ilos Videos Enterprise Video Platform Thu, 15 Mar 2018 22:15:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Software vs. human? What Should You Automate vs. Not? Tue, 14 Jun 2016 13:42:20 +0000

The post Software vs. human? What Should You Automate vs. Not? appeared first on ilos Videos.


Laziness is often considered a negative personality trait. The person is unmotivated and would prefer to do nothing at all than anything productive. However, Bill Gates has been said to have a different take on laziness, “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

While not a steadfast rule, Gates is mostly right with this assumption. But instead of thinking a person is lazy, it’s more appropriate to consider them efficient with their time.

The idea and reality of a 10x engineer is often debated. Do they exist or are they like the mytical unicorn? The concept of a 10x engineer is that one engineer can do the same amount of work as 10 average engineers because she is able to eliminate unnecessary steps and complete projects faster.

Real or not, any professional can take this logic of a 10x engineer to improve their efficiency. By streamlining workflows, eliminating unnecessary steps, and creating an efficient process you can be more productive than several average employees.

Part of becoming more productive is automating some of your tasks, allowing you to complete more work, without bogging yourself down with tedious tasks. But what tasks should you automate with software and what tasks should you continue to give the human touch?

Things You Should Automate

Scheduling – In my last post I mentioned [insert link], an artificially intelligent bot that could take over your email thread and schedule a meeting with another person. Taking the time to go back and forth over email, trying to find an acceptable time, date, and place to meet or hop on a call can be exhausting. While each email might not take a lot of time, it does take you out of your workflow and slows down progress. Let the bots take over and handle your scheduling.

Basic Research – There lots of different products and services that offer virtual assistance. FancyHands is one such service. Some are powered by humans, others are AI-backed software. Either way, you can outsource a great deal of your most basic research.

If you are researching a blog article, you can have one of these services help you find scholarly articles to support your thesis. Or you could use the service to research simple things like best coffee shops in a particular area. There are a lot of things you research. Take them off your to-do list.

Reporting – Professional progress needs to be reported to someone. But creating a report doesn’t have to take a long time. If you’re manually pulling in your KPIs and inserting them into a document to send off to a supervisor, you’re spending too much time on the report. Automate these stats and present progress reports in a fraction of the time.

For example, if you’re a marketing manager and need to send a traffic report to your boss, you can automate web traffic reports. With Google Sheets and a Google Analytics plugin for Chrome, you can set up Google Sheets to automatically pull in traffic data from certain dates into a spreadsheet that can be sent to a supervisor.

Things You Should Handle Manually

Customer Support – Support can be tedious, answering the same questions over and over again. Some people believe that you can automate support and keep the personal touch. However, not being able to get a hold of someone is one of the more common complaints when it comes to customer service.

Freshbooks has award winning customer service. They combine online support with a 1800 number. The number connects you with a real person right away, not after pressing a half a dozen buttons to finally reach someone. This top-notch service is not something you can automate with software. I’ve personally made three calls to Freshbooks about my account. I’ve been impressed that I’m a customer for life.

Written Content – Following Marc Andreessen’s the “software is eating the world” narrative, there are companies that are trying to automate creative tasks. For example, by using artificial intelligence, companies are able to take data and automatically turn it into written articles.

The world doesn’t just need more articles. The world needs better written content and that can’t be automated.  Quality writing combines data, with real-life experience, and a personal style that is impossible to automate with artificial intelligence. Keep creating your own written content

Personal Email – I will admit, I spend too much time crafting email messages. I could used canned email responses, like other people. So personal email could be listed under things you can automate. However, email is a person-to-person activity and I believe that type of interaction should not be automated.

Relationships are the backbone to life. Every time we communicate with someone, it reinforces the relationship. That’s why I take my time when I send an email, even if it’s just a sentence or two. Perhaps if you’re a venture capitalist and constantly getting meeting requests from strangers, it would be efficient to use a canned email. But don’t rely on email templates too much. Your personal email needs a personal touch.

I’m pretty lazy efficient, which is why I love all things automated. If you can’t automate something now, in the very near future someone will devise a way to automate it. However, I still believe that not everything should be automated. Save time where you can, but some things might always require a little extra human attention. What do you think shouldn’t be automated?

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How To Work Remote Without Driving Yourself Insane Thu, 02 Jun 2016 14:10:09 +0000

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When I quit my job to start freelancing, there were a lot of things that scared me. Would I be able to make enough money to pay my rent? Would I be able to find new clients? Was this whole thing going to work

But most of all, I worried about working remotely.

I’m a really social person, and the thought of relegating myself to a life without coworkers made me feel as wrinkled as a raisin. I would no longer have an audience for my jokes. I would have to create my own office space. Yep, the whole thing made me panic.

