Monday, September 29, 2008


I read a book review on "Iconoclast" by Gregory Berns in Fast Company, October 2008.

Iconoclast in the case of the book means to One who attacks cherished beliefs. I think most entrepreneurs are good at this. They challenge the known and think creatively.

The following is a summary of Iconoclast from Fast Company:

-- The brain is fundamentally a lazy piece of meat. It doesn't want to waste energy.

-- In order to think creatively, you must develop new neural pathways and break out of the cycle of experience - dependant categorization. As Mark Twain said, "Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned." For most people, this does not come naturally. Often, the harder you think differently, the more rigid the categories become.

-- Fortunately, the networks that govern both perception and imagination can be reprogrammed. By deploying your attention differently, the frontal cortex, which contains rules for decision making, can reconfigure neural networks so that you can see things that you didn't see before. You need a novel stimulus -- either a new piece of information or an unfamiliar environment -- to jolt attentional systems awake. The more radical the change, the greater the likelihood of fresh insights.

-- Only when you consciously confront your brain's shortcuts will you be able to imagine outside of its boundaries.

So I believe in the theory. I know I want to be creative. I know I need to to thrive in a changing world. Part of my routine is to challenge myself intellectually. I partly do that by reading but often by doing something completely different. I am thinking how to incorporate this into habit.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Personal Development for Smart People

I read a new book - Personal Development for Smart People by one of my favourite self help gurus - Steve Pavlina. I even used a list of values that he developed (and I added to) in my Time Management Book.

Part 1 deals with 7 fundamental principles - Truth, Love, Power, Oneness, Authority, Courage and Intelligence.

I had a negative reaction to a paragraph he wrote in the section on Truth about habits. The gist of his message was - to become more intelligent, do things differently. "Excessive routine is the enemy of intelligence". Of course I am a big believer in having success habits. Later in the book he devotes a full chapter to success habits though so he does understand the power of habits.

I liked and agree with what he said about media conditioning. We can become over influenced by traditional media. And much of media has a conflict. They want to "sell" you that something is not good for you - EG alcohol will make you feel popular or sexy. He even suggests a media fast for 30 days.

I liked what he said about momentum. The key is to get started and get moving. I will write an article on this in the coming days. I am adding articles to my resources section with fair frequency now. I just added one on Be a Life Long Learner (I am sure Pavlina would agree with that one) and another on Leadership vs. Management.

Part 2 talks about practical application - Habits, Career, Money, Health, Relationships and Spirituality.

I found a lot of practical tips in the first section (like start with the worst thing first thing and master the first hour of the day) so really looked forward to more practical application.

From the Habits chapter:

"Habits are your Mind's approach to time management. It would be extremely inefficient for you to decide how to spend every minute of every day. Your conscious mind has better things to do than solve the same problems over and over, so it delegates known problems to your subconscious"

The book is well written and easy to read. And it is inspirational.

The book is full of ideas. It is one of those books that you can take only 2 or 3 ideas and incorporate them into your life to make a big change. Definitely worth reading if you are interested in self development.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Pebble and Banker to the Poor

Today was perfect for a 16 K run. A bit drizzly at 8 AM but perfect temperature (about 15 degrees C). Of course it helped to be prodded to do it by a friend who ran with me. I normally run a maximum distance of 10K unless I am training for something.

As I started to run, I felt a stone in my shoe. It felt huge. I knew if I kept running, I would have a blister. So, I stopped and removed the "huge" stone but it turned out to be a tiny pebble.

I think about time management and our lives. Often the smallest of pebbles can put us off track. Often the pebbles feel like large stones. It helps to have tools and strategies to deal with these pebbles. That's partly what inspired me to write my Time Management book.

Stuff happens. Usually it is not as big as it feels at the time. Build your tools now to deal with "the stuff".

On a recent flight, I read an outstanding book called Banker to the Poor Microlending and the Battle Against World Poverty by Muhammad Yunus. Muhammad taught economics at the University of Bangladesh and saw the poverty around him and felt that that his theoretical work at the university was not solving the problem. What he saw was the small amounts of money loaned to people to allow them to start their business or raw materials could have a huge impact.

He started Grameen Bank and started making micro-credit loans to people in groups using the social pressure to make sure everyone repays their loans. His first loans he saw that 42 people needed $27.00 to buy raw materials and this was his first loan. He had tremendous success repaying the loans and has since grown to almost 2,000 branches and a staff of 11,000 which has loaned $3.9 billion with a recovery rate of 98%.

Impressive results with limited resources.

This is a true book of hope and definitely worth reading.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Get Smarter Book Review

SYNNEX released great results. I was at a RIM board meeting today. RIM also released results.

I am stressed from being out of my office. Perhaps I should read my article on 8 Ways to Handle Stress.

I am way behind in posting my business book reviews so need to post more often for a while.

I read an awesome book by Seymour Schulich called, "Life and Business Lessons Get Smarter". Seymour Schulich is an accomplished entrepreneur billionaire which is why people might listen to him.

The book consists of 48 very short chapters. (Don't be daunted -- this is a very simple and fast read.) It is written largely as an older man's mentoring for someone who is new and going into business. As I read the various rules, I couldn't help but smile and nod in agreement with almost everything he had to say in almost every area.

The book is not only business lessons but covers lessons on finance and life. He even gets into relationships.

I found the book to be a page turner (which might seem ironic for a business book, but perhaps I am different). It contained many gems and philosophies.

It is definitely worth the read!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What you measure, you improve

I am back on the road (Calgary this time). I did not work out today. Perhaps I should read my own Work Out Inspration Article .

If you can't measure it, you can't manage it is the tag line of TimeTECH a time and attendance management company.

Some variation on this expression has been used in business for years. I like the variation - If you can't measure it, you can't improve it since I am a continuous improvment person.

This started me thinking. Is it possible to change everything into a measurable. For example, can calmness or niceness be measured?

One concern I have with measurement is do we track only the measurable and ignore the things that are tough to measure?

And if we are not careful, we forget to add the quality measurement. For example I could tick off that I worked out today (and I did not yet) but perhaps I did not push as hard as yesterday or last week so it is a good idea to try to add that measure also.

So my goal today is to look at my measurements to see how I can add the quality to it.

And a quote to make you think:

Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.

Pablo Picasso

Monday, September 22, 2008

Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands

I recently read, "Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands: Lessons in Non-linear Leadership" by Nancy Ortberg.

The thesis of the book is that leading tends not to be linear; it tends to be exponential. The more you pull the rubber band the greater resistance. (I found the analogy particularly interesting since I have recently added using Therabands to my workout schedule. They are very lightweight, portable and can be used almost anywhere. I probably wouldn't need weights in my office if I had learned to use bands when I first starting working out.)

One of the quotes from the book that I liked was, "Great leaders know the value of doing the right things and that includes valuing the contribution of all of the players". I think one area where I have not done as well is telling people I appreciate their contribution. Fortunately I am a life-long learner so I can always change. For me it might even tie in with my own celebration. I tend not to celebrate my own wins as much as I could.

Another quote was, "Much of the frustration that leaders face comes from trying to solve what needs to be managed and trying to manage what needs to be solved. Being able to distinguish which areas need clarity and which areas will be ongoing tensions is a necessary skill." That paragraph was a real truism for me. So many of the things that we are involved in are not solved, they are simply somewhere along a continuum.

I found the book to be interesting, challenging, and thought provoking and would recommend it as a good read.

Only caveat, because Nancy has worked extensively with the church many of her examples have religious overtones that might put some people off.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

How I Handle Too Many Things to do

Sometimes I can get almost an overwhelming number of things that I need to do. I have developed strategies to help me deal with this.

1 - I recognize when I am likely to be swamped and try to plan a bit of extra time and flexibility in my schedule. For example, I am just back from being out of the office and know I am going into management meetings. This is a time I will have too many things on. So I have tried to leave a bit of space.

2 - I reset peoples' expectation on when I can have things done. I pride myself on being fast and crisp. But in times like this, I tell people "I will review it next Wednesday and get back to you then". By setting proper expectation, the pressure is reduced.

3 - The basis of any time management system is the "To Do" list. It is even more important when juggling many balls to have a good to do list.

4 - And once I have the To Do list, I prioritize. It is more important to work on the important than to get many of the less important things done.

