Archive for January, 2016


Sunday afternoon the water supply in the complex where I stay dried up due to a burst pipe.  As I am writing this memo at about 07:00 Monday morning, we are still “dry”.

I managed to save a kettle full for coffee and other essential things, but I now realise what an important role running water plays in everyday routines. I do not have a pre-planned “Plan B” in place that I can pull out when the taps run dry.  I rather take what happens and then adapt.

In our productivity workshops people implement “8 Basic Work Habits of Exceptionally Productive People” in their work-management system.  Work Habit 5 is to be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances.

When last did a day work out exactly as you have planned it?

One thing you can do every day is to have “grayed out” blocks of unscheduled time in your calendar so that you have the flexibility to adapt.

puzzleHow can you free up “scheduled time” in order to have “unscheduled time”?  Start with the meetings you attend. When you believe “when I am invited to a meeting I have to go”, this will clutter your schedule with back-to-back meetings and cause unnecessary stress and frustration – just like being stuck in a traffic jam.  (It’s like solving the “sliding puzzle” – you can only solve the puzzle if there is an open space to begin with.  You can only adapt if there is open space to begin with.)

On the other hand, why not take a step back and question the value of the meeting.  If there’s no agenda – don’t go or at least notify the organiser that you will not be there unless you receive an agenda as well as what she expects you to come and do there.

A friend of mine, Alicia, secretary to 3 managers, and I talked about the impact of back-to-back meetings.   She now keeps at least 30 minutes open in the managers’ calendars between meetings. After some initial skepticism they are now very happy to have time to “process and prepare”.  It can be done – one must just have the initiative to do it.

We all need some time to reflect, think, strategize and work without interruptions.  Have a look at your calendar and see how you can create a few blocks of 30 minutes every day – you deserve it.

Quote: “Let no one think that flexibility and a predisposition to compromise is a sign of weakness or a sell-out.” – Paul Kagame

What’s happening?

2016 public workshops: “Productivity Breakthrough: 8 Basic Work Habits of Exceptionally Productive People (Outlook Edition)”

In-house Productivity Breakthrough workshops customised for your team.

I’ve been thinking of developing a Productivity Mastery Group Coaching Programme for teams and other groups in organisations.  Details still to be fleshed out, but if you would like me to keep you in the loop, just click here to let me know.

Have a fun week!



Read Full Post »

Did you know that there are two kinds of seagulls? Let’s call them proactive and reactive.  That was my lesson Saturday morning during my stroll on my favourite promenade between Mouille Point and Sea Point.

 Reactive seagullsIn this picture you see reactive seagulls gathered around someone sitting on a bench having a meal, hoping to be given something to eat. 

 They have no guarantee and their “well-being” is dependent on someone they have no control over.  They are waiting for life to be good  to them.

 A few hundred meters further I looked down at the ocean and saw a few seagulls standing in shallow water, “stomping” to bring up food from the sand (click here to see my 7 second video on YouTube). 

StomperThere is still no guarantee of food at that spot, but hey, then move on a few centimeters and do it again.

 Sounds a bit more proactive than the ones just sitting there, hoping for food, doesn’t it? They were not waiting for life to take care of them; they created their own opportunities.

 After making my U-turn at the Sea Point swimming pool and on my way back, at Rocklands Beach, I saw a man gathering dry seaweed on the beach. 

A lady (maybe his wife?) was standing on the promenade.  He said something to her, which I could not hear, but it sounded as if he was complaining about gathering seaweed.

I heard her response very clearly, and it is the perfect slogan, not only for the seagull community, but also for you and me: “Nothing for nothing!”

Reflect for a moment: What is your fundamental life view?  Are you waiting for things to happen, or are you making things happen?

Are you waiting to see what 2016 will bring you, hoping for good things to happen, or are you proactively looking and thinking about what you can bring to the next year of your life?

And your team or family members?

Are you in PRO-ductive or RE-ductive mode?

Remember: “Nothing for nothing!”

Quote: “Nothing will come of nothing.” – King Lear, Act 1, Scene 1, Page 4.

What’s happening?

2016 public workshops: “Productivity Breakthrough: 8 Basic Work Habits of Exceptionally Productive People (Outlook Edition)”

In-house Productivity Breakthrough workshops customised for your team.

Have a “stomper” of a day!

Read Full Post »

I wro2016-01-09 23.59.26te the first draft of this memo using pen and paper at about 01:15 Sunday morning while waiting to see if the huge fire on Devil’s Peak, being fanned in all possible directions by a wind that was howling down the mountain, was going to reach my apartment in the complex and whether I should evacuate or not.  I used pen and paper because my laptop was packed away in my one-bag “evacuation kit” with my iPad and a few handwritten notes.

It was scary, to be honest.  To go outside, hear the firefighters shouting, silhouetted against the flames, feeling the spray from what must have been a small puncture in a firehose on my face and to see sparks from the fire land on my stoep.

If any of the firefighters would have told me to evacuate, I would have picked up by “business-in-a-bag” and got going – fast.

