Archive for December, 2014

This week’s focus point:  Something that I have never noticed before at the tidal pool at the Sea Point promenade (I shared some thoughts about it with you earlier – get it here on my blog) is that it has an overflow outlet that is about 20 cm or so lower than the top of the walls.

The pool will accept incoming water until the water reaches the overflow level after which it begins to get rid of what’s already there to maintain a predetermined volume of water.

We can only manage a limited volume of work.  But we allow ourselves to drown by taking on more and more commitments – especially if, like many people, you have difficulty in saying “no” to new requests and demands (i.e. more “water”) on your time and energy.

We can create capacity by completing things, but the ability to say “no” and protect your boundaries is like the overflow outlet in the pool – things come your way but you let them go right away.

Create an outlet so you can manage what is already in your “tidal pool” – say “no”.

Personal Kanban” is an approach that you may find useful to manage your workload.  It is based on two key rules that fit in nicely with today’s picture: Visualise your work. Limit your work-in-progress.

Enjoy waving goodbye to things that will soon be disappearing over your overflow outlet!

 Monday Morning Perspective: “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” – Steve Jobs

 Outlook Productivity e-learning: I am launching Outlook Productivity online as an e-learning course in February 2015 – maybe even a bit earlier.  To get the details of content, launch date and how to get it, click this link and I will keep you in the loop. You will not get anything immediately, but as things develop I will let you know

If you are on holiday – enjoy!

If you are at work – enjoy!.


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“Cyclists stay alive at 1,5 m” is a slogan to make motorists aware of the safe distance between their vehicle and a cyclist sharing the same road.

I’m all for that.

But something happened over the weekend that made me think…

A bunch of cyclists were waiting at a red robot but when it became apparent that was no oncoming traffic, they chose to break the law and cross the road against the red light.

When I caught up with them a few minutes later, driving on a dual carriageway, they were cycling in a single file (good) – right on the line between the lanes, thereby effectively preventing motor vehicles driving in either lane without endangering them (not good) – especially at 1,5 m.

It’s great to have campaigns for a cause or a group of people (like cyclists) but – and this could just be me – when members of this group behave in a way that creates a negative perception about the group (e.g. “cyclists break the law”) then sympathy for the group’s cause could be diluted.

When you and I encourage other people and teams to increase productivity, work smarter not harder and “keep 1,5m away from me” we should act in ways congruent with what we are asking of others.

Otherwise we could destroy the behaviour we seek.

“It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”  –  Francis of Assisi


Outlook Productivity e-learning: I am launching Outlook Productivity online as an e-learning course in February 2015 – maybe even a bit earlier.  To get the details of content, launch date and how to get it, click this link and I will keep you in the loop.

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During my early Sunday morning walk on the Sea Point promenade I paused at one my favourite learning spots, just on the south side of Graaff’s Pool. It’s a pool, maybe 10x12m or so, built between the rocks.  Many lessons about living a productive life can be found here, some of which I have already shared with you.


The pool has clearly defined boundaries – its walls. At low tide the water within the boundaries is calm, while the surface of the ocean just a small distance away, could be very choppy.


This morning the tide was coming in and every now and then a small wave slopped over the ocean facing pool wall, causing a local disturbance, after which it retreated and the water in the pool returned to calm.


As the tide rises things get rougher inside the pool and at high tide it is submerged and its water becomes one with the ocean.  Just over 6 hours later, in its natural cycle, it returns to calm…

What keeps the water in the pool calm compared to its environment, are the walls.  The boundaries.


Every day we get submerged in work, mostly in an office environment with colleagues.  Things happen at a hectic pace.  Emails keep pouring in.  We rush from meeting to meeting. People ask us favours.  We get interrupted more often than we want to.  Telephones ring. We are in choppy waters, often stormy!


To stay focused on doing the most productive thing, we need to fend off the chaos by creating, communicating and protecting our own boundaries so that we can have some “low tide” calm and focus.  If I am at my computer, I am at the computer – and please do not cross the boundary by interrupting me because part of me will want to be with you and part of me will want to work on my computer task  If I am siting with my feet on my desk, thinking – please don’t cross my boundary.


Naturally these boundaries will get “slopped” over at times, causing a small disturbance, but if they are not there, we cannot protect them and we will be at the mercy of a choppy ocean at the office.


How to manage your boundaries?


Understand your priorities. Communicate your priorities (build the walls). 


Then you have earned the right to protect your priorities (say “no”).


“The stillness within stillness is not the true stillness (as in meditation), the true stillness is within motion.”  Lao-Tsu


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This week’s focus point:    While flying to PE last week to do workshops there and in Humansdorp, and looking down at the worst red tide I have ever seen, I again realised  that principles of productivity improvement work in any industry (financial services, agriculture, logistics…) and anywhere (Joburg, Upington, PE, Humansdorp, Dubai, Dublin…).

And just like gravity, it operates whether you like it or not.  One can only choose to align your thinking and doing with principles or to ignore them at your own peril.

I’d like to share productivity improvement principles I focus on in my new Productivity Breakthrough workshop with you.

Clarity: Be crystal clear about who you want to BE before even thinking about what you want to do and have.  What do you value? How does this guide your decision making?

Focus: Be where you are.  No multitasking! Understand, communicate and protect your boundaries.  Do the things you have to do to be what you chose to be.

Alignment: Get all your resources (time, money, technology, ingenuity, creativity, support team…) pointed in the same direction. Only then can it be focused on what you want to be, do and have.

Flexibility: In our fast-changing world opportunities appear unexpectedly.  Be flexible enough to capitalise on them.  Built flexibility into your day – create blocks of time where you have no meetings scheduled. Read what Jeff Wiener, LinkedIn CEO has to say about this.

Lifelong learning: Build time into your calendar to learn and improve.  At the end of every day ask: What happened today?  What worked?  What were the challenges? How can I make tomorrow better? Do this at the end of the week as well.

Slow down to speed up: The paradox of high performance. I read somewhere that people who rush make 25% more mistakes than those who don’t. Push your PAUSE button more often. Look before you leap.

Completion: To quote David Allen, author of Getting Things Done:  “Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started.”  Along these lines, read about the Zeigarnik Effect, “the tendency to experience intrusive thoughts about an objective that was once pursued and left incomplete.”

Why don’t you and I take a Productivity Pit Stop this week to think about these principles and “check the dipstick” to see how well they are guiding our mindset and behaviour?

Monday Morning Perspective: “BE the change you wish to see in the world.”  – Mahatma Gandhi (My capitalisation – GC)

 Productivity Breakthrough: I am happy to come to your organisation to do this workshop for one or more groups of your people – click here and I will send you more details.  We can always make a special deal for December/January!  This is not a workshop where you only learn about productivity principles – you also implement processes that ingrain these principles in your everyday living.  No technology required.

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