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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Asian Efficiency

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Team silhouettes at sunset

Asian Efficiency started in 2011. Yes. Thanh and the team have shared productivity advice through this blog (for free) for the past 6 years! That’s like…40 dog years!

A lot of our readers often refer to us as the OmniFocus experts but over the past couple of years, Asian Efficiency has evolved into something much more. We have been the leading innovator in the productivity industry and we have the only productivity community on the Internet called the Dojo. A lot of growth has happened in the last 6 years and it’s only getting bigger and better.

When I was going through the blog, I noticed that we don’t often talk much about the other side of Asian Efficiency. We write about apps, systems, rituals, anything efficiency-related at least once a week but not enough about the people and company behind it. I decided to change this and I want to share 10 Asian Efficiency facts that you might not know.

1. The executive team plays the board game Carcassonne

AE Team

Carcass-what? I couldn’t even comprehend what they were saying when they mentioned the game. I couldn’t even spell it. Brooks had to send me the wikipedia link so I could spell it for this post.

When Thanh, Mike and Brooks aren’t developing world class courses on productivity, they play Carcassonne with each other on iOS.

I am still lost as to how to play the game. All I know is it’s a German board game published 17 years ago and there is an actual World Championship for it. I don’t think I will be joining them anytime soon. I can’t even win with Monopoly. If it’s Magic The Gathering—oh yeah!

2. The company is a mix of different backgrounds

We are spread out in 4 different countries and 4 different time zones. We are a mix of North American, European, and Asian heritage.

You can be located in Antartica and you can still be part of Asian Efficiency.

Despite the differences in time, we still get things done because we have clear communication guidelines in place and systems to facilitate collaboration.

Do we get along well? Yes! Even with our mixed personalities and backgrounds, we are able to get along and be a productive, high performing team. Having our own team values also helps a lot because it became our mantra. Someone’s having difficulties with a task? No worries! We pull each other up. Is a system not that effective? That’s fine—we will make it better or craft a new one—kaizen!

3. Our quarterly meet-ups are something we all look forward to

AE Team 2

Although we are what you call a remote team, we make time to actually catch up face-to-face. The company covers the expenses for this trip. The meet-up is not all about business—we make sure to have fun too! Remember Carcassonne? That happened during the last quarterly meet-up. This is one of my reasons why I love being part of the Asian Efficiency team – it’s a mix of learning, fun and work we’re passionate about.

Although technology is great and it helps with communication, nothing beats physical interaction.

4. We have unlimited paid time off

Chair on beach

Before joining AE, I couldn’t be on vacation 100% of the time. I would still get phone calls, text messages and emails. I was expected to answer even if it was something trivial. This is probably why it was hard for me to let go of FOMO (fear of missing out) because it was engrained in my brains that I HAVE TO check my email even if I am on leave.

But with AE, if the team sees you online, expect someone to send you a HipChat message “Why are you online?!” We have an unwritten rule that if you are on leave, then you’re supposed to enjoy your time off—not think about work and TRUST the systems in place and most importantly, trust your team.

That is why when we plan, we always take into consideration if someone will be on leave because we do not want them to worry or even cancel their vacation.

At the end of each quarter, we tally everyone’s absences and whoever has the lowest number of leaves is asked to take to time-off.

Being productive is a big chunk of Asian Efficiency but relaxation and being able to unwind after working is just as important. That’s why we have unlimited paid time off so we can get a break whenever we want and need it without feeling guilty about it.

5. Everyone is online at 11am at the same time

We have a daily call that takes less than 15 minutes. We call it the Daily Huddle and it’s every day at 11am Central time.

This is important for us because we work remotely: we have to connect regularly and also just to hear each other’s voices. We also do video calls— there is value to this aside from knowing if someone grew a mustache or shaved their head (kidding!).

For some, meeting regularly might be too much. But this is one reason why we are able to work as a team even though we are all over the world (literally). We are always updated and because we communicate daily, there’s no wall when it comes to asking for help. We are all familiar with everyone’s communication style. Everyone in the company takes multiple personality tests so we know how everyone likes to communicate.

There are also a lot of funny moments during our calls. One time, Thanh heard someone snoring. He thought someone from the team fell asleep during the call. It was actually my pug snoring. We had a good laugh out of that.