I’ve been freelancing for 8 months now, and I’m happy to report that I’m working remotely without driving myself insane. Here’s what I recommend to others who want to be productive in their remote work:

Try to find routine

According to Mason Currey, author of the best-selling Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, “a solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.”

Since I’ve started working remotely, I’ve tried my best to stick to a routine. The routine eliminates decision-making throughout the day, allowing me to concentrate on my work. For example, part of my routine is that I work out every weekday morning at 9 am. Now that I’ve been doing this for a while, working out isn’t something I have to decide to do. It’s simply part of what I do every day, just like brushing my teeth when I get out of bed.

Every evening, when I finish my work for the day, my boyfriend and I go take a walk somewhere. It doesn’t have to be long, but it ensures I get out of the house for a few minutes. For more info on forming habits and creating routines, read The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.

Find creative ways to get outside

When you work remotely, you spend a lot of time at your house. Before you know it, you can’t remember the last time you left.

One of the best ways to stay sane is to make sure you get out of the house and connect with the world. Here are some ideas for how to do it:

  • Join a club or meet up group. Do whatever you fancy– improv, writing workshop, cooking course, soccer, or a cornhole team.
  • Work at a coffee shop or library. These places usually have Wifi, and are often filled with like-minded professionals getting stuff done.
  • Join a coworking space. If you’re sick of your home office, considering getting a membership at a coworking space. Many are social places with free beer and weeknight happy hours.
  • Visit clients and customers just to say hi. It’s hard to do this if customers aren’t local, but if some of them are, ask to stop by their office and have lunch with the team.
  • Schedule lunches with friends. Most people that go into an office have an hour for a lunch break, so ask your friends to meet up for a sandwich.


Get a fitness tracker

You don’t move a lot when you work from a home office. Your biggest distance covered might be the space from your bed, to your office, to your kitchen and bathroom. Research shows that sitting all day puts you at higher risk for heart disease, and can also have a negative effect on mental health.

Working out improves mood by releasing endorphins, and it’s one of the best ways to combat anxiety and depression. A few months ago, I got a Fitbit to help me learn how much I’m moving around in a given day. I friended a bunch of other remote workers on the app, and we help keep each other accountable

I recommend fitness trackers to everyone. Whether you use Fitbit, Apple Watch, Misfit, or another solution, tracking your activity will encourage you to get out more.

Prioritize your home office

When I worked in-house at a tech company, I got a large desk and a comfortable office chair. My company made sure that my office space would ensure optimal performance. But as a remote worker, it’s up to you to make sure you have a good space to work in, and that you have the equipment to support them.

Start by making sure you have a relegated space to work– the kitchen table doesn’t count! Purchase a high quality, supportive office chair. I have the Herman Miller SAYL chair, which I love. A functional desk matters as well– a $40 desk from Walmart (yes, I’ve used this!) isn’t going to cut it.

Improve communication

Whenever a client wants to do a video chat rather than a phone call, I groan. It means I’m going to have to get out of my pajamas, comb my hair, and try to look presentable.

But every time I do one of these meetings, I’m surprised by how great they make me feel. Seeing someone’s face is a much more up-close-and-personal way to communicate, and it helps stave off miscommunications. It also helps me feel more connected with my clients.

I try to use video chat whenever I can, even if it means putting on a shirt.

Final thoughts: Working remotely can be peaceful and productive

When you work at home full time, it’s essential that you’re as productive as possible, and that you feel good about your work life. Hopefully, these tips will help you work remotely without driving yourself crazy. If you have other strategies for perfecting remote work, I’d love to hear. Please share in the comments.

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A Mega-List Of Interesting, Lesser Known Productivity Tools Tue, 19 Apr 2016 15:08:32 +0000

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If you’re a farmer, being productive comes down to how many crops you can produce– and at what quality. Can you grow bushels of perfectly ripe strawberries, or are you stuck with one half-filled barrel of bitter tomatoes?

As a professional with a desk job, you probably aren’t concerned with this year’s apple yields, but you care about productivity as much as any farmer. Getting stuff done is important for your livelihood. In order to excel at your company, get recognized for your achievements, and make a positive impact, you need to produce.

Today, farming is filled with technical innovation, from drip irrigation system to mammoth-sized tractors. Thankfully, so is software. There are tons of interesting productivity tools that can help you on your path to get stuff done.

Here are some interesting, lesser known productivity tools to add to your arsenal:


For project management:

RedboothRedbooth (formerly TeamBox) is a comprehensive project management tool that includes group chat, video conferencing, team collaboration options, and sleek mobile apps. Redbooth isn’t as well known as some other project management tools, but it’s a formidable competitor, and it’s much better suited to large organizations than Asana and Trello, which are both free.

