My Learning from the ‘Energy Grid’

We’re often told to manage our time. But managing our energy can be far more effective if we’re to fully engage with whatever we’re doing.

In line with the Great Place to Work philosophy, I had the privilege of being part of the team advocating the Energy Grid, based on the book ‘The Power of Full Engagement,’ by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz. Below is a summary of different energy zones:

Image source: Slideshare

Dr. Jim Loehr found that high‐performing athletes can consistently perform at a high level because they’ve developed the habit of going through rapid cycles of intense focus and relaxation.

“The richest, happiest and most productive lives are characterized by the ability to fully engage in the challenge at hand, but also to disengage periodically and seek renewal.” – Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

“Sadly, the need for recovery is often viewed as evidence of weakness rather than as an integral aspect of sustained performance. The result is that we give almost no attention to renewing and expanding our energy reserves, individually or organizationally.” – Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

“We must learn to establish stopping points in our days, inviolable times when we step off the track, cease processing information and shift our attention from achievement to restoration. Moore‐Ede calls this a ‘time cocoon.’” – Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

The key is to build a set of rapid recovery rituals into your day to restore your energy sources. You can execute the rituals in two scenarios:   

1. After 90 minutes of continuous focus on a task. 

2. Any time you start to feel slightly irritable. 

The four energy sources you need to restore are physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy, and spiritual energy. To help you build your rapid recovery rituals, here is a list of rapid recovery rituals:

  • To perform at our best we need to focus on managing our energy rather than our time.
  • Optimise quality and quantity of our energy in 4 areas: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual.
  • Energy reserves are not unlimited; recovery is integral to sustaining high performance.
  • We can take small steps to expand our capacity, to build new habits every day.

Physical – quantity of energy

– Derived by an interaction between oxygen and glucose. Fundamental source of fuel in life.

How do we get physical energy?

  • Patterns of our breathing
  • Food – empty stomach loses concentration. 
  • Sleep
  • Intermittent breaks
  • Level of our fitness

What is the physical activity we take for granted? Breathing. Breathing is a powerful tool of self-regulation.

What is the simplest antidote for anger and anxiety? Deep breaths.

To quickly restore physical energy,

  • Walk up a flight of stairs
  • Go for a jog around the block
  • Do a set of push‐ups
  • Brief exercises, oxygenates your cells and rejuvenates your brain.
  • Drink water. Profound impact on your physical energy because your brain and heart are made of almost 75% water. 

Follow some rituals like, journal writing, reading, sipping warm tea, bathing that could relax you and enable better focus.

Emotional – quality of energy

Manage emotions skillfully to attain positive energy and reach a pleasant zone.

Practice breathing exercises.

Express appreciation

Plan events with people you care about.

Strong work or personal relationship involves rhythmic movement between:

  • Giving and taking
  • Talking and listening
  • Valuing other person and feeling valued

Muscles for emotional energy are are self-confidence, self-control, interpersonal effectiveness, and empathy. Patience, openness, trust and joy also contribute.

Emotional muscles such as patience, empathy and confidence can be built like biceps and triceps by pushing past the limits followed by recovery.

To quickly restore emotional energy,

  • Text someone you enjoy spending time with to make plans for that evening (ex: going out for dinner with spouse).
  • Planning events with others creates a sense of anticipation and excitement you can carry into work session.
  • Another emotional boost is to give praise to others around you.

“Gallup found that the key drivers of productivity for employees include whether they feel cared for by a supervisor or someone at work; whether they have received recognition or praise during the past seven days; and whether someone at work regularly encourages their development.” – Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

Follow some rituals like, lunch in the garden, dance classes, gardening.

Mental – focus of energy

Find time away from distractions

Concentrate

Mental capacity is what we use to organize our lives and focus attention. To perform at our best we need to be able to sustain concentration and move flexibly between narrow and broad focus as situation requires. Maximum mental capacity is derived from a balance between spending and recovering mental energy. Engaging & disengaging, thinking & letting go, activity & rest.

Tools that help mental muscles,

  • Mental preparation
  • Visualization
  • Positive self-talk
  • Time management
  • Creativity

To quickly restore mental energy,

  • Go for a walk.
  • Listen to music.
  • Let go of what you are working on, and let mind wander. By letting mind wander, you let ideas related to work incubate in the sub‐conscious. When you return to work 10‐15 minutes later, you have a burst of creative energy.

“The highest form of creativity depends on a rhythmic movement between engagement and disengagement, thinking and letting go, activity and rest. Both sides of the equation are necessary, but neither is sufficient by itself.” – Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

Follow ritual like, sitting and writing perceived threats in a journal and recast them as opportunities. Consider worst case-scenarios and assess whether consequences are acceptable. Focus on aspects of life worthy of appreciation.

Spiritual – force of energy / energy grounded in purpose

A sense of meaning and purpose

Allocating time to what you deem important in your life 

Do what you do best & what you enjoy 

We become fully engaged when purpose is clear and aligns with our values.

Muscles for Spiritual energy are : Passion, Commitment, Integrity and Honesty.

To quickly restore spiritual energy,

  • Take out a piece of paper and write down answers to the questions: ‘How I want to be remembered?’ and ‘Who I want to help?’. Spiritual energy comes from thinking of things bigger than yourself. The greatest spiritual energy gains come from tapping into a sense of purpose. To tap into a sense of purpose: “We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—hourly and daily. Our answer must consist not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct.” – Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

Ritual: Mentally prepare for meetings by visualising self-giving feedback.

Did you know that the World Health Organisation acknowledged burnout as an official disease in April 2019?

Burnout Zone: Burnout comes about in three different ways:

1. Overload (traditional) burnout: 

  • Working harder and evermore frantically in search of success  
  • Willing to risk health and personal lives in pursuit of ambition
  • Coping by complaining

2. Under-challenge burnout:

  • Not feeling appreciated 
  • Boredom 
  • Lack of learning opportunities

3. Neglect burnout: 

  • Feeling helpless at work and lacking support 
  • Feeling incompetent or unable to keep up with demands 
  • Being passive and feeling demotivated

Survival Zone: In the survival zone, the energy in our body is not necessarily helpful. We become addicted to stress:

  • Loving firefighting or meeting last minute deadlines 
  • Working at a very fast pace without breaks 
  • Experiencing the ‘adrenaline high’ when stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol create a seductive rush  

We believe others will see us as more important because being busier and more stressed gives us status. But when we operate at high intensity for too long it’s hard to shift to another gear. We get stuck in overdrive and unable to turn off our engine. We become ‘adrenaline junkies’.

Performance Zone: This is the zone we are aiming to be in for some of the time

  • Look at some of the adjectives describing this state – challenged, proud and optimistic. Stressors have not disappeared, but with high energy and pleasant/positive emotion, we feel we can succeed. Stress is not an enemy, but the key to growth
  • We have a choice to perform optimally. To do this we must learn to set aside negative feelings by re-framing pressure so that instead of seeing it as a ‘threat’ we recognise it as a challenge. An ‘opportunity to grow’

Recovery Zone: To be in the Performance Zone, we must make sure we spend time in ‘recovery’. The balance between the expenditure of energy (stress) and the renewal of energy (recovery) is essential

Nature is rhythmic – night follows day, and we have changing seasons, cycles of the moon and tides. Our bodies too crave oscillation between challenge and relaxation. But the trap we can fall into is ‘effort addiction’. We don’t trust anything but effort — and lots of it!

By consciously deciding to enter the Recovery Zone we can change this. It doesn’t have to be for very long periods at a time – think of it as a refreshing break to energetically recharge. What can we do to get into the recovery zone? One person’s recovery zone is another person’s survival zone, but taking time out is essential for our wellbeing: 

  • Basic physical recovery requires good sleep, a balanced diet, sufficient water & regular exercise 
  • Anything that brings you joy and a feeling of relaxation helps 
  • Connecting with friends and family or spending quality quiet time with yourself is beneficial

Tips for Recovery

We need to balance stress & rest in order to sustain performance

  • The most effective breaks are RELAXING, SOCIAL, ACTIVE & NATURAL 
  • Exercise is a way to improve our mood, almost any kind of exercise between 7 to 75 minutes long seems able to provide a mood boost 
  • What we see and where we look can help us recover in our breaks > take a short walk look at the sky & anything natural around your OR simply play a video of waves  or the sky on your laptop
  • Improve your Heart Rate Variability > Try a Physiologic Sigh. Two breaths in through your nose one breath out of your mouth, 5 seconds per in/out breath 
  • Sleep is the foundation for sustainable performance. Improve your sleep by limiting caffeine and avoid after midday, avoid electronics 2 hours before bed, limit alcohol intake and ensure the room where you’re sleeping is dark and not too hot (~18C)

What will you do to maximise recovery?

Positive Conversations 

Things to consider when talking to your teams

Ask how people really are – be prepared, you don’t know what you might hear

Don’t react – just listen without judgement

Hold the space for someone to talk – this may be the first time they’ve said it out loud

Don’t jump in to fix things – what they need may not be what you think

Ask what support they need from you – everyone’s individual, don’t assume you know

Respect confidentiality – don’t damage the trust they have shown in you

Take a few minutes to write out your own rapid recovery rituals. Include physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual recovery components. 

Ask yourself, in the last week:

  • Which quadrant did I spend the most time in?  
  • What are you enjoying or missing?
  • Habits which are helpful to continue
  • Energy depleting habits which should be considered changing
  • What three goals can you set for next week to be at your best?
  • Who else can you speak to about where you are?

“Physical capacity is defined by quantity of energy. Emotional capacity is defined by quality of energy. Mental capacity is defined by focus of energy. Spiritual capacity is defined by force of energy.” – Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

Credits to senior leaders at my company, Stuart and Hari, who spearheaded this initiative and to my colleagues, Taj & Nachiket, for compiling the content and presenting to team members 🙂

NB: Much of my learnings shared here can be found freely on the internet. Knowledge shared is knowledge squared. I have provided references to the content and intend no infringement on the author’s work or copyright. Thanks to my organisation for such initiatives that enable it to be a great place to work.

References & more reading:

 THE POWER OF FULL ENGAGEMENT by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

The 4 Dimensions of Energy: Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual – UpStartist

The Power Of Full Engagement

Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time

Productivity Game – Learn to Thrive 

Track Your Time for 30 Days. What You Learn Might Surprise You.

Productivity Is About Your Systems, Not Your People 

Today’s Most Critical Workplace Challenges Are About Systems 

Making Joy a Priority at Work 

What Makes Some People More Productive Than Others 

Manage Your Time & Energy:

Manage Your Energy to Reduce Stress

Why Some People Get Burned Out and Others Don’t 

Want to Be Happier in 2023? Start Using These 7 Daily Habits

Get up from your desk and do these 8 nature activities to improve your mood, productivity and memory

A 3-Step Process to Break a Cycle of Frustration, Stress, and Fighting at Work

A Psychologist Suggests 3 Ways To Work Smarter, Not Harder 

The Benefits of Laughing in the Office

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My Learning from ‘We are LimITless’

Who is Elvis

The ones who shine a bit brighter, the ones who are maverick, the ones with lots of energy and charisma. 

Felt good to be part of a program “We are LimITless,” that aimed to drive a positive work culture and run by  Upping Your Elvis, who have taken inspiration from Bono’s “Drop the Debt” campaign. The program consisted of a series of experiments spread over 5 weeks and aimed at creating a great workplace environment, by revisiting our beliefs, behaviours and actions through small, weekly experiments. At the start of each week, we were guided through a topic, by the trainers. During the week, we experimented around a topic. By the end of the week, the team shared stories on what we tried, what worked and what value it created.

Why experiments? “Disney’s chief imagineer brings in a real tiger and gets the boards approval to launch Animal Kingdom. You cannot engage in a culture journey by reading books. You need to try it yourself. Experimenting every week. Engaging in a more visual way at work. We can’t just change behaviour. We need to help change people’s beliefs. That will drive the behaviour change. Where do our beliefs come from? They come from experiences. If that was a positive belief, it will drive the behaviour. Negative beliefs will lead us to avoid those experiences. To create positive experiences, it is important for managers to role model it and lead it visibly.”

What will make these experiments work: 

  • Positivity
  • Have fun doing
  • Best strategy for survival is be part of a tribe. Chances are that you ll get support everyday. Our tribe is the people we work with everyday. We should belong.

Why are we doing this? “Our culture isn’t broken, or bad, we just want to make sure it’s the best it can be. We want our people to jump out of bed loving what they do and loving who they are. We want them to be energised and excited about the impact they create, we want them to use their unique talents on what really counts and we want them to enjoy the ride. To make such a transformation happen we can’t just tell people what to do, we need them to try things out and see what works for them, and to do that at scale they need to be simple to do and adopt. We need your help to make them live and breathe within your teams.” 

Here is the summary of my learning:

Culture Experiment 1  – TIME

How to use your time better? Saying NO to certain things and FOCUS on what counts. 

Start your day clear on your ‘Big Thing’ – What’s important? What’s your priority for the day?

We spend most part of our lives on auto-pilot. i.e using habits and routines to steer our behaviour. How do I spend my time today on the most important thing that’s going to create most important impact in my life? Simple way is to make sure we start your day with clarity. Clarity with “What is your big thing?” Singular focus on one thing, that when you achieve that day, then you can call it a meaningful day.

  • Big thing could be an email you have to write, a project deliverable, a conversation
  • Can we have 10 big things? No. Focus on one that will have a meaningful impact.
  • When you wake up and before you turn on any tech, when the mind is pure, identify your big thing,
  • What is my big thing for today? Coffee, walking, journaling.
  • Before you get to work and the busyness takes over, have clarity on what your big thing is?
  • We only have 90-120 mins of deep focus. If we get our big thing then we can focus

Zone your day to use your energy. Identify your ‘Sweet Spot’ to optimise energy and focus – the moment in the day that you are at your best for the task.

Manage your time and create space for your big thing. Practice saying one polite ‘No’ a day

If we say yes to too many things, we cant make space for what is important. We need to get better at saying No

What are the reasons people say yes, when you shouldn’t? Ex: People pleasing, easier to accept than to question, fear of missing out, trying to be aware of the pulse of the business, hierarchy…etc.

If invited for meetings where you are not clear on the purpose/agenda or feel you won’t be required there, challenge respectfully like those in the examples below:

  • Please can you help me understand the meeting objectives, so I can understand if I’m the best person to support progress on this initiative?
  • Once you’ve got clarification on the agenda, if appropriate try something like ‘You’ve already got XX from my team in the meeting, who can cover that topic and update me later’
  • I’m experimenting with how I manage my meetings. Can I ask what is expected of me at the meeting so I can come prepared?
  • Based on the agenda, I am not sure that I will add any value by attending this meeting, please let me know if you feel differently or if there are other ways I can support
  • I think we could approach this in a different way, other than a meeting (For example: Why don’t I send a quick video summary of my thoughts)

Culture Experiment 2  – How to make our meetings count

What % of your week is spent in meetings? 75% on an average. It’s a lot of time. What % of those meetings fill your soul with joy?

Take time to get the Set-up right

  • Get clarity on the Why?
  • What is the purpose of this meeting?
  • What does success look like?
  • How do you want people to be?
  • Do you want to be positive and suspend judgement?
  • Do you want it to be more quiet?
  • Do you want it to be more analytical?
  • Do you want to get rid of tech distraction?

Meetings should be:

  • Energetic
  • Collaborative
  • Creative
  • Impactful
  • Enjoyable

How can we make meetings better?

  • Bring energy. Energy is everything in meetings. At the the start of the meeting you have the perfect opportunity to reset. It could be a physical activity. It could just be an opening question.
  • Positivity will take you to somewhere new and different
  • Have fun
  • Create a relaxed environment
  • Connect with each other
  • Break the ice instead of a serious atmosphere

If we get the start of the meeting working well, then we are getting people lined up to do brilliant work.

Good meetings

  • Set-up – Get it right
  • Time – start promptly. Allow breaks between meetings. Ex. Schedule for 20 or 25 mins rather than 30 mins. 
  • Facilitator – great meetings have facilitators. Mix facilitators up.
  • Size – small is beautiful. Consider your meeting size.
  • Don’t sit silently in bad meetings.

Create space by playing with meeting times. We experimented with shrinking the 30 mins meeting to 20 mins and it worked. Most meetings in the org are now scheduled for 20 or 25 mins leaving some break time in case the participants have another meetings to attend. We experimented with advising virtual participants to be on the camera and their focus/attention improved a lot.

Culture Experiment 3 – Feedback and Growth

How do you demand feedback, so that you can learn and grow beautifully everyday?

How to make sure the feedback you receive is useful? Ask for (& give) structured feedback any time you try something new or different:

  1. FACTS – What are the facts / what did they observe?
  2. THINK – How did they interpret what you did / what did it make them think?
  3. FEEL – How did it make them feel?

 Make feedback part of your everyday:

  • Get feedback in the moment
  • Ask for it directly: Face-to-face, video or phone, not email
  • Ask people what was great? (don’t go straight to what we can improve)
  • Ask what can I/we do even better?
  • Make sure the feedback is useful by using Facts/Think/Feel
  • For an added bonus, land some compliments & positive comments.
  • The best leaders are always asking what  they do brilliantly and what they can do even better

In the breakout sessions, we played “Getting the energy right” exercise. Love bombs: tell breakout partner what you love / appreciate / value about them 🙂

PS:

  • This week, start each day with that singular focus, what is the most important thing today?
  • Zone your day so that the big thing is in the right space.
  • Say no to some things so as to create space for the important.
  • Do something you are passionate about daily.
  • First impressions go a long way.
  • Be the person who radiates positivity.
  • Focus with your team – learn together and support each other.
  • If we want our team to embrace change, we need to help them with their confidence. What do they do brilliantly? “So, just to illustrate, when I was writing the book called Wake up, we challenged the people through a psychological magazine: Grab one person per day in the pub, and tell them what you love about them. This is the best thing that happened this year. If you are nice to people they are nice to you. In a pub if you are looking for bad things, you can find a lot, like people stealing steaks, drinking on the job. But when you start to look for the good, it is equally abundant. When you spot the good, you behave as if people are good, they feel it and they elevate their performance. Virtuous cycle. Everybody gets better everyday. Just spend some time appreciating people around you. People will be Primed to see more rainbows.”
  • Where do you get the best ideas? In bed, walking, exercising, casual chats.  If we want to learn well, we need the thinking from the conscious brain and also the feeling from the subconscious brian. Walk and talk about your experiments. As you walk and talk you get clearer insights from your subconscious. We used https://www.talkitout.app/
  • Appreciations and love bombs are warm-ups.
  • Move to a place where you are looking at you own growth and development and the only way to do that is by demanding feedback of yourself.
  • Be a curious. Be bold. Be a champion for positive change. 
  • Experiment. And most of all have fun along the way.
  • Be more agile, collaborative and inclusive.
  • Better energy, better impact. When you get the energy right, life is easy and fun,
  • Find your own inner Elvis, be the best version of you. We can all be that person 🙂

NB: Much of my learnings shared here can be found on Upping Your Elvis and their blog. Knowledge shared is knowledge squared. I intend no infringement on their work or copyright. Thanks to my organisation for such initiatives that enable it to be a great place to work.

References & more readings:

Upping Your Elvis 

https://uppingyourelvis.thinkific.com

Compressing your team’s work days to six hours could be possible with a little prioritizing, cutting, automating, and testing.

The Case for the 6-Hour Workday 

Meeting Overload Is a Fixable Problem

How to (politely) turn down requests for things that aren’t worth your time:

9 Ways to Say No to Busywork and Unrealistic Deadlines 

Impact of Meetings on our Brains

The Most Powerful Productivity Tool 

Suggestions to curb OTP related monetary frauds

Image source: Google image search – AppIndia News

One-Time Passwords (OTP) are used by banks to authenticate user login & authorize transactions, by ecommerce companies to confirm delivery, by UIDAI, for Aadhaar based verification, by stock brokers to confirm trades, by taxi aggregators to confirm trips and so many other similar use cases. 

There are numerous news articles which state, people are being scammed by obtaining their OTP, losing their hard earned money, and as a result of the loss, suffering serious health issues. Scamsters are well trained to talk in a way that sounds very genuine and earn the trust of their prey.

Currently most of the OTPs are in the format of a 4 digit numeric value. What if we have a unique alphanumeric format of OTP that prefixes some meaningful words like “BANK”, for transactions that would debit money from a user’s account. A format that clearly distinguishes and denotes that it is a money related transaction and one that could be easily understood by common people, so that they become aware money will go out or debited from the account when they key in the OTP.

Below are a few examples for OTP that could be standardized for money related transactions: 

  • BANK1234
  • BANK123456
  • BNK1234
  • PAY1234
  • SEND1234
  • DEBIT1234

If there are technical difficulties in having alpha-numeric OTP, then we can think of something like prefixing the OTP with 2 or 3 zeros, which can symbolically denote a transaction that would debit money from the user’s account once the OTP is keyed in.

  • 0001234

If the central agencies can arrive at a format, the same can be standardized for all money related transactions across all banks. The public can then be educated so that they are able to identify/differentiate an OTP for monetary transactions and not share the same with anyone. Also, we can keep educating the public that they do not need any OTP to receive money.

Addendum:

Of late I also read news on how people get cheated when they search for customer care numbers online and end up calling some dubious numbers. The crooks on call convince innocent people to install screen sharing apps, generate OTP and carryout banking transactions using the OTP they can view while the screen is shared.

Suggestion: Android currently shows tiny green dots called privacy indicators while the phone’s camera or mic is on. In a similar way, the user should be clearly indicated while his screen is shared and on top of this, to prevent misuse during screen sharing or screen mirroring, the Android Operating System should suppress or not allow anyone to open/access notifications, messages, email, banking apps or similar sensitive apps, while the screen is being shared.

With respect to the customer care numbers being altered, on Google maps or search results page, one resolution could be RBI (Reserve Bank of India) maintain a page with the customer care numbers and email ids of all banking and financial entities, similar to how it is done here. When someone searches e.g. “SBI customer care no.” on Google, Google can prioritize the search result by showing the official page from RBI both on search results as well as the side pane that shows details from Google maps, along with a note advising the public to refer the contact details shared by RBI or on the banks official website.

News references:

RBI Press Release

RBI warns against fraud calls, messages, emails and OTP scams | Mint

How to avoid OTP fraud

India: number of OTP frauds recorded by leading state 2021 | Statista

Rise of OTP based Frauds 

SBI OTP fraud alert! Lender says know how to make online system work | How-to

SBI Customers Alert! This OTP fraud can be dangerous; here’s how to avoid it

KYC, OTP and PIN theft, the biggest trends in financial cyber-crime: Report

Mumbai: Woman claims did not share OTP with cyber-fraudster but lost Rs 3.63 lakh | Cities News,The Indian Express

Punjab CM Amarinder Singh’s wife reveals ATM pin & OTP to fake bank manager, loses Rs 23 lakh – The Economic Times 

Beware of these 4 frauds while making payments via UPI amid lockdown – The Economic Times 

SMS Spoofing: How scammers are using this technique to steal money from your account – Times of India  

Two OTP frauds reported every day in city | Mega Media News English 

Cyber Crime: New form of OTP theft on rise, many techies victims 

Walk-in fraud: How this gang steals money via OTP | Delhi News – Times of India 

Tips to Avoid OTP Fraud – Bajaj Finserv 

Tips to keep your OTP safe from online fraud 

Beware of fake customer care numbers you find on Google | Mint 

WhatsApp users lose over Rs 54 crore to a new scam, here is what happened – India Today 

Illegal desi call centres behind $10 billion loss to Americans in 2022 | India News 

Fake delivery executives scam with OTPs: Here’s how to prevent falling prey | Mint 

Mumbai woman tweets train ticket details online, loses Rs 64,000: here is what happened

A $10 billion Indian call centre scam! 

What could improve my twitter experience?

I glanced on this tweet and thought of sharing my little suggestions.

The people I follow tweet on multiple topics. However, not all the tweets are relevant to my interests. If I can have an option to either follow all tweets from an account or tweets on specific topics from an account, it would make my experience better.

In the twitter Bio or below the Bio, people can be given an option to add approximately, 5 -6 topics of interest.

Ex: Design, Startups, Health, Football, National Politics, Local News…etc. 

Or something like, Tweets on #design, #startups, #health, #football, #nationalpolitics, #localnews…etc. 

While Tweeting, users should be presented with their topics of interest, as tappable buttons to quickly select the tweet’s topic. Once the user selects the relevant topic from the available options, the selected topic should be added to the tweet as #tag. Ex: #design, #startups, #health, #football, #nationalpolitics, #localnews…etc

Also, when I open Twitter, I wish to have quick filters in the form of #tags or tabs, above the feed, to view tweets on the topics of my interests.

I retweet a lot of tweets from others, many of which are part of my learning, and I wanted to refer to those retweets later. If there is an option to easily search and filter all my retweets, based on the account and topic, it would be great.

I also wish to see the profiles differentiated based on if they are individuals, companies, magazines, news papers, political parties…etc. and then would like to have search filters to view tweets based on these types. 

Thanking you in anticipation 🙂

PS: I predominantly use Twitter on desktop.

Reminiscence of an Amaravian

Mar 1994: It was my last day of class 4. Tore the unused pages of our notebooks, wrote “Happy Holidays” on those small pieces of paper and on the way back home, all school busmates threw “Happy Holidays” on the road. Reaching home, I was in joy, thinking of the 2 months summer holidays and that was short lived. My father informed me, I will just have one week of holidays and on the advice of my uncle who was a teacher, I’ll be joining a coaching centre, staying in a hostel for the first time in my life and preparing for the Sainik School entrance exam. After I finished the entrance test, my father used to check with our village postman often, if there was any letter for me, anticipating the results. I was able to clear the entrance test, and the subsequent interview and the medical test. Then came the final selection letter and the lost list of joining formalities. I was elated! With a government scholarship, joined class 6 at Sainik School, Amaravathinagar in Jul-1995 and left after completing class 12 in Mar-2002. It was certainly a journey to remember. 16-Jul-2022, my alma mater celebrates Diamond Jubilee and I am reminiscing my days at SSA.

Sainik School, Amaravathinagar is a residential military public school and one of 33 such schools present in different states of India. The concept of Sainik Schools originated with Mr. Krishna Menon, who was the Defence Minister in the early 1960s. Mr. Menon felt that a school with rudiments of a military way of life in each state of our country, could prepare cadets and help build up an infrastructure for intake into the National Defence Academy.

More interesting readings: https://rejinces.net/category/sainik-school

The Roll of Honour

A better Google Photos app

When people were having film roll cameras, they took it out during special occasions, clicked a few pictures,  developed them and put them into albums, which were later cherished as memories. With the advent of mobile photography, we click too many photos and sometimes we also miss enjoying the moment. 

We went on a family trip for two days, along with our cousins. In those two days, we took nearly 600 photos. In a dessert shop that had Instagram worthy background, we clicked 37 pictures. For a portrait shot inside a tea estate, we clicked 15 pics of the same person, where I just needed one photo with a good facial expression and great background.

To capture a portrait picture when my friend was best dressed for a marriage, we clicked 25 photos with 3 different backgrounds. To get the best shot, my friend posed for photos with different styles like having free hair or plaited hair, wearing spectacles or without spectacles, smiling widely or without a smile, and with the face looking at the camera or looking sideways. 

Of late, the albums are filled with too many photos, mostly because we click around 3 to 10 pictures in the same spot, so as to get the best shot and also because our cameras do not have film rolls like the old analog cameras, we don’t care how much ever we click. 

A few months down the line, I might not appreciate having too many photos per album. I prefer minimal photos per occasion, somewhere between 10-50 photos per album. So after each occasion like picnics or wedding functions, I sit and diligently delete most duplicate or unwanted photos. Deleting these photos is a very boring task! But I still do it, to keep my albums clean. As I deleted the photos, I made notes of what I deleted, so that I can share with Google requesting them to use their AI prowess, image recognition capabilities and come up with algorithms that would help users declutter the photos.

How did I shrink the size of my albums and retain the good looking photos, the ones in which people are smiling, facial expressions are positive and the background is nice? By deleting the not so good photos. Here is what I did:

  • Toggle between successive shots, look for if all the people in the pic are seeing the camera, are they smiling, decide on which one is better to retain and delete the other one.
  • Between multiple photos of the same frame, I retained the one that looked lively. For me, being lively means smiling. Laughing means it is livelier.
  • Compared between smiles that are wide with the ones that are gentle and retained, the one looked lively.
  • Deleted photos if there are non welcome objects seen in the photo, like scattered clothes, unused chairs in the background…etc.
  • Deleted photos in which people were seen talking and hence the facial expression was not good. 
  • Deleted photos in which people were trying to make children smile or make them look at the camera by uttering some jokes or using some gestures.
  • Deleted photos in which the face was obstructed due to hand movement or some other objects.
  • Deleted photos in which people were seen with eyes fully or partially closed.
  • Deleted photos in which people were not smiling, seen frowning or staring rudely.
  • Deleted photos if someone’s eyes or face is looking elsewhere.
  • Deleted photos in which people were looking downward or the head was too up and faces were not clearly visible.
  • Is the frame of the photo good? Has someone gone out of frame? Delete if someone is only partially covered in the frame than the one in which they are visible fully. 
  • Deleted photos with too much or too low lightning. 
  • Deleted photos if there is a glare on the face
  • Deleted photos with poor shadow disturbing the frame.
  • Deleted photos with hand or lip movements or if a part of the body part is blurred due to movement while taking the photo.
  • Deleted if the person was giving some instructions or talking while taking the shot and the lip movements were not looking good.
  • Deleted photos in which someone has photobombed.
  • Deleted photo in which the baby was seen crying.
  • Deleted photos if they were holding some props which are not fully visible. Ex. My daughter picked some strawberries from a farm and wanted those to be visible in the photo.
  • Had multiple pics of the baby eating strawberries. Retained the one that had a lively expression.
  • Deleted pictures where the costumes might have misaligned.
  • If I have to cover a background with some name on the board or letters, deleted the ones where the names were partially cut
  • Deleted photos that were taken from behind and were not looking great. 
  • For photos taken in front of monuments, compared with poses where the person was sitting, with the ones where they were standing and deleted the one that was not looking good.
  • Took photos of a strawberry farm with family members and without family members in the frame. Retained the pic with family members. Might be it were a monument, I would have retained a pic that doesn’t have anyone else other than the monument in the frame.
  • If everyone is asked to pose in a certain way, are all doing the same? Ex. Pouting, thumbs up, laughing, smiling. Does the pose look natural?
  • I was choosing between photos with half frame and full frame, photos with feet visible and if they are looking good or ugly.

A few patterns I noticed:

  • For pictures of people with good natural landscapes in the background, landscape mode looked better than portrait mode. 
  • Portrait picture with half frame, full frame and longshot. Full frame looked good. Long shots in portrait mode did not look good.
  • Portrait shots with people standing far behind don’t look good.
  • When there are more than 3 people in the frame, a photo in landscape mode looks good.
  • In a spot, compared to a selfie, a photo taken by someone else looked good.
  • When a pic was taken on hills with the photographer standing on highland and the person being photographed standing slightly below, then a photo with faceup looked better than a photo with face down. Similarly, when a pic was taken on hills with the photographer standing on lowland and the person being photographed standing slightly higher, then a photo with chin down looked better than a photo with chin up.

Let there be a Nudge: At the end of the day, if the photos app can show suggestions and provide tools to compare and delete duplicate and not so good looking photos, it would be great. The tool can prompt the reasons as to why a photo can be deleted. Ex. Someone looking away, blurred hand, foreign particles in the background, someone photobombed …etc. 

Nudges can also be applied to delete not so useful videos, forwarded memes, good morning messages…etc.

Medical Archives: I regularly take photos of medical prescriptions and test report sheets, so that I can refer to them later. It would be great if there is a separate medical archives folder. When the labs send me the reports as pdf, in email, I can save it to Google Drive. However, if I get a physical copy of the reports, I click pictures of it, which would be in Google Photos. It would be helpful if there is an integration between Google Photos and Google Drive and I can have a common medical archives folder that can be accessed from both these apps seamlessly. 

Casual Pics: When my wife had a new haircut, we took multiple pics to see if it looks good for her. I don’t intend to keep these photos for long. Also, there are lots of photos we take casually, while on a car ride or in a local train, but will not be a special long term memory and these photos can be classified as casual photos and have some option like delete these casual photos after 6 months or 2 years …etc.

Apart from albums, it would also be nice to have categories for photos, like family, friends, vacations, sports, work, medical documents, professional mode photos, other documents …etc.

Let the process of organizing and managing photos be simple and delightful and the memories cherishable. Also, clearing the clutter contributes to a sustainable earth, in a small way.

PS: Professional photographers will be able to add more ideas, to shortlist the best photos.

Thanks to Ravi for reviewing the draft of this post 🙂

Addendum:

I have enabled partner sharing on Google Photos. I click multiple photos and delete the not so good ones later. However, the photos I delete, only gets deleted on my account and not on my partner’s account. I would appreciate if there is an option to set sync settings for partner sharing, like sync with partner’s account immediately, after an hour, after 24 hours or after a week, so that I can delete the not so good photos and later only the good left over photos gets synced. Else, when I delete, the partner account could be notified highlighting the photos that were deleted and prompting if the partner would also like to delete or is ok to retain the photos.

I was casually capturing the building landscapes at my office and felt that the left most photo with the full building visible, looked better than the middle one, which looked better than the right most photo

My journey, understanding Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Image source: http://www.un.org

In December 2002, the United Nations General Assembly declared May 21 as the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, to help communities understand the value and richness of cultural diversity, learn how to be inclusive, live together in harmony and achieve prosperity in a sustainable way.

I have been an Inclusion & Diversity champion at my organisation, took part in the “Power of Diversity” week celebrations every year, explored on this topic, out of personal interest and wanted to journal a few of my learnings over the last few years.

My understanding of diversity during my young age was through the school textbook lesson “Unity in Diversity.” During the initial years of my career, I thought it was all about having an inclusive environment for people from various cultures and also for people with disabilities. The companies I worked with over the last few years, made conscious efforts to create awareness on how to appreciate Diversity and be Inclusive of people from various cultures, social status, people with disabilities, people from LGBTQIA+ community, different generations and other diverse backgrounds. These efforts have helped me better understand what Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging means,  enabling me to create psychological safety, inclusive environment, and appreciate people from diverse backgrounds, for who they are.

Diversity: The presence of differences within a given setting. Each individual is unique. In the workplace, that can mean differences in race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age and socioeconomic class.  It can also refer to differences in physical ability, veteran status, whether or not you have kids — all of those are components of diversity. When we think of diversity in the workplace, we often think of physical, visible differences. However, it’s important to be mindful of diversity of thought. “From a business standpoint, different perspectives directly influence a product — how it’s made, who it serves, how it functions and so on. More perspectives make for a better product.” People from diverse backgrounds with varying life experiences can thrive personally and professionally.

Equity: The act of ensuring that processes and programs are impartial, fair and provide equal possible outcomes for every individual. Equity takes into account the fact that not everybody is starting at the same level.

Inclusion: Attitudes and behaviours that create a place where people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives feel a sense of belonging. This means that everyone feels comfortable and supported by the organization when it comes to being their authentic selves. In a truly inclusive environment, everyone is valued, welcomed and appreciated, for who they are.

Diversity

Browsing the internet on diversity, I understand that three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension. Helping people understand and accept different cultures and creating an inclusive mindset is necessary for peace, stability and sustainable development.

“Just as natural diversity is vital to sustain ecosystems, cultural diversity is the lifeblood of vibrant societies. Cultural diversity provides fresh ideas and perspectives that enrich our lives in countless ways, allowing us all to grow and thrive together. A culturally diverse classroom is not only more inclusive, it boosts student learning and achievement. A culturally diverse workplace is not only more innovative, it is also more productive and economically profitable.” – Irina Bokova, Director General – UNESCO

A few things I learned during the “Power of Diversity” week celebrations: 

One of the wonderful talks I had listened to was by Frans Johansson, in the year 2020, where he spoke on how the Medici family funded people from diverse backgrounds, which accidently led to the Renaissance. The speaker uses the Medici effect as a metaphor for teams to flourish, by deliberately bringing different cultures together in order to create more productivity through the intersection of different ideas, experiences, backgrounds and beliefs.

Nurturing Diversity of Thoughts – Dr Aarti Ramasami

  • Organization as network of conversations. What are the conversations you are having/encouraging?
  • Leveraging Polarities. How do you find synergies in differences?

Inclusion in Action – Rafal Ohme

  • New skills for the hybrid world: Ability to Adapt (agility), Social, Emotional & Technological skills.
  • Emotional Intelligence is a feature the AI will not have.
  • Mirror neurons – helps to feel the emotions of others and sense their intentions.
  • Loneliness & depression would be the most important threat in the digital world.
  • Reward yourself as often as possible.
  • Socialise. Wait for no occasion to celebrate. In a few cultures, people don’t wait for an occasion. They meet in the middle of the week to have dinner together. 
  • Life policy – social relationships will support, motivate and make you happy.
  • Physical proximity becomes a privilege in a hybrid world. Dining together at work would become a privilege. Oxytocin reduces cortisol levels. Gives enormous pleasure. It enhances immunological systems.
  • “Social people, who meet regularly in a regular group, even to eat together and gossip, have a better chance of living longer than those who quit smoking, lose weight or exercise regularly” – Susan Pinker, The Village Effect

Using the Power of Diversity to Drive Innovation – Navi Radjou

Congruence – Alignment to harmony. Does your workforce diversity reflect growing market diversity.

Best Practice #1: Create change agents to shift culture on all levels.

Ref: Chevron Partners with Catalyst to Advance Gender Equality 

Best Practice #2: Reframe what you unconsciously perceive as weakness in others as super strengths.

Ref: Neurodiverse Like Me. How SAP’s Autism at Work program helped… | by Carrie Hall 

Best Practice #3: Create communities of passion that unites diverse people based on shared interests.

Ex: Communities of Passion at the design company, Frog.

Slides from Deloitte Insights, referenced by the speaker.

 Acting on Inclusion – Arriving At A Place Of Belonging – Dr Curtis Odom.

  • Think of your employees as people first. They should feel a sense of belonging.
  • People struggle with “speak up” because people struggle with feeling uncomfortable.
  • The tell-tale sign: when the most vocal people become silent.
  • Inclusion is a behaviour. Cultivate a culture of inclusion.
  • Create a culture of belonging.
  • Leaders are the culture.
  • “Belonging requires the safety to believe that, “I matter.” To matter, we must know that our mistakes, our misconceptions, and our misgivings have room for grace. I believe that grace is one of the most powerful tools a leader can have.”
  • A tender heart and a compassionate disposition can also make a great leader.
  • Micro Affirm
    • Bring people into conversation
    • Ask for their opinion
    • Recognize their achievements and vocalize
    • Take personal interest in someone’s personal life
    • And most importantly, be an ally when you see others being treated unfairly
    • Reverse mentoring as a tool . Listen to people. Ask questions. Be curious. 

Provide psychological safety, give credit, find the gaps, provide wellbeing support. Foster an environment where everyone can ‘Speak Up’ and speak their minds

“Psychological safety in the workplace means that every single person in an organisation is able to bring their whole self to work. No hiding, no censoring and no pretending to be someone else. From this space, people communicate and collaborate effectively, and a culture of curiosity and creativity is cultivated.” – Gina Battye, Consultant & Trainer.

In this short article Mike Robbins explains, how a lack of “…psychological safety makes it difficult for the group or company to thrive and perform at their highest level because people are holding back some of who they really are.” If I feel included, I feel welcomed. I can be me and bring the best everyday.

Also had the opportunity to listen to Mr. Siddharth Jayakumar. Couldn’t compile the notes. You can listen to his talks here: http://siddharthjayakumar.com/about-siddharth

Recognizing Privilege – Social Inequalities Explained in a $100 Race 

‘Working hard’ doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t also benefit from privilege afforded by race, gender, economic wealth, education, access to healthcare – the most effective way to address it, is to recognise that it exists!

  • Privilege is not the suggestion that a person has never struggled and that everything they have accomplished is unearned. Instead, privilege should be viewed as a built-in advantage, separate from one’s level of income or effort.
  • Privilege is greater access to social power and resources available to some people because of their social group membership; an advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed above other groups. It is often invisible to those who have it.

“Privilege isn’t about what you’ve gone through, it’s about what you haven’t had to go through.” Janaya Khan, Co-founder of BLM Toronto

Most of us have some form of privilege. We can all, in one way or another, step up as an ally to someone else.

Being an Ally

An Ally is an individual who speaks out and stands up for a person or group that is targeted and discriminated against. An Ally works to end oppression by supporting and advocating for people who are stigmatised, discriminated against or treated unfairly.

Allies may come from dominant or majority groups or from other oppressed groups and still use their sphere of influence to effect positive change for others. Regardless of background or motivation, all allies are united by the common belief that everyone deserves equal treatment.

At its highest point, inclusion is expressed as feeling confident and inspired.”

Characteristics of the emerging generations and generational differences. Source: https://mccrindle.com.au

During the celebration of World Day for Cultural Diversity, at office, colleagues from across the world shared their cultural uniqueness, festivals, customs, traditions, attire, food, language, music, sports…etc., which was all a sheer pleasure to read. I wanted to present one story that I cherished the most: 

“The culture of respect is one of the most important values in Japanese society. It is reflected in Japanese language, manners and customs. We have a national holiday called “Respect for the aged day” in September, to honour elderly people. Many people send gifts to grandparents, and sometimes elder people in the community to show respect and wish for long and healthy life.” – from a fellow colleague. 

Before closing, I also wanted to share my cultural story. Born in an agricultural family, I have had a very humble beginning and spent my childhood in a village in Tamil Nadu, India. We speak Tamil and the customary attire for us are the Pudavai, Veshti, and Sattai. We eat rice-based foods. The breakfast most farmers in our locality had was predominantly the Palaya Soru (fermented rice from the previous days left over) and occasionally Upma, Idli or Dosai. We also have a local signature dish called Arisiyum Paruppum Saadham (Ariseem Paruppu). The important festivals we celebrate at home are Pongal (farmers thanking the God after the harvest), Deepavali (festivals of lights, celebrating the defeating of demons) and the local village festivals.

I was lucky enough to clear an entrance test, was granted scholarship and studied from class 6 to class 12, in a military public school and hence am a beneficiary of Equity & Social Justice. The good education I received also created better opportunities later in life, which has been a Privilege. Also, having good friends & relatives, whose support helped me come out of turbulent times is a Privilege. Gratitude 🙂

******

Here are a few simple things that YOU can personally do to celebrate the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development:

  1. Visit an art exhibit or a museum dedicated to other cultures
  2. Learn about another religion
  3. Plan an international movie night
  4. Listen to a musical tradition from a different culture
  5. Play a sport related to a different culture
  6. Invite a friend over and cook traditional food
  7. Learn about traditional celebrations from other cultures
  8. Volunteer with an organization working for diversity and inclusion
  9. Learn another language
  10. Spread the word around you, family, friends and invite people from a different culture to share your customs.

Book Recommendations:

References and additional readings:

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Glossary 

List of Cognitive Biases – Wikipedia 

World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development – UN 

World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development – Wikipedia

Keri Norris: Hiding in Plain Sight: What’s Missing in Health Equity | TED Talk 

Diversity and Inclusion – HBR

DEI Gets Real – HBR 

Do Your Employees Feel Respected? – HBR

5 Terms You Should Learn to Become a Better Ally – HBR 

Be a Better Ally 

Melinda Briana Epler: 3 ways to be a better ally in the workplace | TED Talk 

Allyship: What It Means to Be an Ally in Social Work 

The Ally Nudge

How to Be a Mental Health Ally – HBR

A blueprint for diversity in the workplace | TED Talks 

Peggy McIntosh: How to recognize your white privilege — and use it to fight inequality | TED Talk

What is “normal” and what is “different”? | TED Talk 

Emily Quinn: The way we think about biological sex is wrong | TED Talk 

UNESCO and Sustainable Development Goals

How diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) matter | McKinsey 

The diversity and inclusion revolution: Eight powerful truths Deloitte Review, issue 22 

The Genderbread Person

Stories – Gender Spectrum 

Sex Redefined: The Idea of 2 Sexes Is Overly Simplistic – Scientific American

Workforce DEI: 12 Steps Every Company Should Take 

What Does Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Mean in the Workplace? 

How To Create Belonging In The Workplace Without Undermining Diversity 

Bring Your Whole Self To Work

She Coined the Term ‘Intersectionality’ Over 30 Years Ago. Here’s What It Means to Her Today

How science is helping us understand gender 

Kimberlé Crenshaw on What Intersectionality Means Today | Time

Kimberlé Crenshaw and Lady Phyll Talk Intersectionality, Solidarity, and Self-Care — UKBP 

The Digital Teacher: Schools : Let’s talk about Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development 

Understanding Non-Binary People: How to Be Respectful and Supportive | National Center for Transgender Equality 

 Should You Put Pronouns In Email Signatures And Social Media Bios?

Why I Put Pronouns on my Email Signature?

100 Powerful Diversity And Inclusion Quotes for a Stronger Company Culture 

How Diversity of Thought Can Fit into Your DEI Strategy 

Hiding in Plain Sight: What’s Missing in Health Equity | Keri Norris | TEDxEmory 

Keri Norris: Hiding in Plain Sight: What’s Missing in Health Equity | TED Talk 

Melinda Briana Epler: 3 ways to be a better ally in the workplace | TED Talk

Be Kind, Be Inclusive, Be an Ally, Create a Safe Space 🙂

Addendum:

June – the Pride Month brings us an opportunity to educate ourselves, empathize, be an Ally, and be kinder to all.

July – the Disability Pride Month, celebrates disabled persons embracing their disabilities as integral parts of who they are, reclaiming visibility in public and interacting fully with their disabilities out in the open, and rejecting shame and internalized ableism. AmeriDisability describes Disability Pride as “accepting and honoring each person’s uniqueness and seeing it as a natural and beautiful part of human diversity” and connects it to the larger movement for disability justice.

A few more notes from the Power of Diversity events of 2022:

Health Equity –  everyone has fair opportunity to be healthy.

Bias can be a big barrier to inclusion.

Supplier diversity programs open doors, creates socio-economic impact with a fairer economy and fairer distribution of wealth, by maximising opportunities to the less privileged or businesses owned by under represented population. IMPACT: Creates a positive chain reaction. Improves the entire community that was disadvantaged.

Being inclusive is embracing everyone. When everyone is included, everyone wins.

We need equity because not everyone is starting at the same point in life. Some people cant use stairs and need some equitable access. Accessibility.

Equity means widening the gate not lowering the bar. Equity is not reverse discrimination.

The Morning Nudge & Evening Mood

A good plan makes a great day. Digital world presents us with plenty of choices and distractions. We struggle to organize our day, leading to missed deadlines, not keeping up with commitments, and as a result, loss of trust. Failing to plan also leads to working overtime, missing personal and family time which in turn leads to stress and anxiety. Also, people spend a considerable amount of time on various administrative tasks, which when delegated, simplified, or automated, frees up time for important tasks or initiatives. 

Nudge theory is a Nobel prize winning concept in behavioural economics, that proposes positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions, to influence the behaviour. 

A decluttered and organized life enhances wellbeing and improves productivity. Nudging people plan their day, optimize the schedules, and focus better, increases productivity, and helps manage work-life balance.  

Below are the pictures of my desk board at home and the notebook I use to take notes, to-dos and plan my day.

Ways for Improvement

  • Nudge people make daily, weekly plans, disconnect distractions and focus.
  • Nudge people make progress, one task at a time, one day at a time.
  • Nudge people develop better habits and monitor. 
    • “The biggest influence in life is habits. To get better results, develop better habits.” ~ Vala Afshar

Visual Boards & Notebooks: From my experience, visual boards, notebooks, and reminders are nudges which are right in front of my sight and have aided me in making my day organized, accomplishing tasks and being productive. 

I also have a few pages in the back of my notebook, to note down the distractions and analyse once in a while on how to eliminate them during office hours.

The hack that helps me prioritize the important tasks to start first: Just imagine power will go off in the next 2 hours. What is the one important thing you wanted to complete before that, which, when not completed can lead to missed deadlines or an escalation? The chatbot can use such hacks to help people prioritize better.

Focus Mode – Disconnect distractions, Timebox & Deep work: While I learnt exploratory testing, we used a methodology called Session Based Test Management (SBTM). A similar thing in business parlance would be timeboxing. You take a task, fix 1 hour, and commit to be focused only on that task for the next 1 hour. You just do deep work or do nothing during that time. If the chatbot can nudge people to timebox, eliminate distractions like pausing email & chat notification and commit to deep work, it will help focus better and finish tasks with ease.

Routine Tasks: Nudge users to complete routine tasks like booking cabs in advance, filling timesheets by end of every week or month, submitting expenses and tax documents before deadline, deleting old mails once in a week and decluttering. 

Habits are a superpower. What habit do you want to develop and monitor?
Ex: Did you read for 15 mins today?

Reflection: Nudge people to spend 5 mins daily evening, reflecting how the day was? And, to have a quick glance at the next day’s calendar.

Gamify: A gamified approach can create an inherent motivation. 
Ex: When the user consistently achieves his plans for all days of the week, present him with a “Hurray! You earned a 5-star badge.” Else, gently say “Oops! you missed the plans for this day. No issues. Let’s rise tomorrow.” 

Suggested Solution 

An ideal solution would be a Microsoft Teams or Google Workspace based chatbot that acts as a virtual assistant and nudges people to plan, focus and relax. 

Why a chatbot? At the office, we have goals and learning plans in various applications. We take notes physically in a notebook or keep it digitally as documents or in emails. We have emails to respond, meetings on calendar and minutes of meetings in email. We also have routine tasks like booking cabs in advance, filling timesheets by the end of every week or month, submitting expenses and tax documents before the deadline…etc. Like this there is lots of information scattered between many apps and we forget to check them all leading to missed tasks or deadlines. However, we check the chat window multiple times in a day, which has become a habit for many and hence having an AI enabled chatbot on MS Teams or Google Workspace, can assist in planning the day better, making smarter decisions and nudging users to act on the important.

The chatbot should nudge users,

  • To track their long-term goals and daily plans
  • To make commitments and set deadlines
  • To act on pending tasks by sending reminders
  • To create a habit of learning with 15 mins daily learning plan
  • To take regular breaks.
  • To delete mails and declutter the mailbox.
  • To glance at the next day’s calendar before logging off for the day.

And by the end of the day assist in gauging the mood of the user 

  • Happy 😊 
    • What made me happy today?
  • Worried ☹
    • What worries me?
  • What distracted me today from achieving my plans?

While nudging users, we should make the users feel confident that their privacy will not be violated, and their activities are not tracked by anyone else other than the user and be mindful that high frequency notifications can also be overwhelming. The Nudge should be framed in a way that motivates and enables rather than pressurising.

Benefits

A good plan makes a great day.

  • When you can anticipate the needs of your day, you can prioritise what is important.
  • Organised day helps manage time smartly and increases productivity.
  • Crazy schedule feels overwhelming. An organized day reduces the stress.
  • Helps us evaluate the progress.
  • Striking off completed tasks is satisfying.
  • We can have a clear mind and feel positive.
  • We get time to relax.
  • Increased work-life balance.
  • We feel a sense of accomplishment and can have a better sleep at night.

The individual nudges, when multiplied by the total number of employees in the organisation, can create value at scale.

PS: Submitted this internally, when my company solicited ideas to implement AI/Chatbot/NLP based services across various functions, so as to become smarter/faster/leaner/better.

Would be nice if a similar self service chatbot can also be implemented by phone based chat applications, to help individuals better manage their day.

Addendum: I read that Wednesdays are the most stressful days of the week. I prefer to have Deep Work Wednesdays with no meetings of any type & Learning Fridays, which would helps us think, plan, learn or share something new professionally or personally. 

Additional reading:
https://ashokprabhu.com/2022/01/02/sustainable-meetings
https://ashokprabhu.com/2020/11/05/how-to-run-effective-meetings
https://alifeofproductivity.com/rule-of-three
https://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2012/07/02/thomas-jefferson-steve-jobs-and-the-rule-of-3
https://hbr.org/2019/03/the-case-for-finally-cleaning-your-desk
https://hbr.org/2018/03/why-you-need-an-untouchable-day-every-week
https://hbr.org/2019/02/why-you-should-work-less-and-spend-more-time-on-hobbies
https://sheilgandhi.medium.com/how-atomic-habits-improved-my-life-f3981b22797b

Chai –My Favourite Brew

REJINCES


Recently I came across a video clip about TWG’s Yellow Gold Bud Tea.  This tea is believed to have been once the favourite of Chinese emperors and as precious and costly as gold.  In fact, each tea bud is lavished in 24-karat gold, which once infused, yields a delicately metallic and floral aftertaste.

In the Sixties, during our childhood days, back home in Kottayam, the regular morning brew was coffee.  Ripened red coffee beans were plucked from the coffee trees that grew in our homestead and after being sun dried their outer covering was removed.  The beans were then fried until they turned black and ground to a powder at the nearby mill, to be stored in air tight containers. The coffee powder was put into a copper vessel with boiling water and was left for a few minutes for the coffee to be infused and the thick powder would…

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Sustainable Meetings

In continuation of my earlier post on how billions of dollars are lost every year due to unproductive meetings, I would like to share my suggestions for having sustainable online meetings.

Ref: https://ashokprabhu.com/2020/11/05/how-to-run-effective-meetings 

Lots of work related meetings are happening online leading to meeting fatigue. With the online meeting service providers having a record option for meetings, people tend to record meetings with the assumption that people can refer to the recordings in future. However, any meeting recorded for playback occupies a lot more digital space than it would, had it been saved as a transcript or as simple meeting notes. I understand from general reading that people rarely view the recordings later. These recordings sit on servers and occupy lots of space and energy. When we calculate the amount of meeting recordings for an entire company or across the world, it would be massive, and the energy spent to maintain those recordings would also be massive.

We can tend to reduce the number of meetings. If a meeting must happen, then we can think of options to take notes or transcribe the discussion points rather than recording the entire meeting.

For a learning or educational meeting, a recorded video would be useful as people understand better through demonstrations, visuals, and illustrations. However, meetings recorded for future references can be transcribed using Artificial Intelligence / Natural Language Processing and the recordings replaced with just text. Texts are also easily searchable.

Nudge 1: Firstly, when a meeting is set up, prompt the meeting organiser with simple questions like, 

  • What is the purpose of this meeting? 
  • Does this meeting have a clear agenda? 
  • Can the purpose be solved with quick ad-hoc discussions or chats rather than a meeting?

Nudge 2: Next, when the planned meeting happens and when the meeting organiser clicks on record button, prompt him with questions like,

  • Keeping in mind our sustainability goals, is it necessary to record this meeting? 
  • Will anyone ever watch this recording later? 
  • How long do you wish to retain this recording?
  • Is this meeting recorded just for future reference or is this an educational session? 
  • Will taking notes suffice rather than recording?

Nudge 3: When there is 5 mins left before the meeting ends, nudge the participants to summarise the meeting points. Show the transcript of the meeting and enable the participants to remove the noise and retain only the important points. Enable collaboration of the meeting notes so that participants can mark if their actions are done.

Nudge 4: An Effective Meeting = Agenda + Action Items + Responsible Individual + Timeline. Nudge the participants to see if all the agenda items are discussed and based on the discussion, add the responsible individuals to actions identified, along with the deadline to act on it and an option to notify either 1 day or 15 mins before the deadline ends.

Suggested Solution 

  • As a meeting happens, enable a sidebar and using Natural Language Processing, capture the meeting transcript.
  • Enable the participants to edit the transcript, removing the unnecessary noise and keeping only the important points from the meeting.
  • Enable the organiser to do a quick check if the agenda items are discussed.
  • Enable the organiser to list down the action items, assign responsible individuals and set deadlines.
  • Enable the organiser to trigger alerts before the deadline approaches. Ex: 1 day or 15 mins before the deadline.

Benefits

  • Any meeting involves time and money and simplifying it saves time and money.
  • Not recording a meeting is an opportunity to save storage space and contribute towards sustainability.
  • When we calculate the amount of meeting recordings for the entire company and across the world, it would be massive, and the energy spent to maintain those recordings would also be massive.
  • Transcripts are easily searchable. Acts as quick reference. Important points from an hour long meeting can be quickly glanced and grasped probably in 5 mins.
  • Employees feel overwhelmed due to too much meeting time online and hence lesser meetings and no recordings, reduces stress and improves wellbeing.
  • Assigning actions with timelines, nudges participants to keep up with commitments.
  • Helps follow up on the action items.
  • No confusion as responsibilities can be clearly assigned.

Reading has been described as an active activity while watching videos has been described as a passive activity. Watching videos does not put the cognitive senses into any use close to how reading puts it.

Ref: https://infovoresecrets.com/reading-vs-watching-videos-what-science-says/ 

Let’s strive to have fewer meetings. And if a meeting needs to happen, let’s strive not to record and instead take notes of important actions, responsible individuals and the timeline.