Volker’s blog

Welcome to my personal blog. I have been writing this blog for over 15 years, and love sharing my views of the world. I work as sales and strategy consultant, career and leadership coach, and offer mindfulness trainings. I also host a podcast on success, wrote a bestselling book and published an online coaching course on how to #BeBetter. Feel free to follow the links on the left-hand side, or reach out to me directly! This is my personal ‘blurb’ which at times is a rant, other times just a philosophical point of view. Please let me know if you enjoy reading it.

Habits and Routines – Productivity Tip 5

How to you de-stress? How do you keep fit?

Not only during the lockdown, just generally, you have to ask yourself if having that glass of wine or beer at night to destress is the right thing? What about a healthy routine of exercise of body and mind to make sure you stay sane and healthy?

Make sure to build a routine into your day that allows for plenty of exercise, down time and mindfulness. Whether that’s a solid morning routine or small breaks spread throughout the day. Whatever works for you and your circumstances. I love my 5 am routine, and a nap if schedule allows throughout the day. Regular breaks are important, and don’t forget the earlier tip of not scheduling more than 70% of your available time.

Develop your routines and habits to have a more balanced and productive life.

If you are interested in more tips around productivity, head over to my playlist on YouTube to discover them all.

If you like what you see, you can also check out my personal development course which helps you to align your inner values to your goals and purpose in life. This in return will lead to more success and productivity.

Ballueder Thinks (6) – is it 2021 yet?

Hello again.

This post was started a few weeks ago, as I am reflecting on the first half +1 month of the year. Is it 2021 yet?

Whilst I am not someone who wishes time away, this has been an awful year so far.

I joked with the boys the other day, imagine you go to sleep and wake up, and it is 2021. The world is back to normal and Covid19 never happened. Now, discussing this with other people, there were those thoughts of sleeping pods, where you go in and time travel to the future. Why not?

We still don’t know if the virus was man-made, escaped a laboratory or if it was deliberately released. There are numerous accusations from the US to China, from UK to Russia, and the more I look at it, the more bored I get. Is this virus the result of a modern war fare, a new nuclear bomb, paired with ‘virus’ hacker attacks. Is that showcasing how world war 3 might look like? I am not sure, no one knows, and certainly I won’t. And if anyone in politics is reading this, I just want it to go away and have a more liberated life again. And I don’t give a toss about all those conspiracy theories quite frankly.

What came out of it for me? What did I learn?

I found work wasn’t too disruptive. But I am in working in a digital native industry, a lot of video conferencing and phone calls were the norm before the outbreak. Less face to face meetings are not too bad, and less of a commute too. That means, that we might see a decentralisation of the UK and other countries, as more people move to the country side? That would be good in terms of balancing house prices and all.

It was of course disruptive to my job. I managed, just, but a lot of people were out of their jobs, furloughed, or are still looking for their next adventure. Luckily I am a self starter – falling down 7 times, getting up 8 times – and I have pushed and pushed and hopefully will announce more contract work shortly. Do I still consider full time work? Yes, I wouldn’t not consider any options at the moment, but maybe that’s for another time. I also work on some other exciting ideas. So stay tuned, as always, there is never a dull moment in the Ballueder World.

Getting my hair done the other week was great. My first massage post lockdown was amazing. There are things I missed, and I am very grateful for having them back. And next week I am getting reflexology. My egg deliveries every two weeks are back, and enough delivery slots from Tesco.

But are we out of lockdown yet?

At time of writing, the PM announced that there will be less easing of restrictions, as the virus is spiking. Of course, look at the beaches and pubs, what do you expect? Why would a country suggest to start wearing face masks from a time in the future, if it is safer, it is safer now. Anyway…

There is a lot of talk about a second wave, and another lockdown. There is talk of changing measures. More face masks, more social distancing, but no restrictions going to the pub….our government, IMO, has failed massively in having a clear and concise strategy. I am more than disappointed with the Torries, and the way they handled the crisis. Again, I don’t like to get involved in politics, but it needs to be said.

When Boris first came to power, I hoped it might be ok, him as a CEO pulling the strings of very competent people. The problem is, the people around him are everything but competent, and Boris is directed by Dom Cummings. It makes me angry to see this country going down the hill, and IMO it will get worse with Brexit next year.

It’s like sitting in a car and driving down the road of 2020. As you start worrying about the wall ahead of you, let’s call it Brexit, the wheels of the car come off thanks to Covid. The driver is not able to control the car, and we are about to crash the car = country into the wall. I am frankly scared of that.

We are now in August. We are more than half way through the year. August is a quiet month, so from a work perspective, not much will happen. People are away, working from home or the garden, taking it a bit easier. I thought people would be working harder to make up from things missed during lockdown, but people are tired. I am tired. We need a break, recharge our batteries to recharge the country. That’s what it is.

I have been busy still, up to now, I revamped Ballueder Partners’ website, worked on my positioning, edited meditation recordings and so on. Never a dull moment. I have recorded videos, scheduled content on social media and written thoughts. I have been busy, and will take some time off soon. Even if it is just a day here and there.

To be honest, I have been taking a little bit of time off already. Here and there, a half day here, a day there. I will take more time off during August, as I am recharging. I already repositioned, and it is a constant change out there, and decision making is happening every day. Leadership, walking the talk, and making things happen are what we do. And opportunities are out there. The more I talk to people, the more opportunities I discover. I cannot sit still and do nothing, and I am always seeking to BeBetter.

That’s what I do I suppose. Or as Vishen from Mindvalley says, try to be better by 1% every single day. Just 1% better. That’s 365% in a year. If you can keep that up, you enter 2021 on a high, ready to conquer ‘your’ world.

There is something else to consider with Covid. And this nicely leads me on to some fundraising efforts.

As you might have seen, I am getting closer to the £2,000 for which I run the marathon distance in October – regardless if the London Marathon is on. If you haven’t donated yet, please do so here:

PLEASE DONATE FOR THE RNIB

I wanted to share some facts people might not be aware of, as we taking our sight for granted. Due to Covid19, and I have heard that from a few people that are blind and had difficult experiences:

  • 66% of blind and partially sighted feel less independent now, compared to before lockdown.
  • 80% said the way they shop for essentials has drastically changed, with the number of blind and partially sighted people who feel confident to go shopping independently, reducing by half.
  • 74% are very or quite concerned about getting access to food and 21% have had to ration food.

I have never been blind, and forbid this will ever happen. But if you think for a moment to socially distance in a shop where you are not sure where things are in the shelf, asking for help….. I’d be terrified. And it seem that this is true for people that are used to not seeing too. It must be hard not to go to work, not being independent enough to go to the shop and get what you want. What about bumping into people? The concern for food is even more worrying.

I want to support the RNIB for all of the above reasons!
The RNIB does such a fantastic job supporting those people. And I am committed to support the RNIB to support those in need.

That’s why I went for a gruelling run on Saturday morning; I went early to be fair, avoiding the above 20 degrees. I didn’t feel it and yet went longer than anticipated.

PLEASE DONATE FOR THE RNIB

And if the London Marathon gets postponed, I will run the marathon distance that weekend of the 3rd and 4th of October, and will try to raise even more money for next year. So please give generously.

They deserve it so badly. But I do need your help.

There is so much going on in my life, in anybody’s life. I spoke to someone earlier, that it’s been a weird year, obviously, and that we are all in the same boat. We will get through this and finish 2020 on a high. We must.

We also said that mental health is key for us to bounce back. Anxiety, Depression and other mental health issues would have flourished during Covid and lockdown, and this is scary to think. But the stats from the RNIB are probably true for a lot of other groups too.

Keep it positive, and keep the positive energy going. I am a firm believer that you fall down and get up again. Fall down 7 times, get up 8 times. My life’s motto. We will be alright in the end, and if we aren’t alright, isn’t ’ the end. Giving up is not an option.

That’s why I continue to work on my projects. My podcast is returning in September with a new logo. We are in season 4 and I start recording from next week. I am excited about the guests we lined up so far. People that can help you to make the most of the situation you are in. Coaches, Consultants, Health experts. I have them lined up and will keep you posted.

