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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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It’s a beautiful rainy winter’s day in Cape Town and I snuggled in behind my computer to visit www.ted.com  to watch a few stories that range from inspiring to jaw-dropping.

And as always I was not disappointed.

In  the current Productivity Mastery Programme ( you can book a seat for the next one here) we recently had a conversation about “life purpose”, values, productivity and the role of happiness (“a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy”) in all of this.

I was therefore delighted to view Shawn Achor speak on TED about “The happiness secret to better work”.

He says that we tend to put happiness “on the other side of success” – “AFTER I succeed at doing this thing/becoming partner/losing 10 kg, THEN I will be happy.”

Shawn suggests that we reverse the happiness formula and put happiness before success.  Put happiness before increasing productivity.

He says: “Happiness and life satisfaction has led to improved performance in people who did one of the following things every day for 3 weeks:

  • Jot down three things they were grateful for.
  • Write a positive message to someone in their social support network.
  • Meditate at their desk for two minutes.
  • Exercise for 10 minutes.
  • Take two minutes to describe in a journal the most meaningful experience of the past 24 hours.

Research shows happy employees have higher levels of productivity, perform better in leadership roles and receive higher pay. Happiness could be your single most important competitive advantage.

In the Harvard Business Review (January-February 2012) it is reported that for companies, happy employees mean better bottom-line results.

Employees who score low in “life satisfaction,” a rigorously tested and widely accepted metric, stay home an average of 1.25 more days a month, a 2008 study by Gallup Healthways shows. That translates into a decrease in productivity of 15 days a year.

In a study of service departments, Jennifer George and Kenneth Bettenhausen found that employees who score high in life satisfaction are significantly more likely to receive high ratings from customers. In addition, researchers at Gallup found that retail stores that scored higher on employee life satisfaction generated $21 more in earnings per square foot of space than the other stores, adding $32 million in additional profits for the whole chain.

More than anyone else, Aristotle enshrines happiness as a central purpose of human life. To quote him: “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”

According the author of this web site and also this Wikipedia article, Aristotle spoke about achieving “eudaimonia”, which is commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, “human flourishing” has been proposed as a more accurate translation.

Carol Ryff highlighted the distinction between eudaimonia wellbeing, which she identified as psychological wellbeing, and hedonic wellbeing or pleasure. Building on Aristotelian ideals of belonging and benefiting others, flourishing, thriving and exercising excellence, she conceptualised eudaimonia as a six-factor structure :

  1. Autonomy
  2. Personal growth
  3. Self-acceptance
  4. Purpose in life
  5. Environmental mastery
  6. Positive relations with others.

To quote Aristotle again: “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”

We can choose to follow the guidance of people like Shawn and Executive Happiness Coach Jim Smith and think about where we are regarding the six points listed above and then take action if action is required.

Or of course we can choose to stay like we are for the rest of our lives.

It begins with what and how we choose to BE, which will drive what we DO, which will give us what we HAVE.  We are human Beings – not human Havings or human Doings.  Yet we tend to focus so much on the things we do and the things we have.

A quote by Erich Fromm also helps to put this in perspective:  “If I am what I have and if I lose what I have who then am I?”

The essence of all the things I saw and read today boils down (for me anyway) to accepting responsibility for our lives and live in such a way that will allow us to enjoy maximum life satisfaction.

We will be happier and more productive people and build happier and more productive organisations.

To your happiness and productivity!

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During the past week’s individual coaching sessions with participants on the Productivity Mastery Programme I again realised how important it is to design your self management system to suit your way of thinking and doing.

This is really a case of “do what suits you best”.

I often hear people who are using a “traditional” paper based diary say “I guess I should be using Outlook/Gmail/my smartphone…”  And then there is a kind of “I am guilty” tone in their voice.

I don’t think I agree – do you?

While there are definite advantages using an electronic system (e.g. reschedule appointments, organise actions so that similar actions are grouped together, quickly looking up someone’s contact information), it doesn’t mean that everyone in the world SHOULD be using it.

One client uses a single A4 page on which she captures things to be done, her shopping list, phone calls to make, things to discuss with her business partner…

She finds using her “To Do” list very easy and reviewing it is quick and easy too.

Other people just love their Outlook and having all their synchronised Outlook info in their pocket on their smart phone.

Day specific actions go to the Calendar while other action reminders are managed in Tasks and organised using Categories.

The point is that it does not matter which tool you use to manage your life, it’s the thinking and principles that go into your system that matter.

There are certain principles of working more productively.  These principles work just like gravity or principles of flight: It works whether you believe it or not, it works for everyone, it works everywhere, it will work forever.

Here are a few:

  1. You do have all the time you will ever have to do whatever you want to do.
  2. You can do anything but not everything.
  3. Get things out of your head and into your system.
  4. Thinking “ PAUSE” can save you time.
  5. Organise similar action reminders together.
  6. Keep open space (time) in your calendar.
  7. Take daily and weekly productivity pit stop reviews.
  8. Batch process fresh input (e.g. email).

I invite you to review whatever system you are using and list the things that it does extremely well for you and also things that are not working well for you and you would like to have different.  Then give me call on 082 737 3676 or preferably email me at gerrit@789.co.za and we can have a chat and see if and how I can assist.

Have fun!

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