Speed Read Your Way To Being More Productive

Business How To’s

11 June 2018

Speed Read Your Way To Being More Productive

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Have you seen the WhatsApp forward that’s been doing the rounds lately? It asks you to gauge your reading speed, ergo your comprehension levels, through a short video where the rate of text on screen gets progressively faster until you’re literally at the edge of your seat trying to keep up (gasp). Most people seem to manage about 500-550 words a minute. The others? They are Speed Readers.

Entertaining forwards apart, the numbers tell a different story. Technical information reading averages at 50-75 words a minute. Let’s find out what makes speed readers do what they do; seemingly effortlessly.

What is speed reading?

Speed reading is the art of assimilating more words and phrases in a shorter time, sometimes even at once. This mind tool has long been touted as a comprehension method used by experts. Let’s break it down a bit, shall we?

We all read visually, taking in words as we see them, moving from left to right, one line at a time. As we improve our reading, we can take in more words, even jumping ahead and making connections to previous words and drawing meaning from what we just read. Speed reading does the same, but at a different level altogether.

-With speed reading, you can read entire phrases at once, unless it’s a new word.

-You can widen your vision to take in more words in a single glance.

-Lastly, you learn to read horizontally as well as vertically. Speed readers can take in not just more words in a single line, but also read and understand different sets of words on two or three different lines. All in a single glance.

You too can learn this previously-mastered-by-a-few skill to enhance productivity in your daily life. Those tedious reports, lengthy case studies and technical white papers that you need to read to stay abreast with your industry; you can skim through them in less time than usual and still retain a good grasp of what you read. Imagine the number of minutes, potentially hours, you can save.

Here’s the science (read: hacks) to make it happen:

#1 Avoid back-skipping

Back-skipping, or regressive eye movement, is a natural eye reading movement. We read in a linear fashion, but the meaning does not always follow that pattern. So unconsciously the eye makes rapid backward movements to re-register a word or to cue memory in this quest for comprehension.

Making a conscious attempt to read the sentence right the first time, giving the words on the page/ screen your complete attention is one way to reduce (if not completely avoid) back-skipping.

#2 Improve the count of the number of words that your mind registers

Begin with determining your current reading speed. For this, take a standard book and figure out how much you read in one minute. That is quite simply your WPM (word per minute) rate.

To improve this speed you need to enlist the help of trackers and pacers. Pick up a book and using a capped pen begin underling each word, while keeping your eyes above the tip of the pen. Read each line in one second; do not worry about comprehension right now. Focus on finishing the line in one second. Try and increase your speed with each subsequent page. Do this for 2 minutes. Now increase your speed to finishing a line in ½ second. Do this for 3 minutes. Practice, practice, practice.

Next, try and improve your peripheral vision. If you stare at the centre of the screen you can still see the sides, right? If you train this peripheral vision to focus more clearly, you can increase your reading speed.

For this, once again pick up a capped pen and underline the words as you read a line in a second. Start from the first words of the sentence and end on the last. Do this for 2 minutes. Next, start at the second word and end two words in. Do this for 2 minutes. Now, start with the third word and end 3 words in. Are you starting to get what is happening here?

With enough practice, you should be able to skip words and still be able to get the meaning of what you just read.

#3 Reduce the duration and number of fixations per word

We’ve already spoken about back-skipping, but there’s another cool term for how we read. It’s called the saccadic movement, a jump. Were you aware that we do not read in a smooth straight line? Close one eyelid and place a finger on it, and slowly scan from left to right. Felt the ‘jumpy’ movement? That is how we receive the world and that is how we read as well.

These jumps end at a fixation, a temporary screenshot of sorts, which captures whatever is in your focus area. Normally a fixation lasts about ¼ to ½ seconds. The above mentioned tracker method should help you improve this speed as well.

#4 Helpful apps: Spreeder and Outread

If all this looks like a lot of hard work to you, check out these two cool apps. The apps will help you get the basics, and maybe more, of speed reading. Download them and watch your speed increase.

Spreeder: This is a Chrome extension which uses the Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) technique to help you overpower the information overload. The app flashes words from your document onto the screen. All you need to do is add the document to the Spreeder cloud library and it does the rest for you.

Outread: Outread uses a variation of meta guiding to give you a crash course in reading. Just like Spreeder, you simply upload the document that you need to read and leave the rest to Outread.

Speed reading has a lot of supporters. However, the question that plagues us today is whether reading fast actually benefits us in any way. Our recommendation is to limit this technique for news stories or your email, ideally not something that requires complete comprehension.

Are you willing to try your hand at speed reading? Share your experience. We’d love to know.

5 Startup Branding Trends to Adopt in 2019

Business How To’s

14 August 2019

5 Startup Branding Trends to Adopt in 2019

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

It goes without saying that a strong branding game can make all the difference to your business, from helping establish a brand identity and differentiation to ensuring customer loyalty. However, in an unpredictable market and amidst cutthroat competition, branding trends keep evolving every minute and you’ve got to keep abreast of them to stay ahead. Read on to know the top five branding trends that can seal the deal for you in 2019.

