Getting things done in the age of distraction

Got the questions again this week: how the hell can you have a life, a family and run a global business that is growing rapidly – with all the negative and positive forces that come with it – without throwing yourself under the bus in this age of distraction?

First of all, I stick to our mantra “Dream – Team – Focus – Network” constantly. Each topic needs its own approach. To stay focussed, get things done and thus avoid distractions, I follow many of the tips below. However, when it comes to “prioritising to do’s”, which is unfortunately never mentioned in these GTD-charts, I use SCRUM.

As I’m very focussed by nature, the hardest part is how to learn the less focussed people in a team to focus!

5 routines to clear mental clutter

In recent years I’ve experienced that “FOCUS” is the most important challenge for most people. Too many distractions leads to poor decisions, bad health and zero results. It becomes a negative spiral.

I’m a winner, winners need results and focus is one of the key elements in my daily mantra. When I feel down at the end of the day, it’s typically because there was a focus problem and I had too many distractions.

Here’s a great article that can help you. I use all 5 techniques on a daily basis.

Maybe you’re just making excuses

“Focus, Most Important”, wisdom from mister Miyagi. “Your Focus Needs More Focus”, wisdom from mister Han. Thank you Karate Kid!

Focus is one of the 4 things in our mantra that I had to coach the most in all the business I worked. I believe it’s one of the most difficult things to learn because it’s about getting motivation from pain and people tend to avoid that. People like to do things that don’t hurt them. It’s about saying no to the things that take your focus away. It’s about spotting the excuses.

I believe a big dream helps, but it’s much more than that. Surrounding yourself with a great team that aims for world class performance and being supported by a network that wants you to achieve that dream is crucial. Looking at how top athletes did it always helps. Here’s a good one from Michael Jordan.

Sometimes a get a good feeling

July 18th was one of those days I’ll never forget. It was one of those days that proves my mantra actually works. Thank you Gerry, Yvonne, Tom, Theo, Leigh, Tilana, the whole Dream Team,… thank you!

Look at the video below and understand why. We made this video during the inaugural Hercules Trophy on International Nelson Mandela Day. The Olympic Team of South Africa joined us. Goosebumps.


Mandela was in public service for 67 days. As you know, Nelson Mandela is our hero and we use one of his famous quotes to explain the power of Hercules Trophy: “Sport has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.” The Mandela Day campaign is calling on people around the world to commit 67 minutes of their time “to make an imprint and help change the world around them.”

The Herculix Foundation, powered by Hercules Trophy South Africa, donated sports gear to 6 underprivileged schools, donated 67.000 Rand to the good cause of the winning team, the Olympic athletes wrote inspirational quotes for the schools and inspired people that doing good can be fun! Imagine what we can do if we have between 500 and 700 teams like in Belgium!?! We hope to inspire all our fans all over the world to do the same.

How the hell did we end up here?

A few years ago I sent an SMS to Inge: “in 4 weeks we’re going on an economic mission to South Africa”. Her answer was a typical one: “owkay”. No questions asked. We share the same dream so no explanation needed.

On the flight to Johannesburg Inge told me: “Next is Dubai”. My answer was a typical one: “owkay” (and indeed it was…).

4 weeks later we had a meeting with Gerry Skerritt, one of the founders of The Dream Team in Johannesburg. It was our very first meeting in Johannesburg, initiated by Flanders Investment and Trade. We came out of that meeting and we immediately knew: these are the ones! During one week we checked out the main players on the market and our initial feeling was right.

We got to know the whole team over the years. What a team! One of the best I ever came across. Divers, passionate, positive, respectful, lots of fun, open, experienced, can do mentality… They didn’t go for Hercules Trophy unless everyone was convinced of the dream. It took some African Time though Smile, but everybody became really passionate about Hercules Trophy. Because make no mistake: if not everyone believes in the dream and focuses on it, it won’t happen no matter what you want!

Ups – downs – hopes – setbacks – worldcup in between – small successes… we experienced all the things that always happen in startups but we never stopped believing.

And then something magical happened: Yvonne joined the team. She was the missing link to bring us the network. You can have a dream and a focused team, but without fans you are nowhere. Teams joined because she said they had to join. People trust her and did it for her. As Yvonne has a long history at Virgin Atlantic, she knew exactly what we are all about and she knew exactly how to get that message across.

The inaugural Hercules Trophy in South Africa was the best ever. Spot on. A massive success. No doubt in my mind that Africa is going to be huge in the years to come. Every single team was inspired and will be back next year with more teams. I’m 300% convinced they will spread the word. In fact, the first teams subscribed the day after!

