself!


1. You are never too old to learn!

I never knew I had it in me to understand the inner working of the internet. When I made the decision to start a blog, I looked around for help. But since everyone was asking for some kind of payment and I wasn't sure if the my blog will be a long term thing, I decided to do it my self.

Yes, it took me 3 days and 1000's of Google and Yotube searches but I managed to put a blog online. All by myself! Pretty proud of it! 

Now I can edit HTML (a little bit but I still find that it gives me major nightmares), add a little CSS (no idea what it stand for, though). Also tried to upload and customize a template but that didn't go too well, so decided to stick with the limited options that I had till I can find someone nice enough to do it for me.

2. Never be afraid to ask for help!

I am the kind of person who is always willing to help but not willing to ask for help (if that makes any sense). So it was hard for me to reach out to people and ask for some guidance. Also, I thought I would come across as pretty dumb because I don't know all the cool words and lingo. But I decided to do it anyways. With a few cold replies, no replies, seen notifications but still no replies later, one pretty cool blogger decided to answer my questions. After that I found a really great blogging community on Facebook and Instagram. 

For a while, I couldn't believe that there were people who were so willing to help. But they restored my faith in the goodness of people. More power to all of you who don't hesitate to help!

3. Blogging is a full time job!

I really thought I would just hop online, shoot a few lines, take and upload a few pictures and I would be good to go. Little did I know that the people who say that they gave up their jobs to pursue blogging full time had a really good reason to do so. It takes a lot of time and effort to put together a blog post that your readers will enjoy. A lot of hard work goes into the conceptualization, compostion, photo editing and typing it out before hitting publish. 

This is why I decided to blog about once or twice a week. Because it is too much to handle with 2 kids. Also, I believe quality should always come before quantity. And I am still learning as I go.

4. Time management!

As I said earlier that blogging is a full time job and you need some serious time management and multi-tasking skills to make it work with a busy family schedule. 

I am a professional procastrinator (there should really be an official title for people like me) but by deciding to write my blog I have managed to get a little control over this habit of mine. I wake up early, take notes and get to work as soon as the kids are asleep. Yes, I have to get creative to find time to blog but having this part-time job has put a lot of things in perspective. I have learnt to prioritize and be flexible, as when you have kids there are a lot of things you can't control.

5. Your inspiration is right in front of you!

I used to be so in awe of my favourite bloggers, still am. How they come up with one great idea after another. I used to rack my brain trying to think of one thing that someone other than me would find interesting but used to come up empty. But now I am always on the look out for something that strikes a cord with me. I have learnt my strengths and am learning to use them.

For now, my biggest inspiration are my kids. And I figured if so many of my friends and acquaintaces ask me for advice about babies and kids, there must be something that I am doing right!

This blog post is part of a blog-hop hosted by Suki Eleuterio, she is a  writer, motivational speaker and yoga teacher among other amazing things. You can follow her on her blog

Others participating in this blog-hop are: