Priority How Do I Choose When Everything Is Important And Urgent?

Priority How Do I Choose When Everything Is Important And Urgent?

How Do You Choose When Everything Is A Priority?

Priority How Do I Choose When Everything Is Important And Urgent?
Photo by Ferenc Horvath on Unsplash

By Craig Johns

Do you find that you are overwhelmed with a whole lot of ideas and items on your to do list, and you don’t know where to start?

I have found the Priority 2×2 Matrix my best friend when it comes to productivity, performance and effective output.

There are two great Priority 2×2 Matrix that will help you find clarity, speed up the decision making process and manage your time more effectively:



When there is a sense of urgency and overwhelm, I first start with IMPORTANCE vs URGENCY. Start by creating a 2×2 grid (adapted from President Dwight Eisenhower) with IMPORTANCE on the y-axis (vertical) and URGENCY x-axis (horizontal). Then place your ideas or to-do item’s in the grid according to their IMPORTANCE and URGENCY. 

  1. High importance, high urgency (Top right box)
  2. High importance, low urgency (Top left box)
  3. Low importance, high urgency (Bottom right box)
  4. Low importance, low urgency (Bottom left box)
Priority How Do I Choose When Everything Is Important And Urgent? Importance and urgency

Choose the top 3 priorities that are positioned in the in the far right and highest point of the top right box (high importance / high urgency), and use these as your three tasks to complete today or first (if they will take longer than one day). After you have completed tasks in box #1, then you will need to determine which tasks in box 2 or 3 are more important. The IMPACT vs EFFORT Priority 2×2 Matrix will assist you in making this decision.

Sometimes it is really challenging to differentiate between the tasks, when they all feel important and urgent. That’s when the IMPACT vs EFFORT Priority 2×2 Matrix, becomes your go to tool to find clarity.


Create a 2×2 grid (adapted from President Dwight Eisenhower) with IMPACT on the y-axis (vertical) and EFFORT x-axis (horizontal). Then place your ideas or to-do item’s in the grid according to their IMPACT and EFFORT. 

  1. High impact, high effort (Top right box)
  2. High impact, low effort (Top left box)
  3. Low impact, high effort (Bottom right box)
  4. Low impact, low effort (Bottom left box)
Priority How Do I Choose When Everything Is Important And Urgent? Impact and effort

Choose the top 3 priorities that are positioned in the far left and at the highest point of the top left box (high impact / low urgency), and use these as your three tasks to complete today or first (if they will take longer than one day). After you have completed tasks in box #2, then you will need to focus on tasks in box 1.

It is really important that you only choose a maximum of 3 tasks to complete each day, no matter whether you use the IMPORTANCE vs URGENCY or IMPACT vs EFFORT Priority 2×2 Matrix.

It’s time for you to find clarity, make a decision and own your time!

Want to learn more:

Craig Johns
Craig Johns
Craig Johns LinkedIn

Recommended Reading:

Target Market Behaviours During Loss, Uncertainty And Change Link
Are Leaders Born? Read Article
Fuel Your Body For Leadership Performance Read Article
How Exercise Enhances A Leaders Performance Read Article
Four Basic Fundamentals Of Being A High Performing Leader Read Article
How To Be A High Performing Leader In 2020 Read Article
active CEO Lessons In 2019 Read Article
Four Ways To Overcome CEO Loneliness In 2020 Read Article

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OWN Your OWN Freedom Craig Johns Breaking The CEO Code

active CEO Podcast #93 OWN Your OWN FREEDOM

OWN Your OWN Freedom Craig Johns Breaking The CEO Code

Craig Johns talks about OWN Your OWN FREEDOM, the first of the 8 ways to own your OWN Influence.


Find the passion, happiness & direction in your life!

Your passion can be anything in the world that challenges you, intrigues you and motivates you in life. It’s not about doing something you love so that it doesn’t feel like work, a passion is something that puts you to work.

Happiness is a feeling that occurs when you know your life is great and you just can’t help smiling. People feel happiness for different reasons, have you found your happiness or are you still in the pursuit of happiness?

If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything. What is your reason for living, your purpose in life, and as Simon Sinek says “What is your why”? If it all starts with why, then what is the direction you are taking in life?


Three questions to ask yourself in OWN Your OWN FREEDOM

  1. What makes you come alive?
  2. What are your innate strengths?
  3. Where do you add the greatest value?

If you are still struggling to identify your direction, there a 3 deeper questions that will bring you clarity, which are in this podcast episode.

Want To Learn More?

Check out the newly Breaking The CEO Code whitepaper. It provides an overview of Breaking The CEO Code and showcases the 6 key phases. We also go a little deeper into the 2nd phase PERFORMANCE, where we discuss the 3 P’s of the Leadership Performance Formula.

Resources Mentioned in this show:

Subscribe to active CEO Podcast on Itunes
Craig Johns Keynote Speaker
active CEO Coaching
active CEO Podcast
Corporate Programs
Sport Performance
Craig Johns
Craig Johns LinkedIn

Recent active CEO Podcast Episodes

#93 – OWN Your OWN Freedom Link
#92 – Lisa Tamati (Relentless) Relentless Leadership In Life Link
#91 – 8 Ways To OWN Your OWN Influence Link
#90 – Jason Treu (Unstoppable Workplaces) Building Trust For Transformation Link
#89 – How Many CEO Performance Habits? Link
#88 – Kate Maree O’Brien (SHE Conference) Tenacious Spirit Of An Entrepreneur Link
#87 – Have You Got CEO Presence Link
#86 – Chris Tabish (Comediology) Link
#85 – How To Raise Your Energy Bar With CEO Periodization Link
#84 – Catherine Molloy The Conscious Leader Link
#83 – 3 P’s Of The Leadership Performance Formula Link
#82 – Revital Golan (Anemone Ventures) Entrepreneur State Of Mind Link

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8 Tips to Start 2019 With the Right Intent

You are finishing up your well-deserved Christmas and New Years holiday, and if you got it right, you will feel fresh, recharged, and have the passion to lead with purpose.

Now, works commences in a few days and you want to bring you’re A-Game and start 2019 with the intent and energy you wish to continue all year.

Last year, you probably came out with all guns blazing, without much thought, and within a few weeks, days or in some cases a couple of hours, were back to your old habits, routines and potentially mistakes.

There is a much smarter way, if you want to deliver a high performance environment for both your team and yourself.

Those closest to you will appreciate it!

Before we get started, did your plan of having a holiday that allowed you to relax, rejuvenate and forget all about the stresses of work come to fruition?

I would expect not for many of you as you were unable to switch off an allow yourself the time and space, from work, to fully recharge.

So lets take a look at some proven ways to ensure that you are being your best possible self, every single day, through the decisions you make, habits you create and mindset you start with when you walk into the office on day one:


Eat a healthy meal, hydrate yourself and go to bed early the night before your first day back in the office. Allow yourself the opportunity to get at least 8hrs sleep, leave the phone or any other electronic devices tucked away, and wake up and do at least 30 minutes of exercise and/or meditation. Wait until after you have had a healthy breakfast, which includes fruit, with your partner or family. Make sure you are present with those you choose to have breakfast with.

Groom yourself so that you present the image that creates a positive feeling for both yourself and the people you interact with. Take a deep breath, clear the mind and walk into the office with positive energy, a smile and posture that breaths confidence. Acknowledge everyone, be present and actively listen to their exciting holiday adventures.


Many people fly out the door in a rush on the last day before their vacation. In a perfect world, you will ‘wipe the table’ so to speak before you depart so that you can come in fresh on day one, without the stresses that have built up in the previous year. If not, clear your desk, remove any unwanted documents and ‘reset the table’ that will allow you to work with clarity, focus and without distraction, before you commence anything else.


Before you turn on a compute or check your phone for emails, you should write a plan. It will be the best 30minutes spent all year, because your mind will have greater clarity and broader perspective following a holiday. This will allow you to brainstorm what is important to your role; design and create a strategy; and put an action plan in place so you can commence your work with less stress and more than likely increased productivity for 2019. You may want to do this in nature or somewhere with a great view, before you sit down at your desk.


What will really make a difference in 2019? Being able to reset your priorities is so valuable after a break as what you thought was important prior to the break, may not have such urgency anymore. Setting priorities that create a quick win, to get the team energised and pumped up early in the year, are just as important as creating the priorities that will bring long-term benefits to both you’re the company and your performance.


Something that I have found really useful over many years is to create a simple weekly spreadsheet, with five columns:

  1. Urgent – Today
  2. Important – Tomorrow
  3. Valuable – By the end of the week
  4. Useful – Next week
  5. Completed – Everything that has been completed this week

What it does is allow you to prioritise and reprioritise daily to ensure that you are being the most productive. In general there will only be 3-5 items in each column. Anything more than that and you will become overwhelmed and stress levels will gradually build and take command of your mindset and actions.


Creating positive habits and routines that allow you to deliver performance in the work you do and with the people you lead requires both great self-discipline and self-control. Taking breaks every 45-60minutes, even for just 1-5minutes, allows your mind to recharge and focus. This doesn’t mean checking emails on your phone and talking about work to a colleague. It means switching off and giving your mind a break.