So you see, going global is really easy Smile


“Focus”, one of the 4 words in my personal mantra. A crucial one. Hope I don’t have to convince you that a lack of progress is unhealthy. Progress boosts people’s motivation.

Here’s a thought for you. Do you as a leader keep track of progress? Or do you mainly keep track of setbacks?

Terese Amabile, who is Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration and a Director of Research at Harvard Business School, adds in “The Progress Principle” an interesting angle: it’s crucial to know how to handle setbacks, because they have a more powerful negative impact (2 to 3 times more) than progress has a positive impact.

The Power of Progress


Convinced that progress is crucial? How come that the majority of people fail in this area?

By failure I mean:

  • Big dreams, no execution.
  • Lots of inspiration, no transpiration.
  • Big responsibilities, no accountability.
  • Lots of promises, no progress.
  • Overpromises, under delivery.
  • Huge ambitions, no matches won.
  • Big salaries and bonuses, no results.
  • Doing lots of stuff, but not doing anything good.
  • Not willing to go the extra mile when the going gets tough.

It’s funny to see that the majority of people are convinced they are focused when in fact it’s the complete opposite. As a true leader, you just know who’s authentic and who’s not. When you confront people about a lack of progress and you get the “big excuses” and the “it wasn’t me statements”, you just know…

I confess: I hate excuses and I can’t hide it. Why should I accept it as a leader? Happy to be called “a difficult person” in that area. There’s no other option. I have to delight all stakeholders and you really can’t do that without focus.

But I’ve got great news for everyone who wants to work with me, you know, “the difficult person”: if you are ready for it, I’m always available to help you focus (and I can be very nice to people who do)!

Focus: Be great, Be Powerful Beyond Measure

“Dream, focus on the process of realising that dream, have an awesome team, build outstanding networks”. That’s my daily mantra. I was lucky to be able to make a business out of this mantra through Hercules Trophy. People dream about winning a trophy, focus on 12 different challenges, need an awesome team and great networks during the day to succeed.

Focus is easier said than done. I see many people struggle in that area. Never before were people confronted with so much communication, information, priorities and opportunities. It’s pure chaos out there if you’re not careful.

Focus!Devoured the book of Leo Babauta and I think it contains good tips to learn how to really focus. His main statements are:

1. Less is more: for many people in this hyper consumption society this is a huge hurdle. Do you really need all that stuff? Let’s hope that the new trend of collaborative consumption and co-creation will change the mindset of many of us. You need to understand what’s essential and have to lose all the rest. This requires a lot of courage if you are used to “more is better”. A lot!

2. The art of restriction: people believe that when they have everything they will be happy. In fact, when they have everything they will have a natural tendency to destroy that (ex Tiger Woods and many others). Restriction is a good thing. People become happy when they can look forward to something they can’t have yet, when they have boundaries, when they are restricted.

3.Get back to the essence and simplify: that’s another tough one. Questions that might help you: What are my values? What are my goals? What do I really love? What’s important to me? What has the biggest happiness-effect on me? What works best in the long run? Is something a need or a want? Re-ask the questions continuously. When you decide on what’s essential you can start simplifying by eliminating what’s not essential. Do it!

4. Simple focus: only spend time on the essence and become more effective. Focus on the process, always look at the positive side, concentrate, bundle your energy, do singletasking, live in the here and now, you won’t fail, really, keep practising!

5. Start new habits: by doing that, you’ll make sure that your new insights actually become part of your life. You’ll be amazed how fast you can change. Talk about your new habits to people, be inspired by others, find soulmates, report on progress, celebrate the fact that you actually learned a new habit, be proud and inspire others!

6. Start small: especially for the first new habits. Achieving small goals is easier, more sustainable, you’ll feel good about yourself. Once you get the hang of it, it’ll become easier to learn new habits faster and become the person you actually are.

These principles can be applied on anything: losing weight, doing more sports, a huge project, a new venture, eating healthy, improving the relationship with kids/partner/family,…

When I look back, I went through all these steps when I had my eye-opening experience back in 2009. It was a confronting period that I’ll never forget. It’s about PAIN!

Motivation is crucial in this whole process. I’m convinced that achievable goals will be achieved as long as you keep on motivating yourself. Focus and have patience. Many personal experiences can back these statements.

There will be many many many moments where you want to give up. Don’t ever ever ever do that. If you really want something (= essence) it’ shouldn’t be too hard to motivate yourself day after day after day. Setback after setback. Mister Babauta gives some great tips at the end of his book to keep on motivating yourself. As always: read the book to know more.

The whole process in fact feels a lot like this video: