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.