Tag: productivity

Life Life Balance

20121029-181747.jpgTriggered by an article in the New York Times, I thought I pick up on some thoughts re life life balance. I have written about work life balance before. Both when discussing the move towards the South coast and regarding jobs and personal development.

I prefer the term life life balance as we don’t balance work and life, we essentially balance our life.

Actually, there is a reason why I am so interested, and to my mind very good, in productivity. I get a lot more things done than others in less time and know when and where I can get things done. What do I mean by that?

On a normal day I get up at 5 am. Check any important emails, check for podcasts or video on demand services, and go on the treadmill for 30 minutes to catch up on those. Following that I have a small healthy breakfast whilst catching up on the news, shower and be out of the door for my half seven train.

My 50 minute train journey is different every day. Depending on my work load I might nap in the morning, catch up on emails, google reader, read a book, write a blog post or listen to a podcast. I normally don’t nap in the evening but still catch up on the day’s events, doing similar things to what I do in the morning.

Since moving to the South coast I try to leave the office on time on Mondays and Fridays, and normally not later than six or half six during the week. I know anything outside those hours can be dealt with on the journey or when home. I don’t need to be physically present in the office.

Latter is what has changed since the 1950ies when people had rules: clock in clock out, time stamps, or wife stay at home mum whilst husband is the bread winner. I would try to be home for dinner but currently the kids eat around 5 pm and are in bed by 7 pm. That means unless I leave the office extremely early I cannot see them during the week. But some days I see them in the morning.

I am lucky that I can work from homes regularly and try to do so too. It makes a huge difference to spend some time with the family during the week.

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Another key to a good life balance is to be able to switch off. Not only your mind but also your phone. Evenings and weekends are key. Before I had two separate phones I got calls and emails late at night or at the weekend. I wouldn’t do that again. If you spend most of your week working, then you need to be fully present at the weekend, to spend as much time with your family as you can. Full on!

It seems like I am always full on. Relaxation happens in the evening, weekends or whilst running. Or on the way home travelling. Having a GTD (Getting Things Done) like system that allows for optimal task management plus my productivity suite on my iPad makes me super efficient on the go.

Or at least I like to think so. There are still some improvements I can make, and I guess I am lucky because my company understands I have family and doesn’t judge me on time in the office but results. Latter is how we should manage performance in the 21st century.

How do you manage?

Have a productive day,
Volker

Sunday Column (161)

I think I have one resolution from this week: I give up sleep. I had a good night on Monday night. Tuesday I left early to the airport, the hotel in Milan was awful, and Thursday night as well as Friday night the kids woke us up, stayed in our bed and you just don’t get a good night’s sleep. Luckily my parents were here at the weekend, so I squeezed in a quick snooze to catch up πŸ˜‰ But honestly, I thought things would get better. And on top of it, if you had as much as two glasses of wine, you feel even worse. Not hangover, but just knackered.

What a hectic busy week on top of that! Honestly, I was in Milan and realised that by the time I was back, sleep excluded, I spend 30 solid hours working. Given the rest of the week was pretty normal, I probably came close to about 60 hours this week. I am getting very busy again. But I enjoy that, and I am very productive. It is not about the quantity of hours you spend at work but the output. You remember my presentation about productivity? Or here, a summary of GTD and Productivity. And of course the summary of another great book I read: Bob Seelert on Productivity and starting with the answers.

By the way books. I finished The Personal MBA book. A great book that refreshed some of my MBA Class learnings back in 2004. I don’t believe it has been 8 years that I a) met my wife, b) got my MBA, and c) started working. And I lived in Beckenham for the past 8 years too.

Nicely to the next topic. We are all ready to move, and everyone seems to be happy to exchange contracts and complete. We had a date for late April which might either be pushed back to June (!) or it comes forward to in two weeks time. Wow….it is stressful this whole moving thing. As long as I finally settle this year I am not too bothered when it is. The sooner the better though. Keep your fingers crossed, we might know on Monday…we might not. The constant “not knowing is not great”.

Another book I started reading is “Inside Apple“: after Steve Jobs biography another book about this “fruit company” that I cannot put down. Actually I finished it this weekend. Whilst I wouldn’t want to work for Apple, I can see the appeal a bigger corporation has. If you have seen my CV (link to Linkedin on the right), I am more of a start-up guy. I enjoy building things up, getting things done and manage to do that on a shoe string. However, the more I think about it, and now being part of a bigger company, I see the appeal of a more corporate structure and a more process and outcome oriented corporation. Not that a start up wouldn’t be outcome oriented, but I find it easier changes direction and can re-invent itself new all the time. Not that everyone does though.

Let me finish with my normal moan about customer services. Vodafone again. Every time I take out a contract they decide I need a special service. Last time I had a TV package for Β£5/month, this time it was a sat nav package for the same price. Excuse me, I cancelled my sat nav package in December 2010!!! With 391 million customers world wide, even if only every 10th customer pays Β£5 a month and doesn’t notice, you had approximately 200 million revenue extra per month. Now, I can understand their reasoning but that is absolutely WRONG. The only reason I stay with Vodafone is their superior reception – that is everywhere but our office in the centre of London though πŸ˜‰

Ok, enough of a moan. I quit my Ocado account completely now, so that is done. I had a great weekend with the family, my parents and kids. So all great. Life is great to me, and I am grateful for that. What ever happens will happen. What ever path I chose it will lead me to where my life is destined. I am confident. I am eager.

Have a great week, Easter is coming soon!

Best wishes
Volker

Sunday Column (125)

This week we went on holidays. We rented a berth at Sandy Balls in the New Forest as recommended by some good friends of ours. The environment our berth is located in is fantastic. Lots of forest (New Forest, I guess you got the hint), open fields, narrow roads, country houses and cottages. England as you love it. It is only about 2.5 hours drive from home, of which Colin slept most of the time. So we arrived for a 3 pm check in and started exploring what this place was about. Unfortunately it started raining, so we ended up in the pub with some great local ale, pub food, and a kid’s disco.

I can imagine, at some point in my life, to move to the country side. The English, Scottish or Welsh country side to re-build a cottage, build a Huf House or just move to a renovated propery. Who knows. Life is great out here.

The moment we arrived you could see that Colin got so excited seeing something else, exploring something new! In hindsight he got over excited so that we only could get him to sleep around 9:30 at night. By that time I had a few naps on the couch and my wife was exhausted too. This didn’t improve over the next few days, no matter how we tried to tire out our wee man, he just wouldn’t settle. I guess an older boy would understand and you could communicate with him, a younger one, like Rohan, just doesn’t bother. The joys of taking 2 year olds away from home πŸ™

So that was day one. I am normally someone that says, I don’t want to go on holidays. It is more comfortable at home, you know what you’ve got, and you have internet. But how important is that all? I can do most things via my Android phone, and a week’s break from my Google Reader won’t hurt (although even that could be accessed via the phone). But you quickly realise how unimportant emails or work become. I am here to quieten my mind, shut up about work and relax. And I did. I finally got some distance between work and myself. For the first time in almost 20 months to not check emails every day. That was about time!

I guess holidays as such are about choosing. Choosing what you want to do and how you want to do it. A concept that I am still mastering. This sounds sad, but from my personality I like to work, get things done, organise and manage things. But since I got my boys I notice how priorities are shifting. I believe it was the Dragon’s Den Duncan Ballantyne’s wife who said in an interview once that Duncan is very good to judge when things are important and when they can wait. I guess it is just a small step up from my work life balance and productivity theories. It is like productivity of not being productive, a clear form of prioritising as my wife would say πŸ™‚

Now day 2 was rainy. Whilst I don’t want to go into much detail on how we got soaked first in Salisbury, then at Stonehenge, we had a fantastic day nevertheless. Colin was, due to sleep deprivation, very grumpy and slept everytime we were in the car. I was tired beyond normal and got a mayor headache that could only be cured with wine at night πŸ™‚ I learned that day that no matter how tired YOU are, and how awful the weather is, YOU have to be there for your kids. Not a great revelation but more of a “I don’t care if you are buggered dad, you are the one that I rely on, you are the one that makes sure I am safe“. This holiday I am learning to be a grown up, to be a father and dad to my two boys.

I don’t want to give you a breakdown of every activity. We did fantastic walks, got rained on more and ended up in a lovely country pub which home made food and local ale. Colin enjoys using his balance bike, and he just loves to be outside. Rohan is just himself, coping well with his first teeth. My wife and I enjoyed a great time away. Much better than anticipated.

Looking back we had a few fantastic days away. Holidays are good for you, and they give you some distance to everyday life. This let’s you concentrate on what is really important: your family and kids.

So we came home on Friday to a new washing machine as the old one died after I put a terpentine (floor wax) drenched cloth in it and it ruined not only the washing but also the whole machine. We now got a washer dryer, just in time for autumn, at least weather wise it looks like we are moving into the darker seasons again already soon.

I am not dreading to go back to work next week, but for a long time I noticed again that there is a life beyond work. Ask me again in 2 weeks if that feeling persisted πŸ˜‰

Have a great week,
Volker

Sunday Column (66)

Now, after I heard the other day that my blog is boring, and that blogging is boring, I don’t really know what to say. I admit that I used to blog more about work related topics or topics of cb consulting. However, to be honest, I haven’t had much time.

My latest project, mexad, is going well. I launched the company in the UK (HQ is in Germany, and it is not my company :-)) in January and we started recruiting now, continue recruiting, getting our own office and making a huge progress. I am careful about what to write here, as the technology is so new, advanced and amazing, that too many people want to know too many details πŸ™‚ Nevertheless, it is an amazing start-up to be involved in with a steep learning curve. All that comes of course with lots of work, long hours etc. But I enjoy that, particularly as I sometimes manage to go home early-ish, see the boy off to bed, and then finish what I have to finish from home later. Flexibility is key.

So overall I believe that my work-life balance has been good. Of course it has been better, but it has also been worse. Getting used to not being at home, not seeing your son during the week is one thing. I also need to get used of not working – for my main job or cb consulting – at the weekend, and being 100% daddy and husband. All of which still takes time to get used to. Mainly, so I believe, because I never stand still, always think, and like to get things done instantly, rather than write them down and get a reminder. Although the latter works well too πŸ™‚

Brings me to the topic of productivity. You must have seen my first presentation on that, and I am currently working on more of the same/similar. So over time I want to bring out more information about productivity, work-life balance, Buddhism and management, and time management. Prioritising is something you learn quickly in a start up when you never have enough time to do everything. Fast pace environment – and I am loving it.

This week has passed quickly because of the above. I had very serious thoughts too. A friend of mine lost his wife after long illness, and I have been emailing with a close friend about “home, fatherland and being lost in the big city”. Both serious topics that make you stop thinking about your routine, long hours, long commutes and the idea of “becoming a Shepard in Australia“. The latter is an idea of mine going back over 10 years to just live the wild life….

Anyway, I believe we don’t stop often enough to relax, stop thinking and reflect. We seem to always be in a hurry and not to look back. I am in the process of learning that too, with the help of Tai Chi, meditation and relaxation techniques.

One last word about Colin. He loves crawling, and climbing. He seems to find lots of joy at the crΓ¨che in the local Spa, playing with the slide and toys. Hence I might take him there tomorrow. He is so much fun, if you take the time for him. He laughs and giggles, speaks “mum”, speaks “dad”, and you can almost get whole conversation with him.

Also, we went to a good friend’s wedding this weekend in Germany. That was amazing, as they are a very lovely couple. I was reunited with a lot of university fraternity friends again, and had some great conversation – a really good time. We never get that young together again (German proverb, “so jung sehen wir uns nicht wieder”). Shame time seems to pass that quickly. It has been 10 years since I left university in Germany. Pictures to follow or on Facebook.

Enough for today, have a great bank holiday tomorrow, a good week and always look ahead.

Never stop to look at the ground……only those who look at the horizon will find the right path….

Love and Happiness,
Volker