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Archive for March, 2016

This morning, the ocean was still showing the effect of strong winds the past few days, with waves rumbling toward the shore, spitting out more than the usual crop of kelp at Three Anchor Bay.  Yet it is almost as if the rough sea was just superimposed on the natural rhythm of ocean tides – spring tide, neap tide, high tide, low tide.  The fact that the ocean is rough today and calm tomorrow does not affect the natural rhythm.

Our everyday lives are pretty much the same.  We have a natural rhythm and sometimes life is calm and at other times it is chaotic.  But the underlying pattern says pretty much the same.

How about knowing your “productivity rhythms” that stay pretty much the same, and on which chaos and calm are superimposed?

I’ve just read an article in the Harvard Business Review about the human circadian rhythm (biological clock).  The circadian rhythm for humans is roughly as follows (there are variations to this pattern, e.g. someone being a “morning person” or a “night owl”.  But the basic pattern is there.  You are least alert at around 03:30 in the morning, and then your energy and alertness slowly increase until it reaches a peak just after noon and then dips at around 15:00 (good time to take a nap to re-energise) after which it increases again for a second peak round about 18:00, after which it declined for the rest of the evening until 03:30 the next morning. Someone at one of my workshops said that her “energy low” lasts between 8 and 5 every day!

circadian_annotated

Can you see how dumb we can be by using our mornings to read and reply to emails whereas we should be doing work that requires higher levels of energy and alertness?   Then we have lunch and then when we are heading down the slope to the 15:30 dip we want to do work that requires our full attention and energy.  And as energy and alertness increase again, we end the work day!

Maybe one of the best productivity tools you can develop is to understand your own circadian rhythm and use it to guide the kind of work you do during different times of the day – let your commitments and activities follow your body clock!

Take a piece of paper and track your levels of energy, focus, tiredness and hunger every hour on the hour, for a week or more.  Just write down how you are feeling at that time.  You may want to use a 10-point scale if you want to, where 10 is excellent and 1 is poor.

Investigate your results, and you are sure to some kind of a pattern.

Use this to decide what activities you will do when during the day – and see your productivity and well-being improve.

Quote: “The whole universe is based on rhythms. Everything happens in circles, in spirals.” –  John Hartford

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.

Quite a number of people have expressed interest to join 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 as well, just click here to let me know.

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A puzzling thing

My good friend Igno van Niekerk invited me to stay over with them when I was in Bloemfontein a week ago, doing a Productivity Breakthrough workshop at the University of the Free State.  And as always, he had a few “brain challenges” for me.  (By the way, if you are a keen on photography, look into Igno’s web site to learn more about photography in a fun way.)

puzzle 0One evening he asked me: “How long will it take you to complete a four-piece puzzle?”

Very confidently, I said: “About 4 seconds.”, thinking it would be “normal” jig-saw puzzle.

 

puzzle 1But then he gave me the four puzzle pieces, telling me that the completed puzzle must form a capital T.

Not what I saw in my mind’s eye when he said “a 4-piece puzzle”!

The clock started ticking and I looked at the pieces of the puzzle.

 

And looked.   And looked.

Puzzle 2And tried a few possibilities – failing every time!

4 seconds turned into 4 minutes – and longer….

I was going to fail this one!

 

 

I gave up and asked for the solution.

 

 

puzzle 4Here it is.

The solution to the puzzle lies in the piece I’ve outlined in red.  No, the solution actually lies in what I believed about the piece.  I saw the “open angle” in the piece as a place where something else had to be fitted into (performance-limiting jig-saw mind-set). But no. The piece is complete as it is.

For me, the take-away from this exercise is that one should not assume that you understand what someone else means when using “common” words or concepts.  Take time to clarify your understanding before beginning to work on something.  In the language of our Basic Work Habit 2: Make Your Work Visible and Actionable.

 

puzzle 5My curiosity took me to Google “4-piece puzzle” and to my amazement I saw that the same four pieces can be arranged to form 36 different shapes (here are just 9).

My limited thinking about the word “puzzle” as a jig-saw puzzle has one and only one solution.

Amazing what abundance comes alive when you think differently.

I wish you a happy week of thinking beyond the obvious.

 

Quote: “If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” –  Bruce Lee

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Towards the end of February, I had the privilege of visiting and working with the management team of a farm in the Christiana district.   Their products are potatoes, cattle, onions, maize and pecan nuts.

But their business is about much more than just producing these products.  They seek to add value to the lives of each and everyone on the farm, continuously improving the quality of their people and their products.

When we discussed the “watershed” or “point of reference” that guides their day-to-day decision making, I was impressed with the simplicity, yet power, of their “guiding light”.

“Potatoes are the boss.”

My interpretation: When we do what is best for our product, we are doing what is best for us.

MissionWhat is your “potato” when it comes to making choices between what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to?  What are your governing values?  What are your top priorities right now in your personal life and in your business life?

Unless we have this “point of reference” to refer to for guidance, it is virtually impossible to make the best action choice in any given moment.

I encourage you to create your own personal “mission statement”.  Don’t let the concept of a mission statement put you off – it can be a one-liner, a picture, a poem a song…anything that embodies what your life is about.

For an organisation, its mission statement “should guide the actions of the organization, spell out its overall goal, provide a path, and guide decision-making. It provides ‘the framework or context within which the company’s strategies are formulated.’ It is like a goal for what the company wants to do for the world.” – Wikipedia

How would it be if you had a personal and family mission statement to spell out you overall goal and guide decision-making and clearly states what you and your family want to do for the world.

The power of a mission statement is illustrated by the following example: In 1995 Hewlett-Packard Industrial Research Labs Sid Liebes, one of their engineers, said that their current slogan of being the best industrial research lab IN the world doesn’t do it for him but “being the best industrial research lab FOR the world” will inspire him.  Can you see what a huge difference the change of one word can make?  Now it’s no longer about beating the competition but doing things in such a way that it is the best for the world.

That’s the power of a mission statement.

I encourage you to create your own.

You may want to use these resources:

FranklinCovey Mission Statement Builder

Nightingale Conant

Quote: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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.

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So much happening this weekend!

35 000 cyclists participating in the Cape Town Cycle Tour.  In Singapore my daughter Lindie was one of about 11 000 people who did a 10 km run (welgedaan, Lindie!).  In the USA many guys are playing in the USA Rugby Sevens tournament.  And also in the USA, three Republican presidential candidates are keeping up their mud-slinging contest. In Johannesburg 22 cricketers from South Africa and Australia played a great game of cricket. Me and my friend and business associate Amien Jacobs enjoyed a great Saturday morning in Kirstenbosch. And former USA First Lady Nancy Reagan died Sunday at age 94.

And now it’s just me and my keyboard…

But it’s not the numbers that matter…it’s what happens that gives value to life.

My good friend Colin Hall likes to say that the most frequently asked question cyclists ask each other after “The Cape Town Cycle Tour” is “What was your time?”.  This question focuses the conversation on the duration and not the quality of the experience. How would questions like “Did you also see the baboons?”, “Who did you cycle with and what did you chat about?”, “How was your massage?”, “What was your best moment?”, change the conversation?

Life is not about how long things take.  Life is about what we choose to do.

It’s not about “How long will the meeting be?”, but rather about “Is having this meeting the best thing we can do right now?”

I realise that this is a recurring theme in my musings, but the more I think about it, the more it rings true for me.

“Time management” is a myth.  We struggle to define the concept of “time”, never mind how to “manage” it.

“Action management” is real.  We do things, or we don’t.

And the things we do create value in our lives, no matter “how long it takes”.

(Click here to listen to a 1965 hit Do What You Do Do Well!)

Quote:  What you do matters: “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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.

More and more people are interested in 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.

 

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