Constantly checking emails and having alerts going off on phones, is the greatest distraction of productivity that effect most people. Try checking your emails only 2 or 3 times per day. I find I am most effective when I check emails at 10am and 3pm. It allows me to focus my time on projects and important meetings, rather than cluttering my head with too many thoughts and ideas. You will also find that many problems are solved and questions are answered by the time you check the email.


After you have had breakfast, make your lunch, fill a couple of bottles of water, and grab some snacks like fruit, nuts and health bars to take to work. One you will save money and time going out to get food throughout the day, and two you will eat a lot healthier.

This doesn’t mean that you continue working while eating as you need to give yourself a longer break, especially during the middle of the day, you recharge and refocus so you can be productive right until you leave the office.


This year, you need to ensure that you are having fun, laughing and being inspired by the people you work with. This type of environment starts with how you arrive each day and ensuring you bring energy and a positive attitude.

Looking for More?

To perform you need CLARITY, PURPOSE, DIRECTION and ENERGY. It’s that time of year when you reflect on 2018 and think about what you want to achieve in 2019. Use our FREE active CEO Performance Planning tool.

Do you need a coach to help you focus your attention, setting the right goals and enhancing your personal development in 2019? Then find out more on what we offer by visiting the COACHING section

Keep up-to-date on the latest membership information, research and ideas by signing up the the NRGizer Newsletter. SIGN UP NOW

Are you looking for more insights and ideas? Then read the following inspiring and thought-provoking articles and podcasts:

You Can’t Stop Rotting Wood

Have you ever felt like the company you are working for is like a ship that has sprung a leak, taking on water and gradually going under?

At first you put a wrong decision, behavior or action down to a mistake or an interesting choice, but after it is replicated many times, it feels like you are on a runaway train with no brakes.

Once a negative culture or behavior becomes ingrained it is like wood in that when rot sets in there is no way to stop its progress.

Photo by Rubén Bagüés on Unsplash

I have found that a dysfunctional company or team culture starts from the leader or leaders of an organization lacking the necessary skillsets to one, set a positive culture, and two, have the ability to manage the direction of the culture created.

The demise of many teams and companies can be directly related to the environment created by a leader, leadership team or a group of people who are able to use their influencing abilities in a negative manner.

As is often noted in business circles, ‘the fish rots from the head down’, meaning that the when a team or company fails, it is the leadership that is the root cause.

Why is culture so important to a business? Here is a simple way to frame it. The stronger the culture, the less corporate process a company needs. When the culture is strong, you can trust everyone to do the right thing.

BRIAN CHESKY, co-founder and CEO, Airbnb

Deloitte completed a Global Human Capital Trends survey in 2016, which found that 82 percent of respondents believe that culture is a potential competitive advantage as it drives people’s behavior, innovation and customer service. (Kaplan et al. 2016)

Ashworth (2015) noted that, “a company’s culture is the only truly unique identifier. It is like a fingerprint. It may be similar to others, but is uniquely distinct to your business”.

Iannarino (2012) pointed out that, “if leadership doesn’t establish and protect a healthy culture, some unhealthy culture will fill that vacuum… If a pocket of negativity or cynicism exists, it’s because leadership hasn’t cut it out of the organisation – especially when the pocket of negativity comes from the leadership ranks”.

Culture is like the wind. It is invisible; yet its effect can be seen and felt.

BRYAN WALKER, Partner and Managing Director, IDEO

There was this one time when I was working for a start-up company who over-hired during the pre-opening phase due to the ambitious large scale of the operation.

As the company moved into the opening and post-opening phases they had to reduce the size of the team to improve financial and operational efficiency.

The problem was is that the leadership team continued to down-size more than once and the leadership team continually change over a period of three years, which resulted in a lack of trust and the development of an unhealthy culture.

An unhealthy culture then began to spread external to the company into the community, like a plague of locusts, creating negative brand image and consumer distrust that resulted in members leaving.

Today I want to share with you three ways that you can be in more control of your culture and ensure that a positive environment exists in your team or company:

  1. You must live and breath the values, lead by example, be a positive role model, and show your team members what the right or acceptable behavior is.
  2. Communicate regularly with your team members, get to know them in both a formal and informal setting, and be curious by asking questions that allow the team members to feel valued and know that their work matters.
  3. Empower team members, motivate and inspire them to do their best work, and recognize and reward them for positive behaviors that continually strengthen the culture.

It is important that you protect your wood, ensure that it is watered, has adequate nutrients and is protected from the harsh elements.