I am pumped. I am worried, but I am more pumped than worried. Because we, as a nation, as humankind will survive and get through this. Like I get through my marathon running and we will make things happen. Always.

With those words it’s time to stop.

Have a great August everyone,
Volker

Get a note taking app that works for you. A trusted system! My Productivity Tip 4

You might be saving articles for review, research or later reading; saving important emails or even finding a way of monitoring self-development. Note taking in the modern age has become ever so important. For all different reasons.

Whatever you need to take notes for, make sure you have a trusted system. In my personal development course, I speak a lot about this trusted system. You need to define your own, one that works for you!

Personally, I love Evernote, but there are other systems, and I started testing Google Keep recently. It’s good to always try new things. Quip isn’t bad, so is OneNote. Although I am not the biggest Microsoft fan, but never mind.

Start finding tools that work for you.
Become better at remembering things and storing things for when you need them. Know where to search for them, and build your own library.

And the same is true for task management apps too. My favourite is 2do. It got recommended to me 6 years ago and is engrained into my life!

If you are interested in more tips around productivity, head over to my playlist on YouTube to discover them all, and more!

I hope this week’s tip was useful. Please share if you liked it!

If you like what you see, you can also check out my personal development course which helps you to align your inner values to your goals and purpose in life. This in return leads you to more success and productivity.

Inbox Zero – Manage your emails Now – Productivity Tip 3

Whoever invented emails should have thought of how to manage them. We are inundated with them, daily, hourly, every second. And, if you didn’t follow my tip number 1, where I suggest to turn off your notifications, you end up with lots of them if you don’t manage your emails correctly.

Let’s be honest, are you finding the time to read all the emails coming in?

I love inbox zero, which is my productivity tip.

Schedule emails to return to your inbox for when they are relevant and transfer important tasks out of your inbox into a trusted system, like a task management app. That’s the key. Don’t let your emails mount up in your inbox to become your todo list that you never finish. Before you know it, you have 1000s of emails in your inbox and it takes days to clear.

If there is a task in the email, put it in your task list.
If it takes 2 minutes to reply, do it now.
If it isn’t important, delete it.
If it to be done later, schedule the email to return when you need it, or as a reminder.

If you are interested in more tips around productivity, head over to my playlist on YouTube to discover them all.

If you like what you see, you can also check out my personal development course which helps you to align your inner values to your goals and purpose in life. This in return leads to more success and productivity. Check it out today on http://www.ballueder.com/bebetter.

Enjoy.

Winning

Ballueder Thinks (5) – Marathon and Stamina

It has been another couple of weeks since my last column. Quite frankly, I have been super busy doing things. However, the hassle and bustle hasn’t really equated into the progress I was hoping for, which is why I am always looking for new opportunities. Things are slow, decision making takes time, and building things needs stamina. To be honest, it is like running a marathon, life isn’t a sprint.

Marathon

However, things are looking good, and I am not complaining. Covid19 has slowed businesses down, everything takes longer, but it all should come good in the end. Stay positive. One dream has been parked for now, but parking doesn’t mean abandoning. I don’t want to be too specific, but my brain is buzzing thinking about a few things – as it always is – and I will soon launch a new positioning and website under www.balluederpartners.com – my new home for my business. Never a dull moment in the Ballueder world 😉

Feel free to reach out and let me know what you are up to, and how my strategic and commercial head can help you to position your company, take it to market or scale it. That’s what I do, from hands-on to process, to strategy, to building successful teams. And if you have idea, I am always happy to chat, network and put my ideas forward. Over the past few weeks, I had some interesting networking opportunities, and hopefully these all lead to something. If nothing else, I already helped a few people connect to relevant others. Let’s keep doing that, we are all in it together.

