I was listening to a podcast on Saturday about “productivity”.  Alex Mandossian shared several very useful tips under the umbrella-theme of “Simplify”.

He says that overwhelm paralyzes productivity.

What can cause overwhelm?

  • Working on other people’s agendas.
  • Having too many decisions to make.
  • Having too many thing on your “To Do” list.
  • Multitasking (which we know should rather be called “Switch-tasking because we switch between activities.
  • Addiction to saying YES.
  • Fuzzy arrangements with others.
  • Having too many priorities.

On priorities, he quotes Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great”, who says that if you have more than three priorities, then you don’t have any.  This was quite a wake-up statement for me.  I stopped listening, reviewed my work, and wrote down three current business priorities.

From now on, anything that I am asked to do or get an idea about, will be filtered through my current three priorities.

I have it printed out and stuck on the wall and if something does not support those priorities, it doesn’t get done.  It’s like having a “DO NOT DO THIS” list.  This is now my (very simple) agenda.

Here’s a thought: If you do not have an “agenda” or a “mission” (personal and professional) then you can easily end up living other people’s agendas, which paralyzes your personal productivity.  Click over to the FranklinCovey Mission Statement Builder web page to begin developing your personal, family and team mission statements (or “agendas”).

Here is the thing: Once you have invested time and decided what your agenda is all about, you have already made hundreds of other decisions.

For example, Steve Jobs, by dressing the same every day, did not have to make that simple daily decision of what to wear.  It’s been said that Albert Einstein had a few versions of the same grey suit because he did not want to waste brainpower choosing an outfit every morning.  Just for fun, here are pictures of 18 famous people’s dress code.  Once the dress code has been decided – no more decisions required!

In a nutshell, simplify things.  Invest the time and energy to create your agenda/mission.  Crystallize your current three personal/business priorities.  Do only those things that are aligned with your priorities – say NO to the rest.

Take back and protect YOUR agenda!


“First, say to yourself what you would be; then do what you have to do.” – From “The Art of Living” by Epictetus.

“I always like to do the things that I think are right.  I am not trying to be a model, I am trying to be myself and do the right things.” – Rafael Nadal

What’s happening?

 One-on-one private productivity enhancement coaching.   I have just recently again had the privilege of working with people individually (albeit online using Skype/telephone), supporting them to enhance their individual productivity in their workplace.  I enjoy doing this, and find it extremely gratifying to see how the quality of other people’s lives improve in the process.  There is no fixed schedule or format – what we decide to work on is built around the person I work with, whether that is the CEO of a company, a budding entrepreneur or even a young adult.  If you would like to have a complimentary conversation to see if and how you could benefit, click here to let me know and I will be in touch.

Outlook Productivity: Public Workshops.  Get information about our public “Outlook Productivity” workshops in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Bloemfontein.

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

Productivity Breakthrough Masterclasses.  This is finally coming together after a few false starts and this is now going to be the winter version!  I will shortly have everything up on a web page that you can visit and register.  In the meantime, if you want me to keep you in the loop, just click here to let me know.

Have a fun and simplified week!

What a “comeback” weekend!  On Saturday I enjoyed a Kirstenbosch breakfast with a good friend and on Sunday I had a good time around Three Anchor Bay on the Sea Point promenade.

Seagulls and a variety of other bird species (even an hadeda, can you believe it!) were having breakfast in the washed-up bamboo, and I am sad to say, mixed with soft-drink cans, plastic bottles and just a bunch of human-made stuff that does not belong in the ocean!

These birds were not just satisfied with what the “top layer” of bamboo offered them for breakfast.  They went deeper, and at times even tossed aside a bunch of bamboo pieces to discover what was below the surface.

Does life sometimes “serve” you things that just should not be part of your “diet” of things to do?  If so, how do you respond? Do you complain or just ignore it (like the birds) and focus on the things that have value for you?

And looking at things on your “to do” list, do you evaluate them on face value, or do you dig just a little bit deeper to uncover activities of more value?  Higher value activities are often hidden below the things that we so easily fill our calendars with.  But they will remain hidden until we put in the effort to dig deeper and toss aside things that might keep us busy but not take us anywhere.

Have a look at your calendar for the next month and weed out activities of low value and dig a bit deeper to ensure that you only schedule things that will support you in living a productive, happy and fulfilling life.

Quote: “The key is not to prioritise your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen R Covey

What’s Happening?

 Outlook Productivity: Public Workshops.  Get information about our public “Outlook Productivity” workshops in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Bloemfontein.

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

Last Sunday I noticed (what I thought to be) hundreds of swallows flying around on the slope of Devil’s Peak just outside my apartment.  I’d like to believe that the swallows were here to give me a farewell flypast before heading off to their breeding grounds Europe!

But it was probably just a feeding frenzy before they departed, because there were more butterflies around than I have seen in a long time, which could been the attraction.  So much for the flypast!

How do the swallows know that it is time to leave a South Africa that is getting ready for autumn?

They apparently use the length of the day, availability of food and their hormones to tell them that it’s time to begin the 6-week trek northward.

I realise there’s more to this than meets the eye, but if swallows can use their more-or-less 1g brains with high-density packing of neurons to sort out these things, why do we, with brain mass 1200-1400g, struggle to make sense of and live by the natural rhythms and patterns in our lives?

How would things be if we cold live more by our natural patterns than by the clock?

Maya Angelou said: “Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.”

Your productivity also has a rhythm, in synch with your energy rhythm/cycle.

It’s easy to understand your energy cycle.  Draw a graph of “Energy” versus “Time” and plot your energy on a scale of 0 – 100 every hour. You may want to do this for a week and discover your energy cycle.  Draw a horisontal line at the energy level which for you is the “dividing line” between high and low energy and note your time zones that are high energy.

In the peak periods, work on important tasks, make critical decisions, solve problems and think about or discuss complex matters.  Have brainstorming/problem-solving meetings only – NOT your routine weekly meetings or information-sharing meetings.  Block out your “prime time” in your calendar and show your time as BUSY so you can work on your prime activities.

Things to avoid in your “prime time” could include (make your own list):

  • Email
  • Filing
  • Routine meetings
  • Low-priority tasks
  • Activities that require little or no brain power.

When you are in low-energy, take a break, have a walk, make a cup of tea, or just sit with your eyes closed for a few minutes and drift off to your favourite holiday spot!

You may find this article that appeared in Harvard Business Review valuable: Manage your energy, not your time.

Enjoy aligning your work with your energy cycle!

Quote: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life. The past is history. The future is mysterious. Then tomorrow—this starts all over again.”  ― Kat Lahr

What’s Happening?

Outlook Productivity: Public WorkshopsGet information about our public “Outlook Productivity” workshops in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Bloemfontein.

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

I should have known better.  It was due to happen soon.  I expected it, but did nothing about it.

My car battery died spectacularly on Saturday!  Fortunately, it happened at home, but still, here I was, halfway through a long weekend without transport.

Thanks to the AA emergency service I was ready for the road again about 50 minutes after my call to them on Sunday morning.  Thanks, Adian!

My lesson from this: When I noticed a few weeks ago that the battery was not as responsive as it used to be, I should have replaced it.  It would have saved me calling out the AA!

What’s the “battery” for your life? Put differently, what is your “life centre”?  And how often do you revisit it to see if it is still capable of being of good service to you?

Stephen Covey wrote about “principle centered leadership.”  You may find this article of value.

Principle centered living is about placing principles at the centre of your life – as the “battery” of your life, if you will.  And principles don’t fade away. Principles cannot “die” on you like my battery did.

Is money at the centre of your life?  Or your family?  Or your religion? Or your social status?

Erich Fromm once said, “If I am what I have and if I lose what I have who then am I?”

If you are your money, and you lose your money, who then are you?

If you are your career and you lose your career, who then are you?

If you are your friends and you lose your friends, who then are you?

Principled living brings stability and independence of what could be transient life centres.

Have a quick browse through these “50 principles to live by” for some ideas.  Then do not rush, but in times of reflection, think about the timeless principles you would like to live by.  There is no “one size fits all”.  You must choose what works for you.

Having principles at the centre of your life makes things so much easier in terms of making choices.  Once you have settled on your core principles, anything that does not align with that, gets a “no”.  Choose once, and you have “pre-made” hundreds of other decisions.