6. We optimize everyone for happiness

Drawing Unhappy and Happy Smileys on Chalkboard

Every other week we talk about what went well, what didn’t, and what we can do to improve. We talk about the tasks that we were able to finish (or not) and tasks that we had some trouble with. This happens during our Sprint Review and Retrospective meeting.

We basically reflect on what happened and what we can do better when it comes to our productivity and systems. But before the end of that talk, we ask each other “What can we do next week that will make you happier?”

Think of it as AE (the company/team) asking individual team members what AE can do for him/her to be happy. It could be as simple as Mike asking for time off every Wednesday morning, Thanh asking the team to create sub-tasks, or me asking for more funny jokes on our Daily Huddles. It’s a great feeling knowing that your happiness matters and we check up on our ‘happiness metric’ regularly as well.

Why do we do this? We believe in “happy people are productive people.” The happier everyone is, the more productive everyone is.

It’s also an added bonus that we have regular 1on1 calls with Thanh, the founder, to talk about our professional and personal life. But I know for a fact that I don’t have to wait for our 1on1 call if I needed to tell Thanh something and that goes for the rest of the team. That’s probably why our 1-on-1 calls usually take less than 30 minutes.

Everything we do internally is to optimize for happiness. Isn’t that also the purpose of life?

Well… let’s have that discussion for another time.

7. Learning is an essential part of Asian Efficiency

In order to be happy, you need to grow. That’s why learning is extremely important within the company.

Whether it’s a webinar we want to attend, a paid course we want to take, a non-fiction book we want to read, or even a conference we want to go to—Asian Efficiency will make it happen for you with no strings attached.

We don’t do silly stuff like signing a contract that we have to stay at the company for 10 years when we complete school or attend a seminar.

We want everyone to always be learning (ABL). We track this too. Every month, each team member chooses what they want to learn for that month. And then we check up on each other making sure that we are able to follow through. If you need support or resources then we’ll make it happen.

8. Customer service is a top priority

We have real people read all emails sent to Asian Efficiency and reply to them. We don’t read and file away stuff that we don’t like. Every email and support request, good or bad, will get a personalized response from one of the lovely humans in the company.

We take customer support seriously and we take pride in it. It’s no coincidence that our customers rave about our superior customer service that is unmatched anywhere in our industry.

When we have a reader or customer email us a problem, we take the time to research and ask other team members on how to help out. It’s never a waste of time. We know that the more we help our customers, the more they will succeed. And the more they succeed, the more we succeed as a company.

It goes back to our mission “to make the world a better and more efficient place.”

9. Transparency is important to us

Thanh, as the founder and CEO, makes sure that the team is informed about the status of the company. Whether it’s the plans for the month, the quarter, the year, the next 5 years, or where the company is financially—it’s something that the team knows because we practice transparency. This makes everyone engaged and accountable.

We don’t have red tape on data or information. Everyone has access to the books and everything else they want to know. Trust is important and it makes our team great and high performing.

10. Here are some various interesting facts about AE

  • Top 3 countries of readers: The US, UK, and Canada.
  • Our popular post (up until April 2017): The Most Effective Way of Organizing Your Files, Folders, and Documents
  • Most readers come from California.
  • AE’s founder, Thanh, is also the youngest team member.
  • Everyone in the company has kids (except Thanh – he always is the exception somehow!)
  • Our values evolved but our mission remained the same over the last 6 years

Is there anything you want to know about us? Just ask us in the comments below!

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19 Comments

Posted by Austin  | March 24, 2013 at 11:34PM | Reply

This was really great to get a little behind the scenes look at what you guys do. would love to see more of these with your other regular great content.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | March 25, 2013 at 1:05AM

Thanks Austin – will do :)

Posted by Erzsebet  | March 25, 2013 at 2:33PM | Reply

Hey,
You have just made me laugh as you wrote you can swear in Hungarian. :D
Where/When/How did you learn that?
I am a Hungarian and … that’s why I found it funny and strange as well.

I love your blog.
Keep up the good work, guys!
Take care.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | March 25, 2013 at 2:41PM

I lived in Budapest for a year (right by Oktagon). I have a lot of friends there who introduced me to Palinka and taught me some basic Hungarian…with of course some of the swear words :)

Posted by The L  | March 31, 2013 at 3:40PM | Reply

#6 is sooooooo Asian!! ;) Not sure if it’s true but making pictures of (your) food and showing it off to your friends seem something Asian too (…well at least I do! LOL).

Posted by Aaron Lynn  | April 26, 2013 at 5:36AM

It most definitely is. It’s like a roundtable of smartphone photography every time I eat out!

Posted by Chris  | April 5, 2013 at 8:51AM | Reply

Great post!

I’m really looking forward to your posts on Asana. I have been using it for about 6-8 months for specific projects whilst still utilising Omnifocus as my primary task manager and I am impressed how Asana is developing as an overall solution. I want to deploy it more broadly within my project teams so insight into your experience with it will surely be helpful.

Thanks again for the great work the two of you do!

Cheers from Amsterdam!

Posted by AC  | April 14, 2013 at 5:57PM | Reply

That’s great to know a bit more from you guys. Thanks for all the great posts so far.

I blame you for having introduced me to Agile Results… now I can’t go to bed before writing my 3 outcomes and my daily journal :-) (thanks for that btw!)

Re #7… why Excel? I would expect you to use other tools :-)

Cheers
Andre

@ouvidizerque

Posted by Aaron Lynn  | April 26, 2013 at 5:38AM

It’s what we had when we started the blog and haven’t stopped using it since – it just works.

That being said, we’ve been eyeing Confluence lately and that may be where things go in the future for content scheduling and management.

Posted by Fabian  | April 14, 2013 at 7:54PM | Reply

Hi guys, I really love your stuff, so keep it up. I have two questions for you:
1. How do you guys finance asianeffiency.com and more importantly your lives?
2. How did you guys meet?

Thanks from Guangzhou,
Fabian

Posted by Aaron Lynn  | April 26, 2013 at 5:40AM

1. We were both working for different companies when we started Asian Efficiency. That helped us fund the initial costs and hosting, and we basically just worked on the blog in our spare time after work.
2. Very randomly at a marketing conference in New York. Thanh was the only other Asian guy in the room, so I walked over and said hi.

Posted by Krishna Prasad V  | April 15, 2013 at 6:22AM | Reply

Hello AE’ians,

I love the stuffs you write here and often I implement them and share it with others too. Great thoughts!

By the way, I presume that you may be earning through other day jobs while you write great stuff here. How do you manage both work and passion [presumed to be AE :) ]?

Best regards,
Krishna Prasad V

Posted by Aaron Lynn  | April 26, 2013 at 5:42AM

Asian Efficiency is our full-time now – we live and breathe this 24/7!

For our first couple of years we did juggle day jobs with AE though. It wasn’t easy – had to give up a bit on TV, socialising and lounging around to make it work :)

Posted by Chinoiseries  | April 26, 2013 at 3:38PM | Reply

Just getting started on Evernote and OmniFocus because… well, my life really needs some re-organizing. Keep up the good work guys and would love to see some good food shared too ;-) (Groeten uit Nederland)

Posted by Simon  | October 21, 2013 at 1:53AM | Reply

Fantastic article however I would like to point out one big obvious mistake …… Correct British spelling to what exactly ?

;)

I was born in England and live in Holland where I have to correct spelling to British on a daily basis ;)

Keep up the good work guys … Oh sorry guyz.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | October 21, 2013 at 12:31PM

Haha thanks Simon! Hope you’re liking The Netherlands.

Posted by Naomi  | January 2, 2014 at 12:29AM | Reply

Awesome!
I was curious about AE background, now this post answers most of my curiosity. :D
AsianEfficiency.com has become my all time productivity “bible”. I can’t spend a day (or two) without checking up your site, and reopening the premium post e-books I bought (yep, I gifted my self AE primer and Omnifocus premium post this new year).
I must admit that nothing great starts easy. I’m working on it, though.
Just wanna say that all contents I bought are absolutely essential for boosting my productivity. I love AE and I’m thankful you guys make the efforts and time to share.

P.S. I’m curious how many of your readers come from Indonesia?

Posted by Thanh Pham  | January 2, 2014 at 11:27AM

Thanks Naomi! I’m glad you found our website and premium products useful.

Just checked our analytics, we have thousands a month coming from Indonesia. You’re definitely not alone :)

Posted by ife  | July 4, 2015 at 9:04PM | Reply

love the work you guys do.also i am looking forward to see your post on Asana.

P.S. I’m curious how many of your readers come from Africa, to be specific Nigeria ?

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