Archive for May, 2016

Very good friends of mine, Richard and Senomi de Villiers, are in the process of relocating their home-base to Cape Town – Somerset West to be more specific. They came down this weekend with a list with the measurements of their furniture, which is still in Joburg, to see what will fit where and if they should not leave some of their stuff in Joburg (or sell it) since they do not want to move things that are going to be “clutter” and they want to retain the beautiful open-space design of the house.

2016-05-29 13.26.16We went to a print shop and Richard printed out the floor plan of the house.  Using the measurements, we created cardboard “place holders” for each piece of furniture and positioned that on the floor plan and also traced out positions of some items on the floor.  (See the two of them hard at work here!)

Given the clarity that the exercise brought, it became easier, given their “end in mind”, to make decisions about what can join the move next weekend and what not.

This is such a powerful example of the value of planning ahead.  How will things change for you and me if we followed the same guidelines to plane every week?  At whatever time works for you, sit down with your calendar for the next week or two – this is your floor plan.  Look at the space you have available, make a list of the things you would to accomplish in the time period under review, and then see what can go where without overcrowding your calendar with clutter.

Everything that Senomi and Richard planned may not work out 100% that way, but at least they have a “game plan” that they can tweak in real time.

A few tips for creating your “game plan for the week/day:

  • Review your priorities for each area of focus in your life (career, family, mental, physical, spiritual, sport, read up on something…) for the week.
  • Decide on one thing you can do during the week that will help you to move closer towards your priorities.  (These things are like the pieces of furniture.)
  • Plan that into your calendar.  (Paste the furniture place-holders on the floor plan.)
  • Always leave some open uncommitted time in your plan so that you can adapt to changes in your context.
  • Avoid back-to-back meetings like the plague!
  • Your calendar should be like a trellis – a framework for life to happen.
  • If you need to travel, put that in your calendar.
  • Always include time to “unplug” and just have some fun.

The real value of doing this, is that it gives clarity about what you want to achieve during the wee/day and it enables you to say “yes” to the right things, and “no” to everything else.  Sometimes when we move house, it is necessary to leave some things behind – the same when you “move house” from one week to the next.

Quote: “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” –  Dwight D. Eisenhower


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Sunday was a glorious day to be out and about here in Cape Town, and Kirstenbosch won the battle of where I should go for the morning.  The diversity in the garden struck me again – from the smallest ants carrying eggs from their nest that must have been flooded due to irrigation, all the plant species, the mountain and also petrified wood that is millions of years old…

And also the different languages I heard people speak…

But one conversation I overheard was out of step with the beauty of the day.  I just heard two people complaining to each other about so many things – things that were beyond their control anyway.

It made me think about the impact the language we use has on our lives, and yes, our productivity.

An exercise I let people do in our workshop is to explain a frustrating situation to their partner, and then using the most negative, blaming, reactive, “I am a victim” language, explain why it is impossible for them to do anything about the situation.  The follow-up exercise is to take the same situation, but now use positive, proactive language to explain what you believe you can do about the situation.

Everyone says that the second exercise leaves them feeling more in control and “empowered” to address the situation, knowing that they can do something, even if it is a small thing.

Just think for a moment about the effect these kind of phrases can have on your productivity:

  • I don’t have the time.
  • I can’t say “no”.
  • Everything is important.
  • Everything around her is urgent.
  • I work best under pressure, therefore I procrastinate.
  • I have to.
  • My “boss” is always right.
  • My desk will always be a mess.
  • I’m always late for meetings.
  • Fire fighting is just the way our business runs.

If this is what you keep saying to yourself, you could end up in a highly stressed and unproductive state.  All because of the language you use.

Listen to other people talking and see if you can pick up any of negative talk.  Then make them aware of it and suggest that they use more positive phrases like:

  • I choose to.
  • Only a few things are truly important.
  • I have all the time I will ever have. Let me choose wisely what I do in the time I have.
  • I would love to help you, but right now I am busy with xyz.
  • The best way to fight fires is to prevent them What can we do to prevent this from happening again?
  • I deliver quality work by doing what I have to do when I have to do it, even if I don’t feel like doing it.

Listen to your own language as well, and ask your colleagues to make you aware when you use “unproductive language”.  You could be in for a surprise!

Quote: “I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.” –  Groucho Marx

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What a weekend!  It’s been ages since I have been “unplugged” for almost two days.

On Saturday I was part of a group of 21 people who went to Elgin Vintners for a cup of coffee and “mosbolletjie” rusk, a very interesting talk by Gary Goldman (The mushroom fundi) about mushrooms in general, which mushrooms to avoid and which are edible.

mushThen we headed out into the forest for a mushroom forage.  Apart from finding mushrooms, it was a soul soothing experience to be in such a beautiful environment.

Two of the “8 Basic Work Habits of Exceptionally Productive People” came to mind during the day.

Be crystal clear about what your work is (e.g. the difference between mushrooms that you can eat and the ones that will kill you) before you start working on something.  Not being knowledgeable about mushrooms, I would have wasted lot of time doing the wrong things without first gaining some knowledge and clarity about the thing I was about to do.

The experience in the forest, where I could hear nothing but my tinnitus, reinforced the importance taking time out to relax, be with friends and doing nothing that is work related.  As I was enjoying the silence, I pictured in my mind’s eye what it must be like at that moment in the CBD of Johannesburg.  And I was very happy with where I was, even though it could be seen as “unproductive time”.

Stephen R Covey (author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) said that the essence of “effectiveness” is to balance “production” (P) and “production capability” (PC), abbreviated as P/PC balance.  To balance the production of golden eggs by the proverbial goose, with taking care of the health and welfare of the goose.

If we do not take care of our personal and organisational health and welfare, both we as individuals and our organisation will have to make time for illness.

Based on my “PC” weekend, I want to encourage to proactively plan for personal PC time.  Book (and pay!) for a 3-nights-away long weekend every quarter.  Take short breaks during your work day.  Remember that value and impact in your life does not depend on how long your activities take, but by the actions you choose.  Choose wisely.  Choose to live the P/PC balance.


“Am I a workaholic? Yes, but I also have no problem taking time for myself.” – Chris Jericho


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During one of my walks on the Sea Point promenade I saw a mother and father cheering on their toddler every time she jumped over a “channel” as you can see in the picture.  When she hesitated before a jump, they encouraged her to jump, and when she slipped or did not make a 100% “correct” jump they supported her.

yeahThey did not give her a hiding or scold her every time she missed the target, but remained positive in supporting her to “get it right”.

Why does that supportive and encouraging behaviour often disappear as we mature, both in family life and at work?

Don’t you agree that we tend to become more critical of errors and failure?

It’s been said that we talk more to ourselves than we do with other people. And that our self-talk is mostly negative.  It doesn’t have to be, especially if you keep in mind that the more often you repeat negative “scolding” self-talk, the more the behaviour that you are not happy about tends to remain.

When last did you praise your child, spouse, self and people working with you when they did something well?  When last did you catch people doing something right?

Here is great article article by Jack Falvey entitled, “To Raise Productivity Try Saying Thank-you!” .  A few of his tips:

  • Make a list of everyone who works with you. Before the week is over tell each one personally what he/she has contributed this week and how much you appreciate their efforts.
  • Say thank you.
  • Set up informal visits with your people.
  • Listen and use your eyes to pick up what’s going on.
  • Make something food out of every positive thing you can find.
  • Catch staff doing something right and affirm it.
  • Brag of your colleagues in front of others.
  • Publish everything positive you can find (GC:  Brag about them before others by email or in person.).

Thank you for reading!


“Where there is genuine encouragement, people excel and succeed, not because they are told to but because they want to.” – Ronald Regan

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During my trip to Swaziland last week, I visited Swazi Candles in the Malkerns Valley – and am I glad that I did!

Not only are their products beautiful, but one of the men who creates candles in the form of elephants, hippo and other animals allowed me to take a video of the whole process from taking the first ball of paraffin wax until dropping his creation in a tub of water where it stays for 25 minutes.  It was amazing –  and, yes, I bought the “elephant candle” he made “for me”.

ElephantThe picture shows the completed product.

He told e that he has been doing this for a few years now, and apart from the training he received, he said that “you have to be artistic” as well.  The two go hand in hand.  He is clearly a master at what he has chosen to do with his life, even if it is only “for now”.

It took him about 4 minutes to create the elephant from a ball of wax. And he did it so almost effortlessly and focused on the outcome that it was a joy to watch.  He could turn the ball of wax  into anything he wanted to create, but the moment he had the end result of “elephant” in mind, the rest followed easily and he twisted, pulled and moulded the wax to create the elephant.  To quote Stephen R Covey: “Begin with the end in mind.”

Once you have clarity about what you want to do, the rest is easy.  But how often don’t we begin working on a task without clarity of purpose, and wast a lot of energy and time in the process?

Here are a few examples of opportunities to clarify before you do anything:

When someone asks you do to do something, stop for a moment to check if you got the request 100% – tell them how you understand it, and let them say “yes” or further clarify their request.

When you ask someone to do something, ask them to explain back to you how they understand it.

Clarify what “ASAP” means.  To you it may mean before the end of the day; for others it might mean next month.

Clarify what “first thing in the morning” means by asking for the specific time.  To you it may mean 07:00 while for the other party it may mean 11:00.

Tony Robbins was right when he said “Clarity brings power”.


“It’s a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration. Those emotions are poison to any living goal.” ― Steve Maraboli

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

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