Philosophy Productivity

Why are we busier than ever?

Technically, our life should be easier than our parents’ because so much of manual work is done by machines and software.

But for some reason, we’re busier than ever.

How can this happen?

One hypothesis I have is – we’re being presented with a lot more options and opportunities in every single area of our life.

We’ve many growth opportunities at work.

We’ve many fun activities for our hobbies.

We’ve many options to stay connected with our friends and families.

We’ve many videos to watch, articles to browse, and books to read.

More, more, more…

There is only one thing that hasn’t changed from our parents’ days to ours.

And that is – each of us is born with a finite amount of time on this earth and has 24 hrs on any given day.

And it seems like figuring out how we use it wisely is one of our life’s primary activities.

And I don’t know what is the solution to this issue.

Most likely its – do, use, and aspire fewer things.

It’s easier said than done.

But nonetheless, hope it’s a good reminder for everyone.

Philosophy Productivity

“Required To Be Done” list

Sometimes, small changes can result in big results.

Here’s a small change you can do in your daily task management routine if you want to do “impactful” work.

Rename your “To Do” list as “Required To Be Done” list.

“To Do” signifies what tasks you “want” to do.

“Required To Be Done” signifies what tasks are “important” and are “priority” for your company/team/life that are required to be done “first”.

Philosophy Productivity

Discuss Ideas vs Events and People

There is a simple hack to improve your productivity.

And it doesn’t require buying new tools or doesn’t cost anything.

Spend your time wisely in discussing ideas instead of discussing events and people.

Discussing ideas give you energy.

Discussing events and people drain your energy.

And the secret of getting more done is not having more time, but having better energy.

Philosophy Productivity Startup

The Secret for Doing Effective Work

If there is one secret to do your work most “effectively” – then it is “concentration”.

Every single time when I take up too much on my plate and commit to too many things – I mess up.

The quality of my work and results hamper.

And obviously, I never complete everything I commit.

On the other hand, every single time when I concentrate on only one important thing at a time – I excel.

While saying this is easy, doing it is very hard.

Even though I know this, I make the mistake of saying “Yes” to too many things all the time.

But constantly thinking and reminding about this helps me to keep building my self-discipline to say “No” more often.

In fact, concentration helps me to
– Finish things faster
– Produce better quality
– Use lesser resources

So my recommendation to you – review what’s on your plate, pick up the most important thing, and only concentrate on that thing.

There you have it – a simple, yet powerful secret to do your work most “effectively”.


Remote Work: From Synchronous To Asynchronous Collaboration

The big transition with work from remote is going from “synchronous” to “asynchronous” collaboration.

You don’t have to be at the “same place” to work together.

In fact, you also don’t have to work at the “same time” to work together.

This means the tools that have helped us to collaborate in real-time, are no longer sufficient.

Either existing tools need to evolve to help us collaborate more efficiently asynchronously or we need new tools and workflows.

It’s definitely not easy and not meant for everyone too.

It will take some time and practice to get the hang of working asynchronously.

But once you get hang of it, you’ll realize that it’s the work that matters – and not the face-time clock hours.

Philosophy Productivity

Remote Work for Forever

All knowledge workers should work remotely now.

Forever, not just for this pandemic.

If you use computer to do your work, you should work remotely (preferably home or a closest coworking space).

You should let industrial workers, medical professionals, local businesses, or anyone who absolutely needs to be in physical space, give a priority.

It isn’t about a preference or convenience.

It is about being responsible and doing the right thing.

It isn’t just about social distancing and being cautious and prepared for another pandemic.

It’s about getting back the 5-10% time of our life we waste in commuting.

Less people on the road means:

Less or no commute time for everyone.

Less stress, neck and back pain, headaches, and accidents.

Less pollution and fuel consumption.

And more importantly – more time for family, exercise, cooking, and hobbies.

Philosophy Productivity

Meeting Participants’ State of Mind

There are a lot of folks who are experiencing video meetings a.k.a. Zoom fatigue with the new normal of working remotely.

What if you get asked – “How do you feel?” before and after each meeting? 🤔

It needs to be a very lightweight approach to capture each participant’s “state of mind”.

Before the meeting, you can select one of the options:
Great: Well-prepared, well-rested, excited, or calm.
Meh: Not prepared, overwhelmed, tired, or distracted.
Worse: Sad, angry, depressed, sick, or injured.

And after the meeting, you can select one of the options:
Great: Inspired, hopeful, confident, or decisive.
Meh: Confused, hopeless, doubtful, overwhelmed, or distracted.
Worse: Angry, unhappy, lost, frustrated, or sad.

In Avoma, we already capture each meeting’s “Purpose” and “Outcome” to track meeting level success.

But this is taking it to the next level and understanding each participant’s success.

It would be interesting to capture participants’ feedback over a certain period and see how it affects meetings’ outcomes and employee satisfaction.

What do you think? Would you like to track this?

How could it be helpful for you as an individual and your team?

Productivity Startup

Slack Etiquettes

With remote work, I’m worried if we’re spending more time Slacking vs doing uninterrupted high-quality work.

Here are some Slack etiquettes:

1. Fewer messages mean fewer notifications

Never send a one-word message like hey, hmm even if you immediately follow up with your real message.

2. Use Reactions vs sending one-word messages

For acknowledgment, use Reactions instead of one-word messages (Thanks, lol).

3. Use formatting for longer messages

Use bulleted lists, bold, and italic text styling to make your titles and key points stand out.

4. Use threads to reply and comment

Use threads every time to keep an ongoing conversation with replies and keep the main channel clear.

5. Default to public channels

Use @username mention for specific requests or urgent matters. DMs are for confidential conversations.

6. Set prefixes to indicate message purpose

BUG: someone needs to look into it
FYI: no one needs to reply
CUSTOMER ISSUE: a high priority issue

7. Disable Notifications

Disable all Slack group notifications sounds and alerts. Keep only personal DM or @mention notifications.

8. Praise publicly, criticize privately

9. Know when to Slack vs to meet

If you’re furiously Slacking in channel, consider having a meeting/call. Share discussion points & decisions for others.

Philosophy Productivity

The 20-Second Rule

Recently I read about a simple trick called “The 20-Second Rule” to build good habits and break bad ones in the book Barking Up The Wrong Tree by Eric Barker. The trick originally comes from a Harvard happiness researcher Shawn Achor.

Achor mentions that he was struggling to play the guitar every day. And by just moving his guitar in immediate reach instead of 20 seconds away made him practice it more.

By lowering the barrier to change your behavior by just 20 seconds will help you to form a new good habit or break a bad one.

As you experience every day, you have to take many decisions throughout the day. The more decisions you have to make — the more likely you experience decision fatigue. And the more you experience decision fatigue, the less likely you have enough energy to work on your goal — especially at the end of a hectic day.

The most common mistake we do with building or breaking habits is – we think in its entirety as a giant goal. Instead, if we consider habits are a series of multiple tiny actions and steps, then it won’t overwhelm us as much. If we simply focus on the first tiny action, then it’s a lot easier to get started. Once you do the first step, then think about the second step, and so on.

Achor explains this happens because of activation energy – the spark you need to start:

In physics, activation energy is the initial spark needed to catalyze a reaction. The same energy, both physical and mental, is needed of people to overcome inertia and kickstart a positive habit.

In Achor’s example, he realized that having to remove his guitar from his closet to practice increased the effort to practice – even if that effort was just extra 20 seconds.

And then by putting his guitar in the center of his apartment he practiced guitar for 21 days straight without exception.

The 20-Second Rule is not only applicable to build good habits, but it can also be used to break the bad ones.

In Achor’s another experiment to replace watching TV with reading and writing his book, he took the batteries out of his remote and moved them – 20 seconds away in another room.

And sure enough, the effort required to walk across the room and get the batteries was enough to do the trick to not watch TV.

You need to decrease the activation energy if you want to build good habits and increase the activation energy if you want to break bad habits.

While the rule says 20-seconds, I have experienced similar results even if I make certain things a few seconds easier or harder.

One of the things I have done to build a habit of reading more books is – at any given time, I read 3-4 different books. I keep one book next to my bed, one book next to the couch in the living room, another book on my work desk, etc. So by keeping these books easily accessible, whenever I’m sitting next to these places, if I have some idle time, I pick up these books and read a few pages. And it’s helping me finish reading more books.

Another thing I have done to break a habit of spending more time on social media is – i) turn off all the app notifications, ii) uninstall most native apps and check respective services from the browser, and iii) for the important apps you care, keep them on the second screen (not on the home screen) and in a folder (not as independent apps). By making it a little difficult to access these apps in one-touch, I consume social media a lot less.

Building good habits and breaking bad ones isn’t easy. Hopefully, implementing this little trick will make it easier for you.