But enough about work, and stamina at work. It would probably benefit me to take a couple of weeks off anyway. Maybe I will …. but I probably won’t 😉

The thing I want to talk more about in this post, is my involvement in the London Marathon. Of course, we know that charities have been hit hard with Covid19, e.g. funding has dried up and events have slowed down or moved online. In short, they need any penny they can get. Hence, when the RNIB, the Royal National Institute for the Blind asked me if I could run the London Marathon in 12 weeks time, I didn’t hesitate. Yes, I want to raise money and I want to run London. Simple.

RNIB

My Justgiving page is set up for £2,500 – I hope to raise a lot more but of course I need your help. I believe a few of my contacts don’t want to donate because they don’t know if the marathon goes ahead. But, and that is my promise, I will run the full distance of a marathon on the weekend of the 3rd/4th of October if we raise £2,000 by the end of August. Hopefully, we fill the pot on the October weekend, and then some more when I run the actual event in 2021. Or, maybe it will happen in October regardless. Nothing is certain at the moment, I know the Toronto marathon went virtual – now there is an idea.

I have always been a networker, and I know a lot of people. In simple maths terms, everyone I know on Linkedin has to donate 25 pence for this to happen. With most of my stronger network connections being able to afford a £5 or £10 donation, and some have been a lot more generous already, we should hit the target easily. And that is discounting people that don’t donate, or don’t donate to this charity etc. And that’s fine too. Yes, this is an analytical approach, and maybe too simplified, but it can be done. We learned during Covid, that if we combine forces, we are a lot stronger!

So please give generously, make me run in October and next year, help me to develop stamina, and help the RNIB to help people. Everyone wins! If there is anything I never want to take for granted, then that’s my eye site. Read the full story here.

I have been running for a while, and I did 3 half marathons during lock down. Hence I am confident to manage the race. Yet there is a lot of stamina still to be build. This week I did another 18K or 1:45 long run. Tempo and Intervall runs. Next week will be more. My legs are hurting at time of writing, and I committed to more running next week. I will not stop if you don’t stop donating! The next 10 weeks will be hard, very hard. I trained for my last marathon during the summer, the heat is gruelling, even at 5 am! I am aiming to improve my time from the last event, and really go for it. What a fool I am 😉 It’s about being able to run the whole distance this time, and finish around the 4:15 mark, possibly quicker if I feel up for it on the day. Please help me.

Winning

If I am known for anything then that’s stamina, discipline and hard work. Patience. I don’t easily give up, I fall down 7 times, I get up 8 times. The tattoo is booked btw, if you remember my earlier column about this. That’s who I am, and I am super disciplined. I get up at 5 am for 5 years, exercise, meditate and get ready for the day. As a matter of fact, it is early morning when I write this column.

Discipline and stamina got me where I am. Yet, things change all the time. Career wise I have been realising that I am drawn back into my first two loves: search/social and sales.

I remember putting a proposal together in 2008 how to launch the social media arm of an agency. Wow, we came a long way. One of my old companies, 4C Insights, just sold this week to Mediaocean. I love that space, and when I look at my career over the past 5 years, I moved from sales into sales management, client services, strategy and back into sales. Actually, I now have the tools and experience of a CRO, which helps companies to put their proposition on the map, whilst also look strategy and execution. Plus, this is a transferable skill across industries. It’s experience that counts!

There was one last thought I had this week. The summer holidays started. So we are back at March, without the home schooling. The wife works, and I am at home, juggling work and kids. But that’s ok. My boys are older. However, one just finished middle school. We were sitting in the park after school yesterday, and I said, that when he finishes the next school, he won’t be interested sitting with his dad in the park. His next 5 years or so will determine who he will become, what he wants to do in life, and who he will rebel against. It’s a big step, and I am ready to take it on. As a mentor, parent, coach – I want to be by his side and guide him. It’s a different world to where we or my parents grew up, change is constant. Sometimes it is difficult for us to change. I know that my parents generation didn’t respond as well to change, as they didn’t expect too much change. Does that make sense? We have a more powerful computer in our pocket than the thing that landed us on the moon. We call them phones.

Change will accelerate. Covid19 is the beginning of the change that will permanently influence how we work, live, and where we set priorities. Hopefully for the better. We might see more evil coming out of it, or it will go away as a warning. Who knows. I am not a philosopher. As a collective, and with a greater conscious, this period in history will change things forever. The way we greet people, meet people, trust people and what we think is important. We will look back at this time in years to come.

I am getting used to change. Mindfulness grounds me in the moment. My weekly groups help me to challenge my thinking. There is so much opportunity to go deeper and become better, as a human, as a father, at things you do. Nothing stands still, and the thing we need is stamina. I say it again, life is a marathon, not a sprint. Building blocks of things to put together to make it to the finish line. And sometimes we need to drift out of our way to reach our goal. But stay focused, with stamina, a positive outlook, hard work, and a marathon running attitude, you will be successful ! Have faith. Trust in yourself!

Have a good Sunday, and if you have a minute, I appreciate any donations for the RNIB. Because you know I am going to run it.

Thanks in advance. Volker

Don’t schedule more than 70% of your time! Productivity Tip 2

How does your time management work? When I first started uni many many moons ago, I was told about time management. I started with scheduling the big things in first, the long term objectives, the things that take longer, then working my way down to daily actions. That was before the life of smart phones helped us manage our day and before to-do lists were on every phone.

One thing I remember is to not schedule more than 70% of your time. Why? Because there is always something unexpected happening. Instead, maybe have a list of things to do when having ‘downtime’. But hey, we don’t even have to fill every minute of the day, we could just use free time to think. Yes, sit there and think, digest the information you collected over the day. Particularly during difficult and challenging times, it is so important to relax your brain. Maybe even try some mindfulness

Are you answering the phone after 6 pm, working through the night or sacrificing your lunch?
Do you get enough sleep?

All those things you sacrifice to work more? Surely that’s not the aim of the game, is it?

Start taking charge of your time today and be in control. Build successful routines and habits to support regular hours and down-time too. Now more than ever, this is especially prevalent if you are working from home like most of us have or are during Covid19.
It will help you to divide the day between your ‘work’ and ‘life’ even if there are no physical boundaries.

If you are interested in more tips around productivity, head over to my playlist on YouTube to discover them all. If you like what you see, you can also check out my personal development course which helps you to align your inner values to your goals and purpose in life. This in return leads you to more success and productivity.

Stop Listening To Your Notifications! Productivity Tip 1

How do you manage your time?
Are you living by the reminders on your phone?

Stop this now! Stop Listening to your notifications.

As a series that I published a while back on Linkedin, I wanted to repeat this on my blog to make you aware of the top productivity tips I find fit for our day and age.

One of my key productivity tips is to turn off any notifications and alerts on your desktop, phone or tablet.

Start being in charge of your time and be in control of who you answer to. And when. You must be in control of what’s happening with your most valuable asset: your time. It’s not necessarily about how you manage your time, but how you preserve your time for what’s important in the now.

Watch my productivity tip number 1.

If you are interested in more tips around productivity, head over to my playlist on YouTube.

You can also check out my personal development course which helps you to align your inner values to your goals and purpose in life.

This is return leads to more success and productivity.


Mobile: +44 (0) 7814 467 965

Ballueder Thinks (4) – London & the lockdown

Hello again. I mentioned previously that I didn’t want to write every week. However, I do enjoy the process, and particularly after the loss of my grandma, it helps me to write, and deal with things.

Last week was a bit of a roller coaster ride. A few good news, a few bad news, and Oma’s funeral on Friday. It was an emotional week, with things coming to an end, and new things starting. This weekend is all about processing, drawing a line in the sand, looking forward and making new and bigger plans.

I wanted to thank everyone for the messages I received regarding my Oma.

Ideas come to those who wait. I am eager to tell the world about my latest consulting project, but things aren’t quite ready to be taken to market yet. And, things might still change. So I am quiet, and wait until it is all good to talk about. In the meantime, I am connecting with my network, I work quietly away and enjoy things – as much as you can. I do the school runs, join our family dinners and tidy things in my life. It’s almost as if I make life more efficient, for a smoother start, like tidying a place before a big event. Working with one of my mindfulness groups over the past few weeks, we have been looking at things we are grateful for during lockdown. The summary for me is quality of life, being able to chose when to work and how to work, and when to focus on the family, being in control of one’s life.

