Productivity in our work and personal lives involves focusing on the key goals and objectives, developing a project plan, identifying the key value-adding tasks, and executing the plan by taking action. It may come as a surprise that many people struggle with this basic approach to achieving personal productivity. Many reasons can be identified for losing focus and not taking the appropriate action to achieve the desired outcomes.

The first issue lies within our minds. The human brain, although powerful and complex, if not trained appropriately can only handle a limited number of tasks at any one time (the literature generally states about seven tasks or pieces of information). As the brain becomes overwhelmed and stretched to perform, it begins to forget important items in the process. The brain does not generally think sequentially or in a linear manner. It thinks more in a random or radial manner.

The second issue involves interruptions from colleagues, unscheduled meetings, the telephone, email or the influence of external people. Interruptions should be avoided and removed from your daily work environment. This can be done by closing the office door, finding a quiet place to concentrate, checking emails at specific periods of the day (morning, midday and late afternoon), making all your calls in the morning and late afternoon, and delegating as many tasks as possible.

The last issue involves lack of clarity and focus. Focus can be achieved through concentration and structured thinking. The mind has to be reinforced that focus and action are the key drivers to achieving successful outcomes from a project. In addition, clarity can be achieved by removing the clutter and blocks that exist in our minds.

Following are the key steps that will increase your personal productivity:

  1. Use structured thinking to provide clarity and focus
  2. Focus on the key goals and objectives
  3. Develop a project plan and identify the key value-adding tasks
  4. Assign time limits on each of the tasks
  5. Take immediate action
  6. Maintain the self-discipline

We all struggle to remain productive and achieve optimal outcomes. The key to success involves focus and action.

Dr John Kapeleris

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If you engage in communication or negotiation with individuals or groups you generally spend about half your time listening. However, studies show that most people are poor listeners, who don’t retain much of what they hear.

Active listening is a communication technique that allows people to become better listeners through understanding, interpreting and evaluating what they hear. Anyone can become an active listener by practicing some basic techniques, as follows:

  1. Prepare in advance. Think about the points you want to make, and plan your conversation strategy and the questions in advance. Planning ahead frees your mind for listening.
  2. Hold your conversation. When you talk you don’t learn anything new. Be more interested in what the other person has to say. Encourage the other person to talk – the more they tell you about their needs or problems the better informed you are to respond or find a solution.
  3. Concentrate. Shut out all distractions. Close your ears to everything except the person to whom you are speaking. Focus on the key points of the discussion and lock them into your mind using memory triggers so that you can respond appropriately to each point. This is the most important component of active listening that always needs more practice and attention.
  4. Don’t interrupt. Hear the speaker out. Pause a second or two before you respond. Don’t be afraid of a moment of silence. It shows that you are thinking about what they said.
  5. Take notes. This will help you remember the important points. However, be selective. Trying to write everything down may cause you to miss important points.
  6. Ask questions. If you don’t understand something or you require further clarification then ask questions. This will also get the other party involved in the conversation. Also ask about their needs, problems and personal interests. People will open up about things that interest them.
  7. Don’t jump to conclusions. Avoid making assumptions about what the speaker is going to say, even if you have heard similar comments and complaints before. Treat every person as a unique individual.
  8. Visualise the person. If speaking to someone on the phone, try to picture the person. It’s easier to become interested in people if you can relate their words to a face.
  9. Use conversation cues. An occasional “Yes”, “I see” or “I understand” shows that you are paying attention and encourages people to keep talking.
  10. Listen between the lines. You can learn a great deal about the people and the central issue by the way they say things or the body language they display. Pay attention to emotions, not just words. Fear, frustration and enthusiasm can be easily detected in a person’s tone of voice, facial expression or body language.
  11. Practice, practice, practice.  Rehearse with family, friends and colleagues. Use everyday conversation as a tool for improving your skills.

The ability to listen actively will improve your communication skills through:

  • a better understanding of the central topic and issues,
  • reduced conflict,
  • improved concentration and memory retention;

thereby fostering better collaboration, and achieving desired outcomes.

Dr John Kapeleris

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The year 2011 is technically the start of a new decade. Therefore, one of the questions on my mind has been, “What will be the focus or trend for the new decade?” I spent some time doing some research online to identify the new trends and found that three things will definitely occur in the new decade:

1. There will be more change in the world than ever before
2. There will be more competition
3. There will be more opportunities available.

