When I saw a plastic water bottle lying in a flowerbed in Kirstenbosch on Sunday, I wondered what kind of person dumped it there, spoiling the experience for everyone that followed, until such time that someone picks up the bottle and puts it in a bin.  The behaviour of one unknown person negatively impacts the experience of many.

Don’t we often do the same thing to ourselves?  We do things that can have a “non-biodegradable” impact on our lives and productivity unless we consciously remove the behaviour from our everyday lives.

Just three examples of our “plastic bottle in the flowerbed” behaviour:

  • We don’t say “no” enough, and end up spending time doing other people’s work and neglecting our own, or end up working overtime.
  • We don’t delegate, with pretty much the same result as not saying “no”. You should only do what only you can do.  That’s your unique contribution to your organisation and life.  Delegate or outsource the rest.
  • We rush. It’s been said that people who rush make about 20-25% more mistakes than those who don’t rush.

Here’s a thought… Once a week, maybe on a Sunday evening, review the week and see if you did anything that could have a long-term negative impact on your productivity and quality of life.  Or simply if you did anything you would have preferred not to have done.

If yes, “pick up that plastic bottle” and make an effort to avoid that behaviour in future.

Keep your flowerbed for living a productive, happy and fulfilling life, bottle-free.

Quote: “I realized I made a big mistake and if I could have it over again, I would do it so much differently.” – Hansie Cronje



As I was driving to a meeting on Saturday, I listened to Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto (the Emperor), and as I arrived at my destination, there was about 5 minutes left of the final movement and I just could not switch it off.  I opened the car door, and duly the parking attendant made his appearance.

I turned up the volume and made as if I was conducting the orchestra.  I looked at him and to my amazement he started dancing, as if he had someone in his arms, with a huge smile on his face.  I conducted and he danced and we both had fun for the next few minutes.

I will never know if he was also a Beethoven fan.  Maybe he was, but maybe he heard that music for the first time, enjoyed it, and danced.

Maybe Beethoven was smiling when he saw the two strangers play and enjoy his creation…

What was it that made the two of us “work together” towards the same goal, in this case just to have some fun and share a moment?

Was it the score (or “script”)?

I don’t think so.  It was hearing and experiencing it, being put into action, that did the trick.

In your life, personal and professional, do you have a script? Call it a mission statement, if you wish.

For your team, department, division or your entire business – is there a script?

If so, that’s a good beginning, because without the script, there can be no Emperor Concerto.

But having it written is not sufficient.  How is it lived out?  How is it turned into observable behaviour?  Do you and your team dance and smile as you put the mission statement to life?

If not, what can you do turn printed words into focused actions?

Maybe that’s your role as conductor…  Conductor of your own life and conductor of your team.  To take the script, and enthuse yourself and others to live it out joyfully and purposefully.

Enjoy your show!

(If you have about 5 minutes to spare, click this link to see Leonard Bernstein, soloist Krystian Zimerman and the Wiener Philharmoniker orchestra enjoy and perform the Emperor.  “Fast forward” to 38:50, and as you watch the last few minutes, imagine seeing the street scene of me conducting and the parking guy dancing away on stage…)

Quote: “The conductor must breathe life into the score. It is you and you alone who must expose it to the understanding, reveal the hidden jewel to the sun at the most flattering angles.” – Charles Munch

Usain Bolt’s final “moment of glory” by adding more gold medal to his impressive collection, never happened this weekend in London.  But the send-off he received from the crowd was one of the most amazing scenes I have seen.

Something that struck me was that so many people, including Bolt himself, said that he not only wanted to perform well, but he wanted to have fun and entertain at the same time.

It showed, and he succeeded on all fronts.

I once heard a nice definition of “fun”:  You are having fun when you enjoy both the process and the result.  Getting to the result much be as enjoyable as getting the result.

I want to suggest something different this week:  Let’s do an Usain Bolt and do our very best to enjoy the week and have fun – and let it show!  I am not suggesting that we go as far as entertaining other, but how about entertaining ourselves this week.

Enjoy the process you go through to achieve your priorities for the week.  Let’s work with a mindset of fun and enjoyment and many “I choose to” moments, rather than “I have to

Have fun!

Quote: “While you’re going through this process of trying to find the satisfaction in your work, pretend you feel satisfied. Tell yourself you had a good day. Walk through the corridors with a smile rather than a scowl. Your positive energy will radiate. If you act like you’re having fun, you’ll find you are having fun.” – Jean Chatzky

I mean, really?

