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The Confessions of an E-mail Junkie: How I ditched checking email every few mins.


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:

Inbox Pause

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!

Be Brutally Honest – Ramit Sethi

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.

This year… make things happen!

“Getting things done is not the same as making things happen.

You can…
…reply to email.
…pay the bills.
…cross off to-do’s.
…fulfil your obligation.
…repeat what you heard.
…go with the flow.
…anticipate roadblocks.
…aim for “good enough.”

Or you can…
…organise a community.
…take a risk.
…set ambitious goals.
…give more than you take.
…change perceptions.
…forge a new path.
…create possibility.
…demand excellence.

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.

How to Achieve Your Goals with Healthy Habits

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

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.

Welcome 2014

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:

Dream Come True – Reflections of the GTD Road Map Seminar, London


Note: This post has many references to jargons that would be familiar mainly to implementers of David Allens system of productivity called Getting Things Done or GTD. To Learn more about GTD, you may read this post, 5 Steps to Begin Learning GTD A Guaranteed way to Save Hours from your Workday.

Some People like Rock Stars, others adore Movie Stars, My Hero is David Allen. It’s because of David and GTD, that I am getting so much done (exercise, blog, work, study, spend time with family), yet feel relaxed. David and GTD has helped me prioritise and feel good about my priorities. Ofcourse I am not always in that zone. But when I am not, I am able to recognise that and I know what I need to do to get there. I have written oodles about GTD on this blog. Those on my mailing list have received several emails coaxing them to climb on to the GTD Bandwagon. I have even compared David to Einstein. He is a Genius. Genius is looking at what everyone is looking and seeing something different. Then to codify that difference so that it changes the world is indeed Einstein-ian indeed.

Imagine my thrill and pleasure when i finally get to meet David Allen. I had the privilege of attending his seminar in London earlier this year. It’s a seminar that I was hoping to attend for years and finally so many different factors came together that I could attend it.

The take backs from the seminar were plentiful. Here are the top few:

1. If you are still Bothered/Stressed that means subliminally you feel you can do something about it. Maybe you Should. God thinks you should.

This is huge. May seem obvious when typed out, but it was much needed therapy that I needed. GTD suggests that when anything is bothering you, first step, you write it down. Next Ask yourself, 1. What is the Successful Outcome?, 2. What is the Next Action? After practicing GTD for years, I have got most of these things nailed. Whenever something bothers me, it’s so automatic that I write it down, define the Successful Outcome, the Next Action and just move on ahead. But as you keep practicing GTD, you uncover subtler aspects of your self and psyche. And even after you identify the Successful Outcome or the Next Action, you are still left uneasy. The fact that you are feeling uneasy is your intuition (or God) nudging you that you can do better. There is a better Outcome that you can envision and achieve. Your Next Action could be more effective. And most likely it’s fear that is holding you back. And we all know we should Fear nothing but fear itself.

So next time you find yourself uneasy about an Outcome that you have envisioned or a Next Action that you need to take, congratulate yourself. Pat yourself on the back. Because you are officially capable of doing better than what you have just worked out. So take the Bold step and take the action that you are okay and comfortable with. It will all work out in the end.

2. If you keep paying attention to what has your attention, were do you eventually reach?

David’s main mantra is “pay attention to what has your attention”. If you are bothered by your kids education, pay attention to that, write it down in a trusted place, you’ll immediately feel relaxed. Next your attention will move to something else, perhaps work or exercise , notice that. Write it down in a trusted place, you’ll again feel relaxed about that. Since I’ve been practicing GTD, and I have been doing that. My question to David at the Seminar was, when you keep on paying attention to your attention where do you eventually reach? I loved the answer I got:

“You move from Distraction to Calling”

You then start listening to your voice, your intuition, your calling. You begin to hear, listen and move towards your destiny as human spirit on the planet. And that is your Only Project. If all the other Projects are helping you get there, keep ’em on, otherwise dump ’em.

But you’ll only know once you Pay Attention to what’s Pulling your Attention, capture that, get the distraction out of your mind/psyche so that you can truly hear your God’s voice within you.

3. You eventually get what you focus on.

We did a brilliant exercise within the seminar that deals with Focus. You see what you Focus on. You eventually get what your Focus is on. It’s The Secret all over again, but without the airy-fairy bit to it. Pay attention to your Focus. Keep asking yourself two questions:

– What are you focussed on?
(Extroadinary Fitness or Mediocre Health, Spiritual Enlightenment or Material Pursuit, Being An Active Change Agent in this World or a Helpless Consumer)

– Would you want your focus on that?
(There is a choice here. And it’s your choice.)

Overall a brilliant seminar indeed. Really thankful to God for the opportunity. It’s something that i had my attention and focus for a long time and glad that I have it checked off. Hope to make the most of what I’ve learnt there. Oh yeah, another couple of take backs. Boy, it was inspiring to see how amazingly fit David himself was. Furthermore, poor guy had a cold. Yet, because of his professionalism he didn’t let that stop him from delivering an awesome talk. Even though he had to take swigs of cold-cough syrup in between to keep going. Thank you David. Truly Awesome of you.

My mindmaps from the and Some pics from the Road Map Seminar 2011 in London:







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