Saying “No” is hard

You are busy. So am I, so is your colleague, and everyone else. Busy is almost a virtue. Too much to do, too much on your plate, deadlines rushing in, write an offer here, respond to that, report the latest by morning – all that surely means you are creating value and your contribution is in great demand.

All that is true. You are a busy centerpiece of your community, and only if you had more time, more hours in a day you could achieve so much nore.

When you are busy, and other people ask for help, what do you say?

“Sorry, I’m busy”. Of course, there is a lot to be done. What do you think the requestor hears? Educated guess: “My request isn ‘t important.”

Busy is a matter of not only limited time and long backlogs, but also and especially about priorities and time and task management. Whenever you ask for help and get back “busy” as an answer, wouldn’t it be great to hear about priorities?

It could be something as simple as queue number, overall cognitive load of your colleague, indication of e.g major project deadline etc.

People like to help, and to say yes, and really want to avoid saying “no”to others. That is how it is very easy to become “busy” in the first place.

Consider a different scenario.

Your colleague speaks her mind to Ainolabs Mentor, explains all her tasks, including the ones you don’t and should not know about.

You try to reach her, and are redirected also to Ainolabs Mentor (she is *busy*, remember).

You ask for her help, the Mentor logs your request, and informs you that she is very busy, this may take a while and would you like to discuss your request ‘s priority with her manager.

That way she does not need to say “No” or explain everything you, you both can discuss the topic first in a socially neutral context (Ainolabs Mentor is a machine, not a person) and you can ask for help to resolve the priority issue.

Priorities, time and task management are true causes of busy, and if you hear busy in your work environment, please remember these factors.

Often simple re-orientation and bit of interpersonal honesty is enough.

That can be hard and mentally draining – you’ll be saying “No “, a negative while you could choose to say “busy”, a positive spin to “sorry, I can’t help you”.

You could also try Professional Mentor. You can be honest and curt with the machine, and Ainolabs Mentor can share the relevant information with your colleagues – on a need to know basis.

Sign up today at

Lists make us happy

What do I do about topics I find interesting and relevant to my job, hobboes, interests and what not?

I put them on a list, either as an item in Slack, a handwritten note on the little booklet I have on my desk, a draft post on our CMS or somewhere else.

It feels good to do so, I have taken care of it, it won’t get lost, and eventually I will check the topic and determine if it was a good idea or perhaps best to quietly discard it.

Writing things up on a to-do list makes me calmer, happier, not everlasting bliss, but no angst, anxiety or fear about things I might forget.

This will be followed hy discomfort later on if I let the lists grow too long. Nagging feeling of topics I should do something about is unpleasant and occasionally stressful. Yeccch, all those and Monday morning, give me a break!

What helps me is a little inner voice that asks which items need attention now (bills to pay, taxes, jobs to assign to my crew etc), maybe later (that blog post, interesting research, new handcrafting technique), and those that may have sounded good at the time but are not worth the mental burden and nagging feeling of overtly long to-do lists.

I’ve heard that most humans make lists and that lists make us feel better. Turns out that listing things and processing the list, that feeling of accomplishment improves wellbeing.

We humans, we the people are happier when there is a sense on being in control, and we are also more productive.

Ainolabs is developing Professional Mentor service to be the little inner voice to help you (and us) with these two simple yet powerful aspects:

1) make a todo list and 2) check and prioritize it regularly.

Simple as that, brief discussion with the Pro Mentor, almost like rubberducking but better.

Santa Claus on Xmas Eve

Xmas is coming and so is Santa. He has received and read letters and wishes at Korvatunturi and is just about ready to go through the biggest task list in the world.

Merry Xmas!

Santa needs to remember all the kids, their wishes,where they live and how to get there. Fortunately Rodolf the Red-Nosed reindeer helps with the last part.

That task list and the execution of it is beyond compare. It has been collected over the past 12 months, revisited, changes made, hard packets or soft items consired and then the final delivery is done in a single 24hour sweep around the world.

Ainolabs has one wish this Xmas. We would like to deliver automated help for managing your tasks half as well as Santa does – and half again. Nobody can match Xmas Eve delivery tasks!

We wish everyone a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year!

What is a “Task”?

