Archive for February, 2018

There were so many facets of life “on display” Saturday  in and around the relatively small space of the Company’s Garden in the centre of Cape Town!

Entering through the Arch for Arch next to the beautiful St George’s Cathedral, strolling up Government Avenue with the houses of Parliament and Tuynhuys on the left, having breakfast at the restaurant, watching Cosmic Collisions in the Iziko Planetarium, just strolling around – all these wonderful experiences were rounded off with a visit to the South African National Gallery in which you can find many beautiful and interesting exhibitions and collections.

One of rooms was – empty!  Yet it was filled with promise and excitement…

A sign on the door read: “Exhibition installation in progress.  Apologies for the inconvenience.”  A simple sign to let me know that, apart from empty space, there is (not yet) anything inside to see.

It’s all about managing expectations.  It’s telling me “You are welcome to enter, but don’t expect to see anything”.  It’s almost like drawing an imaginary line on the floor separating “live” exhibitions from future possibilities.  By the way, I did not see anyone enter the room!

It’s a simple technique that leaves nobody upset about encountering an empty room, and then choosing not to “cross the line” because they know what to expect on the other side of the line.

Why do we sometimes, if not often, struggle to manage expectations of others, using simple techniques?  Why do we allow people to cross our boundaries and interrupt us, which causes loss of focus and a decrease in productivity?

How difficult is it to send an email to work colleagues on a Monday (why don’t you do it today), communicating your priorities for the day and week, and requesting them to respect the boundaries (i.e. not interrupt you) because you are working on an “exhibition in progress” and need time to complete it successfully and in the most productive way?

In an open-plan office you can have an “expectation management” agreement (like one of my clients in Bloemfontein) that between 09:00 and 11:00 every day, everyone stays focused on their work without talking, emailing and calling each other.  It works.  It’s called their “No Fly Zone” and people get “shot down” if they were to enter the No Fly Zone.

You can do many simple things to manage expectations – even of yourself by yourself.  Write down what you would like to achieve today, and also write down a list of “enemy aircraft” that could break into your “exhibition installation in progress” space, and disrupt you while you work towards achieving your priorities for today.

Then shoot them down as they try to get your attention – it can be something simple like turning off email notifications, switching off your phone, and using something like the Pomodoro Technique to help you stay focused on high-value tasks.  Or just think and say “No”.

Be creative, and create your version of the “Exhibition installation in progress.  Apologies for the inconvenience”  sign!

Quote: “What you allow is what will continue.” – Unknown

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So South Africa has a new President, and I wish him all the best.

We also have a new First Lady, a new…  What’s next on the “new “list?  A new Deputy President is a must, and if one can believe the rumblings, a new Cabinet will be announced soon.  I wonder who will be in and who will be out?  Will we welcome back previous ministers, say hello to new ones and goodbye to others?

The mix of “the new” and “the old” came to mind as I was walking on this section (in picture) of The Boomslang Tree Canopy Walkway in Kirstenbosch on Sunday.  When The Boomslang was built, it was “the new” and the trees were “the old”.

The designers left space in “the new” so that there was still enough room for “the old” to become part of the overall new structure as it takes up its place within “the new”, without competing and screaming and shouting for more space, but just by being.

As human beings we strive for improvement.  We want to live better lives as we work to change our condition for the better.  Labelling something “New and Improved!” is not unfamiliar strategy!

You also want to improve your personal productivity and live a happier and more fulfilling life, otherwise you would not have joined our workshops or productivity mastery programme – and you would not have been reading this!

Surely this means you want to have “New and Improved” ways of managing your workflow, and get the right things done easier and faster?

In the “new”, should you not be leaving space for a bit of “the old” when starting out?  I have seen many people fail to make a meaningful change in their productivity because they wanted to “do it all” overnight – get a new computer, install the latest apps, reorganise their desk. Then they get overwhelmed and before they know it, they are back in their old unproductive habits.

Don’t fall into that trap.  When you learn new skills or gain new knowledge, implement “one at a time” and gradually replace old work habits with hew and improved work habits.

For example, and this is just my thinking, it is not necessary or even advisable to replace manual systems (like a paper-based diary) with a brand-new electronic system in one fell swoop.  Do it bit by bit and let both systems co-exist for a while.  As your trust in the new system grows, you can scale down using the old one.

Jim Rohn, entrepreneur, author and inspirational speaker, wrote “The formula for failure and success” (You can get an extract of the full article in my Dropbox at this link – I suggest you read, reflect and act on it…):   “Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. We do not fail overnight. Failure is the inevitable result of an accumulation of poor thinking and poor choices. To put it more simply, failure is nothing more than a few errors in judgment repeated every day.

Now why would someone make an error in judgment and then be so foolish as to repeat it every day? The answer is because he or she does not think that it matters.”

He continues, later in the same article: “Now here is the great news. Just like the formula for failure, the formula for success is easy to follow: It’s a few simple disciplines practiced every day.”

Note the word “few”!  Rome was not built in one day – neither will your new productivity improvement system.  Take it slowly but surely, and feel free to contact me at any time if you need assistance.

Thought from George McKeown in his book Essentialism (not verbatim): “It is better to make a 1 000 metres progress with one thing than to make 1 metre progress with 1 000 things.”


What’s happening?

 Want to become a Master of Personal Productivity?  Drop me a line for more info about my new programme that kicks off in April.  You  will work with me individually and be supported within a small group as you enjoy living a productive, happy and fulfilling life.  Click here to send me an email and I will contact you with information.

Get your “right things” done easier and faster using Outlook: Click here to let me know if this sounds like something of value to you (and even your team or other individuals in your company), and I will contact you to discuss.  Please include a phone number so I can call to understand your situation and needs a bit better.

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Missing something?

I noticed this interesting pattern on steps close to Milton Beach  in Sea Point.

From where I was standing, it was a seemingly zig-zag pattern, but when you look at it from the top of the stairs, where a friend of mine, Alicia, was standing, it

was a very different pattern, with half the detail missing.

Now I could stand at the bottom of the stairs and you at the top and we could both describe what we see, but because we have different view points (of the same reality), what we describe is different.



I am not right and you are not wrong, or the other way round.  It’s just that we see the same thing differently.

We can get into a fight about it, or we can change places so I see it from your point of view, and vice versa.


Productivity point: Make sure you get the full picture of whatever you are busy with whether you work a project with others, or you just need other’s perspectives on your own project.

To do this, practice one on our basic work habits, viz. Slow Down to Speed Up, as well as the well-known Habit 5 Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (having been part of the local company representing Covey’s work and having the privilege to teach his work for about 8 years, make it difficult for me not to reference touch points with his work!).  He brilliantly illustrates the power of this productivity principle in this 8-and-a-half-minute video clip.

When you take the time up front to “fill in the gaps” and see all the links in a pattern, then you will execute much faster and won’t waste time defending your viewpoint if it is based on incomplete information.

Quote: “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” – Robert McCloskey

What’s happening?

Want to become a Master of Personal Productivity?  Drop me a line for more info about my new programme that kicks off in April.  You  will work with me individually and be supported within a small group as you enjoy living a productive, happy and fulfilling life.  Click here to send me an email and I will contact you with information.

Get your “right things” done easier and faster: Click here to let me know if this sounds like something of value to you (and even your team or other individuals in your company), and I will contact you to discuss.  Please include a phone number so I can call to understand your situation and needs a bit better.

Read Full Post »

What a lovely unplanned Sunday morning!  I got up and couldn’t decide whether I wanted to go to Kirstenbosch or the Mouille Point Promenade.  As I was driving out of the complex, I decided in the moment to go to Signal Hill and Lion’s Head instead.

And what a good choice it turned out to be!

I parked close to the Kramat and took the path to the beginning of the easy walk up Lion’s Head, from where I walked to the first bench from where I could see Camps Bay beach. For now, that’s far enough, but hopefully I will be able to reach the top in a few months’ time!

This experience was not part of a 5-year plan or even a weekly plan.  It just happened.

The more I think about it and live it, the more I like to think that one has to develop and maintain a mindset of “in the moment” flexibility and spontaneity and listen to your intuition about what the best things is to do in a given moment.

Yes, by all means have things to do in mind (“planned”, even) e.g. to enjoy the morning out of doors.  But how about not planning in so much detail that it stifles creativity and prevents us from making choices on the spur of the moment.

Of course there are things that have to happen as per pre-planned schedule – that’s not what I am thinking about.  But let’s create more open, uncommitted time slots in our calendars.  Avoid back-to-back meetings like the plague – you cannot be in two places at the same time when the one meeting ends, and the next one begins.

Make it part of your meeting culture to have at least 30 minutes between meetings as the standard operating procedure.

I am not saying you are currently doing anything wrong – it’s just my two cents worth: Plan for “big rocks” (e.g. enjoy Sunday morning outdoors) , not “pebbles” (e.g. at 07: 10 I will take my first step up the mountain).  You may find it valuable to view the short video clip of Stephen Covey demonstrating the importance of doing this.

The few times I “pebble-planned” my day, completely filling it with minute by minute activities and meetings; when something changed, I had to re-plan everything.  There was no flexibility. Just frustration and stress. I drove myself crazy!

What works better for me now, is to plan and schedule at a “higher” level and let the details sort themselves out.  E.g. plan a block of time for “communication”, rather than planning every phone call and email by the minute. Also, leave LOTS of open space in the day… Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn sets aside 90 to 120 minutes of unscheduled time every day.

This just works much better for me;  I have more flexibility and much less stress should things go awry.

You will have to play around and find the approach that works best for you – I suggest you include “trellis planning” in your mix, where you plan the framework (the “big rocks” for the month/week/day) yet leave space for the plant (i.e. the details of the day) to use the framework, but also have the freedom to also fill the gaps.

Enjoy your quest!


Quote:  “Self-education through play and exploration requires enormous amounts of unscheduled time—time to do whatever one wants to do, without pressure, judgment, or intrusion from authority figures. That time is needed to make friends, play with ideas and materials, experience and overcome boredom, learn from one’s own mistakes, and develop passions.”  ― Peter Gray



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