5 lessons I learned from the Kokoda Track

I recently completed the Kokoda Track with a group of my oldest and best friends. For those of you who don’t know, the Track is a historical trail in Papua New Guinea. When I was preparing for my trip to Kokoda, I knew that I was in for a long journey full of challenges. An eight-day trek on difficult terrain was bound to test me. It was also bound to teach me important lessons that I could take back to everyday life. So, without further ado, here are the most important lessons I learned while powering through the Kokoda Track:

1. Be prepared.

As I previously talked about, I committed to preparing for this trip. I knew it was going to test me physically and mentally, and I wanted to give myself the best possible tools and training to get me through it successfully. I hiked long miles on weekends and did hours of research on the best gear to take and what to expect on the Track. By doing this, I made sure that I was well-prepared for the different obstacles that I might face. Training ahead of time was key to my success on the Track and researching what I was in for made sure I didn’t underestimate the difficult roads ahead.

This is a lesson easily applicable to business and entrepreneurship. When you’re vying for success, prepare for success. This isn’t always the same as making detailed plans ahead of time, plans always change, but being prepared is also key to being able to adapt to unexpected changes or roadblocks to achieve your objective. When walking into an important meeting or launching a new start-up, make sure that you’ve put in the work to be successful.

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2. Choose your team well.

I was very lucky to be surrounded by some of my oldest and closest friends on this trek, so when any one of us was struggling, we knew we could turn to each other for support and motivation. To have that support is an essential part of success in any aspect of life, so when times get tough, make sure you’re doing it with the right team.

People often say that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Are you surrounding yourself with the right people? Whether it’s in business or your personal life, you want to make sure that you have a support system that is empowering.

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3. Don’t be afraid of hard times.

It’s natural to want to avoid difficult times, but it’s in those moments that you experience the most growth. Embrace those moments and use them to build a stronger, better team. Throughout the trek, each of us went through struggles and doubts, but as the trek went on, we became closer because we were able to rely on one another.

Hard times can always teach you something. When you’re going through something rough, take a moment to think about what you’re learning. How can you apply this to future situations? How can this make you a better version of yourself? Embrace that learning and use it to improve.

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4. Balance

Though our journey was extremely physically challenging, it was also very mentally challenging. It was crucial to spend time getting centered before setting off on each day’s trek. Achieving and maintaining that level of balance was a constant battle, and it’s important to pace yourself.

Do you take time each day to check in with yourself? Would you consider yourself in balance? If not, try starting your morning with a brief morning meditation or just find some quiet time during the day to center yourself. There a number of resources that can help you with this, like Headspace, Calm, and Ten Percent Happier. A strong, healthy mindset is important to taking on any new challenge.

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5. Celebrate success.

When we walked through the end of the Kokoda arches, it was very emotional. We looked back on what we’d accomplished and truly took a moment to reflect on what we’d just been through. It was a huge achievement that we’d managed together, and we congratulated each other on our success. Then, we got beers.

Don’t be afraid to celebrate your successes, big or small. Every day is full of challenges, and with the right mindset you can crush them all. So be sure to treat yourself and your team when you reach new milestones, and then get excited for the next one!

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What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you handle it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Blog Innovation

How I manage my to-do list with email: Part 2

In Part 1 I outlined a way to make sure:

  • You have a reliable way to archive all your email so you never have to worry about deleting an email again.
  • You have a way to unclutter your inbox.
  • You have a way to process your inbox.
  • You have a way to track everything you delegate and everything you are ‘waiting for’ via a Pending folder.

In this post I want to outline how to manage and track all of your next actions so you never have to worry about dropping the ball again.

As mentioned previously, efficiently processing your inbox involves doing one of four things with each email:

  • Read and delete. No action needed.
  • Do. If I think it will take me less than 2 mins to respond to an email, I will do it then and there and then delete.
  • Delegate. Forward and ask someone to do something based on the email, and then delete.  As per my previous post on this topic, remember to copy yourself when you delegate over email so you have a list of everything you’re waiting on someone for in your Pending folder!
  • Queue up for next action needed. These are the emails I need to spend more time on, and that I haven’t been able to delete, delegate or do within the 2 mins rule.

The focus of this post is on that last point, how to queue up things for next action needed.

One of the core tenants of “Getting Things Done” is to group all your next actions by context.  For example, there might be some things you can only do when you are at home.  When you’re not at home you don’t need to see those next actions because there’s nothing you can do about them.  However, when you are at home you do want to see them, because in that context (“I’m at home”) all of those next actions are fair game for follow-up.  Grouping all your next actions by context helps you focus on only the things you can do in that moment, without distracting yourself with all the things you can’t do in that moment.

