Tag: work life balance

Ballueder Thinks (13) – Thoughts in times of change

It’s the bank holiday weekend in the UK. Instead of being outside and enjoying another lovely walk and the countryside, we seem to be house bound. That, luckily compared to other countries, isn’t due to Coronavirus but the weather. The best of the British weather, usually rainy at a bank holiday weekend.

Hence I thought I update my followers on my blog. Given I now write a monthly newsletter, this blog seems a bit dated. So this year, I shall decide whether I will continue writing it or not. As my podcast takes a break this summer, I shall re-evaluate my social media outputs.

If you haven’t signed up to my newsletter yet, please do so here: Newsletter

You might be wondering where I write this post, and after my last update, we are now not moving to Edinburgh. A visit up North, a hands—on comparison to where we live, didn’t stand up to the family test. I was, admittedly, a bit gutted to not move. I was looking forward to so many things, including a newly build house, a new beginning.

What’s for you, won’t go by you – that’s what a friend of mine told me afterwards. It’s a Scottish proverb for ‘what meant to be meant to be’. But for me, it sounds just so much nicer.

Now that we are staying, the planning for the next 15-20 years have commenced. Building into the garage, my own office, a utility room, changing rooms for the kids, a different spare bedroom, repairing some pipe work, extending the living room, solar panels, fire pits and so on… never a dull moment as a house owner as you can imagine. We can plan again 🙂

Having had my own office, as it was in the spare bedroom and we didn’t have visitors all year, was a godsend last year. I believe that moving forward, we will only go to the office 2 days a week, and spend the remainder of the week in our home offices. We have shown that it works, that video conferencing is as easy as face to face chats, and that we don’t need to travel for hours just to ‘see’ someone. Work has changes, and life has changed. We have more time to spend at home, with our loved ones, and enjoy our gardens, plants, pets and life in general.

And how is my life changing?
There are lots of things happening. I am very grateful for the amount of work that is coming my way and how my projects are going. I enjoy the variety of working for different companies, being able to spread my knowledge and being able to help. A great portfolio career. Whether that is for my sales consultancy or the leadership consultancy and coaching which incorporates mindfulness. The latter is really in demand, yet still too few companies are committing to help employees wellbeing. At least that is true for things that go beyond the standard offering of subsidised gym memberships and yoga lessons. Not that this is all bad, but I personally cannot say often enough how much we need to incorporate our mental wellbeing into our workplace cultures: mindfulness, regular breaks, down time etc.

If you have spoken to me in the last few months, you would have heard me banging on about it. It’s good to see that some companies doing all the right things. A post I shared about suicide got a lot of traction on LinkedIn the other day. It’s good to see that we can create more awareness, yet suicide always seems like the last resort for the person and such a waste to all of us that are affected.

Talking about mental health, exercise is still important for both physical and mental health. I started my marathon training early, and I am due a half marathon distance next week. I am raising the last bit of my goal for the RNIB – another £1,000 – with this year’s London Marathon. You can sponsor me on the link above, and any amount is gratefully received. I keep saying this is my last marathon. After 10 years I am contemplating of decommissioning the treadmill and return to outside running and gym memberships. I have less of a commute if I work from home, and I can accommodate different exercises in the evening, which also means I could get more of a variety of exercises. Maybe I find a squash partner again. Also, I don’t fancy a treadmill in my office either 😉

As you can see, there is the constant change I was talking about in the last newsletter. Moving or not. Life is full of surprises. You cannot predict things. I have just received my first vaccination, and I am still not sure that we won’t have mother pandemic in the future.

We are healthy. We have food. We have running water and a toilet. We are in the fortunate position to have work, our kids getting a great education, and our closest family is all well too. We are privileged. Anything else is a bonus, and whilst we might have a few bonuses, it’s about being grateful for the things we have.

Have a great rest bank holiday weekend.
Best wishes from my old and new corner of the world.
Volker

The times they are a-changing

Bob Dylan wrote this song and published an album with that title many years ago, ‘The times they are a—changing’.

As many of you, if not all of you, we as a family spent a lot of time evaluating things during Covid. From what we could do to the house, increase and change living space, to extensions. Are we living in the right area, will Brexit affect us, and what is the way forward? How and where do we want to spend the next 10 years of our lives. These questions and more went through most people’s heads during the pandemic.

My wife and I did the same. Given she is from Scotland, and that’s where we met many years ago, in Aberdeen, and I am from Germany, there could be two obvious choices.

To a cut a long story short, we made up our minds. Edinburgh it is. Back home for the wife, free universities, and a possibility to join the European Union (if ever so small). A city called ‘Athens of the North’ (although some say Paris), not much bigger than Brighton, on the coast with some amazing outdoor activities, lochs to explore and mountains to climb. We are all excited, although it took the boys a few days to get over the initial shock but they took it very well. And of course, we are close to the mother in law too. Germany just doesn’t seem to be a possibility for any of us to move to.

My biggest question was around ‘can I continue my career’, and it turns out that my current contract is very happy for me to move. Given the changes in the way we are working and companies being more open to remote working, and I am confident they will not change, location is less of an issue in the future. As a matter of fact, it hadn’t mattered whether I was working from just North of Brighton or Land’s End for the past year. Whilst I believe that I need access to the next job’s HQ, it might just be enough to do so every couple of weeks. If you look at our US friends, they work remotely for many years. And it works. My biggest fear was to not be close to London. All I am changing though is the access from 90 minutes door to door on a train, to a plane (maybe 2 hours all in) or early train (4 hours) – and the certainty that this will be less often. So I am sold, besides there are some very interesting start-ups and companies in Edinburgh too!

Plus, and I look forward to that, there is the chance to stay a few nights in London as I did in other European cities. This always allows for nice dinners, activities and enjoying a city properly. Something I haven’t been able to do in our current location as late night trains weren’t reliable.

Now the search begins. Which area to move to? Which house? Temporary accommodation? Schools, school intake? It is going to be a stressful time. With the lockdown easing, I cannot wait to spend some evenings back in the Scottish pubs, sample the local ale. Even for me, after many years in London and the South, it is a homecoming. I cannot wait.

And we have settled on an area for now, South Queensferry, and plans are firming up.

Will it all be better?
Will the grass be greener?

No, of course not. And to be honest, house prices are not too much different to where we live now. However, there will be some things that are better, some things that are worse. As always. Anywhere you go. At least we still got the same super markets, take-aways and language, so it will be very similar 😉

What I am looking forward to?

It’s the independence from London. A new beginning, new networking, and the access to a city with a culture that resonates with me. London got a bit too big and too far away from where we lived. As a close friend of mine said when we moved out here, it’s a long way out. And it is, particularly with a unreliable train service. I felt I didn’t have access to London as much as I would have liked. For the past 12 months I have been sitting in a room in front of a camera. This room could have been anywhere, but soon will be within throwing distance of mountains, outdoor, and the sea. We can pop up to my MIL for tea, see family and make new friends. The boys will have access to excellent and free education.

And I can’t wait to see an opera. Silly, because I don’t even like operas. But I could, if that makes sense. And then take a taxi home. Living quality just moved up a notch.

Our house in Hassocks is on the market, and the journey has begun. Come and buy, Hassocks is one of the 10 most sought after areas in the country!

We cleared out years of stuff, despite having done that already a year ago. It’s the ‘second round’ where you go a step further in terms of what you keep. We made cash on eBay and local selling sites. It’s liberating, and soothing to be honest. I find that anyway. It’s that time when you evaluate what’s important.

Anyway, here we go. Wish us luck. It might be quite a journey until we settle into our new place and got it the way we want. Time will tell they say, and we are confident we made the right decision.

And that’s all that matters, isn’t it?

See you around!
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.

About Principles for Success (4)

I have a few more chapters I want to share of my book Principles for Success.

So if you haven’t bought and read my book, have a look at it. And feel free to tune into stories of success on any podcast outlet or www.storiesofsuccess.fm

We discuss life-life balance, realising that work-life balance doesn’t work, given we are spending more time at work than with our family. Maybe it is just a phrase but the underlying thought is that you only have one life. Why divide it between work and life, if you can combine the two. My prediction is that the way we are working is changing in the future.

And we discuss visualisation. Did you know that the brain can’t necessarily differentiate between the real experience and a good visualisation? This is a huge thing for athletes who go through a run or a swim over and over again. Just to get the brain and body to think you have done it. I did that for my marathon and it helps. Try it!

You would have guessed that mindfulness and meditation foster success, whether that is through journaling, reflection or whatever it means for you. I found that most of my guests had some means of finding calm in their day to relax their brain. With the information overload this is super important, and it helps productivity.

The values and culture, similar to the team and trust, are key to a successful businesses. Are you authentic. Is the team a team or a group of individual? What does your business stand for? What do you stand for as a leader of the business.

Be yourself, follow your dreams and make it work. You only got one life, so make the most of it.

Thanks for supporting me by buying the book Principles for Success and joining me on my podcast www.storiesofsuccess.fm

Success Stories – first quarter summary.

Dear listener (and readers of course),

You have been likely to listen to my podcast Stories of Success over the last few months. I have been going for 3 months now, and I figured it was time to write up a solo episode which I then decided to put into writing rather than ‘reading it out’ or podcasting it. Again, thank you for staying with me over the first quarter and we have some existing guests coming in Q2 this year. Please rate my podcast if you like it and also, please subscribe on your favourite podcast outlet, as this will help me to increase my fellowship and amount of listeners.

I started the podcast in January to explore how some of my friends are successful, some aren’t as much and what it takes for some of my mentors and industry leaders to climb up the career ladder. This was triggered by a) me looking for a job and looking for inspiration but b) also to build more of an expertise of what it takes to coach people to become (more) successful. So a lot of my learning is based on their learning and experience. Naturally, as it is in adtech, we are a male dominated industry which sees a lot of male leadership. However, I have since managed to get a few women onto the podcast and there are many more to come. Also I have been venturing outside the industry a bit. It is and has been an exciting journey with me having a lot of fun recording the podcasts, meeting new people and digging deep into principles and habits. Thanks for sharing your stories! I appreciate my guests’ time and effort and patience.

What are the main learnings? I think the main learning for me is that most of the successful entrepreneurs and leaders aren’t feeling successful because they earned money. Money seems to be more of a measurement of success in the USA, whilst overall for most interviewees success is all about achieving a goal, being on the journey of achieving things and ideally making the world a better place. Making that famous ‘dent in the universe’ Steve Jobs spoke about, and money usually follows. Follow your passion of being in the moment, create experience with others, and help others achieve their goals. Rise with the tide and lead from the front. Success as a term seems to be very objective, and further is not really the same as happiness.

Is it that simple?

Yes, as a summary maybe. It is also about a lot of hard work and clear cut prioritisation. On the back of that, work life balance seems to be key for most Europeans, and a key part of the success story. From what I gathered, this is because you work very hard, you sometimes neglect the family a bit, but you will make up for it as and when you can. And sometimes that means to put family first, and turn off emails or calls for a while. That is dedication on both ends, and a bit ‘black and white’. Preparation and being thorough is key too – whether that is to prepare a board and investor meeting or just to organise your thoughts. The focus on the bright sparks in your brain that move you forward, focusing on positivity rather than negativity.

Not that I want to quote Steve Jobs too much, but a lot of the success is due to serendipity, and that means, that the ‘dots connect looking backwards’. Being at the right place at the right time – but how do you know? You don’t until you had the success or you are on your journey of achievement.

We also spoke a lot with my guests about routines and habits. I have, as most of you know, a 5 am routine. That means for me to get up at 5 am, exercise for about an hour, meditate, shower, breakfast, out of the door. That’s what works for me, and it wouldn’t work for everyone. But I noticed that a few of the guests I interviewed had a morning routine, to achieve something before everyone else does; or you had, similar to myself, a journaling routine, a planning routine or to take time off on a regular basis to do what David Allen would call a ‘brain drain’. And those habits are sacred, and from what I learned more instilled in men than women, given the way our brains work. However, I have heard of fantastic morning routines from females, so not all black and white after all.

Meditation is a common theme and really relaxing and focusing on things outside work, which could be reading or building models, or just family as of above. It is the focus and drive, the razor sharp prioritisation of the right things that make the difference. The yin and yang of work and life.

Another topic and theme I explored was upbringing. You would expect upbringing having a huge impact on your life. Whether an entrepreneurial family breeds an entrepreneur or quotes and mantras instilled into you from a young age. Or the influences you had from a cultural point of view. A lot of success is related to self awareness, being emotional intelligent (EQ). In contrast to that I found that the connection across the globe was mentioned and people being more connected through smart phones and social media. That in return leads to loneliness and as one guest (episode with Chris) pointed out a higher suicide rate. Is greate connectivity really leading to more loneliness? This is an area I would like to explore more, yet it is a bit outside the scope of a success podcast, more of a view on the social development of the world. I do have an opinion on that of course but maybe that’s for another time. We often drifted into different topics and got philosophical, which I found interesting and the listeners appreciated from what I heard.

And as we found more and more philosophical terms and discussions, we learned about visualisation and how there seems more energy in America to push things forward. The law of attraction (LOA) was discussed without many using the term of it. The visualisation of what is going to happen and how life will plan out. However, some cultures hold themselves back or express their energy in a different way. But we all move towards the same connectedness and realise the potential of coming closer together. Like failure used to be a stigma in the German culture but now is more and more recognise to lead to success – as long as you learn from failure I suppose. The more mistakes you make, the more you avoid those same mistakes in the future.

Another trend I noticed is that we find more coaches and mentors being present in the Anglo-Saxon world (US/UK culture) and this is a trend that continues into the rest of the world. To have someone you can trust with anything, you can share your fears with and also to speak to like a mother or father. But someone who understands the corporate world and the values that are important to you. They are helping with being persistent, with helping to move forward. I do this coaching too, so if anyone has an interest in that, please feel free to reach out. Nothing like someone that can help you develop and understand the situation you are in. Someone you can trust.

Yes, as we are looking at some of the key drivers above, we notice one more theme: don’t take yourself too seriously and make time for a laugh with friends. Life isn’t all work. Play it well.

I am looking back at an intense and amazing quarter of podcasts and discussions around success. Some philosophical, some flowing, some less flowing conversations. Some I listened in awe, others I got right in. It has been a lot of fun, so thank you for your time and input.

Please if you get a chance, subscribe to my podcast on your favourite podcast outlet, and please rate me 5 stars if you think I deserve it of course. If you can share this post or the podcast with friends, that would help me too. This project is going to continue for the foreseeable future and please let me know who else I should have telling me their Story of Success.

If you are looking for the books that have been recommended on the podcast, please got to my recommendations page.

Thanks for listening, and please leave me feedback (just email me)
Volker

Sunday Column (437)

Another crazy week. I am getting used to it and honestly, actually I am enjoying them a bit too, those weeks. I flew out to Hamburg on Monday, this time with Easyjet again, and it went ok. The seats, non emergency exit, are awful, but other than that it did the job and got me there on time. Just too small for my long legs, so no proper sleep. Back in an empty Eurowings with a glass of wine, needed after a back to back day. I try to maximise the time I have in Germany. And every time I believe things are all dealt with, something new comes up. Amazing.

Some of you might read this and go ‘Why is he doing it, why is he loving it?’. Let me tell you the story of my life, which you might have heard on here before. I enjoy being busy, sorting things, helping people, supporting and developing people and work. Yes, some people call it work, I call it fun. I don’t mind burning the candle on both ends and push things forward. 10 years ago I would have worked 24/7, and sometimes it felt like that. Why? I don’t know. Just what I enjoy doing. What do I really want to do, someone might ask. I enjoy running, and taking companies/company units forward, working with smart people, being successful. That’s it, simple. Learning.

