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Philosophy Productivity

Productivity Hack: Discuss Ideas

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.

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Philosophy

How to Find New Hope, Energy and Inspiration?

If you’re feeling low, burnt-out, overwhelmed, or hopeless, here’s a simple suggestion for you.

Stop looking at the future and what’s ahead. Instead, do this.

Look at the past and how far you’ve come along.

Sometimes the future is inspiring, but sometimes it’s daunting too.

And sometimes the past is not exciting, but sometimes it’s inspiring too.

And the interesting thing is – it’s the same set of past events that happened.

But it’s your perspective to look at it needs to be different.

When you realize how far you’ve come along, you’ll find a new source of hope, energy, and inspiration.

And that’s all you need today, to tackle the future and what’s ahead.

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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”.

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Productivity

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.

Categories
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.

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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?

Categories
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.

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Uncategorized

Prioritizing your Schedule Vs. Scheduling your Priorities

How to achieve your goals with a popular prioritization framework

The other day I heard this quote while listening to a podcast episode:

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. — Stephen Covey

My instant reaction was — whatever 🙄! It sounds great to hear, but in the end, aren’t these two things still the same? The author is just making it catchy to remember it. And I moved on.

But it stayed on my mind over the weekend. I remembered it and kept thinking about it. I guess making it catchy to remember it actually worked!

So I decided to give it more thought and understand what’s the difference between these two phrases and specifically, what shall I get out of it.


The Prioritization Paradox

The phrase ‘prioritize what’s on your schedule’ seems to imply that you already have a bunch of tasks on your plate, and now you have to do bottom-up planning to shuffle them around in their relative order of importance and urgency. This seems to be more of a day-to-day execution mode.

On the other hand, the phrase ‘schedule your priorities’ implies you have an empty schedule and you think about your priorities first, then schedule them in its order of importance, and then come up with appropriate tasks. This seems to be more of a monthly or weekly planning mode.

The difference might sound subtle but I think there is something to it. Here’s another way of understanding it. Ask yourself these questions:

Do you want to slog through the laundry list, checking each item off, even if it’s not very useful and probably not contributing to your goals?

OR

Do you want to start with your goals, prioritize them and then focus on the most important tasks that will help achieve your goals?

Obviously, you will agree that it’s later.

This leads to a question — how do you decide what is a priority?

Making prioritization choices seems like one of the biggest challenges we face on a day-to-day basis both in our personal lives as well in our professional life.

Which task should I do first? Is this task relevant to my goals? Is it worth spending so much time on this task?

Unfortunately, not enough people ask these questions on a daily basis. Largely because prioritization is a complex task, but also because they aren’t aware of how to do it effectively.


The Eisenhower Matrix

There is one time management process I had heard a few years ago that I have been following it somewhat loosely, but I think it can help answer some of the questions above. It is called the Eisenhower Matrix. Using a 4-quadrants matrix below, you will categorize your priorities or tasks based on four possibilities of the urgency and importance of a task.

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately)
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later)
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else)
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate)
https://jamesclear.com/eisenhower-box

The great thing about this matrix is that while it’s best to be used for your monthly or weekly planning process, it can also be used for your day-to-day execution.

While it’s self-explanatory what each of these quadrants means, I will share how I use this process typically on a monthly and weekly basis.

Quadrant #1: Urgent and Important

These are the tasks that are urgent (maybe because I did not foresee earlier, or because some external event triggered it) and important (because something is dependent on it or something in which I have got the most context or knowledge about), I try to prioritize these as many as possible.

Examples of this type of my tasks are: following up with a prospect on the proposal, preparing requirements for the sprint planning based on customer feedback, following up with a candidate with offer details while she’s also interviewing at other companies, etc.

Quadrant #2: Important, but Not Urgent

These tasks are important (because I need to be involved in it) but not urgent (there is still some time to do it). I tend to schedule these on later part of the calendar so that the urgent tasks are taken care first, and then I can start working on these as time permits before they become urgent.

Examples of this type of my tasks are: working on product strategy and roadmap, refining our vision and differentiation, working on new marketing copy and website pages, etc.

Quadrant #3: Urgent, but Not Important

These are the most crucial tasks that you need to manage properly as they distract you from working on your most important tasks. A natural tendency is to work on the urgent tasks without really thinking too much if they’re really important or not (i.e. are they going to move the key needle of your goal or can somebody else do this instead of you).

These tasks I try to delegate as it’s less important for me to be involved in it, and maybe somebody else is better suited to do it and probably can do it sooner than I can do.

Examples of this type of my tasks are: doing timely accounting, bookkeeping, and taxes, etc. I definitely suck at these, so I learned to outsource these to who do it better.

Quadrant #4: Not Urgent and Not Important

These items are mostly distractions. So I try to delay them as much as possible or ignore them completely. This definitely helps simplify and declutter my to-do list and not feel overwhelmed.

