Jan 8, 2016
Did you see it?
If you blinked, you probably missed it. 2015.
It just passed by. Making a loud whooshing sound too.
Time! It’s oh so fleeting. Just one look at old picture albums sends you reeling down the memory rabbit hole. Reminiscing of what once was.
Thank God for Birthdays, Anniversaries and New years. They stop us dead in our tracks and give us the chance and ask ourselves, “Uhhh what the heck just happened? How did I get here? Where am I? Hell, who am I? Where am I headed?”
Tough questions. Questions for which if you find the answer before you die, you’re probably on the fast-track.
2015 Will Always Be the GTD Milestone Year:
The 2015 chapter of my life book is titled GTD. One of the highlights of the past year has been partnering with The David Allen Company to conduct GTD trainings here in India, under our latest venture Calm Achiever.
GTD has become way of life for me and Ali. We were first exposed to it over 10 years ago. And once we had a taste of it, by God there was no turning back!
Oh How I wish I could get you to experience what it feels like to have nothing on your mind. I mean nothing.
You see, right now you don’t really have any idea of how severely overstretched your mental capacity is. It’s literally a blizzard of ‘stuff’ burying you with its oppression! But you are so used to it, perhaps addicted to it, that you don’t realise it. I can just trigger that stress and anxiety by asking,
“Um…so is there anything on your mind? Anything that you have to do that is not done yet? Any calls to make, emails to send, groceries to buy, reports to right, people to get back to?”
And off you will go on a HUGE guilt trip! You’ll feel a sense of stress, anxiety and overwhelm all at once.
Well don’t feel too bad. That’s how EVERYBODY in the world functions. Even the smartest, brightest, most effective efficient people on the planet run on anxiety. “Oh Damn! That’s not done yet…rush rush rush. Oops, now that reminds me to…oh, by the way let me make a quick call….I’ll do that while I send that email…on and on and on.”
That Sucks Right? But There is a Cure!
What if I told you that there is a way out of this “Busy Trap”. So that you have nothing on your mind. Except for the one thing that you are focusing on. Wouldn’t you like to know how?
Well that’s what me and Ali have been propagating and training for the past year. Oh boy, does the system work!
One just has to follow the 1, 2, 3 step by step process. And poof! Viola! You are in your ‘productive’ zone. You are focussed on the thing that you intuitionally know will get you the maximum bang for your buck in the moment and nothing can distract you.
And if something does try to intrude, you know how to handle it and boom you’re back in that magical space again.
Get to Know GTD Better:
There’s tonnes of GTD material that we’ve written on this blog. There is more current material on our Calm Achiever website as well. I would strongly encourage you to access our Five Part Free Productivity Series and automatically get on the Calm Achiever newsletter list for regular updates.
However, if you would like us to take you by the hand and show you the methodology, the secret sauce, on how to get control when overwhelmed, you have to attend a live workshop.
We have had rave reviews and people have felt profound shifts right in class! And lucky for you we are organising our 9th GTD Workshop at the end of the month.
You can learn more about this great (and discounted) opportunity here.
It would be great to have you over. Meanwhile, if you have any doubts, questions about GTD. Feel free to write in the comments section below. We will be happy to respond.
PS: Blogging after this interminable hiatus feels so GREAT! No promises but will try and be more regular with my musings. :)
Jan 29, 2015
Since the time I picked up drawing a few years ago, I began to notice the areas of my life the habit of ‘drawing’ has positively influenced. I was pretty amazed by the benefits of drawing and got in front of my trusty laptop to share it with you all.
I know a lot of people would FREAK OUT at the prospect of sketching. Me and sketch? You mean like draw? Like pretty shapes on paper? You so gotta be kidding me! I wouldn’t know how to hold a pencil…let alone DRAW!
Look no one expects you to produce masterpieces.
So for a moment let us silence our inner resistance – the one between our ears.
All I want you to do is keep an open mind and read this post right to the end. And if any tip resonates with you, implement it in your life one baby step at a time.