There is a flip side to that too. Since I had kids, priority shifted. So I am not burning candles on both ends anymore and look for a more balanced life. Running, enjoying a glass of wine, good food, a BBQ at the weekend, quality time with the boys, the wife and friends. I enjoy my fun life too and I do enjoy things outside work. Listening to the OneThing podcast, there was a chap on there the other day, re-iterating that the first thing he does every year is to plan his holidays, then the kids’ school events and he never works beyond 6 pm. And he is mega successful. Similar to the Energy Project, it is about renewal, boundaries, regular breaks and refuelling and regenerating. I learned that over the years, moving from start up to start up, and apply it now. Not every day but most days. This is mega important and should have been more of a focus when I was younger. So when I can, I still work a lot, and if I have a higher priority, then so be it. As a matter of fact I was reading my emails this morning when my youngest woke up. He looked at me and I said, that I should really put the phone away, and he nodded. I did. No question. We must set examples, and make sure they balance life from the outset.

So with all the travelling, cudos goes to my team in the UK for being so patient with me and going through video conference sessions to catch up and the team in DE for the support and commmittment. We are a great team, great company and everyone is working so hard to make things work. Our earnings report this week shows we are so on track to win. I am loving it. Well done all (if you read that anyway 😉 ).

I am buzzing. The biggest cudos of course goes to someone else. My wife and children for putting up with my absence and supporting me throughout. Whether through endless WhatsApp emojis in the morning or funny videos. I love them all and really appreciate their patience. Particularly if I am not feeling too great at the weekend due to some virus. But that seems over now too. So this weekend was family time. Full on.

As I am flying back and try to catch up on some admin, I am wondering about a few things that have happened this week. The days melt into one, from early morning runs, early mornings in the office, discussions with old friends over beers, or endless meeting marathons. It is a lot to take in and as my brain digests this over a glass of vino, I am remembering the often quoted phrase of connecting the dots moving forward. Steve Jobs.

Yes, it all works out in the end. And everyone understands and works in the same direction. Life is for living and moving and looking forward. However YOU want to define that. I am reading an amazing book about evolutionary coaching. I listen to my podcast and I am learning constantly. I am buzzing with new ideas. Life is there to grab it and be successful. Again, you decide and you define what it means to you. Not to look back, regret. But what I also notice is that it is a lot about living and representing values. About agreeing or disagreeing on the path. And that’s the secret. In a relationship with a partner or in a relationship at work. Trust comes to mind. Openness. That’s what life is build on. Maybe not a secret. It all comes together as you get older.

I am happy. That’s the main thing. But more important is that my loved ones are and the ones in my care. That’s what I do. That is who I am. That is how I strive and determine success.

With that said, I am off to Hamburg again on Monday. Different meetings, different discussions, and I am looking forward to it. I make things work. That’s what I do.

Thank you all for bearing with me,
Volker

Sunday Column (248)

This week I ran for the train and just got it thanks to the staff at the station opening the gate for me so I could run straight for it. Never harms to keep the important guys happy with a chit chat in the morning 😉 I missed another train this week and had to stand for a while on the crowded one after. Happens. The reasons are simple really. I still try to overcome those viruses, so I try not to jeopardise anything by going running in the morning. My alarm goes off a bit later and Rohan is still up at night, some nights getting you right out of your deep sleep phase, making you feel shattered, dizzy and sick.

But there is another reason too. Those mornings when Colin wakes up just before I go downstairs. “Dad, I woke up because the heater in my room makes a noise. Nights are for sleeping and in the morning, you have to get up and don’t sleep.” Yes son, you are so right. Nothing like sharing the joy of him having a new T-shirt with his favourite cartoon character on it. Putting on the TV. He told mummy the other day, after she mentioned we have to look something up on Google: “Google knows a lot of things, it is smart.” He knows what’s right and wrong and in his own little world he is exploring lots of things.

Then I emptied the dish washer, as I normally do in the morning, and find out all those things that have happened the day before. Rohan has a new blue cup as he lost his yellow one in Brighton. I put the wrong coloured lids on the wrong drinking cups and got told “cheeky daddy” from one and “you don’t know much, do you daddy” from the other. The joys.

20131204-073810.jpg
I love my family, including my wife, and those special moments are great. When a four year old explains the world to you. Then he goes all quiet and tells you about the Christmas decorations at big school. There are so many things he hasn’t shared with me, as I am at work. I still find it hard not being able to be there when he gets home from school. And, I treasure the days I am, when he has his nativity play in two weeks and I will be there. Seeing him on stage 🙂 I envy parents that work from home, the ones that can drop off their kids to school most days and pick them up on others.

Ever since this summer I am trying to find the right work life balance. Part of me accepts the fact I don’t see them at night but I enjoy seeing them most mornings. And their schedule changes and yours does and you just make those weekends extra special. That is important. For them and for me.

Like this weekend, I helped at a project from some final year students, aspiring teachers, to get dads more involved in school activities. So we ventured down to school on Saturday and did lots of fun games, baked pizza, played and enjoyed daddy time. He loved having daddy around and I heard all about the school. I met one dad who can work from home one day a week and can finish at 4 pm to help out in school with a Lego club. That’s fantastic.

With me organising monthly drinks for the dads, I got a few more emails to add to my invites. “The dads of Hassocks”, sounds like a cheap soap, but gives us a great opportunity to exchange notes, sort problems, discuss man issues (we are not at the Viagra state yet), the commute, the work life balance, wives etc. It is good to exchange ideas with like minded people and discovering that the issues I have are common across everyone. I am not alone. A community feeling, like a German Stammtisch.

And we all enjoy and looking forward to Christmas. Seeing the sparkling, exciting eyes opening presents, moaning about the food and having family around us. It is this time of year. Joy. Peace, inner happiness, and lots of love. And unfortunately more bugs….which lead to us cancelling some weekend plans 🙁

Have a safe time in the run up to Christmas. Stay well.

Love and Kindness,
Volker

Sunday Column (203)

This week was dominated by flying and associated chaos. Work took me to Cologne on Monday. With the snowy weather I was worried that we might not make the flight. We left the office in time, checked the websites and then arrived at Paddington to find out that the Heathrow Express wasn’t working. Hence we cut it fine and just made our flight using the tube. Wow. A bit too much travel stress for my liking on a Monday.

easyjet snow

Back we went on Thursday, thanks to an unannounced strike by security personnel, we spent 3 hours in the queue and had an hour delay before arriving safely in London Gatwick thanks to a fabulous Easyjet crew. I normally don’t mind travelling, and travelling in a group is always easier. Having said that, if you make your own schedule it is easier if you don’t run into problems. Chicken and Egg. This time we really worked well travelling as a team. The next bigger trip is with the family, this won’t be easy either. No question, Friday turned out to be a slow day. Having not slept Thursday night, I hit a wall around 4 pm and almost fell asleep at my desk. Last week was exhausting.

Three days of sales training paired with good catch ups across our European offices really motivated me. I haven’t actively been selling but got really keen refreshing some of those skills. I actually dug up my SPIN selling notes, Conceptual and Strategic Selling book again when I got home. The fun training paired with some booze and fantastic colleagues as well as a meeting with my cousin made this trip highly enjoyable. I am on fire. Push ups anyone 😉

Chats about parenting styles left me reflecting on how you bring up your kids, how much time you want to spend away from the family and what is really important in life. How much trade off are you prepared to make between family and work, career and seeing the kids. It seems to be difficult to make the right decision and / or finding the right balance. I keep working on it. I missed my two boys this week and of course missed my wife. I believe with me living so far out of London that I don’t see the children during the week, I am just “home at night”. Assuming this still counts as being home, however if I was away like friends of mine in the consulting business working from Monday to Thursday away, neither me or my wife would like that. Luckily I am not. Having done the bi-weekly 1-2 nights away, I think that is manageable. This is a difficult one. If you haven’t seen “Up in the Air” with George Clooney, have a look for it. You don’t want to end up like him, or do you?

Having been back to Germany was interesting. I detach myself more and more from being German and thinking like a “typical” German. Of course it is not as black and white. However, still being able to speak the language, paired with English humour and elegance ;-), seems to get you a lot further in this country. A big publisher said a few years ago “I make my life more enjoyable through sarcasm”. Maybe another good way of putting it. Charming the hotel staff or the airport security works better using some less available skills Germans have paired with my German-ness. I love it…sometimes 😉

Anyhow, you probably already noticed that I enjoyed this work week, spending quality time with people I like, I work with (and like) and have known for many years. Most of us have been launching my company in their respective country and mastered similar challenges. We have a lot in common!

