Jan 22, 2015
Photo credit: Kaizen Journaling
You either journal or you don’t. And if you don’t, it is likely you would very much like to develop the habit. There is something very attractive about the idea of putting down our innermost thoughts, feelings and desires to paper. It somehow leaves us more enriched and gives our busy day a neat conclusion.
Journaling impacted me early on. Adventurous and resourceful characters like Doogie Howser, the teenage physician and the inimitable Mr. Belvedere ended their day with their musings. Sometimes profound, sometimes witty, their entries always brought a smile to my lips.
And who can forget the ‘Captain Log’ maintained by Starfleet officer Jean Luc Picard. The truth is, from Benjamin Franklin to the solitary genius Leornardo Di Caprio; great men and women have frequently maintained journals (or diaries) to self-reflect.
The allure of a journal
Journaling is sacred time. Something about the idea of distancing oneself from hustle and bustle to write about the day gone by is romantic to say the least. It makes one feel spiritually sophisticated.
I am no different. I have repeatedly tried to establish some sort of ‘me’ time routine. I have used physical diaries and digital notepads. I have written heaps and I have practised brevity. But something has always thrown a wrench in the works. I have started strong and then lost my momentum bringing my grand journaling plans to a grinding halt. Until recently that is…
Thankfully stepping into this brand new year I have been a good little journaling boy scout for more than 40 days. And you know what they say about forming a new habit. All it takes is 3-4 weeks. : )
So I understand it may be easy to just ‘let it slip’. After all no one is likely to pay you for your efforts or have a life changing epiphany thanks to your musings. But the steady habit of journaling matters. And you will see why.
What took me so long?
Now that I realize the benefits of maintaining a regular journal, I do wish I could have started much earlier. I believe that the trio of these pitfalls held me back:
– No fixed ‘journaling’ routine. It had always been an ‘as and when I get time’ affair.
– No guidelines as to what I should write about. I thought journaling stands for keeping a log of monumental events. What if there was nothing significant to commit to paper? Then what?
– No nagging feeling of loss if I didn’t journal. It was a ‘cool’ thing to do with some vague rewards attached. I didn’t really have the genuine impetus to do it.
From erratic to consistent
Consistency came when I understood the true importance of maintaining a diary as it pertains to my life. And the potential losses if I didn’t stick to the routine! It was quite a self-revelation. Incidentally a little plugin had a lot to do with it.
• I gave myself the gift of time when I installed the Gmail Pause plugin! If you do not know what it is capable of doing, you need to read this post by Ali. Trust me it will completely get rid of your wasteful email obsession.
• Naturally without ‘mail addiction’ I could think straight. I focused on my life and my habits in particular. I have always been an advocate of being productive. So I am no stranger to the importance of a morning ritual. Well considering our lifestyle of stress and competition, I think it is equally important to ‘calm’ and ‘relax’ oneself with a familiar ritual before winding down for the night. Leo Babuta talks about it in his book ‘The Power of Less’.
The philosophy hit home! I was so used to dancing to the tune of my inbox. Checking mails and surfing the web incessantly and then scrambling to get a pending ‘to-do’ task done! Needless to say, I would be utterly exhausted by the time my head hit the pillow. And that isn’t a nice feeling. However thanks to the trusty Gmail Pause application, my day now closes with the simple three step ritual:
– Checking my ‘To-Do’ list for the last few pending tasks I can attend.
– Either completing them or deferring them for the date I can attend to them.
– Then settling in with my journaling
With a definite ‘when’ one part of the trifecta that kept derailing me was eliminated.
• The next two also disappeared when I stumbled upon this beautiful quote from ‘A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I learned while editing my life’ by Donald Miller.
“THE SADDEST THING about life is you don’t remember half of it. You don’t even remember half of half of it. Not even a tiny percentage, if you want to know the truth. I have this friend Bob who writes down everything he remembers. If he remembers dropping an ice cream cone on his lap when he was seven, he’ll write it down. The last time I talked to Bob, he had written more than five hundred pages of memories. He’s the only guy I know who remembers his life. He said he captures memories, because if he forgets them, it’s as though they didn’t happen; it’s as though he hadn’t lived the parts he doesn’t remember.”
It is painfully true. I remember only a handful of high tension, high emotion highlights of my life. The hundreds of tiny incidents which have shaped me as a man have been rubbed clean from my mental slate. I decided then and there that I wanted to retain more of what I was doing and the impact I was creating on my family and society. And before I knew it, the desire to journal had crystallized into determination.
What to journal about?
The things that make you happy and grateful! Journaling is giving your memories a permanent home. It is a ‘vehicle for mindfulness’. It doesn’t matter how bland or eventful the day was, write down anything and everything you want to recall. The big and the small. What did you learn today? Did you have a moment of bliss? Who made you smile? Journal randomly!
