Secrets of SA’s most productive people: Johannes Booysen – Founder, Futureneers 

What happens after you build one of Africa’s most successful mobile media agencies and sell it to one of the world’s largest communications groups? Answer: Create more businesses, which is precisely what South African businessman Johannes “Jo” Booysen is doing, having recently launched his latest venture, Futureneers. The serial entrepreneur, philanthropist and avid supporter of the tech revolution knew early on that he was wired differently: easily spotting solutions or opportunities for the challenges around him—and supporting businesses that similarly provide for lifestyle needs. Futureneers is filling the gap in the venture capital market in South Africa. By entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, Booysen’s team personally nurtures startups through each phase of the business growth cycle, preparing them for entry to international markets.


The meaning of productivity
“If I can look back at the end of the day and I can see that I’ve made progress on what my objectives were for the day or the week, then I know it’s been a productive use of my time. I can immediately sense if I, or the people around me, are being unproductive. It’s usually provoked by a feeling of supreme frustration, alerting me to the fact we’re veering off track. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, as it’s also good to have these reminders from time to time, to highlight the true satisfaction of being productive.” 

Sleep schedule
“I get up at 05:30 a.m. US West Coast time zones often mean I work until about 11:30 p.m., so lights out is anywhere north of that. Even though my mind continues to race throughout the night, I’ve learnt (through years of practice) to steer it toward a dream state, because if I stop envisaging, my ability to grow is sorely affected.”

Most productive space
“While I’m driving. I’m usually on my own and use this time to think through things, often recording notes as ideas pop into my head (using my hands-free kit, of course!). If I don’t, I’m always afraid I won’t remember them later, which tends to be counterproductive, as I’ll spend too much time trying to recall that brilliant idea. If I go on holiday, I come back from the weekend with five new business ideas.”
 
Email strategy
“I shoot them down as they come in. I don’t answer every single one of them—I get a lot—but if I don’t at least scan them as they arrive, I know I’ll never get to them. But when the mail requires an answer, I’ll more than likely respond immediately, otherwise it’s unfinished business and irritates me and disrupts my life. I’m busy running several concurrent projects and across different time zones—there’s no other way. With all these projects, I need to stay on top. The other thing in working with our offices in the US, is that I need to be online as well as speaking to my colleagues in the States, until about 11 p.m.”
 
Tidy desk, tidy mind?
“Yes. Truth be told, I’m a perfectionist who enjoys harmony in all aspects of my life—even my clothing cupboards are systematic, although I’d put that down to conscription. Still, it’s not a bad habit to inculcate into my daily working life, so I find I’m pretty much ordered in everything I do. I like the fact that it helps me to remain disciplined. Not having to worry about finding things saves time for what’s necessary to get the job done. Sometimes a bit of untidiness goes a long way, though, and there’ll be occasions when I deliberately allow my desk at work or my home office to become cluttered—which serves as a reminder that life is a work in progress.” 

Daily breaks
“I wish I had the time! But no, I don’t consciously set aside time to relax during the day. There’s usually too much on the go for that to happen—and I’ll have plenty of time to do that when I retire! (laughs)”

Nutrition
“Very important. I’m not a fan of artificial supplements to keep me going, so choosing the right foods and eating frequent small meals are vital in keeping my mind and body functioning optimally. I burn a lot of fuel, because I hardly ever sit still and my mind is in constant overdrive. I’d probably be classified as having ADHD, so balancing my blood sugar levels is vital to keeping me going.” 

Favourite app 
WhatsApp—I don’t know what we did without it! I have a lot of companies and projects under way at the moment, and I have a need to know what’s going on with them at any one time. The different groups and subgroups I create within this messaging system make staying on top of what needs to happen so much easier. It’s so much better than email, as it’s instant.”

Personal philosophy
“To do what I say. To do it now and follow through. I really dislike wasting time, and talk with no action. I’m learning to say ‘no’ to people who don’t share the same philosophy.” 

Go-to motivator
“At the back of my mind I’m always thinking about my end goal, which is to have the time for family life and be in nature—I’m an active conservationist.” 

Decompression method
“Flying has always been a life passion; having that bird’s-eye view and being free in a way that remaining rooted to the earth cannot, keeps me productive. What really feeds me is the ability and resources I’ve developed to deliver everlasting and meaningful impact for good in emerging markets using technology. I realise how cheesy this sounds, but it really is what gives me the energy to continue doing what I do. If I can combine this with flying or being in the bush, even better.”

Best work habit 
“Being open-minded to possibilities and to change; once a strategy is decided, interrogating and keeping it facing in the right direction, but adapting as needs be. You have to be open to this, as it helps the company and the people to be future-ready, even though they don’t like it at the time. So many companies fail because the captain fails to read the weather signs and alter course accordingly.” 

Area for improvement
“There’s a lot going on in my life, so my mind is always occupied and my attention span is not that long. I may appear to zone out, or look disinterested if you’re having a conversation with me. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, as it can be perceived as being offensive, which is the farthest thing from my thoughts. But I’ve probably already got the point, so I’m listening with half an ear! The same goes for written correspondence: If I don’t get it in the opening three lines, then I’m probably not going to read the rest. Time is a scarce commodity (for both parties), so bullet-point summaries are best.” 

Coping mechanism
“Prayer. Gratitude is everything, and it’s during this time that I’m humbly aware of all that I’ve achieved and that I have not done this on my own. Prayer is a fundamental part of who I am and I cannot function without it.” 

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