I also identified that the emerging theme or trend, particularly in the complex digital age, will be “thinking”. The use of computers and the escalation of digital handheld devices has removed the human element from interactions and transactions. Technology in the last decade has limited our ability to take time out to spend on thinking – thinking about our current situation, thinking about our goals, and thinking about the future. Instead we spend significant amounts of time watching shows in front of flat-screen TVs, playing games or surfing the internet on computers, and tapping away on handheld devices.

Many decades ago Thomas Edison stated, “There are few people who think, a few people who think they think, and then there are the great majority, who would rather die than think“. Interestingly, this quote is still relevant today. We either avoid making the effort to think, or we have essentially allowed technology and computers to do our thinking for us. Humans, in general, have also become more complacent by focusing on the present rather than thinking about the future. Thinking provides the ability to make better decisions which translate into better actions, and ultimately better results.

One of the characteristics of successful and insightful people is that they are future-oriented. They set aside the time to think about changes and trends that will impact on the future. They use these trends and factors to identify new opportunities providing first-mover advantage. Future-oriented people believe they can create their own future and influence their destiny by taking advantage of these opportunities.

Thinking can also change the way we perceive a problem. We can think of a problem as an undesirable situation that needs to be rectified. We can also take this undesirable situation or problem and view it as a challenge that can stimulate motivation for us to take action. Ultimately, we can perceive a problem as an opportunity and take advantage of what it can offer.

John C. Maxwell in his book “Thinking for a Change” describes the eleven different styles of thinking that can change your life:

  1. Acquire the wisdom of big-picture thinking – holistic thinking that extends beyond your domain
  2. Unleash the potential of focused thinking – concentrated thinking to clarify the issues
  3. Discover the joy of creative thinking – thinking laterally outside the box to identify breakthrough opportunities
  4. Recognize the importance of realistic thinking – asking whether your thinking has a solid foundation
  5. Release the power of strategic thinking – thinking about the future and the potential opportunities it brings
  6. Feel the energy of possibility thinking – possibility thinking can help you find solutions to complex problems
  7. Embrace the lessons of reflective thinking – thinking about the past or your current situation to better understand and learn from your experiences
  8. Question the acceptance of popular thinking – understand the current trends of common thinking in society
  9. Encourage the participation of shared thinking – engaging others to expand and sharpen your thinking
  10. Experience the satisfaction of unselfish thinking – considering the needs of others in your thinking
  11. Enjoy the return of bottom-line thinking – staying focused on results and outcomes from your thinking

To engage in the thinking process, set aside some quiet time in the right environment with a clear and relaxed mind, together with pen and paper, using the following step process:

  1. Determine the purpose of your thinking – What is the objective that you are trying to achieve?
  2. Focus on the topic, issue or opportunity – Take the time to focus so that you can achieve clarity.
  3. Explore the possibilities using some of the thinking styles above – Identify the different alternatives available by using different thinking styles.
  4. Synthesize your thoughts and ideas – Combine, adapt, modify, substitute, eliminate or reverse your thoughts and ideas to create new opportunities.
  5. Record your thoughts and ideas on paper – Think on paper! Get back to basics by using a pen and pad or journal to write down your thoughts and ideas, also allowing you to get things out of your head.
  6. Act on the outputs and opportunities resulting from your thinking – Take action and implement your ideas.

If you focus on thinking about the future an unlimited number of possibilities and opportunities become available that can create a new direction and a more desirable life.

Dr John Kapeleris

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“The purpose of man is in action, not thought.” — Thomas Carlyle

We are fast approaching Christmas and this is always a sign that we have once again reached the end of another calendar year. I always find the end of the year to be a time of reflection and review. It is also a time to evaluate the progress of your life purpose, goals and objectives that were set at the start of the year or the longer term goals set in previous years.

The end of the year also offers a fresh start for activities that we had intended to do but never got around to doing them. Although I had previously stated that any day can be the start of the rest of your life, the end of the year can be a special time because it can provide closure to outstanding action items that may no longer be relevant, but also removing limiting beliefs by leaving them behind in the current year. The dawning of a new year provides the incentive to start a fresh action list and the motivation to get things done.

Many people make New Year’s resolutions, however, they quickly discover that the resolutions fade even before the first quarter of the calender year is reached. It is not just about making New Year’s resolutions at the dawn of the New Year, it is about making a committed effort to set written goals and objectives for the coming year and for the medium to longer term timeframe.