Or if that seems to go against your nature, you can rely on Michael Hyatt’s template.
Journal for yourself and yourself only:
Written by Todd Henry, The Accidental Creative is the handbook for being brilliant. And you can borrow from it to grow the much needed journalling confidence. Many of us shrink away from this great tool just because we feel we can’t create ‘publish’ worthy work. Guess what? You aren’t going to share your journal with the world. Because if you do, you may start moderating your own feelings and experiences! Journaling is the mask of anonymity you wear to shout out the truth. Keep it that way.
Following The Accidental Creative principles, I tend to:
• Write fast and without too much preparation to allow my natural style to shine through.
• Work against a time limit! Don’t sit with a blank page for hours. Urgency is important. At least when you are forming your habit. As you evolve into a journaling pro, you can break the rules.
• Write the way I think. I do not try and channel my favourite author. It’s just my voice walking me through another precious day I may like to remember 5 years down the line.
What you write isn’t important. Simply writing is!
Charles Duhigg, author of ‘The Power of Habit‘ says something really powerful. He tells us that writing a thought, is far more important than the actual words used. The mere fact that you take time out to put your words down, even if they are just partially relevant, strengthens recall of feelings and memories at a later date.
So if have had an emotional and stressful day and in your journal you simply jot “emotional and stressful” and nothing else, those three words can still help you remember the details that would otherwise be lost forever.
Journalling is an act of closure. It gives you a sense of peace and some beautiful moments to look back upon. So when are you going to start? The best time was 20 years ago. The next best is right now!
Dec 26, 2014
I’ve just got to tell you about this!
Because its downright amazing how a small piece of software can have such a massive impact on a personal & professional level. I mean really! I’m 4 times as productive as I used to be, before I stumbled upon this little miracle.
And no, I am not exaggerating.
I’m sure by now you’re wondering what I’m talking about, so let me explain!
You know what it’s like to live with email client on your phone. You check it not just every day, not just during work hours. But Every. Freaking. Minute. Even in places I have no intention of committing to a public platform. In short the pre-occupation with email is no different than an addiction.
Basically I was an addict. I was addicted to email. I needed to know who sent me what, otherwise I just couldn’t take the next step.
However to my comfort, it was not just me. Almost everyone who has an email address is addicted to email. And that’s a lot of people! Nir Eyal explains it well in his book Hooked. He says that emails generally bring in excitement – a contact with someone we desire to associate with. In short it is a reward and our brain can’t get enough of the stimulation.
When looking for ways to become more productive, I came across this innocuous plugin sitting in a quiet corner of the internet, called Inbox Pause. After I installed it, 3 things happened:
- It made me aware of my email addiction!
- It forced me to reduce the number of times I checked my email down from few times an hour to just 3 times a day. (Research says 3 times keeps stress away).
- It freed up a huge chunk of my time to tackle activities which could really benefit my work and personal projects.
So how does this plugin work?
Here’s a verbatim definition, directly from the website:
“With INBOX PAUSE, you can put new messages on hold, making it so they won’t appear in your Inbox until you are ready for them. Paradigm shifted.”
A shift indeed! After I installed the plugin and used the simple ‘Pause’ button, it showed me this message:
It customized the easy settings to allow emails to hit my inbox only at 8:30 am, 1:00 pm & 5:00pm.
Is that it? Yes that’s it.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
I bet you are skeptical
You may be thinking, “Oh I don’t need a plugin to stop me from checking email. I’ll just close my browser tab. And email is gone!”
But here’s the thing, closing the browser won’t solve the problem because:
- You still need to reply, compose & archive email. For that you need to be in your inbox which will keep showing you new messages. This defeats the purpose of not checking email.
- Emails are not restricted to your browser. Thanks to smart phones and tablets, they follow you in around. And you’re always tempted to check email!
You need to try to ‘Pause’ your Inbox to believe it.
Summing up the benefits of this plugin
It is liberating.
The beauty of this plugin lies in what happens after the Inbox is paused. All of a sudden you start thinking, “Hmm… I can’t check my email. So what do I do now?”
*twiddle your thumbs for some time*
“Wow I never realized I have so much time on my hands.”
So Instead of checking your email you make a habit of perusing your todo list. At least that is what happened to me.
One task at a time, I start working on my pending action items. Before I knew it, I had gotten so much done!
Post Inbox Pause, life changed for the better:
- I stopped checking emails in the mornings & before going to sleep. My stress levels reduced. It feels like I’m back in the late 90s. I love it.
- I got back control over my time.
- I’m more focused in meetings.
- And when I do check my email, my attention goes to the most important ones. I don’t end up wasting time reading forwards & offers.
I’m not suggesting or advising you to install this plugin!
I’m ordering you to do it.
Here’s the link. It’s free.
