Insights For Success

Strategy, Innovation, Leadership and Security


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.


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.

How to set personal goals

Behavior, GTD, Motivation, StrategyEdward KiledjianComment

I will use this entry to talk about setting personal goals. Yes.. Yes… I know it is June and that most people set their personal goals in January but how are those coming along?

Do a cleanup

Before building a new house, the contractor will clear the ground to ensure he is starting with a solid footing.  The same concept applies to your personal life. Before even thinking about your goals, make sure you “clean your house” (both physically and mentally) to ensure you start with as clean of a slate as possible. The cleaner the slate, the more likely you are to achieve your future goals.

List your accomplishments

Before you spend any time thinking about your future goals, it is beneficial to do some introspection and create a list of everything (of importance) that you have completed in the last 12 months. This is an extremely powerful technique to ensure you go into your goal setting with positive energy and  fully recharged psychic energy.

Start with the end in mind

In his bestselling book “The 7 habits of highly effective people”, Stephen Covey shares one of the most powerful nuggets of wisdom I have ever heard: "Start with the end in mind." Would you get in your car and just start driving? Of course not. You want to know where you are heading, so you can plan the best route. Same concept applies to goal setting.

Stephen Covey says “all things are created twice”: once in the mind and once in the real world (in that order). Setting goals with the “end in mind” keeps your brain thinking positively about what can be achieved.

This concept is so powerful other business visionaries have also adopted it in their models of efficiency such as David Allen in Getting Things Done (GTD). Napolean Hill stated it as "What the mind of man can conceive and believe, It can achieve." Professional athletes use visualization as one of their training tools.

Know that it works and spend the time to think about what “done means” for each of your goals? What does the successful completion look like? How will it feel? How will you know when it is successfully completed?

Your goals should be “SMART”

Many believe that the concept of SMART goals was first proposed by the grandfather of modern business theory, Mr. Peter Drucker in 1954. The reason this concept has been around for so long is that it works and is based on sound logic.

  • S – stands for specific. As mentioned above, start with the end in mind and make your goal as specific as possible. Saying you will “lose weight” is not specific. Saying you will “lose 30 pounds in the next 6 months by lowering your calorie intake by 1000 calories and running on the treadmill for 60 minutes 4 times a week” is specific.
  • M – stands for measurable. Your goals has to be specific and measurable. Being measurable is important to ensure you know you have “arrived” when you reach this threshold. S and M go hand in hand.
  • A – stands for attainable. Your goals should be “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” as proposed by James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1996 article entitled Building Your Company's Vision. This means your goals should not be easily reached but logically attainable with enough hard work and commitment. Too many people set unrealistic goals then get disappointed when they miss the mark.
  • R – stands for results-oriented. This further reinforces the first section above. When setting goals, don’t let your mind get overwhelmed by all of the actions you need to complete to reach your goal. There is a time and place for everything and when setting goals, accept that you think about specific actions later. Right now concentrate on the desired end result. I strongly recommend you read my article about using the “Next Actions” methodology from GTD.
  • T stands for time. This means that each of your goals should have a specific deadline. When engaged in coaching, I work with my customer to get as specific as possible (to the day even).

Don’t beat yourself up

Next December, take the time to ask your friends and colleagues about how many of their goals they achieved. You may be surprised at how negative the conversation get’s and how quickly people make up excuses. Remember that beating yourself up is very self destructive and will not help you achieve your goals. Instead acknowledge that you may have missed some goals, spend some time thinking about why and about how you can approach your goals differently next year to have a better chance of meeting your targets.

How many goals should I have?

This is a question I love asking my employees, friends and family. Ask people how many goals they set for the year. Most of the answers you get will be in the low single digits. People believe that making a small number of goals increases the likelyhood of successfully completing them. WRONG!!!!

I believe you should set as many goals as possible and my rule of thumb is 30-50. Remember that not all of your goals should be to “cure cancer” or “solve world hunger”. A goal is anything you would like to be true by this time next year. It can be as complex as finishing up a master’s degree or about as simple as how you would like to perform when playing golf or what kind of outlook on life you want to have.

Ask yourself “What would life look like in a year, if it was better?”

Remember that out of the goals you set at the beginning of the year, you will likely end up working on a handful (10% or less). Read the following section to find out why.

Remember that you will not achieve most of your goals

You set your goals at the beginning of the year based on the best information available at the time. As you work through your various goals, you will acquire additional data or perspective and may decide that something else is more worthwhile.  This new goal may not even have been visible when you did your initial goal setting. You likely saw this new more worthwhile goal because of the effort you put into achieving your original one. Without that original one, you may never have seen this more valuable one and that is why it is still important to set those goals and drive towards them with everything you’ve got.