Archive for April, 2016

This note come to you from the deck at Nisela Safaris in Swaziland, where I have been invited to do Productivity Breakthrough workshops and coaching for a family farming business.  I added the weekend to the trip to slow down a bit, and enjoyed Saturday at the Mkhaya Game Reserve,

During the game drive we saw giraffe, hippo, rhino, warthog, impala and birds, and I was totally “unplugged”, just enjoying the diversity of trees and animals.  I was “in the moment”…

And then the cell phone of the lady who sat behind me on the open Land Rover, rang, and she had her conversation.  I mean, really!

Within half a second I was plucked out of the moment and shoved into someone else’s world, of which I had no need to be in.

My thoughts then went to what so easily happens (and we usually allow it to happen) in our everyday lives. We are focused on getting a job done but then there is an interruption or distraction of some kind, and we are plucked out of what wanted to get done into someone else’s world.  Every time you are interrupted or distracted you lose 100% of your focus and productivity in an instant, and have to refocus afterwards, not only wasting time but also adding to your frustration and even stress.

It is not so easy to deal with interruptions once they happen.  But we can put things in place to prevent being interrupted.  A few tips:

  1. Understand your priorities.  Communicate your priorities and set boundaries.  Protect your priorities/boundaries.  The moment someone crosses the boundary, let them know.  Remember the sayings: “What you allow, will remain”, and “What you allow, you teach.”
  2. Say “no” to things that will move you away from your priorities.  You go to work to get a job done – your job and not somebody else’s.  Life is not a popularity contest.  People will respect you more when you say no to unimprtant things.
  3. RHINOStop switchtasking (wrongly called “multitasking”).  It does not work. (By the way, in the game park I saw rhinos lying in the water at a water hole and my first thought that they were hippos that were multitasking!)

Remember: If you do not take charge of your boundaries, other people will break through them, just like the elephants did at Mkhaya..





“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.” ― Brené Brown

“I encourage people to remember that “No” is a complete sentence.” ― Gavin de Becker


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While I was waiting at Cape Town International airport for flight SQ478 from Singapore to arrive on Sunday morning, I noticed a small army of ground staff waiting as well to get into action and clean the aircraft for its return flight to

I reflected on the amount of planning that must have gone into making just this single flight a successful one – and for all the other flights flying all over the world every day.  Below is a screenshot from www.flightradar24.com, showing all current flights across the globe. (On the web site, when you click on a “plane” you can see the plane and flight details – scary…but fantastic.)


Imagine what it would have been like if, even just for the one flight from Singapore, there was no planning done in advance for the actions to be taken once the plane has landed.

Imagine the conversations…”It seems that a plane just landed.  Wonder who it is.  Mmmmm looks like Singapore Airlines.  O wow, it has stopped and the doors are opening.  I wonder how the people are going to get off the plane.  Let me call Jo Soap to hear what has to happen next…”

In his famous book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R Covey make the distinction between events that are “important and urgent – he calls it Quadrant 1, or Q1” versus “important and not urgent – he calls it Quadrant 2, or Q2”, and he states that effectiveness means to maintain a balance between these groups of activities.

Planning falls solidly in Q2. But if it eventually slips beyond its “do by date”, you end up with a crisis in Q1.  A survey done by the FranklinCovey company showed that high-performance companies spend 65-80% of their time doing Q2 things whereas for typical companies it is about 15%.

I read somewhere that he best fire fighting unit in the USA spends only 1% of their time fighting fires (Q1) and 99% to prevent fires (Q2).

In order to perform (Q1) you need to build the capability to perform (Q2).  This includes planning, for which I have found a nice definition: “Planning (also called forethought) is the process of thinking about and organizing the activities required to achieve a desired goal.”

My challenge to you and me: for the rest of the week, note the time you take for planning.  On Friday, review your week and especially the things that did not work out as well as you would have liked to, and then ask the question: “Could I have prevented this by better planning?”

Then learn from the exercise and plan to have a better week next week!

Quote: “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives 
you a 1,000 percent Return on Energy!” –  Brian Tracy

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I had no plan to go for a Sea Point Promenade walk on Saturday morning, but when I got up I just had a hunch that it would be worthwhile to go.

I did, and it was.

I was given so many things to reflect on, from parents applauding small victories of their toddler jumping over “channels” in the paving to seeing a sign saying “Dog Free Running Area” (as opposed to “No Dogs Allowed’) – more about that in a next memo!

JuanBut the thing that struck me most was when I saw the gentleman in the picture sitting on a bench overlooking Rocklands Beach, working away on a document on his clipboard. A somewhat unusual sight, wouldn’t you agree, even for Cape Town?

I stopped by and got his permission take a picture of him working in his open-plan office and share it with you.  He laughed and said “This is what I call productivity – why work in a room when I can work here?”

Personal productivity, for me anyway, is not about working harder, working later at night, having more stress, being driven to yet another deadline, creating more “output” with less “input”.  It is about doing the most appropriate thing at the most appropriate time in the most appropriate environment using the most appropriate tools, and achieving what you want with as little effort as possible.  Just like this gentleman did.

Not everyone has the same “set of conditions” for optimal productivity.  Here is something very practical you can do to find yours. Make a list of “high performance events/projects”, when things just happened much easier than you expected.  From your list, pick three, and for each of them use the following format (from the book “High Performance Patterns – Discovering the Ways People Work Best” by my late business associate Dr Jerry Fletcher) to identify:

  • What made you “get drawn in” into the project?
  • What did you do to “get it going”?
  • How did you “keep it going”?
  • How did you “bring it to completion”?

Review your responses across your chosen events/projects, and identify your common thinking and behaviour.  This is the beginning of your unique pattern of high performance that describes what you do when you do your best work.

Get to know the things that need to be in place to help you work in “optimal productivity mode” – like working on a bench at Rocklands!

Quote: “The highest levels of performance come to people who are centered, intuitive, creative, and reflective – people who know to see a problem as an opportunity.” –  Deepak Chopra

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