My new book: #BeBetter: A book about productivity and life systems

After 4 years in the making, I have finally decided to publish my new productivity book.

Whilst there is a price tag associated with it, you can download it for FREE until this Friday.

For any questions or ideas, please feel free to reach out to me at any time.

Best wishes and I hope you find the book useful.

Volker

PS: This post was first published on my personal blog.

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Sabbatical – July/August 2015

Dear Readers,

So far I have published  a few articles on topics about productivity. Also, I shared loads of information and rewrote part of my book.

Unfortunately, besides my fans and subscribers, the blog hasn’t got as much traction as I was hoping. Hence, and as this is a side project, I will take a sabbatical for the summer to come up with some new ideas on how to make tidWOWs more of a WOW experience.

Whilst I believe a lot more time could help, I am involved in a few projects for the time being, so cannot allocate more time necessarily.

Leave it with me and have a great summer, I will be back in September time.

Thanks and please feel free to email me with (volker (at) tidwows (dot) com) for any feedback or suggestions.

Have a great summer,

Volker

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The Power of Whiteboard Sessions (in Sales)

We all remember the blackboards from school. The visualisation of content in front of you in order to show how it is done. In Math or Physics, or Biology and so on. Also, however we used to get content written in front of us, graphs drawn on overhead projectors on e.g. how Hannibal moved through the Alps or something like that. Any subject utilised the blackboard or power of visualisation.

Nowadays we use flip-charts or whiteboards. I am a big fan of whiteboards, as I like to visualise what I am doing, what we are doing as a company or team, how we can segregate things, split things up or bring things together. A circle, a graph and a classic multicolour picture leads to an amazing picture people understand. After all, 65% of people are visual learners according to Neil Fleming. Hence infographics make a lot more sense to people other than only numbers or written content.

The most common use of whiteboards is for brainstorming. And, in all honesty, that is when I first used a whiteboard, making sure to capture anything visual that came to my mind or the group’s mind.

I believe when you put your ideas visually in a bigger graphic than a paper, you start thinking about how to arrange those thoughts and ideas. You can erase ideas, add to it, use colours, scribble in between things or connect things. It is a mind map yet a fluid one, visual one in big letters. If you are on the road a lot you can use Evernote’s Penultimate, yet I am not the biggest fan, despite having a stylus with it.

 

Back to the whiteboard session. You want to point out a few tips I found useful:

– You don’t have to be neat, the main thing is that you get the message across

– Don’t overdo the visual graphics and symbols, keep it simple

– Talk to someone whilst drawing up things, it helps your mind think

– If presenting to a team/client, get their input, get them involved

 

Since I titled this post about “sales”, yet any whiteboard session is successful no matter what you work on, there is something about a sales presentation on a whiteboard. The secret is that you do not use a powerpoint. You are not like the 99% of sales people out there, running through a deck, explaining how great the company is.

When whiteboarding in a sales presentation you show confidence, and you show that you know what you are talking about without any help. You visualise and make the customer understand what they are buying and how your product adds value to their value chain.

If the client wants, they can take a picture afterwards, or you do, and you add it to your presentation or follow up email with the powerpoint. Then you re-iterating what you have done.

Also, the client can contribute as you go along and the two of you can figure out new ways of cooperation and how you can work together. Essentially you are not selling but helping your client to brainstorm ideas for how to use your product. The moment of engagement is the moment you start selling, or you already are a huge step closer to closing that deal.

Try it today. Be confident, bold and practise.

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What to eat or snack whilst staying productive (without getting fat)

I love to snack, and who doesn’t? You feel peckish in the morning, a few crisps go down well. Some peanuts and chocolate after lunch and then some more chocolate to stay awake later in the day? So what is the answer to snacking healthily at work?

First of all, maybe self control and eating lots of bananas instead. That worked well for me, ending up eating 4-6 bananas a day. However, if you don’t have that much self control, what can you actually eat and stay healthy?

Fresh fruit is key like apples and peaches. Then lunch, what do you eat for lunch? Heavy bread and crisps like a lot of people in the UK? Or some healthy salad with some freshly made granary bread? I used to snack on carrots. Or some sushi?

