Maximizing Productivity: Learnings from Bullet Chess

Over the past 3 months, I’ve been playing Bullet Chess to relieve stress. I’ve found that Bullet Chess offers a handful of effective tools/philosophies for maximizing productivity.

Background

Bullet Chess is an iteration of Chess where each player gets 1 minute of playing time. When it’s a player’s turn, the clock starts counting down. As soon as the player makes a move, the clock is stopped. The count-down is resumed when it’s the player’s turn again. Players win when they checkmate their opponent or their opponent runs out of time.

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Dreaming Large Thought Exercises

Background

In Junior High, I dreamed of being in the NBA. I was probably the shortest kid in the entire school but that didn’t stop me from dreaming large.

I carried my basketball with me everywhere I went. I even practiced dribbling while in the bathroom. I showed up on the court every day and improved very quickly. I remember going from last picked always to first picked 80% of the time within 3 months.

This dream faded early on in my teenage years. The societal pressure of “choosing something practical” drowned my vision.

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Real Leadership is Built on Trust

Being positive all the time doesn’t work

If you think always having a smile on your face will boost or maintain team morale, you’re wrong. It will work for some time, however, when cracks begin to show you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of really tough questions like “were you aware of this?” and “why didn’t you let us know sooner?”

This puts you in a worse place than you would be in if you just spoke up about the issues at hand. It’s not easy to open up about problems because you don’t want your team to get discouraged. However, having your team temporarily upset is so much better than having your team distrust you.
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Rapid Growth

For every single observation there are an infinite number of explanations.

Through rapid testing we can discover the minimum effective dose for continuous growth. We have to:

1. Select the best possible hypothesis. It’s too early to presume failure. Our intuition is driving us towards a single explanation for a reason. Our best bet is to run with it. It’s detrimental to demand 100% certainty now.

2. Test this hypothesis. A lot of the work lies in this stage. It’s a series of experiments tying back to the principle validator, the hypothesis. If we discover the hypothesis to be falsey, we have not lost. We’ve eliminated a bad apple.

3. Rinse and repeat. The chunk of the work is here. Through every previous experiment, we’ve opened new doors of perception that empower us to make even better hypotheses. How can we grow?

Four Minutes of Gratitude Challenge

I challenge you to take 4 minutes of your day to say thanks. I guarantee it will set a positive foundation for the rest of your day. Close your eyes and look inwards or write in a journal.

Be thankful for your health, the love that surrounds you, your support figures. Food, warmth, lodging. The hardships you’ve faced and conquered. The task you recently completed.

When we take something for granted, we’re devastated when we lose it. When we can count our blessings we appreciate the smell, taste and texture of every moment.

Stress Management on Freelance Projects

For the past 4 years, I have freelanced as a Product Manager/UX Designer. More specifically, I’ve partnered with designers and developers to ship software for Clients. I’ve also defined the experiences and interfaces for the software we’ve shipped.

Over these years, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve screamed, slammed tables and sulked in a corner of my dark room.

Now, my freelance career is far less stressful. I look back and laugh at those moments in embarrassment. I’ve acquired a core set of beliefs that have helped me significantly reduce stress and focus more on the eustress that comes with my work.
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Entity vs Incremental Intelligence

What you believe about intelligence has a huge impact on how you deal with failure.

Turns out that if you believe intelligence evolves with hard work, you’re more likely to have a desire to learn. You’ll persist in the face of failure, embrace challenges and listen to criticism. This is called incremental intelligence.

By believing that intelligence is fixed and unchangeable, you’re more likely to have a desire to look smart. You’ll avoid challenges, give up quickly, see effort as useless and ignore feedback. This is called entity intelligence.

Doesn’t incremental intelligence sound a lot like what every successful person says in an interview? That’s because those that hold this view are more resilient.

It’s your civic duty to adopt the incremental theory and share it liberally. Praise yourself, your loved ones and colleagues on their effort. Entrust in them the importance of hard work so they can develop perseverance. Your creative voice and theirs is needed.

Book Review: Designing for Emotion

What is emotional design? And what does good emotional design look like?

In “Designing for Emotion”, Aaron Walter uses a breadth of case studies that span branding, interface design and interaction design to answer these questions. The book has been very influential for my own work and was an inspiration for my article on Rewarding Interactions that was published on UX Mag. Continue reading “Book Review: Designing for Emotion”

Starting a Start-up: The Right Attitude

Today was my start-up’s official moving day. I’ve moved cubes and desks in my corporate career before – In retrospect that was a cake walk.

The last two days consisted of a lot of packing, pulling, water breaks, pushing, lifting, water breaks. Thankfully, the heavy lifting was taken care of by movers. However, all the fragile items (and there were a lot) came with Mark, co-founder, and I.

By mid-afternoon our cars were loaded and we were on the road to the new facility. We pulled in by 4:30pm and quickly unloaded everything.

I knew another late night ensued but I wasn’t bothered by it. I was physically tired but I still had a ton of mental muscle left. In my previous corporate gigs, late nights were plenty and always defeating. Yes, I got free dinners and cab rides home but those were meaningless. I wasn’t empowered enough to tolerate the late nights. Continue reading “Starting a Start-up: The Right Attitude”

Increase User Engagement by Rewarding Interactions

EDIT: An updated version of this article that includes GIFs was published on UXMag. You can read it here.

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Rewards fuel our motivation. They let us know we’re doing something right and enable us to continue on our quest to learn something new or achieve a goal. A variable schedule of rewards, those received unexpectedly, are even more effective at this because naturally, humans crave predictability. We look for patterns everywhere to try to make sense of the world. When we receive a reward unexpectedly, our minds work to identify the causality so we can receive that reward (and those positive feelings) again. Continue reading “Increase User Engagement by Rewarding Interactions”