Articles & Stories


On travel, culture + society, learning, and betterment.

Everyday Tools

Comment

Everyday Tools

I must admit something. I'm a recovered productivity junkie. 

Back when I was juggling two part-time jobs, full-time studies, and a mishmash of extracurricular activities, I became obsessed with becoming as efficient as I could be. Inevitably, that led to burnout. A tool or app isn't going to magically create extra hours in a day. The best "tool" that worked for me has been to only say "yes" to things that get me jazzed up. 

The benefit of experimenting is discovering what works best for me. I've ended up with these three tools which I use everyday: 

For daily goal setting and note taking: Moleskine notebook

I love the feeling of writing things down on paper. I feel like I'm able to remember things better.

I start off each day by writing the date at the top-right corner of a fresh new page. Then, I list out my 3 Most Important Tasks. These would be things that I need to focus on for the day. Below, I write my to-dos, based on what's upcoming in Todoist, my preferred to-do app. Throughout the day, I'll use my notebook to jot down any random thoughts, reflections or ideas that pop into my mind. 

During meetings and conferences, I usually choose to leave my laptop closed and write notes by hand. It helps me feel more connected to the speaker. 

When the day ends, I do a review and reflect on what’s been accomplished. I add any pending to-dos to Todoist. Then, I start planning for the next day by forecasting what tomorrow’s Most Important Tasks might be.

For scheduling and keeping organized: Google Calendar 

I live by my calendar! My day usually starts and ends with a peek at my calendar app on my Android Nexus 5. I like to plan my day and block off focused working time. Everything goes into my calendar, from meetings to travel time to get-togethers with friends.

Side story: On our first date, my boyfriend and I expressed our mutual love for Google Calendar. I think this might’ve been a reason we hit it off so well! 

For to-dos: Todoist 

I’ve been using Todoist for over a year, and it’s the app that’s stuck through all my experiments. There’s many things to love about Todoist. What seals the deal for me are features like the Google Calendar integration, Quick Add, and availability on both my MacBook and Android phone.

Apart from my day-to-day todos, I have a folder called “Someday/Maybe” and sub-folders like “To Read”, “To Watch”, “To Learn”, and more. 

Other favourites 

Here's an assortment of apps that are part of my productivity workflow.

  • Dropbox: for storing my files and documents. I’ve also set all cellphone photos to automatically backup to Dropbox
  • Evernote: storage for anything that can be referenced down the road. For example, if I spot a place I’d love to visit, I use the Evernote’s Chrome extension to clip the article and send it to my “Travels” notebook along with any notes to make it easy to search for
  • Google Drive: for spreadsheets. This is where I keep trackers for budgeting, yearly goal setting, and health
  • Pushbullet: easily send links and documents between my Android phone and MacBook. I also like that I can receive and send SMS text messages right on my browser
  • 1-Click Timer: a simple browser app that helps me stay focused
  • Feedly, Pocket, and Buffer: my favourite combination for reading and sharing articles. I’ve also got an IFTTT recipe that sends posts that have been starred in Pocket to be pushed to Evernote for reference

What's in your toolbox? 

This post was written for Support Driven's Writing Challenge! Serious about a career in Customer Support? Join the community at Support Driven

Comment

The Rules of Love

Comment

The Rules of Love

According to a Thirteen-Year-Old

Last month, my book club met up and a couple of us brought our childhood diaries. With a glass of wine at hand, we took turns reading pages written in our past. Stories ranged from starting a new school year, quarrels with friends, and in my case, sharing some advice on love. Written back when I was a thirteen-year-old, it’s surprising how relevant these tips can still be. Here’s a copy of that advice, though slightly edited to turn some letter Z’s back to S’s (the original title of this entry was “Rulez of Love”).

  1. Never have an SMS/email-based relationship. It won’t last. Trust me with this one. 
  2. Don’t be shy towards each other. Talk! Do something fun.
  3. Don’t try to make your guy/girl jealous by flirting with other people. That’s plain silly! Or maybe you’re insecure? 
  4. If you’re going to break up with your person, say it in person. Though it hurts more, it’s more personal and you get to talk it through.
  5. Wait! Before you even think of breaking up, why don’t you talk about it and try to solve your problems? Maybe a solution will come up and you won’t need to break up with each other.  

Comment

On Workplace Futures: Interview with Wisam Abdulla of Rise Software

Comment

On Workplace Futures: Interview with Wisam Abdulla of Rise Software

This interview was originally published in Montecristo Magazine. You can find the original article here.

Wisam Abdulla. Photo by David Watkins

Wisam Abdulla. Photo by David Watkins

On a warm, spring day, seaplanes can be seen taking off and landing a short distance away from Rise’s Vancouver headquarters. The 60-person technology startup moved into its Coal Harbour office in October 2015, and the location is a far cry from the early stages of the company. Founded in 2011, the software enterprise started out with a tiny team of three. “Back then it was just me, my brother, Tim, and my dad, Faiz,” recalls Wisam Abdulla, Rise’s CEO and co-founder. “We had three desks in the corridor in an office in Gastown.” Then, over a period of almost five years, the company grew. First, it took over that entire Gastown office, then grew into an office next door, and, finally, made the move to Coal Harbour.

Location isn’t the only thing that has changed. The company was originally founded as Paysavvy, focusing on payroll technology for businesses. However, after years of speaking with workplace teams and managers, Abdulla realized there was a shift in the human resources field: the rise of company culture. “The biggest thing we’ve seen since we started the company is the importance of people and culture within an organization,” Abdulla says. “We have bigger ambitions beyond payroll, and Rise is the transition to that expanded vision.” The rebrand to Rise came very recently, in February of this year. The startup now calls itself “the world’s first people and culture platform.” But what does that mean, exactly?

For Rise, it is about helping companies spend more time on building their culture through software that connects apps and integrations in one central hub. “Every human resources professional we talk to has shared the same thing,” says Abdulla. “They want to spend less time on administration so that they can spend more time on the employee experience.” In Rise’s platform, its customers, who range from manufacturing companies to internet marketing startups, can manage payroll, time off, and benefits. There is also an option to integrate tools that they may be already using, such as applicant tracking and goal setting. These areas bring greater focus to the people and ethos of an organization.

Abdulla believes it is this focus that sets successful companies apart from the rest. “Your people should be your company’s most important competitive advantage,” he says. “The future of the workplace is about encouraging an employee to bring their ‘whole self’ to work.” He continues by stating that employees who feel good are more likely to shine at work. According to Abdulla, part of the future of the workplace is giving freedom to employees. He lists flex time, remote working, meditation spaces, and nap rooms as growing trends in the human resources field: MEC, for example, has an indoor climbing wall; Hootsuite has beanbag chairs and beer on tap. And while ping-pong tables and lunchtime yoga sessions may be temptingly eye-roll-inducing, Abdulla thinks they are the future (and that they can actually work). “These are still trends that are associated with forward-thinking companies that are on the fringes,” he says. “I don’t predict anything crazy in the next 10 years—it’s more about recognizing these innovators and early adopters and getting everyone else on board.”

For Rise itself, only half of the floor has been taken up in its Coal Harbour office. There is room, both literally and figuratively, for so much more.

Comment