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
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!
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.
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: