Nothing Against Zombies and Squirrels, But

I have nothing against zombies and squirrels -apart from the not getting bitten part- but I really don’t want to behave like either one of them. You’ll see what I mean if you read on.

Let me start my suggestion of the week with a confession. I talk really fast and I have trouble sitting still. When I am forced to sit on a chair, like now when I want to get work done on the computer, then it’s always been very hard for me to focus.

Since a lot of my work involves the computer I have learned to slowly reach “the zone”, my focus mode. I can stay in focus mode for a couple of hours, but I would also easily get catapulted out of it by a phone call, a knock on the door, me running out of coffee or other banalities. For a very long time my answer to this problem was simply to lock myself up in the basement, in a library, or work through the night. And prepare about a half gallon coffee of course.

As you can imagine, this behavior is not very social. The more I had to write the more I had to disappear, without cellphone access or other means to reach me. Well, or I would be pretty unresponsive even when present due to zombie-like tiredness. Since it wasn’t sustainable anymore to be unresponsive for half of the day, something had to change. (more…)

Try Simple for a Start

simplyniceIf you have a problem, then one way to find a solution is to reduce it to its core. The idea is to simplify your problem so much that all that remains is its most abstract representation. One of the most famous abstractions is the equation E=MC². Five letters and numbers that revolutionized how we think about matter and energy.

If you take a way more mundane problem, for example money issues, then they are based on an equation that everyone knows. Your cash flow is determined by income minus expenses:

Income – Expenses = Cash Flow

So in order to increase your cash flow you either increase your income or lower your expenses or at best both. Great insight, huh? Well, that is where the actual problem solving starts. But sure enough there are numerous ways to achieve one or the other as long as we are willing to leave the treaded paths. The crucial point is the acceptance of the problem’s core simplicity. Yes, the problem is simple, which doesn’t mean its solution is necessarily easy to achieve. The path, nevertheless, is usually just as simple, as it is often quite obvious.

How often have you heard of a “complicated problem”? Whoever says that essentially wants to express the impossibility of solving such a problem, because the mere act of defining it already seems too difficult. Unconsciously we often find comfort in the idea of being up against something that is bigger than us, because that frees us from all responsibility and guilt. It’s complicated. *shrug* (more…)

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Those Fake Rewards

JokerLife is great. One cannot state it often enough.
There are a lot of big events that are worth celebrating. A raise, weddings, birthdays, new car, new family member, new degree, new job, found your keys, ah…yes.
But on a daily basis it is the small things that make you smile. At least I hope so.
I like drinking coffee, sunshine, a nice smile, an empty parking lot, the smell of new books, getting some crooked art from my kids, a completed project, the list goes on.

So do you know what is the difference between a good day and a so-so day? It’s is not that those little things don’t happen, you just don’t notice them. (more…)

Show that you care – Why It Is More Than Nice To Follow-up

Imagine you got a haircut yesterday. Today you get a call from the salon asking if you are happy with your haircut. That is nice, right?

After a thorough 30 day testing period you finally decided to buy some piece of software. Four weeks later you get an email asking whether you still liked the product or if you had some questions. Along with the email you get an PDF with the answers the most people were asking after 60 days of usage.

Three months after the tax season is over your tax professional emails you just to check in and to let you know that she is available year round to answer your questions.

An old classmate who has seen that you are looking for jobs informs you via LinkedIn about a new job opportunity at a clients of his.

Although all these actions only took a few minutes of their time to do, they showed you that there is someone who cares about you. That feels good , doesn’t it?
Even better than that, these will likely stick. You may not have had much interaction with your old classmate lately, but this gesture of concern for you will probably remain in better memory than the latest Instagram of your colleagues salad platter.

It is one of those things you either do because you care enough or you don’t. Do you agree?
Well, I hope you don’t. I admit this is what I thought for the longest time. I would readily end my emails when I submitted a report to a client that if he had questions he shouldn’t hesitate to contact me, because I was happy to help.

But did I follow up on that promise a week later? Not always.
Did I ever call past clients three months later to check in with them? Rarely
So how did I keep in contact with former clients? Well, I either ran into them by accident or either they or I wanted something some information from each other.

So often would I stumble over an entry in my contacts and wonder if they were still working at the same company. Of course three years after the last contact it would be more than weird to just call up and ask exactly that.

If I had only kept in contact. (more…)

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What If You Worry Too Much?

What-ifWhat if…

Those two words are often the inhibitor of all action. They work for any scenario in which you are about to start doing something.

You are ready to leave the house, then stop for the what if: What if it rains? In this case the answer is easy. You take an umbrella and exit the house.