Constructing Contexts

Everyone will have a different set of contexts they want to work across (see below for mine).  The trick here is to define those contexts in a way that makes sense for you and are as simple as possible.  It is also important to define them in such a way that each next action only goes into one context.  This keeps the overhead of managing next actions by context to a minimum. Here are mine:

Calls Calls I need to make when I have the time and am with my phone (typically when I’m driving)
Work Things I can only do when I’m physically at the office
Home Things I can only do when I’m physically at home
Errands Things I can only do when I’m out and about, typically near where I live
Laptop Things I need to do when I’m at my laptop (or on my phone)
Read Things I need to read
Agenda Things I need to talk to someone about in person or at an upcoming meeting
Someday Things not important to me now, but worth considering ‘someday’ when I have the time

The way that I implement this for my email is  by creating an email folder for each ‘context’ and then moving each ‘next action’ from my inbox to that folder.

Here are a few examples:

  • A friend emails me and wants to catch up. I simply drag the email from my inbox into my Call folder.
  • My wife emails me and asks if I can pick up paper towels. Into the Errands folder.
  • My colleague emails me and requests I review a presentation. Into the Laptop folder.
  • Someone sends me an interesting article on Vegemite. Into the Read folder it goes.
  • My boss emails me and says he wants to talk about an upcoming site visit. Into the Agenda folder for when I meet with him next.
  • Someone emails me to recommend walking the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea but I don’t have time to think about it now. Into the Someday folder. (More to come on that, later!)

Hopefully you get the idea.

Later, when I find myself out and about driving to the grocery store, I check my Errands folder and go buy paper towels.

When I meet with my boss I go to my Agendas folder to remind myself of all the things I need to speak with him about.

When I have a spare moment, I hit my Read folder for all the catch up reading I need to do, including how to make Vegemite at home.

Then, when I’m done with all my projects and have time to breathe, I check my Someday folder for new things to do.

Never drop the ball again.

Creating a Code

Now, the above works great when you are receiving emails and taking action on them, but what if you want to create and manage next actions for things not associated with an email you have received?  For example, you think of something you need to do at home, or you think of something you want to read.  How do you get those next actions into your email system?  Here’s what I do.

Let’s take a ‘work’ next action as an example.  If I want to remind myself to print a presentation the next time I’m in the office, I simply send myself an email with a Subject of “Print out presentation $w”.  I have a rule that looks for emails from myself with a “$w” in the subject line, and which then automatically moves that email into my Work folder.  Voila!  Next time I’m in the office I check my Work folder and there’s my next action to print out the presentation.

To break this down further, for each context:

  • Come up with a code you can put in the Subject for any next action you want to automatically move to the folder for that context.
  • Create a rule for the context that will look for that code as part of the Subject and then do the move.

For the example above the rule would look like this:

See below for the codes I use for all the contexts mentioned above.  All you need to do now is to create a rule for each code that is exactly the same as for the work example above, but with the corresponding code for each context.

Calls $c
Work $w
Home $h
Errands $e
Laptop $l
Read $r
Agenda $a
Someday $s

With the above in place you can also handle the following scenarios:

  • Someone sends you an email to ask you for something, and when you respond to say, “I’m on it!” you tag the subject with “$l” so your ‘next action’ is automatically put in your Laptop folder for follow-up. This saves you from having to respond AND manually moving the original email to Laptop yourself.  Yes, it’s only a few extra steps, but over the course of a day or a week or a year it all adds up.  And these posts are all about being an email ninja, not an email grasshopper. 🙂


Final Reminders

Now, just two more things and we’re done, but these are very important to remember.

First, the ordering of your rules in your email system matters.  It’s important that the first rule is the rule to move all received emails to your Received folder.  This ensures you will continue to archive all received emails as explained in my first post.  Then come the rules to manage context based next actions as explained above.  Finally, the last rule should be the rule to manage Pending emails; those emails you copy yourself on when you want to track or monitor that something gets done.  Ordering your rules in this way ensures they are applied in the right order so that the system works.

Second, you will need to update your Pending rule so that it doesn’t also move all these next action emails to your Pending folder.  To do this, simply exclude all these emails from the rule as shown below.

That’s it!  You now have a way to track next actions by context.  Whenever you complete a next action you can simply delete it out of the context folder and move on to the next one!

At this point:

  • You have a reliable way to archive all your email so you never have to worry about deleting an email again.
  • You have a way to unclutter your inbox.
  • You have a way to process your inbox.
  • You have a way to track everything you delegate and everything you are ‘waiting for’ via a Pending folder.
  • You have a way to track next actions by context.

Stay tuned for part 3 on how to use this system to manage projects and deliverables that require lots of ‘next actions’ to complete, with maybe a few additional advanced techniques to move you into black belt territory.

Blog Innovation

How AI is transforming healthcare

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Artificial intelligence (AI) will make a direct and immense impact on the healthcare field. Technology has already improved diagnostic accuracy, drug delivery, and patients’ medical records, and AI will only add to those breakthroughs. AI can mine medical records, design personalized treatment plans, handle administrative tasks to free up medical providers’ time for more meaningful tasks, and assist with medication management.

AI has already made headway in medicine, helping to do everything from processing x-ray images and detecting cancer to assisting doctors in diagnosing and treating patients. In fact, the global AI healthcare market is expected to reach $22,790 million by 2023.

And the general public is on board. According to a recent survey, 47% of people were comfortable with AI assisting doctors in the operating room. More than half of respondents over age 40 were willing to go under the knife with the help of technology, compared with only 40% under age 40. Additionally, six in ten participants (61%) were comfortable with their doctor using data from wearable devices, such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit, to assess their lifestyle and make recommendations based on that data.

So what healthcare areas will AI have an impact on in the next five to ten years?

Mining medical records

In our current age of big data, patient data is valuable. Often times, patients’ files are unorganized and mining their records to extract necessary medical insights can be a great challenge.

David Lindsay, founder of Philadelphia-based start-up, Oncora Medical, realized this struggle in radiation therapy. He and his team built a data analytics platform that helps doctors design sound radiation treatment plans for patients, personalizing each one based on their specific characteristics and medical history.

Virtual healthcare providers

AI is being used to detect emotional health issues as well. x2 developed a mental health chatbot, Tess, that delivers on-demand, psychological support. Tess coaches you through tough times to build resilience, by having text message conversations — in the same way a therapist would. The coping strategies Tess delivers are based on the emotions and concerns you express in your conversations.

Beyond Verbal is another example of a company utilizing AI to track emotional well-being. The emotions analytics company, developed a vocal biomarker to potentially help patients and their providers recognize patterns and better understand their healthcare needs.

Sensly boosts, Molly, a virtual health care assistant which dynamically generates speech, receives images and videos, and offers complete remote monitoring, with support for the common and high-cost conditions.

Drug development

Clinical trials can take more than a decade and cost millions of dollars. AI can play a part in speeding up the process of drug development, along with making it more cost effective.

GSK, a company that researches, develops, and manufactures innovative pharmaceutical medicines, vaccines, and consumer healthcare products, is active applying AI to its drug discovery arm. In fact, it created an in-house AI unit called “Medicines Discovered Using Artificial Intelligence.” In 2017, the company announced a partnership with Insilico, to identify novel biological targets and pathways.

Overall, AI can assist healthcare providers in managing their patients’ care more efficiently. I don’t believe AI will take healthcare jobs, but instead transform them. AI will provide the opportunity for healthcare works to take on higher impact jobs or at least offload their less desirable workload. AI will create growth and introduce more opportunities for the human workforce. It has the potential to automate mundane tasks, allowing humans to spend more time on more important tasks. If they can collaborate with the human workforce in hospitals and doctors’ offices, it will take care of the most important aspect of healthcare — improving patients’ experiences.

Blog Innovation robotics

Brains, brawn and big business: AI and robots reshape the workplace

Automation technology is moving into the workplace with unstoppable momentum. As bots and robots take on more kinds of tasks, will they eliminate jobs? Or will they instead generate opportunity for workers to leverage their own strengths and manage their tireless mechanical colleagues?

In today’s workforce a factory line worker, a university professor, and a customer service rep are guaranteed to have one thing in common: a job that will be transformed by the presence of robots and AI in the coming decade. Will that worker be able to change along with it?

Blog Innovation Trends

Is your business Megatrends ready?

Over the next 15 years, we will experience more change than in all human history to date. The pace and magnitude at which change is occurring is staggering.

Did you know we now have more computing power in our pocket than all of NASA had in 1969 when they put the first man on the moon?

Or how about the fact that artificial intelligence spent 42 hours solving the 100-year-old mystery of how flatworms regenerate body parts?

With the accelerated pace of change comes the equally accelerated rate of innovation. I believe this accelerated innovation and the Megatrends driving it will have a sustained, transformative impact on the world in the years ahead — on businesses, societies, economies, cultures and our personal lives.

So how do we as engineers, marketers, designers, innovators, and executives stay ahead of that change and help chart our own course?

Ask yourself: Is your business Megatrends ready? Answer these five questions to find out.


1.
What products could you develop to support megacity infrastructure, an aging population, or hyper global trade?

By 2030, there will be 8.5 billion people walking the earth, and 97% of that population growth will be in emerging economies. And as people move to cities, our cities will get larger, and we’ll have more of them, including megacities in places many of us have never heard of today.

It will change how we buy and consume products and services, propelling the sharing economy and convenience-based services. Businesses must design products that meet the needs of the megacity infrastructure, an aging population or hyper global trade.

Blog Innovation Trends