LearnBytes episode #5 – Suan Yeo: How decluttering can help your efficiency & productivity

5 November 2020

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In this episode

Samantha is joined by Suan Yeo, Head of Education for Google Australia & New Zealand.

In his race against the clock, Suan shares how his thoughts on how decluttering your life and your mind can influence your efficiency and productivity. We also hear how collaboration, teamwork and knowing when to ask for help have had a big impact on his efficiency and productivity.

Suan takes over the questioning towards the end of the show! Tune in to hear what uninvented product they each think will change the world.

You can connect with Suan via Twitter @suaneu or email syeo@google.com.

Links from the episode

Suan’s book recommendations are

Getting Things Done by David Allen and

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up‘ by Marie Kondo.

The link to the podcast I mentioned is Optimal Living Daily episode 1744

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Samantha  0:02

Welcome to LearnBytes, the show that delivers byte-sized pieces of wisdom so you can learn how to increase your efficiency and productivity, embrace your natural creativity and lead with impact. I’m Samanth Garrett from Using Technology Better and joining me today is Suan Yeo from Google. Hi Suan! Yay!

Suan Yeo  0:21

Hi Sam.

Samantha  0:23

I’m very excited to have Suan with me today. We’ve known each other for a long time now, Suan is the Head of Education for Google, Australia and New Zealand. But before we jump into the questions, and he’s chosen today, I must say to speak on the topic of efficiency and productivity. Suan, do you want to share a little bit about yourself and what you’re passionate about? Before we get into the questions?

Suan Yeo  0:43

Thanks, Sam. Hi, everybody, my name is Suan, I look after, as Sam mentioned all of our education efforts in the region. I am super passionate about my kids, I have two young kids, in, both in primary school one, year six and one year three, really excited about you know, as a parent, you know, seeing them grow up and growing up with technology. So it’s, you know, important. Some of the some of the things I’ll talk about today will relate to my kids, but also spending time with them. What this pandemic has actually taught me is is you know how much I value the outdoors. So it’s somewhat ironic, maybe we should have done this outdoors Sam. But you know, really, embracing, you know, the beautiful country that we live in.

Samantha  1:23

That’s really quiet interesting isn’t it. I always think of you as an indoorsy kind of guy! So that’s fascinating. Cool. Thanks Suan. So, as we said, efficiency and productivity is your chosen topic of choice. And as I have pre warned you, we’ve got to be bite sized. So we’ve got four minutes with the timer. And then if we beat the clock, you can either ask me a question, I might ask you a question. We might do a bit of both. And yeah, so are you ready to take the challenge?

Suan Yeo  1:53

Let’s do it.

Samantha  1:54

Cool. All right. I’m going to start the timer. And I’ll make sure we’ve got all the right questions ready to go. Don’t want to ask you the wrong questions to the wrong topic. That would be awkward. Okay, cool. First mobile phone and current phone?

Suan Yeo  2:08

So first mobile phone Nokia 3210, black and white screen, and current phone is a Google Pixel four.

Samantha  2:15

Cool. What, what does working efficiently and productively mean to you?

Suan Yeo  2:20

For me solving the problem, right, solving the problem the easiest way in the shortest time possible. Having a plan and and executing the plan. So this could be something as complex as planning a big strategy with you or as simple as just replying to a simple email, you know, being being efficient in the timeframe that you have.

Samantha  2:39

Interesting. When and where do you work best?

Suan Yeo  2:41

In my home office, where I am right now, double screens, and focused on the task at hand. So no distractions, after I’ve dropped the kids off, come back, you know, head down, is when I you know, I get really productive,

Samantha  2:55

Favorite app to helping your efficiency or productivity?

Suan Yeo  2:58

So I live my life by by my calendar, my Google Calendar, so everything is planned, I know exactly what I need to do when I need to do it by and who I need to meet to discuss

Samantha  3:08

Biggest efficiency and productive or productivity challenge?

Suan Yeo  3:12

Oh, probably, you know, in the current climate of working from home, all the distractions that you have at home. For me, are the, are the kids, you know, sometimes it’s good to have a distraction. Having too many meetings as well, you know, sort of back to back to back, and my pet peeve, which is slow internet connectivity.

Samantha  3:32

That’s so true! So you got 2 minutes 30 left, we’re tracking along beautifully. Yeah, so we can relax. The  number one thing you’ve done that has had the biggest impact on your efficiency or productivity.

Suan Yeo  3:45

For me, it’s been, you know, again, working from home and virtually is delegating efficiently or asking for help. You know, we, at Google, we work we always work in teams. And what we found that obviously, many hands make light work, collaboration, working together with others in something as simple as a Google Doc or Slides. I think just working together makes it a lot more efficient. So I think collaboration and teamwork is probably the number one thing that I’ve done right and knowing when to ask for help. It’s sort of the biggest impact, I think, to my efficiency

Samantha  4:19

Book video podcast you recommend to others?

Suan Yeo  4:22

So I’ve got two books. I’ll give you a bonus book. One is Getting Things Done by David Allen. And then the second, I don’t know it sort of contentious, is Spark Joy by Marie Kondo. So I you know, we follow the the KonMari method here in our household, but I’ll talk first about Getting Things Done. So those of you who are GTD fans, you know, a very simple five stage workflow of capture, clarify, organize, reflect and engage. And so making sure that you know exactly where you are in the process, and this could apply to everything in your life and so having a very systematic workflow of understanding you know what needs to be done all the way through to doing it. It’s sort of the, so Getting Things Done by David Allen is the first one. Spark joy by Marie Kondo, those of you who who follow the KonMari method of decluttering and organizing your home so for me, you know, sort of talking about productivity and efficient, you can’t have that if you’re constantly cluttered with, you know, all the different things that you have in your, in your head, right, the 10,523 things that you have to do. And so, you know, I like this book, because it teaches you about decluttering, and organizing your life, even down to like the way you fold your clothes and, and put things in drawers, you know, in little boxes. And so making sure that you can compartmentalize, you know, your thoughts in those ways, as well. So, making lists, you know, making sure that you’re doing things that give you joy in your life, you know, I think, will, will definitely help you become more efficient, you know, and productive in your day to day stuff.

Samantha  6:01

That’s awesome. And you got so excited about that the time is just run out. But I’m still gonna ask you my last question, because I’m super keen to know. If you could save an hour each day and spend it doing something you’re passionate about, how would you spend it?

Suan Yeo  6:14

So I, it’s probably something to do with spending time outdoors. It’s something, nothing to do with technology at all. I think I you know, I love spending, you know, whether it’s going to the beach, whether it’s playing basketball with my son, you know, just love being outside and you know, again, enjoying the beautiful weather, you know, that we have here in Sydney. So yeah, I would do something else that actually has nothing to do with technology.

Samantha  6:41

That’s awesome. Thank you Suan I love it. And you probably saw I got super excited whenyou mentioned those two books, because I love them. So I was like oooh he likes them!

Suan Yeo  6:49

Awesome. Yeah, you know, I love, I mean, she’s, she’s amazing. Like, every time I watch her, like, it’s I know, she has a very system, you know, systemic approach to things, but it’s amazing just how specific and detail oriented she is. Right?

Samantha  7:06

It is. It’s so good. And like, I think, because I’ve done what you’ve done, like I’ve Marie Kondo’d, my whole house, right? Definitely, like all my drawers look beautiful and all of that. And we often, we often talk when we do training, particularly when we’re doing training around Google Drive, funnily enough, we often talk about doing the

Suan Yeo  7:21


Samantha  7:23

Yeah. And it’s like, we do like, does this fule spark joy, or is it is it required? And it’s the same kind of process like.

Suan Yeo  7:30

It is, it is. Yeah, no, we do it. So and we went through with the kids, just because you’ve gotta organize by category, right? Like, not by house, right? So we like one day, we did all the glasses and mugs in our kitchen. And we’re like, why do we need so many mugs, you know, and you know, there’s a lot of, you know, trade shows, when you go through, they give you mugs, we’ve got all these vendor mugs, as well. And the same way if I come up with books with books, which is always, you know, super challenging as well. So, but you know, the kids get it, they and they’re so good with decluttering now. You know that it’s, we almost live with the, when you get something new, you have to replace something also, like when they buy a new pair of jeans that you you know, you can just shove that new pair of jeans in your you’ve got to get rid of something. All right. So yeah, it’s good. It’s been good discipline for us also, because we live in an apartment. And so you kind of have to be you can’t just keep, you know, shoving stuff in. And it’s really great for my wife because she’s a bit of a hoarder. So like for her like letting go. I’m like, does this spark joy? Doesthis spark joy, you know, and, yeah, it’s wonderful. She’s actually the one who introduced it, because she realized she needed a system to declutter, you know, and so we did it, and we’ve done it. I think it’s good every few years, you know, you just got to go through that cycle of within different categories. So yeah, we rotate.

Samantha  8:58

Yeah. And it does, it really does come back to that efficiency and productivity too. Like, just because it’s just reducing clutter everywhere just gives, I feel anyway, personally, like it gives you that that brain space to be able to do more

Suan Yeo  9:12

Yeah, yeah. So think of it as your even your workspace. Right. If your desk is constantly full of stuff.

Samantha  9:19


Suan Yeo  9:20

You know, it just puts you in the wrong mindset to work. And I think that, that ability to keep it clean and keep it you know, open, you know, also sets the stage for you for that day, right of night. All right. I’ve got all these things I need to do, and I know how I need to get it done. So yeah.

Samantha  9:35

No, so true. And I’m just going to leave on one note because I was thinking you might find this cool. I listened to a little podcast episode the other day that talked about thinking about your calendar like a physical space that you can declutter. And this person actually referenced Marie Kondo. I can’t remember the name of the episode but I’ll link it in the show notes. Yeah, and it was really really good because it talks about the same thing like looking at your calendar and going, do are these things either essential or do they spark joy because they’re kind of like think of your calendar like a cupboard, like you just can’t keep shoving stuff in. Because otherwise it’s going to overflow and it’s going to hit you on the head. And you need to kind of do that spring cleaning of your calendar. And it was really interesting to think of that that concept apply to that, particularly because you were saying that, you know, you live your life by your calendar. So, that’s something that popped into my head. The two the two topics.

Suan Yeo  10:21

Yeah, I was gonna ask you a question. I know, we ran on time. But I, you know, I thought we just chat anyway. But um, what is the one piece of technology software that you can’t live without today?

Samantha  10:33

Oh, that’s super interesting. And not being a copycat. It’s totally my calendar, though, as well, funnily enough. Like, I had this conversation with someone else, actually, someone you and I both know, and that fact that I could do away with my email if I needed to, but if I lost my calendar, I’d be like, Whoa, like, What do I do?

Suan Yeo  10:52

Yeah, yeah.

Samantha  10:53

That’s 100%. And both probably on my phone and on my computer, like so having the calendar available wherever I am. Not so much lately because we’re not traveling really, but yeah, so yeah. Sorry that’s probably not the answer you wanted because it’s the same as yours!

Suan Yeo  11:09

No, so okay, so I’ll ask you one more question. I get one bonus question then. Since um, what is the one uninvented product that will change the world?

Samantha  11:18

Oh, wow. That’s a big question without notice, one that’s already been invented that will change the world?

Suan Yeo  11:22

No, no, what is the one uninvented product?

Samantha  11:26

Wow, this is unfair because I gave you questions in advance!

Ummm. Okay. That’s super, super interesting. I think the ability like um, what’s that word? This is gonna sound silly, you know, where you’re in a place, and then you magically appear in onother one.

Suan Yeo  11:49

Ah ah ah, when you can, not transpose, teleport, teleport.

Samantha  11:53

Teleport! Yeah, totally teleport because I think, right, we all love to travel, we all like to see each other in person. And the pandemics really showing that as we, like you and I were discussing before right, we can do a lot over video, but we still miss that connection. But I think what we’ve also learned during the pandemic is that you know, the impact that so much travel has on the environment, but also, personally on our families and all of that. So amazing if I just want to come and see you in Sydney and be like, woop I’m there and then come back again in time for tea, Teleport. Solved!

Suan Yeo  12:23

Oh, so good. So good. Okay. My answer was probably not as interesting because I didn’t say uninvented, I don’t know if that will ever be invented. But my answer was, I wish there was a way that we can easily translate our thoughts onto a screen, right, like, so there are times, I’m sure where you’re like, Oh, I just thought of this and then you got to go type it down or write it down somewhere. Right. So if there’s some way that you know, whether it’s a super chip that’s in our head that you know, that’s connected to the internet, right, I just want to I want I’m thinking, Oh, I wonder what the temperature tomorrow is right? Rather than have to go speak it. It might straightaway beam into my head.

Samantha  13:07

And it just pops up.

Suan Yeo  13:08

It’s just pops up. Yeah.

Samantha  13:09

So no more Okay, Google it’s, just like OK Google knows and it’s there on the screen telling you.

Suan Yeo  13:14

I want to know the answer even before I have to ask it right. So I’m just, I’m just thinking it, yeah.

Samantha  13:21

That’s way more interesting than mine, because mine’s already appeared in science fiction. So good Suan thank you. I know we could just keep talking about you probably got like a longlist. I think we should wrap up before you ask me another question. Well, thank you, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with everyone today. I really, really appreciate your time.

Suan Yeo  13:41

Thanks, Sam. And thanks for having me and to all the listeners out there. Thank you and look forward to connecting with you guys. So thank you for having me.

Samantha  13:48

Excellent. And you got a beautiful segue because we can these lovely people connect with you?

Suan Yeo  13:53

You can reach me on Twitter, which you’ll share my Twitter details @suaneu or you can put my email information in there as well. So feel free to drop me a line if you want to connect and yeah, look forward to seeing you on the on the next podcast on the next call. You know at a screen coming, you know coming to screen near you.

Samantha  14:12

Yeah, yeah totally. Alright everyone. Well that’s it for our very exciting show today with Suan. Thanks for joining us. Now if you have enjoyed the conversation, you may like to subscribe to the Using Technology Better YouTube channel or if you’re listening to the podcast version, do follow the show so that you can get notified of all the latest episodes. Now if you’re not already subscribed to our fortnightly newsletter all about efficiency and productivity and organization then do check that out I’ve popped the link to that below as well. So that’s it from us for today, but I will see you again soon for another bite sized piece of the learning adventure that is life. See you then!

Suan Yeo  14:49


Samantha  14:51

LearnBytes is brought to you by Using Technology Better. We’re all about tech training delivered differently. If you want to solve your tech frustrations and become more confident, efficient and productive with the tools you use every day, then head on over to usingtechnologybetter.com to get the training you need to be awesome.

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