I challenge you to make a committed effort, that is, take ACTION, to review your previous goals and objectives, and to set new goals and objectives for 2011. Begin by identifying the major achievements and highlights for 2010. These could include work achievements, financial objectives, family highlights, personal development, educational achievements or personal success outcomes. Achievements should also be acknowledged and celebrated to ensure mental reinforcement and capitalizing on the motivation that this can provide to your subconscious mind. I try to reward myself when I achieve a particular goal or objective. For example, I will buy a gift for myself that reminds me of the success that I have achieved, or I will organise a special holiday trip for myself and my family. Last January I decided to go to Byron Bay and live in a beach house for ten days to celebrate a very successful 2009. In previous years I bought myself a Tag Heuer watch to remind me of a successful multi-million dollar deal I had closed in the year.

I use a visual journal with white pages to document my goals and objectives for the new calendar year. Once I complete this activity I then develop Action Plans for the major goals and objectives. Throughout the year I periodically review my goals and revise any action plans that are not progressing as expected. You should also prepare a vision board which consists of a portfolio of visual material or a collage of images that portray your vision, goals and objectives. The vision board helps to stimulate your reticular activating system in your mind to reaffirm your subconscious.

Like most people I also identify a few missed opportunities or disappointments for the year. This allows me to learn from the experience so that I can strengthen my future plans moving forward. Go ahead and document the missed opportunities and disappointments. Ask yourself, “What could I have done differently to capitalise on the missed opportunities or overcame the disappointments?”, and document potential changes and actions for the future. Don’t spend too much time regretting the missed opportunities. The rest of your life starts now, therefore focus on your future goals and plans for 2011. Some of these goals could also be carried over from 2010. Particularly goals that were over ambitious, which is common amongst high achievers.

I had also previously posted a number of blog entries that can provide further detailed information on developing your goals and objectives (see below). Furthermore, I have included a Personal Development Plan Template that may also be used as a guide. A decent driveway paint site will get you the driveway paint you want.

What does your personal development plan look like?

Have a merry Christmas and I wish you every success for 2011!

Dr John Kapeleris

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Team Innovation

November 24th, 2010 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Innovation - (2 Comments)

“Nobody is perfect put a team can be”

An effective team will make the difference in achieving your goals and objectives, whether you have your own business or you work for an organisation. Relying entirely on yourself to complete all work tasks required of your job or work will not be an effective and sustainable solution.

Every individual has a behavioural tendency that favours a specific type of work role or trait. For example, some people prefer to come up with ideas, while others prefer to implement the ideas. Other traits may include: specialists in a given profession or task; people who enjoy sourcing resources or information; others who like to monitor progress and evaluate the situation;  individuals who get satisfaction from completing tasks; people who enjoy a leadership role; and others who prefer coordinating tasks and resources. Many individuals also exhibit behavioural tendencies towards multiple traits or roles.

John Adair in his book Effective Teambuilding, defines a work group or team as having the following characteristics:

  1. A specific membership
  2. Group consciousness
  3. A shared sense of purpose
  4. Interdependence
  5. Interaction
  6. Ability to act as a unit

A dynamic team must ascend beyond the baseline characteristics described above and aspire to becoming an innovative team, where new opportunities are generated and problems are resolved using novel and creative techniques.

Team innovation requires the following elements that build an effective team able to solve complex problems or identify new breakthrough opportunities:

  • Clarity of vision – having a clear vision that is shared by all members of the team and a commitment to a specific purpose
  • A winning mindset – a positive mental attitude that inspires perseverance, determination and proactivity
  • Support for innovation – every member of the team is trained in different creative thinking techniques and each person understands the importance of innovation
  • Team roles – individuals are selected on the basis of the collective skills required by the team and the specific behavioural traits needed by each team member to achieve the specified team objectives (i.e. Belbin Team Inventory – Plant, Resource Investigator, Coordinator, Shaper, Monitor Evaluator, Teamworker, Implementer, Completer Finisher and Specialist)
  • Team participation – each team member will be required to participate and provide input based on their knowledge and expertise in order to maximise the outcomes
  • Task focus – a strong commitment to achieving the desired tasks and outcomes within budget and allocated timelines.

Dynamic and effective teams must be innovative and incorporate team members who have the desired skill-sets and behavioural traits to ensure successful results and outcomes are achieved.

Dr John Kapeleris

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