Again, our friends at Lifehack where I read a lot of good stuff, have a whole list of foods you can snack on:

  1. Avocados. 
  2. Almonds.
  3. Raisins.
  4. Figs.
  5. Olives.
  6. Walnuts.
  7. Carrots.
  8. Strawberries.
  9. Flaxseeds.
  10. Water.
  11. Sunflower seeds.
  12. Papaya.
  13. Pear. 
  14. Green tea.
  15. Ginger.
  16. Peppermint.
  17. Watermelon.
  18. Low fat yoghurt.
  19. Dark chocolate.
  20. Raspberries. 

You can see they suggest  a lot of fresh fruits and dark chocolate. High on antioxidants, low on bad stuff. Perfect for snacking.

If you look around a few sites and do your research, the list is very similar to above. Those snacks come in handy when your energy level drops. If your blood sugar drops try to eat an egg or dark chocolate. A yoghurt with some honey for lunch? Or water if you feel hungry, someone once told me to drink cold water so the body warms it up and burns energy. Is that really a way to loose weight? One probably has to drink a lot of water to achieve small weight loss.

Definitely seeds and almonds do the snacking trick if you aren’t intolerant or allergic to it. Humous I found on a list and of course olives. They are surprisingly healthy, same as raisins, and they are full of good stuff too!

What did you experience for healthy snacks?

Just start by taking a donut away a week, replace your chocolate bar with dark chocolate and make the small changes. I managed to almost stop snacking now. You can do it too!

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Power Napping

I love to power nap!

The idea behind power napping is to have a 5-30 minute break from the day, recharge your batteries and nap.

Wikipedia defines its benefits as “Power naps of fewer than 30 minutes—even those as brief as 6 and 10 minutes—restore wakefulness and promote performance and learning. A 30-minute nap may also be able to reverse the hormonal impact of a night of poor sleep or reverse the damage of sleep deprivation. A University of Düsseldorf study found superior memory recall once a person had reached 6 minutes of sleep, suggesting that the onset of sleep may initiate active memory processes of consolidation which—once triggered—remains effective even if sleep is terminated.

So there we go. My experience of power napping is easily described. I used to, at university, study for 90 minutes, worked hard on past exam papers, really concentrated. Then I took a 10 minute nap. Got up, had a coffee, a snack and went back to 90 minutes studying. Then repeat. I ended up with a first class degree and one of the reasons that was, as far as I believe anyway, is that after the studying my brain relaxed and key things from past exam papers sank into my brain, I memorised things better.

Also, I worked as a warden in halls and alarms went off unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Working as a bouncer until late at night got me in late, so I had to catch up with sleep during the day. A few minutes or 30 minutes here and there got me through uni.

Wikihow explains how it is done 🙂 They even suggest to have coffee before the nap so it activates you when you wake up. Very interesting concept. The main danger really is to just fall asleep properly and not waking up at all. Then you will feel wrecked for the rest of the day. So one key aspect is to make sure you get up as soon as the alarm goes off. If you feel light headed, do it anyway. That’s very important. The latest fitness trackers (Jawbone or Fitbit) offering you options to power nap too, including the wake up.

As you know I am having a 5 am routine. Often, on my commute in the morning, I catch up on 10-20 minutes snooze or power nap. I go deep into myself and nap, waking up very refreshed at the station. It is to catch up on some sleep deprivation, some balancing act in my brain’s chemicals I suppose, to make it a successful day.

Have you tried it?

I know some people say they cannot sleep during the day. They feel knackered afterwards. Surely that is true, but given I have been training it for years, there is a way of being able to train yourself to succeed with power napping. If you cannot, then that is a shame.

The biggest challenge is to do it at work: whilst some companies have sleeping pods or quiet rooms to encourage the napping during the day, I don’t think that is the norm (yet). However, if you have the luxury of your own office, why not put a “do not disturb sign” outside your door and take 10 minutes over lunch?

Carpe diem!

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Can you be as tough as a Navy Seal?

I read about the Navy Seals recently. An article quoted the four pillars of Navy Seals as being

1) Goal Setting

2) Mental Visualisation

3) Positive Self-Talk

4) Arousal Control

This all made sense for personal development also. What does make the Navy Seals or any elite unit so successful, and what can managers or leaders learn from them? To answer that question I did some research and came back to similar or same four pillars as described above.

 

Navy Seals operate in a very specific area. They have one goal and one goal only. That means they are very focused on e.g. rescuing someone or finding something. Anything else, any surrounding circumstances are ignored. The goal or target is highly relevant and 100% in focus. Nothing else.

