Christiane Kenny and her family have made several international moves in the past few years. She shares her thoughts on making a home, and being productive, across borders.
Making a life across borders
Christiane Kenny is a Chartered Company Secretary working for a corporate services company affiliated with a law firm that provides services to Bermuda companies in the insurance and reinsurance space. She is originally from Canada but currently lives in England with her husband, daughter, and pets. They are planning to relocate to Bermuda soon for her husband’s career.
A typical day
On a typical weekday, Christiane is up by 6:30 am. She spends the morning getting herself organized; she gets dressed, makes herself a cup of coffee, does a few things around the house, and reviews her plan for the day.
Around 7 or 7:30, she wakes up her daughter and makes her breakfast and gets her daughter to finish up any homework or violin practice that didn’t get done the night before.
Around 8:30, she drops her daughter off at school. After that, she’ll either go for a run with a friend, walk the dog, or go to the gym if she didn’t go for a run, or work out at home. After her workout, she takes a quick shower, sits down with her coffee and breakfast, and gets down to work for the day.
Her job entails overseeing a team of 10 based in Bermuda and working directly with clients as well. She emails with her team, reviews the work her team had done, is on many board meeting calls, prepares minutes of the meetings, and has strategic management discussions. Because of the time difference between England and Bermuda, her mornings are quiet, but she can get very busy in the afternoon.
With her upcoming move, she’s cut her work back to part-time. She got a lot of her work done ahead of time so she can focus on moving preparation such as school paperwork for her daughter, preparing all the necessary requirements to move her pets overseas, getting movers quotes, and tying up all her living arrangements such as utilities. Preparing to move internationally is almost a fulltime job in and of itself.
Around 4:30 in the afternoon, she picks her daughter up from school, supports her daughter to do her homework, practice music, go to swim practice, and they are back home by 8 pm. Once her daughter is in bed, she’ll spend some time with her husband, and if she’s had a particularly rough day, she’ll stay up a little later to watch a tv show. Usually she’ll drink some herbal tea and be in bed by 11 pm.
On weekends, she is still up early to take her daughter to swim practice, and she runs with a friend one day and goes on a walk with her husband and dog to grab coffee on the other.
Tools Christiane uses to manage a team from overseas
To manage a team from another country, Christiane uses Zapzap Chat messenger app, Skype, Zoom, and email. Her firm is on a Citrix server, so her laptop looks exactly the same as her desktop computer in the office. When she visited the Bermuda office, she maximized her time there, almost like time-blocking, bonding with her team members by going to lunch or having coffee so she could still have that relationship with them when she was back in the UK or Toronto.
Biggest productivity challenges
The biggest productivity challenge for Christiane was allowing her work to take over her life. She felt personally invested in the company as she had pretty much grown it from the time it was set up, and it felt good to her to do anything for her clients at any time.
But once she became a mom, and once she started working remotely, she realized there wasn’t enough time to do all she had been doing for the company. She was trying to fit in work into any spare moment she could find. As a result, she wasn’t being as present as she wanted to be. The time difference added another layer of challenges because as she was wrapping up her workday, things would start to ramp up on the other side of the Atlantic, and her email inbox would fill up. She kept telling herself, “I have to respond to this,” “I’m just going to do one more thing.” By doing this, she was setting the expectation that she was always available. That ended up being something she had to work on to roll back.
Instead of forcing herself to work only while her daughter was at school, she decided to take her morning back and build in exercise, which was important to her, and accept that she would have to work a little bit while her daughter was doing homework or at practice. It helped that she was settling into life in the UK because she started making friends to go on morning runs with and have coffee. She also tried to focus on getting heavy-duty work done in the morning so that we could be more available for emails and other reactive tasks in the afternoon when the Bermuda office kicked off.
Another challenge is she thinks everything she does will take less time than it actually does, which can be a challenge for a lot of us, but Christiane has another layer added to that because of the significant time zone difference between her and the rest of her team.
Perfectionism is another challenge of Christiane’s that can make tasks take longer, but she has learned to say “It’s good enough.”
Best practices for living abroad
Christiane advises that the first thing to think about is, “By what means are you going to live?” In Christiane’s and her husband’s situation, they’ve always had a work arrangement ready, and therefore work permits to work in that specific country before moving, allowing them legal status as well as predictable income. The other way to make an international move is to decide to move and look for a job that will support your stay in that specific country.