The same with principles of living a productive, happy and fulfilling life… In our work, we ask you to consider the impact of these principles on your productivity, and then to integrate them in your everyday life at the office and at home to the degree that they speak to you:

  1. Think productive.  Stop believing lies like “I don’t have the time”, “I cannot say ‘no’” etc.
  2. Clarity: Be crystal clear about who you want to be and then do what you have to do.
  3. Alignment: Everything you do must support your current priorities.  Say “no” to the rest.
  4. Focus. Quit “multitasking” – it’s a myth.  Minimise distractions and interruptions.
  5. Flexibility.  Life changes, and so should you.
  6. Completion.  Finish what you start. Minimise procrastination and perfectionism.
  7. Slow down to speed up.  Do things at the appropriate “speed”.  Speed-reading is good, but speed-meditation?
  8. Learn and improve.  Learn from today to make tomorrow better.

We have embodied these productivity principles in my article “8 Basic Work Habits to Rapidly and Sustainably Increase Productivity”.  Click here to get your copy.

Thought: I love long weekends.  You have so much more time not to do things!

What’s Happening?

 Outlook Productivity: Public Workshops.  Get information about our public “Outlook Productivity” workshops in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Bloemfontein.

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

Have a fun week, and enjoy starting out on the road of principles centered living!

Sunday morning at 7am, Richard knocked on the door to pick me up for my first “post-op” promenade visit. It was good to see that the world goes on whether one is an active participant or being side-lined for a while for whatever reason.  It puts our place in the universe in some perspective!

We saw a beautiful white bird with yellow feet, catching and enjoying its breakfast in the shallow water (picture with compliments from this web site) – a Snowy Egret, if my Google Search results are accurate.

The way it went about its task was slow, measured, focused and well executed.  It was “stalking” its prey, almost like a lion, putting one foot slowly in front of the other, having a good look at the available offerings, and then quickly struck to get the next item on the menu.

This is in total contrast to the way in which I saw a seagull “stomping” in the shallow water to get its food to rise to the surface, and which I wrote to you about in January last year.

Neither of these birds are right, and neither is wrong.  They hunt in the way it suits them best by “doing what comes naturally”.

The one does not try and imitate the other but does what it does best.

Contrast this to the often-repeated theme in the human world that to be successful, just copy what successful people have done, and you will be successful too. I don’t buy into that philosophy (Tony Robins will disagree with me).  Yes, there are certain behaviours that are common to some successful people, but the opposite of those behaviours may be true for other successful people.  You must find what’s best for YOU; you should work according to your unique pattern of high performance.

My friend and business associate, the late Dr Jerry L Fletcher helped people identify their unique “pattern of high performance”: The Distinctive and Consistent Sequence of Steps You Naturally Follow When You Achieve Your Best Results. (You may find this site of value.)

When you know, and live your own pattern, you are in “high performance mode” (sweet spot), and not in “grind it out mode” (sweat spot).  To quote Jerry: “You can’t do anything well for a sustained period of time that doesn’t fit your high-performance pattern”.

I am sure you will enjoy revisiting the fable of The Animal School, where all animals had to take all subjects and where … well, let me not spoil it for you!

You have unique talents.  Your children have unique talents.  The people in your team have unique talents.  Every person on the planet has their own way of doing what they do best.  Give yourself and others the space to do that in that way you can become the best you, and not a copy of someone else.

Quote: “High Performance Patterns help us achieve optimum expression in a positive and value-added way and help us avoid the compromises that diminish our effectiveness.” – Jerry L Fletcher.

What’s happening?

Discovering and Living Your Unique Pattern of High Performance.   I was fortunate enough to have worked with Jerry Fletcher during his visit to South Africa to help people discover their patterns of high performance.  I can do the same for you.  If you are interested in discussing this, click here to drop me an email and I will be in touch.