Illustrate to engage

A key aspect of branding is engagement, and what better way to entice your audience than with immersive illustrations? Art is capable of humanizing and differentiating brands, while strengthening the connect you have with the customers.

As such, brands worldwide, including giants like Google and Facebook, are realizing the power of incorporating art in their communications to become more personable and easier to connect with. Be it using animation in marketing videos or partnering with artists for new product lines, art is emerging as a popular way to engage and delight audiences.

Adopt minimalism

Minimalism is yet another branding trend connected to art that is becoming popular by the day. it’s a combination of subtle design and clear intentions that come together to provide a precise yet accessible format. The USP of minimalism lies in the fact that it is perfect for mobile-first communications and enhances the experience across devices.

Apart from being a popular trend, minimalism just makes sense. There’s literally no point in crowding your design with unnecessary bevels and hues, which do nothing but confuse your audience. Brands like Nike and Starbucks have long realized the power of minimalism, and it is evident in their highly creative communications that drive the point home.

Reflect social responsibility

As buying decisions continue to be influenced by consumers’ moral standards and ideologies, especially in the case of millennials, it only makes sense for businesses to reflect social responsibility in their branding efforts. In fact, a Nielsen survey revealed that over 73% millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable goods.

As such, we are witnessing a continuous shift in branding trends that resonate a responsible world view. A case in point is the recent Gillette ad, which received mixed responses for critiquing toxic masculinity – some balked the ad for being accusatory while others appreciated the brand for its bold, progressive stance. Nevertheless, the ad brought the brand to the forefront, which it direly needed. This only goes on to show the impact you can have by resonating with the millennials.

Give your brand the personal touch

The digital age has ushered robust connectivity, thereby putting personalized communications at the forefront of branding. While personalization used to signify exclusivity in the days of the yore, technology has put more power in the hands of the consumers. In fact, according to a survey by Infosys, 86% consumers say that personalization has quite an impact on their purchasing decisions.

As a result, marketers are continually striving to incorporate that personal touch in branding to leave a lasting impact in the audience’s minds. While it may entail rethinking business operations, personalization can give your brand the opportunity to create a differentiated proposition and improve conversion. The e-commerce giant Amazon comes second to none when it comes to behavioural targeting and personalization. Other companies that have nailed personalized branding are Nike, Cadbury, and Google.

Use creative online domain names

Finding a URL that matches your company’s name can prove to be tough. Did you know that Dropbox went by the URL “GetDropbox.com” in its initial days due to scarcity of exact-match domains?

However, this only opens opportunities to get creative with your domain names. The more creative and appealing your domain name is, the greater the chances of it attracting more audiences to your website. Plus, establishing a strong domain name is an important investment. Tools like Domainr, Nameboy, and Domize can come in handy for finding a creative domain name for your business.

Conclusion

Branding is all about connecting with your audience in a meaningful way for maximum brand recall. Adopt these five trends into your branding strategy to entice your customers and beat the competition. As Jeff Bezos rightly said, “Your brand is what people say about you after you leave the room”.

Facebook’s ‘Cryptocurrency’: All You Need to Know about Libra

Business How To’s

30 July 2019

Facebook’s ‘Cryptocurrency’: All You Need to Know about Libra

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Cryptocurrencies are believed to usher in the next digital wave, and why not? Their potential is undeniable when it comes to easing payment processes and making them much more secure. Add to it the fact that they are decentralized and come with near-zero processing fees, the scope of cryptocurrency is beyond general imagination.

Not someone to fall behind in emulating disruptive trends, Facebook announced its own cryptocurrency, Libra, on June 18, 2019, and is planning to publicly launch it in 2020. Read on to know more about Libra.

How stable is Libra?

Libra is a cryptocurrency that is intended to be sent instantly, and with almost no fees, anywhere in the world. It is built on the same principles as Bitcoin, but unlike Bitcoin, whose stability is followed by a huge question mark, Libra aims to have a stable value backed by trusted international currencies, such as the Dollar, Euro, and Yen. Libra will be pegged to a group of low-volatility assets, including fiat currencies, bank deposits, and government securities, which makes it extremely stable.

Is Libra a pure cryptocurrency?

This is a pretty contentious question that started making the rounds soon after Libra was announced. Let us make it clear for you. Compared to the Rupee or Dollar, Libra is definitely a cryptocurrency, since there’s no central bank that controls its minting.

However, compared to bitcoin, Libra isn’t as pure. While bitcoin is a permissionless system, meaning anyone can participate, Libra is a permissioned system, which means only a trusted few entities can keep track of its ledger (that is, mine the coin). But then, Libra will allow you to buy and transfer money under a pseudonym, which again makes it a cryptocurrency.

According to Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute, Libra is indeed a cryptocurrency and the permissioned model only means it needs less computing power.

