Things take time

Spring in Kirstenbosch!  Every week something new!

Yet, the beautiful flowers in this flower bed did not just appear magically since last week.  It is the result of a natural process, that will eventually lead to their death and disappearance…and rebirth next year this time.

You and I also want to enjoy beautiful lives, but often we are not prepared to give things the time required to germinate and then develop to yield productive, happy and fulfilling lives.

We want instant results after reading a book or attending a seminar – without putting in the time and effort to achieve it.

Life doesn’t work like that.



Life is a “work in progress” – just like these plants I saw, with just the tips of new growth showing today.  Next week there will be new growth and “development”.  Not today.  Not now.

I cannot find the exact quote, but Stephen R Covey used to say something like “don’t pull up the plant to see how the roots are growing.”

Don’t rush things.


Plant the seeds of improving productivity, fully realising that time and effort will be required to bring it to fruition.

If you want to improve your productivity, don’t go for some “life-changing” goal (like never working on weekends again) and expect overnight success, but rather follow the advice of Professor B J Fogg and make a small and achievable change in behaviour (e.g. say “no” when people ask you to give them your time when what they want has nothing to do with your priorities).  You may enjoy his TED talk on “tiny habits” at this link.

Shane Purnell says that for a tiny habit to work it must be

  • Easy
  • Done Daily
  • Take < 30 seconds
  • Anchored to an existing habit or behaviour.

A tiny habit follows this format: “After I (existing habit or behaviour), I will (tiny habit)”. E.g. “After I get up from my chair, I will walk around for 30 seconds.”  Or “After I get up in the morning, I will do one push-up.”  The new behaviour can “grow” in terms of duration or number of repetitions.

Choose just one tiny habit for this week, and have many tiny bits of fun!

Quote: “Cramming doesn’t work in a natural system. In the short term, cramming may appear to work in a social system. You can go for the “quick fixes” and techniques with apparent success. But in the long run they just don’t work.” – Stephen R Covey (paraphrased)



I noticed this sign in the area for threatened species in Kirstenbosch.  It bears this quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”   I assume it is placed in this specific area to inspire us to make sure that we do something to save these threatened plant species from extinction.Not just one individual (although I am sure one person can change the world – ask Apple users!), but “a small group”.

Over the weekend I was in conversation with three people who all mentioned the importance of implementing any changes (yes, also to increase your personal productivity), with the support of a small group.  It is so true that we have more difficulty in changing a habit or sustain any changes in our behaviour if we do it as a “lone wolf”.

Choose one person you know, like and trust and ask them to be your sounding board and accountability partner as you implement (one at a time) the habits of personal productivity that form the basis of our work:


  • Think productive
  • Make your work visible and actionable
  • Align your actions with your priorities
  • Slow down to speed up
  • Focus
  • Adapt to changes in your context
  • Finish what you start
  • Learn and improve every day

Meet for a cup of coffee once a week, or do a virtual check-in.  Do it for a month or two, and experience the difference.

Your next action: decide right now who you will work with, and call or email them to get their support.  And of course, you return the favour by supporting them.


Quote: “People who have been diagnosed with a life-challenging illness and attend support groups, on average live  twice as long after diagnosis as people who don’t.” –  Marianne Williamson (slightly paraphrased.)

During my visit to Bloemfontein last week my good friend Igno and I went for a ”down and up the hill” walk.

Downhill was easy, but when we turned around, I looked up and saw “The Hill” in front of me and said that this is going to be one heck of a challenge for me since I still have a bit of tendonitis.

Igno had good advice: “Don’t look up and look at the hill you have to climb…Look down at the ground in front of you and focus on the next step you must take!”

That worked for me, and before I knew it, The Hill was conquered!

I then realised that I tend to try and conquer “hills” in my work.  And when the “hill” seems too steep and long, I tend to put off taking the first step.  One of the tips for overcoming procrastination is to break the task down into doable chunks.  If the thing I want to achieve is so big that I feel overwhelmed by just thinking about it, it is easy to avoid it.  So make it less scary!

Much has been written about this, e.g. the book The 15 Second Principle: Short, Simple Steps to Achieving Long-term Goals by Al Secunda – “The 15-Second Principle is designed to give successful people the tools and techniques they need to stay focused and committed to their forgotten or abandoned goals. It offers a simple yet powerful system to give anyone the freedom to break through stagnation, fear and setbacks.”  It comes down to engaging with things you are avoiding for just 15 seconds every day.  If you follow the link above, you will get th gist of it in the book preview.

The guys at Asian Efficiency suggest that you commit to working on your goal for 5 minutes per day.

Focus not on climbing the hill, but on taking the next step.

That is what I will be doing every day this week on a specific project that I have been avoiding for the last three weeks.

I invite you to join me in just taking the next step on something you have been putting off.

Quote: “The really happy people are those who have broken the chains of procrastination, those who find satisfaction in doing the job at hand. They’re full of eagerness, zest, productivity. You can be, too.” – Norman Vincent Peale


When I saw a plastic water bottle lying in a flowerbed in Kirstenbosch on Sunday, I wondered what kind of person dumped it there, spoiling the experience for everyone that followed, until such time that someone picks up the bottle and puts it in a bin.  The behaviour of one unknown person negatively impacts the experience of many.

Don’t we often do the same thing to ourselves?  We do things that can have a “non-biodegradable” impact on our lives and productivity unless we consciously remove the behaviour from our everyday lives.