Sounds doable right? Great! Let’s go…….
#1: Put Sherlock to shame
Who would have thought that drawing can sharpen your sense of observation?
But it does so.
When I started drawing I always thought that to get better I had to improve my strokes. It’s only later I realized that 50% of getting better is about being be a better observer. As a sketcher you need to keenly observe the angle of the light, the play of shadows, the grooves and the valleys.
From still life to busy street views….for an artist the beauty is in the details. Regular sketching will just make you more ‘keen’ when it comes to noticing things.
Leonardo Da Vinci dissected hundreds of corpses to get his images of the human body just right. And he said, “Painting embraces all the ten functions of the eye; that is to say, darkness, light, body and colour, shape and location, distance and closeness, motion and rest.”
You observe stuff and it is processed by the left side of the brain. This processed information then allows us to act or react.
When we draw, this processed information is sent to the right side of the brain which then translates it into something creative, into art.
So both hemispheres end up working together and, according to scientists, this is a very powerful exercise to boost IQ. The interesting work ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ explains right-left co-ordination and is an interesting read.
#2: Solve like Einstein
One of the best books that I’ve read, that explains the usefulness of sketching is ‘On the back of the Napkin’ by Dan Roam. I was pleasantly surprised to find that he actually suggested a process called ‘visual thinking’ to solve all kinds of what, when, how and why problems more creatively.
When you are stuck for a solution, it helps to pull out a pen and paper and start drawing.
We humans are wired for stories. When we see separate entities, our brain scrambles to come up with connections to give the whole thing some context! Using the frameworks in the book you’ll have an answer that would have been difficult to arrive at before.
Different Doodles for Different Problems
#3: Be a super learner
Ben Casanocha notes on this blog “if you want to identify the most senior, knowledgeable people in an audience, look for the people who are taking notes and asking questions.” http://casnocha.com/2013/07/experts-take-notes.html Some of the greatest minds in history like Edison & Da Vinci were notetakers.
Efficient learning involves remarkable note-taking and accurate recall. Drawing incidentally can help with both components of being a ‘superb’ learner.
Sketchnoting to express:
Sketchnoting has been popularized by designer Mike Rhode in the ‘The Sketchnote Handbook’ and is simple as well as entertaining.
It encourages you to summarize something long, boring or difficult to express using a mish-mash of doodles and text. You thus waste less time taking ‘blah’ notes and instead take visual notes that are crisp & easy to refer back to. The example below shows the fears and apprehensions of the creator about his pending thyroid surgery.
A Touching Sketch-Note to Express Worries
Mindmapping to remember
Mindmapping (something I use all the time) is the process of associating several ideas with a core concept. Developed by Tony Buzan mind-maps are used all over the world, from classrooms to boardrooms.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed? By all the data you need to cram in your head? If you are a student, I am sure you are nodding pretty enthusiastically.
Well mind maps allow you to jot down data and the connections between the information bites. This helps you remember the complete picture easily. And yes, you got it right. It is amazing for brainstorming sessions as well.
A Fruity Mind-Map on Connected Ideas!
Both ‘sketchnotes’ and ‘mindmaps’ rely on the fact that visual data is processed 60,000 times faster than text and audio.
#4: Get in touch with inner peace
Finally drawing can teach us important lessons of mindfulness and being in the present. It forces your busy mind to slow down. It forces you to concentrate on the blank paper and your chosen subject. It literally takes you away from the worries of that exam, that EMI or that customer.
Many people face resistance when it comes to drawing because they believe they must be artists in order to ‘draw’.
That is not true!
If your doodles please the public- great! However if they don’t, it shouldn’t deter you from this pleasing, effective and beneficial exercise. Implement it in different areas of your life and see the difference.
Have you ever tried any of these drawing techniques to improve your life and work? Let me know in the comments below.
Doodles Image is attributed to Crosscollaborate
The Thyroid Sketchnote is attributed to UX Mastery
The Fruits Mind Map is attributed to LearnEnglishteens
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.
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