New Productivity Ninjas for the Benelux region!

March 21, 2014

Graham Allcott

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I’m delighted to announce that Think Productive UK has a new international outpost, in The Netherlands.  Fokke Kooistra and Marcel van den Berg last week signed a licensing deal to bring Think Productive UK’s productivity workshops to organizations in Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Fokke and Marcel share our business ethics and values and importantly, they also share our passion for all things productivity.  They’re skilled facilitators with remarkable track records too, and we’re really delighted and proud to have them on board as our first international partners in Europe.

The deal follows our first international partnership with Dawn O’Connor in Canada and we have several more in the pipeline as we continue to expand in the UK and around the world.

After signing the deal, Fokke and Marcel have spent a few days in the UK observing our workshops and getting to know the team.  We’ll also be looking to develop a Dutch language version of “How to be a Productivity Ninja” for release in the Dutch market at the end of 2014.

By Graham Allcott

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From Productivity to Fruit Ninjas!

March 20, 2014


Week One

Here at Think Productive UK Head Quarters our ninjas have been given the opportunity to sample the fruit delivery service offered by - and the impact it has on our productivity, our health and our happiness!

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A strong advocate of the idea that a healthy body is vital for a healthy mind, Graham Allcott, the founder of  Think Productive UK has written about the benefits of healthy eating relative to workplace productivity in the past:  10 Ways to Eat Yourself Productive .

As an organisation that strives to ‘practice what it preaches’, a healthy stock of fruit is almost ever-present in the  office. There are, however, several benefits to the ‘Fruitdrop’ service that are evident immediately.

First thing on Monday morning a friendly deliveryman arrived with our fruit AND he carried it up to our second floor office! Saving me a trip to the shop in the rain and a slog up the stairs, making the convenience factor abundantly clear! All that was left was for our more artistic team members to decant the fruit and rest of us to start ‘munching’. ..


Week Four

Four weeks later and I am sad to say our final Fruitdrop has been and gone. It was a great service that undoubtedly benefited the team and our productivity! Juicy, delicious and healthy fruit being constantly replenished in abundance meant that everyone had more than enough. Personally, this meant I would snack on fruit rather than crisps or biscuits due to the sheer volume and consistency of fruit that was always there. A reliable, flexible and high quality service – I would definitely recommend signing up for Fruitdrop at any office, check out the boxes and pricing here:

By think

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Forget all meetings – except these ones

March 17, 2014

Productivity Ninja

We talk a lot at Think Productive UK about avoiding meetings, and ways to achieve the goal in a different way.

However, we mustn’t overlook the times when only a meeting will do.



Image – LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by Sam Bald

The unique facet of a meeting above almost all of the alternatives I’ve listed is that you have all the people that matter in a room together, and you can eyeball them.

This means that you can really get a sense of the nuances, politics and potential commitment of all the key players. You can ask the difficult questions and get back not just answers but promises. What usually goes wrong in meetings is that people use them for getting promises on the detail rather than promises on the higher-level questions, questions such as:

? “What’s the general approach?”

? “If it’s this vs. this, what wins?”

? “Who are we most out to satisfy here?”

? “What’s more important here, quality or cost, and where is the line before that answer changes?”

These are the sky-level questions, built on strategic thinking and the knowledge of the bigger picture. Using meetings to establish and revisit these kinds of questions is key. Let the promises and guidance from sky-level, strategic issues steer the direction of operational decisions without the need for another meeting.

So many meetings focus on the ground-level details, when detail is much better delegated to one individual than discussed in committees. Done well, these kinds of meetings should be intense rollercoasters of emotion, conflict, compromise and heated argument, led by skilful questioning and listening.


Image LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by libertygrace0

tantrumSimilarly, if you’re conveying difficult decisions, or need to explore a difficult topic that might prove personal and emotional for some of the people involved, you probably need a meeting. I still think you can do more preparation here to limit the time spent and make raising the super-difficult issues a little more palatable.

There’s definitely no honour in hiding behind an email when communicating the kinds of decisions where someone really deserves the right to look you in the eye. One word of caution here though: only manage emotional fallout if it’s important for you to do so. So if John has worked for the company for 27 years and you’re having to make his role redundant, that’s important. If Bill is going to throw a hissy fit because you’ve chosen a different design to his preferred choice, well perhaps that’s something you don’t need to see so let him have that hissy fit somewhere else – most probably at home with his partner.


Start projects with ‘kick-off meetings’. The aim here is to gel a team together and go through Tuckman’s classic stages of group development, from ‘forming, to storming, to norming’, so that for the rest of the project, they’re in the next stage: ‘performing’.

Establishing a good energy, flow and momentum is great because it makes future collaborations easier and smoother. Since the purpose of these meetings is about personal chemistry and light-touch interaction with the issues, it’s often a good idea to hold these kinds of meetings in unorthodox settings.

So be brave, and take them tenpin bowling or for a nice meal outside the office.

These are also great occasions for symbolism and storytelling. You may want to invite along someone senior who will have little to do with the day-to-day running of the project but who can stress to the newly assembled team just how important this project is and the bigger picture into which it fits. An hour or two invested at this stage pays back tenfold in increased commitment, enhanced and more intelligent communications and solid, productive momentum.

Find out more about improving your meetings, with our in-house facilitation training

By Productivity Ninja

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You don't need to please everyone

March 13, 2014

Graham Allcott

We all have little ‘nightmare scenarios’ that play out in our heads. For the last three or four years, through the process of writing ‘Ninja’, through its’ release and subsequent re-release, one of those nightmares for me has been receiving a 1-star amazon review. Scrutiny and judgement isn’t something anyone likes. You can grow a thicker skin (so they tell me) but no one is totally immune from feeling a little bruised by such things. For about a month in 2012, such was my crippling fear of receiving a 1-star amazon review, that I nearly didn’t let ‘Ninja’ out into the world to play at all. I was clinging on to my creation, wondering whether it should just be given safely to friends and acquaintances who will treat it nicely and only give criticism as polite metaphor.


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Well, today I finally received the 1-star amazon review. I logged on and there it was. Well, first I saw the 5 stars of my ‘average rating’ beaten down to 4 and a half and from that moment I knew something must have been rotten in the state of Luxembourg. And, by the way, it’s amazing to me too that I focus on that missing half rather than on those big shiny 4 and a half – glass 95% full or 5% empty, eh?
So I read the review. My heart raced very slightly. Something I loved and cared for and nurtured and put out into the world hoping it would make a difference, just beaten down and rejected. Ridiculed as worthless. Ouch.

And then I remembered.

We don’t need everyone to love what we do. We don’t even need most people to love it (although thankfully, loads of people write lovely things in emails and on reviews that I absolutely never take for granted and that absolutely always make my day when I read them). I remembered the words of my coach, Rasheed Ogunlaru, who got my through my 1-star meltdown a couple of years ago by simply saying “don’t write for the people who might hate it, write for the people who might love it”. And in fact, as Seth Godin and others have said, if you don’t have any 1-star reviews you’re not doing anything important or different enough.

And here’s the real lesson. I read the 1 star review – the thing I’d dreaded for years, remember – and then I just got up and made a cup of tea. A lovely cup of tea. Nothing crashed around me, the world kept spinning and I felt kind of liberated. It felt like some sort of strange rites of passage.  And then when I got back to my desk and continued writing my second book, I did so for the people who gave ‘Ninja’ 5 stars. And I tried harder so that those that gave it 4 stars will give the next one 5. And so that maybe those that gave it a 3 star review will give the next one a 4 or even a 5. But the 1-star folks? It’s nice to finally know for sure that trying to please them doesn’t matter at all.

We don’t need everyone in life to give us 5 stars. Art and opinion and ideas wouldn’t be interesting to us if they didn’t polarise. Guinness wouldn’t be Guinness if it was everyone’s favourite drink. And in the same way, my mini rites of passage has freed me from any lingering responsibility I felt I had to try and fill the 5% of the glass that was empty.

Let me whisper this new little secret in your ear and then leave you a silence so that you can contemplate the vastness of its implication: you don’t need to please everyone.



Graham’s book is available here. And our time management courses do tend to please almost everyone, so why not drop us a line!

By Graham Allcott

2 responses

  1. Gema says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more Graham! Every word you said here resonates; and the higher you reach in life, the more ambitious you are, the more people will comment… it’s inevitable. BUT – I always remind myself of the following simple scenario; the bus stop. If I was to openly tell a bus stop full of random people my hopes, fears, and share my supposed talents, would I then take their feedback to heart? That is the general public, they are free to think whatever they like – but I am very selective about whose criticism I listen to, and act upon. Otherwise… you’d never do anything at all, would you? :D Thanks for writing Graham, enjoyed it!

  2. think says:

    Thanks Gema! Or… maybe sometimes it’s a cue that we’re at the wrong bus stop too?! :D

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Productive Team Working: Six ways to encourage your colleagues to be less distracting!

February 24, 2014

Grace Marshall

I was running a How to Get Things Done workshop recently in an organisation with a very collaborative and compassionate team-working culture. People genuinely cared about each other, relied on each other to do their work well, and hated saying no or letting others down.

It was clearly a great place to work. But it was also highly distracting. So after working on personal ways of managing distractions, reducing stress and boosting productivity, the inevitable question came: “What about everyone else? How do we make it work within this culture that is so reactive and interdependent?”

It’s one thing putting personal productivity habits into action, but what about the people you work with?

Aside from encouraging them to do the same workshop ;) here are six ways to encourage productivity and reduce distractions in your working relationships:

1. Be proactive about giving your help

Instead of “Come and find me if you have questions” try “Let’s catch up next week when you’ve had a chance to digest and go over any questions. Is Monday good for you?”

Or ask: “What do you think you’ll need from me?”

2. Think ahead and set expectations

Chief Ninja Graham sent an email round last week to say “next week I’m off the grid”. In Ninja terms, he was ‘going dark’ and would be unavailable on social media, email or phone for the whole week to get a big chunk of writing done.

“I’m around all of this week if you need stuff though. And then back on Monday 3rd March.”

Instead of just doing a disappearing act, he gave us notice. As it happened there was something I wanted to talk to him about. In my own timing, I would have gotten in touch this week, but because of this note we arranged to speak last Friday instead. And that worked out well.

3. Use Agendas

When there’s someone you work closely with, it’s easy to get into the habit of firing off questions when they come to mind and end up constantly interrupting each other.

Instead, keep a running agenda of all the things you want to discuss with them, and ask them to do the same. That way, when you speak, you have a list of everything you want to ask or discuss, rather than interrupting each other throughout the day.

4. Ask

“When do you need that for?”

“Is it ok if I get back to you at 4pm on that?”

“I’ll have a better idea of that on Tuesday, can we speak then?”

Sometimes we assume that other people need things urgently from us. Maybe they do, maybe it’s just when it happens to come up on their radar. Either way, you won’t know until you ask. Avoid mind reading. Just ask.

Ask yourself too: What’s the most helpful way of doing this? How can I best help? Being responsive depends on your ability to respond. You’re probably not giving them your best attention if you’re always working under last minute reactiveness.

5. Use signals

At Think Productive UK, our Chief Operating Officer Elena, puts a china cat on her desk when she needs to focus on a piece of work without interruption. It’s her way of saying to the rest of the office that she’s not available right now. Other people use headphones, signs or other signals.

Make sure you communicate this one beforehand, and use it sparingly, so everyone knows and respects that you won’t be unavailable forever.

6. Set the example

Culture forms from habit, and is perpetuated by unwritten rules. When you form new habits, communicate them well, explain your reasons and most of all show the benefits.

Be the change you want to see. Be the one who gets to the point in meetings. Be the one to use CC clearly and considerately. Be the one to think ahead and give advanced notice instead of asking for things last minute. Be the one to say no nicely.

Because when you do, you give others permission to do the same.

