Archive for June, 2015

This week’s focus point:  Sunday morning early finds me in the Company’s Garden in the heart of Cape Town.  Chilly, but not a chill that could not be driven away by a Gardener Breakfast and a Latte at the restaurant.

I enjoyed visiting the “reconstruction” of the original vegetable garden, but what brought back a recurring thought and image in my mind was the beautiful scene of Government Avenue that runs between the garden and the buildings of Parliament dressed in its winter robe of semi-naked trees with the rest of their leaves on the ground and also a few trees inside the garden dressed in their winter dresses.

tree small path small Ave small

There is a connection between what deciduous trees to with their leaves in autumn and what we (should) do when we make decisions – but some times we don’t “get it”.

Deciduous trees shed their leaves annually; from the Latin deciduus, “that which falls off”.  The leaves fall to the ground (no longer part of the tree) where they decay and could even be re-absorbed into the tree via its roots next year. But for now, they are gone.

The word “decide” is from Latin decidere, literally “to cut off”. When we are faced with options, we literally have to “cut off” the options we don’t want, or let them “fall off”.  They may come back at a later stage as options again, but not now.

And here is a productivity thought: You are faced with a number of possible choices about something.  Do whatever you have to and want to do to inform your thinking, and then choose ONE and cut off the rest.

And let them float to the ground.

Do not waste energy and time on “what if I rather chose a different option” – you will stay in the “what if” time and energy wasting mode forever.

Be bold.  Consider your options.  Choose one and cut off the others. Accept responsibility for the consequences. Don’t ever go back to “what if” mode.  Go with what you chose.

Maybe somewhere down the line, the dropped choices may make their way back into your thinking.  Then you may want to ask the question, after having experienced the consequences of your choice, “Knowing what I now know, would I have made the same choice again?”  Then learn from your response when making decisions down the line.

Let bygone options be bygone options (listen to Issy Bonn’s recording of “Let bygones be bygones”  right here).

Monday Morning Perspective:  “Do not brood over your past mistakes and failures as this will only fill your mind with grief, regret and depression. Do not repeat them in the future.” – Swami Sivananda

What’s happening? Public “Productivity Breakthrough (Outlook Edition)” workshops are back on the calendar in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.  Click here to get your personal Productivity Breakthrough – see you there!

I wish you a fun week.

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“The boomslang (Dispholidus typus) is a large, venomous snake in the family Colubridae.” a la Wikipedia.

It is also a beautiful treetop canopy walkway at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town.


And on Sunday morning it became a teacher… As I was walking the Boomslang I noticed how the designers were sensitive to what already existed while designing what was to be.

It would probably have been easier just to cut down the trees that were already there and “in the way” of the new walkway, but they weren’t. As you can see in the picture, the walkway gave them space to be.

boomslang2 - Copy

I wish I had the whole of the National Assembly with me on the Boomslang to share this thought with them – how much more can be achieved in harmony if people don’t cut each other down but give them space to be and contribute, even if it means giving up a small piece of who you are.

Think about the meetings you are involved in and also your interaction with individuals at the office or at home.  How much more productive and harmonious could it not be if the “Boomslang principle” was in play?

Be an observer this week and see if you can identify just one instance where people are shouting each other down, or even ignoring others (just another way of cutting someone down) where you can influence the outcome to be more harmonious and more productive.

And also give yourself the space to be you – don’t cut yourself down…

Monday Morning Perspective:  “We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.” – Max de Pree

What’s happening? Public “Productivity Breakthrough (Outlook Edition)” workshops are back on the calendar in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.  Click here to see if you can join us on one of the dates.  See you there!

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Friday morning I woke up to an eerie kind of silence and when I looked outside I could not see a thing…because I could only see millions and millions of water droplets of 10-15 microns in diameter swirling around in a fog so dense that it also muffled the sound of early morning traffic which was moving much slower than usual.

nd as time passed and the sun brought light and energy to the scene the fog slowly dissipated to reveal the beauty of Devil’s Peak that was hidden in the fog.


fog 1             Fog 2            Fog 3

One droplet all by itself cannot have the effect of removing clarity and even slowing down traffic.  But many of them can.

In our every day lives we tend to allow things that all by themselves cannot negatively impact on our productivity, but put them together with other small things we tolerate and they can quickly negatively impact on our productivity.

With the lack of clarity that our “toleration fog” causes, we easily feel overwhelmed, slow down and work at lower levels of productivity.

I am not talking about huge things here – I am talking about unread magazines piling up, not having a life plan that seems do-able, not having enough time to read all the nice books you have, people coming to meetings unprepared, a phone cord that is too short, computer cords hanging out everywhere, too many organizing tools (Computer PIMS, Daytimers, BlackBerry, iPhone), avoiding issues in relationships due to fear of confrontation, a job you do not like, having to sit in long and boring team meetings from which you get nothing.

I came across a list of “tolerations” a while ago – tolerations are those things that you are living with, putting up with, or just tolerating. When you get rid of what you are tolerating, you:

  • ·         feel freer – you are dealing with things that hold you down.
  • ·         you have more energy – tolerations are energy drains.
  • ·         you become more creative – you will experiment more.
  • ·         you are happier – tolerations are reminders of what you DON’T want in life; handle them and you start creating a future that you DO want.

Click this Dropbox link to get the list– I encourage you to work through the list and highlight items that “jump out at you” and then prune your list of tolerations down to 3.

Then (yes, easier said than done) – get rid of them.  And as in the pictures above, your “toleration fog” will clear up and you will see and enjoy your highly productive lifestyle.

Have fun!

Monday Morning Perspective: “Needless tolerations can bleed you dry of energy and make it impossible for you to function effectively.  You can’t live a happy, successful, fulfilling life if you’re spending all your energy tolerating things that shouldn’t be tolerated.  Sometimes you need to put your foot down.” – Marc Chernoff

What’s happening? Something very interesting – recently I have been getting more and more requests from teams to combine individual “at the desk” productivity tuition and coaching with our popular Productivity Breakthrough workshops.  The team meets for the workshop and I then have a few hours with each team member at their desks to implement their new knowledge and skills at a deeper level, and also to create a more productive environment on and around their desks.  If you would like more information about this, just click here and add “Productivity Combo” in the subject line.   I will then contact you to discuss.

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I am all for using systems because when you look at the word as an acronym, a system is something that:







But on Friday and over the weekend I had a few experiences that were so frustrating because the systems I got caught up in were not delivering any of the above (for me, anyway).

I wanted to have the address on my phone bill changed to the physical address from the postal address.  The complex in which I stay is in Ben Avenue.  But there is no street number.  Which is what I told the lady in Call Centre Heaven when she asked me for the street number – a few times. In the end I gave up because she could not change my address because “the system” required a street number!

On another call, the lady I was talking to kept on telling me that “the system is so slow today”.

Who are these systems serving, and has it not become too easy to blame “the system” if something is wrong?

You are running late for a meeting because you left too late, but it’s so easy to blame the system (in this case “the traffic”) for your circumstances.

So I decided to have a look at the “systems” I use to make my life easier and streamline them where I can, throw a system out or replace it with another.

I encourage you to do the same.  Have a good look at whatever systems you are currently using and as whether they are saving you stress, time, effort and money.  If not, throw it out.

Here is a tip to work into your system for processing email.

First of all (if your job allows it), get out of the Inbox and go there only a few times a day to process what’s new.

Create two folders: “File” and “Action”.  Then go through your new batch of emails at the speed of white light and make a quick decision about every message: Is this email for Filing (just keep it) or Action or can I Trash it.  After a few minutes your Inbox will be empty and you would have moved the messages to File or Action or you would have deleted it.  Immediately you are more in control and less overwhelmed and you can move to the next step and process the Action emails.

This email processing system works for me – give it a bash and see if it can work for you too!

Monday Morning Perspective: “Everything must be made as simple as possible. But not simpler.”  ― Albert Einstein

What’s happening? I have good news! If your company has 50+ users of MS Outlook and increasing the productivity of people in the company is important, click here to apply for one or two free seats to come and “try before you buy”.

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Over the weekend I chatted to someone who was so sure that once he has a good job, nice salary and a car to match, then he will be happy.

What do you think of the “sequence” of his thinking – once I have (whatever) THEN I will be happy?

Made me think of what Erich Fromm said: “If I am what I have, and I lose what I have, who then am I?”  If my money/car/hose/family/career defines me and makes me happy and I lose any of these things – then my sense of self-worth and happiness is gone.  That’s an “outside-in” approach to happiness and meaning that leaves too much to circumstance (I think).

bdhHow about an “inside-out” approach – Be-Do-Have?  Your choices about who you want to BE is central to your life.  Once you have clarity about who and how you want to be, only then follows behaviour and the results that follow.  Having follows being.

You cannot lose who you choose to be.  This approach has a more solid foundation than “outside-in”, don’t you think?

After all, we are human BE-ings.  Not human DO-ings or human HAVE-ings.



 “First, say to yourself what you would be; then do what you have to do.” – From “The Art of Living” by Epictetus.

“I always like to do the things that I think are right,” he said. “I am not trying to be a model, I am trying to be myself and do the right things.” – Rafael Nadal


What’s happening? Lots of things! Here’s just two.

Register here for a complimentary 30 minute webinar: 5 of the biggest time wasting mistakes Outlook users make – and how to avoid them. If you want to use Outlook more efficiently, join me at no cost for half an hour at 15:30 on 11 June 2015 to begin saving time immediately and see how your organisation could benefit. Join from your desk – a phone and an internet connection is all you need. Details will be sent when you register. Register here.

Yes it is true! After many requests you can join one of our “Productivity Breakthrough for Users of MS Outlook” public workshops in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg again! When you click this link I will send you more information – it is NOT a booking confirmation. Just click here to let me know if you want more info.

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