Ashworth, P. (2015). Why Company Culture is So Important to Business Success. BrightCoach LinkedIn Article. link

Iannarino, A. (2012). A Fish Rots from the Head Down (A Note to the Sales Leader). Iannarino Company Website. link

Kaplan, M., Dollar, B., Melian, V., Van Durme, Y., Wong, J. (2016). Shape Culture Drive Strategy. Deloitte Insights. link

Looking for More?

Keep up-to-date on the latest membership information, research and ideas by signing up the the NRGizer Newsletter. SIGN UP NOW

Are you looking for more insights and ideas? Then read the following inspiring and thought-provoking articles and podcasts:

active CEO Podcast Suzie Hoitink Clear Complexions

active CEO Podcast #5 Suzie Hoitink Enemy of a Great Life is a Good One

PCB Vol 5- Suzie Hoitink
Suzie Hoitink – Founder Clear Complexions

On this episode of the active CEO Podcast, Craig Johns and Ben Gathercole speak with Suzie Hoitink, enjoying an insightful and thought-provoking discussion about leading an active and healthy lifestyle by example, successfully taking a new idea to market, the impact Rob de Castella has recently had on her life, finding the confidence to step out of a comfortable life, managing a successful partnership with her husband and how she leads an active CEO lifestyle.

Suzie Hoitink

Suzie Hoitink is a wonderful mother, leader, business owner and someone who really cares about people. She founded Clear Complexions, the undisputed leader in the skin rejuvenation industry, in 2005 and has gone on to build it into a multimillion-dollar business. Suzie was recognised as the 2012 Telstra Business Women of the Year. As a teenager she was shy and had low self-esteem. You wouldn’t recognise that now, as she is alive with charisma, belief, authenticity and the desire to positively change people’s lives.

Suzie talks about:

  • Exercise being crucial to keeping the balance
  • Needing something to terrify her to get out of bed in the morning
  • How her family brought out a competitive spirit in her
  • Why she adores triathlon and loves the structure of having a coach
  • Exercise being a non-negotiable in the mornings
  • Her role being an emotionally giving role to her staff and especially the clients
  • Being a corporate runner for the Indigenous Marathon Foundation and running the New York Marathon being one of the most significant events of her life
  • How leading an active and healthy lifestyle, by example, has had a positive impact on her staff
  • To bring an active CEO lifestyle into an organisation you need to be an inspirational leader sharing the achievements and most importantly the journey
  • Correlation between exercise, and self-esteem and confidence
  • “The enemy of a great life is a good one.”
  • A problem that I had that wasn’t being solved
  • Why nurses have the advantage in the skin care industry
  • Finding confidence in herself and leaving a comfortable life
  • The challenges of being acquired by a publicly listed company in 2017
  • Building something like a sculpture
  • Taking on a new CEO
  • Standing outside the square rather than in it
  • The importance of a mentor
  • Leading by example, being inclusive, setting high standards and sharing the vision
  • Dealing with travelling on a weekly basis
  • Why her mum and dad have had such a major influence on her life


The enemy of a great life is a good one with Suzie Hoitink. You can listen here

When you start a new business, you only see forward, you see no barriers, so focused on your great idea. Listen to Suzie Hoitink and gain an insight into leading by example on the active CEO Podcast.

Resources Mentioned in this show:

Suzie Hoitink LinkedIn

Suzie Hoitink Website

Clear Complexions

Indigenous Marathon Foundation

Robert de Castella

Recommended Reading:

Better Than Winning – Ben’s best selling book

Previous active CEO Podcast Episodes:

#4 – Rene Zondag (PBI) – People Are Our Greatest Asset link
#3 – Anne Gripper (NSW Office of Sport) – 6 C’s of Leadership link 
#2 – active CEO Intro (NRG2Perform) Part 2 link
#1 – active CEO Intro (NRG2Perform) Part 1 link

4 Healthy Break Habits in the Workplace

In the previous article “Undisputed Benefits of Taking a Smoko Break” we looked at the benefits of taking regular, short and frequent breaks, and the importance of detachment from something we are focused on. This article bring you some useful strategies and habits you can form to improve your performance and productivity in the workplace.

Don’t tell your boss, but taking a power nap has a major impact on your alertness and cognitive function. It can alleviate sleep deficits; improve creative problem solving, verbal memory, perceptual, object and statistical learning, logical reasoning, reaction times and symbol recognition; and improve our mood, fatigue and feeling of sleepiness. They should last between 10 to 30minutes long. If you nap any longer you risk developing ‘sleep inertia’, which is the unpleasant groggy feeling that can take some time to shake off.

Quite often we get caught up in ‘the grind’ or the finer details of what we are doing. Having a break allows you to step back and taking a birds-eye-view of the task or work you are focused on. It allows to you see the big picture and stay mindful of your objectives.

Enjoyment is the number one retention tool in the world. Completing a fun activity by yourself or with your friends and colleagues produces positive emotions. These emotions reverse negative effects of work tasks and increase blood flow to the areas in the brain that we use to focus.

Daydreaming allows us to release and switch on our creative modes. Our brains have a focused mode (learning, writing, working) and a diffuse mode (relaxed, day-dreaming). Our brain activity increases when our mind wanders. We sometimes solve some of our toughest puzzles or problems while daydreaming.

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets…It is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”


Productivity-Boosting Activities for your Break

Lets take a look at some more activities that you can use to boost your productivity:

  • Take a walk – 20min walk can increase blood-flow to the brain, which can boost creative thought, enhance the connectivity of important brain circuits, combat age-related declines in brain function, and improve memory and cognitive performance
  • Daydreaming – leads to creativity. Creative activities teach us agency, the ability to change the world, mould it to our liking and to have a positive effect on our environment
  • Eat – replenish the brain with productivity nourishing foods
  • Read – a non-work book. Reading fiction books can lead to better understanding other people, emphasize with them and see the world from their perspective
  • Coffee – morning and afternoon break time is the perfect time for coffee
  • Aesthetically pleasing photos – photos that spark positive emotions like babies, baby animals and funny cartoons
  • Listen to music – can significantly improve our motor and reasoning skills
  • Nap it out – 10-30min naps can improve cognitive function, decreases sleepiness and fatigue, improves reaction time.
  • Exercise – makes you happier, increase energy and helps gain focus. Less than 10minutes is all you need.
  • Have a chat – with co-workers or friends
  • Meditate – your brain’s beta waves can be dramatically reduced during meditation. It lowers stress levels, improves overall health and enhances creativity
  • Make it fun – plan a future trip or vacation. The anticipation of a trip can make people happier that the actual trip itself
  • See the nature – Spending time in nature is good for your immune system, improve focus and relieve stress
  • 20min Eye Exercise Rule – 20-20-20 rule – Every 20min, take at least a 20sec break, looking at objects 20 feet away.
  • Goofing Around online – the distractive nature of checking text messages and surfing social media can assist with refreshing the brain

“To maximize gains from long-term practice,” Dr. Ericsson concluded, “individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.”


Break Methods

Here are a few methods that can help you implement a successful break strategy in your day.

  1. Pomodoro Method – alternate 25mins on, 5mins off. After 4 cycles take a 30min break. Helps you get rid of distractions and focus more intently. Finite beginning and end of small chunks increases urgency in finishing tasks quickly and making decisions faster
  2. 90minute work blocks – works with our body’s natural rhythm (ultradian rhythm) of 90minutes of activity and 20minutes of rest. We do this during sleep and during the day. When Professor K. Anders Ericsson studied elite performers like violinists, athletes, actors and chess players, he found that the best performers practiced in focused sessions of no more than 90 minutes.
  3. 52-17 method – split between the Pomodoro Method and 90min Blocks. Research suggests that it could be the most productive schedule. Working with purpose.
  4. 2x 15min breaks per day – a good starting point for those who have less flexibility in their work day or mentally cant get their heads around taking breaks.

“The reason the most productive 10% of our users are able to get the most done during the comparatively short periods of working time is that their working times are treated as sprints. They make the most of those 52 minutes by working with intense purpose, but then rest up to be ready for the next burst. In other words, they work with purpose.”


What are strategy are you going to choose?

Looking for More?

Keep up-to-date on the latest membership information, research and ideas by signing up the the NRGizer Newsletter. SIGN UP NOW

Are you looking for more insights and ideas? Then read the following inspiring and thought-provoking articles and podcasts:

Undisputed Benefits of Taking a Smoko Break

Smoking is one of the filthiest and unhealthiest habits that have formed in the human race. Ironically though it has developed one of the healthiest byproducts from a work-place performance and productivity point-of-view.

I don’t know how many times I have shaken my head seeing the same person outside having a smoke break for the 5th or 6th time for the day. I wonder what their boss thinks and also how much money they would save if they didn’t smoke?

The one thing that I admire about the filthy habit of smoking is the psychological and physiological wellness byproducts that occur because of it:

  • Taking regular 5-10min breaks from focusing on a computer screen or a task every 60-90minutes.
  • Getting up, moving and walking to a space where smoking is allowed.
  • Breathe control commonly used when smoking with long and deliberate slow breathes.
  • Day-dreaming and switching off work that occurs when smoking.
  • Social aspect of chatting with another smoker.
  • De-stressing component of controlling your breath and switching off your work.