Come back in a week and tell me about your new life! But don’t email me… cause I may not be checking it like my life depends on it!
Aug 31, 2014
They’re all courting and wooing Indians!
First it was the hostesses at British Airways Airlines who joined their hands to greet us in a namaste. The Fins took it a step further and did an entire dance in celebration of Indian Republic Day. Lastly, Luftansa joined the bandwagon, assuring us that they are “more Indian than you think”.
Gosh, not sure what to make of it. It’s flattering nonetheless. Anyway, have a look at the below promotions of the three airlines:
Mar 25, 2014
I’ve recently been reading Ramit Sethi’s blog.
One of his advice I’ve been using is “Be Brutally Honest”.
Here’s how this advice helped me recently. I’ve been delaying creating Kindle versions of my Sufi Comics books. I would give the usual excuses:
“I don’t have time”
“This is going to be difficult”
“It’s too much work”
But these were surface level excuses. When I became brutally honest with myself, I found the real reason for procrastinating was spending too much time on low priority tasks.
I cut down on some of those tasks and made a simple next action of doing one thing ie posting a job requirement on odesk.
Within a week from that date, the Kindle books were done! Wow, something that I was procrastinating for more than a year, got done is less than a week.
If you like Ramit Sethi’s blog, I’d recommend his SuccessTriggers course.
Mar 2, 2014
Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford, is inspiring. I’ve watched it a couple of times. A line that stood out for me is when Steve says, “I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life.”
Well friends, now, I’ve gotten lucky too.
Since December 2012, I have involved myself in a passionate project. A project that has taken over every single waking moment. This is not like the flings that I have had in the past. In fact it’s like falling in love all over again. It’s deeper than that. It’s love with a purpose, a higher purpose.
Oh how much I love learning and how much I love teaching. I’ve covered the walls of my office with books. I’m constantly consuming content. While having lunch, or driving to work even when working out at my gym, I’m always listening or watching a lecture (an occasional movie). (On a side note, these days, I use several techniques, tips, tricks to speed up the rate of which I consume material, but that’s a story for another blog post).
It’s when I’m learning that I am the happiest. The only thing that makes me happier than gobbling up books and videos, is by serving content instead. Hence, I love writing,I love drawing and i love delivering the occasional speech too.
Schooling was a dream project since…since…well since I was in school. As a school boy, I remember overseeing my principal making the bus schedule and I was mentally making notes on how he was going about it.
Even today, walking through any school hallways, observing classrooms I’m in awe. The transformation that’s taking place in classrooms. In every class, there’s the teacher. Impacting the the lives of generations.
Life gifted me with amazing teachers. (Even today God has blessed me with an amazing teacher/mentor). The golden lessons I learnt at school then, I teach my kids today. While whispering a silent prayer to my educators.
An impulsive phone call led myself and seven other also passionate friends to get into a conference room. This was around the Christmas of 2012.
We poured our hearts out at one marathon meeting after another. Week after week, midnight after midnight, we clarified our vision. We went to the depths of the question why we wanted to start a school in the first place. We finally were as specific as we could be to what we wanted and what we didn’t.
We had clarity, took the plunge and committed to a property where our children would study. Our dream was on its way to become reality. And as of today, it’s turning out way better than we had imagined!
With tremouondous excitement and a fair dollop of nervousness we launched ILM Montessori and began our academic year on 18 June 2012. It has been heaven since then.
Our Journey so far:
We’ve been documenting our journey at our blog. Here are some of our high points:
– We hosted the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art exams
– We received heart-warming testimonials from our parents. Watch them here.
– We’ve documented our learnings into our hit report. How to select a Preschool for your child.
– Currently we are preparing and rehearsing for our Annual day celebration.
Why I love ILM Montessori
Gosh, I love this project. However, it’s not always been smooth sailing. We’ve had our share of downs. But even when setbacks hit, we do what it takes to get up and get rolling again. I often reflect why am I so attached to this project/venture then others. Clear reasons surface.
1. The purity and selflessness at ILM Montessori: One of the reasons why we wanted to start our own school is because of the rampant commercialisation of education. In a commercial educational venture there’s always the possibility of self-interest taking over the interest of the school or children. ILM Montessori is a non-profit venture. The trustees have no profitable stake in it whatsoever. So why are we still so involved, it’s not for they money, it’s because we are in love with ILM. We do charge close to commercial rates. We do that so we can give our savings back to the school in terms of better salaries, better infrastructure and better facilities.
2. Working with an amazing diverse group:
Working with our group of Trustees. Every meeting of ours I feel even more motivated and charged towards the project. My daughter studies at ILM Montessori. She does so because I want to put her in a school where it is these people who are in charge. I have complete confidence in their integrity, sincerity and passion. There’s magic when working with a group of skilled, motivated, sincere individuals. At times that’s all on needs. Other perks begin to seem trivial.
