Archive for September, 2016

Sunday morning, walking on the promenade at Three Anchor Bay, I noticed a guy having difficulty in getting the outboard motor on his boat started.  He must have been pulling the starter rope for 5 minutes if not more, and every now and then there would be a hope-giving puff of smoke, but still no luck.

3-2Another guy arrived with his kayak, had a chat to the boat-guy, put his kayak in the water and off he went.  No huffing and puffing and struggling.

The ultimate end-in-mind for these guys were probably the same – have some fun time out on the ocean.

The thing that popped into my head was this: “Don’t over-complicate your life by using technology if not required.”  Sometimes people who are using their paper-based diary and self-management system very effectively say to me, almost with a tone of “guilty as charged”, “I am still using paper”.  If a paper-based system works for you, and there is no obvious benefit in going high-tech (like sharing calendars with colleagues and easily dealing with delegation etc.), then stick with what works!

Life is complex enough without adding stress by using unnecessary technology.

Use appropriate technology.  If you want to have a braai, there’s no need to build a nuclear power station.  If you want to write a journal, writing it long-hand on paper is apparently better than using your computer.  If you have three dishes to wash, don’ turn on the dishwasher.

The single biggest thing that my recent productivity survey showed, was that people’s biggest challenge is to be able to focus in a sea of interruptions and distractions.  I suggest you use two low-tech tools to help you achieve this.

One: Keep a piece of paper (yes!) on your desk (yes!) and every time someone or something interrupts or distracts you from your job at hand (i.e. breaks your focus), write it down together with the estimated duration of the interruption/distraction (no stopwatch required!).  At the end of the day/week, review your list, learn from it and then do something about the things you can do something about.  E.g. you may find that the same person comes to you multiple time every day with one thing to discuss.  Ask them to come to you once in the morning and once in the afternoon with a number of things on their agenda.

 Two: Keep a piece of paper (yes!) on your desk (yes!) and every time you think about something that has nothing to do with the job at hand (i.e. breaks your focus), write it down.  (Tip: use one piece of paper and use the two sides for the two lists.) At midday, review your list and move those distracting thoughts into your self-management system.  Do the same at the end of the day.  Whatever you do, get things out of your head and into your system!

These two simple, “appropriate technology”, productivity tools will serve you well.  They don’t cost you anything extra, and I guarantee that you will become more focused and get more of the right things done with less effort by using them daily.

Why not try it this week and by Friday afternoon, during your end-of-day productivity pit stop, let me know on gerrit@789.co.za how it went?

I wish you a week filled with focus and fun!

Quote: “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” –  Bill Gates


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Feeding the goose…

Cape Town was a hive of activity on Sunday with about 7 000 people doing the Cape Town Marathon – hats off to them! But I must be honest with you that, while enjoying the morning in Kirstenbosch, I was happy that I could sit down a few times in the shade and was not part of the marathon runners.

ppcOne of the flowerbeds was jam-packed with beautiful yellow flowers – the picture on the right. It was the same flowerbed that I wrote about on 16 November last year, when there no flowers, and it was in “let’s prepare for the flowers” mode, as shown in the picture on the left.

The marathon and the flowers hammered home an important point again: in order to produce results, you need to be properly prepared. Right now I am no condition to run a kilometer, never mind 42,2 of them. To prepare properly for a marathon, somewhere between 14 and 30 weeks are required. That’s what I call commitment.

I invite you to make a list of the results you are working towards at the moment, both professional and personal. Reflect on what you have done so far in preparation – is it sufficient or do I need to do something else? If so, write it down and manage it as a small project of action in your self-management system.

Desired result:

What have I done so far to prepare to for the work required to achieve this result:

What else can I do to ensure that I am fully prepared? Maybe read a book, speak to a colleague, enroll for a course:

Productivity expert Barbara Hemphill, with whom I had the privilege of working for some time, often recalls what her father said: “Half of any job is having the right tools.” At each and every of my Productivity Breakthrough workshops someone says that their goal is to work smarter and not harder. Part of working smarter is choosing the right tools.

I think that choosing work habit 7 of our set of “8 Basic Work Habits of Exceptionally Productive People” is a crucial tool to help you achieve the results you are pursuing: “Slow Down to Speed Up.” Before starting to work flat-out on something, take the time to plan, make sure you have the right tools, “look right, look left, look right again” – and then begin.

No flowers in the spring without having taken the time to prepare the flowerbed!

Quote: “To maintain the P/PC Balance, the balance between the golden egg (production) and the health and welfare of the goose (production capability) is often a difficult judgment call. But I suggest it is the very essence of effectiveness.” ― Stephen R. Covey


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“Thursday” is named after “the god Thor, who in the In Norse mythology, is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, the protection of mankind, and also hallowing and fertility”.

So maybe a Thursday is not a bad day to let allow some thunder and lightning into our lives…

I came across this paragraph from “The Art of Living” based on the key ideas from the work of Epictetus, and it was a “lightning moment” for me. I hope you enjoy it too.

“In trying to please other people, we find ourselves misdirected toward what lies outside our sphere of influence. In doing so we lose our hold on our life’s purpose.

Content yourself with being a lover of wisdom, a seeker of the truth. Return and return again to what is essential and worthy.

Do not try to seem wise to others.

If you want to live a wise life, live it on your own terms and in your own eyes”.

I wish you a Thundering day.

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I had two experiences last week that had to do with protecting boundaries and thereby priorities.

The one was very positive; I was speaking with someone and we were at the point of setting up a meeting.  I suggested Saturday morning, but before I could even suggest a time, he stopped me and said: “I never have business meetings on a Saturday because that is family time – and I also don’t schedule meetings after 5 pm because then I am on my way home.”

Crystal clear, and I respect him for knowing and communicating his priorities in a straight forward manner.

The second experience also has to do with protecting boundaries, but the way in which it was done was (in my opinion) utterly unprofessional and left a bad taste in my mouth.  I received a call from a lady at **dbank, and she went through the suffocating routine to verify “that I am talking to the right person”.  I know this is necessary but so many questions!  At one point in this verification process I wanted to say something to her, but she cut me short: “I called you, and when I call you, I talk and you answer.  You cannot say anything to me now.  I called you.  When you call me, you can talk.”

Two examples of communicating and protecting priorities.  But with two totally different approaches and outcomes in terms of the quality of my experience, and the future of these relationships.

poolI strongly believe in protecting your priorities by communicating boundaries to others.  Otherwise you will never have space for what’s important to you.  You may be familiar of my favourite example of how the water inside the boundary walls of this pool remains calm even if there is some turbulence and chaos going on in the ocean.


To be able to focus on what matters most to you, you must:

  • Understand and know your priorities;
  • Communicate your priorities;
  • Then you have earned the right to protect them by saying “no” to things that are not aligned with your priorities.

By all means give the other person/people your bigger picture and the reason why you are putting the “no” boundary in place, but be careful how you communicate this, especially if you would like to maintain a positive long-term relationship with your friends or colleagues or clients!

Quote: “How people treat us is up to us! We teach people how to treat us by what we allow, what we stop and what we reinforce. If someone in your life is treating you in an undesirable way then figure out what you are doing to reinforce, elicit or allow that treatment.” –    LeeAnne Locken 

What’s happening?

Productivity Club Membership Site:  The survey has been done – thanks to everyone who participated.  Due to the positive outcome, I will go ahead and develop a Productivity Mastery Club membership site with articles, videos, expert interviews, webinars/teleseminars, ways to interact with other members of the club and special membership discounts on courses and other items…  More to come down the line…  The site should be launched towards the end of October/beginning November 2016.

2016 public workshops: “Productivity Breakthrough for Outlook Users: 8 Basic Work Habits of Exceptionally Productive People”.

In-house Productivity Breakthrough workshops customised for your team

 Enjoy a great week!

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Saturday was another “brosters” day – when our brothers and sisters get together to chat, have fun and enjoy a meal together.

Koos Boek 1With the “snoek and sweet potato” menu, we celebrated a very special achievement of my brother-in-law, Koos Oosthuysen.  He has just had his latest two books published: “The Grammar of isiXhosa” and “Say it in isiXhosa”.  Having written these books is a great feat in itself, but what makes it a little more special is that Koos is now in his 80s!

I take my hat off to him.  There is a big difference between saying “One day I want to write a book”, and actually doing it.

His achievement brought some of the work habits in our “Productivity Breakthrough: 8 Basic Work Habits of Exceptionally Productive People” workshop to mind.  Following the underlying principles will help you achieve what you want to – for me that is real productivity.

  • Be crystal clear about your priorities. (I want to be a published author.)
  • Stay focused and do only those things that move you towards achieving your priorities. (Plan every day and make sure that “the right things” are in my plan to get my book published.)

When I was part of the SA franchise representing Stephen R Covey’s work, we offered a workshop titled “What Matters Most”.  Not just what matters most to you in terms of your everyday goals (like writing a book) but also your life purpose.  What, for you, is your job on the planet?  If you have not clarified your response to that question, you may have very busy days, but be busy with the wrong things.

Companies have mission statements to align activities to the direction where the company is headed.  If it is worth spending the time and the money for a company to get this clarified, why not for your own life?

I encourage you to visit http://msb.franklincovey.com/ and follow the simple process to create the first draft of your personal mission statement.

This is really a decision-making tool.  Once you have it, you have a reference point that enables you to say “yes” and “no” with integrity, and focus your energy and time only on those things that will help you fulfill your mission.

Quote: “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”  ― Goethe

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