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I am so glad that I met Kevin Horsley, international grandmaster of memory and author of  Unlimited Memory: How to Use Advanced Learning Strategies to Learn Faster, Remember More and be More Productive, a few years ago and that we could catch up over a cup of coffee on Friday.

I mentioned our new “8 Basic Work Habits That Will Skyrocket Productivity” workshop to him.  He asked me what the habits were and I named them.  “That’s only seven”, Kevin said when I was “finished”.  I forgot “Finish what you start”!

In the next 5 minutes he helped me to use a method (“number-shape pegs”) to remember the habits very easily by associating information I already know well (the numbers 1 to 8) with new things I want to remember, e.g. the names of the habits by associating it with the numbers using a very vivid picture of what the number represents.

Check it out below. 

Number (of habit) Shape See the shape as vividly as possible (weird and wacky imagery allowed!) Description of habit
1 Pencil Pencil writing in a brain Think Productive
2 Swan Swan on misty lake, wearing glasses with wipers so it can see clearly Clarity: Make your work visible and actionable
3 Camel (Two humps on its back in the shape of a 3) Camel walking on a red line Alignment: All actions must be aligned with one’s priorities
4 Boat sail People on a boat all looking at a whale while all the time focusing their  binoculars Focus: Stay focused on the task at hand and avoid distractions and interruptions
5 Snake Snake sliding through an electric adaptor plug Adapt when priorities change
6 Elephant (with trunk above its head) Elephant storming through the finish line Completion: Finish what you start
7 Fishing rod and line Lazy guy relaxes and takes time out fishing and just very slowly reels in the catch Slow down to speed up
8 Snowman Snowman reading a book Learn and improve

 

This method is particularly useful to remember lists of things, and here is how I will use it to help people in our workshops remember the 8 basic work habits very easily:

 

peg1

 

Here are the associations (pardon my handwriting!):

peg2

 

Thanks, Kevin!   Oops, what is habit 6 again…ah, the elephant finishing!

If you have to/want to remember any list, try this method – it works.

Quote: “Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.” – Albert Schweitzer

What’s happening: “Productivity Breakthrough: 8 Basic Work Habits That Will Skyrocket Your Productivity” public workshops for Outlook users in Bloemfontein (7 October), Johannesburg (14 October, 8 December), Durban (4 November), Upington (11 November) Cape Town (18 November), or invite us in-house.

Remember to have fun this week!

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There was a great response to the “Work Habit Evaluation” I suggested on Monday – thank you!

I am happy to share the results with you.  The Work Habits are arranged  from the one people find the most challenging at the top.  (Note: percentages are rounded so won’t add up to 100.)

28% Work Habit 4 Focus: Stay with the task at hand – no multitasking, minimal distractions and interruptions.  Turn off notifications.  Say “no”.

21% Work Habit 2 Clarity: Make your work visible and actionable.  Your Inbox is not your work; you have to process your Inbox and then work in your Calendar and Tasks.

20% Work Habit 6 Completion: Finish what you start.  Beware of perfectionism and procrastination.

11% Work Habit 3 Alignment: Make sure that the actions in your calendar and task lists support the achievement of your current priorities.  Delete the rest.

10% Work Habit 7 Slow down to speed up: This is the paradox of high performance.  Things need to be done at the appropriate pace.  People who rush make 25% more mistakes.

4% Work Habit 1 Think “Productive”

3% Work Habit 5 Adaptability: Be flexible and adapt to changes in context. Renegotiate commitments with yourself and others. Under-schedule.

3% Work Habit 8 Lifelong learning: There is always a better way of doing things; continuous improvement.

 

I really appreciate all the feedback because it helps me to review the content and focus of our new “Productivity Breakthrough: 8 Basic Work Habits That Will Skyrocket Your Productivity” workshop to ensure we address the  areas where you and others who will do the workshop will benefit from most.

Information about our public workshops in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Upington is available here in case you are interested.

Once again – a sincere thank you for participating!

Have a fun and productive day.

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When I went outside to enjoy the 270 degree panoramic view from Table Bay to Table Mountain a few days ago, I saw that this part of Cape Town has been turned into “City of Gold by the sea”.

gold

 

Just a few minutes later the sun disappeared behind the clouds and the magic was gone.

A friend of mine, who is a keen photographer, explained the “golden hour” in photography to me and Mr Google further enlightened me:  “In photography, the golden hour (sometimes known as magic hour, especially in cinematography) is a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer compared to when the Sun is higher in the sky.”

It reminded me of what Tony Robbins calls “The Hour of Power” and of an article I read in FastCompany about what successful people do in their first hour the day.

This, together with my experience of the golden hour in Cape Town has given me a deeper appreciation for the value of the “productivity routines” we have included in our Productivity Breakthrough programme.  We do not include the “at home routines” but focus on what you do with your first and last 30 minutes of your day “at the office” and the last hour on a Friday as the sun sets over your work week.

These are “golden hour” opportunities that you can use to preview/review your day, align the actions in your calendar and tasks with your priorities, reflect on what you can learn from the day to make tomorrow better and to keep your self management system up to date.

I am not talking rocket science!  Just think how different things would become if you asked these questions at the end of every day: “What happened today?  What worked?  Wat did not work?  What can I learn from today that will make tomorrow better?  Who did I interact with today – any closing calls to make or emails to send?  What does tomorrow look like?  Anything I need to prepare?”

The “Good Start”, “Strong Finish” and “Weekly Productivity Pit Stop” routines are powerful, yet many people find it easy to allow other things to steal away these time slots.

Why?

I think Jim Rohn has the answer: “It doesn’t seem to matter.  A minor oversight, a poor decision or a wasted hour generally doesn’t result in an instant and measurable impact. More often than not, we escape from any immediate consequences of our deeds.”

I am more than happy to share examples of what our clients do in their morning, afternoon and weekly routines.  Happy to share that with you:  –  Click here to pop over to my web site where your article is waiting.

When you get this information, schedule 30 minutes every morning and afternoon and one hour per week to see what this can do for you.  I encourage you to ring-fence these time blocks and just do it.

You will be happy that you took advantage of these “golden hours”!

Quote:   “One of the exciting things about the formula for success—a few simple disciplines practiced every day—is that the results are almost immediate. As we voluntarily change daily errors into daily disciplines, we experience positive results in a very short period of time.” – Jim Rohn

What’s happening? Here’s an opportunity not to be missed. If increasing personal productivity is important for your company and there are more than 50 Outlook users in your company, you may qualify to join our new series of open programmes as my guest to experience and evaluate our new “Productivity Breakthrough (Outlook Edition)” workshop. Click here for the details and to apply for your seat(s).  I will be in touch within a few business days to discuss this opportunity with you.

Have a fun day.

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This week’s focus point: What a learning-rich week I had in Upington! I did a few Productivity Breakthrough workshops there and went to the Mall for something to eat in the evenings.  After sitting down at a restaurant Wednesday evening I was given the menus. The mmenuain menu (as you can see in the picture) was torn and dirty and the other menu (drinks or desserts) was dirty on the outside and on the inside it had so much dirt and “stuff” sticking together that I could scarcely open it. I called the server and asked her what would go through her mind if she received menus like these when visiting a restaurant and she said “What else is broken and dirty here?”   My thoughts exactly.  If they care so little about the state of their menus, what does the kitchen look like, and the chef, their system to supply and deliver food… Trust is replaced with doubt and suspicion. Have a quick look at the space on and around your desk.  Imagine you were looking at someone else’s desk – someone you do not know.  You are looking at their “menu”. Messy deskWhat’s the first thought that goes through your mind along the lines of “If this person’s desk looks like the one in the picture, what is their __________________ (fill in the blank) like?”  This person’s thinking?  Planning?  Organising skills?  (Self) management skills?   Would you trust this person and delegate important tasks to him/her? Would you promote him? Would you put them in charge of an important project that requires orderly planning, organising and execution? <Please note that I am not suggesting a squeaky clean empty desk but an orderly environment.> Now go back a few paragraphs, read it again and replace “their”, “them” and “him/her” etc. with “you” and “me”. If your answers are “yes”, then well done. If you don’t like what you see and feel that the “menu” your work space represents is torn and dirty, click here to send me an email, enter DESK in the subject line and I will send you some tips on creating a more productive environment.

Monday Morning Perspective:   “In the scope of a happy life, a messy desk or an overstuffed coat closet is a trivial thing, yet I find – and I hear from other people that they agree – that getting rid of clutter gives a disproportionate boost to happiness.”  – Gretchen Rubin

What’s happening? Public “Productivity Breakthrough (Outlook Edition)” workshops are back on the calendar in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.  Click here to get your personal Productivity Breakthrough – see you there!

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What a fascinating week!  I spent about 22 hours on the road driving from Cape Town to Bloemfontein last Sunday and then came back on Saturday. I wanted to experience the wide open spaces of the Karoo and Free State again…and what a joy it was!

And I learned three important lessons.

I pulled off for an hour or so at Hanover, where I used to live 50 years ago – what a sobering experience. Gone were the beautiful flower beds my mother used to have.  In their place there was … nothing.  At first I thought back to the way things used to be, and why it had deteriorated to where it is now.  But then I was served Lesson 1 from this trip: “What was, was.  What is, is. Move on.”

Lesson 2 came from Eric, a trainee petrol attendant. He was all smiles and I asked him if he was happy.  “Yes, I am very very happy!” he said.  I asked him why. He said:”I had a vision. I am going to be a millionaire. I am going to have a school and teach children who cannot afford to go to other schools how to use a computer.  I will charge them R200 per month.  I have already started.  At the moment I am working on my capital.  Now I have to focus. Then it will happen.  I am going to be a millionaire.”

A simple, straight forward lesson in productivity:

  • Have a clear picture of what you want to achieve.
  • Know why you want to achieve this outcome.
  • Make a plan to get here.
  • Stay focused on the right actions.

Eric’s lesson can work for you and me today and every day. What do you want to achieve today?  Do you have a clear picture of what a successful day looks like? Write down your plan of how to achieve it – this can be a simple “to do” list.  Then eliminate distractions (email notifications, interruptions, distractions from your own mind, Facebook, Twitter, SMS, WhatsApp….) and all other activities that will take you away from your goal for the day, so that you can stay focused on the things that matter most for today.

Doing this will give you a much better chance of getting in  bed tonight knowing that you have done what you wanted to get done today.

Lesson 3 came from two of my Bloem friends. I stayed with Igno van Niekerk and his family (if you are a photographer check out Igno’s site) for a few days.  Christo Spies, who is a keynote speaker and mental performance coach and has worked with some of South Africa’s top sportsmen and women, was so kind as to give me three complimentary days in their lovely guest house, Matanja.  They gave me the opportunity to do some work with them in the evenings and both of them implemented the things that we discussed right away and were very happy that they did.  Lesson 3:  How often don’t we learn something new (read a book, attend a course, get some coaching…) and then not do anything with our new knowledge?  Reinforce and cement new knowledge by applying it as soon as you can.

Productivity quote:  “An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” – Jack Welch

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I have recently been likened to a baboon collecting food in a mealie land.

As it moves from one end of the mealie land to the other it picks a cob and puts it under its arm. Then it picks another cob and puts it under its arm – but in the process the one that was there already, falls out.

So when the baboon reaches the other end of the field it has been very busy collecting food but still only has one cob to show for its efforts.

Part of my “mission statement” is to continuously look for new ways in which I can get more of the right things done with less effort, and when I find it, to tell as many people as I can about it.  But can you see the danger ahead unless I tweak it?

I sometimes buy a new book and before I finished reading it, I have already bought another one – and may never finish reading the one I already have!  I try a new methodology before integrating what I already have into my life.

I think the “productivity sound bite” is to “sweat your assets” before rushing after the flavour of the month book, idea or guru.

Maybe this is a good time of the year to ask if we are making the most of the productivity assets – time, money, knowledge, skill, technology, ideas, colleagues, relationships… – we already have.

Why not make a list of your personal productivity assets and rather than looking for something new in the new year, think how you can immediately make better use of what you already have?

 

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One night during my stay in Upington last week, there was a bit of thunder and lightning with some rain – nothing of which could have happened if the conditions were not right.

If the conditions in nature are right, things happen.

The same is true for us.  To be productive, our “conditions” have to be right.

It can be simple things like getting enough sleep, exercising and eating well.  Or having a routine you follow in the morning (for planning) or afternoon (for review and learning).  Or saying “no” more often.

Here are some of the things successful people routinely do first thing in the morning.

And here’s a summary:

  • Tony Robbins practices gratitude and visualization.
  • Tim Cook does his email at 4:30 a.m.
  • David Karp checks his email when he arrives at the office.
  • Mark Twain recommended doing the hardest task first.
  • Howard Schultz believes in getting priorities established.
  • Geraldine Laybourne believes in helping the next generation.
  • Laura Vanderkam recommends writing a challenging report or email.
  • John Grisham believes in a strict routine.
  • Todd Smith always greets colleagues appropriately.
  • Benjamin Franklin always wanted to be helpful in the morning.
  • Steve Murphy devotes morning time to planning.
  • Tim Armstrong recommends learning and listening.

Everyone does something different but everyone knows and creates the conditions that get their day off to a great start.

How about you?  Do you know the conditions that make you productive?

Take some time every day this week to write down the things that are “in place” when you are in top gear productivity mode.  Or what is missing when you slump into low productivity.  Then use these insights to create your own conditions for high productivity.

Have fun!

Productivity quote: ”The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.”  – Mike Murdock

Productivity Survey – make your mark!  I am doing a productivity survey to identify “productivity handbrakes” – the things that hold people back from enjoying happier and more productive lives. Please join in!  Your feedback will assist us to create up to date material based on real needs so we can design our services and products to exactly meet your needs.  Click here to give your opinion.  Thanks

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