Saturday, September 30, 2006

Reverse Time Planning

Later on this morning at 10, I am speaking at "Canada's Largest Entrepreneurship Event" at the University of Waterloo. Then meetings, will squeeze in a workout, then a birthday party for one of my friends.

I am undertaking the following exercise today. I write it in the form of an article because experience has shown me that it will get republished many times on various sites on the internet and that in turn generates blog traffic.

How to Plan Time so I can Stay Highly Productive.

I have learned that not all time is the same quality. In times when I am very alert, rested, focused and efficient, I can be three to five times as productive as other times. My goal is to have more of these highly productive hours.

This harkens back to Stephen Covey's Seventh rule of Highly Effective People - sharpening the saw. The vignette is of a wood cutter who is desperately sawing at a huge tree. A passerby asks the woodcutter why he does not sharpen the saw so he can cut more easily and quickly. The woodcutter replies, I don't have the time, I have to cut the tree down.

Lately my life has been like that of the wood cutter. I have spent too much time sawing and not enough time sharpening the saw.

So my exercise today is to figure out what things sharpen the saw for me and plan to put those in my days and weeks first. Then allow the wood cutting to take the other time as opposed to the other way around. I call this Reverse Planning. Rather than planning what I have on my to do list and trying to get that done, I plan my down time and deliberately work to get that done.

This exercise is particularly good for highly driven people. Highly driven people tend to feel guilty if they are not working. So good things to put on the list are things that make you feel a bit guilty. Most of what I put on my list are things that I like to do a lot and if left unchecked would likely do too much.

For me, I think the following are my ways of sharpening my saw:

1 - Sleep. I tend not oversleep. I have pushed myself so hard for so long, I am not really sure how much sleep might help me be more productive. I am going to schedule 6-7 hours per night to see if that helps productivity.

2 - Exercise. I become resentful when I push so hard that I do not have time to work out. I will schedule one hour workouts 5 days per week and 2-3 hours once per week. For me this is also tied to sleep. If I push too hard, I end up choosing between sleep and working out. Not good.

3 - I will allow time for a 15-20 minute walk each evening. I find this clears my head.

4 - Tidying and Organizing. I know I like my environment more and am more productive if things are neat. I will schedule an hour per week plus 10 minutes per day on that.

5 - Social time. I will schedule a couple of evenings per week of social time.

6 - Intellectual challenge. I will play bridge, chess or soduko 5 hours per week. (this tends to be guilt time for me as I enjoy it too much)

7 - Reading for pleasure. I will schedule a few hours to read for pleasure.

My list is not yet complete. I am still working on it. My challenge now is to stick to my reverse time plan and not allow myself to get caught up by the usual daily volume.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Achieve more - work 75% of the time

Someone great once said:

"I can do my job in 75% of the time but I cannot do it in 100% of my time"

Thats the way I feel now. I am spending most of my time dealing with the urgent tasks I face. This is leaving me little time for the larger planning, visioning, contemplation and preparation I need to do. Because I am spending 100% of my time working, I cannot do my job well.

Of course my regular readers know this means I need to look at my systems. How can I better do what needs to be done and free up some time for the bigger picture. I always figure there is no point complaining, solve it.

And completely off topic:

I notice in reading Scientific American that the vapour left by jets is contributing to climate change. This comes from studying the few days after Sept 11th. Interesting. Perhaps better for my brothers Glen and Lyle to comment on (they both do alternative energy and conservation blogs)

The Power of Questions

I have been swamped for the last while, hence the poor record on blog posts. I thought I would share an article I wrote recently for our internal employee publication:


One of the things that I like about SYNNEX is our tremendous efficiency. And although efficiency isn’t always a simple task, in the short time I have been here, I have come to see a willingness to change as long as it increases our efficiency. For example, look at the number of new positions in China. Look at the number of changes made to the systems and think how differently you did your job two years ago versus how you do it today.

After 25 years of running EMJ, I had developed systems and methodologies to deal with my time and my schedule. When I started working at SYNNEX, those systems that had served me well for so many years, no longer worked. All of a sudden I had too many emails; I had too many meetings; I had too many people asking for a piece of my time. I wasn’t being efficient and I needed a change.

