Matsi Modise's Secret To Staying Uber Productive

Matsi Modise isn't just managing multiple networks; she's a productivity powerhouse.

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Vital Stats

  • Player: Matsi Modise
  • Organisation: SiMODiSA
  • What they do: The SiMODiSA Association has been established as a powerful industry-led initiative to specifically address — and determine — what can be done to overcome the barriers that SMEs and start-ups face.
  • Launched: 2013
  • Visit:

GG Van Rooyen

When Matsi Modise was involved in the launch of SiMODiSA, a not-for-profit entrepreneurial organisation designed to create and facilitate growth opportunities for entrepreneurs, she knew that networking would play a large role in her business. After all, how can you effectively facilitate opportunities unless you know who all of the players are?

This means that since 2013, Matsi has made it her mission to know who the public, corporate and entrepreneurial players are in South Africa and across the continent. This not only takes masterful time management, but the ability to take a macro and micro view of the entrepreneurial community and its needs.

Here's how one woman squeezes the most out of each and every day, while managing to stay meaningfully connected to her professional community.

1. Become a people's person

"I'm lucky in that I've always been a high-energy, personable individual," says Matsi. "I treat everyone as an equal and approach each situation from a position of respect, whether you're a janitor or a senator. I'm interested in everyone I speak to; I want to engage. I make it my mission to find out what makes you tick — what's your mission, and what do you want to achieve."

The end result is that Matsi derives real value from networking engagements. More importantly, because she takes a personal interest in people, she remembers who they are, enabling her to build her landscape. Her top tip? Networking is time consuming, so if you're going to do it, get the most out of it. Spend time speaking to people in a meaningful way, creating real and personal connections.

"It's easy to engage when you're passionate — people want to engage further with you. You can't approach networking just wanting to gain something; you have to be there to give as well."

2. Learn to say no

"This was the toughest lesson for me to personally implement. Saying yes has always come naturally to me. But I've needed to become far more strategic in how I spend my time. I'll do a speaking engagement if I know that someone I want to connect with is attending the event, for example. Your time is one of your most valuable resources, and it's finite. Treat it with respect."

3. Join strategic networks where possible

"I was honoured with the opportunity to join the World Economic Forum as a Global Shaper. This in turn gave me access to Africa 2.0 and The African Leadership Network (ALN), both of which open doors to a pan-African community." However, as much as Matsi is honoured by her inclusion into such a prestigious forum, the lesson is that it didn't happen by accident — it was the result of careful and prolific networking, sharing her story, and proving that she was going above and beyond to assist the entrepreneurial community.

"I started by sharing my story," says Matsi. "I left a secure position in investment banking to pursue my passion — helping entrepreneurs to grow, first through my role as MD of The South African Black Entrepreneurs Forum (SABEF), and then through my own organisation, SiMODiSA. People respond to personal stories.

"They have power. When you've taken a risk, and lived the journey you're promoting, it's a story others want to share, and that opens doors." If you're going to make the most and best use of your time, you want it to be working towards a specific goal. No time is wasted if you're moving towards a target.

4. Follow a routine that suits your productivity style

"I used to gym in the morning, but then I realised that it wasn't tapping into my personal productivity needs.

I've learnt that I need to prepare myself for a successful day. I wake up at 5.30am and meditate. I have a conversation with myself. If the previous day made me unhappy for some reason, I address that first.

"For example, I could have had a personal issue, HR issues at the office, and an investor meeting that went poorly. Bad days happen. What's important is that you don't let them derail an entire week. So each day I'll evaluate the previous day: What worked and what do I need to do differently? I'll then mentally prepare myself for the day ahead.

"Next, I have a conversation with God, preparing myself for the day spiritually. Finally, I catch up on current affairs. This is extremely important to our overall role — we need to know what corporate strategies are happening; what their mandates are, their focus areas and so on.

"For example, if Transnet announces it's looking for female entrepreneurs, we need to know that, so that we can assist them in finding and filling those opportunities. We're the conduit; we need to know everyone and everything.

"This takes up around three hours in the morning, and then I'm ready for my day." How you create your day is personal — it should suit your personal productivity needs. The trick is to pay attention to what those needs are, and then create a schedule that supports them.

5. Understand when you are — and aren't — productive

For Matsi, office time is essential — but it isn't productive. "The day-to-day busyness of an office is the enemy of strategic thinking," says Matsi.

"I've found that batching my time is the most effective way to get the most out of a week. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are admin days and office days. Any staff meetings, team catch-ups and status updates happen on these days. Tuesdays and Thursdays are for external meetings.

"There will always be exceptions, but it helps to have the rule in place. I reserve Sunday afternoons for my strategic thinking sessions. This requires a quiet and calm environment, and it won't happen unless you create the time and space for it."

Batching time is an efficient and effective way to get through urgent tasks as well as priority tasks — without letting urgent tasks draw you away from high priority issues that need to be addressed. Often, if you haven't made time for strategy for example, it falls by the way-side. The trap of "busyness' is one of the biggest detractors of growth.