Isn’t that crazy? We are admitting that when we work for others, we aren’t in control of our life, and let others and others’ schedules taking over our life. Particularly in sales, we want to close the deal, and we are ready to make sacrifices. I am not sure that this is right, and I have been very guilty of that myself. Covid puts that into perspective for me.

One of my OLD rules was that I had to work, no matter whether I was sick, or even worse the wife and kids were sick. I didn’t understand the concept of taking time off because a family member was sick. I was wrong, so wrong, and apologised to my wife multiple times. It’s the rules we take for granted, we don’t question. Rules we likely inherited. And, as I found out this week, a child’s brain doesn’t question anything until the age of 6. So anything we feed our kids’ brains up to the age of six becomes a rule for them which they don’t question.

On that note, I am deciding to join the London marathon. Part of me wants to do it, given it is London; the other part of me thinks it’s not great for my knees. I will let you know which way the pendulum swings.

My podcast which goes live in 2 weeks, the last one before the summer break, is talking about gratitude as well. What does it mean to have gratitude, and how does your life change when you start focusing on being grateful, showing gratitude? A bit like the Secret, whatever positive energy you send out, you get back. Try it. I have had a gratitude journal for many years, and I learned a lot on how I can fine tune it still. Thanks Lisa.

Also, this week I went back to London. I was a bit apprehensive. Face mask on, onto the train, onto the tube, into an office. Socially distancing. It is all about confidence, and being mindful. Do not touch things unnecessarily. Don’t get carried away and fall back into the ‘old normal’, and appreciate that whilst you are comfortable with a 1 meter distance, others might not. Show respect.

The trains were empty. The tube was. I travelled during the day. How did it feel?
The trains felt fine, just a bit warm around my face 🙂 And on the way back? It was again very quiet. However, in between it wasn’t difficult to find a pub with take away pints in Soho. After a longer business session in an empty office complex, we ended up sharing pizza and beer socially distancing in the middle of Soho, the heart of London. It’s different, it’s what it is, and as a Londoner, you just carry on. Like after 7/7. That’s the British spirit I am just too well accustomed to. We saw some proper Londoners, no tourists, and people like me, foreigners that lived in London for ages. We made it work that summer’s night, drinking and enjoying ourselves, without putting others at risk.

It is of course more quiet, and almost pleasantly quiet. A day out, a bit like “28 days later” if you have seen the movie. The new normal I guess.

Whilst I appreciate this is not going to last, e.g. people will consume more booze and then start being closer to each other too, it can be done to socially distance and enjoy a pint. Let’s see how this weekend works out with us being allowed to go back to the pubs.

Anyway, I have done it, and I can’t wait to go back. That’s the thing. It is the new normal, and I am ready to tackle work and meetings again. But until everyone is, zoom is a great alternative, and does the job. It makes things easier, more efficient and I suspect it will be around for a long time!

That’s all from me this week. Stay safe, and enjoy your pint responsibly with a distance.

Ballueder Thinks (3) – Goodbye Oma Erika

It is with great sadness to announce the death of my grandmother, Erika Störmer.

Oma Erika

I wanted to write something personal, yet timely. So let me start with Covid19 which killed hundreds of thousands of people around the globe. It is sad to see what happened in our societies, how things were handled by some states and some leaders, and how intransparent things were handled by some. We all have a personal story about Covid19, from job changes, job losses, hard times, home schooling, working from home, and so on. I wrote a daily diary for a while. And yet, the world will never be the same.

Oma didn’t die of Covid19 – as far as we know of course – but she was old. 99 years is quite an achievement. But I wanted to put Covid19 into perspective with what my Oma went through.

Imagine you were born in 1920. On the back of the 1st World War you were raised in Europe. You grew up on a small farm in the heartland of Germany before you somehow ended up living more central in Germany, marrying an older man, and raising three daughters, with the oldest being born at the end of the 2nd World War, 1944. Just imagine for a moment that life wasn’t plain sailing, and nothing as ‘comfortable’ as ‘staying at home’. It must have been incredible hard work, not a lot of technology either. Manual labour, rebuilding a country, and then seeing it being destroyed again.

Your husband didn’t have to go to war. He made tents for the German Army, and therefore was needed on the home front. You ran the books and an ironing business, owning a huge rotary iron. I remember, when I was a young boy, that she worked hard to do other people’s ironing, big sheets. Hence, my mum always ironed her bed sheets too. As far as I know, these businesses hardly exist these days, at least I haven’t heard of many people ironing their bed sheets anymore. But that was her business, long until she should have probably retired, long after Opa died.

The house they owned was old. It had a small basement with lots of homemade jam, covered by loads of spiders and spider webs. The office for the business just above. Her husband, Wilhelm, liked his cigarettes, beer and a good laugh. That’s what I was told, as I never had the chance to meet him. He died at a young age of 68, 6 years before I was born. He would have lived through the 1st world war as a teenager. Hard to believe. Erika, his wife, and my grandma, lived by herself in the big house ever since. Until of course, over 20 years ago, she moved to an elderly home.

The only bathroom of the house was half way up the stairs, with the kitchen still being supplied by gas from a gas bottle in the outbuilding to the back. That outbuilding burned down at some point, as some insulation material must have caught fire by the sun shining through some glass. At least that’s what I’ve been told. There was also a big chicken coup. We played in there as kids, years after the chickens were gone.

Oma had three daughters, and 6 grandchildren of which 5 are boys and 1 is a girl. Her great-grandchildren came to 14, with interesting enough a 50% split in gender. Not that it really matters, however I find it fascinating to look at that data, coming from a household of two boys, being the youngest, having two boys of my own, and my dad being the youngest of two boys. Family history is fascinating I find.
Oma taught me how to make pasta, bought me sweets and Kinder Surprise eggs, and when I stayed with her at her place over my Easter vacation, I was allowed to sleep in her bed, watch TV and we went swimming a lot. She had this fish tank which I enjoyed looking at and we went for walks, and ice cream. We spent hours in the little Italian ice cream shop, talking. We went to the graveyard most days, where Opa was buried, and I must have asked a lot of questions about him. I vaguely remember visiting other people who were extended family, and they told me about Opa’s brothers and family. Some of those stories never made sense to me.

The town she lived in was close to the German border. Imagine. Not only did Oma see the aftermath of World War 1, lived through World War 2, she also saw Germany being split und and re-united. What a time to be alive. When I was a bit older, I was put on a bus to see my other grandparents who lived about a twenty minutes bus ride away, even closer to the German border. Oma sometimes drove me in her Golf 1 which, when she stopped driving, only had 40,000 km on the clock and was in immaculate condition given it was 14 years old and kept in a garage. Every time I sit in a new Volkswagen, the smell reminds me of her car. And it always will. The bus took me along the German-German border. Along the cherry trees so famous for the area, and my grandparents would pick me up at the other end. They didn’t have enough room for me to stay over night, so I stayed either with my cousin or took the bus back. No one had mobile phones, GPS or any worries about me doing that, being probably about 10 years old. Sometimes Opa would drive me too. His Jetta couldn’t live up to Oma’s Golf though 😉

Can you imagine, Oma never went on a plane in her life. She never visited me in the UK, and had a hard time selling her family house in Mühlstrasse number 13. The number 13 always meant luck to us, just because it was her house number. And now, I cannot come and visit her to say goodbye, because of travel restrictions.

I am sure she was lonely. She understood that there was ‘an illness out there’ which she didn’t want to catch. Hence she didn’t leave the elderly home during lockdown and after. Of course, being almost 100, you are in one of the most vulnerable group. She didn’t like her food in the end, and like many old people didn’t remember everything. A day was a day and a visitor a visitor. It became more difficult for her to differentiate between people and what was going on. I believe if she had turned 100, it would have been for us more than for her, as I am not sure she would have fully understood.

She was in hospital a few times, scaring us every time, but she always recovered. Oma was tough. She was hard working, organised and what I would describe a very well structured person. She looked after others and was looked after by great staff in the care home. She never went beyond a TV in terms of technology, a mobile phone or a smart watch wouldn’t mean anything to her. She never had an email address or send a what’s app, played computer games or knew how to use Excel. The meaning of global warming was a term she probably could just understand, but whether she really ever grasped what Covid19 meant and how it might change the world forever, I don’t know. Probably she didn’t, and she didn’t have to. And I am glad she didn’t. There are so many things that I am glad she might have never seen, or has to see.

She cared about her family, and I only have very fond memories of her. I of course remember her being angry, and I am sure she had good reasons for that, but that’s what happens with children and their grannies I suppose. When she retired she worked for a charity, always giving back.

Close to 100 years is a damn long time to be on this planet. Particularly the last 100. So much change, and yet, we might say the same in 60 years time. Will we live that long? Will the planet survive? Will we move to space?

It doesn’t matter to us today. Neither did the technology revolution and the internet matter to Oma.

Let’s enjoy the moment we can feel, understand, and comprehend.
Let’s enjoy every single one, and make this the most important thing in our lives. Ever and forever.

I will miss you, Oma Erika.
I will keep you in my memories. Forever.
For my boys you will always be the ‘old lady in Germany’ and it is a privilege for them to have met you.
You are a cornerstone of my family, and I hope that in years to come, my grandchildren will look back to me, read this article and think the same about me.

Goodbye and Amen.

Mindfulness: Reducing Stress in the Workplace

When I introduce myself as a mindfulness trainer, most people assume that I meditate. That’s correct of course, but for some people meditation is still a bit ‘fluffy’ and the ’stuff that the monks in the orange robes’ do. Mindfulness goes beyond that, and the focus on the workplace is key for my programmes.

I set out to meditate almost 15 years ago. I learned from many mentors that through meditation you would be more balanced, more focused and it helps you become successful. That was my reason really. 15 years later, and I have a 20 minute daily meditation routine. I then add some mindfulness exercises throughout the day, to destress during the day and refocus on the task at hand. Sometimes it is a short mindfulness break, sometimes a deeper going breathing exercise, or the three step breathing space I talk about below.

How do you define mindfulness? It’s about being in the moment and being self aware. Similar to Emotional Intelligence (EQ), it is about self-awareness and awareness of others. Being mindful. For mindfulness, the NHS uses the example of consciously feeling the banister when you are walking up or down the stairs. Being able to take yours surroundings in, non judgementally, just being very mindful. It is to observe your commute or taking a different way to work to change your perspective, that is of course if you are commuting to work at the moment.

In 2019 I did a training to become a Mindfulness at Work trainer through a spin off from the Mindfulness Centre at Oxford University. It was important to me that I get a good scientific based training plus a training that focuses on the workplace. It followed two other mindfulness educations earlier in the year.

One of my recent clients in the legal space achieved great results by feeling less stressed and overwhelmed by the end of the course; their happiness and wellbeing improved by 60%. See the case study of Jameson Legal here. On my website you find another case study too!

As a result we ended up doing more ongoing work, where we looked at productivity improvement and how to incorporate a three step breathing space exercise into a daily routine. A quick reset that takes not longer than 30 seconds or up to 3 minutes.

Download the guided meditation here and try it for yourself.

The improvements we are seeing through our 6 week long courses , and of course we can tailor for shorter or longer or bespoke ones, are the following:

  • Improved employee engagement
  • Less stress
  • Reduction of healthcare costs
  • Less costs for sickness
  • Improved productivity
  • Improved leadership skills

Particularly the latter can have a hugely positive impact on an organisation. Compassionate leadership for instance and being able to communicate with employees better are just one of many positive impacts.

No matter how small or big you are as a company, we find the right programme for you to reduce stress, improve focus, and make your company a better place to work.

To find out more, contact me – I teach mindfulness, but also do individual and group coaching sessions with focus on productivity improvement and mindfulness of course.