AJS South Africa

A SUEZ BLOCKAGE: Especially after the fact.

Take The Ever Given for example – a serious blockage in the Suez Canal. 

The Evergreen Group, a Taiwan-based shipping company’s cargo ship, which stretches more than 1400 feet, ran aground (jamming itself sideways) on Tuesday 23 March 2021 blocking one of the world’s most vital shipping lanes. According to the BBC“there are currently more than 370 ships waiting to pass through the canal, including container vessels, tankers, and bulk carriers”, which have been unable to use the key trading route. The result? A key global trade route, accounting for about 12 percent of global trade, brought to an abrupt standstill.   

As of 29 March 2021, she had been partly freed. But this partial freedom has not, as yet, cleared up the severely congested traffic that is waiting to enter the canal. And without any indication of when full traffic will be able to resume, freight companies have been left in a state of panic and disarray. 


But some ships, in an effort to resume activities have already made the decision to leave the region, preferring to take an alternative, longer route around the southern tip of Africa – looking to the Cape of Good Hope as an alternative. They will be joined by other vessels travelling from East Asia to Europe. According to the Business insider, Maersk has rerouted two of its ships, and the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has rerouted eleven of its vessels around the coast of South Africa. Doing their utmost to nurse the problem.

But according to a NBC article, there has already been a run on effect on global business. Laleh Khalili, a professor of international politics at Queen Mary University in London, said – 

“We have already seen a jump in the price of oil because of the tankers that are sitting at anchor in the Red Sea”. 

And that is only the start of it.

According to the Hellenic Shipping News, Caroline Becquart, Senior Vice President and head of Asia & 2M service network, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company said the following – 

“There’s no doubt that the current Suez Canal blockage is going to result in one of the biggest disruptions to global trade in recent years and we are working around the clock to manage our fleet and services so we can keep cargo moving and keep trade flowing as best we can under the circumstances.

Sailing around the Cape of Good Hope is an option on some routes, while in other cases it’s more about working closely with our customers to see what other solutions we can devise. Unfortunately, even when the canal re-opens for the huge backlog of ships waiting at anchorage this will lead to a surge in arrivals at certain ports and we may experience fresh congestion problems.”

Seemingly this one blockage in the Suez Canal may result in some serious knock on effects with the second part of 2021 being significantly affected. Globally.  The Suez blockage could lead to a constriction in shipping capacity, equipment and obviously a deterioration in supply chain reliability issues. Especially over the coming months.

And this, no doubt, will further affect how businesses will be able to freely operate around the globe.

You could say that there is a serious Suez blockage alright. Especially after the fact. 

You must be thinking – thanks for the update. Interesting read. But what does this have to do with me? 

Well, the reference to the Suez Canal blockage whilst metaphorical, is an accurate description (and comparison) for how a mental blockage can impede any business, leading to bigger business disruptions down the line. And these disruptions will inevitably lead to surges in panic and knee jerk reactions on how to get back on track. And as quickly as possible (just like rerouting vessels to the Cape of Good Hope). 

Nowadays with more free time on people’s hands, there is no shortage of leadership discussion books, podcasts, YouTube videos and more. All centering around how we can sometimes experience mental blocks that prevent us from becoming the great leader we truly are. How those mental blocks can impede us from reaching our businesses full potential. The amount of information is overwhelming!

According to an article on Entrepreneur.com – 

“It’s a well-known fact that about 50 per cent of all small businesses fail within the opening 5 years”.

And that is daunting. And very scary for any business (especially a fledgling one).

But this is not a terminal illness and does not necessarily require hours and hours of podcasts and leadership discussions. It is simple and is not only treatable but can be avoided altogether with a few minor tweaks (there will be no need for 14 tugboats of varying sizes to dislodge you from the blockage here). 

Let’s break this down for you –

Firstly, what is a mental block?

Have you ever felt like you couldn’t think clearly, no matter how hard you tried? Maybe you were in the middle of making an important decision or solving a difficult problem. But you just couldn’t summon up the mental energy to move forward. We’ve all heard the term “writer’s block” before. Hearing it usually conjures up an image of a writer sitting at their desk for hours on end, struggling to get a single word on the page (often pulling their hair out). That’s kind of it. 

But a mental block can be formally defined as a psychological obstacle or limiting mindset that prevents you from completing important tasks and achieving success

How does a mental blockage impede business?

And these mental blocks, these constipation’s of thought and progress, challenge even the most disciplined employee or leader to complete a train of thought or to see a project to the end. Time is wasted ruminating on the same problems over and over, unable to focus long enough on one thing to achieve progress – causing a horrible and repetitive disruptive circle. Further resulting in us feeling so overwhelmed or anxious about a project’s outcome that we are unable to do the work required to complete it. We are trapped by our own thought processes.

Like the dreaded impostor syndrome (which is the fear of people discovering that you are not the best person for the job or cannot do your job). You’re so preoccupied with the irrational fear of being exposed as an impostor that you cannot focus on anything else. Imposter syndrome is common for many of those who (especially) excel in their field. In a society that is always pushing us to do and be better, it can be hard to accept that what we have already done or who and what we are, is already enough. 

But, whilst imposter syndrome is often the villain in our mental block stories, there are so many other factors that are at play. So, identifying them and admitting that you have a mental block is key to overcoming it. 

Ok. So how do you go about overcoming a mental block?

Firstly and before we get into the nitty gritty, we believe it is crucial to highlight that while mental blocks can happen for a number of reasons, stress is often the common denominator. For this reason, we believe that self-care and a healthy work-life blend are important for your mental health. 