Productivity workshops: As I mentioned last week, due to client needs and demands, we are reviewing our productivity workshops for Outlook users.  It has become very clear that there is a big need for individuals and teams to use their Outlook as a business productivity tool.   We are therefore reverting to the name and content that we used to meet this need, which is Outlook Productivity. We will still introduce the relatively new “8 Basic Work Habits to Rapidly and Sustainably Increase Productivity” during this workshop, but the focus is squarely back on the hands-on implementation of the underlying principles, processes, tips, tricks and techniques.  There is no need to feel anxious about this change – you will still get what you have been getting in recent workshops, with the “slider” on the scale just moving more towards the technology application.

“Productivity Breakthrough” will take on its own character as a no-tech one-day workshop as well as a weekend Productivity Breakthrough Retreat.  Watch this space.

 Outlook Productivity: Public WorkshopsGet information about our public “Outlook Productivity” workshops in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Bloemfontein.

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

I never thought that sitting for a period of time could make one go to hospital.  I was wrong!

My post-op recovery was going very smoothly. But then I sat down for 3 hours in a meeting – without moving.  Bad idea.

Long story short: I ended up going to the emergency ward just after midnight on Saturday in an ambulance because I was totally immobilised.  For the first time, I understood the meaning of “pain in the butt”!

What I learned from the experience is the importance (sometimes vital) of asking for and accepting help.  With one of my most important values being “independence”, you will understand that it was no easy thing to do.

Just a few of the people who helped:

The doctor, by taking my call after 22:00 Saturday.

The paramedics and the security guy who managed to carry me up 14 steps without letting me fall off whatever it was that they were carrying me on.

Friedrich Sertürner who isolated morphine (named after Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams) between 1803 and 1805.

The crew in the emergency ward.

And I can go an and on and on.

When a nurse in the hospital noticed the way in which the needle for IV therapy had been inserted into my arm (it took the paramedics 4 attempts to get it into a vein) she said: “If someone does not know what to do, they should not do it, and ask for help.”  That triggered my thoughts for today’s memo.

Watching on TV, I saw a few people fall during the weekend’s cycle tour in Belgium.  Without help from their team they would probably still be limping towards the finish line now.

How much time to we waste by not asking for help?  “Please help me” is a question that should be part of every “time management” course on the planet.  It should be part of organisational culture to ask for help rather than plodding along, probably making mistakes, venturing down the wrong track.

How much time have wasted by not asking for directions in an unfamiliar city (yes, the GPS can make mistakes)?

Asking for help is not weakness, but reveals strength, as you can read in this article.

There are 4 days left in this calendar week.  Do you think that between now and Sunday evening when you go to bed, you might need some help?  I encourage you to ask for help, and let me know how it went!

(Trip down memory lane: A litle help from my friends – The Beatles or the Joe Cocker rendition)

Quote: “When you don’t ask for help when you need it, you assume all of a burden that might easily (and gladly) be shared. But you also deprive those who’d love to assist you of the opportunity to do so.  Everyone is worse off.” – Margie Warrell

NOTE: T.S. Eliot wrote:” 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.”
He was right!  Way back in 2003 I create our first workshop that combine a methodology of getting things done more efficiently by using the technology you are already familiar with, specifically MS Outlook.  Over the years, it has morphed into different offerings.  From “Getting Things Done with MS Outlook” to “Getting Things Done with MS Outlook and Other Productivity Tools” to “Outlook Productivity” to “Productivity Breakthrough for Outlook Users”, and then “Productivity Breakthrough for Outlook Users: 8 Work Habits to Rapidly and Sustainably Increase Productivity”.

You may know the story of the “Coke” to “New Coke” to “Classic Coke” disastrous marketing campaign in 1985.  Well I don’t want us to be the “New Coke” of the productivity industry!

During the last 9 months or so, we have had many requests from clients to revert to our tried and tested Outlook Productivity format.  The message was very clear: “All I want is for the people in my business to increase individual and team productivity by using MS Outlook in the most effective and efficient way”.  We did a series of workshops in the “Classic” Outlook Productivity format for a new intake of graduates in one company – they have never seen Outlook before, and we helped them to use it not just for email and meetings, but a s a business productivity tool.

So, when we work with you and your company again, you will have a wider choice of interventions to choose from.  We will work together to find the content and format that will exactly meet your needs!


If you would like to chat to me about this, click here to send me an email and I will call you

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!