These are all very healthy activities for your mind and body, to improve productivity, performance and reduce burnout, but they are as a result of a habit that has many major negative effects on a person.

Now, I need to be very clear that I am 100% against people smoking, and think it should be banned from society. I had one puff of a cigarette when I was a teenager, and I never had another one in the rest of my life. Personally I can’t stand the smell, it had an effect on me as an asthmatic to be around it, and I struggle to see how people make the choice to destroy their lungs and exponentially increase their chances of attracting cancer.

So the big question is:

What can we substitute for the filthy habit of smoking that will provide employees in the workplace the same psychological and physiological benefits as noted above?

I have thought about this, spoken to colleagues, asked former smokers and none of them can find a substitute that is as effective at combining all aspects of byproducts listed above. Using a mobile phone, having a coffee, going for a walk, reading a magazine or doing meditation don’t create the same effect.

So the challenge is for you to either find the ultimate solution or commence small activities that can gradually improve your productivity and performance.

Before we go onto techniques to improve your workplace productivity and performance, I would like to highlight some of the negative aspects of smoking and how they easily negate the positive benefits they get from the activity of taking smoking breaks:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Smelly hair and clothes
  • Unhealthy teeth
  • Bronchitis
  • Smokers cough
  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Infertility
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Blood clots
  • Early menopause
  • Poor vision
  • Dull sense of taste and smell
  • Lung cancer
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Loss of appetite
  • Yellow fingers
  • Cervical cancer
  • Wrinkly skin
  • Problems with pregnancy and new born implications
  • Higher rate of mouth, throat, bladder, blood and kidney cancers

I know from experience that I perform at my best when I take regular breaks, and have lunch away from the office, with friends, have fun and discuss non-work topics. What is interesting is that studies show only 20 to 33% of employees take a lunch break, and of those who take a break many still eat at their desk while working.

Research has shown that the more hours that elapsed before a break the less energized and the more symptoms of poor health. It has also indicated that breaks are most effective when they are taken before they’re needed. It all comes down to planning, just like a marathon runner who develops their training plan with a balance of workouts and recovery.

Taking a break recharges the batteries, so to speak, prevents long-term stress and burnout, which have negative effects on your health and performance. Breaks can replenish the psychological costs associated with working hard, improve work performance, and boost energy.

The positive effects of taking regular, short and frequent breaks include:

  • More stamina
  • Fewer aches & pains
  • Less headaches and eyestrains
  • Higher job satisfaction
  • Reduced emotional exhaustion
  • Increased concentration levels
  • Improved motivation
  • Enhanced energy
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Increase productivity
  • Improve mental acuity
  • Increase alertness

Sometimes a little distraction is good for your brain. Psychological detachment, by shifting our focus, helps us to directly reduce work demands that are causing fatigue and to naturally recover. It also prevents us from getting bored and losing focus on the tasks that really matter.

The following activities are great for detachment:

  • meditation to clear the mind and focus on relaxation
  • physical activity to increase blood flows to the areas of the brain that are necessary for focus or attention
  • learning something new or playing a game to improve confidence and boost motivation
  • help out a colleague as it helps social connectedness, feel comforting and positive
  • Set a new goal and think about the future to see the bigger picture and re-evaluate life in a positive way
  • Fun and the influence of humour on persistence behaviour

Without any downtime to refresh and recharge, we’re less efficient, make more mistakes, and get less engaged with what we’re doing. Taking a few deep breathes, stretching and standing, and taking a 20 second gaze break are simple activities that allow you to regain focus and to improve your energy so you can complete the task at hand.

In the next article we will take a look at productivity boosting activities and break methods that you can use during your breaks to recharge.

Looking for More?

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Are you looking for more insights and ideas? Then read the following inspiring and thought-provoking articles:

Secret to Success – People Are Our Greatest Asset

Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

There is nothing more beautiful than teaching and coaching people. The immense pride and enjoyment you get out of seeing someone grow is supported by the benefits you receive by teaching and coaching. You learn more about yourself, you tend to reflect on your own habits and routines, and you provide an opportunity to learn new ways of doing things.

“People learn the most when teaching others.”


As a CEO or leader you have a huge responsibility to not only prepare your people for their work, but also prepare them for life. More than just teaching skills, you have an obligation to teach them to find and understand their purpose. Once people understand their purpose, you then have to work with them to connect it with the purpose of the company and the work they are completing.

People are the only sustainable thing in an organization or a team. The New Zealand All Black Rugby Team’s win-rate over the last 100 years is over 75 per cent. It’s a phenomenal record, and an achievement matched by no other elite team, in any code, around the globe. However, in 2004 the All Blacks weren’t in a great place with team culture issues, low morale, disjointed purpose and declining performance.

“Better people make better All Blacks – but they also make better doctors and lawyers, bankers and businessmen, fathers, brothers, and friends.”


The team management and senior players came together and decided that they needed a fresh culture, where individual character and personal leadership were emphasized. They developed a new mantra, ‘Better People Make Better All Blacks’. This resulted in a remarkable turnaround with the team achieving a win-rate of just over 90%, and two Rugby World Cup’s, since 2004. They literally ‘swept the sheds’ and turned the focus to ‘leaving the jersey in a better place’.

There is nothing more rewarding than teaching people to become better than ourselves. Many CEO’s and leaders are afraid of the people they work with becoming better skilled, better leaders and better people than they are. It’s all about ego, and they need to realize that way of thinking is hindering the progress of both the company and themselves. As a CEO and leader, you need to learn how to create a mindset where you are proud of people growing above you, rather than being afraid of it.

“Understanding this responsibility creates a compelling sense of higher purpose. It’s a good lesson for us all: if we play a bigger game, we play a more effective game.”


When people are buying a product, they are looking for an emotional connection, rather than a material connection. Your people are at the heart of creating the emotional connection the buyers crave. It is important that you create an environment where your people are passionate about selling an experience, a new way of doing something, a feeling or a dream. As they say, ‘people sell, not products’.

People are more interested in the ‘why you are doing’ rather than ‘what you are doing’ when it comes to joining your community, purchasing a product or doing a deal with you. Why did the company begin, why does it act and interact in the way it does, and why do your people turn up every day? Your people need to be aligned in the collective purpose of the company, be passionate about the purpose, and live and breathe it every day.

“Give a man a fish; feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish; feed him for a lifetime.”


Enjoyment and happiness are the number one retention tools in the world. For people to enjoy their work and be happy in the workplace, they need positive relationships, purposeful work, opportunities to learn and grow, and have some ‘skin in the game’. Forget a tunnel-vision focus on the bottom line and profit aligned productivity, and begin focusing on creating an enjoyable and happy place, that people love turning up to every day.


Appreciation and recognition drive the human spirit. Confidence and self-esteem are some of the most vulnerable human characteristics. We often look for the negative things, those that aren’t going right and focus on them, rather than emphasizing the great things people are doing. If you are always focusing on the negative aspects of your companies or peoples work, you are not going to develop trust and the loyalty of your people.

“Tell me and I forget,
teach me and I will remember,
involve me and I will learn.”


Look at ways you can reward and recognize the efforts of your people, more often. This helps to build confidence and self-esteem, especially if you can create an environment where people feel appreciated for their work, while also learning how to improve in areas that need attention. Remember, without confidence it is impossible for people to perform at their best. Just watch a tennis tournament.

Your people are your greatest asset. Take the time to communicate with your people, listen to them, and ask questions that improve their understanding, and bring them closer to the purpose of the company and what they want to achieve in life. Find ways to reflect on how you interact with your people and seek new ways to communicate more effectively. You have a great responsibility!

“If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed;
If in terms of ten years, plant trees;
If in terms of 100 years, teach the people.”


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active CEO Podcast #2 Introduction Part 2

Ben Gathercole and Craig Johns expand on the active CEO Podcast, and take the active and healthy lifestyle to another level.

Ben Gathercole and Craig Johns have a more the 50 years combined experience working in performance coaching and leadership roles. They understand the importance of living an active and healthy lifestyle, and are now sharing their insights and enlightening people how to become better leaders through a brand new concept, corporate periodisation.

Ben and Craig also speak about:

  • The secret to switching off from work when at home.
  • Why it is important to be diligent and being on in home environment.
  • How experiencing different cultures matures your leadership ability.
  • Engage with your people more often.
  • What allowed Craig to make the decisive move to change his lifestyle when he moved to Taiwan?
  • How do you break the vicious cycle of all work and no play?
  • The importance of planning, goals and writing them down.
  • Trust, accountability and sharing are crucial to achieving your goals.
  • Your “circle of trust” in a leadership role.
  • Why is having friends in the workplace is invaluable?
  • Let’s put the kid back in us!
  • Approximately 85% of people don’t like their job.
  • The 6-8 week tipping point.
  • You have to practice happiness.
  • You have to be willing to improve yourself to be an active CEO.
  • There is no choice but to live an active and healthy activeCEO lifestyle.
  • What was the last thing you did for the first time?
  • Get out of the comfort zone.
  • Learn who Craig and Ben’s noted had the biggest impact on their lives.
  • What were Ben and Craig’s biggest mistakes that they learnt from?
  • active CEO Wellness Tip – Stairway to Heaven


active CEO’s Ben Gathercole and Craig Johns use the Stairway to Heaven in living an active and healthy lifestyle. You can listen here

