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What a weekend!  On Saturday friends Senomi and Richard and I went to The Glen in Camps Bay, Western Province is through to the Currie Cup final and on Sunday we had a “brothers and sisters” brunch in Somerset West for which I prepared Scotch Eggs – what a messy process but the result was worth the effort!

At a client workshop on Friday we discussed the importance of protecting one’s boundaries if you want to stay focused on the job at hand, and the impact of interruptions and distractions on one’s productivity.  Someone made a very interesting comment.  “I never say “no”, because I might miss out on something.”

Her words, and the theme of “choice and consequence”, came back to me while walking in The Glen and I noticed the “split” trunk of the tree in the picture.  If you find yourself at the “fork in the trunk” and choose to say “yes” to the climbing the one on the left, you are saying “no” to the option on the right.

And you are indeed missing out on whatever you would have found at the top of the righthand choice!  Stephen Covey’s saying “Begin with the end in mind”, suggests that we do our homework about the possible consequences of our decisions before we make them. Then, choose between outcomes.

The word “decide” comes from the Latin de- “off” + caedere “to cut”. So, when deciding on a certain course of action, you literally “cut off” all other options.  So, when we decided to go The Glen, we cut off all other options for the morning.  Maybe we missed out on some things that could have been more fun and pleasurable than being in The Glen, but if we were going to spend the rest of the day wondering about that, we could not have been fully where we chose to be.

During the rest of today there might be many “forks in the road”.

The quality of your experience depends on which ones you choose to take.

Stick with your decisions and choices for today – tomorrow circumstances may be different, and you could choose differently.  Accept the consequences of your choices – they are yours.

Quote:

“If you pick up one end of a stick, you also pick up the other.” – Stephen R Covey

“I made decisions that I regret, and I took them as learning experiences… I’m human, not perfect, like anybody else.” – Queen Latifah

What’s happening?

Productivity Mastery: Group Coaching. The new Group Coaching Productivity Mastery programme will be for small groups of 4 to 6 people and will most probably be a blend of small group and individual coaching calls, which will be done virtually.  The common theme for participants will be a desire to master their personal productivity and live productive, happy and fulfilling lives.

If this sounds like something you could be interested in, just click this email link to let me know, and I will be in touch as details become clearer.

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.

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Thanks, Oupa!

Saturday 14 October 2017 was International Pinotage Day.  A day to celebrate the red wine cultivar my grandfather, Abraham Izak Perold, created in 1925 when he was professor of viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the legacy of Prof. Harold Pearson who established Kirstenbosch in 1913, and mentioned his epitaph: “If ye seek his Monument, look around.”

So, I guess, for my grandfather, a version of this could be “If you seek his Monument, drink a glass of Pinotage!”

From what I read about him, he was a genius.    Sadly, I never had a chance to enjoy time with him.  He died at age 61 in 1941, just 9 years before I arrived on the planet.  Imagine what it would have been like to share a glass of Pinotage with him if he would have lived for just about another 20 years or so!

The legacy we leave, the impact we have, our “monument” is independent of how long it takes us to do the thing that creates the lasting impact.  Rather, it is what we choose to do.  Our actions are what matters, not their duration.

Nobody knows, or even cares to know, how long it took my grandfather to create the cross between Pinot Noir and Hermitage, or to choose the name Pinotage and not Herminoir, which was also considered.  All that matters, is that he took the necessary actions.

The quality of your everyday life depends on what you do, and not how long it takes.

Stephen Covey used to say, “The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”  These are “big rocks” or high-impact things in your life… (watch Stephen Covey’s “Big Rocks” video here.)

How about reviewing last week’s calendar and activities – did you schedule and live your priorities, which are the things that have a positive impact on your quality of life?  Or are there parts of your life that run by default and not by choice?

When you sit down and plan for next week, or the rest of this week, review your personal mission statement (if you don’t have one, start here), or your values and then see yourself living it out.  What are the physical and observable actions you are going to take make it come alive?

Enjoy!

Quote: Do you know what the most common regret people express on their deathbed is? It’s “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” – From the blog of Melli O’Brien

What’s happening?

Productivity Mastery: Group Coaching We just concluded a very successful 6-week Productivity Breakthrough Masterclass series for which more than 70 people have registered, and during the programme I started to think about taking the “Breakthrough” to the next level of “Mastery”.  The Group Coaching Productivity Mastery programme will be for small groups of 4 to 8 people and will most probably be a blend of small group and individual coaching calls, which will be done virtually.  The common theme for participants will be a desire to master their personal productivity and live productive, happy and fulfilling lives.