According to Merriam Webster, the basic definition of a task is: “a usually assigned piece of work often to be finished within a certain time, or something hard or unpleasant that has to be done”

Pieces of work happen every day in every company – people do things. Do we like our tasks? Sometimes we do, and sometimes a task is just something that must be done for the common good or to take care of business.

To remember and to do tasks is just “taking care of business”. Sometimes, for some people, these tasks are personally fulfilling, even enjoyable – but much of the time they are not. We don’t need to love our tasks, but we do want to complete them because we like the reward – the result. Or, to put it bluntly, we like our paychecks!

Is there a difference between a task and a project? Or a mission?

A task is something you do now, or soon, something you can finish in one go. In sailing, for example, to raise the mainsail is a task. For a delivery van driver – a task could be to get the parcel to the next stop for delivery. For a controller – maybe the CEO wants this week’s adjusted sales by tomorrow morning – that’s a task.

A project, on the other hand, is a sequence of tasks usually performed by more than one person. Tasks may be connected and may be interdependent. The result of all the tasks together leads to an expected outcome – the desired project goal.

A project could be described as a mission if there are strong personal feelings associated with the process or the result. A project is planned, budgeted, and tracked; a mission is often more loosely defined in those terms. The result of a mission is often inspiring.

Why is a task such an essential item in a company, or any organized, purposeful setting?

 “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” – Mark Twain

A task is the fundamental, elementary item of any organized activity. Sure, there are projects and strategies and organizations – but how does anything get done in a company? One task at a time.

What is not a task? Say you ask someone (a younger member of your household, for example) to do something and they respond with “Yes, I know”.

Well, knowing is not doing, nor is it result-oriented. A task is something that makes an impact (preferably a positive one). So, a task is something people do that produces a result.

Task results may be expected – or unanticipated. Generally speaking, tasks in a company setting are intended to produce a predicted and desired effect and result; but as we know from experience, occasionally something else happens and the outcome deviates from the expectation.

Still, a task is a task, it is about action. In a company, it is usually requested by and possibly promised to another person. Tasks may be time-bound, they may have (sometimes unrealistic) deadlines. There can be too many tasks (creating stress) or too few (causing boredom). Tasks can be monotonous – every day is the same as the last. Or, they can vary greatly – every day is an adventure into the unknown (although such adventures may not be welcome in an operational business).

Tasks are the foundation for results

For Ainolabs all the above is true, even if at times contradictory. The essential, the focus, the elementary particle of company operations is a Task.

Tasks are the “do” part of any operation, and that makes a Task the atomic building block of any business operation.

That is why we talk about Enterprise Task Management.

That is why we focus on the simple, elementary item called a “Task”.

A billion-dollar business starts with a single task.

Dropped balls, interrupted experts? Robotti helps!

You asked me to do something. So did Jane, Harry and Dick, and at the end of the day I no longer remembered what I was planning to do. My ball was dropped today, and I’ll need to pick it up again tomorrow.

The was something that Jack mentioned about having to continue where he left off, but I’m not quite sure and we had a just a fleeting moment. Maybe he’ll get back to me again on that topic.

Sound familiar? Balls are dropped, or in fancier terms, Task Drop Offs happen all over the place.

Dropped ball means the jobs is not done, it bugs you, or your manager, or your customer, and someone will need to take care of it, usually late, often last moment, in a rush – producing poor quality late at high cost.

Balls are dropped, or task drop-offs happen for natural reasons. Humans are good for many things, but not for remembering a lot of details. Ainolabs Robotti is, and that is how it can help eliminate dropped tasks.

So you asked me something, so did Jane, Harry, Dick and others. Fortunately I could call Ainolabs Robotti and ask her to remind me of Jane and Harry and suggest that she brings Dick’s request up with Sally. About others I asked Robotti to get in touch with our Operations Manager.

And that’s what Robotti did. I focused on the task at hand, helped Jane and Harry, and we all were done with our tasks by lunchtime. Same happened for Dick once Sally had a suitable moment to help him.

Operations Manager was also happy. Ainolabs Robotti her told about these tasks, and suggested that today’s Operational Management Activities should focus on those external requests.

Read more about how Robotti picks up dropped balls here: