Archive for March, 2017

Recently my sister was a passenger in a car and they were passing a school bus when some of the children made rude hand signs directed at the people in the car. 


The driver of the car, let’s call him Zeb, said that he wanted to find out which school the children were from, and speak to them about their behaviour, telling them that it was not something they should do again because firstly, it’s not the right thing to do and it may also bring their school in disrepute.


He managed to get the attention of the bus driver, and signalled him to pull off the road and stop behind him.  So far so good, but then the bus took much longer to stop than the car!  It rammed into the back of the car.  To make things worse, the car did not belong to Zeb, but was “on loan” from a well doer, and my sister may have suffered injuries to her neck.


When I heard this story, I thought about the levels of control we have.  There are things we have CONTROL over, or what we can INFLUENCE, or things we have no control over and ACCEPT AND ADAPT might be the best strategy.


Zeb must have thought that he could influence the behaviour of the children – and maybe he did.  But at what cost?  And who knows if they sniggered after he left the bus, just to do the same to the people in the next passing car?  Was this event in the INFLUENCE or ACCEPT AND ADAPT zones?


 Victor Frankl, in his magnificent book Man’s Search for Meaning (a 98-page PDF is available here), writes: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” 


What happens to us is not as important as how we choose to respond. One of the things we should consider in choosing our response, is our level of control over whatever is happening, whether that is children in a school bus making rude hand signs, a taxi driver trying to push us out of the way, a colleague asking us to help with something that has nothing to do with our own key performance areas, or anything that takes us into “no control”.


I asked my sister to get the permission of her colleague to share their story with you.  She read it to him and he said that on reflection, he realised that his action was hasty, and that he could have considered different ways of dealing with the situation.  To quote him: “It is bad to learn the hard way that a too quick response can have negative results.”


Our challenge for the week: Focus energy and time on things that you can control and influence.


Publishing the Monday Memos… Thank you for your feedback so far!  It seems that a 100-page book (to be published on Amazon etc. is the most popular pick.  I will be using my recovery period to make the selection!  If you want to add you voice to the input – which I will greatly appreciate – it’s only four clicks at this web page.


Public Productivity Breakthrough workshops.  Get information about our public “Productivity Breakthrough for Outlook Users” workshops in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban.


Custom Productivity Breakthrough workshops for your company. Get information about our in-house “Productivity Breakthrough for Outlook Users” workshop customised for your business.


Enjoy the rest of your week!


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I was siting on a bench at Three Anchor Bay, watching the world go by, when I noticed something strange – let me rather say something that looked strange to me…

I saw three people sitting on the beach, each with a kayak paddle, rowing in the sand as if they were on a kayak on the water.  Then I saw their instructor and realised that this was not “something strange” going on, but people practicing the moves on dry ground so that when they are ready to put their kayaks in the water, they will know what to do.

It’s a very good example of what Stephen R Covey called the P/PC balance – the balance between Production (laying the “golden egg”) and Production Capability (the health and wellness of the goose that lays the golden eggs).  He said that maintaining this balance is the essence of effectiveness.

Ensure you are capable of doing something rather than just jumping and trying to do it – and maybe drowning in the process.

When you delegate work to someone, don’t accept that they can actually do it.  If they cannot, both they and you may drown.

Effective delegation depends on the trustworthiness of the person you are entrusting with the task.  To quote Covey again: Trustworthiness requires character (want to do it) and competence (can do it).  An abundance in the one does not make up for a shortfall in the other.

So even if the person you are sending out to fish on a kayak is the nicest person in the world (and it might be you!) but has not practiced the skills “on dry ground”, it’s probably not going to work.

Don’t rush into action without proper preparation.

Quote: “Proper preparation prevents poor performance.” – Attributed to many people.

Publishing the Monday Memos… Thank you for giving feedback!  I was happy to see that 79% of respondents find the memos valuable/very valuable.  50 memos per issue was the most popular option, closely followed by 100.  I am meeting with someone on Tuesday to work out the best way to get this done.  Watch this space!


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The 40th anniversary of the largest timed cycle race in the world, the Cape Town Cycle Tour, was scheduled to take place on Sunday.  But Mother Nature intervened.  With 100 km/h winds expected for most of the way, and after seeing what happened to those who did start earlier, the Tour was cancelled.


My clear vision was also cancelled – I went outside to see if I could find the cause of a disturbing noise as the wind bellowed down Devil’s Peak.  Just to have my glasses being blown off my face.  And they didn’t just fall down; no. they were blown away parallel to the ground and are probably still flying around somewhere.  Fortunately, I have a “previous edition” available so at least I can get around.


That’s the power of nature – and we cannot do anything to stop it.  Something that is natural can blow technology and plans and events away. 


That’s the power of principle. As Stephen Covey liked to say, “You cannot break principles; you can only break yourself against them”.


The framework for our Productivity Breakthrough programme is “8 Work Habits to Rapidly and Sustainably Increase Productivity”, and each habit is built on principles and processes – the what and the how. (If you would like me to send you a copy if my article about these work habits, please click here.)


The principle underpinning Work Habit 5 is to adapt to changes in your context. There is no value in kicking against the pricks.  You can either choose to align your thinking, planning and living with this principle – or break yourself against it.


You may be thinking “How can I adapt when my calendar is overbooked?”  The trick is to accept reponsibility for what shows up in your Calendar.  You say “yes” to meeting invitations.  You choose to book time for your own work.


Also, choose to keep free time in your calendar.  I refer you to the article of Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, about The Importance of Scheduling Nothing.


If you don’t take charge of your life (e.g. calendar), other people will. 


Be well prepared with “free space” so you can adapt when the South Easter blows, as it surely will!



Quote: “The solution, as simple as it sounds, is to periodically schedule nothing. Use that buffer time to think big, catch up on the latest industry news, get out from under that pile of unread emails, or just take a walk. What ever you do, just make sure you make that time for yourself — everyday and in a systematic way — and don’t leave unscheduled moments to chance. The buffer is the best investment you can make in yourself and the single most important productivity tool I use.” – Jeff Weiner

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Sitting at my desk, I am watching a family of guinea fowl outside, running up and down, seemingly without purpose or direction.  They sprint along the fence, then stop, turn around and sprint back to where they just came from.  And this has been going on for the last half an hour or more.  And every day it’s the same thing!

It makes me think of my own behaviour at times over the weekend – now doing this, then doing that and in the process not achieving much except for losing focus (see picture) and increase my frustration about not getting things done.


The Basic Work Habits of Focus and Completion brought me back to sanity, and I can recommend that you apply it as well when you find yourself flitting between things – I see one definition for “flitting” is “To move quickly from one condition or location to another.”  Maybe you call it multitasking or even better, switch-tasking.  Every time we switch from one thing to the other, there is a productivity cost attached.

A simple trick helped me.  I set a timer for 20 minutes and kept working on just one thing until the timer went off. I got up, went outside for a few minutes and then returned to the same task (and trick) until it was completed.  Then rewarded myself with a short break and continued.  It worked!

Maybe this is something you can try as well when next you are faced with many tasks, all to be done “at the same time”.  They can’t.  Take them one at a time until done.

Quote: “You can do two things at once, but you can’t focus effectively on two things at once.” ― Gary Keller

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