There’s still a lot of thinking, designing and organising to be done, as well as getting input from people interested in possibly joining.

For now, if this sounds like something you could be interested in, just click this email link to let me know, and I will be in touch as details become clearer.  This is not committing you to anything!

I was so happy on Saturday morning! Not only did I enjoy a refreshing walk filled with reflection and learning on the Sea Point promenade, but also listened to my gut feeling that told me that time on Table Mountain would hold something special – and so it did!

Driving along Tafelberg Road, I had to turn around where the road is blocked, and it’s a bit of a tight space to manoeuvre in.  So, I was happy when someone, who I have never met before, helped me with the reversing by giving me instructions and advice on how far I could still go back before hitting the side of the hill.

I said to him “This is called ‘trust’!”, and followed his instructions.

If I did not trust him, I would have wanted to get out every time he said “more, more, a little bit more” to check if he was right.  The whole experience would have been more stressful and taken much longer.

What is the impact of trusting or not trusting people you live and work with?  If trust is low, things are more difficult, take longer to get done and there is much more stress. Productivity goes out of the window.  If you cannot trust people in your team, you may be using a lot of energy just to avoid and survive the next stab in the back.  This “survival energy” is negative, and unavailable for working together as a supportive team towards achieving organisational objectives.

High levels of trust turn everything around.   You don’t have to keep emails forever “just in case” you need it to defend yourself in the future.  If someone says that he job will be done by 12, you don’t have to keep nagging and checking – the job will be done.

More than 101 million pages show up in a Google search for “building trust in the workplace”, so I am not even going to attempt to point you in that direction!

You may want to check out Stephen M R Covey’s book “The Speed Of Trust”, in which he shows how “trust is the essential ingredient for any high-performance, successful organisation” and describes “a revolutionary new path towards productivity and satisfaction”.   You can download (for free) an 8-page Executive Summary of the book at this link.

A final thought… if the guy who was giving me directions on the mountain made me drive into the embankment, and if I met him again in a similar situation – would I take his advice?

Maybe it’s not a bad idea to take stock of the “trust inventory” in your team/department/division/organisation and identify potential problem areas and then work to eliminate those to make life easier and more productive for all involved?

Have a high-trust week!

 Quote: “You can only trust someone to do what they have done.” – Jerry L Fletcher

On my way down to the Dell in Kirstenbosch, after enjoying the “Boomslang” walk again, I stopped at the grave of Prof. Harold Pearson (picture from the SANBI web site).  He established Kirstenbosch and the National Botanic Garden in 1913.  I wish he could see it today!

His epitaph: “If ye seek his Monument, look around.”

At the end of your life, what will your “monument” be?

That may be difficult to answer right now, so let’s shrink the timeline a bit.  At the end of this week and at the end of today, when you pause and “look around”, what would you see?

Steve Jobs, like many others, quoted “Live each day as if it were your last”, and also posed the question “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”  If the answer was “no” for too many days in a row, he claimed, he knew he needed to make a change.

The philosopher Seneca wrote: “The wise man plans out every day as if it were his last.”

I am taking Seneca to heart today, and after finishing this chat with you about leaving a legacy and getting important things done every day and week, it will be down to the nuts and bolts to review my plan for the day in a slightly different light.

 Quote: “I personally find it most useful when I’m with my aging parents, who I usually only see for a few weeks each year when they are visiting from Australia. I’m acutely and painfully aware that they won’t be around forever, so I try to treat each day I spend with them as if it were our last together. It helps me to listen with more attention, to laugh with more abandon, to show more love and to receive it.” – Roman Krznaric

It took me 4 hours and 385 km to get to Vleesbaai on Friday and on Tuesday morning it will take another 385 km and 4 hours to get back to Cape Town.

Worth the effort and time?

You bet!

I had my first go at making “Cloud Eggs”, spent lovely time at one of my favourite places in the world, Blaasgaatjie, where the wild water always has a calming effect on my wild mind, just sat and watched the waves roll in and enjoy being part of a natural rhythm while thinking about my life and its meaning and enjoyed a braai with a view!

This was “the other end of the stick” that I picked up when I decided to set aside the time and resources for the weekend away.

And the unexpected arrival of my friend Jo made it even better.  Always good to have a good sounding board.

In my workshops and coaching I suggest that we do not try to “manage time” (because we cannot) but rather focus on our action management.  It’s not how long something takes that determines the long-term impact on the quality of our lives, but what we choose to do.