Ultimately it’s not just about you. You can be sure that if distractions are rife and costing you time, attention and peace of mind, it’s costing your colleagues too.

If your organisation has developed a culture of being too helpful, too reactive and mutually disruptive, perhaps it’s time to ask what productivity practices are most helpful to the whole team.

Who distracts you the most at work? Who do you distract the most? What productive co-working practices work well for you?

Share your comments and thoughts below.

By Grace Marshall

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Knowing is not enough…

February 21, 2014

Graham Allcott


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I start most days with a really brisk 10-15 minute run.  But for the last three weeks or so I’d gotten completely out of the habit of running.  I felt foggy and tired so couldn’t be bothered to run.  This meant that instead of feeling energised, I felt stressed and not at my best for large chunks of the day.  And this meant I was getting less work done and feeling less and less at my best.

“I’ll get back on track tomorrow”, my brain kept telling me.

“Well, today I have an 8am conference call, so I’ll run tomorrow”.

“Well, I have a little bit of a cold coming on, so I’ll get healthy again this week and start running next week”.

“Run?  In THAT rain?!”.

And then earlier this week I forced myself to get back in the groove.  The running isn’t hard.  After all, it’s only 15 minutes and this time last year I was in training for the London Marathon!  But what’s hard is the putting your trainers on in the morning and breaking the impasse.  That’s the hard bit.

But once I did?  Well, you probably know the answer, because you have your own version of running.  The last two days I’ve felt a much greater sense of clarity.  I’ve got loads more done, I’ve switched off from work much better.  When it comes to momentum, you’re never static, you’re either on a positive spiral or a negative one.

And it just goes to show that even when we KNOW what’s good for us – even when we know that it would be plain ridiculous to procrastinate and deny ourselves what we need – we’re still human, and we still screw it up.

Knowing what’s good for us isn’t enough.

But sometimes the clever and motivated part of us has to work really hard to defeat the dumb and lazy part of us.  Sometimes we need to get beyond the ‘knowing’ and just start ‘doing’ instead.  The running’s the easy bit – but the hard part is to put on your running shoes and getting started.



By Graham Allcott

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Kindle Daily Deal – Friday 21st February!

Graham Allcott

KDD-2 (5)


For TODAY ONLY, you’ll be able to download a copy of “How to be a Productivity Ninja” from for just 99p!  It’s part of Amazon’s ‘Kindle Daily Deal’ promotion, so you have until the end of the day to get on there and order it.  CLICK HERE!

And if you have the old version on your Kindle already and were wondering whether to buy it again, well now it’s less than a pound, you might as well!


It’s a big coup for us to get our little book into such a prestigious and well-known promotion as Amazon Daily Deal, so please help us spread the word today.  I’m told it does wonders for your Amazon ranking (although doesn’t make you much money!) so your support is very much appreciated.  We’re also delighted that for the last four weeks, we’ve been number 1 in the business chart at WH Smiths and it’s also selling well in Waterstones too.


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So a big, big thank you if you’ve bought it already.  I’m really grateful for all the support.  It has a chance to build up a really strong word-of-mouth following, and promotions and recognition like this are a really big part of making that happen, so I hope you’ll indulge my banging on about it and I promise to stop soon.







By Graham Allcott

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Delegate like a boss!

February 4, 2014

Graham Allcott




A few weeks ago, I was interview by Susan Brennan, from Consider It Done Personally.  Susan’s company has put together a whole virtual summit, with interviews featuring a broad range of interesting folks – from Brighton’s very own Mark Walsh, to the founder of BNI Ivan Misner to Finland’s ‘Productive Superdad’  Timo Kiander!

Susan has done an ‘encore’ of our interview, which you can get by clicking here.

It was a lot of fun to do – with Susan asking me about how I delegate – and me talking in a bit more detail about some of the ‘stealth delegation’ techniques I cover talk about in ‘How to be a Productivity Ninja’.

You can join the Consider It Done Club here, and if you want to find out more about the summit, simply contact her directly through her website, here!


