Archive for February, 2015

I like Joburg – very much.  But I love Cape Town after a week in Egoli!  It is Sunday morning 07:30-ish and I just had the best 2 hour three course breakfast for the soul… A walk on the Sea Point promenade, where at times I had to duck to avoid a crashing wave, then a drive up Signal Hill for a beautiful 360 degree view of Cape Town and lastly a short walk up Lion’s Head before heading home to write this memo with a cup of coffee and cricket in the background before heading off to Kirstenbosch with a friend for brunch and to enjoy the beauty of the garden.


The contrast between dodging the odd wave on the promenade and seeing the big picture from Signal Hill just a few minutes later was profound.  From the hill I could see the vast ocean and detect wave patterns and what looked like currents.  And in a single view I could see all the waves rolling to the land and not be caught up in trying my best to get through one of them without getting wet.  And they were all needed for the picture.


Every day we live wave-dodging –  from ringing phones to people interrupting us without permission, to having to go to yet another time wasting hot-air producing meeting, to wasting hours and adding to our stress in the traffic.  Sometimes the waves draw back but believe you me, they will be back.


On the other hand, taking a 360 degree view of my world, enjoying the perspective and calmness of the bigger picture, seeing things I could not see while wave-dodging, looking for patterns to see if I can learn something that will make me a better wave-dodger next time, reminded me of the importance of taking time out once week to do exactly that for my work. 


For many people Friday afternoon works well for this weekly productivity pit stop.  An opportunity to review the big picture of the week that was and the one coming up, what worked, what didn’t work, what you can learn that will make the wave-dodging already waiting for you in the next week easier. 


Seeing the big picture and how the breaking waves fit in to make the picture dynamic and beautiful, gives a sense of completeness; an understanding that we need both wave-dodging and big picture thinking to experience a dynamic, productive and beautiful life.


Perspective:  “Actually I think Art lies in both directions – the broad strokes, big picture but on the other hand the minute examination of the apparently mundane. Seeing the whole world in a grain of sand, that kind of thing.”  – Peter Hammill


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I did a little experiment on Saturday while driving from Stellenbosch to Cape Town.  I maintained the maximum allowed speed and wanted to see how many cars pass me.  I lost count very quickly.

I think driving behaviour might just change if (hidden) speed cameras took pictures of everyone driving within the speed limit – they get caught out doing the right thing.  And if there was a guarantee that within every (say) 50 km your car will be photographed if you were driving below the speed limit and every week you could win R2000 or more in a lucky draw for doing the right thing.


How often don’t we beat ourselves up at the end of a day and week for doing “the wrong thing”?  Like not doing something we said we would do.  Being late for meetings. Forgetting to make that phone call.  Not relaxing enough.


How about rewarding yourself for doing the right things like saying “no”, protecting your boundaries to stay focused, maintain a positive attitude, making sure that the activities in your Calendar will move you closer to your goals, taking a 5 minute break every hour… 


And at the end of the week you colour code your calendar and highlight everything that went well.  And then feel good about yourself rather than beating yourself up.


And the same goes for those who work with you – catch them doing something right and reward them with a “thank you” smile or a pat on the back or a “well done”.


Don’t you think this approach could improve your productivity because you will be happy with your results rather than unhappy – and we know that happier people are more productive?


Give it a shot and let me know…


Perspective:  “Catching people doing things right is a new lens on the way you view others’ behaviour and performance. It’s about recognizing effort and input as well as final product and output. It is saying thank you and expressing gratitude. It is commenting even on seemingly small things that someone is doing to move things forward, even if incrementally. It is looking at strengths, like patience, perseverance, kindness and generosity, even if there is no positive outcome as a result.” – Lisa Sansom

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Just last week my colleague went to the local municipality to renew his vehicle license which expires at the end of February.

Maybe it’s just me, but I would have taken the new token and slapped it on the windscreen right away – but not him.   He is leaving his old disc on the windscreen and will only replace it with the new disc on 1 March.  Why?  “So I can get my money’s worth from the old one.”

I thought that was very funny and had a good laugh.  On reflection it triggered something deeper – how can I extract the maximum value from what I already have.

Make the most of today – you don’t yet have tomorrow.


Make the most of existing relationships – they are the only ones you have right now.


Make the most of each and every current project – you do not know what is ahead.


Make the most of your life – it’s the only one you have.


The “Carpe Diem” scene in the movie Dead Poets Society (watch it here) illustrates this mind-set brilliantly – make the most of each and every day, opportunity and life.


How can we do this?


For me it begins with having clarity about what your life is about – who do you want to be?  Only when you understand your “being” you can begin doing things that are meaningful within the context of your “big picture”.  It becomes difficult if not impossible to choose the “right things” to do if you are not clear about your purpose.


And then keep yourself on track every day:

  • Review your purpose and current areas of focus at the beginning of the day.
  • Check in with yourself every hour or so: “Am I doing the most productive thing that I could possibly be doing right now?”  If the answer is “yes” then carry on.  If the answer is “no”, think big picture again and change what you are doing do that you can make the most of your day.
  • At the end of the day, reflect on your day to see what worked and what did not go so well, and see what you can learn from today that will make tomorrow better and more aligned with your purpose.

This is a simple routine that can have a major impact on your productivity, happiness and sense of fulfillment.

.Ask yourself  right now: “What will I do after reading this memo? Is that the best thing I can do to get me where I want to be?”


Happy re-negotiating and re-prioritising – and remember to review your day this evening.


Perspective:  “You have two lives. The second one begins when you realize you only have one.” – Confucius

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Today I want to thank Eric Spencer, head and leader of the PathCare Academy, who invited me to address students at their annual ceremony in the Cape Town City Hall on Wednesday evening, where they came together with their families and friends (there were about 500 people in the venue) to celebrate the successful completion of their studies in 2014.

What a fun evening it turned out to be!  The beautiful venue took me back about 40 years (ouch!) to the time when I was a student and visited the city hall on Sunday evenings to enjoy performances of the symphony orchestra (if you know the setting – I enjoyed sitting on the stage behind the orchestra…).

I learned a very important thing on Wednesday evening: Keep things simple and engage the people you are working with.  

 By nature I tend to be a bit verbose but having just 15 minutes to share what I deem to be 5 of the keys to living a productive, happy and fulfilling life made me focus on the essential things in a practical and fun way which I learned from Kevin Horsley.  (I suggest you visit Kevin in cyber space and learn more about these techniques to help you learn faster, remember better and be more productive.)

The most rewarding thing was not the applause after the talk, but the comment of a gentleman that I shared a “robot stop” with as I was going to my car on the Grand Parade afterwards: “Thank you so much for your talk tonight – I will remember those 5 things forever!”

And to hear from Eric the next morning that one of his colleagues made reference to my talk during a management meeting and said that the discussion could not proceed until they have more clarity.

Really practical.

“5 keys to living a productive, happy and fulfilling life” that I thought about aloud on Wednesday evening are:

  • Have clarity about things before you even try and do something. (From my talk: Get the mud off the windscreen of your car before driving!)
  • Align your resources – get everyone in the boat (your life, your family, your team…) rowing in the same direction (aligning the wheels of your car gives you a smoother ride).
  • Focus on what you want to do – but a la Steve Jobs also let go of the things that are attractive but won’t get you where you want to be (Keep your eyes on the road and not the surroundings).
  • Adapt to changing conditions (…otherwise you might just end up in a “Kimberley’s Big Hole” pothole).
  • Keep on learning for the rest of your life (avoid the potholes next time!).

Just one for the week ahead: Be crystal clear about the things you will do to get the biggest possible return on the investment of your time.

Not clear?

Don’t do it.

Perspective:  “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” – Albert Einstein

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I just watched (I should have gone to the Wanderers since I am in Joburg this week!) the extraordinary innings of AB de Villiers during the ODI cricket match with the West Indies.  149 runs off 44 deliveries.  The fastest ever century in ODIs – just 31 deliveries!  And the fastest half-century off just 16 balls. And the Proteas scored their highest ever ODI total of 439 (do you still remember the magnificent 438 game against Australia?).

Even if you are not a cricket lover, this performance would have grabbed your attention!

It was obvious that AB enjoyed every moment out in the middle. He wasn’t afraid to improvise, and his creativity bore the stamp of authority.

A performance like this does not just “happen”.  It is the result of many years of developing and fine-tuning his talent and skills.

It’s the same with your and my performance and our productivity “game”.  It does not “just happen”.

We have the talent – but do we practice the required skills to enjoy a highly productive life? Something simple like taking a few minutes at the beginning of the workday to look ahead and plan the most productive day given the potential distractions and obstacles.

Something AB said in the post-match presentation caught my attention (not verbatim): “I worked myself up … walking up and down in the change room… and played my knock before I even came out to bat.”

You and I can do the same every day before we “come out to bat”.

Look at what’s in the calendar for the day.  Review the actions for the day.  Anticipate the curve balls coming your way.

Then get out in the middle and play.

And win the productivity game.

Perspective:  “To be a champion, I think you have to see the big picture. It’s not about winning and losing; it’s about every day hard work and about thriving on a challenge. It’s about embracing the pain that you’ll experience at the end of a race and not being afraid. I think people think too hard and get afraid of a certain challenge.” – Summer Sanders

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It was 3am on Thursday morning when I woke up and smelled/smelt smoke.  At first I could not figure out why the security guards in the complex I live in would stop and smoke in front of my bedroom window, but then I realised it was not cigarette smoke but smoke from the fire raging on Devil’s Peak, where I am fortunate enough to have my “home base”.

I got up and went outside.  The wind was raging – as was the fire.

Should I evacuate?  What if the wind changed direction and the fire started bearing down on me?

Thanks to the great work done by the Cape Town fire fighting department (thanks everyone!) all was OK soon and I could go back to bed.

I will probably never know how the fire was started, but just looking at its impact – all the fire engines on the (closed) De Waal Drive, seeing the fire fighters moving around, seeing the smoke and the threatened properties in Zonnebloem – the impact of a small thing like striking one match or a burning cigarette tossed from a car window that started it all was there for all to see.

Something small caused something huge.

We all want to be more productive, improve our performance and achieve something “huge”.

To create a huge impact, however, we do not have to do huge things.  We can do something small and seemingly insignificant that can have a huge impact on our productivity.

Here’s a suggestion: Begin a morning routine when you arrive at your desk.  It does not have to be something huge and “life changing” – just a few minutes.  Here are some pointers of what you could choose to do:

  • Preview your day:  Are you ready for everything or is there still some preparation to be done?
  • Make sure you have one to two hours of unscheduled time in the day.  These are your “no fly zones”.
  • Review your “To Do” list and transfer actions to the calendar as required.  If an action has been on your To Do list for more than three days, remove it from your active list and move it to a “Maybe I will do this some day if ever” list/category.
  • Review your current areas of focus and make sure there is one action in your calendar that will move you forward in each area.
  • Quickly process your new emails – do not get bogged down in doing the work!  Just process each email into “For filing”, “Action required” or “Trash”.
  • This may sound a little “Kumbaya”-ish to some, but just sit quietly at your desk for two minutes, with your eyes closed, and reflect on what you have just done and think about your “game plan” for the day.

There’s more!  But keeping in mind that something small can have big results, I will leave it at that.

Quote:  “Big doors swing on little hinges.”  – W. Clement Stone

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