3. The immense intangible reward of the project itself:
During my day job I’m involved with a team to create and sell homes and office spaces. Seeing a real-estate project come to life has it’s thrills. But it’s no comparison against crafting beautiful minds, shaping purposeful lives and working on changing the world for a better tomorrow. As I’ve mentioned, I have had amazing teachers. I can do the things that I do, because of my teachers. I am the person I am, because of my teachers. Here’s a chance for me to be part of that great tradition and help give a little back.
Here’s to the Crazy Ones:
To paraphrase another Steve Jobs quote. In one of his last ever interviews Steve speaks about the secret of success.
He says if you look at those who have been successful, a quality that they all have is that they are insanely passionate about what they do. That passion helps them when the going gets tough. Because when things are really difficult, a sane person would do the most obvious natural expected thing. He would quit. Why, because he is sane.
It’s the crazy passionate individual who pushes through. Because he’s not in it for the money. He’s not it for they glory. He’s doing it because that’s all that he loves doing. It is he who is often successful.
We’re open for Admissions:
We started our school with just Pre-Primary. Now, in the forthcoming academic year we are beginning the Primary section of our school. We’re great believers in the beauty and elegance of the Montessori system. For the first three Primary years we will continue to follow the Montessori methodology. Do wish us luck and Please pray for our success.
Visit our Blog here to see what we’ve been upto at ILM Montessori:
Do Like our Facebook Page here:
You can download a pdf of our brochure here:
Finally, I’ve included a few pics from our photo gallery below.
Have a glimpse of our wonderful ILM Montessori:
Jan 1, 2014
“Getting things done is not the same as making things happen.
…reply to email.
…pay the bills.
…cross off to-do’s.
…fulfil your obligation.
…repeat what you heard.
…go with the flow.
…aim for “good enough.”
Or you can…
…organise a community.
…take a risk.
…set ambitious goals.
…give more than you take.
…forge a new path.
Don’t worry too much about getting things done.
Make things happen.”
~ Gina Trapani (Lifehacker)
Read more brilliant and inspiring stuff in the ebook, What Matters Now (pdf).
Ps. Have trouble finding your passion? Make sure you catch Derek Sivers note on Passion on page 51.
Dec 29, 2013
I’m the kind of person who loves making Goals. Goals motivate me to aim for something great, to be in a better place then where I am now.
But I’ve also noticed that goals can become a source of unhappiness.
Let me explain.
A person with a Goal mindset often thinks in this way “If I get [goal here] then I’ll be happy”. As a result our Happiness gets pegged with achieving the Goal.
And once you reach your Goal, you plan for the next Goal starting a new cycle of wanting something to be happy.
Here are some more problems with having a Goal mindset:
- There’s a lot of excitement in the beginning when we make Goals, but the excitement fades with time, making it difficult to reach the Goal
- Outcome is not in our control. Therefore even if we do our best, we still may not end up reaching out Goal. But instead we end up carrying the burden of failure
- All the focus is on the result, and not on the journey. When infact it’s the journey that is more important than the result
- Goals are often conceived without account for unexpected changes in life. Sometimes our plans change along the way that don’t allow us to reach our Goals
Focus on Habits
Here’s something I found better than goals.
Instead of focusing on reaching your Goals, focus on creating the right Habits. In doing so:
- You are free to enjoy the present moment by focusing on the habit your want to create
- Your Happiness doesn’t depend on reaching something in the future, but instead of building something in the present – a Habit
- You’re aiming for long term change, not short term gratification.
How to turn your goals into habits?
For example, if your Goal is to lose 5 Kg in the next 3 months. Focus on creating a Habit like “Workout at the gym 5 days a week”.
Now inspite of your best efforts if you’ve not lost those 5 kg, that’s ok. You’ve done something better… you’ve formed the habit of exercise that will keep you health for the rest of your life.
Isn’t that better than just losing 5 kg and putting that weight back on after 3 months?
Here are some more examples of forming Habits from your Goals:
- Write a 300 page Book in the coming year. Focus on creating a Habit of writing 30 mins a day
- Learn to speak a new language. Schedule language speaking sessions a friend
- Learn a new programming language: Commit to spend 5 hours a week on an online class with Lynda.com.
You get the point :-)
But how can you achieve anything if you don’t have Goals?
Ok, let me clarify something. I’m not saying “Don’t make Goals”, what I’m saying is don’t have a Goal mindset where you’ve set all your hopes and dreams on achieving that one Goal.
Instead put your attention in forming habits that will take you towards your Goal.
It’s the new Year, and many of us are making Goals. I’ve made Goals as well, and for each Goal I’m focusing on a Habit to support the Goal. What are your plans for 2014? Share your thoughts in the comments section below:
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