Archive for April, 2018

Every day, without fail, a group of guinea fowl make their way through the veld on the slopes of Devil’s Peak, just outside my apartment.

They scratch around in the same space day after day, trekking up the hill, looking for food.  And tomorrow they will be back for a repeat performance, revisiting the same space – and they will get something new to eat.

Part of my “mission statement” for improving productivity is “to continuously look for new ways to get the right things done with as little effort as possible”.

Observing the guinea fowl yesterday made me think about the effort and energy that can go into exploring new and different productivity tools versus revisiting “old” and time-proven principles and techniques.

Uncovering new things is exciting and I will never stop doing that, but revisiting familiar space and still finding “something to eat” can be equally satisfying.

I am therefore putting a moratorium on buying new books about productivity improvement.  I am going to review what I already have and rediscover  the truths that are waiting on the bookshelves.

I can only think that over the years you have tried may new thing, read many new books and attended new courses to improve yourself.  That’s great! I want to encourage you to also reflect on the things that you already have in your arsenal, and that have been most valuable to you in the past.  Scan your books and notes, dust them off and look at them with new eyes. “Ex bibliotheca semper aliquid novi…”

It could be a fun and rewarding journey – just ask the guinea fowl!

Quote: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.´- T. S. Eliot

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As I was working through my project list on Friday, I wanted to make sure I am investing time and effort in them, and not spending or wasting time on things that are really not worth the effort.


I revisited the GE “Return on Effort” matrix, and after a few minutes had my projects  prioritised, and a few of them trashed.


It was actually quite easy to do it.


You consider two aspects of a project: Effort required and Payoff.  (I cannot recall the saying exactly, but must have read somewhere that if you cannot explain something using a 2-dimensional matrix, you have not thought about it deeply enough…)



The matrix is self-explanatory – all you have to do is make a call on what each of the four criteria means to you in your situation.


One of my clients managed to “kill” about 10% of the activities in his “to do” system, because he realised that they were coming from “Time waster “ projects.


My challenge to you is to apply this simple method to evaluate your business and personal projects (or activities) and then prioritise them accordingly. 


Will you let me know what resulted, and how many you deleted?




Quote: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen R Covey

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During my recent visit to my daughter and her family in Singapore, we took Carli and Nadia to school and I was amazed to see the school principal, Andy, at the entrance to the school to say good morning to the children and parents when they arrive at the school.

I talked to him again later in the day and asked why he was doing it – it is not something I expected of a school principal.  One of the things he said struck me…

He said that he is the leader of the school, and wants to set an example – he is an upbeat person and he wants the children to arrive in a positive,  upbeat environment when they get to school.

He wants them to enjoy getting to school and that it must be a good experience and that he children must be happy in the school.

He also said that he missed the children when he was in his office, where he could easily sit and do “school principal stuff” rather than greeting children and parents.

He stated very clearly that he is sincere about this, and that it is not a “marketing ploy” to attract children to the school – I don’t think the school needs that, anyway!

It made me wonder… how easy is it not for managers and executives in the corporate world to rather stay in their office than be “out there” with their people – especially when times are tough.  We are all familiar with MBWA (Management By Walking Around), and maybe we should practice it a bit more?

How about “missing your people” when you don’t see them every day;  how about setting the tone for the culture of your team or business; and being sincere when you interact with others, and not just do it because the flavour of the month is now to say good morning to your team members.

Is your focus on the task or on the people that are helping you to get the job done? You may enjoy this article about task-oriented vs. people-oriented management styles.  There must be a balance and only you will know what is best for you and your team.

You are the leader of your team.  But you can only be a leader if you have willing followers.  Get the job done while treating your people in such a way that they enjoy coming to work and are happy in their jobs and in the organisation, feeling that they make a difference and a contribution.

When a gear in a machine breaks, you take it out and replace it. But it’s not the same with people. I think a leader should rather be a “gardener” than a “mechanic”. As leader, your job is to prepare the soil (culture), buy the best seed (people), then plant, feed and water the plants as they grow.  If you plant and take care of good tomato seeds, they have no choice but to develop and grow and bear fruit.