Training is usually around 90 minutes for a task, and then those 90 minutes are broken down in smaller tasks. Just as a leader sets a goal for e.g. revenue per year and breaks it down to revenue per day to be achieved. Chunk size goal setting, that can be achieved and work towards achieving the bigger goal.

 

The Mental Visualisation is key also. This is known from sports people, race car drivers or successful speakers also. They practise the speech or the game or the cycle or drive in their head. They visualise every corner of the grand prix race and how they lean into a curve during the motor bike race. The same is true for leaders who should visually drive themselves through the next staff meeting, the redundancies or hiring process; as sales drive yourself through the next pitch and visualise how great the presentation and hopefully the response is going to be. Try to be prepared for any surprises though.

 

The positive self talk is key to stay calm under pressure. Always talk yourself that things are going to be ok, and that you are ok and doing a good job. This keeps the confidence going and you are not letting yourself or your team mates down. Remind yourself that if others have succeeded, then so will you. There is no reason to not believe that and it is important to keep going and you will succeed as well. Override your fear!

 

It goes in line with Arousal Control. When your body feels overwhelmed, physically or mentally, be prepared and steer against it. Don’t let yourself down, don’t fail. This is key in any Navy Seal operation, but also for any manager. Don’t pack it in front of your clients or faint when things aren’t going well. Keep faith and keep a straight face. Grin and bear it.

 

This summarises some key skills to learn to be tough and mentally strong to avoid surprises and be prepared for the worst to hit you.

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Becoming and Being an A-Player

I believe it was Tony Robbins where I first came about the expressions of “surround yourself with A-Players if you want to be an A-Player“. In research A-Players are described from anything of being a workaholic to being a superhero. I am not too sure I am either 😉

However, there is much truth in surrounding yourself with people that help you vs. people that you help. What I mean by that? Simple really, if you ever managed and employed people you should follow one simple rule: employ people that help you push boundaries rather than people that solely do their job. You employ people that are better than you and help you succeed, because if you employ people that you constantly need to micro manage, then you loose too much time.

That doesn’t mean you should employ someone with potential, e.g. people that are, with some coaching by yourself and your team, don’t turn into high performers. Again, the word high performer has to be defined.

Surrounding yourself with people that are better than you will challenge you and help you grow. It also helps the company as boundaries are being pushed.

I have a simple rule when looking at recruitment: people need to be smart, understand the space they operate in and have an understanding of where they and the company want to go. If someone already asks about the future of the project and his/her role in it, then this person is definitely making the last round. They will help me pushing the limits. And if you want to be successful, that is what you need.

Surround yourself with players that help you succeed. You noticed I dropped the A. Somewhere I read A-Players put their job over their family and seek opportunities for their company all the time. High potential, high risk. I am not convinced.

Actually, I am opposing the idea. If someone has family, then this person can still be an A-Player having a great work life balance. As a former boss put it, being away from home one or two nights a week can actually help your relationship. It is good for employees to work longer hours sometimes or travel for work and have some distance to their family and the office. Yet also, it is key for me that employees have a great family ‘back up’. No work at the weekends, being home for bathing their kids on some days of the week (or all) and no late or early hours unless necessary.

Some of you would wonder if I don’t expect a lot more than 9-5 from my staff? I don’t. I expect a lot more from my employees between 9-5. Productivity, excellent work ethics, A-Player thinking, pushing boundaries and constantly contributing to solutions and the progress of the company. If that is happening and the employee has a great work life balance, then this results in better performance than someone working 5-9 who is miserable about their home and family life.

I cannot stress enough that success and performance is not the amount of hours you work but what you get done during your working hours. Everyone can keep busy until late at night, but the output might not be as great. And, whilst sometimes it is necessary to work all night, the majority of time life outside work is to relax and spend time with the loved ones.

Now, to look at “A-Players” (with reference to MaRS) and their key skills:

– smart and asking the right questions

– positive, can do attitude

– entrepreneurial and pushing boundaries

– excellent communicators

– a life outside work

– highly productive and committed

– team players that easily integrate within the culture and team itself

– growth potential

– decision makers

Important is, coming back to your own personal development, that you surround yourself with those kind of employees as they will be the ones taking things forward. Employ people better than yourself, don’t fear competition, as you enable them to grow. They will thank you for that.

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