Personal Effectiveness [Part 4]



The market remains strong and especially considering what’s going on. I guess the stable interest rates have a lot to do with that. Confidence, which frankly most of us probably suffer a lack of, seems still to be high enough to sustain home purchases. A discussion yesterday regarding a huge Joburg developer informed me that sales have dropped from 40 to 30 per month – not a bad result considering the market in which they play. In the Cape things continue to soar ahead. A recent article in our newspaper quoted some areas of Cape Town rising 7X from 2001 to 2016 – that’s 13.85% per annum compounded growth! Very interesting situation and all I can say is long may it be.

Two quotes to start off with, one for interest and the other for our blog today:

“There are seven things that will destroy us: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Religion without sacrifice. Politics without principles. Science without humanity. Business without ethics.” Mahatma Ghandi

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Dr Victor Frankl.


Know someone who is always busy, always running around? Are they effective? I have a saying: “If you want something done, find a busy person.” But is this true or just a fallacy? Does that person drop everything to get it done and then become ineffective in other areas? Or, who do they hurt, including themselves, by stretching their time for others or other things?

On the other hand, in one of my businesses we had so much ongoing simultaneously. This opportunity and that, people with bright ideas that deserved auctioning on the face of it. Do it or someone else will was almost out motto. You feel like that? Too much opportunity chasing too little resources, especially when the key resource is you. Truly, I understand the dilemma but it always demands the question, Is it right? I can honestly say that of all we tackled, only one initiative worked and worked properly.

Then comes the issue of Focus. I used to tell myself that I am focussed but there is just a lot to focus on! The question will always be what to focus on.

Let’s remind ourselves of the common-sense that we so often ignore: 


  1. Focus does not mean “one thing” but “the important things”
    I have read the book Essentialism. In it, Greg McKeown asks us to define the one inescapable thing upon which we should be focussed to the exclusion of all else. The more I read the book I became more and more engrossed with the impossibility of doing ONE thing. I don’t believe life is like that – you need to deal a sick child, bond payments, your boss and your golf all at the same time. Which you will do with what prioritisation is the key to focus. Understanding what deserves the top priority is key and then the rest kicks in right behind that. Often, as any Mom will tell you, you need to multitask especially in the home. So the necessity is to be aware of “everything” but to know what demands your focused attention.


  1. Important vs Urgent
    In his amazing [and I think last] book the late Stephen Covey provides a matrix of Urgent vs Important things. First Things First, he called the book and he leaves a legacy for each of us. I suggest you read it if Life means much to you. He makes the point that our emails these days often capture the first spot in our daily lives. Clearing the inbox used to mean moving the paper-mail with some written comments on the top to your PA or subordinates, into the outbox from which Internal Mail department would distribute the hard work. You’d come in early to do that before the phone rings. Little wonder that Microsoft uses the same terms in Outlook – even Bill Gates grew up with the first priority being to “clear my mail”. Be honest, doing your emails is often your daily first priority. To such an extent that you even take them around with you on your mobile phone. Instant access at a whole new level. I often receive emails timed after 11 pm at night and guess what, when I remove my phone from charge, I scan them.

    And the list goes on. Gym first thing in the morning, dropping the kids at school first thing I the morning, coffee first thing in the morning – and so the list goes on until I catch even you. Juxtapose the email example to the necessity to develop character in your child. Huh! You see, what Covey does is he matrixes the urgent stuff against the critically important stuff and then he posts something really obvious – the more important the Important things, the longer they probably take. Buying an ice-cream for a screaming child or teaching the child discipline – one is as instant as it gets, the other takes a lifetime. The problem with this “lifetime stuff” is that it gets boring, requires consistency and perseverance to know that the end result will be worth it despite short-term setbacks.

    Building your career or business, relationships with your parents or siblings or in-laws, losing and maintaining your weight or fitness, eating the right food, improving yourself academically, et al. They take time and dedication way beyond the Urgent.


  1. Your brain needs Focus to focus
    If ever there was a multi-tasking organism, it is your brain. Billions of synapses speed off per minute most of them keeping you alive. Breathing, five senses working and synthesizing, walking, thinking – all at once, always. And into that crowded space of thinking you throw in 10 other things, some more Urgent than Important, and definitely some more emotional than others. And you know what, your brain loves it. Built for speed, it can take you to worry, calm, action and passivity in nanoseconds. Throw in what you imagine and what is true and what you imagine is true and you have a cocktail of distraction. You can dream of buying a new house while worrying about the future of the country; your brain just loves the journeys.

    Bringing your brain to attention takes effort. It’s amazing how easy it is in love and hate. Just think of when you fell in love – you could only think about him or her; every SMS confirms your attitude and every rose blooms bright red. Hate focusses us in the same way but let’s not go there. That intent drives all we are, through our brains, to give attention to our goal.


  1. Zero needs Focus
    Just to remind readers, Zero was the name I gave to a series of blogs. It referred to the zero-growth scenario in which we have found ourselves over a long period of time and the tendency to ignore the signs in our lives and businesses. What has happened is that we have surprisingly slumped into recession and had the scoreboard confirm, after years of pedestrian growth, just how bad this economy is. I raise this issue because now, more than ever before, “busy” must give way to “focus” in our businesses. Being busy is not enough if all we’re honestly doing is creating the excuse for our activity and our activity stills our concerns. Action casts out fear I believe, but busyness can simply exhaust us. Focus settles us and whilst it may not alleviate concerns, it at least provides the comfort we require to do the Right Things and not just everything. Zero needs Focus and Recession only drives home the time-proven truth.

    There is so much more to say about this thing called Focus but I would like to make one comment on Frazzled before I present some thoughts for your consideration.


Here’s my one thought. If you want Frazzled and you believe that doing everything as the Go-To Man is meaningful and efficient then keep going for everything at once and all the time. I really have nothing more to say.


Some thoughts on Focus:


  1. Nothing beats deep breathing to calm you down. “Take a deep breath and count to 10” demands the answer, “Yes Granny!” How often we “let rip” in our tension and then take the time to say sorry. Breathe 10X, deeply and intentionally, and feel the difference. And by the way, this is exactly what Exercise does for you.
  2. Keep notes. Don’t burden your brain with remembering and your conscience with saying sorry when you forget. Keep a note in your pocket, in your Tasks, wherever and then do what you can every day.
  3. Keep a 2Do List and split the Important from the Urgent. I used to have a page and a half on an executive pad of stuff to do. I hammered myself for not doing it all every day and properly. I know Frazzled! Split your 2Do List into I and U first thing in the morning and then do the “I’s”. At least then you stretch your brain and energy doing the stuff that cannot wait. Your efficiency blossoms and your confidence grows.
  4. Yes, you….who believes that you’re the only person who “can do the job properly”. If that’s truly the case, you have the wrong people on the bus or you have the right people and they are not fully trained. Delegation involves Right Person – Right Task – Right Expectation. I have never been disappointed when giving a delegation to a person
    1. who is trained and equipped for the task;
    2. having had the task explained in sufficient detail and;
    3. informed of what I expect from them;
    4. who has failed to deliver pretty close to the perfect performance? Style and nuance may be different but what they come up with is more than reasonable for completion or continuance of the work.

If you are not delegating, you are failing yourself and others.

  1. Set goals. I understand the commerciality of goal setting. Turnover, expense cuts, NPBT etc. But why not set some goals that give you enjoyment and some hope – where you’re going to go on holiday next and when, when you’re going to retire etc. Good goals with good thoughts driving them.
  2. Have a quiet time every morning. If you disagree with the morning, then have the quiet time when it suits you. But please don’t disagree with the notion of a quiet time no matter what you prefer to call it. This time with you and yourself brings home more than you will imagine. Sifting, for the sake of this blog focus, the stuff from the important stuff, the essential/s from the peripheral and just reminding your brain and heart what you really want to achieve in the day and in the years ahead. You see, the lovely thing about your being is that you become what you think about most – if you believe that, then take the time to focus your thoughts with wisdom and consideration.

Lots more to say, but more importantly, consider what you have read. If you’re frazzled then un-frazzle. You can! If your Intentionality has been lacking in the heat of life and business, take a quiet time and breathe some new areas of Focus into your being. You are after all, not a Human Doing but a Human Being.


Yours in Property.


Jack Trevena
Latest posts by Jack Trevena (see all)