How exactly does Libra work?

Basically, you cash in a local currency to get Libra, spend it like you would spend rupees without huge transaction fees or your real name attached, and cash it out whenever you want. Every time you buy Libra, your money is deposited in a bank account where it sits untouched. This is to ensure that every Dollar’s worth of Libra is backed by a Dollar in the bank, so it can generate interest that can be used to pay back the cryptocurrency’s initial investors.

What is the Libra Association?

In an attempt to spur Libra’s adoption and make it more stable, Facebook recruited the founding members of the Libra Association, a not-for-profit that will oversee the development of the cryptocurrency. The association will also monitor the reserve of real-world assets that gives Libra its value so as to avoid any untoward incidents that might nudge the cryptocurrency to crash.

For now, there are 28 founding members of the Libra Association, including giants like Visa, Uber, and MasterCard, which have invested at least $10 million each into the project’s operations. Facebook hopes to reach 100 founding members before the official Libra launch.

How will Libra be governed?

The Libra Association will be responsible for recruiting more founding members. Facebook claims that every member of the association will only get up to one vote or 1% of the total vote (whichever is larger) in the Libra Association Council. This is to provide a level of decentralization that will protect against Facebook or any other player attempting to hijack Libra for their own gains.

Plus, the association will also be responsible for protecting your privacy by never mingling your Libra payments with your Facebook data. Your real identity will not be revealed at any point, so Libra can’t be used for ad targeting.

Conclusion

Despite all the controversy that’s been going around the announcement of Libra, Facebook got one thing right for sure. Traditional money isn’t really accessible to everyone; you’d need a bank account at least. Facebook hopes to create a global currency that can be accessed by anyone with a simple internet connection, sans the concerns of theft, misuse, and heavy transaction fees. If Libra successfully gains universal traction, the world will become a much smaller place than all the News Feed Likes combined.

Is Your Company AI Ready?

Business How To’s

24 July 2019

Is Your Company AI Ready?

  • Posted by aurindam ghosal

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is expected to transform businesses across industries by streamlining operations and increasing efficiency. While large corporations have already jumped on to the AI bandwagon, only 8% of startups and small businesses have adopted AI into their processes. This percentage would be even less if we look at India-based startups alone. This is largely due to the common perception that AI comes with a huge appetite for costs and resources.

However, this isn’t entirely true. Inexpensive AI applications have a lot to offer in terms of creating value for small businesses as well – from highly effective customer service to smart marketing solutions. Moreover, a responsive AI solution can extract crucial market insights that can help you stay ahead of competition.

Read on to find out 4 ways your startup or business can leverage AI to its full potential.

  1. Start small

Rushing into AI enablement without considering the business-specific areas of application serves no purpose. It’s better to start slow and small, especially for SMEs. Begin by defining clear expectations as to what you’d want AI to do for your business. You need to figure out a specific business need (for example, sentiment analysis) where AI can come in handy. Then, integrate multiple AI apps to aid this requirement and augment your team’s productivity. You can then gradually move on to adopting open source AI platforms, cloud systems, and scalable AI frameworks, based on your business requirements.

  1. Leverage AI-powered tools

Developing an AI solution from scratch is, of course, complex and resource-intensive. Thankfully, there are several AI-powered tools available in the market that can give you the AI advantage with minimal human interference. Tools like X.ai, Import.io, and Uberflip are some examples of scheduling and marketing tools that can be leveraged across domains, including retail, finance, sales, and strategy.

These tools are easy-to-use, requiring minimal AI expertise at your end, and are also dead cheap with the subscription for X.ai starting at just Rs. 600 per month.

  1. Implement AI for analysis

If you’re looking for safe ways to implement AI in your business, leveraging it for analytics and recruitment would be the best way to go. Analytics is something that most startups find difficult to do because of lack of resources. Recruitment is another dire challenge, with 74% startups finding it difficult to hire good talent.

Hootsuite Insights and Sendible are some effective AI tools that you can leverage for market and sentiment analytics, while CVViZ and Arya are AI-powered recruitment tools that make candidate screening a breeze. The tools are easy to use and require no AI expertise at your end, and you can avail them for as low as Rs. 750 per month.

  1. Deploy chatbots

If you’re skeptical about implementing AI in your backend operations, one of the best ways to achieve measurable results from AI would be to implement it with frontend processes like customer service. Chatbots are an affordable means of providing a great customer experience, while also helping generate leads and converting customers.

Developing chatbots is easy and surprisingly cheap. In fact, you can opt for readymade chatbots at a minimal price. All you have to do is visit chatbot marketplaces like Botlist and choose a chatbot closest to your business needs. You barely need a couple of hours to get a readymade chatbot up and running.

Conclusion

AI’s applications in businesses, small or large, cannot be undermined, given the immense benefits it offers in terms of optimizing operations and improving ROIs. It is especially an efficient technology to  keep abreast of the ever-evolving market conditions and to stay ahead of competition.