The question that I asked myself was "How can I change my systems to allow me to handle the increased volume?"

For a company to continue to thrive, we need to ask ourselves these "how" questions and never accept the status quo. We need to look at every process to figure out if there is a better way of doing it. There is tremendous power in the questions that we ask.

If I were to ask the question, "How can we ship 5 percent more?", usually the answer is that we keep doing the job the same way that we have always been doing it except we need to work a bit harder. If we ask big questions like, "How can we sell 50 percent more?", our mind automatically figures that we need to do something differently than what we have been doing and come up with more creative solutions.

Other companies depend on us to provide such efficient work on a daily basis, so by asking the question "How," we can open up the possibilities.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Half Marathon and the weekend that got away

Such a busy weekend, I am not sure where it went. Out Friday night. Saturday I went to the office for a while (but still di not get caught up) then to Toronto to stay overnight with good friends, Warren and Maureen Spitz. Warren runs Upper Canada Forest Products. I first got to know the Spitz's well when we ran the Boston Marathon together last year. I had met Warren previously though YPO.

Sunday I ran the Scotiabank half marathon. Although it started at 7 AM, I did not get home before 3 since we had to wait for the awards. Elizabeth won first in her age with a 3:18:39 Marathon. Although she was not pleased with her time, she did win. Sounds a bit like me.

The weather was perfect although it was a bit windy in places. Warren and I started the race together. We started well back in the corrals. With 6500 runners, it was shoulder to shoulder. It took almost 3 minutes to cross the start line (which is why runners speak in terms of chip time - the time to cross the start mat to the end mat. We are all equiped with RFID chips on our shoes.)

The first 5 to 7 kilometers went quickly partly because Warren and I were running and talking together. Because we started well back in the corrals, we were generally passing people. The course was generally flat with just a few hills. By 7K, I was feeling the strain of the race but not so much that I did not keep up with Warren (who was running the full marathon as a training run for Athens only which means he was running slowly for him). 7 to 12K I mostly just ran, often thinking I would just tell Warren to go on. Finally at 12K, I told him to go and slowed my pace considerably for a couple of kilometers.

Kilometers 15 to 20 were hard. I felt slowed by the wind. I stopped for each water stop and had problems picking up my pace again. At about 20K, I saw a 2 hour pace bunny (these are designated runners that pace a certain speed). Well of course I could not do more than 2 hours so I kept up.

With about 1/2 K to go, the runners were stopped for what seemed like 20 seconds but was likely only 10 or 15 to let ambulances through.

From there, I ran fast for the finish passing at least 25 runners.

I finished with a chip time of 1:58:49 which put me in the top half of the runners. Not as fast as I would have liked but I guess I would need to train harder to achieve a better place.

In races, I have 3 goals. In this case: 1 - to finish, 2 - to beat 2 hours, 3 - to beat 1:45. 2 out of 3 is not bad.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I am back from California. Took the red eye yesterday so was not as productive as I would have liked to have been ysterday.

I was out at a Blue Jays night last night courtesy of Microsoft. I might have preferred to sleep.

I am working on my systems when I travel so I am not so far behind when I get back. I increasingly find if I do not deal with something right away, I end up doing marathon sessions just to get to it. So I am trying to deal with everything at the time it arises. Put off nothing. I think thats a time tip.

The guilt theme seemed to ring a chord with a number of my readers. Now I feel guilty about feeling guilty. Something to work on.

Guilt is anger directed at ourselves......Peter McWilliams

Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.....Erma Bombeck

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore, is not an act, but a habit."……..Aristotle

Monday, September 18, 2006


I took most of the weekend off. Mostly with high guilt. I was in California and my brother, Mark, was also on the west coast doing a trade show so we got together. He is the glue that holds the brothers together. Constantly keeping in touch and keeping us together. Also a very fun and good person. So great weekend but feeling not totally ready for the week. Board meetings and conferences this week.

I have been thinking about complexity in business. Bob Huang commented that complexity in distribution is not linear. Larger and more initiatives makes it more complex. Double the size is four times as complex.

True genius is being able to simplify the complex.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Power of Blogs

I am in the Air Canada lounge waiting to fly again.

A friend emailed me a story about how to get bloggers to evangelize their products.. As bloggers, we own a media. Media is power. We can influence positively or negatively. I believe increasingly that companies will pay more attention to bloggers.

Off to fly.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Free, Perfect and Now

"Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing life is made up of little things."

by Frank Clark

This quote is particularly true in the computer distribution business. Our sales volumes are high and our margins are razor thin. There is little margin for waste or error. Distribution is all about the little things. Do them fast, do them right and do them cost effectively many many times.

I spend a lot of my time working on my systems. Good systems or process makes for high efficiency. Hence the continual quest for improvement.

A good book on distribution is "Free, Perfect and Now" by my aquantance Rob Rodin who used to run an electronics distributor. He speaks of changing culture within a distribution company and the challenges of it. The title says it all. The customers want it "free, perfect and now" every time. It is our job to deliver that.

He knows it is culture that allows a distributor to thrive long term and also knows how easy it is for the culture to change in small ways over time so profitability and even survival are at stake. Good book worth reading if you are in distribution.

Now I go focus on the little things and ponder the culture we need for long term success.


I read a book by Mary LoVerde called, "Touching Tomorrow". It is not really as much of a book to read as a project to do. The thesis is that you should do a video or an audio (interview) with your parents or grandparents while they are still around. Get them to tell their story.

I know my sister-in-law did a very high impact version similar to this. It was not having my parents speak; rather it was having other people talk about my parents. This was given to my parents as a Christmas gift.

It sounds like a great project - I wish I had more time. Maybe I should read my eBook or listen to my CD.

It ties in nicely to a book that my mother loaned me called, "Storycatcher" by Christina Baldwin. The thesis of Storycatcher is that everyone has a story inside them and it is good to tell it.

My Mother is a storyteller and she tells stories at schools and libraries, etc. She has also been a reading inspiration for me. From the time that I was little, she would read bedtime stories and I think this is partly what inspired my current reading.

One of the quotes from the book is, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands in times of challenge and controversary" by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

On Focus

One basis of Time Management is prioritizing and focusing on what is important. What is frustrating me now is the 4 top priorities I have on cannot be moved forward. Everything is in the other parties court.

I usually have three or four large projects on the go that are my top priorities. I review what I am doing on those projects daily and I think about them almost all of the time. This allows me to move forward quickly on them usually.

In some sense it seems strange doing this because I need ignore some of my other busy work as far as other meetings, calls, etc., and this goes against my grain because I pride myself on being very fast, responsive, and available.

I have found that this focus is the way that I can add the most value to what I do.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Guelph Lake Triathlon

I did a Sprint Triathlon today. 3/4 Kilometer swim, 19 K cycle and 5 K run.

The day was cold and rainy. Because I did not register in advance, I showed up early. Early enough to get rained on and stand in the wind for a while. I put on my wetsuit early but even so was cold.

I did the 3/4 K swim in 18:35. Not my best time but OK. Way too many people in the water. The water was fairly calm - not too choppy thankfully. The bouys had blown out of position so I suspect I actually swam quite a bit more. I was kicked several times. Thought I would have a black eye but seem Ok. It seems that half way through any of these swims I begin to think I should stop. No easy way out though. So I finished. Thanks to my 2 swimming lessons from Danielle who just competed in switzerland, I think it was easier on me.

19K cycle was interesting. The rain meant my brakes did not work. The photo (I am the front rider) is near the transition, trying to stop. I almost took my hybrid bike with larger, higher traction tires but did not. Still, respectable time at 44:55. No falls.

5 K run was fine. I like running in the rain. 23:49 which is OK for me. I passed a lot of people. Major blisters though since my shoes where wet. I chose to wear no socks to shorten the transitions and I figured in the rain, it made little difference.

My goal was to finish and I did. Total including transitions of 1:32:10. It is the sort of thing I am glad to have finished.

I use labout day weekend as a goal setting weekend. This will absorb much of the rest of my weekend.