Three weeks ago I was moaning about all the changes going on around me and my apparent inability to manage them all. Well, yesterday I was at a reception when someone came up to me and asked me how I relaxed? "What do you mean?", I asked. "Well" he said, "with all your activities, projects and all the other stuff I read about you, I wondered how you ever relaxed?" My answer was kind of scary – “I am not sure” I said. “Perhaps by listening to music?” he asked. “Or possibly by riding your motorcycle?” he continued.

Anyway the really interesting part of the conversation came next, when he said, “Harley I use the 80% rule. I only ever work at a maximum of 80% of my personal capacity, this always leaves me with 20% left over.” It was a reception, after all and I like to always remain polite but in an earlier conversation I had learnt that he worked for the Belgian railways, the NMBS.

Railway workers, the whole world over, have never given me the impression of ever having to work that hard, but I might be wrong? I know they certainly did when they were being built, but how are they managed today? I know the quality of service of the Beligan railways never ceases to impress me, they are mostly on time and the carriages are generally very clean and comfortable (compared with the UK) but….

But then I got to thinking… How does he know what his limit is? An Army Sergeant Major will push his recruits to their limits, he knows how much to expect from his soldiers. If one collapses, another will take their place. But how does someone who works for the NMBS know what 80% represents, have they ever been pushed to their limit and beyond? Then I got to thinking; What are my limits?

One of my colleagues said last week that his wife complains that he is always trying to get two days work into one day, from where I am standing, compared to many of his colleagues, I think that most days he manages it.

So if you ever come across the 80% personal effort rule – bin it! Go for 100% every time. This is not just for work, it even applies to leisure and pleasure. And when you finally decide to have some time off for complete relaxation, apply the 100% rule too. Do nothing, absolutely nothing! Feeding yourself (spoon to mouth, glass to lips) dressing, washing, that’s it in my book – nothing more. Perhaps take the effort to select an artist on your MP3 player, but even that I find an exhausting exercise, having to decide Bach or Brahms, Sinatra or Santana.

PS (there is nothing more irritating than people asking for 200%, that really get’s my goat)!