TrelloTrello is a great project management tool that integrates with a variety of other platforms, and is great for teams of one. Many use Trello to organize tasks, and let others know what’s going on. The interface isn’t particularly sleek, but Trello’s usefulness is undeniable. Large organizations down to freelancers swear by Trello, and the free option is good enough for many teams.

BasecampBasecamp, the flagship product of 37Signals, is one of the most famous project management tools around, and for good reason. Basecamp’s designated discussion area makes it easy to go back and forth with colleagues or clients, and it has a very friendly user interface. It feels like you’re doodling in a fun notebook, which I love!

AsanaAsana makes it easy for teams to track their work and get the results they’re craving. Much like the other project management tools on this list, Asana has a variety of features that make it easy to communicate with team members and clients. I find Asana a bit more cumbersome than Basecamp and Trello, but it’s project tracking abilities is second to none. Asana allows you to effectively track a project from start to finish, looping in the necessary team members along the way.  


For easy communication:

Crystal Knows Crystal Knows is more of an email hack than anything else, but it’s particularly useful if you send a lot of emails to people you don’t know. Crystal can be added to your inbox, and when you send a message to a contact, she’ll give you tips on how to write to the person in question. For example, Crystal might remind you that “David likes messages that are straightforward and to the point, so don’t use extra words, and keep it short.” I don’t know how Crystal does it, but it works.

SlackSlack is the hippest, most intuitive chat software around, and teams are creating all kinds of discussions on the system.

ilos You know when you’re trying to explain something to someone over the phone or by group chat, and you can’t get your message through? Ilos helps you communicate with customers, clients, and team members by giving you the ability to take quick and easy screencasts.

ZOOMMany businesses use Google Hangouts for video conferencing, but ZOOM is a whole lot better. The high quality video software will make you want to hold every meeting on video, and ZOOM copes with lag seamlessly.

GoToMeetingGoToMeeting is probably the best known software for hosting virtual meetings, and it’s pretty amazing. There are so many features, from call recording, to video, to chat, that it’s hard to imagine hosting a virtual meeting with any other software solution.

For managing your time:

LeechBlockGIFs of puppies? Hours on reddit? LeechBlock is a Firefox add-on that keeps you from visiting websites that make you unproductive. To use LeechBlock, you simply add a list of websites and share when you’d like to have them blocked. For example, you can block Buzzfeed during work hours to prevent you from scrolling endlessly through photos of chicken nuggets.

RescueTimeLike LeechBlock, RescueTime can help you block sites that make you unproductive, but it goes further by monitoring your internet habits and delivering detailed reports to help you understand where you’re spending your time. By understanding your daily habits, you can begin to focus on what’s important– being productive.  

Remember The MilkRemember The Milk is basically a to-do list, but it allows you to sync all your tasks, from your work life and your personal life, in one place. Remember The Milk allows you to set up reminders wherever you want them– by text, email, Skype, Gchat, or Twitter.

Google Keep –  Google Keep is a minimalist to do list that can help you keep track of your tasks. One nice feature of Google Keep is that you can easily add another person to a task. For example, if you need to pick up your kid from school, you can loop in his dad so he knows your plans.

For keeping your calendar:

Sunrise AppMany people use Outlook, Gmail, or iCal, but Sunrise App is a wonderful calendar solution, especially for people that have multiple calendars, and want to sync them all in one place. I use Sunrise to sync my personal and work calendar, and I use the mobile app to make appointments when I’m out and about.

Julie DeskJulie Desk is an artificially intelligent virtual assistant that gleans information from your emails to help you schedule meetings, phone calls, and appointments. It sounds crazy, but Julie takes what you’ve said in an email (Let’s meet at 5) and creates calendar invites, then invites the important people.

ZirtualSometimes, you need a real person to help you manage your calendar and keep you on top of your tasks. Zirtual provides human virtual assistants that can help with tasks like calendar management.

For managing contacts:

StreakStreak is a customer relationship management (CRM) tool for Gmail. Unlike other CRMs which have their own dashboards, Streak resides in the email inbox you already use, allowing you to tag certain email threads with relevant customer or client information.

PlaxoPlaxo is a virtual address book that allows you to sync contact info from a range of places, so your contacts are always at your fingertips, and you never have to waste time searching for an email address.

Producing productivity

Productivity isn’t something that happens to you. Instead, you produce it. The tools on this list can help you be more productive, so that your work is as delicious and sweet as a red, ripe strawberry.

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How to Stay Organized When You Were Born Messy Tue, 12 Apr 2016 14:28:29 +0000

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I’m not a neat person.


Right now, my desk is scattered with crap. There’s a bill from Fedex, an empty cardboard box, and some AA batteries rolling around. It’s not the picture of feng shui and cleanliness that is plastered in a magazine.

But heck with that! I run my own business, and I manage to keep my life pretty organized. I show up to meetings on time, meet deadlines, and keep track of how much money I’m owed. But that’s because I work hard at this, and have figured out a lot of ways to stay organized.

So, how do you stay organized when you were born messy? Here’s my advice:

Come up with systems

If you’re not born with the neatness gene, then you have to rely on systems to keep you organized. A system is a set of procedures for getting something done, and it’s essential to have good systems if you want to stay organized.

For example, if you find that you’re constantly missing meetings, something is broken in your system. Are the meetings making it on to your calendar, and you’re forgetting about them? Do you have notifications set up on your desktop computer, but not on your phone? In order to ensure that you make every meeting, you have to come up with a system that works for you.

Use software tools

In the professional world, most people use software tools to support their systems, but it can take significant tweaking to make sure you have the right tools, and that they’re working hard for you.

As a freelance writer, I have a lot of due dates, and I can’t adhere to them if I just use a paper calendar. I use Trello, a project management system, synced with Sunrise, a calendar app, to make sure that I hit all my deadlines. Sunrise sends me and text message reminders about due dates to ensure that I don’t miss them.

Implementing new software tools, such as screen-sharing and video chat, can complement the systems you already have.

Make sure everything you own has a home

This is a trick I learned from my mother’s best friend, who is a professional organizer. It’s essential that everything you own– whether it’s a digital asset or a pair of underwear– has a place where it gets put away.

When you’re done with it, it goes back to its house. This strategy makes it easy to clean your kitchen, but it also helps you with work. I don’t know how many times I’ve misplaced a PDF because I didn’t have a system of folders on my computer. Having a system– where every asset has a home– is essential to increasing efficiency and staying organized.

Enlist the help of a neat freak friend

When I was working at in-house at a tech company, I had a coworker who was a neat freak. She knew I struggled to stay organized, and once a quarter or so, she would help me clean my desk and organize my computer desktop.

It sounds babyish, but asking a neat friend or coworker for help can make a big difference. This coworker helped me set up processes, systems, and homes for all my stuff. After spending a half hour with her cleaning my desk, I suddenly had a place to store my pens, so it made it much easier for me to stay organized in the weeks after our session.

This coworker really respected my work, and was happy to help get things in check.

Final thoughts: Organization is possible

I’m probably never going to have a kitchen without any crumbs, but I’ve learned a lot of organization strategies that have helped me make sure that my messy tendencies never get in the way of my productivity. I used to be all over the place, but today I’m actually pretty organized. If you come up with systems, support them with software, and ask for help, you can improve your organization skills, too.

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]]> 0 & ilos- Capture Knowledge Faster Fri, 01 Apr 2016 18:20:54 +0000 & ilos partnership

The post & ilos- Capture Knowledge Faster appeared first on ilos Videos.


How many times have you had a question, spent time trying to find the answer, only to realize someone in your team/department knew the whole time? Your team has the answer, the hard part is figuring out how to get it.

ilos is a way of taking an answer and communicating it quickly through video. is a way of linking the people with answers to the folks that need to know. We’re excited to announce that together we’re helping teams answer questions and get up to speed faster!

Here’s how it works: & ilos partnership:

Employees succeed when they have streamlined access to company knowledge, best practices, and team policies.’s learning automation software helps more than 250 companies capture this information as step-by-step lessons that are easy to assign, measure, search, and update.

The Growth Plan now includes unlimited recording/hosting with ilos. This means you can make as many videos of any length that you want. You also get full feature access to experiment with GIFs/Editing etc. Combine that with’s Advanced Learning Library and you can easily get the right content to the right people.

Adding a video or GIF from ilos to your lesson is simple: & ilos partnership

What about Privacy?

The & ilos partnership gives you total control over who can access what. First you can enable your lesson to be private. This way only the learners that you’ve assigned it to will be able to to view your videos. Second, you can restrict video permissions from ilos so that only certain team members can view your content. Lastly, even if you select that everyone can view your embedded video, you can use a video password to add that extra layer of privacy.

How do I get started?

To get started, visit, sign up for a new account or log into your existing account. Then ask about how you can easily add video to your lessons. We’ll take care of the rest!

Happy Recording!


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5 Communication Tips from Top Product Managers Thu, 24 Mar 2016 14:53:27 +0000

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Since 1998, Brian Cashman’s job as general manager of the New York Yankees has been to compile the best Yankee roster each season. Throughout his tenure, he’s had to deal with difficult ownership, oversee a minor league system that produced the likes of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, sign free agents like CC Sabathia, and trade for stars like Alex Rodriguez. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to field a great baseball team.

A product manager’s job is to ship (deliver) the best possible product to users. Like a baseball general manager, a product manager has her hands in many different cookie jars and sits at the intersection between user experience, product development, business strategy. It’s her job to coordinate with every team to make sure that everything is running smoothly and the right decisions are being made; in order for the customers to be happy and the company to grow.

According to current venture capitalist Josh Elman and former Facebook and Twitter product manager, the most important thing a PM can do is help out.  He splits his definition of help into two part,

(a) coordination — ensuring that the team is planning, making decisions, and working together effectively with a clear purpose and focus, and

(b) communication — making sure everyone understands what is happening, when, and why, especially as things inevitably change.

With so many teams and responsibilities, seasoned product managers make these tasks look easy. Here are a few lessons that almost anyone can learn from them.

Nothing Beats Face-to-Face Communication  

Paul Scrivens is the founder of Makers Cabin and former PM at Media Temple and Vocus. In his career, he’s had to coordinate between product, design, marketing, finance, engineering, and customer service teams. In order to do this effectively, he has to get everyone to understand the product vision and direction for each product. His tools of choice? Email and phone.

Yes, in an era of tools like Slack and many other digital forms of communication, Scrivens prefers to start the relationship off with an email and get the person on the phone as quickly as possible. “You gain so much more insight into how people use your product and the problems they are trying to solve by talking to them.”

According to Scrivens, nothing beats face-to-face communication or online video.

Product Managers Do Not Hoard Information

Brian de Haaf is the CEO of Aha!, roadmapping software for product managers. In a Quora answer, he says “…pulling the product manager in many different directions does not help them or the organization. It destroys both.”

If communication is key to a product team’s success, then what does it mean to be communicative?  According to de Haaf, “Being communicative means you have a pulse on what’s happening across the organization and you’re engaged. It is also about sharing information. The best product leaders do not hoard knowledge about customers, the market, or the organization.”

Ignore 99% of the Noise

Carlos González de Villaumbrosia is the founder of Product School. His advice for product managers is simple. Ignore the noise.

“If I could only choose one thing that a product manager has to do every day is actually to decide what’s the most important thing his/her team has to work on, and say no to the the 99% of the options.”


There’s a lot of advice for product managers that involves “product vision.” But one underrated piece of advice for better communication is simple. Listen. Sometimes we forget that communication is a two-way street.

Marc Abraham gave answer on Quora about what makes a great product manager and the first thing on his list was listening.

“As much I like to have a well-informed opinion on things, I always try listen to a wide variety of people that I typically interact with. Whether these are stakeholders, clients, developers, designers, consumers, suppliers or regulators; every viewpoint is worth listening to.”

As the saying goes, we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.

Parting Advice

Yong Park is a product manager at Forkable and when asked if he had any advice for a young product manager, he shared this bit of knowledge.

Read and learn as much as possible….understand that product affects marketing, business development efforts, and that development is the driving force behind the changes. Managing the risks and rewards of how each feature/development cycle affects the other silos of the business really sets apart PMs that can build and lead teams and ones that don’t.”

Being a product manager at a company is no easy feat. There are a lot of stakeholders to communicate with. If you’re unable to communicate well, you’ll most definitely fail. Apply these lessons from seasoned product managers and you’ll successfully navigate through many pitfalls inexperienced product managers experience.


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7 Apps to Increase Your Daily Productivity Tue, 15 Mar 2016 09:15:25 +0000

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The internet is amazing. Literally everything is at your fingertips. But having everything at your fingertips can also be one giant distraction. If you’ve ever gotten sucked into a Wikipedia wormhole, then you’ll understand why having a set of apps to help with productivity are so important.

Productivity apps are great because they can help you keep track of everything you need to get done. They can narrow your focus, eliminate distractions, and allow you to get work done, no matter how tempting it is to click on the latest Buzzfeed link.

If you’re feeling a little unproductive thanks to the allures of the internet, here’s 7 apps that can help you in your quest to be more productive.

Marinara Timer

The Pomodoro Technique is a method of work that helps you break up big projects and tasks into much more manageable bits. Choose a task, work on it, uninterrupted, for 25 minutes (aka a Pomodoro). Then take a quick five minute break. Then start another 25 minute interval. Take a longer break every four “Pomodoros.” This can be done with any timer, but this online tool comes in handy.


Project management is extremely helpful as you’re tasked with more projects. Trello is great because it allows you to set up multiple projects and customize your boards based on your workflow. Its drag and drop feature makes moving tasks through different stages of production is quite simple.


Keeping track of your calendar can be a major headache. Meetings and deadlines pile up, and you’re unable to track everything mentally. It’s important to have a calendar app that you love. Sunrise is a mobile calendar app that connects with apps like Facebook, Evernote, Trello, and Wunderlist, so that all your events are neatly tracked in one calendar.


There are a ton of to-do list apps and I’ve used many of them. But whenever I ask for recommendations, Wunderlist continuously comes back as the most recommended by my peers. Wunderlist is great because it allows you to create separate lists. So instead of having one giant to-do list, you can see what you need to get done based on specific projects.


Pocket is a wonderful mobile app that let’s you save articles to read later. I can’t even begin to quantify how many hours of productivity I lost because I’d scroll through Twitter and start to read article after article. Pocket allows me to bookmark these later so I can read them when I’m not as busy.


Everyone has some type of task that they find to be a pain. Often times these tasks are small administrative tasks that just suck up too much time. FancyHands has a pool of virtual assistants who can take care of any tasks you don’t want to. Have FancyHands conduct some research for you or call a customer support line and patch you in when they’ve finally contacted someone. Whatever the task is, FancyHands will save you a lot of time.


Meditation has many health benefits. Done right, it can help decrease your stress, sharpen your mind, and increase creativity. Headspace is an app that walks you through guided meditation. In as little as 10 minutes a day, you can improve your mental health, opening up your mind for greater productivity throughout the day.

If you’re worried that you’re not as productive as you can be, don’t worry. You’re in good company. There are 36 million results for the question, “How can I be more productive?” It’s clearly a problem that everyone struggles with.

There is no silver bullet when it comes to productivity. It’s a process that you have to figure out. But if you incorporate these seven apps (or just a few of them) into your daily routine, you’ll start to see your time being used more efficiently and your productivity go up. Be sure to share your favorite productivity apps with us in the comments section below.

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How to Explain a Super Technical Concept to Anyone Tue, 01 Mar 2016 16:49:59 +0000

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Ever hear an expert talk, and feel as though they’re speaking an alien language? They’ll talk about figures and statistics, use words and phrases you’ve never heard of, and leave you utterly confused and questioning whether it was worth listening to.

It’s easy to forget that some techniques and concepts are confusing to others when you’re knee deep in them every day. Your colleagues understand you, so it’s easy to get your message across using buzzwords and acronyms. You can dive right in, and your peers know where you’re at.

But when you’re talking to a customer or trying to educate a more junior audience, you may have to explain technical concepts to people who aren’t very technical. By explaining these concepts well, you’ll not only save time, but also increase customer success.

Here are some tips on how you can explain a super technical concept to anyone.

Practice by Writing it Down

“It’s easy to spew out a bunch of information when speaking, but when you’re writing you have to be deliberate.”

According to David McCullough, there’s no difference between writing and thinking. “Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard,” he famously said in an interview with NEH chairman Bruce Cole.


It’s easy to spew out a bunch of information when speaking, but when you’re writing you have to be deliberate. The process of writing out a concept will force you to explain it, even if you’re only explaining it to a piece of paper.


Take a few common questions and write out answers. For example, if you work in customer support and customers constantly ask how they can sign up for your product, try writing out instructions. Not only will this help you solidify the process in your mind, but you can actually use what you’ve written in future conversations, especially if you’re communicating over the phone or by email.

Go Step by Step

If someone asked you to give instructions on how to make a sandwich, where would you begin? You might tell them to grab a couple of slices of bread and slab on some mayonaise.


But is grabbing a couple of slices of bread actually the first step?. Before grabbing the bread, the person needs to go to the local grocery store and select a loaf. Before slabbing on the condiments, they need to make sure they have them in the kitchen.


Often times, when we’re very familiar with a process, we dive in right in the middle of things. We start at the very beginning with the first step. When you’re explaining a process to someone, take it step by step, outlining how one thing leads to another. At each step, check in to make sure they understand where you are.

Amp up Your Listening Skills

We all think that we listen to others, but are we actually good at it? Do we really hear what they have to say, or do we make assumptions about what they think and feel? Psychologists everywhere swear that listening skills are one of the most important things to have.

“If you’re not listening when you’re explaining a technical concept, you’re unlikely to get your message across.”

According to Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., in an
article for Psychology Today, listening and speaking are keys to being an effective communicator. Whitbourne says that most people focus more on speaking than they do on listening, and that poor listeners are not only perceived as rude, but miss out on essential information.

If you’re not listening when you’re explaining a technical concept, you’re unlikely to get your message across. Have you stopped to identify exactly where your audience is struggling? Make sure you understand their particular issue before trying to explain.

Use Visuals

Remember how many visuals were in your high school biology textbook? Many concepts are better explained through visuals. It’s nice to have a conversation off the phone, but often visuals that map out a process or explain a process can make it a lot easier to explain a technical concept.


Explaining technical concepts via visuals involves having the right tools on hand. Perhaps you need to create graphics, use screen-sharing software, or record a video that spells things out. Visuals can help your audience understand what you’re saying, and recall it later on.

Final Thoughts: Dumb it Down and Save Time

A concept may be super technical, but that doesn’t mean it has to be hard to explain. If you write down explanations, work step by step, improve your listening skills, and use visuals, you’ll be able to get your messages across, saving you time and improving productivity.

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Productivity Hacks from 6 Y Combinator CEOs Thu, 25 Feb 2016 09:00:02 +0000

The post Productivity Hacks from 6 Y Combinator CEOs appeared first on ilos Videos.


“Productivity is the holy grail for entrepreneurs”

Kevin Rose, a serial entrepreneur who formerly started Digg and was founder at Google Ventures recently shared on Snapchat that he sets two goals every morning: one personal, one professional. He says that it doesn’t have to be anything crazy, just two simple goals. For example, Rose wanted to get to the gym that day. Kevin stated that he felt it was important to make this decision while still in bed because it sets the tone for the day.

Productivity is the holy grail for entrepreneurs. There are only so many hours in the day and much more work to be done. Therefore, it’s imperative for entrepreneurs to use their time wisely. Like Kevin Rose, everyone has their own method to get maximum productivity from the day.

So how do you piece together your best? The best way is to learn from others who have been exactly where you are now.

To that end, I spoke with half a dozen CEOs from various Y Combinator batches, to get tips on how to be more productive. Since Y Combinator is such an elite tech accelerator that moves at lightening speed, these CEOs have learned a thing or two about getting stuff done efficiently. Here’s what these CEOs had to say when it comes to being more productive throughout their day

Break Things Down

Wade Foster is the CEO of Zapier, which automates your business apps. His company’s focus is to make you more productive.

Foster says, “My biggest “hack” for productivity is to break a task into the small piece that’s actionable. That way I can get started. As soon as I do that you start to realize big tasks don’t feel quite so big.

From there I try and take everything out of my head so I don’t have to remember things to do. And automate the pieces that I can. For example, I’ll label Gmail emails that I have to take action on and create to-dos in Wunderlist from that. I’ll also create recurring tasks in Wunderlist for repetitive tasks I need to do each week.”

Don’t overwhelm yourself with a seemingly infinite to-do list. It could cause you decision paralysis. Like Foster suggests, break tasks down into actionable bits.

Understand the Difference Between Productivity and Busy

Neema Moraveji is the co-founder of and his biggest productivity hack has been to rely on external feedback. He uses this feedback to help him get into a flow state.

Moravej stated, “ I don’t try to always get Focus streaks in Spire but when I get them, it helps me gauge when I’m being “productive in a healthy way” rather than just “working”.  It always helps me segment my day into silent focus and general productivity (the former being where I can get Focus streaks, which are fun).”

No matter how you determine whether or not you’re productive versus busy, it’s an important to understand the difference. Getting caught up with “busy work” will make you feel productive, when the reality is you’re not.

Set Goals and Timelines

According to Vu Tran, CEO of SlideMail App, if no finite timeline is defined, you probably won’t finish it [the task] at all. Therefore, it’s important for his productivity that he sets definitive timelines.

When it comes to setting goals, Tran said, “If you don’t know what you’re shooting for, you probably won’t get it done and people often misattribute lack of motivation with lack of clarity. Productivity is just a measure of the efficiency of production so if you don’t know what you’re producing, you won’t be able to optimize.”

In addition to goals, Tran said that it’s also important to set a finite timeframe for every goal.  

“There was a study out there that says something about how it’s our tendency to use up all available time, no matter if it’s a short or long duration. If you give yourself the goal of sending out x emails over y weeks, you will most likely use all the allocated time to finish the task (often times waiting to the last minute). If instead, you set a shorter timeline of 2 days, you’ll probably finish it in 2 days instead.”

Without goals and timelines, it’s easy to push back tasks. One day turns into two, and before you know it, a week’s gone by. Set goals and timelines to keep you on task.


“Wasting your time is a quick way to killing your company prematurely.”

Exercise Daily

If you’ve ever watched Justin Kan’s Snapchat stories (partner at Y Combinator), he likes to say, “Fitness is the first step to greatness.” Two other CEOs I spoke with echoed similar sentiments.

James Tamplin of Firebase said that he likes to start his day by going for a 30 minute run every morning. Product Hunt CEO Ryan Hoover stated, “Increasingly I’ve escaped the office mid-day to go to the gym. It helps reset my brain and keeps me energized into the night.”

These three cases are  anecdotal proof that by taking a break and being active away from your desk, you’re actually helping yourself to be more productive.

Wasting your time is a quick way to killing your company prematurely. You have to be focused and you have to be using your time wisely. Use these productivity hacks from Y Combinator CEOs to help you be more efficient and get more out of your day.

