Insights For Success

Strategy, Innovation, Leadership and Security

Productivity

Any.do launching a new calendar app called CAL this summer

ProductivityEdward KiledjianComment
Any.do has been my personal task manager of choice because it offers a clean easy to use interface but is very powerful (feature rich). Over the last couple of months, the any.do team has been making small refinements but now we learn that they have an ambitious plan to bring their interface experience to the world of calendaring through an upcoming app called CAL. 
In the below video, you see snippets of the app integrating with social networks, your contacts and having situational awareness (location, birthday knowledge, knowing what you are doing now, etc). 
Interestingly the press release mentions:
"Whether you need to find time to step away from work and have a Zen moment or need to spend a full day recharging at the beach, Cal helps you balance life, work, and 'me time' without letting anything slip through the cracks."
Also says 
Cal is a simple, beautiful & delightful calendar for your iPhone
The product is in beta and you can sign up to their mailing list at Any.do

How to find what really matters in YOUR life.

ProductivityEdward KiledjianComment

In January, I wrote an article entitled “Do Less, Accomplish More” where I stress the importance of asking “What’s most important to you about […]”. This is an extremely powerful question that will help you make the right decisions. I recently used this question to help a former colleague and wanted to share that experience.

Recently I had an interesting discussion with a former colleague who seemed exasperated and overwhelmed with life. He was so swamped he didn’t know what to do next. He felt was living an information overload life which meant he had lost his bearings and didn’t know how to navigate his life going forward. It was both his work and personal lives.

So after calming him down and bringing him back down to earth, I asked him “what’s most important to you in life?” The first couple of attempts, he went on tangents and started giving me form answers without taking the time to really think about my question. I had to reset the situation, explain the purpose of the exercise and asked it again. I prefaced the question by saying “If you knew tomorrow was your last day on earth, what would most important to you?” I asked him to “allow himself to play this game with me”. I asked him to “take the time and really think about the situation and his answer”.

After 5 minutes of calm and controlled reflection, he smiled and talked about his wife and children. He talked about how he had meet his wife many years ago and how much she helped him grow as a person. He then explained how his children were his single greatest accomplishment and joy. How a smile from either of his kids could make his entire soul smile.

Life often seems uncontrollably overwhelming. You may get the feeling that you are in the passenger seat of this car called life and don’t like where it is heading. The above exercise may seem simple but it is very powerful. It is a great way to periodically ground yourself and remember what really matters in your life. Everyone has a different answer and each person’s unique answer is the right one for them. The important result is to know what really matters in your life and encourage the activities that get you closer to those/them. 

Does productivity hurt creativity?

ProductivityEdward KiledjianComment

I love the Chinese concept of yin and yang. It reminds us that all things in the universe must be in balance. Good with bad, positive with negative and productivity with creativity. What?? You heard right, productivity and creativity are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The part of your brain that handles organized productive thought is the opposite side of the one that comes up with the crazy out of the box thinking that creates revolutionary shifts.

I often hear comments like “I was on the plane and all of a sudden, I had this great idea”. People seem to be most productive when they are disconnected from the world and not working against a fixed timeline.

Productivity is a creativity killer!

A Silicon Valley startup even moved its operations (temporarily) to Hawaii to gain more creativity and come up with breakthrough ideas. 

We all have “dead time” in our lives. Time we spend waiting for the bus, subway. Waiting at a checkout counter or restaurant. Before the era of always connected smartphones, many of us used this time to think about issues that needed to be thought about. Today we spend that time trying to be more productive by responding to emails and conducting web research on the go. Smartphones are a great help but if you need creativity, you should learn to put it away once in a while and just ponder and day-dream.

There was an interested 2009 article about the benefits of ineficiency for creative thinking.

My approach

As the Chief Information Security Officer of a large multinational, my job demands efficiency and control [most of the time]. Yet to truly add value for my company, I need to come up with Big Hairy Audacious Goals that push everyone outside of their comfort zone but that deliver the real long term strategic wins.

When I want to be creative, I follow a flow:

It’s play time

I block out a 4 hour chunk to play with my ideas and often lock  myself in my office. I decide on my first main idea and then use mind mapping to develop and flow. Non-judgmental, honest and fast moving. I have tried mind mapping software but for truly creative thinking, nothing works better [for me] than an analog experience on a whiteboard.

Daydream          

Allow yourself to daydream. Whether it means starring out from a window, bouncing a ball on a nearby wall or taking a random walk, allow yourself to be “non productive”. This unproductive time has been shown to spark big-picture thinking. It allows your brain to process thousands of pieces of unrelated information and produce a masterpiece of original thought.

Some may feel like they are wasting time but this couldn’t be further from the truth. As mental activity decreases, valuable brain activity increases. This has been proven in countless research papers and is the main concept behind meditation. Give your brain a chance and it will amaze you. It will interconnect unrelated bits of information and then will bubble up wonderful ideas to your conscious mind.

Trust that it will happen and get out of the way. Allow yourself to daydream.

 

Do less, accomplish more

ProductivityEdward KiledjianComment

We are in the tail end of January and many have already given up on their new year’s resolutions. In life just like in business, too many people “fail” at accomplishing the goals they set up for themselves.

This is a great time to remember one of my favorite questions “What’s most important to you about […]”

Doing less accomplishing more

This is a simple sentence that has been used to turn around dying companies and turn around marriages. Forget about trying to accomplish 500 things simultaneously and distill your commitments to the real value-add goals.  By doing what’s really important, you do less but achieve more. That is the essence of efficient time and goal management.

By making the number of goals more achievable, you set yourself up for success. Your subconscious will be more calm and relaxed because you will be tackling something it believes is achievable (10 goals instead of 100). Not only will this seem more achievable but it also means hundreds of less important distracting activities or decisions points are eliminated, which leads to clearer decision making.

You will do less but complete a lot more value add tasks. By concentrating on the elements that deliver the biggest bang for the buck, you’ll waste less time and receive many more rewards for the tasks you do accomplish.

By doing less, you free up time (which everyone needs more of anyway). You can then decide how to effectively spend this newfound time. It can be used for relaxation, education, spending time with loved ones or accomplishing other meaningful work.

How can I be lazy today?

When planning your schedule, take a minute and ask yourself “how can I be lazier today?” What activities can you get rid of without too much impact? Most people assume everything on their calendar is critical and must get done. Is that really true? Do you have to be in every one of those meetings ? Can they be delegated or refused?

I recommend building in YOU TIME into your calendar. This is time for you to just sit down and relax. Having meditated for over 15 years, with a couple simple breaths, I can put myself in a very calm and relaxed state.

Even if you don’t meditate, take a couple of minutes to sit still on your chair, close your eyes, take a deep invigorated breath, hold it for 10 seconds then slowly exhale. As you are doing this, concentrate on the inflating and deflating of your chest. With every breath, feel the muscles in your body relaxing and releasing all of their tension. Start at the bottom of your feet and work all the way up to the top of your head. This should take no more than 10 minutes (even for a newbies) but will yield hours of benefits in increased productivity.

If thoughts crawl in while you are relaxing, just acknowledge them and tell yourself there will be plenty of time to think about it later and get back to your breathing.

The 3 most powerful questions to ask yourself

ProductivityEdward KiledjianComment

Having worked with thousands of people throughout my career, it is clear that people have the hardest time being honest with themselves, about themselves. But this is one case where honesty is the best policy. As an employee of a company, your future depends on the quality, depth and breadth of skills you bring to the table. You can lie to yourself all you want, ultimately your true colors will come through and you will be judged.

Every 6 months, I take some time to myself and think about where I am, where I thought I would be and decide where I want to go (short, medium and long term). Once I get this foundational thinking out of the way, I then ask myself a couple of important questions: 

  • What skills do I need to reach my goals (short, medium and long term)?
  • What skills do I master (aka that I am really good at)?
  • What areas do I need to improve? 

I ask these same questions to execs when helping them craft their strategic plans. When related to a company, these become the: 

  • To be model
  • AS IS model
  • Gap analysis

These may seem like simple questions but answering them honestly will provide a rare glimpse into the real you. Take the time to ask these important questions. Make sure you answer truthfully and completely. Then commit to implementing a plan to improve the areas you identify with the third question.

During one of these introspection sessions many years ago, I realized I had strong business skills but I didn’t have the paper needed to open the doors I wanted to walk through. That realization convinced me I needed to get my MBA and started my 5 year journey (studying while working full time). Year later [after completing it], I know it was the right move. Had I not taken the time to really think and strategize, I may have never taken the plunge.

Be the best person you can be.