By Graham Allcott

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Ninja… In the Wild

January 28, 2014

Graham Allcott

It’s been a fantastic first month for “How to be a Productivity Ninja” – having been released with Icon earlier this month, it’s been popping up in bookshops all over the UK and I’ve had some great photos tweeted and emailed to me, with people I know spotting the book “in the wild”.  It’s also been top of the business chart for WH Smiths travel (cue cheesy author selfie!) and has sold pretty well in Waterstones and on Amazon too.   And I’ve had positive reviews from, Closer Magazine and even Inside Soap Magazine!

Photo 14-01-2014 16 15 09What has also been great is the support and love from my friends, business contacts, people who read the self-published version, people who are friends of Think Productive UK and really everyone connected with it.  It’s hard enough writing a book on your own, but releasing one on your own is virtually impossible, so I’m really most grateful for all the support.  It often feels a little douchey to say you feel humbled or grateful, but it is true.

It’s only the beginning, of course, so I’m not going to get carried away, but it struck me that it might be nice to put some positivity back into the world, as a way of saying thank you!  So today I’m armed with 10 books.  Attached to each book is the note below.  And I’m releasing these 10 books ‘into the wild’ around London (I chose London only because that’s where I am today, but who knows where they’ll end up!).

I’m releasing these books ‘into the wild’ really with no idea what will happen to them.  It just feels like a cool, interesting, positive and fun thing to do.  I’m interested in the kind of connections it might create – building on my obsession with the productivity of happy accidents – and I hope unexpected things happen.  And if they don’t and I hear nothing more of this ever again, then I will still remain with the memory of having done a fun and interesting thing at a fun and interesting time, so even then I feel blessed to be able to do this at all.  So look out for Ninjas ‘in the wild’ today – and if you find one, well, let us know what you do with it!

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Here’s what the note says…



“Dear lucky Ninja-in-training,


You are holding a copy of my book, which was released earlier this month.  Before that, the book was a self-published title which I sold on Amazon, but I couldn’t get it into the stores for love nor money.  Now, with a great publisher behind it (Icon Books), it’s currently number 1 in the business book chart at WH Smiths travel (the ones in airports and stations) and is on sale in Waterstones stores (and still on Amazon too, of course).

So to celebrate its release ‘into the wild’, I’ve decided to release 10 copies of the book into the wild!  (5 are the new Icon edition which is currently on sale in bookshops.  The other 5 are the self-published edition, which is now officially a collector’s item if the prices for second hand ones on Amazon are anything to go by!).

It’s yours to do whatever you like with.  Here are a few ideas:

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1. Read it and keep it. Become more productive and less stressed in your life in general.

2. Read it and pass it on.  Leave your own little note attached to this note, somewhere in the wild.  Encourage the person who finds it to do the same.

3. Take a photo of the book in an interesting place, tweet it and pass it on.  (I just invented the hashtag #ninjainthewild, and I’m @grahamallcott if you’re interested)

4. Think of someone you know who really needs this book.  Give it to them as a gift.  Tell them if they tweet me with a pic, I’ll send them a ninja badge too, to celebrate their new ninjaness!

5. Leave it on a tube seat underneath a copy of the Metro and just have fun watching someone be surprised.

6. Whatever else you fancy.


And if you’re more of an ebook person these days, it’s available on the Kindle.  If you’re a non-Kindle person, you can get a good discount on the ebook if you go to and use the code ‘ninja6offer’.  And if you’re one of the first 10 people who get in touch, I’ll give you a free code for the ebook, too.


 Have fun.”



By Graham Allcott

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How to be a Productivity Ninja. . . Working Parent!

January 8, 2014

Graham Allcott

Leanne Dal Santo, from Smart Bags emailed me recently.  We thought it was so good, we decided to publish it as a guest post.  She’s proof that the principles in “How to be a Productivity Ninja” can apply to a really wide range of topics and situations – so here we cover what it’s like to be a busy working mum, running your own business.  We’d also love to hear the situations you apply the book to – and your own tips too, of course.  Just email me at and we’ll share the best ones on the blog.

So… over to you, Leanne!








Hi Graham,

I read How to be a Productivity Ninja over 6 months ago and I thought I’d write and let you know how I got on. The telling is that it has been several months and I am still utilising the principles.

Thank you for such a great book, I’d rate it in my top 5 business books and have recommended it several times. It was perfect because it was a balanced mix of business, motivation and how to while not being too rigid that that the reader couldn’t adopt to suit their personal situation.

I remember you inviting emails about readers experiences and it is this personalisation I would like to share with you. I own my own business with my husband and have two children (10 & 7) and very little time. After reading your book I took some time to think of the principles  I could apply to specific situations in my life to make me less exhausted from wasting mental energy or feeling overwhelmed or unprepared and came up with my own 5 tips.  Many will seem so obvious or at best trivial but in reality once incorporated and become part of life, they really have made a difference to me.

1. Night before Routine:

I always feel I have started on the back foot if I have to think of what needs to be packed, prepared or remembered in the morning for myself or children. I always find the morning time seems to go quicker and is a frenzied race against the clock. I now spend 5 minutes either laying out what needs to be worn, packing the things needed (lunch, permission notes, books, sport kits, music instruments) or writing a mini checklist of what needs to be remembered in the morning so no extra thinking is required when the morning comes. It is like a micro Daily list but specific for the time before you walk out of the door and I find makes all the difference.

2. Morning Emergency Procedure:

Following on from the “Night before Routine”. Every flight suggests that you prepare yourself with oxygen and safety jacket before attending to your children in an emergency situation. I have adopted this for my daily morning routine. I shower, dress, and put my make-up on before waking, dressing, feeding my children or emptying dishwashers or whatever other morning tasks I have. I know if I feel or look ready I am off to a good start to the day and in control and less chance of the kids sabotaging the morning with some mini disaster like spilt cereal on a clean top that ends up with us running out of time and me with wet hair and half-dressed on the school run.

book cover

3. Learn while you Clean:

It is not new to suggest listening to audio books while driving or travelling but as a women that lives and works in the same square mile I spend more time cleaning than commuting. Man or woman there is a certain amount of domestic duties that must be routinely done. I always listen to a podcast or book downloaded from while cleaning on a Saturday morning. I use to feel resentful that I am lumbered with the majority of the housework while my husband and son go off to football training, now I look forward to it. I power from top to bottom cleaning my house learning and being inspired.

4. Under 1 hour Jobs List:

Inspired by your @read or phone calls idea I have made a list I keep of “not urgent under one hour jobs”, these are dead boring things I need to do, not work related and those I never do because I don’t remember them or have them on a list . Eg match lids to containers and organise cupboards, look at cheaper utility companies, fill out forms, descale the kettle you name it. So now, if I find myself with an hour or less – watching Masterchef, waiting for kids sports to finish or something equally non taxing I simply think what do I feel like doing on that list and get on with it.

5. Unsubscribe:

As careful as you are ticking the opt out boxes somehow all those online purchases lead to endless emails and newsletters, which I am now discovering post-Christmas! I now Unsubscribe from any emails or newsletters immediately that I don’t need or want to receive, they are distracting, possibly costly by tempting me to spend more and often annoying. This might sound obvious or not a big deal as they are easy to delete but once you actually make the effort to unsubscribe it is one less think to suck your time, even if it only is seconds.

6. Get a bag with compartments:

I use to waste several minutes every time I needed to find my phone, keys or purse in the graveyard that was my handbag until I bought one with compartments on the inside. I know it sounds trivial but it is equivalent of a key rack, I don’t waste time fumbling several times a day anymore. I have even found a really cheap product that is an insert, so you don’t even need to buy a bag with compartments just the organiser an move it into whatever bag you want. Genius! (to me anyway)

I hope you find this different perspective useful. I am sure many other women in similar situations will resonate with it even if they don’t admit it!


Thanks Leanne!

And we’d love to hear more of YOUR stories and ideas if you’ve read the book!

By Graham Allcott

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