Archive for July, 2015

Design for Default: How to Optimize Your Daily Decisions

On today’s Friday Focus we examine how the environment we are exposed to affect our default decisions.

 

Although most of us have the freedom to make a wide range of choices at any given moment, we often make decisions based on the environment we find ourselves in

Consider how your default decisions are designed throughout your personal and professional life. For example:

  • If you sleep with your phone next to your bed, then checking social media and email as soon as you wake up is likely to be the default decision.
  • If you walk into your living room and your couches and chairs all face the television, then watching television is likely to be the default decision.

Of course, defaults can be positive as well.

  • If you keep a dumbbell next to your desk at work, then pumping out some quick curls is more likely to be the default decision.
  • If you keep a water bottle with you throughout the day, then drinking water rather than soda is more likely to be the default decision.

Default choices are not inherently bad, but the entire world was not designed with your goals in mind. Question everything. You need to alter, tweak, and shift your environment until it matches what you want out of life.

 

To know more about ‘default decisions’ and how to optimize these decisions to suit your life, read the full article here: Jamesclear.com

The Global Economy in July

The month of June ended with the Greek government calling a referendum on its debt crisis. The referendum served to worsen the ‘already-strained’ relations between Greece and its EU creditors and pushed Greek banks into strict capital controls – further deteriorating the Greek economy. Subsequently, Greek citizens voted a resounding ‘No’ at the referendum, with the number of ‘No’ votes totaling over 60% of the total. However, EU creditors did not relax their stance on Greece, calling for even stronger reforms. Shortly after, Eurozone leaders reached a ‘unanimous agreement’ on the Greek Crisis, granting them €86 billion in fresh bailout loans in exchange for punishing austerity measures in Greece. The ECB re-instated its Emergency Liquidity Arrangement (ELA) with Greece, allowing capital controls to be relaxed, and subsequently increased the ELA by €900 million on two occasions.

Saudi Arabia’s crude oil production hit a new record in July, as a report from the OPEC predicted that global oil demand would grow in 2016, particularly from Emerging Markets. It should be noted that the record production came after another OPEC report in late June stating that OPEC’s crude market share fell to its lowest since 2003 last year. Iran reached a nuclear deal with World leaders in late July, setting the stage for it to start producing crude oil once again. Analysts see the higher Iranian production as detrimental to oil prices, which are already suppressed due to excess supplies in the market..

Gold prices fell below $1,100 for the first time in 5-years, following speculative selling on the Shanghai Gold Exchange, with prices sliding over 4% to $1,086 an ounce.

In the East, the Chinese stock market fell over 30% in the span of 3 weeks. Analysts say the fall was due to high levels of margin debt and panic-selling from retail investors. The Chinese government managed to arrest the slump by banning shareholders with large stakes in listed firms from selling, causing the market to rebound 6%. Following the Chinese stock rout, emerging markets had their biggest outflows since 2009, led by outflows from China. The outflows totaled $120 billion in the second quarter of the year. Emerging market currencies also suffered, with Thailand’s baht falling to a 6-year low. The Aussie dollar declined to a 6-year low, as the RBA governor kept rates at record lows while calling for further currency weakness.

Why You Should Ignore Some Time-Saving Tips

On this edition of Friday Focus we explore how to save time effectively, by looking for ways that we can save large amounts of time, rather than a few minutes.

 

You can find a million ways to save minutes, but you don’t build the life you want by saving time. You build the life you want, and then time saves itself.

This is why I like two different approaches to time. Rather than looking to save bits of time here and there, start by asking yourself exactly what you’re saving that time for. Make a list of anything you want to do more of in your life.

Commit to scheduling in at least one such activity per week—ideally in a way that makes it impossible to wriggle out of.

Sometimes we get so obsessed with saving bits of time we fail to see the big picture staring at us. Saving two minutes doesn’t do much for you. Canceling a weekly two-hour meeting that’s long outlived its usefulness? That time really does add up.

 

To know more about real time-savings, read the full article here: fastcompany.com

Top 3 places for your Global News fix

The news, defined in the Oxford dictionary as “Newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent events”, is an ever-changing landscape, featuring stories from a vast array of fields. In this light, those of you who are familiar with Frontier and its Global Curated News Daily (our curated global news product) would know that we do not cover many of these fields – such as politics, general business developments and technology, to name a few. We choose instead to report on global economics that we feel is specifically relevant to the Sri Lankan Economy.

However, we realize that these other areas of news may be of interest at an individual level. Therefore, we have scoured the web to find the best email briefings that cater to these areas, compiled by various global news providers. Here are our thoughts on our top 3 choices:

Quartz Daily Brief – Asia Edition

The Quartz Daily Brief is a diverse collection of global news from a variety of news sources. Delivered straight to your inbox every morning, it gives a short and concise snapshot of the most important events of the previous day. Quartz itself describes it as “the most important and interesting news from around the world, in your inbox”

So, here’s what we liked:

  • It’s got a lot of headlines – covering news from the US in the west, all the way to Japan in the east. These include topics from macroeconomics and politics to pop culture and science – like we said, diverse.
  • It’s concise – Although it has a lot of headlines, each headline is followed by a short and concise snapshot of the story it relates to, along with a link to the whole story for those who want more.
  • It’s divided into useful sections – Specifically, it’s got 5 sections: ‘What to watch for today’ (the most important news for the day), ‘While you were sleeping’ (the most important events that happened over night), ‘Quartz obsession interlude’ (In their own words “Our smartest perspective on the global economy right now”), ‘Matters of debate’ (a wide range of opinions on the most important events) and ‘Surprising discoveries’ (Other interesting bits from around the web).

And, here’s what we didn’t like:

  • It can be a little US-Centric at times – But only just a little (We’re reaching here)

If the Asia edition is not doing it for you, they also have an “America” edition and a “Europe & Africa” edition. You can sign up for any one of those here, all you need to do is to enter your email and select the edition you’d like.

Financial Times – Asia Morning Headlines

The esteemed FT.com, known in financial circles as the epitome of global financial news (unverified), has a plethora of email briefings that you can subscribe to – Although, all of them require a registration of some sort. Thankfully, a large majority of their briefings are available to those registered for a free account. Here, we will be reviewing the ‘Asia Morning Headlines’ briefing.

So, here’s what we liked:

  • It’s also a diverse collection of news – Just like the Quartz Daily Brief, the FT email briefing is populated with a diverse range of headlines, except they’re all from Ft.com.
  • It’s also got 5 sections – That seems to be the lucky number for email briefings. Here they’re called ‘Asia Homepage’ (containing a range of news from around Asia), ‘World News’ (containing a range of news from the rest of the world), ‘Markets’ (News related to equity and debt markets), ‘Asia-Pacific News’ (General news from the Asia-pacific region), ‘Asia-Pacific Company News’ (Company specific news from the region)

And here’s what we didn’t like:

  • It’s all from FT.com – Not much diversity there.
  • One-line descriptions under each headline – These force you to click the link for a better picture of what the article entails.

As mentioned above, FT.com has a wide range of email briefings that you can subscribe to (not just the Asia Morning Headlines). You can choose which edition you’d like here. (Remember, you’ll need a free FT.com account to access these. This would probably take you about 2-3 minutes to set up, but it’s not as easy as just giving out your email)

Business Insider – 10 things you need to know before the opening bell – US Edition

As with the Financial Times, BI has a range of email briefings that you can subscribe to, however, they all require you to sign up for an account on the BI website. We’re going to talk about the briefing titled ’10 things you need to know before the opening bell’. Business Insider (BI) describes this briefing as “The world’s top markets news to kick-start your morning”. In our experience, this is true.

So, here’s what we liked:

  • It’s concise – Each one of the stories gives a short paragraph, highlighting the main points of the story. There is also a link attached to each headline that gives you the whole story. Plus, there’s only 10 stories – only the most important stories for the day.
  • It’s fairly diverse – A lot of the news is centered on markets news – macroeconomic and company specific news. Although, the news is from many different markets around the world, so there’s diversity there.

And here’s what we didn’t like:

  • They’re all from BI – Following in the footsteps of the Financial Times, these are all from BI itself. However, many of BI’s articles are themselves summaries of stories from other sources, thus covering a wide range of journalism.
  • There are ads embedded into the email – These sometimes refer to the company that sponsors the newsletter and sometimes it’s just a general advert. However, they are (generally) unobtrusive (just a single line of text in the middle of the email or a single image in the email) and shouldn’t interrupt your reading.

You can subscribe to this one here (Remember to register for the free account first!). It’ll take about 2-3 minutes to set up and you can even choose your newsletters first!

One thing to note, however, is that this newsletter is catered to the US, therefore, it comes in at the start of the American day, that’s the end of the day in Asia. In other words, it may be a little late for some of you.

 

So there you have it. Our top 3 picks for a diverse look into world events. However, if those aren’t really what you’re looking for, here are the runner-ups:

  • TheSkimm – Humorous and concise, it covers stories from around the world. Like Quartz’s Daily Brief, this summarizes news from a variety of global news providers, providing the link to the whole story. All this is provided in a morning email that you easily skim (get it?) through. However, the news does tend to be very US-centric.
    TheSkimm sets itself apart by first giving you a one-line description of the story, followed by a more detailed description. It ends the skim by telling you what was decided and what that decision means. Therefore, even if it’s the first time you’re hearing about this story, you already know all there is to know about it. It’s the whole story in just a few words. Sign up here, just submit your email and you’re all set.
  • UBS Daily Roundup – A daily email from UBS securities research. This one is much like theskimm, providing a funny and short view on global economics (only economics). Though it does have an equally humorous audio reading of its headlines, which can be accessed from a link in every email (requires the audio file to be downloaded). Sign up here, this one’s a bit more tedious to set up than theskimm – click the button that says “Register for daily emails”, fill out your details on the webpage provided, accept their terms of use and privacy statement and click “Submit”.

The 1 Time-Management Trick That Actually Works

This week, we turn our focus to how we can ‘win the time-management game’ by leveraging the power of just saying no. The only way to have more time and get things done is by refusing to do more than is possible in the time you have.

 

Every time-management system is based on two concepts:

  1. Increased efficiency – Decrease the time it takes to do certain tasks.
  2. Increased effectiveness – Prioritize so that important tasks get done first.

Theoretically, the combination of the two should allow you to achieve your goals without the stress of being constantly pressed for time.

Theoretically.

In reality, no matter how efficient you become or how effectively you prioritize, there will always be too many important tasks for the time you have available to do them.

In government circles, this is known as the First Law of Social Work, which is that “the needs of the community always expand beyond the resources available to meet those needs.” In other words, no matter how many social workers you hire, there will always be too much for them to do.

The same thing happens at the workplace. Suppose you think that an extra hour each day would allow you to get all your work done on time. You take a time-management course that successfully carves out that extra hour. Immediately, that hour will be filled with more than an hour’s worth of “important” work that needs doing.

There is a way–only one way, in fact–to win the time-management game. You must learn to say no to your co-workers, your boss, your customers, and (especially) to yourself. Here’s the trick. They don’t try to manage time, because that’s impossible. Instead, they manage their own emotional reaction to the unending stream of demands and expectations from other people and from themselves.

 

For more on the power of saying no, read the full article here: inc.com

The Only Productivity Tip You’ll Ever Need

This week on Friday Focus we look at a simple strategy to boost your productivity that no one implements. Productivity guru, James Clear, shares how we can improve our productivity by doing the most important thing, rather than the most urgent thing, first each day.

 

This productivity strategy is straightforward: Do the most important thing first each day.

Sounds simple. No one does it.

Just like Hemingway, who produced a remarkable volume of high-caliber work during his career, you can make surprising progress each day if you simply do the most important thing first.

Most people spend most of their time responding to someone else’s agenda than their own.

I think this is partially a result of how we are raised by society. In school, we are given assignments and told when to take our tests. At work, we are assigned due dates and given expectations from our superiors.

So naturally, when it comes time to start our day, it doesn’t seem strange to open our email inbox, check our phone, and look for our latest marching orders.

I think this is a mistake. The tasks assigned to us by others might seem urgent, but what is urgent is seldom important. The important tasks in our lives are the ones that move our hopes, our dreams, our creations, and our businesses forward.

 

To know more about this simple strategy, click here: Jamesclear.com