It’s the same with people – if you want your people to be productive (bear fruit), it is your job to ensure a productive environment with appropriate nourishment.

Like saying good morning to children as they arrive at school…

Quote: “Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again. “ – Og Mandino

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Do you also sometimes feel overwhelmed and even confused by “the 10 steps to increased productivity”, “6 things to avoid if you want to be more productive (backed up by science)”, “1001 time-saving tips for everyone in the world” and all the literally thousands of sources about productivity on the web?

That’s how I felt on Sunday, while looking at current trends in the field of personal productivity.

I wondered if there could not be just ONE unifying productivity principle – a fundamental truth that will guide me to live the life I want… just one “guiding light”…

I won’t jump out from under my 2-minute shower and shout “Eureka!” like Archimedes, but I may have had it in my possession all these years without seeing it as such.

It is the quote from The Art of Living by the Greek philosopher Epictetus: “First, say to yourself what you would be; then do what you have to do.”

 Why, for me, this could be “it”: I looked at it in this way:

  • First: This implies that there are more things to do in life, but before you tackle anything else, there is this thing that needs attention.  It’s called “prioritise”
  • Say to yourself:  The power of self-talk.  We talk to ourselves more than we talk to others. And most of our self-talk (so I read) is negative. We can change that.  Don’t wait for others to say to you what and how they think you should be – this is your choice.  Affirm it.
  • What you would be: Be specific.  And focus first on BE-ing, not DO-ing or HAVE-ing.  You are a human being, not a human doing or human having.  Do you want to be a great leader, father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, sibling, researcher, marketer, human being…?
  • Then do: Action is required!  Deciding that you want to be XYZ, does not make it happen all by itself.  You have t take action. But “do” comes after the word “then”… action follows clarity.
  • What you have to: Neglect what needs to be done, and emptiness follows.  You can only be fulfilled (have fulfilment) if your doing follows being.  It’s inside-out. But in the end you have to do what needs to be done…

Please drop me a line to let me know what you see as “the one” productivity principle for you.

Have a fun week!

Quote: “If I am what I have, and I if lose what I have, who then am I?” – Erich Fromm

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I just returned from a 10-day visit to my daughter Lindie and her family in Singapore – and what a wonderful experience it was – thanks, Lindie, Ryno, Niene, Carli and Nadia!

The diversity of just everything in Singapore again struck me – It’s the world’s most religiously diverse city, there are four official languages, it has a mix of Asian and European cultures, and much more…

Something else came to life again for me – the power of vision and how it unites and aligns people and communities.

Like becoming a Smart Nation, the purpose of which, as stated by Prime Minister Loong at its launch in 2014, is to make life and living better: “The need for Singapore to be a “smart nation”, using the latest technology to benefit the country, is about making life better for the people and more. “

Or, as expressed in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Message 2015: “We unite regardless of race, language, culture, religion.  Everybody will have his place…    this is not an Indian nation, this is not a Malay nation, this is not a Chinese nation.  We are going to have a multiracial nation in Singapore.”

Or, as Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew introduced his vision for a ‘garden city’: The ambitious idea was ‘to transform Singapore into a city with abundant lush greenery and a clean environment in order to make life more pleasant for the people’.   Today Singapore is not just known as  “a garden city” – it is “a city in a garden”.

Let’s make a giant leap from the vision for a country to your vision for your life, in all areas.  What do you see?  Is it clear?  Is it easy to understand and explain?  And importantly, why is that the vision you hold dear?

We talk a lot about being productive.  Yes, this is very important, but to what end? Why do you want to be more productive?  It touches on the very essence of living with purpose.

If you have not yet invested the time and effort into crafting your personal vision (mission) statement, I recommend that you visit this web site, and take the first steps.

Once you are clear on your vision/mission, then the action steps can be planned and executed.  But without the deeper “Why?”, the doing can be tough and often meaningless.

Quote: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” –  Friedrich Nietzsche

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