Examples of this type of my tasks are: surfing the internet during the work-time, attending many meet-ups and conferences, meeting people over coffee/lunch without specific agenda, etc.


While I use this framework fairly regularly, I don’t use any specific tool to categorize each task diligently in different quadrants. That seems like overkill to me and make it too time-consuming.

But just being aware of this framework back of my mind while I am planning a week or a month, I have found it to be useful to identify and plan my top priorities to do first vs schedule some later, and also delegate and ignore other things.

I hope you’ll find it useful too.

Efficiency is doing things right; Effectiveness is doing the right things.

Peter Drucker
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Uncategorized

2017 Retrospective and 2018 Goals

My reflections on what worked well and what didn’t in 2017 and what I would continue to do and do something new in 2018.

I’ve started this practice last year — to retrospect on the last year’s achievements, misses, and learnings and define the goals for the next year at the beginning of the new year. I have written about why I started doing this exercise in my last year’s post, but if I want to summarize it in one key reason — it would be — to be accountable and answerable to the world about my new year’s goals.

But before I begin, wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year 2018!

Retrospective for 2017

Overall, it was a great year. I made satisfactory progress across many areas and I feel good about it. Having said that, I still feel I could have done better in a few areas.

As mentioned in my last year’s goals, my 3 big priorities were —

  • Family
  • Health (Exercise + Sleep)
  • Startup (Venture + Programming)

Family

On the family front, I enjoyed spending a great time with family in general.

Travel
We traveled to India, Hawaii, and Tahoe together and spent a great time with the extended family as well.

Daily routine
The most important habit I’ve been following for the last couple years that I continued even last year was — I try to be home from work between 5–6pm instead of staying up late till 7pm or so such that I can spend more time with the kids before they go to bed by 9pm. I catch up on work after they fall asleep.

Health

On the health front, overall I did decently well, but I’m personally not very proud of it.

Workout
My key goal was to complete 3 routines of P90X-3 — that is 30 minutes intense exercise for 90 days — and do it for 3 times in the year. Unfortunately, I finished the entire P90X-3 routine only once, and then for 2 times, I started the routine and gave up in the middle after 4–5 weeks into it. So in short, collectively I’ve worked out only for 5 months than the planned 9 months.

Sleep
Overall as planned, I continued to sleep well for an average 7 hours/day. Even though we had an infant baby and I had my ambitious startup plans, I managed to get a decently well sleep. Obviously, a lot of that credit goes to my wife! 🙂

Meditation
Overall, I had not planned to do meditation in the last year but learned to do a guided meditation, Pranayama and different breathing techniques to meditate well. I learned this in the 2nd half of the year, but managed to do 20 mins meditation in the early morning at least 3–4 days/week.

Food
As I started exercising actively, I adopted some good food habits too. Most importantly, a drastic reduction in sugar intake — for example, no sugar in Tea, Coffee, etc., but also, in general, less consumption of sweets. In addition, I’ve also increased protein intake mostly through plant-based supplements in smoothies/shakes and energy bars.

I’ve also seen, when I didn’t exercise as per the plan for the half of the year, I lost my control and ended up eating more junk food. So the lesson learned is — when you exercise actively, the guilt of eating junk food is very high.

Work

On the work front, I think I’ve made good progress, but again, I’m not completely happy with my own accomplishments and believe that I could have done more.

Startup
The biggest focus for the last year was to start my new venture. I started exploring the problem, solution, etc. since Jan 2017, finalized what I want to work on in Mar 2017, assembled the co-founding team in Jul 2017 and officially started — Avoma, Inc., and raised a pre-seed funding in Oct 2017.

We’re still in a stealth mode and have launched the product in private beta to a few early customers and iterating on our product. So technically while we’ve made a lot of progress, obviously, I would have wished this would have happened a lot sooner and we would have achieved a lot more things by the end of this year.

Programming
While my initial goal was to re-learn programming and launch a meaningful application by the end of the year, ideally for my startup only, unfortunately, I just learned different programming languages and frameworks but did not end up building a real-world application.

I learned Python, Django framework, Javascript, React and Redux. I’m still not an expert in any of this. Since I was not an expert yet, I was being a bottleneck in our startup’s product development efforts while other cofounders were pretty strong technically. So I ended up getting out of their way and let them handle the end to end product development.

Miscellaneous

Reading
My last year’s goal was to read a book per month. While I read 10 books in the entire year, I must admit — I didn’t really read them each book per month. Sometimes it took longer to finish a book more than a month, and sometimes I read smaller books and could read more books in a month.

The books I read are (with my ratings) –

Blogging
My last year’s goal was to write a blog post per week. I failed miserably in this. I only wrote 14 articles in the last year. One of the challenges was — writing a thoughtful article takes around 5–8 hours per post. So sometimes even though I had a lot of lessons and point of views to share, I ended up not prioritizing blogging over other important tasks at hand.

Goals for 2018

In short, for 2018, I won’t be changing a lot of things from my 2017 goals— just a couple minor changes. My goals for 2017 were pretty decent, and I plan to just repeat those this year too.

Family

  • Continue to spend a good time with the kids and wife — these times won’t come back again
  • Don’t plan to travel much this year due to startup commitments, but prefer to spend more quality time on a daily basis

Health

  • Complete P90X-3 routine at least 3 times
  • Meditate 3–4 days/week
  • Continue to follow good eating habits — no/less sugar, no/less fried/oily food, more protein, more vegetables and fruits
  • Continue to sleep 7-hours a day

Work

  • Achieve revenue and funding goals for my startup — Avoma, Inc.
  • Take Machine Learning, NLP courses from Coursera
  • Build a real-world application — preferably relevant to my startup, but in case if that’s not possible, then a side project

Miscellaneous

  • Continue to read 1 book/month — preferably 50% fiction and 50% non-fiction (or at least non-business related)
  • Continue to write 1 blog post/week — including both for personal and professional (startup related) blog

If you’ve read until this point, then I would request if you have any suggestions to improve my thinking or to achieve my goals, then please free to comment or send me an email at aditya dot kothadiya at gmail dot com.

Also, if you haven’t already done any retrospective for your 2017 and planned your 2018, then I would highly encourage you take a moment and think about it and write down what worked well and what didn’t in 2017 and what are your plans for 2018 — if not publicly, but at least for your own benefit.


Once again, wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year 2018! Hope you all crush your 2018 goals!

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Uncategorized

Another Side of The “Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand” Story

Or why instead of following it blindly, it’s time to modify it a bit.

I’m sure most of you have heard of “The jar of life — Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand” story. If you have not, here is a quick refresher.

The original story

A philosophy professor once stood before his class with a large empty jar. He filled the jar with large rocks and asked his students if the jar was full.

The students said that yes, the jar was full.

He then added small pebbles to the jar and asked again, “Is the jar full now?”

The students agreed that the jar was indeed full.

The professor then poured sand into the jar and asked again.

The students then agreed that the jar was finally full.

The professor went on to explain that the jar signifies one’s life.

The rocks are equivalent to the most important things in your life, such as family, health, and relationships. And if the pebbles and the sand were lost, the jar would still be full and your life would still have a meaning.

The pebbles represent the other things that matter in your life, such as your work, school, and house. These things often come and go, and are not permanent or essential to your overall well-being.

And finally, the sand represents the remaining small stuff and material possessions in your life. These things don’t mean much to your life as a whole and are likely only done to waste time or get small tasks accomplished.

The metaphor here is that if you start with putting sand into the jar, you will not have room for rocks or pebbles. This holds true for the things you let into your life too.

If you spend all of your time on the small and insignificant things, you will run out of room for the things that are actually important. So in order to have a more effective life, you should prioritize important things in your life and then worry about pebbles and sand at a later time.

I believed in this story. And I had actually put it into practice in my both personal and professional life too.

Another side of the story

But there is another side of the story too that no one has told you yet.

While practicing this theory for a while now I’ve realized that — if I always try to focus on the most important things or goals in my life, then I would procrastinate the other tasks that seemed a lower priority.

But over a period, these lower priority tasks would start piling up. And the more I delayed taking care of these tasks, the more inertia it built up to complete those tasks.

The most harmful side effect of delaying lower priority tasks was, the longer the list of such lower priority tasks grew, the more stress it started adding to my daily routine.

The problem with focusing primarily on the most important things is — since they’re the most important things in your life, they also take longer to complete and more bandwidth to accomplish. And because you’re constantly swamped up with the most important things, you would never get to the lower priority things in your life.

And at some point, I have decided to stop following this mantra of prioritizing the most important things first. On some days, I would start taking care of the lower priority tasks first. This way, as the day starts, I would check off a few things off my plate, and then in the second half of the day, I would work on the important tasks.

The benefit of taking care of a few lower priority tasks first was — it would start building the momentum. There was a sense of achievement and progress. And that momentum would actually help me to work on the important and difficult tasks with much positive mindset.

So instead of following the rocks, pebbles, and sand story blindly as it was told, I would recommend to modify it a bit where instead of filling the jar with only rocks first, and then pebble, etc., you could fill it with few rocks, then few pebbles, then some sand, and then again few more rocks, pebbles and more sand. This way you’re making balanced progress in all areas.

Another approach you can consider is — at the macro level (monthly or annual), prioritize the most important things, but at the micro level (daily or weekly), keep it flexible as per the situation and needs at that time.


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