Just three examples of our “plastic bottle in the flowerbed” behaviour:

  • We don’t say “no” enough, and end up spending time doing other people’s work and neglecting our own, or end up working overtime.
  • We don’t delegate, with pretty much the same result as not saying “no”. You should only do what only you can do.  That’s your unique contribution to your organisation and life.  Delegate or outsource the rest.
  • We rush. It’s been said that people who rush make about 20-25% more mistakes than those who don’t rush.

Here’s a thought… Once a week, maybe on a Sunday evening, review the week and see if you did anything that could have a long-term negative impact on your productivity and quality of life.  Or simply if you did anything you would have preferred not to have done.

If yes, “pick up that plastic bottle” and make an effort to avoid that behaviour in future.

Keep your flowerbed for living a productive, happy and fulfilling life, bottle-free.

Quote: “I realized I made a big mistake and if I could have it over again, I would do it so much differently.” – Hansie Cronje


As I was driving to a meeting on Saturday, I listened to Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto (the Emperor), and as I arrived at my destination, there was about 5 minutes left of the final movement and I just could not switch it off.  I opened the car door, and duly the parking attendant made his appearance.

I turned up the volume and made as if I was conducting the orchestra.  I looked at him and to my amazement he started dancing, as if he had someone in his arms, with a huge smile on his face.  I conducted and he danced and we both had fun for the next few minutes.

I will never know if he was also a Beethoven fan.  Maybe he was, but maybe he heard that music for the first time, enjoyed it, and danced.

Maybe Beethoven was smiling when he saw the two strangers play and enjoy his creation…

What was it that made the two of us “work together” towards the same goal, in this case just to have some fun and share a moment?

Was it the score (or “script”)?

I don’t think so.  It was hearing and experiencing it, being put into action, that did the trick.

In your life, personal and professional, do you have a script? Call it a mission statement, if you wish.

For your team, department, division or your entire business – is there a script?

If so, that’s a good beginning, because without the script, there can be no Emperor Concerto.

But having it written is not sufficient.  How is it lived out?  How is it turned into observable behaviour?  Do you and your team dance and smile as you put the mission statement to life?

If not, what can you do turn printed words into focused actions?

Maybe that’s your role as conductor…  Conductor of your own life and conductor of your team.  To take the script, and enthuse yourself and others to live it out joyfully and purposefully.

Enjoy your show!

(If you have about 5 minutes to spare, click this link to see Leonard Bernstein, soloist Krystian Zimerman and the Wiener Philharmoniker orchestra enjoy and perform the Emperor.  “Fast forward” to 38:50, and as you watch the last few minutes, imagine seeing the street scene of me conducting and the parking guy dancing away on stage…)

Quote: “The conductor must breathe life into the score. It is you and you alone who must expose it to the understanding, reveal the hidden jewel to the sun at the most flattering angles.” – Charles Munch

Usain Bolt’s final “moment of glory” by adding more gold medal to his impressive collection, never happened this weekend in London.  But the send-off he received from the crowd was one of the most amazing scenes I have seen.

Something that struck me was that so many people, including Bolt himself, said that he not only wanted to perform well, but he wanted to have fun and entertain at the same time.

It showed, and he succeeded on all fronts.

I once heard a nice definition of “fun”:  You are having fun when you enjoy both the process and the result.  Getting to the result much be as enjoyable as getting the result.

I want to suggest something different this week:  Let’s do an Usain Bolt and do our very best to enjoy the week and have fun – and let it show!  I am not suggesting that we go as far as entertaining other, but how about entertaining ourselves this week.

Enjoy the process you go through to achieve your priorities for the week.  Let’s work with a mindset of fun and enjoyment and many “I choose to” moments, rather than “I have to

Have fun!

Quote: “While you’re going through this process of trying to find the satisfaction in your work, pretend you feel satisfied. Tell yourself you had a good day. Walk through the corridors with a smile rather than a scowl. Your positive energy will radiate. If you act like you’re having fun, you’ll find you are having fun.” – Jean Chatzky

I mean, really?

It must have taken just a few seconds to climb the 13 steps you see below, and view it from a different angle (perspective, if you wish) to get a totally different picture.  It’s the same steps, but if you were to describe what you are seeing to someone else over a phone, it could sound as if you are describing two different sets of steps.

You and I may be having the “same” experience, yet we can experience and value it in totally different ways.

We look at the same person – you see her one way and I see her in a different way.

You and a colleague look at the same piece of work to be done – for you it seems like an easy job, but for the other person it may be a huge task.

So, what is reality?

Here is Wikipedia’s definition: “Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined. Reality includes everything that is and has been, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible. A still broader definition includes that which has existed, exists, or will exist.”

And from Webster’s Online Dictionary: “All of your experiences that determine how things appear to you.”  I like this one!

When you have a difference of opinion with someone, think of the 13 steps at the Kirstenbosch Tea Room, and know that the other person has had a lifetime of different experiences to your own, and therefore the “same thing” appears different to them.

To communicate (i.e. “to make common”) more effectively, take some time, and apply Habit 5 from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  Understand the other person’s point of view, and be able to explain it to them to their satisfaction.

Be aware and prepared that you may just have your mind changed!

Quote: “Communication is the most important skill in life. You spend years learning how to read and write, and years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training have you had that enables you to listen so you really, deeply understand another human being?” – Stephen R Covey