5 - if my list is too long, I create a "To Do Right Now" list which a more manageable number of tasks on it. For me, that usually means just 3 or 4 things to do.

6 - Sometimes the overwhelm seems too great. At these times, I just do it. Dig in and start and momentum will carry me through a huge list.

7 - I create games with myself. On my To Do list, I put the time each task will take. This means I can play a game to see if I can beat the projected times. Set a list of things to complete by X times. After all - games are fun so why not make it a game.

8 - I like to have a clean work space. One trick for me is to put any mess behind me (on my credenza - or a drawer works well) so I will not see it. A messy desk is a whole bunch of things saying "do me, do me". This can just add to the stress and often result in busy work rather than productive work being done.

Now back to work to get my list done.

Monday, September 15, 2008

How to Stay Motivated and Travel Productivity

I am tired today. In California for the second time in two weeks. I am actually thinking the cost of travel is a lot more than the travel cost (which is not getting cheaper). There is a real productivity loss.

Note to self - figure out how to travel less (and still be highly effective at getting things done). And of course if I travel make sure to use my own travel productivity tips.

One challenge we have in getting things done is staying motivated. Tammy Embrich wrote an article on Staying motivated. Some of her tips:

Change Your Atmosphere:

Now this one may sound silly to some...but this has worked for me. If you have a particular room for an office, move the furniture around if feasible...If it is a very small room, then you won't have many options as to moving things around. But you can change colors or themes for your office. What colors or themes make you feel most creative? What colors or themes make you feel happy? What colors or themes make you feel most productive? It's something to think about. Purchase a new day/month/year planner. Perhaps a new calendar or a new writing notebook.

Exercise...Take A Break:

Exercise is great for both the mind and body! It's also a great way to clear the mind when you feel overworked or stressed out. When you find yourself not in motivation mode and are lacking in that much needed gusto...take a brisk walk to clear the mind. You may be surprised at what happens. Most of the time when I take a break from my time online, whether it be a walk, lunch break, or just watching some TV...I come back refreshed, and even sometimes, with some new ideas.


If you're a music lover, have some soft music playing while you are working. This isn't for everyone though. Some people prefer not to have music playing and want it quiet. It's all in what you like or prefer. And for some people, music can give that much needed extra push in getting started with the work day. Try it sometime. You might be pleasantly surprised.

The idea here is to do everything you can to remain focused, motivated, and even challenged for being the best you can be at moving forward with your business. Do some research and look up more motivation articles and tips. Motivation is the key to success.

Read the whole article here.

Quote for the day:

All men dream but not equally. Those that dream by night in the dusty
recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the
dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they make act their dream with
open eyes, to make it possible.

T.E. Lawrence AKA Lawrence of Arabia

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Outlook Time Saving Tips

I have had many people ask me what tips I learned from the Outlook mini-seminar I took. Some of them follow. Not sure this is the easier to follow but here you go:

Re Outlook Menus: With the standard installation of Outlook it shows just a portion of the menu when you click on it. To change this so you see the full menu, just click on:

  • Tools
  • Customize
  • Options
  • Always show full menus
  • Close

Let Outlook do the typing for you; for example, I type "107" and the system automatically types out our full office address.

  • Tools
  • Options
  • Spelling
  • AutoCorrect Options
  • Options
  • Replace: (type in the abbreviation of the word you want to be typed out in full; for example, 107)
  • With: (type in the full word or words; for example, 107 Woodlawn Rd W, Guelph ON N1H 1B4)
  • OK, OK

Change the colour of incoming emails; for example, any email that I receive from my assistant appears in green.

  • Tools
  • Organize
  • Using Colors
  • Color messages (fill this in and choose the color)
  • Turn on
  • Close

Are you in a hurry to see a map of an address in your Outlook Contacts?

  • Open the specific Contact
  • Click on the yellow diamond shaped icon with the black curved arrow in the menu bar and it will automatically show you a map of the location. You can also get driving directions.