However, the what if game can get easily out of hand. You find an answer, but immediately come up with a new problem. And that goes on until you either don’t find a satisfying answer or the chain of problems and answers becomes so long that starting seems too complicated.

Anticipating problems ahead of time is of course very useful, don’t get me wrong. But I think everyone has those moments when fear of the uncertain or just plain reluctance to give up the convenience of the familiar is the main factor behind our surrender to the what ifs. (more…)

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Time to Show Some Spine

SpineThe first quarter of the year is over, which is a good reason to look back and evaluate how we are doing with our goals for 2014.

I am the first to admit that I am not absolutely happy with my progress. Well I rarely am, but I know that I have been too comfortable with just being busy.

By following the habit of setting up a weekly plan (see resources page) I managed to know pretty well how much I can realistically get done in a week a the moment. That helped me to get a lot of things towards my big goals done.   (more…)

Why the First Step to Peace of Mind Starts with B

Simple truths are universal. And simple truths are obvious. This one is almost too simple to state, but not bringing it up at times would be a shame.

The B-word is Buffer.

You can guess that I am not talking about the app, but about the concept of buffers.

It is an old and universal concept to save some extra resources “for just in case”. It doesn’t mean you are a pessimist or an under-achiever if you plan for the unexpected. You are a smart realist, because you know things never go as planned.

You probably think while reading this “Of course, every kid knows that”. Knowing and doing are commonly two things, and I admit I often suffer under the superman delusion myself. Those are the moments when I think I can do everything, all the time, with 100% efficiency. Well, I cannot. (more…)

The Best and Most Popular of Travel Blogs

Most-Popular-of-TravelTraveling is a dangerous activity. Not because you leave the safety of your own couch, but because everything you may think you know about the world and other cultures is at risk of being shattered into pieces through the experiences you make and the people you meet.

Although I can’t claim to have traveled even nearly as much as any of the authors of the posts below, living a life as an expat (although I don’t like the word too much) has taught me a lot about myself and how much “truths” are relative.

Traveling is not only great to fuel up your creativity, everyone who travels a lot keeps running into sometimes expected, but mostly quite unexpected problems that need to be solved on the spot with limited resources.  With reaching point X being the first of a series of obstacles, it can easily be said that travelers are problem solvers from the start.

I rarely had so much fun and difficulty at the same time writing a post. Every blog lives off the personality and the personal experiences of its owner. For travel blogs, these couldn’t be more different. Over months I collected a list of over 300 travel blogs, every one of them full of good advice, great stories and a lot of personality, so that it broke my heart not to include them all.

To be as fair as possible, in addition to my favorites I randomly chose another 75 blogs (of these over 300) and selected what I thought fits best in this list. When possible I stuck with the most popular posts, which are usually most popular for good reason, but on occasion I took another post. Obviously, not all of theses 75 made it into this list  just like the ones that weren’t randomly picked. You can have the full list here. (more…)

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What is Your Call to Action?

read-nowWhen you write an email to somebody you likely want them to do something, like answer a question, buy your product, review a report, schedule a meeting, read your newest post, etc.

You get the gist.

A good email is clear about what you want the reader to do next.

When you call someone you commonly explain why you are calling within your first sentence. It’s really odd if some stranger calls you and just states his name. You want to know why he is calling, right? You quickly want to know what they want from you.

To speak in internet marketing terms, each of the two examples has a clear “call to action”.

Think about these endless sales pages, with video, customer praise, list of features and so on. It is pretty obvious what their call to action is: “Push this screaming yellow ‘buy’ button!”. All credit cards accepted. (more…)

Quick Tip No 27: How To Save Time and Money Using a Scanner App

ShopSavvyI am a sucker for any kind of tools. Digital or real-life? I don’t care. They are fantastic.

Had a bad day? Go home, build something out of wood, mess it up and then use your hammer to make it all good. Yes, a hammer is probably the greatest tool ever.

But okay, I don’t want to get too carried away here. Although, I recommend buying a good hammer, this is not actually my tip. Today’s tip has to do with how you can easily save time and money when you are shopping.

A few days ago we went to Toys’R Us to get a present for my niece. We found something, but there was no price tag anywhere to be found. So I thought I just scan it with my phone using a free app called ShopSavvy. No problem, it showed me the price within seconds, but to my surprise it also told me that Toys’R Us offers to match the $5 cheaper Walgreen’s price. And fair enough, I saved 25% on a toy that originally came $20.

The next day I ran out of printer ink and drove to the next BestBuy to buy a new cartridge. You can guess what happened, I checked the app and saved another 11%. Well, okay $1.70 may not be a lot, but that easily sums up over time. When I left the house I was prepared to pay close to $20 and ended up paying much less than that. I also checked some pricier items and found savings of over $50. (more…)