Sunday, February 22, 2015

Minimalism at Workplace

Minimalism is simple, reduce your stressors by eliminating them. Minimalism will relax you, it will allow you to focus on the essentials.

- Clean your desk.
- When conveying your ideas do not exceed a single A4 page.
- Never organise a meeting longer than one hour. If you think one hour is enough, ask yourself why not half-an-hour?
- Never spend more than 15 minutes to draw a design diagram.
- Never spend more than 30 minutes on a new design wiki page.
- Favour talk to IM, IM to email.
- If you have to, never write long emails, not longer than three paragraphs.
- In your written communications use short sentences;
  • Avoid jargon.
  • At most two sentences per paragraph.
  • Leave an empty line between paragraphs.
  • Follow the two-phase structure:
  • Background
  •   Question or Solution
- Never broadcast emails to unrelated employees.
- Never Reply All to an email.
- Let your actions make you, not your talk.
- Talk less, tell more, listen more.
- Treat everybody equal.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


I have a little trade secret to share with you. Whenever I need to communicate my ideas on a printed medium, I use a single sheet of A4 page, and only on one side.

The most frequently used paper size is A4 measuring 210 by 297 millimetres.

The significant advantage of A system is its scaling: Folded brochures of any size can be made by using sheets of the next larger size, e.g. A4 sheets are folded to make A5 brochures.

But there is something else in A4.

A4 is a meme, it simply evolved with modern human.

In addition to scaling advantages I think A4 evolved to be the most frequently used paper size, because a single sheet of it is the most efficient medium to convey ideas.

Not too big, not too small, elegantly scaled.

Next time you have an idea, try fitting it into an A4 sheet, and I guarantee you it will be read by majority of people.

Exceed an A4 page by one line, or use a different paper size, you will have less people reading it.

I call it Natural Selection.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Managing work schedules is a crucial element of a modern workplace. For most, work days are fragmented in hourly, sometimes half-hourly time slots.

We use tools such as Outlook to book meetings and events. These tools are great, however they have some limitations. They lack intelligence and flexibility to help us fill gaps with sensible choices, and they don’t work well with our private activities outside work.

What if we have a smart app on our phone, that will merge Outlook calendar with our private organiser, and help us forming habits, manage our to do lists, and other events effortlessly, in addition to syncing with work schedules.

I give you Timeful, a smart time management app that does all that.

Timeful has AI (Artificial Intelligence) engine to track your habits. Its brilliance comes from the fact that it learns to work with you and your roughly defined schedules.

Say you want to form a new habit. Lets say you want to do Yoga, 3 times a week, mostly in the evenings, and at noon. Timeful is OK with rough schedules, it understands habit forming is hard, therefore it gives you flexibility to fit them into your existing schedule. When its sees a fit Timeful fills it with an activity you nominated. You either go for it, defer it or move it to another time slot with a simple gesture.

Timeful has a seamless, simple and a very easy to use interface. Adding a new to do item, a new habit, or scheduling an event is a breeze. Moving an item into a different time slot or deferring  is equally easy.

As time slots are fragmented, we ended up having diverse activities in shorter attention spans. This is a fact of 21st  century. Good or bad we have to live with it and we need ways to deal with it. Timeful comes handy with its AI, and friendly manners to help us go through our busy life style. It turns hectic into sensible.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

The power of Active Listening

In your professional and personal lives there is one indispensable personal improvement item you should constantly nurture, and that is Active Listening. Everything else is secondary. Improve Active Listening and you will have ample time and energy for improving other things.

Active Listening is spending conscious effort to listen to, understand and connect with the speaker.

There are plenty of free resources for Active Listening available on the Web, I will disclose a few at the end of this post.

I would now like to share my first hand experience and present  benefits of Active Listening from a different angle, my own my personal experience.

Personal Value
The quality of communication you establish with others will encourage them to value you. By feeling you valued them they immediately return a value on you. The effects of such recognition will grow around you and soon include others into the same circle of connectedness.

Quality of Thinking
By genuinely focusing on the speaker’s point of view, you will avoid negative emotions that may come into your way. You may be under the influence of a toxic environment or your own prejudice. By focusing solely on the speaker, and looking at events from his perspective, will make you eliminate such distractions. Active Listening will save you time and energy, it will improve quality of your judgement, and allow you to understand facts better. It will also prevent you from entering into a wrong thought process that may needlessly increase your anxiety.

Probably the biggest advantage of all is health benefits. By focusing on Active Listening, your brain plasticity will flex more. Your brain  will build and engrave paths that otherwise you would have left idle, you will probably become a smarter person with improved short memory. Being in a positive environment where people actively listen to and value each other, you will eliminate worries, your stress levels will be less, your energy level will increase, in general you will spend the day as a happy person.

I became aware of Active Speaking via a conversation with my colleague and Team Leader Chris Dorrington a few years ago. Thank you Chris! This talk was a turning point in my career. At the time I did not realise its power. But as I took it seriously and work on it I began to see its benefits. You need to be patient though. You will not see an overnight improvement. It needs relentless practice and monitoring your own performance. Good luck.


Active Listening, The University of Adelaide

Active Listening, Skills You Need

Sunday, February 8, 2015

How to make a toast

How to make a toast by Ergun Coruh

The Talk

In his inspiring TED talk, innovator Tom Wujec talks about power of collaborative visualisation.

A group of people is asked to draw “how to make a toast”. This sounds simple, until someone asks to draw the process step by step. The exercise is repeated, individually and in group mode using moveable stickies on a white board.

Collaborative visualisation is a powerful tool.

Firstly, it engages everyone in the design process, by empowering individuals, by giving them equal opportunity to contribute their ideas. This leads to a more fulfilling, happier employee engagement. Secondly, in group mode, it allows the team to understand the problem and facilitates reaching a consensus, a faithful agreement on design.


Not everyone is good at drawing. Even people who are good at drawing may not articulate ideas equally well. Would that be a problem? Do we need a visual language?

It is important to realise that equal engagement is primary value in Collaborative Visualisation. Everybody should be encouraged to draw regardless of their talent, it should be a fun process, a celebration of bringing together ideas.

There are simple techniques I discovered that everyone can take advantage of when drawing ideas. I believe everyone can learn them and gradually become better as they draw more.

Take a look at my drawing of “how to make a toast”.

Keep it simple

Remember this is not a drawing contest. We need to reflect ideas in the simplest possible way so that everyone can quickly understand concepts.

Draw thick

Thick lines encourage to draw simple figures. Simple figures are easier to understand, they don’t clutter ideas. It is important to pick the right sized pen, for a given medium (white board or stickies).

Avoid 3D

Stick with 2D drawings, they are easier to draw. 3D drawings tend to clutter the design. Take a look at my 2D toaster.

Dots, lines and curves

These are the only primitives you would need to draw a shape. Take a look at my toaster drawing again. It has simple visual cues to make it look like a toaster. The curvy edges on top, the switch on the left, a thick base, are common elements to most toasters. Coupled with a slice of bread that looks like a bread, it is impossible to miss it.

Avoid perfectionism 

Do not get carried away by drawing a perfect something, a perfect toaster for instance. It is more important for people to understand you drew a toaster, as opposed to a perfect slab that does not look like a toaster.

Shades and animation

Since we opted for using thick lines, how would we articulate a brown toast?

Use parallel lines to darken the surface of bread slice. You should use this technique judiciously though, overdoing it will clutter the drawing. Don’t forget the idea is to draw a brown toast everybody can understand, not a perfect brown toast.

Simple animation showing spatial motions using cartoon style hyphens have enormous power in articulating complex ideas. Nothing can demonstrate a toast being chaotically thrown into air at the end of a toasting process better than a skewed, brown bread with hyphens showing a movement from bottom to top.

Nodes, arrows and areas

Nodes are group of objects representing a stage in your design process. Arrows let you articulate how you connect nodes and build up your design. Pay attention to area alignment. Make sure you sufficiently separate nodes from each other, you leave enough space between them, so that they don’t appear on top of each other.