At the weekend we had a nice get together with some local folk: parents of Colin’s preschool mates. Lots of booze, great chats and discussions. I am slowly but surely get properly settled within the community. I like it down here. Hassocks is great and I am trying to sell it to friends to move down here too. There is a 3 bedroom available in our road, and plenty smaller and bigger houses around the place. Newly builds and Victorian.

Sunday, finally, Colin came up with the chicken pox spots. So he should be finished with it just in time for our planned trip. I was thinking for a while that he might be immune to it. We made another pulled pork in our slow cooker and had a chilled out day, trying to get on top of some of the mail etc. Another problem when you are away for a week, you have loads to catch up on.

Have a good week. The weather looks warm and rainy. So maybe spring is in the air already? We shall see.

All the best,
Volker

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 (190)

Hello,

This week I started writing this post whilst flying off to Germany. I am away for two nights, three days to get training on a new platform. Luckily my company allows me to be quite flexible, so I went home early last night to see the boys.

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Colin has been asking for me when I am away. So when I make the effort to come home early, of course making up the time after the kids go to bed, he is all chuffed. We play with train tracks or he tells me what all he has been up to all day. Rohan is also very paly, particularly now that he got a cold. I suppose C is too young to understand that I come home for him, that I make this effort because I am away for a few days. That is why I sometimes work from home too, so he sees I am around, we can have lunch together or watch Ben and Hollie.

But, as my wife rightly remarked, it is not about me being there when he watches TV or plays with the iPhone. I am afraid to change it as I don’t want to upset him, maybe a bit lazy as I am glad to be home early. I don’t know to be honest, but the concept of TV and iPhone games for toddlers needs to be rethought. And the concepts of dads being too weak to educate too!

Anyway, we also had problems with our fish lately. Two weeks ago we got four more fish, then another four. Whilst they replaced some, we might have overcrowded the tank, fed too much and also had some plants dying. All that together led to fish loss of by now two mollies, two gold barbs and unnoticed before a few panda corydoras, which now led to high nitrate levels. We got the water tested twice last week and the shop said it is fine. Now we hope that a 50% water change helped, and we will continue to change more water until the eco system is restored. I was panicking this week, and learning a lot about eco systems, fish and nitrates. Fingers crossed the remaining fish are going to be ok. It seems as we got things turned around.

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I also was ill this week. So were the kids, I am having the man flu, and the weather gets from bad to worse. Winter is on our door step. I hate not being able to run, I feel like I am letting myself down, not eating too well, not sleeping well, not exercising. I am not loosing the power and energy yet but the break from exercising has been far too long. Fingers crossed I am back on the tread mill next week. I am not travelling for another two weeks, so that should be ok. If only this cold would go away.

Supposedly the long days and at least one long night in Germany didn’t help. If you work with some of the finest people, you like to hang out with them, have fun and often get carried away.

I definitely not loosing any energy whatsoever. I work on a few projects, some “physically”, some in my head. Reading this nutrition book for students really helps me to understand the human body, food intake and health in greater depth. Some people don’t understand why I like those side projects, but I do. It keeps me on my toes I suppose. It makes me think and look at things from a different angle.

On that note, C was praised for having good problem solving skills in school the other day. Family of mathematicians, physicians, engineers. Now I need him to learn how to sell 😉

On Saturday my wife and I had our 5th wedding anniversary. It made us happy but also a bit thoughtful. I asked her if in five years time, C being 8 and R being 6, we would still love each other as much and what it would be like. Now think back five years. We had both jobs, I was in between two at the time, have since moved on and up, we had two kids, have our second home, the cats, people died, life moved on and our love is still going strong. I believe there is a great synergy and balance we provide for each other. For another five years and long beyond that. Make it 50!

We also had some friends over. Six adults, six boys, three age three. Wow, what an experience. Lots of work. I think we realised that we need to spend a whole day with our friends and then stay over in order to have adult conversation and have a proper catch up when the kids are in bed. I guess we are learning to be grown ups.

That pretty much summarises my week. Ups and downs. Next week I hope that I feel a lot better and get a lot more of my planned stuff done.

Have a good one.
Volker