It must have taken just a few seconds to climb the 13 steps you see below, and view it from a different angle (perspective, if you wish) to get a totally different picture.  It’s the same steps, but if you were to describe what you are seeing to someone else over a phone, it could sound as if you are describing two different sets of steps.

You and I may be having the “same” experience, yet we can experience and value it in totally different ways.

We look at the same person – you see her one way and I see her in a different way.

You and a colleague look at the same piece of work to be done – for you it seems like an easy job, but for the other person it may be a huge task.

So, what is reality?

Here is Wikipedia’s definition: “Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined. Reality includes everything that is and has been, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible. A still broader definition includes that which has existed, exists, or will exist.”

And from Webster’s Online Dictionary: “All of your experiences that determine how things appear to you.”  I like this one!

When you have a difference of opinion with someone, think of the 13 steps at the Kirstenbosch Tea Room, and know that the other person has had a lifetime of different experiences to your own, and therefore the “same thing” appears different to them.

To communicate (i.e. “to make common”) more effectively, take some time, and apply Habit 5 from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  Understand the other person’s point of view, and be able to explain it to them to their satisfaction.

Be aware and prepared that you may just have your mind changed!

Quote: “Communication is the most important skill in life. You spend years learning how to read and write, and years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training have you had that enables you to listen so you really, deeply understand another human being?” – Stephen R Covey

I wish I could share the aroma arising from the plants on “The Koppie” in Kirstenbosch on Sunday with you!  Maybe technology will be developed to do that – catch the aroma and WhatsApp it to friends…

It was a glorious morning and for the first time after my hip op, I went (without a crutch) to The Dell and many other wonderful spots in what must be one – for me, anyway – of the best “soul-feeding” places I know.  I also know it will never run out of soul-food…  And it was wonderful to hear the sound of running water in the streams again!

On my way to Kirstenbosch, I pulled off to put in petrol.

The attendant and I exchanged pleasantries, and after wishing each other a pleasant day, I said that I was going to Kirstenbosch.

“Where’s that?”, he asked.  “Is it close to Stellenbosch?”, picking up on the “bosch”.

I said that it was the most beautiful garden in Africa, just on the other side of the mountain.

At first, I was surprised that he did not know of Kirstenbosch, but then I realised that there was just a disconnect between our worlds of reference, and for some reason I assumed that he would know what I was talking about.  Not a good assumption!

How often, especially when asking someone to do something for us, don’t we assume – or even expect – that the other person knows what we are talking about and asking them to do?  That can become a big time-waster!

Two productivity principles come to mind to avoid misunderstanding: “Clarity brings power” and “Slow down to speed up”.

When someone asks you to do something, or even in general conversation, and you are not 100% sure of what they want or are referring to, slow down and clarify exactly what they mean.  “Let me just check with you…are you saying ABC?”, rather than pretending that you know what’s being asked, only to sit down at your desk afterwards and thinking “Now what on earth am I supposed to do?”.

And when you ask someone to do something for you, before you let them go, slow down and ask them to explain to you what they understand the assignment to be.

But the importance of clarity stretches way beyond these examples.  Are you clear about your top three priorities for today?  Are they visible and actionable in your calendar and not just in your head or in your Inbox? What is the one single most important thing you want to achieve this week?

At a different level, what is the kind of life you want to live?  If you are not clear about that, then why are you doing what you will; be doing today?  How will today’s actions contribute to your life purpose and help you live a productive, happy and fulfilling life?  Slow down to figure it out, otherwise you could just be wasting your time and energy on irrelevant activities.

Quote: “First, say to yourself what you would be; Then do what you have to do.” – From the book “The Art of Living”.

After saying goodbye to my daughter Lindie and three granddaughters at Cape Town airport yesterday, I spent the rest of the morning walking, standing, sitting, observing and just enjoying the stretch of the Sea Point promenade between the Mouille Point lighthouse and Three Anchor Bay. It’s always good to see everyone doing their own thing and people allowing others the space to do that.

Watching the waves rolling in, breaking into “pieces” as it hit the rocks, and “reuniting” again after the breakup, made me think of our lives.  How often doesn’t it happen that we plan ahead for all the activities in the coming day or week, just to have it blown to pieces when we hit some or other “rock”? But fortunately, we don’t have to stay “broken”.  Just like the waves, we can pick up the pieces and move on and create a new wave.

One section of the promenade is currently in “rehabilitation”, and is fenced off with a sign telling people to follow the sign for the detour.

After the work has been completed, the fencing will be removed, and that section of the promenade will again be open, to be enjoyed for various activities. So it’s just a short-term inconvenience.  It’s “no entry” – for now.

Many, if not most, people I meet in our workshops and individual coaching sessions, tell me they find it difficult to say “no” to others, with the result that they take time they could have focused on getting their own work done to do things that other people should be doing.

This can lead to frustration, and cause them to work after hours and over weekends to get their own things done.

The reason for not saying no?  Someone said that she wanted people to like her.  Others say they want to be seen as a team player, or don’t want to let a colleague down.

But keep in mind that life is not a popularity contest, and in a formal work situation you will not “score points” for doing other people’s work, and even fall short of your own performance metrics.

Maybe it is time to “fence off” the time you need to get your work done and tell those who keep interrupting you, asking you favours, wanting you to help them, that your past behaviour of saying “yes” to everything is currently “under rehabilitation” and that they should follow the sign for the detour and go and ask someone else!

You may just be surprised that people (like those on the promenade) follow the detour without complaining, allowing you to be more productive as you get your right things done.

Quote: “I refuse to please others at the expense of my emotional well-being. Even if it means saying “no” to people who are used to hearing “yes”” –  Unknown

What’s happening?

 My recent survey confirmed that people who implement our productivity tips, tricks and techniques, on average save 40 minutes per day – that’s one month every year that they wasted before working with us!  Maybe it’s time to get your team on board, or to join us for a refresher.  Follow the relevant link below 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.

Individual Productivity Coaching If you would like to discuss one-on-one virtual or in-person productivity coaching, click here to let me know, and I will be in touch.

I met Ivan last Wednesday while enjoying a few days at Vleesbaai with Marlene, Lindie, Werner and their children.

Ivan was going about his work of harvesting oysters when I asked him about the process, the permit required etc.

His permit allows him to take 25 oysters per day.  He currently sells them for R6 each for a maximum income of R150 per day.

He brought me about 15 oysters and shared his special oyster recipe with me.  He told me that when he has a moment, he enjoys playing with the ingredients and spices until it tastes “just right”.

Ivan has been doing this since 1978, the year after he left school.  If he would have sold 25 oysters per day for, say 300 days per year, over this period at the current price of R6 each, he would have made about R1,8m.

On Sunday, Roger Federer won Wimbledon for the 8th time and earned just over R37m for his effort, beating Marin Cilic in 1 hour and 41 minutes.  What a result for Roger, who turned pro in 1998, 20 years after Ivan turned pro at harvesting oysters.  Roger has earned just more than $107m during his career.

These two men play very different “games” with vastly different rewards, yet they have something in common.

They are experts in their field. They stick to their knitting.  They both add value to other people’s lives.  They both make other people happy.

As you and I go about our daily work, let’s think about Ivan and Roger, and ask ourselves if and how we are adding value to other people’s lives. It does not matter what your activities are, whether it is how you run or participate in a meeting, how you delegate, what you say in an email, how you greet your colleagues in the morning…

I am sure both Ivan and Roger find fulfillment in what they do.  Do you find fulfillment in what you do? Do you have a “bigger picture” for your life, and are all your activities aligned with that picture? Do you have a “big yes” for your life?

This is a very important question because you must take care of yourself first, before taking care of others.  We hear this instruction every time we get into an airplane: “…put on your own oxygen mask first…”  If you are “out of oxygen”, you cannot properly help others.  Add value to your own life first, then you can effectively add value to the lives of others.

If you are not sure about what your personal “mission” is, I recommend you take the time and create a first draft by visiting the “mission statement builder” on this FranklinCovey web site, where you can also find examples of personal mission statements.

A very valuable book in this regard is “Man’s Search for Meaning”, written by Victor Frankl – here is a quote from the book:

“What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.

We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our question must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct.

Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

I wish you an enjoyable and productive week of self-discovery!

Two quotes from Roger Federer at Wimbledon 2017

 Before the tournament: “I’m playing very well. I’m rested. I’m fresh. I’m confident, too. Then great things do happen.”

After winning: “I always believed that I could maybe come back and do it again. And if you believe, you can go really, really far in your life, and I did that,” Federer said. “And I’m happy I kept on believing and dreaming and here I am today for the eighth. It’s fantastic.”