Being humble as a leader with Ben Gathercole and Craig Johns providing powerful insights into being an active CEO

Resources Mentioned in this show:

Keynote Speaking link

Recommended Reading:

Better Than Winning – Ben’s best selling book

It is All About Trust

A recent article in the New Zealand Herald (Donaldson, 2018) brought up a great discussion between ‘Command and Control’ versus ‘Self-Determination Theory’ in sport. It raised some great questions that relate to both the business world as well as the coach-athlete relationship. Has the traditional ‘hierarchial’ systems, which lead to command and control, become outdated or is there still a place for this type of leadership behaviour?

Let’s take a look at what the central currency to any community or relationship is. Trust is essential to any relationship and is, according to Mayer et al., made up of three key elements: ability; benevolence; integrity.

Ability is built on the skills, competencies and characteristics that enable a person to perform tasks in a specific domain. As a relationship is building those involved will be ascertaining whether the other party can do what they say, have a track record of performance in that particular area and is their any evidence supporting their claim to competency. It is usually situation specific as we cannot be highly skilled in everything we do.

Benevolence is based on the foundation of how much do they actually care about the relationship versus aspects such as money, power or self-fulfilment. Early in the relationship you are trying to understand each others situation, how much do you want to help each other and are the actions being taken beneficial for each other.

Integrity refers to our acceptance of a set of principles and whether they are being adhered to. Are the actions taken from and adhered to against a set of principles? We want to know whether they will guide or motivate our performance, are we accepting of each others performance principles, and do both sets of principles align or can they coexist.

I would also add a fourth dimension to trust, and that is enjoyment. Enjoyment is the number one retention factor for any type of community or relationship. It helps to love what you are doing and have fun why you are doing it. If the environment is enjoyable, then you are more likely to stay connected.

Command and control is based on an aggressive, micro-managing and dictatorial approach, which sometimes maybe referred to as ‘it is my way or the highway’ approach. It is a common approach that leaders fall into when the pressure for success in business or sport is enormous and a win-at-all-costs mentality is allowed to fester. In certain circumstances this mentality may result in bullying behaviours and a ‘culture of fear’, which are not appropriate our society.

We are seeing the command and control hierarchial approach being replaced in the work place and on the sports fields over time, but there are still many instances of this type of behaviour occurring in society. As people’s awareness, rights, confidence in ability to speak up and community acceptance that you should bring issues to the forefront, acts of bullying are being raised and stamped out. However it is still prevalent in politics, sport and the workplace.

Over the past two decades or so, we have started to see leaders evolve their approach as they understand that their are more effective ways to reach higher levels of performance and productivity. The Self-Determination Theory provides a great platform to understand how we can perform at our best and bring out the best in the people we work with.

Self-Determination Theory is built on 3 core elements; autonomy; relatedness; and competence.

Autonomy is feeling you have a choice, that what you’re doing is of your own volition. Relatedness is to care for and be cared about by others, to feel you are contributing to something greater than yourself, to have your values align with the goals of the team or programme. Competence is about skill levels but athletes also need to feel they are learning and growing, not just reaching a set level.” (Donaldson, 2018)

If we are building a high performance environment, we need to allow our people to feel valued, be able to speak, have a sense of purpose and be true to themselves. We need to provide an environment where people feel highly motivated, feel like they belong and are happy, which the components of the Self-Determination Theory provides.

To build a feeling of autonomy in our people and ensure they are highly motivated and engaged, it is important that we reduce and refrain from approaches that involve dictating, incentivizing and applying heigh levels of pressure. We need to trust the abilities of our people and work on alleviating the fear inside our heads that we won’t achieve the desired results.

One of the most powerful skills a leader can possess is listening. To bring out the best in people, they need to have a voice and be involved in a collaborative way. That doesn’t mean as leaders that we can’t make the tough decisions, it eludes to ensuring that the feelings, values and thoughts of our people are taken into consideration to ensure they are closely aligned to the goals.

How much trust do you have with your people?


Donaldson. M. (2018). New Zealand Sport Model ‘Outdated’. New Zealand Herald, 24 June 2018. link

Roger C. Mayer, James H Davis, and F. David Schoorman (1995). An Integrative Model of Organizational Trust. The Academy of Management Review, 20 (3), July 1995, 709-734.

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Are you looking for more insights and ideas? Then read the following inspiring and thought-provoking articles: