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This was the sight that greeted me on Wednesday evening during dinner with Igno van Niekerk and his family in Bloemfontein – a malva pudding with a crust (intact when I first saw it) so seductive that I could not help but have some… thanks, Arné!

I wonder what my response would have been if I did not see the attractive crust first, but only the “inside”…  Probably not as enthusiastic, even though the appearance itself does not affect the taste.

How can we make our everyday actions more “attractive” in such a way that it draws us into doing them?  Almost “seduces” us into action?  A long “to-do” list is surely not he most attracting thing to look at.  How can we get ourselves to get stuck in and enjoy the sweetness of just starting with something and then sticking with it until it is done?

Maybe even a simple thing like renaming a “to-do” list to a “things to choose from”, or a “potential list” or “valuable things to choose from”  list, then putting it into your “evaluation oven” to form the most delicious crust on the one with the most potential, can attract us into action?

The 15-Second Principle” by Al Secunda provides a technique for “getting stuck into” doing something with determination and enthusiasm: “My goal was to figure out a more nurturing and efficient way to engage, return to and complete the things that are dearest to our hearts.”

Dedicating just fifteen seconds each day to a goal you really want to achieve will remove the blocks, build the momentum and provide enough power to get you exactly where you want to go, he argues.  The actual amount of time dedicated, he explains, doesn’t matter. The fifteen seconds is a minimum, an amount that no one could possibly begrudge. What is important is that it gets you moving (geekpreneur).

If you have a moment, please let me know what’s your “secret crust”-approach to starting your day with a bang and do the thing that has the most value for you down the line, even if it is not the easiest thing to do?

If you don’t yet have one, why not give “the 15-second principle” a go?

Quote: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

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3 – 8 July 2018. Looks like just another few days jotted down somewhere. But what made them very special is that I shared them at Vleesbaai with too many family members to name in this limited space!

60 years ago, to the month, my father, brothers and assistants built our holiday house there (I was 8 years old at the time and my job was to take them tea!). Today we can still enjoy the fruit of his decision to build that house.

I went for a walk along the rocky coastline and sat down at a pool to enjoy some “being” time, watching small waves spill over into the pool, creating bubbles on the surface of the pool.

As the surface of the pool returned to calm, the bubbles started “popping”. I was amazed to see the impact of that insignificant event. As you can see in the picture, the hardly visible bubble (“a thin sphere of liquid enclosing air or another gas”) had an expanding “ripple effect” when it popped.

And there was nothing magic inside the bubble – just air that was captured in the thin sphere of liquid and then released again into the same environment from which it came – with the ripple effect…

What can you and I capture from our own daily experiences, and release that back into our environment with a bang and an ever-expanding impact?

What are the waves of insight, learning , questioning and reflecting that we allow into the pools of our minds? Do you read? Do you have constructive conversations (“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. – Eleanor Roosevelt”) with people whose opinions differ from yours? Do you sometimes sit at the seaside and just “be”? Are you open-minded to see and learn from small things?

A more important question might well be: “Do you CREATE the opportunity for capturing what life washes into your mind, creating bubbles that you can later pop and spread what you have captured?” Are you putting yourself in the place with most potential for “capturing and popping” (learning and sharing)?”

For this week: Let’s be humble and open-minded enough to learn. Let’s allow the waves of life flow into our consciousness, capturing something of value in a few bubbles. Write it down. Let it mature. Then seek out or create opportunities to pop the bubbles and let value ripple out at your team meetings, one-on-one conversations and family meetings.

Please share one of your “bubbles” with me by Friday and I will post a collection of “value bubbles” next week!

Quote: “In vain have you acquired knowledge if you have not imparted it to others.” – Deuteronomy Rabbah
Have a bubbly week!

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When I opened the curtains on Sunday morning during a heavy downpour, I saw that my apartment was about to be flooded. The drain must have been blocked. I got into shorts, grabbed my long-handled shoehorn and, doing my best not to get soaked under an umbrella that was too small to do its job properly, and did what I thought needed to be done to clear the drain.

It worked, the water subsided and gushed out from the other side of the drainage system and onto the slopes of Devil’s Peak.

I doubt that the designer, and after that the whole supply chain that got the shoehorn to me, even in their wildest dreams thought that it might be used to clear a drain!

How often don’t we experience “flooding” in our lives? Whether it’s from email, “too much to do and not enough time”, our inability to simplify our lives, by not pruning things that have gone “dead” or now have little value, not saying “no” when we should, not delegating work to others or just being over-optimistic about what we can achieve within a given time-frame?

Maybe it is time to use an unconventional approach (or a conventional approach that you have just not been using) that may come with some associated discomfort, to address the overload?

A few possibilities that could prevent your life from being “flooded”, and “drain the swamp”:

  • Develop your personal mission statement and use it as a critical decision-making tool that helps you say “yes” and “no”.
  • Prune and declutter your life (including something simple like the desktop of your computer screen). Here is an article about pruning, but I suggest you Google for “prune your life” and choose what rings true for you.
  • Say NO (I mean – really say “no”), even if people have become used to you saying yes, all the time. Giving them your energy and effort.
  • Communicate your priorities to others – and then protect them (your priorities – not the others!).

You already instinctively know what to do. Maybe it is time to work up the courage to just do it?

Let me know how it goes…

Quote: “Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list. They flood the open spaces in their time with lists of meetings and minutia – even during times of stress and fatigue.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Now put on those gumboots, use an unusual approach and drain your overload!

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I learned so much in Bloemfontein last week.

Walking with Igno in his labyrinth on his family’s plot taught me that a  labyrinth is “an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. It represents a journey to our own centre and back again out into the world. Labyrinths have long been used as meditation and prayer tools.”  I never knew this…

On a more mundane level, I learned very quickly to change my old habit of using the indicator (on the left) and windscreen wiper (on the right) controls, because they were now on the “wrong side” of the steering column – out of my comfort zone.

If I stayed in my comfort zone and kept on cleaning the windscreen instead of letting other motorists know that I am in the process of changing direction, it could have serious consequences.  To prevent a negative outcome, I changed my habits rather quickly!

I then thought again about the statement that it takes 21 days to form a new habit.  It took me just a few kilometres and not even an hour to get into the habit of using the right lever for the intended outcome.  I then came across an article by James Clear where I learned that this thing about changing a habit in a minimum of 21 days seems to be a myth, as  that statement  is based on observations in the early 1950’s of a Dr Maxwell Maltz – not a scientific study.

I then came across the work of Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London She and her research team decided to figure out just how long it takes to form a habit. In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, they found that it took between 18 and 254 days.  “With repetition of a behaviour in a consistent context, (my emphasis – GC) automaticity increases….”

From James Clear: “In other words, if you want to set your expectations appropriately, the truth is that it will probably take you anywhere from two months to eight months to build a new behaviour into your life — not 21 days.”

To change the habit of brushing your teeth using your left hand to using your right hand most probably (I am guessing) will not take a very long time (for one thing, the context is consistent).

But to implement (after attending a learning event like my Outlook Productivity workshop) a new working habit in a fast-changing, inconsistent office context can take much longer.   Why?  Is the prime cause maybe the “inconsistent context” into which one is immersed “back at the office”?   If so, how does one create a consistent context?

One cannot always control your context, but here is my “tip of the week”: To the extent that it is possible, keep your context consistent.  Create a “rhythm calendar” for doing certain things at certain times.  This can mean to go to gym every day at 5am, have lunch at 1pm, take a ling weekend with tree nights away every quarter…

Maybe we could take some time out (slow down to speed up) to make the journey to our own centres and then go back into the world with a rhythm that matches what is important to us, not be swallowed by what the world wants from us?

Quote:  “With a labyrinth, you make a choice to go in – and once you’ve chosen, around and around you go. But you always find your way to the center.” –  Jeff Bridges

 

 

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As I was driving from Cape Town to Stellenbosch on Sunday morning, I saw one or two Morris Minor cars on the road, travelling at good speed despite their apparent maturity levels…

The sign on the bumper caught my attention: “National Rally – Johannesburg – 2018”.  That took me to learn more about the “Morris Minor Owners Club”…

The Morris Minor was first introduced at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1948 – and still going strong enough to participate in a national rally!

70 years is a long time in the life of a car model, yet it still takes its occupants from A to B safely.  Maybe not as fast (read efficiently) as some 2018 model cars, but still as effective in achieving the goal of getting from A to B.

How about the Facit mechanical calculator?  It did what it was designed to do, but today’ s handheld calculators give us the same answers – just so much faster.

This is just two examples of products built using the technology if the time.  Today, technology enables us to get the same results faster.

But does that mean we have to chase after the latest app that will make life faster?

The concept of “appropriate technology” comes to mind. I used it in the past, without knowing that it refers to a movement, “Appropriate Technology”.  That does not mean antiquated technology but simply appropriate.

My application of the idea will probably not satisfy purists, but for me it means something like “why use a laptop with a gazillion apps, if “pen and paper” technology can achieve the same result for you?

People get so caught up in their apps that they begin relying on it to manage their lives and actions.  Even to tell them what the weather is like – even when they can just open the curtains to see it in real time and not app-time!

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy modern technology as much as the next person, but especially over weekends, I am back on pen-and-paper to mind-map, think, plan and just make a few notes.

Digitization has created the illusion of efficiency. The digital world has given rise to the false belief that every problem, every obstacle must have a complicated solution; an app, a program, a system, etc.  But nothing is so powerful, nor so simply cheap and easy, as pen and paper. This is proven by science, it’s not opinion.”

Why complicate life – unnecessarily?

Does your paper diary fully meet your needs?  Why change?

Strive for simplicity in our complex world.  My mission includes the phrase “rediscover ‘old things’ that still help you to improve productivity”.

And check out this book Simplicity: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

Let me know what ONE thing you think you can do to make your life simpler without compromising your productivity, happiness and fulfilment?

Quote: “Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But Not Simpler” – Attributed to Einstein, but don’t take my word for it.

 

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I left Cape Town just after 6am on Saturday, travelling to Lutzville for the memorial service of Wynie Wickens. Wynie, your free spirit will for always remain with me, even though we will never see each other again… Thank you for your contribution to my life experience…

At Malmesbury we encountered road works. And lots of it. And, as it goes with road works, there were reflective road markers – lots and lots of them.

Why have road markers? To guide and control the traffic on the highway, which of course is a good thing.

But I’m telling you, that when I saw the reflections from hundreds of road markers doing their job of guiding, directing and controlling me, and I had to make decisions about where to go and what turn-off to take (or not to take), and the messages from the “keep left” and “keep right” reflectors got all mixed up because of the winding road, I was overwhelmed. It was sensory overload. It made decision-making difficult in the dark and in the rain. (The picture was taken on the way back!)

In his book Future Shock, Alvin Toffler coined the term “overchoice” or “choice overload” – “a cognitive process in which people have a difficult time making a decision when faced with many options”. Making a decision becomes overwhelming.

 

This speaks to the “inverted U” curve: Not enough (of anything) or too much (of anything) leads to a sub-optimal benefit.Think “menu” – ever found it difficult to choose one dish when you are offered 50 options? I sometime hear people say, “If they only gave me a choice between three dishes, it would have been easier”.

Think “number of people in an interactive, hands-on-the-keyboard Outlook Productivity workshop”. There is an optimal number of participants to have the best learning experience.

Think “To-Do List”: how many choices do you give yourself every day? Many people’s to-do lists represent “choice overload” and they say, “so much to do and not enough time”. And then end up doing fewer things that they probably would have successfully completed if they only had a few things on the list.

I just recently discovered the 1-3-5 Rule for getting through your to-do list. Have you heard of it? “The Muse” COO, Alex Cavoulacos, suggests: On any given day, assume that you can only accomplish one big thing, three medium things, and five small things, and narrow down your to-do list to those nine items (full post here, and you can download a template).

Just one road marker, or two or even five or ten would probably not have been enough to guide and direct me in the confusing space of rain and darkness. Hundreds of markers, on the other hand, are overload.

You will have to experiment and find your own “Goldilocks number” of items on your daily “actions to choose from” list.

1-3-5 sounds like a good starting point to me.

Quote: “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Grab a funductive day!

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I had the privilege of being in the audience when Dewitt Jones, one of America’s top professional photographers, gave his “Extraordinary Visions” talk at a FranklinCovey International Symposium.  It is indeed extraordinary…you can view a 4-minute sample video on the link above.

It was beyond powerful…and one of the things he said has stayed with me all these years was when he referred to the words of photographer Minor White, “When I go out to shoot I don’t ask, ‘What will I take today?’ But rather, ‘What will I be given today?’”  It is about a change in perspective and the belief that, if our eyes are open, the Universe will present beauty to us every day.

During the recent rains we enjoyed in Cape Town, I was given this picture of light shining through a dark cloud.  I was given both light and darkness,  and I was given a thought…

Yes, every cloud has a silver lining; every bad situation has some good in it, often this phrase is given to someone who has been overcome by some difficulty and cannot see a way forward.

But the light can burst through an opening in a dark cloud (the difficulty/challenge) and illuminate possibilities.

That is a breakthrough.

We all have challenges and difficulties in life.  It could be in a relationship, health, financial woes, office politics and also our personal productivity.

There is a gap between how we want things to be and how things are. To close the gap, we often “push” to move forward to where we want to be – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But if you are driving a car at 20 km/h and want to increase speed to 30 km/h and you notice your handbrake is on, would you give more petrol or release the handbrake?

You can create a personal productivity breakthrough, a sudden advance especially in knowledge or technique, by slowing down, taking time from your daily rush to write down your “dark cloud” productivity challenges/difficulties.  Is it too many interruptions, no clear goals, a difficult work-environment, procrastination, perfectionism, working overtime…?

The see if you find the handbrake, or source of your challenges.  Find the root cause by asking “Why?” at least 5 times.

Then your breakthrough can follow, you can release the handbrakes and glide almost effortlessly towards how you want things to be and experience higher levels of productivity, happiness and fulfilment.

Have some “breakthrough fun” this week, and let me know how it is going.

Quotes: “Every challenge you encounter in life is a fork in the road. You have the choice to choose which way to go – backward, forward, breakdown or breakthrough.” – Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha

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