Ask any golfer who has hit a hole in one for how long they will remember it, and the answer (every single time I have asked the question) is “for ever”.  That’s the impact of the action (incident) not whether it took golf ball 5 or 6 or 10 seconds to make the journey to the cup.

Let’s not focus just on “chronos” time (linear time; 1 minute plus 1 minute = 2 minutes) in our lives, but proactively create opportunities for “Kairos” time (appropriate time; experiential time; “quality time”, if you wish) that will have a long-term positive impact on the quality of our lives.

And the productivity improvement link?  When you plan your day’s work, don’t ask “how long is the meeting going to be?” but rather ask if this meeting is the most productive thing to be doing (the action) right now.  It’s not “how long will I spend ‘doing email’”, but is going to my Inbox the most productive thing I can do right now. Change your mindset from “time management” to “action management” and from “chronos” to “Kairos”.

I look forward to the 4 chronos hours on the road back to Cape Town tomorrow because I am turning my car into a concert hall and have some of the best soloists and orchestras in the world fill my soul with Beethoven’s piano and violin concertos – and MIKA’s Grace Kelly, The Beatles “When I’m 64” … It’s going to be “Kairostic”!

Quote: “When we pick up one end of the stick, we pick up the other.” – Stephen R Covey

Things take time

Spring in Kirstenbosch!  Every week something new!

Yet, the beautiful flowers in this flower bed did not just appear magically since last week.  It is the result of a natural process, that will eventually lead to their death and disappearance…and rebirth next year this time.

You and I also want to enjoy beautiful lives, but often we are not prepared to give things the time required to germinate and then develop to yield productive, happy and fulfilling lives.

We want instant results after reading a book or attending a seminar – without putting in the time and effort to achieve it.

Life doesn’t work like that.

 

 

Life is a “work in progress” – just like these plants I saw, with just the tips of new growth showing today.  Next week there will be new growth and “development”.  Not today.  Not now.

I cannot find the exact quote, but Stephen R Covey used to say something like “don’t pull up the plant to see how the roots are growing.”

Don’t rush things.

 

Plant the seeds of improving productivity, fully realising that time and effort will be required to bring it to fruition.

If you want to improve your productivity, don’t go for some “life-changing” goal (like never working on weekends again) and expect overnight success, but rather follow the advice of Professor B J Fogg and make a small and achievable change in behaviour (e.g. say “no” when people ask you to give them your time when what they want has nothing to do with your priorities).  You may enjoy his TED talk on “tiny habits” at this link.

Shane Purnell says that for a tiny habit to work it must be

  • Easy
  • Done Daily
  • Take < 30 seconds
  • Anchored to an existing habit or behaviour.

A tiny habit follows this format: “After I (existing habit or behaviour), I will (tiny habit)”. E.g. “After I get up from my chair, I will walk around for 30 seconds.”  Or “After I get up in the morning, I will do one push-up.”  The new behaviour can “grow” in terms of duration or number of repetitions.

Choose just one tiny habit for this week, and have many tiny bits of fun!

Quote: “Cramming doesn’t work in a natural system. In the short term, cramming may appear to work in a social system. You can go for the “quick fixes” and techniques with apparent success. But in the long run they just don’t work.” – Stephen R Covey (paraphrased)

 

I noticed this sign in the area for threatened species in Kirstenbosch.  It bears this quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”   I assume it is placed in this specific area to inspire us to make sure that we do something to save these threatened plant species from extinction.Not just one individual (although I am sure one person can change the world – ask Apple users!), but “a small group”.

Over the weekend I was in conversation with three people who all mentioned the importance of implementing any changes (yes, also to increase your personal productivity), with the support of a small group.  It is so true that we have more difficulty in changing a habit or sustain any changes in our behaviour if we do it as a “lone wolf”.

Choose one person you know, like and trust and ask them to be your sounding board and accountability partner as you implement (one at a time) the habits of personal productivity that form the basis of our work:

 

  • Think productive
  • Make your work visible and actionable
  • Align your actions with your priorities
  • Slow down to speed up
  • Focus
  • Adapt to changes in your context
  • Finish what you start
  • Learn and improve every day

Meet for a cup of coffee once a week, or do a virtual check-in.  Do it for a month or two, and experience the difference.

Your next action: decide right now who you will work with, and call or email them to get their support.  And of course, you return the favour by supporting them.

Enjoy!

Quote: “People who have been diagnosed with a life-challenging illness and attend support groups, on average live  twice as long after diagnosis as people who don’t.” –  Marianne Williamson (slightly paraphrased.)