To quickly add a name and email address of someone who just emailed you:

  • From "Inbox" just drag the person name’s from the "From" column to your "Contacts" folder
  • Save and Close

To show statutory holidays in your Outlook Calendar:

  • Tools
  • Options
  • Calendar Options
  • Add Holidays
  • Click on the country
  • Ok, Ok, Ok

In addition to tips on how to use Outlook, we need to use good email etiquette:

· Only use "Reply to All" when everyone in the originating email needs to know the information.

· Know when to pick up the phone and call the person instead of continuing a long trail of emails.

· Only use "Cc" when absolutely necessary. It is frustrating to receive emails that you don't need to read.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

TIme Management Tip - Be Succinct

One of the most obvious time saving tips is to "Be succinct".

People understand easier and things are more clear if they are said in less words. Less is more when it comes to writing or speaking.

As technology has evolved - email and texting, I notice people have gotten better at keeping things short. I find it cute to read writers from a long time ago and note how they tend to say less using more words.

Saying more in less words is a sign of high intelligence. It is respectful of peoples' time. It tends to be more easily understood which is one of the main points of communication.

There are lots of quotations on this topic (and note the years and how language has evolved):

Let thy speech be short, comprehending much in a few words.

Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them.
John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)

A multitude of words is no proof of a prudent mind.
Thales (635 BC - 543 BC)

Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few.
Pythagoras (582 BC - 507 BC)

Writers have two main problems. One is writer's block, when the words won't come at all and the other is logorrhea, when the words come so fast that they can hardly get to the wastebasket in time.
Cecilia Bartholomew

Too many people run out of ideas long before they run out of words.
Author Unknown

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Law of Focus

Buy my Time Management Book or Subscribe to receive this blog by email.

A friend emailed me:

"One of my first time saving tips taught to me was to take the task I was working on as far as I could before moving on to something else. The theory here is that most tasks take less than an hour to complete yet we get distracted somehow and don't get it done. The lesson here I think is focus. Focus on the task at hand and move it along to the furthest point you can without allowing distractions to get in the way. Your readers may be interested in this simple tip."

This is an awesome tip that I know as "The Law of Focus" which says:

"You accomplish more faster by focusing completely on one thing at a time"

It flies in the face of "The power of While" which is multitasking. What can you do while you are walking etc.

As I have studied time management, the more I realize that more people suffer from busyness and multitasking than too much focus. Multitasking tends to increase the stress and decrease the productivity. So next time you consider multitasking, consider "The Law of Focus".

Quote for the day:

The ability to focus attention on important things is a defining characteristic of intelligence.

Robert J. Shiller, Irrational Exuberance

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Rachel Getting Married Review

Last night I attended the Toronto International Film festival courtesy of one of their board members who is one of my good friends - Warren Spitz. Warren owns Upper Canada Forest Products so buy lots of hard wood from him so he can afford to take me next year.

The film we saw was Rachel Getting Married starring Anne Hathaway. I am not really a film reviewer. 99% of the movies I see are on airplanes.

The movie was very well acted, well written, thought provoking and got into some tough issues (drug abuse, family dysfunction). It certainly made me think.

I prefer movies that are pure escapes and this was not that. It left many unanswered questions. Still, I would rate it an 8 out of 10.

Quote for the day:

Today is a smooth white seashell, hold it close and listen to the beauty of the hours.

Photo from Flickr by Wind Dancer.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The No Complaining Rule Book

I recently read a copy of John Gordon's, The No Complaining Rule Book, subtitled Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work.

I was a bit struck by the title which is allegedly a positive book but speaking about complaining and negativity seemed a little strange.

This book is told in storybook fashion and generally speaking, I prefer books to get to the point than using storybook style; however, I do know there are a number of people who do like storybooks.

I totally agree with the thesis of the book which is you will have more fun and you will do better, the company will do better if you don’t complain and look at things positively.

The book has numerous good ideas on how to reduce complaining and the one thing that I liked was a no complaining week personal action plan which includes:

Day one - monitor your thoughts and words
Day two - make a gratitude list
Day three - take a thank you walk
Day four - focus on good staff
Day five - start a success journal
Day six - let go
Day seven – breathe

Although the book is fairly shallow, I would still recommend it and think it has some good ideas.

And the quote for the day (this one requires thought).

"We are confronted by insurmountable opportunities."

Walt Kelly "pogo" (comic strip)