It’s That Simple
Take care of your mind. Prioritize your future. Always take steps forward. With this perspective, ‘productivity’ seems much less distant, doesn’t it?

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4 Easy Ways to Supercharge Your Remote Communication Fri, 19 Feb 2016 11:00:39 +0000

The post 4 Easy Ways to Supercharge Your Remote Communication appeared first on ilos Videos.


When you talk to someone face-to-face, you have a lot of tools to get a message across. You can use your fingers to point at a computer screen, or take out a pen and paper to quickly draw a diagram. But when you’re communicating online, it’s a whole different story.

But when it comes to the new, emerging digital economy, let’s face it: personable, human-to-human communication becomes much harder, with more questions than answers.

Should you send a smiley face through a chat box, or is that too childish? Should you share your screen with a customer to help them understand your explanation? It can be tough to make the right choices.

Today’s workforce is communicating with customers, clients, and each other via email and chat, using a computer screen in place of real life interactions. In order to effectively communicate when you’re not in the same room, you need to make the extra effort to get it right.

Here are 4 ways to improve remote communication with your coworkers, customers, and anyone else you talk to online:

1. Get the right tools

There are tons of tons on the market to help businesses improve their remote communication. Here are a few highly recommended tools:

  • SlackSlack is a group chat app that is great for internal communication. You can create different channels for departments or projects, and set notifications so that you don’t have to spend your entire day in Slack.
  • IlosIlos provides ridiculously simple screen recording, which can help team members share bugs and problems. Ilos also helps customer support reps effectively communicate with customers.
  • GrooveGroove is a customer support ticket solution that works via email. Groove helps customer support teams stay on top of customer tickets so that everything can be resolved quickly and easily.
  • SkypeLike Slack, Skype is a chat app, but it’s specialty is phone calls. Almost everyone has Skype, so it’s easy to set up a Skype call with a customer, client, or partner, as well as a coworker.

Remember that in order to be successful with these tools, you have to implement them across the company. The tools you use should be standard at your company, or at least in your department, so everyone is on the same page about which tool to use– and when to use it.

2. Choose the right medium

Most companies offer a few different ways to have a conversation. You can pick up the phone, chat with an app like Slack or Hipchat, video chat using Google Hangouts, or use a screen sharing tool.

Each of these options offers a different medium for communication, but one isn’t better than the other. It all depends on the conversation you’re having, and the person you’re talking to.

For example, talking on the phone can be difficult if you’re talking to a customer who needs technical help. You’re better off using a screen sharing tool so you can guide them through the process in an agile way.

When you’re about to schedule a remote meeting or have an online conversation with someone, ask yourself:

  • Which medium will best help me get my message across?
  • Which medium will make it as easy as possible for the person I’m speaking to?
  • Am I choosing the medium that’s the easiest for me (i.e. chat or email) or the medium that will effectively facilitate a conversation?

3. Show your face

One of the best parts of working from a computer is that we don’t have to brush our hair or put on clothes to have a conversation. We can hide behind the screen. But is this attitude what’s best for remote communication?

Body language is extremely important when it comes to communication, so when we use chat apps or email, we lose something major. Even though we’re not aware of the nonverbal cues we’re sending, these cues can help facilitate conversations.

According to Adrian Furnham, Ph.D. and contributor to Psychology Today, politicians and CEOs are often trained to present themselves in certain ways. Though they have speech writers, they need to use body language to deliver their messages effectively.

When it comes to how you communicate at work, it’s worth considering whether you should be spending more time using video chat. Yes, you may have to brush your hair, but you’ll have a much better chance of getting your message across.

4. Beware of how you write

The internet has turned all of us into writers, whether we like it or not. Between email, chat, text, and social media sites, we’re constantly using the written word to get messages across.

But there are subtle cues we give when we write things out, and we may not be as effective as we think we are. For example, researchers at Binghamton University found that text messages that end with a period are considered less sincere than those without.

“Texting is lacking many of the social cues used in actual face-to-face conversations. When speaking, people easily convey social and emotional information with eye gaze, facial expressions, tone of voice, pauses, and so on,” said Celia Klin, leader of the study, in a statement. “People obviously can’t use these mechanisms when they are texting. Thus, it makes sense that texters rely on what they have available to them — emoticons, deliberate misspellings that mimic speech sounds and, according to our data, punctuation.”

Although this study focused on texting, email and chat are also void of the standard cues that come into face-to-face conversation. Pay attention to how you write– are you making an extra effort to be friendly and approachable? When in doubt, throw in a smiley face.

Final Thoughts: Make the extra effort

Remote communication isn’t going anywhere, and it’s up to us to make sure we make the extra effort to get our messages across. Make sure to get the best tools technology has to offer, consider the medium you’re using, show your beautiful face, and consider how you write.


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