They are the first line of defense against mental blocks and resulting burnout. So remember to take care of yourself and make your mental health a top priority while you get through any tough periods linked to mental blockages.

It may also be beneficial to seek the help of a professional life coach, or professional legal coach such as Frieda Levycky of Braving Boundaries who will be able to support you through this process. She is a lawyer and has been there herself – so she gets you. 

With that said, here are some pointers (taken from our own perspective) which we hope will provide you with some comfort whilst dealing with the mental blockage beast –  

1. Start with the small tasks

Sometimes we feel so overwhelmed with work that we don’t know where to begin. This can lead to feeling stressed and anxious, which then creates a serious mental blockage. But one of the easiest ways to work through it is to take a little off your plate. If you’re overwhelmed by the project’s size or how much you have left to do, ease into making progress by tackling the smallest possible tasks first. It’s kind of like the saying – How do you eat an Elephant? One bite at a time

So, make a list of the things that you have to do and start with the smaller tasks and activities first. By knocking a few tasks off your to-do list, it can help you get into a positive headspace, helping you with motivation, creativity and yes, productivity!

2. Compartmentalize your work

Conversely, with critical tasks, compartmentalizing your work and setting early deadlines alleviates the mental blocks that can come from feeling overwhelmed with too much critical work to do. Lists are often very useful tools here and we recommend making them. Getting to tick off a critical task can be more satisfying than we care to admit. 

3. Tidy up

Einstein said – 

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” 

While this sounds really cool, it doesn’t really work like that. Well not for everyone anyway. But what is obvious is this – clutter can lead to stress and anxiety, which can cause (you guessed it), mental blocks. Einstein was a genius after all, so he had a point…. 

So, if you’re someone who gets easily distracted or overwhelmed by working in a busy environment, clutter could be one of the things triggering your mental blockage – like 

If your work environment is cluttered, your mind may be cluttered as well?  

The cleanliness of your workspace can affect how you think, how you process situations and tasks as well as your overall work performance. Therefore it stands to reason that an organized desk could help you work more confidently without interrupting your work flow. 

We advise taking some time to tidy up your desk and/or office space. Your work area won’t feel as claustrophobic and distracting, meaning you can devote more mental energy to the tasks at hand.

4. Take a break

If you have tried unsuccessfully to work through a mental block, the next best thing you can do is take a break. There is no use in flogging a dead horse. It’s not going anywhere…. 

When we try to work through a mental block unsuccessfully for an extended period of time, we tend to focus more on the mental block than the actual thing we are trying so hard to accomplish. Taking a quick break and trying out some unrelated activities – like solving a crossword, washing dishes, or doing some exercise (we find yoga to be particularly beneficial) – can help clear your head and can give you the chance to approach your task with a new found enthusiasm, perspective and energy. 

It may also be a good opportunity to knock off some of those smaller items on your to-do list. The feeling of accomplishment that comes with that may be just enough to revitalize your mind and vigour.

5. Don’t overextend yourself and limit stress

Everyone has their limits. While it’s good to be known as the person willing to go above and beyond, you should never bite off more than you can chew. Don’t commit to tasks that you know you cannot finish (it is like setting yourself up to fail). Overcommitting can increase your stress, have a negative impact on the overall quality of your work and lead to an imminent burnout.

But keeping a daily schedule can help reduce your stress. Knowing what you have to do and when a task needs to be completed will set apart the crucial tasks from the smaller ones, thereby reducing the need for decision-making. In turn, this will ease mental fatigue and improve your efficiency. Lists (as we have said) are always very powerful tools.

6. Remember to rest

Resting is one of the best ways to maintain mental health and overcome blocks. When facing tough projects or stressful workloads, your mental stamina will need time to rest and recover (just like your body needs time to recover after being ill or strenuous exercise). Getting a regular 7-9 hours of sleep every night helps to keep your mind sharp and ready for anything. If you push yourself relentlessly, your exhausted brain will throw up mental blocks over and over again – another disruptive cycle. 

And this really comes down to simple self-care, which is one of the best tools for promoting health and happiness – happy people are generally more productive people.

7. Improve your skills

Feeling inadequate is one of the main reasons why people experience mental blocks. If you feel unprepared for a project, you should take time to research, learn, and practice. By doing so, you will educate yourself and get comfortable enough to overcome mental blocks and naturally perform better at the task at hand. No need to “fake it till you make it”.

Remember –

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”  Henry Ford

Just like the serious blockage at the Suez Canal, a mental block can cause ripple effects through a business’s productivity for months to come (just like the Suez blockage is believed to be doing to the global economy already). A blockage that will lead to more stress, mental fatigue and further complications that will halt any significant progress down the line. 

With no amount of “tug boats” to help free the blockage or ease the situation.

And that is not the route one should be taking, especially in 2021.

As is often the case – prevention is better than the cure. So, it is probably more important to manage the symptoms rather than treat the problem, especially before it requires serious (as in 14 tug boats serious) intervention. 

We do hope that our tips above provide you with some comfort and coping mechanisms if you are experiencing mental fatigue. 

And remember, at AJS, we got you! We are here to support you by offering a range of product suites aimed at not only reducing stress and the amount of repetitive tasks but products (and support) that will ensure that your practice remains on top of things (we are proud to say that our products do not suffer from mental blocks and will keep running no matter the situation). We have you covered.

Think of us as your own private Suez Canal, complete with the guarantee that with us on your side, there will be no blockage halting your progress and productivity in the foreseeable future.

Get in touch with us today to see how we can best support you.

Written by Alicia Koch on behalf of AJS

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