Once you’ve been granted legal immigration status to stay in a specific country, then you need to think about whether you’ll be going indefinitely or for a certain period of time, which would determine whether you will pack up everything you own, which could be quite costly if your company doesn’t pay for it, or just the things you’ll need for a temporary stay.
Another thing Christiane recommends to think about is the climate, electric voltage, whether you will and can bring your pets, and children and their schooling arrangements in terms of choosing the right curriculum and getting all the paperwork ready.
When deciding to move overseas, Christiane made sure to talk about it at length with her daughter. She and her husband tried to include their daughter in the decision-making process in terms of which school she wanted to go to (between the two they had chosen) and which home they would live in.
She also says it’s important to acknowledge their fear. As she watched her daughter try out different schools, she felt bad because her daughter was nervous and she couldn’t help thinking she was the one who put her daughter in that position. However, she knows that facing your fears and challenges helps you grow as a person, because all the things that have scared her that she has addressed, hit head-on, or gone after have had ultimate rewards. So she knows that her daughter will grow through these experiences as long as she isn’t forced into doing something she really doesn’t want to do.
Tools Christiane recommends
Christiane uses Google Calendar to manage her and her family’s busy life. She doesn’t use productivity-related apps because she feels it’s more work to keep up with them. Instead, she likes to list things on a blank piece of paper and her paper planner that allows her to simply flip to whatever month she needs to think about and see everything visually.
She also uses the calendar to manage renting out their property back in Canada.
She does like to use Trello to manage her projects, but she isn’t on it daily.
Another tool she likes to use is Google Photos to stay connected with distant family and friends. It provides a lot of storage space so you won’t run out, and you can set up albums to share. When her parents want to see photos of their granddaughter, she simply shares the link to the album.
What happens on a day when everything gets away from you?
Christiane experiences lots of days when it gets overwhelming. There are definite bumps in the road, ups and downs, and meltdowns (not just by children). But she says it’s important to look at what the worst-case scenario is and know when to admit defeat. For her, she knows it’s always an option to go back home if things don’t turn out well. She knows she’s not a victim of circumstances; she recognizes the choices she’s made and knows she can also “unchoose” them as well.
When things get away from Christiane, her personality is to put her head down and work through it. She makes a list of everything that has to get done, things that are bothering her, things that stress her out or keep her up at night. Then she’ll highlight the ones that are really causing her issues, the things that are almost life or death for her, and she’ll get to work to do whatever it takes to get those done. If she has to skip her run or workout or get a babysitter for after school, she’ll make those arrangements to get these things done so she can feel in control of these things. Then she may take it a little easier the next day by going for a longer walk or take the dogs out to the woods to relax.
What’s on the horizon for Christiane?
At the time of recording, Christiane and her family were on a reconnaissance mission in Bermuda, looking for a place to live and choosing a school for their daughter. After a few more weeks back in the UK to wrap things up and finish up the school year, they’ll be relocating back to Bermuda in April.
Because the job she does is fairly prominent in Bermuda, she has lots of opportunities there. She’s looking to do something a little different and wants to think about what she wants to do once she’s settled, so she’s pretty excited for what’s on the horizon to take the next step in her career.
Last thoughts on making a life that matters
Don’t be afraid to take chances, because it will be well worth it in the end even if it seems a little scary. Think about what’s right for you and your family, rather than what’s right for the other person or what everybody else thinks.
What do you think?
Connect with Christiane
More about Christiane
Christiane Kenny is from Ontario, Canada and currently lives in London with her husband Court, their ten-year-old daughter Lauren, and their pets, a golden retriever named Evie and cat named Prada. Professionally, she’s a Chartered Company Secretary. Until recently, she worked for a Bermuda corporate services company affiliated with a Bermuda law firm managing the business and a team of Company Secretaries providing corporate secretarial services to Bermuda companies mostly in the insurance and reinsurance space.
She and her family have made several moves between Bermuda, Canada, and the UK, but through all of those moves, she continued to work remotely in her job for the Bermuda company.
When she’s not working or managing the life of a ten-year-old, she loves running, horseback riding, baking, and reading.
Resources and Links
- Zapzap Chat
- Textexpander (Affiliate link for 20% off your first year)
- Books she recommends: Designing Your Life, by Bill Burnett & David Evans, and 168 Hours, by Laura Vanderkam
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