Archive for October, 2016

Never on a Sunday

Hi Gerrit

roofGreetings from Singapore, where I am visiting my daughter Lindie, her husband Ryno and their three charming daughters Niene, Carli and Nadia for about 10 days.  How do you like the ceiling of my Singapore open-plan office?

Yesterday (Sunday) we had such a lot of fun… from enjoying the River Safari at the Singapore Zoo, having ice cream in the park, playing games in the swimming pool, enjoying one of Lindie’s delightful salads, lending a hand to put the daughters to bed and having a stimulating late-evening conversation after they were asleep.

2016-10-23-15-06-31And to realise, as I was getting into bed, that this has been the first day in many a month that I did not even think about “work”.  And that the only thing I used my laptop for, was to Google “Top things to do in Singapore”.

I experienced a sense of being totally relaxed, with batteries recharged for the week ahead, which will be a lovely blend of staying in touch with my business activities back home, thinking about the next few months of 2016 and beyond (by the way, retailers in SA, is it really necessary to have Christmas decorations out and playing Christmas carols in your stores from the middle of October?)  and enjoying the remainder of my trip.

Sunday reminded me again to “slow down to speed up”.  We need periods totally removed from “work” – one day a week, one long weekend (“3 nights away”) every 3 months and (ideally – I must admit I am not there yet!) one 21-day break once a year.

We cannot just rush and rush and then rush some more.  Stephen R Covey said that “effectiveness is the balance between production (P: working) and production capability/capacity (PC: preparing to work).  Yesterday that principle came to life for me again.

Here’s a suggestion: Review your calendar for the past 12 months and note your “PC” times.  Not just the breakaways, but also the time you set aside for formal or informal studies, self-development, reading, chillaxing…  I cannot give you the “magic percentage” of how much of your time should go into these activities – you will just know if you are slowing down enough!  What will your answer be to the question “Am I investing enough PC time in all areas of my life?”

Quote: “You will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied by life.”  ― Heather Schuck


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Is it raining?

On Saturday a few of us thought about going to the Postcard Café in the Jonkershoek valley at Stellenbosch on Sunday.  Concerns were raised about the weather since some rain was forecast.  We decided to go anyway.

And I am so glad we did!  With the clouds and two rain drops around, the scene was changing all the time and it was fun to experience the different “moods” of the environment.

A quote from Stephen R Covey’s work came to mind yesterday: “Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and performance. Proactive people carry their own weather with them.”

It’s pretty much the same for our personal productivity, isn’t it?  If our environment is “against us” (open plan office, interruptions, too many emails, you name it…) we can easily allow it to affect our attitude and performance, and blame our circumstances for our low productivity.

On the other hand, if we carry our own “productivity weather” with us, circumstances won’t matter so much and we can still have a productive attitude and give ourselves the best shot to do what we want to do in spite of circumstances.

Remember the CIA way: Control the things you can, Influence the things you can, Accept the rest and Adapt.  If you find yourself in circumstances that tend to mess with your productivity, do a “CIA” and see what you can do about it.

Have a great week and enjoy carrying your own weather with you!

Quote: “Let today be the day you stop being a victim of your circumstances and start taking action towards the life you want.”  – Steve Maraboli

What’s happening?

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.  

New book on leadership: Light on Leadership: Framing, Focusing and Finding Your Story, written by Igno van Niekerk, a leadership trainer, photographer, storyteller, an inspirational lecturer and a life-long learner. Light on Leadership is not only a book on Leadership. It is a story that will connect hearts and minds, transform leaders and readers and leave a legacy.   You can click here to have a look and to see if you would like to add this book to your leadership library.  It is available in both soft-cover and PDF versions.

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A bit of a cold kept me indoors this weekend and I decided to read a book that I have had since 1995 and has given me so  much to think about over the years – Jacob The Baker: Gentle Wisdom For A Complicated World. It’s about a baker named Jacob, who scribbled his thoughts on pieces of paper as he waited for the bread to rise.  One day, by accident, one of the pieces of paper was baked into a loaf, and the woman who bought the loaf was so moved by the words of wisdom she found inside it that she returned to the bakery the next day for more. In this way his simple sayings became known.

One that struck me yesterday is about overcoming fear, and I want to share that with you.

A community leader came to see Jacob, hoping to find peace of mind, an ease for his burden.

 The man was troubled by a repetitive dream that he did not understand.

 “Jacob, in my dream, I have travelled a long distance and am finally arriving at a great city.  But, at the entrance to the city, I am met by a tall soldier who says I must answer two questions before I am admitted.  Will you help me?”

 Jacob nodded.

 “The first question the soldier asks is ‘What supports the walls of a city?’”

 “That is easy.” Said Jacob.  “Fear supports the walls of a city.”

 “But what supports the fear?” asked the man. “For that is the second question.”

 “The walls,” answered Jacob.  “The fears we cannot climb become our walls.”

Do you also find that you want to try something new, something that could be of great value if you did it – but then you don’t do it because of one or other fear?  Fear of failure is right up there as one of the most common fears, as is fear of rejection.

Take a practical example.  Let’s say that you allow people to interrupt you and that you have difficulty telling them not to.  It’s the same with saying “no” – something many people struggle with, even though it will make them more productive working on their own things without interruption.   When I ask people why they allow interruptions and do things they should not be doing, they often say that they want people to like them, and that if they say “no” they will be seen as “not being a team player”.

This sounds like fear of rejection to me – and for as long as this fear is not “climbed” it will remain a “wall” to improved productivity and less stress.


How about “climbing” one of your fears this week, e.g. say “no” and do not allow people to interrupt you, or choose anything that you currently fear and then, to quote the title of a book by Susan Jeffer, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway?





Quote: “I refuse to please others at the expense of my emotional well-being. Even if it means saying “no” to people who are used to hearing ‘yes.’” — Unknown


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I noticed something very interesting on the promenade last week: The pipes in the railing have all been exposed to the same conditions and environment over the years, yet they were affected differently.

pipesYou see various degrees of rust, and in one instance a whole section was gone, as you can see in the picture, while another section was covered with protective plastic tubing to protect it from the elements.

Isn’t it pretty much the same with people?

In your family, team and in broader company, individuals are all exposed to the same conditions (like the culture, the way things are done), yet they respond differently and have different needs.  Take open-plan offices for example.  While some people seem to thrive in the hubbub, others are negatively affected and others actually need some kind of “protection” to be able to focus on their work.

Won’t you agree that life – and also life in the office – is not a “one size fits all” affair, and that we have to take different needs and personalities into account when assigning work to people and even consider this when allocating work stations?  In the same conditions we cannot expect all people to be equally productive.

The principle underpinning Basic Work Habit 7 of exceptionally productive people is “Slow down to speed up”.  So have a talk with your team members and take some time to understand what will improve their productivity.

A good example of this is the office of one of my clients, Santam Agriculture in Bloemfontein, where the team, working in an open-plan space, took some time to consider the impact of the open-plan office on their productivity as team and also on an individual level.  They then agreed that from 09:00 to 11:00 every day, interruptions will be limited to only serious matters and that this will be their “no fly zone” in which they can focus and work without interruptions.  The manager, Ingrid Orrock, let me know that the feedback is very positive and everyone is in agreement that this practice will continue since it makes a very positive contribution to productivity and collaboration between team members.

Take time to understand how you and the people in your team respond to the same environment, and then work in such a way that all can benefit.

I wish you a happy week of “fixing pipes”!


What’s happening?

“Membership site” thought: What do you think of this name for the membership site/productivity club that I’ve mentioned to you previously: “The Productivity Pit Stop Academy”, or just “The Productivity Academy”?  I checked out the meaning of “Academy” and came across the following definitions: “a place of study or training in a special field”, and also “a society or institution of distinguished scholars and artists or scientists that aims to promote and maintain standards in its particular field”.    And we will indeed be “a distinguished group of people studying personal and team productivity and will promote certain standards”  🙂

New book on leadership: Light on Leadership: Framing, Focusing and Finding Your Story, written by Igno van Niekerk, a leadership trainer, photographer, storyteller, an inspirational lecturer and a life-long learner. Light on Leadership is not only a book on Leadership. It is a story that will connect hearts and minds, transform leaders and readers and leave a legacy.

You can click here to have a look and to see if you would like to add this book to your leadership library.   It is available in both soft-cover and PDF versions.

Transparency:  I don’t make any commission should you choose to buy – I just want to make you aware of the book.

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