Living In The NOW (part 1)

Here is another book chapter I like to share with my readers. It is about the concept of living in the now and being able to cherish every moment. Being fully in the moment. Being fully engaged in any moment.

The realisation that anything you do happens in the now and not in the past or future. As much as we all like day dreaming, let our mind go on a rampage of thinking about things, plan things etc, we are only ever in control of this very moment: NOW.

Once you read this, the NOW from a moment ago becomes the past. You are in the NOW’s future, the new NOW. It’s only ever going to be here for a VERY short time. Do you realise what that means?

And only in this very moment you can make a decision. You can change the world. Your perception. This tiny tiny bit of moment. NOW. A heartbeat.

If I start talking about the NOW, the present moment, I could not do so without mentioning Eckard Tolle (Tolle, Eckhard, 1999, The Power of Now, a guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Hodder & Stoughton, London). It is almost impossible for me to describe Eckard’s take in the book or to summarise what he says in great detail. I even find it difficult to follow his webcasts and listen to him. He goes deep into it. For me the main thing I got from his teachings are that there is nothing, really nothing at all, that you can do to change the world but in this very moment.

And I suppose if you think about it, and if you really understand it, then you will have one of those “aha” moments. People like to escape from the world and live their lives by engaging dangerous activities (page 42) to feel alive. To live the very moment to the fullest, to go to the limit in the now.

It means that you should never worry. Worrying means you are worried about the future or the past, but you won’t be able to change the past. It is gone. Let go! The future might plan out differently to what you expect, and anticipating it just wastes energy in trying to influence something you cannot. Yet you do have an influence on the future by influencing this very moment, the NOW. That’s where your energy should be. That is where your focus must be.

Read next week about the concept of time.

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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,


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GTD 101….Asian Efficiency

The guys over at Asian Efficiency do an amazing job. They also write some great blogposts and I listen to their podcasts religiously.

Now, a while back, they published a post on the GTD 101. So no credit for me.

A good post to share before my sabbatical later this month.

Thanks guys, you doing an amazing job!

Enjoy – might be a good things to subscribe to their podcast today and get their newsletters and follow them etc. They are awesome!

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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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Working With The End In Mind – Stepping Stones And Goal Setting (6/6)

On to the last post of the chapter. Are you enjoying it so far?

To master life you need to transfer some of those theories into your life, away from work. Managing your partner’s expectations and your time without kids to get some work done on the weekend, to manage schedules for kids’ activities and family time. This might sound silly but I believe it works.

Often people like to live their own way and in their own schedule and need to put simple things like time with the kids in their diary. I have to that too, in order to know that for instance this weekend I cannot work on my book but will spend all my time with the children. However, if I needed to finish a chapter or article, I would ask my wife to look after the kids for an hour so I can work on it. Or I work before they get up or after they have gone to bed.

You soon, if you haven’t yet, find out that life management is like a project management with a common goal: death. This is not to sound harsh but we all know the ending of life. Manage your life like a project, maybe with bigger stepping stones. Having paid off the mortgage by the time you are 60, retire by 70 and in between getting married, having kids, buy a house and so on. Two or three years, given you live to be 90, is a fraction of your life, 3% to be precise. And don’t forget your pension.

The key to constantly progressing, and that is if you like to do that instead of having the same job on a continuous basis, is to invest in yourself. 5% they say of your annual salary or time is what you should commit to developing yourself. If that is getting a coach or reading books, visiting a seminar or conference, or to just have a meditation holiday is up to you. You decide.

Another important factor is that life is worth nothing without your health. Keep fit. Only in a healthy body lives a healthy soul. Keeping your energy levels up by having more energy than others, being fit and able, healthy and strong, will make you have more energy. Enjoy exercising and involve others, e.g. your children, to get fit too.

In terms of life life balance, I guess I have been talking enough about that a lot. Make sure you separate the two and have undisturbed time with your family. Put your phone away, put it on silent or just turn it off. Enjoy the quality time with your family and turn it back on. If you were in church you would turn it off, so why not at home?