I would not have asked them if they had the appropriate “qualifications”, because in the context of the fire hazard, they are the best qualified to make the judgement call.  It does not matter whether they have a Ph.D. in firefighting, or any academic “qualification”.  They know the job and they can do the job.  In this context, they know best.

2016-01-10 00.01.10In the context of the fire their uniform qualifies them to tell me what to do – and to trust their judgement.  And because I trust their judgement I won’t waste time by second guessing their intent.  I just do.

How well are you and I equipped to be trusted in our professional and private lives from day to day?

How well do we fit in the “uniform” of CEO, executive, manager, team leader, employee, consultant, trainer, researcher, father, mother, brother, sister or friend?

Are we solid in our performance so that people will immediately see and feel that we are trustworthy within the current context?  Or are there chinks in our armour that, once we are “found out” could lead to a breakdown in trust and slow things down because our leadership is no longer trusted but questioned?

I cannot recall the details, but one of the best fire fighting unit in the USA, spent just 1% of their time on fighting actual fires while 99% of their time was spent on preventing fires.

So many people and teams I work with complain that they spend too much time in crisis mode fighting fires.  Maybe that is because they have not spent sufficient time on fire prevention?

Think how much more productive you and your team could be if you were to slow down a bit and take the time to learn how to prevent the everyday fires rather than just fighting them.  And I am not talking about doing a PhD in fire prevention but simple things like increasing your typing speed so that you can work and communicate more efficiently rather than using productive time to find the right keys on your keyboard.

I challenge you to be honest with yourself and your team and identify “fires” that you had to put out in 2015, and then move into the “slow down to speed up” mode to identify and fix the chinks in your productivity armour.

By increasing your trustworthiness, you raise the levels of trust which in turn make things happen with speed and without friction.

A note of special thanks:  My sincere thanks and admiration go to everyone who was involved in putting out the Devil’s Peak fire between Saturday night and Sunday morning.  I admire the calm way in which you did the job.  Well done. Thank you.

Quote: “Firefighters are some of the most selfless public servants you will ever encounter.” – Denis Leary

What’s happening?

2016 public workshops: “Productivity Breakthrough: 8 Basic Work Habits That Will Skyrocket Your Productivity (Outlook Edition)”

In-house Productivity Breakthrough workshops and extended programmes.

Productivity Mastery Programme – You can still register for the first 2016 programme.

I wish you a fun and fireless 2016!


Read Full Post »

What will win the battle of January – my intention to change a few things, or my old habits?

2016-01-03 08.50.04-2This was the thought that crossed my mind on Sunday morning while I watched incoming and outgoing waves in the ocean close to the Mouille Point lighthouse.

The incoming waves are like the things we want to change.  You know the story…losing weight, getting fitter, read more books, watch great movies, link up with old friends, sleep more… They roll towards the new year with lots of energy and a lot of noise when they break.

When the wave (i.e. things we want to change) hits the concrete embankment of the promenade (our current habits), it is reflected back into the ocean where it does battle with the next incoming wave (our next attempt to make the changes we want).

Sometimes it’s an even match and the incoming wave is “cancelled out” by the outgoing one.  Mostly the reflected wave is absorbed in the incoming wave.  It’s a constant battle.

And so it will go with the things we want to change in the new year.   At times we will fail.  But if we keep coming back, wave after wave of focused intention and action, we will overcome the old habits.

In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (get a good summary at this link – click the hyperlinks on the right of the page to access each habit) Stephen R Covey says that we need three things to form a habit: we must know WHAT to do (knowledge), we must know HOW to do it (skill) and we must WANT to do it (desire).  I am sure that you have the knowledge and skill that it takes to create new habits.  And at this time of the year the desire is usually also not a problem.

But as time goes by we often slip back into our old habits.  Not because we have lost the knowledge or the skill, but the desire; we don’t experience the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) because we have not yet “lived” the new routine and could therefore not yet experience the benefit.

Here’s the challenge: Do the new thing you want to do even you don’t feel like doing it and then make a note in your “victory log” which you review once a week to pat yourself on the back with your progress.

The waves in the ocean just keep coming.  In the same way, just keep going!

Quote: “You need to put what you learn into practice and do it over and over again until it’s a habit. I always say, ‘Seeing is not believing. Doing is believing.’ There is a lot to learn about fitness, nutrition and emotions, but once you do, you can master them instead of them mastering you.” – Brett Hoebel

What’s happening?

2016 public workshops: “Productivity Breakthrough: 8 Basic Work Habits That Will Skyrocket Your Productivity (Outlook Edition)”

In-house Productivity Breakthrough workshops and extended programmes.

Productivity Mastery Programme – You can still register for the first 2016 programme.

Last week’s quote was hilariously misquoted!  It read: “The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentialists.” – Lin Yutang.  No, no, no! Then there will be few people left over on the planet!  The last word should be “non-essentials” and not “non-essentialists”!


Read Full Post »