Another Wednesday, another episode of our podcast!

Born and raised in Austria, Michael shares his knowledge on technology and healthy living on his blog.

Listen to #20 episode to learn the everything about keeping a healthy work-life balance, especially if you work remotely.

Keynotes of this episode:

  • Productivity is about knowing what not to do!
  • Staying healthy when working remotely is crucial but it’s important to remember about 3 pillars – listen find out what they are!
  • Don’t be afraid to make changes, they’ll enhance your productivity.

Enjoy and let us know in comments what are your thoughts on today’s episode

Are you an iTunes user? Listen to the podcast here

Podcast Transcript

Kate: Hi guys, this is Kate and I’m back with another episode of Stay on Top of Your Work podcast. Today my guest is Michael Kummer, Sales & Marketing Executive at Xiting, Technologist, and Blogger.

Hi Michael, how are you today?

Michael: Hi, Kate, I’m very well, thank you for asking. How about you?

Kate: I’m great, thank you! Thank you for joining me here today, I’m really happy to have you here.

Michael: Absolutely, thanks for having me.

[00:00:38 – 00:01:23]
Kate: So I’d like to begin with asking you the question, what exactly do you specialize in and what are your professional interests?

 Michael: IT, in general. More specifically, IT security based on what I do on a daily basis for my primary job that is and for my blogging perspective it’s as well, technology, specifically the Apple Ecosystem and beyond that, health, parenting just being fit, cross fit in particular. So those are the kind of the pillars of what I deal with on a daily basis. Both from my professional and blogging perspective.

[00:01:24 – 00:03:02]

Kate: Okay, so I’d like to ask you a question how can we lead a company in the right direction to achieve success?

 Michael: That’s a very generic question which obviously has many answers but based on the company I work for and the environments that I have spent the past decade, I’ve seen that motivating your employees to be self-motivated is probably one of the key things to help the company be successful, you know, especially, nowadays with more and more employees working from home and not necessarily being in that social environment that they used to have maybe a couple years ago, and so when you work from home, especially, if you’re not self-motivated, it’s very easy to start slacking and doing everything but what you’re supposed to do. And so that leads obviously to a significant or could lead to a significant drop in productivity. And so we have seen that the better we set employees up to be self-motivated and to be driven and to ultimately enjoy what they’re doing, I think that’s really one of the key issues here. If you’re enjoying what you’re doing, you don’t need anyone to tell you when and how to do it, you just do it to the best of your abilities and then ultimately leads to productivity and that ultimately leads to a success.

[00:03:03 – 00:05:12]

Kate: Right, so you mentioned productivity and I think this is a huge struggle for every employee, either if we work remotely or when we are in the office. How can we stay productive? I think it’s a really difficult thing. What do you think about it, are there any methods or practices or anything else?

Michael: What helps me is… I think productivity ultimately is all about what you don’t do. Because there’s so many tasks and so many things that you could do but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should be doing them. So choosing what’s important, what brings you and the company forward, the project that you’re working on I think is the first step to being productive. And then, obviously, there is a number of tools, there’s a lot of technology that can help people be more productive. You know, I use for instance, text expander a lot to reduce the amount of typing I do, you know, I don’t have to type “Cheers, Michael,” “best regards, Michael” five hundred times a day, I just type dot PR, that may only be a few seconds but if you add that up over the course of a day, of the week, of a month, of the year, that’s a significant productivity improvement because I can spend those extra seconds on something else.

But ultimately it really points down to knowing what you don’t have to do. I have so many co-workers and colleagues that I have met over the years that are always overwhelmed and work 20 hours a day and still at the end of the day are not more productive than someone who may only be working 8 hours a day. And I also strongly believe in the fact that there is only so many hours you can be productive in a day because you need a break, your body, your brain needs a break so working 20 hours a day is not gonna yield more productivity in the long run. It maybe stretches where you have to work more but I think it’s more about working smart. And I’ve actually heard in another podcast a couple of weeks ago with a blogger and she said, with everything she does, she looks at the ROI the return in investment. If there is no ROI, she doesn’t do it, period.

[00:05:16 – 00:06:49]

Kate: So you said an interesting thing: knowing what not to do. How can we actually know what not to do?

 Michael: It may be a little bit of a learning process. To a certain degree, you may have to rely on your experience to see what has worked in the past so I always try to reflect because, obviously, I don’t know at every single point if is this something that’s going to yield results or not. Sometimes you have to find out. You have to figure it out, you have to try, and you have to fail. But then the important part is to learn from that, you know, to look past, to reflect, that’s I guess generally a good thing in life if you sometimes think about what you have been doing and decide if that’s really something that you wanna keep on doing or maybe make a change. 

o I always try to look back and see, okay, if I invested time in something, you know, was it worth it? If it wasn’t, next time I’m not gonna do it. Or I will do it differently? But you have to make some hard choices. Sometimes you think it’s important because it’s important for someone else. Answering e-mails is a classic example. Getting e-mails is basically being on someone else’s to-do list. Just because I get an e-mail doesn’t mean it’s important for me. It’s a to-do item for me that I have to take care of; it’s a to-do item for someone else who wants me to start investing time. So just look at it and see if it helps you in that particular moment and if it doesn’t, you have to be able to say “no.” Which is very difficult sometimes.

[00:06:50 – 00:08:41]

Kate: That’s true. So let’s talk about technology and about remote work because we live in the times when the technological progress is huge and technology is a huge part of our work. What do you think about technology in work? Do you use any tools and do you think this is useful or maybe it’s not necessary?

Michael: I love technology. I am a technologist, I love everything that’s got to do with technology but I also realize that technology is not always the answer. So you have to be careful and pick your tool and the technology carefully because otherwise, you may be spending time with technology that ultimately doesn’t make you more productive. But there are plenty of tools that I use on a daily basis, be it apps, be it software, be it services or devices that significantly help me to be more productive and even to be more social. Use the Apple watch is the example.

Back in the days every time I felt my phone buzzing or vibrating, I would take it out of my pocket, look what’s going on. If you ever had any conversation at that particular moment, that’s somewhat impolite, if you keep looking at your phone and so with the Apple watch, for example, if I feel a buzz I can just glance, take a quick look, see if it’s something super important that I need to take care of or in 99.9% of the cases it’s not. And I can just ignore it and continue on. So technology can help but choose your tool and technology wisely and don’t think that every problem has a technological solution.

[00:08:42 – 00:10:43]

Kate: And I’m thinking about remote work and also traveling. I, as a remote worker, travel a lot and, you know, I have to take my work wherever I go. So how do you think we can somehow make it productive to travel and to work and to keep a balance in life?

Michael: Well, in terms of staying productive while working, for me it’s relatively simple. I have an iMac in the office, I have a MacBook when I’m traveling and they’re pretty much set up equally. All my data is in the cloud, some of the stuff is obviously encrypted but nevertheless, it’s a duplicate of the environment that I have in the office so I don’t feel any less productive because I am on the road. In terms of work-life balance, that’s obviously very important.

Again, I strongly believe that you can only be productive so much and if you’re not happy with what you’re doing because your work-life balance is off, then you’re ultimately not gonna benefit the company. So you have to strike that balance and I don’t necessarily think it’s always up to or shouldn’t always be up to the employer to tell you what their right work-life balance is. In our company, in particular, we pay very much attention to performance and to the output and don’t care as much how many hours someone put in to make those results happen. If they can do it in 2 hours a day, good for them. If they need 6, 7, 8 hours a day, so be it. If it takes longer then something is wrong, either too much work for that particular person or the particular person is not the right resource to handle the job.

[00:10:44 – 00:13:15]

Kate: And I’d like to switch the topic to a healthy lifestyle and work because I think this is something that people don’t really pay attention to and it’s really important. What is your view on that? How do you maybe stay fit and work because I think it’s really difficult sometimes?

 Michael:  It is but it is only difficult… You know, for most of my professional life I didn’t pay attention much to a healthy lifestyle so I know the other side, I know how it is to not have time to work out and not have time to eat right, etc. But a couple of years ago I made a change basically, I re-prioritized, and it’s all about priorities at the end of the day, and I keep it relatively simple. I think there are three main pillars that make up a healthy lifestyle and that is, exercise, sleep, and diet. And so I’m very protective with my sleep, I always sleep 8 hours, unless I wake up before and am ready to go, I typically don’t need an alarm because I go to bed at the same time every day, I wake up the same time every day. And I feel refreshed, I feel good in the morning. I’ve talked to a couple of my consulting colleagues couple of weeks ago and I asked them, “when was the last time you woke up in the morning without an alarm and you felt like, you know, I’m ready to roll?” And they were like “never.” And that’s a clear indication that you’re not sleeping either right or not long enough or your sleeping cycle is off.

Beyond that, I work out 5 times a week, typically either in the morning or sometimes over lunch or sometimes at the end of the day. And I eat right or at least based on the science that I’ve seen I think I’m eating right. The whole family relies on a healthy diet and so we stay away pretty much from everything processed, and we eat fresh veggies, fruits, and meet, and seafood, and all the good stuff. And so once you have that incraved in your life, it’s actually not difficult at all. In fact, it’s very simple. You just go to bed at the same time, get up at the same time. Stay away from junk food and exercise. And once you’re in that cycle, you start feeling really good and much better than many other people that you talk to. It becomes very simple to hang onto that.

[00:13:17 – 00:15:08]

Kate: Now I’m thinking about all these things combined together. What do you think are the man mistakes people do so that they cannot work properly, they cannot stay healthy and productive? Can you think about anything like that?

Michael: It’s certainly a tough question but the people that I’ve seen changed only changed once they have seen proof what an unhealthy lifestyle does to you, once they’ve realized that there will be consequences to abusing your body. And on the flipside, once you have seen a clear proof of what doing it right can do to you, once you feel, once you have experienced that feeling of you know, just feeling good. Of not being tired of the lunch, of not being broaded all day, whatever it might be, not feeling out of breath when you have to walk up a couple of stairs. Once you’ve really felt the difference, I think it becomes much easier. And you have to really, I think the general issue is that people are afraid of change, I think that’s just a human thing.

And sometimes change can be painful and difficult but I also believe that once you start embracing change, once you put yourself out there, once you enjoy being uncomfortable, meeting new people, whatever the case may be, changing the diets, changing the sleeping patterns.

Once you’re okay with that feeling of being out of your comfort zone, I think, then, everything comes much easier. And that’s I think the biggest struggle to be out of your comfort zone.

[00:15:10 – 00:16:21]

Kate: So now I’d like to ask you what inspires you in your work?

Michael: What inspires me? At the end of the day it’s being able to help someone else. In my professional job, you know, the software that we sell that makes someone else’s life easier or if they come and say, “you know what, instead of now having spent is months on a project I could do it in three months and the outcome was so much better.” Getting that positive feedback of being able to introduce change, positive change for someone, that is certainly one factor and then terms of the reason why I started blogging is because people realize that I know a little bit about technology, and a little bit about that and this, and so they kept asking me questions.

And I just started writing it down because I figured if one person has the issue maybe someone else has it as well and I have happened to have a solution and that really inspires me that seeing I could help someone, change someone’s life, at least a tiny bit and pushed them maybe in the more positive direction. That’s what ultimately inspires me.


Kate: That’s really nice. So I have one last question to you which relates to the name of our podcast, Stay on Top of Your Work. How do you stay on top of your work?

Michael: Basically by going back to, well, the basics of productivity. Every day I look at my list and I decide what I’m not gonna do. And what I’m gonna do. And then I, you know, and I’m also okay if I can’t complete something. Staying on top of something doesn’t necessarily always mean to finish it. I like to keep, at the end of the day, to have an empty inbox but sometimes I realize, today I cannot do that and I’m okay with it. Being okay with not completing your work every single day because, you know, you might be waiting for someone else’s feedback, etc., that’s how I stay on top of my work. In combination or in addition to all the tools that I use and all the other strategies that I employ to figure out what to do and what not to do.

Kate: Okay, that’s nice! Thank you very much, Michael, for the interview. It was my pleasure to have you here today.

Michael: It was mine as well, thank you.

Kate Guys, we got some really great tips from Michael today! If you’re hungry for more, make sure to check out Michael’s blog and you can find more information about him and about the blog under this podcast.

Stay tuned for the next episode and I see you next time, bye-bye!

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Kate Kurzawska

Author Kate Kurzawska

Marketing Assistant at TimeCamp. Freelance translator, proofreader, copywriter & content writer, software researcher.

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