Distraction is a major factor in life today. As previously mentioned we have an information overflow. Every day I skip through my RSS feed reader and wonder if I could live without it. What happens if you were to quit Facebook?

Last but not least, to conclude, in order to begin with the end in mind there is one little trick: visualise. Whether you blow up a picture in your mind of the car you want to own or if you print out the picture of the house you would like to live in and put it on your wall. Research has shown that if you visualise and remind yourself of a picture you are more likely to achieve it. Success, a big house, a car, money. Or is it happiness, work free time and time with the family. Life is not all about money but of course money helps 😉

Again this is down to personal preference on how you like to live your life. What is your plan in life? What action have you taken towards achieving it?

Some people enjoy to work hard, have a career, have a fancy car, living in luxury and have no family whilst others do not like working, have less money but put all their focus on the family. And of course there are millions of variations in between. Latest research suggests that only one in five couples have a stay at home partner (usually the mum) whilst often both partners work. It is down to lifestyle choices, goals you have in life for both yourself and your family. Trying to balance that and make sure you and your partner are happy is key to the overall well being of yourself.

It all comes back to sitting down and deciding what you want to achieve in life and why.

Your life plan.

Your vision.

Once that is done, you can decide on the how. And I am sure you figure it out. Your whole life you will be wondering why you did one thing over another and one decision versus another but in the end you hopefully look back at your life and decide that what you did was right and it was right decision at the time.

I guess that is what it is all about.

Hopefully my suggestions, tools and ideas help you to continue achieving it.

You need help? Contact me and I help you achieving your goals in life, setting your own vision and take a massive action towards achieving your success. However you define it.

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Working With The End In Mind – Stepping Stones And Goal Setting (5/6)

We are coming to the second last part of this chapter. I hope you find it useful so far, as I notice a few comments coming through on my email.

Let me use another analogy.

If you have never driven a sports car and never really had any experience driving one, it does not matter whether you have a license, know which buttons to press and when to change gears, as you would not be good in doing it, and you would not win the Grand Prix either. Make sure you know your goal, the Grand Prix. Find your trusted system for this particular job that needs to get done (e.g. if you never fly on a plane for work, what is the point of an offline reading list), and get going. Practise as you go along so you soon can drive that sports car and win the Grand Prix.

Additionally, do not try every promised productivity tool. Trust me, you will not need them all. Whilst I try a few tools at an early stage, I have a keen interest. Wait until a few people have tried the tools and pending trusted feedback, try to use them yourself. Not only do you save money, you also save time. Actually quite simple.

Time Management is really a buzzword these days. When I started being organised, age 10 or so, and I mentioned that before, I used to write my homework down for the day it was due not the day I got it. This way I could see what I had to do for a certain day rather than doing everything I got on my to-do list that day. This was 25+ years ago. Then prioritise and see the bigger picture.

There are some lists I use like the to-do house list, of things I need to work on around the house. It is great to put things down but….you need to re-visit the list and tick off the things you wanted to do.

Prioritising is difficult. The main thing is that you look what needs to get done by when and then by which priority. We all have 24 hours only in a day and get paid for 8 hours a day. We all go the extra mile but have a life outside work. Some days are better than others and if you are on a roll, why not do an extra hour and finish a project. But if you think you have to work until late at night every night, then there is likely to be something wrong with your productivity.

Important is to make sure your employer is happy with flexible working hours and if you are a manager, you usually work longer hours anyway to make sure you get all your things done. Having mid project stepping stones and progress checks are important. Again this depends on the project but for instance if you work on a proposal for a client across several departments, then work out a critical path and make sure all stakeholders deliver in time for you to put together the final project.

Sometimes the waiting is the hardest part (Tom Petty was singing about that), but have little things to do whilst waiting. Like checking a website, read a short article over a cup of coffee or signing off some bills. If you have an assistant make sure s/he puts all the things you need to sign off on one pile and when it gets time critical or if it takes you 10 or 15 minutes, then you get a nudge. This is more efficient than signing off every bill or payment you get at the time. Again, if you have common sense, these things come natural to you.

If not, hire a coach!

Other things include keeping admin and longer emails you need to think about until late at night as you can work undisturbed. I normally like to do them first thing in the morning as I have a fresh mind and do them before my inbox fills up again. This shows my personal preference again. I know a lot of people working until late at night whilst I try to keep the hours from 7 pm to 5 am to myself. But it is not unheard of that people get emails from me at 3 or 5 am when I am up and my mind is buzzing with some ideas.

I wrote about the 5am start before and really enjoy that routine.

Key is to have this system in place as it puts you ahead of the game. You have a trusted system, you do not let emails get the better of you and you have clear communication guidelines and principles and last but not least a goal to work towards to with a prioritised to-do list.

Sounds to good to be true. It is actually that easy.

From my point of view, put a good few weeks into the system and trial it properly, amend it, fine tune it and once it is set up, use it like a perfectionist. You never look back. You never ever miss an email again.

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Working With The End In Mind – Stepping Stones And Goal Setting (4/6)

Did you find your right tools?

Did you manage to install the apps you needed?

Did you at least try some?

Is there more you need to stay productive? Probably not to be honest. Have a good pdf reader installed, make sure you have a good system of saving files on your computer, so when you have a list of things to read on a plane whilst you are offline, you find them. For work reasons I always had a book or a folder with offline reading material. This could be anything from newsletters to industry reports. Whether you need a reminder to read them on the plane or remember automatically depends on your nature (as discussed before). Cloud Storage is useful for backing up documents you need to have access to anywhere anytime. Whether that is Dropbox, iCloud, Copy or a combination of all, again this depends on your own preference. Google Drive seamlessly integrated with all things Google and makes it easy in that sense. You don’t use Gmail, probably you won’t use Google Drive.

On the other hand if I have a busy flight schedule I never read but use the time to relax with a good glass of wine if it is an evening flight, and some good music, audiobook or podcast. The world is yours and you decide what works best. If you are buzzing and have lots of emails to write, put some heavy metal music on and get through those in your one hour flight and make it as productive as possible. If not, why not use the time to write down your brain drain or relax and make a list of what you want to do with your spouse/partner and children next weekend. YOU decide what is important. But I can tell you when to best do it. As a commuter with 90 minutes door to door I know exactly what you can do on the go with or without internet. It is a question of organisation and efficiency, prioritisation and goal setting.

Downtime is important. To anyone. Vegging in front of the television or playing with the kids, leaving the phone aside. Wow. Being disconnected?

Yes, that is something you should do now and then. The world will not stop with you having 2 hours of downtime. I find it difficult but I am still learning like many others. Disconnecting in this world is more and more important. How important is it to check your Facebook or to be involved in a Twitter discussion versus playing with your kids or helping your neighbour in the garden. It isn’t really. 

I guess one of the important rules in life in general is to not having to worry about being productive every minute of your life. Take breaks and let a few emails go unread. That makes you even more productive to be honest. Not answering every email particularly if you are in an email thread is cool, as you can wait for others to respond before making up your own mind and add your opinion. It is a bit of self discipline but overall a good strategy to get things done quicker and more effective. And this does not collide with the 2 minute rule as you can go through your emails at a later stage, then answer the quick ones and leave the other ones for later.

In regards to general time management and organisation the key is to have a goal. There is no point to start anything if you do not know where you are going and what you want to do. Begin with the end in mind is key for anything you do.

There is a religious quote saying ‘if you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there’, and this is true for time management and organisation of your life too. This is really common sense, you can organise whatever you want in life, make the best to-do lists and set up the best reminder system, if you do not know what you doing and why and do not know where you want to go with it, then do not bother. You will not be a better manager or person if you do not know what you want to achieve.

Does that make sense?

Give a team a vision and be clear on what they need to achieve. And be clear on what you want to achieve and show in front of your boss. Use the trickle effect and shine! Make your team shine by showing off their results to your boss and shine yourself. Actually, quite simple.

Yet, did you check with your client or boss what they want to see in the first place?

What vision do they have?

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Working With The End In Mind – Stepping Stones And Goal Setting (3/6)

We finished last week with the question of how it all comes together.

The hardest part, I guess, is to get started. I assume you must read this blog for a reason and one reason might just be that you are generally interested in personal development. Having read a lot of personal development books, articles, newsletters and have had discussions with coaches, trainers and gurus in the field, let me tell you that the underlying theories of all productivity techniques are the same!

No one really invented the wheel new, it is only how you present the idea, in which context and how applicable it is to your lifestyle. It is all about different applications of the same principles.

Sounds basic but if you get the underlying principles and build your own system, you can forget about all the latest guru books. You become the guru. You will be in the driving seat.

I also believe that by having a strong mentor and coach, and this could be your spouse, someone who you can reflect your own opinion on, an industry friend to benchmark your knowledge and understanding, already helps to keep you sane in the first place when going on a personal development journey.

Let’s have a look at some basic ideas which I have used for many years prior to reading it in GTD:

– Have a notebook next to your bed so if you cannot sleep you can write down all the ideas that come to your mind. Today this is my phone.

– Nowadays have a good phone app for either voice recording (also useful when driving) or note taking (Evernote (, also offers Penultimate) and Penultimate are recommended).

– Have a system you trust! What I use to keep it simple are different Notes on my iPhone rather than an application. Those notes have different titles like “to do in the house” or “shop in town” or “general to do” or “Sunday Column” where I keep my notes of what I want to write my blog about etc. You get the picture. The point is that it is a simple, cross device available system that allows for easy to do lists for different topics. Other systems I have used are RTM (Remember the Milk, which allows cross device and Outlook synchronisation. So it depends a little on your personal preferences. I personally try to keep my work and my life to do list separate and do not like to clutter my work system with personal stuff and vice versa.

If I find things interesting on the web and cannot read it directly I use a tool called Pocket ( as I find it easiest to use and read articles at a later stage. It also syncs nicely with Evernote.

My todo list of choice is 2do. I use it as a desktop, tablet and phone version to sync cross device.

I have been testing email clients like Cloudmagic and Mailbox, but seem to settle for the former. It depends on the functionality you are trying to have.

– Evernote really is probably the best system to date to keep all your web snippets, your personal pictures, your archive of the things you find on the web. With the pro version you get Penultimate which is a fantastic tool to replace paper note taking and backing it up digitally. With the new reminder function (2013) and their constant innovation on all sorts of features, it is hard to keep up on all of them. However, if you are looking for a secure, all round system, this is (at time of writing) probably the best out there with many tutorials available on YouTube (and my blog posts end of last year).

– The only problem with any system is to de-clutter it on a regular basis. Whilst a lot of people love the idea of having Gmail as a mail application over hotmail or Outlook (as the leading systems), the danger is that people never clear their inbox, answer to emails and search for emails rather than organising them in folders. The danger is to just dump everything and rely on the search function. Whilst this works to a certain extent, I believe the clearer the system is structured, Evernote or Gmail, the easier it is to find things in a context. On that note, I believe if you have more than 100 emails in your inbox, you do have a productivity problem. No one can work with that many emails in their inbox trying to stay on top of things. I have seen inboxes with 6,000 or more emails and whilst the person suggested she was on top of it I could have given you 10 examples per week of her ignoring my emails.

For mind mapping I enjoy using SimpleMind ( as again it syncs flawlessly across my Apple devices. It of course is available for other operating systems also.

You noticed I am relying on Mac, as I believe the operating system is a lot more intuitive and hence makes me more productive. It just works.

So is that helpful for you? Systems vary, tools vary depending on what you do most. The underlying principle is the same. Whilst today was more about tools and ideas how to be more productive, have a read and listen to podcasts, google gurus’ blogs or search for tutorials online…..there are endless resources to sieve through to find your right combination of tools.

The best match is the one that gets you there. Where? You know whether, only you know where you want to go.

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