Archive | October, 2012

How much can we do in a day? Part 2

24 Oct

Couple days ago I wrote a blog post on how much can we do in a day. The main point was that if we schedule lot of things, it will force us to cut off our unproductive activities and focus only on the relevant ones (I suggest you read it first if you have not read it yet). If you get into this habit, you are probably going to have more genuinely free time than you had before despite the fact you are getting more things done. This blog post is about what to do with all that free time and on what you can do with your time in general.


We were asked to write down how we would like to spend our time while at LSE at our introduction lecture couple weeks ago.  I am now applying for consultancies so I used a framework I learned a long time ago from a great speaker and friend of mine called Houston Spencer, himself an ex-McKinsey consultant. It identifies four main areas you should devote your time to. These are:

1. Relationships – family, friends, girlfriend/boyfriend
2. Professional – work related activities
3. Body – sports, taking care of your health, appearance
4. Mind – reading, meditation, listening to relaxation music etc.

This is how Houston put it down:

Draw these on an x/y axis and then think what activities you want to do each of these areas. While your priorities might change depending on the stage of life you are in, you should take care to have at least something in every domain.


And here is a brief sketch I did in the lecture:

I would encourage you to be a lot more specific and spend some time doing this exercise. You might get some great insights. Here is how to do it:

1. Think how fulfilled you are in each area now.


2. What percentage of your time are you investing into each area now?



3. What percentage of your time do you want to be investing into each area in the future?



Closing thoughts

Did you see any correlation between your satisfaction with each area and your investment?
What are your goals for each area for now, in one year, five years from now?
What would you like your time investment mix to look like in the future? Is it realistic given the goals you set for yourself?

How much can we do in a day? Part 1

20 Oct

Now that I am back at uni, I have to balance my time between lectures, studying, applying for jobs, setting up my own business, working out, going out, and many other things. This has led me to a question of how much can I actually do in one day. I am sure you have asked yourself that question many times before as well. I have recently read a book by C. Northcote Parkinson, The Parkinson’s Law, which might offer us an answer.

One of the most famous Parkinson’s laws postulates that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. I think this is very true. Just imagine you are sitting in your room and have to for example write a short report for a class/your boss and you have three hours to do so. You would probably spend the first half an hour on facebook, the next half an hour deciding what to write about, ten minutes checking your email, hour and half writing the report with some more facebook in between and use the remaining time for formatting it and watching videos on youtube.

Now suppose you have only an hour to write the report because you are also planning to go to a gym for an hour and to catch up with a friend over a coffee afterwards to discuss your new business idea. I bet you would finish the report to a comparable if not better standard in that one hour of focused work and manage to do two more important things in those same three hours.

So what is the moral? Do not be afraid to schedule lot of activities in your day because it will only make you more effective in whatever you are doing. If I am under a pressure of a packed day and tight deadlines, I cut off most of my unproductive time such as facebook, focus on work at hand more intensively and therefore complete it a lot faster and to a higher standard, do many other things and at the end of the day, still end up with more free time than I had before.

The next blog post will be on what you can actually do with all that new free time.

Get on the phone!

10 Oct

As a follow up to my previous article on entrepreneurship, here is one more great advice I keep hearing a lot lately, last time from Sunny Midha, a successful entrepreneur, a tech venture capitalist and LSE graduate. And the advice is – get on the phone!

If you want something, you need to ask for it. If you have the courage and determination to call up a big guy and ask him for help, odds are you will be able to make use of that help as well.

Equally importantly, get on the phone to your potential customers to test if the idea you are thinking about would be of an interest to them. Have they bought anything like this before? Why yes, why not?

Last but not least, it’s a great way to get a job as well. One management consulting head hunter and a friend of mine, gave a talk earlier this week on getting into the industry. One of his top advices was to read related press and if a partner from an organization you want to work for has an article there or is quoted, get on the phone to his company and say you want to talk to XY about his recent article in Z. His/her assistant will probably put you through and the partner will be delighted you read the article and found it interesting enough to enquire more. Towards the end of the call, say you are considering your next career steps and got really interested in this segment of the industry. ‘Can you help me please?’ pause… While she will not probably offer you a job outright, people rarely give you a straight no as well. She might recommend you to their HR or to a friend from another consultancy in the sector which is hiring right now.

Whiz kid’s ideas on entrepreneurship

10 Oct

I have started my MSc Decision Sciences degree at the London School of Economics this week and one of the great things about LSE is that it attracts a wide range of remarkable speakers who come and give public lectures on the campus. I have missed out on Kofi Annan but managed to attend Gurbaksh Chahal’s lecture. He dropped out of high school at the age of 16 and by the time he was 25 he built and sold two companies worth over $340 million dollars in total. Being now slightly over thirty, he’s now building a third one, already valued at over $500 million. Here are some of his ideas on entrepreneurship I particularly liked.

Entrepreneurship is like a roller coaster,
it has its ups and downs
but it is your choice
to scream or enjoy the ride.

The idea is 1%, execution is 99%
I really like this one. Many people have great ideas, but they never get down to realising them. Some people guard their idea, afraid somebody would steal it. I think that sharing your ideas with others can open you many unknown doors and provide you with valuable feedback and help with execution.

Culture is everything
Gurbaksh argued that the first 15 to 20 people you hire will define DNA of the whole organization which will in turn determine if the company will remain a small one or will grow successfully. One bad hire not dealt with quickly can destroy the company – so he recommended us that if we make a hiring mistake, it is OK to fire the person the first week or even the first day.

Grow a thick skin, a very thick skin
People will intentionally or unintentionally question your ability to succeed. You need to get over it and not get put down by it. Ignore it; create your own reality (this was coming up a lot also in Steve Job’s biography I was writing about some time back – he called it distorted reality – you persuade people around you that impossible is possible until it becomes reality). He encouraged us to overcome any fear or insecurities we might have and just get on with things, keep trying and learning from what we do.