Six Wonderful Skills I’m glad I picked after School, which you can too.

I’ve truly had fantastic teachers throughout my life. Right throughout school, through religious school, during my association with Toastmasters, at my first job at KPMG all in Dubai and right now in Bangalore I’m extremely fortunate to have got highly intelligent, most sincere and extremely dedicated personalities giving their best to me. Issac Newton had once written, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” How beautifully put. I feel just the same. If I’m anything today, it’s because of God, my family and my teachers.

Looking back, here are a few additional skills that I’m really glad I picked apart from formal education. Many of the below skills have had significant positive impacts, some have even been life-changing.

1. GTD
Regular readers would’ve noticed that we regularly write about GTD on this blog. That’s because GTD is a truly phenomenal system that would greatly improve the performance of anybody. Be it a school going child, an office-going executive or a house-wife.

GTD is the ultimate time-management and stress-management system. GTD does that by dealing with issues on focussing your work, procrastination, organising home/work space, identifying priorities and helping you find what’s your purpose on this planet. It’s the true swiss-army knife set of skills that will have you the most prepared no matter what situation you are in. What would have been the result if I had picked-up GTD during my School Days? My grades would certainly be higher and I would have been even more focussed and clear on my goals in life. Any school or college kids reading this, or for that matter even those who’ve completed college many years ago, if there’s just one thing that you want to pick from this list, try GTD. Yes, it does require discipline but it’s fun, quite easy to implement and will propel learning all the below items in the list too.

For resources on GTD, have a look at my earlier blog post here where I’ve listed some resources where you can pick up GTD at the end. Ali has listed his favourite resources towards the end of this blog post here.

2. Speed Reading Skills
As I began to practice more and more GTD, work started becoming more and more under control and hence I was able to create more time for myself. Once I did so, I could finally spend more time doing what I love the most…reading! But then there are just SO many books and there’s just SO little time *sigh*. Although, I still am not able to read at the speed that I’d like to, however the few skills that I picked up from Norman Lewis’s How to Read Faster and Better have helped me cover many more books that I otherwise would. If I had learnt this during my school days, not only would I get through my textbooks faster, I would get a lot more out of my textbooks too.

Here are just couple of tips from Norman’s book:

– Read with a sense of urgency. Don’t languidly stroll your eyes over to the cover of the title, then to the bottom of the article, then to the picture and then start all over again. But when you’re reading a book, an article, this blog post, make yourself want to get to the end of it as soon as possible. Just reading with that sense of urgency easily increases one’s reading speed every time by 30%.

– Before reading any article, book, ask yourself: Why am I reading this? What would I get out of it? And similarly after having completed what you read, asking yourself once again: “What have I read? Have I got what I had in mind when I began reading this piece?

– Read more. Want to read faster you’ve got to read more. Have reading targets. Make a list of 7 books that you feel you simply must complete before you die. Yes, that’s right before you die. Now imagine you’ve got 6 months to live. Go ahead challenge yourself and complete those books.

Finally, ever since I’ve picked up on Speed Reading, it’s just not books, but newspapers, reports, emails, whatever text my eyes would glaze over I would absorb at a much faster rate and retain it appropriately too. Over time, the same skills obtained can very effectively be applied to listening as well, afterall listening is simply reading with your ears.

3. Critical Thinking Skills
Too many meetings in the Corporate World today simply get carried away and move from tangent to tangent simply because, facts and assumptions are not separated. Thanks to a little practice in Critical Thinking, I am able to distinguish, fact, assumptions, bias, argument and conclusion, from each other more rapidly now. A skill that has saved many hours of avoidable discussions as well as arguments.

To learn more about Critical Thinking visit this link on wikipedia. There are many books on Critical Thinking listed here on Amazon. I can’t seem to find the book I’ve read there, however I’m sure many other would be quite good, probably even better.

4. Touch Typing
Gosh, what a propeller this one skill has been throughout my career. It’s because I was the only Audit-Assistant who could touch type during my stint at KPMG, my Managers and Seniors would all come to me to get their reports typed and corrected, as often the typists and Admin Assistants would always be over-loaded. It’s because of this single opportunity which I learnt at a much faster rate in my early years at KPMG.

I can’t stress how essential Touch Typing is these days. The amount time one spends on the computer these days and if one doesn’t know typing…it’s almost as if he doesn’t know how to write. I’m so every grateful to my father who insisted and pushed me to learn typing and to my brother for motivating to gain speed.

We Use this software for others in our office to practice Touch Typing and here are other free softwares that you can give a try too to sharpen your typing skills.

5. Public Speaking

Needless to say Public Speaking comes so much in handy in the Corporate World. Be it for large scale presentations or just to conduct effective meetings. I joined a Toastmasters club right after completing school. The training and feedback mechanism of Toastmasters is highly refined. If you’ve put in enough preparation before each speech, you can feel the results evident with each project that you advance in your Toastmasters career. If Public Speaking is a skill you want to sharpen Toastmasters is the best place in the world to do that. There are Toastmaster Clubs all over the world and you can find out if you have a club near you over here.

6. Harry Lorayne’s memory techniques
These are real handy to pick-up early in one’s life. I have used his peg system to remember Case dates for my Law paper for my ACCA exams. These days I sometimes use Harry Lorayne’s Association technique to recall all the key points in some really good speeches that I hear. Once you get the hang of it, it’s really easy. Of all his memory techniques it’s the Association system and the Peg System that I’ve picked up and found quite useful. The peg system is a bit too long to explain it in detail in this post, you can read about it here. However the Association system, is relatively simple and quite wonderful. Suppose you have a list of items to remember, say a shopping list. An example of such a list would be:
1. Bread
2. Eggs
3. Bananas
4. Toilet paper

Now if you wanted to remember the list how would you do it? Harry Lorayne’s Association Technique says that just associate the first item with the next and the association exaggerated. So to remember the above list I would picture the following in my mind: A HUGE slice of bread, as big as a house already toasted is lying on a Garden. The sky all of a sudden gets dark, I look up and I see an equally large Omelet dropping from the sky that land on the bread with a splat. Large Banana Trees sprout from the ground beside the bread, when two Bananas get riped, pop out from the tree and land just next to the now Omelet sandwhich. A Giant Waiter comes picks up the Omelet sandwhich, with the bananas, wraps it in Toilet Paper to take it as a meal for a Guest.

Once I’ve got that pictured in my head for the first time, it doesn’t take me long to recall the shopping list of Bread, Eggs, Bananas and toilet Paper. This technique works beautifully for a list of 10, 20 or even 100 items. Ofcourse the best way to remember something is not to remember it and just write it down. But at times when that is not possible, this is truly a great technique to keep handy. Harry Lorayne’s book are ubiquitous. You can find them in any medium-sized bookshop. They’re all really good, but look out for the one’s that teach his Association system and Peg System. One example of a book that does that is this one.

I’m quite pleased to say that we’re trying to inculcate some of the above skills into our work Culture at Vakil Housing. Infact we’re the first company in India that are officially trained in GTD by a David Allen Company Associate. Also, if you walk down our office halls you’ll often find right from our Vice President & Senior Managers, to our Receptionists and one of our Drivers practicing Touch Typing.

10 practical tips that will help get more people in office to follow GTD and sky-rocket productivity.

Image courtesy jurvetson on FlickrWouldnít you like to have a system in your organisation so that:
– if a commitment is given (to submit a report or to complete any task within a given time) itís achieved within that time?
– if anybody files a note, receipt or printed email it is retrieved within 30 seconds or less from the time you think about it?
– everybody is four times more productive than now but also with significantly less stress than theyíre facing currently?
– all get to experience the other tons of benefits, mentioned at the bottom of this post?

Hey, but you are already there. Practicing GTD? Hell, no more practicingÖyouíre perfect. Papers filed, Project List is upto date, youíre constantly living in this blissful meditative state & experiencing mind-like-water. Youíre the man. The GTD stud. But now you would like to get all those around you to experience the benefits of David Allenís justifiably popular and successful Getting Things Done model. How would you get more people in your office to embrace this system?

Here are 10 points that will go a long way in implementing GTD at the work place:
(If youíre reached this far and donít know what GTD is, you can to read my introductory post to GTD by clicking here. Or read this excellecent set of FAQs on GTD for beginners by, clicking here)

1. Set a high GTD standard for yourself.

Be super-passionate and set a high GTD Standard for yourself. Once you have done that and all those reporting to you and maintain that standard. Keep that standard measurable, so that you shall be able to know where you or your office stands as per that standard.

2. Set high commitments to the customers of your department or office :

To help you do that you can have a high level of commitment to outsiders of the organisation. Hence to maintain that commitment, your systems have to be really good to deliver that commitment.

3. Coach every opportunity that you get.
– In meetings, have an oh-oh signal that goes up in your head each time someone doesnít write something down.
– When you undertake tasks assigned toyou, show the person you are with how you are capturing in your collection tool, to be put in your inbox, to be processed later.
– If somebody is passing by your desk, while you are doing a GTD activity, call them in and explain, how and why you are either, defining your work, clearing your inbox, project planning using the natural planning model etc.

4. Follow-up on everything

In GTD terms, to Follow-up means to put it in your Waiting For list. Some GTD-ers have only the important items on their ďWaiting ForĒ list. But when you follow-up on everything, sometimes even the mundane tasks that will 99% get completed the same day, the benefit is:
– An additional part of you psyche gets to relax and hence creating a greater ďmind-like-waterĒ feeling.
– When itís everything that youíre following-up on, you donít then need to ask yourself the question, ďOh do I need to put that in my Waiting For list or not?Ē Because it always goes on the list.
– Truly no task gets missed.

It goes a long way in coaching GTD, because when you follow-up on everything that one day you will be bound to be asked, ďgosh, how do you keep up with everything

5. Formal Coaching Sessions on GTD
Begin a regular formal coaching session on GTD. You donít need to call the expensive (but so worth it) trainers from David Allen Co. You can take the GTD coaching sessions yourself. Hey, if I can do it, anyone can. It seems time-consuming at first, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Getting those around you to read the book is not sufficient. Once the see the concepts in practice through you for you and then when you explain it in a training session, itís then a no-brainer and a strong motivator to implement the GTD principles.

6. Use the below Syllabus for your Coaching sessions

So far we have had several sessions and in each session we have covered:
– Initial Concepts: Relaxation = productivity, Knowledge-work, Cranking Widgets
– The workflow chart to get ins to empty
– Effective filing system
– Doing a mindsweep with everybody
– Getting the email inbox to empty – We sat through and got one individuals entire inbox to empty.
– Weekly review – The process, hurdles, the doís and dontís, best practices.

7. Set targets such as during the coaching sessions

Each session can end with a target for all to acheive, which could be:
– Everyone is to practice capturing 100% of the items that come into their life for 1 week
– Everyoneís to get their ins to empty over the next week.
– Everyoneís to sit and identify all their projects in their life over the week.
– Everyone has to get the email inbox to empty.

8. Set up a GTD-buddy system
Pair up people in the organisation, so that one is to check-up on the other if heís practicing whatís been coached the week before.

9. Perform one on one coaching
This is the single most effective and rewarding coaching exercise of GTD or anything else in the world. Thereís no learning like On the Job Learning. People get-it immediately when they see GTD happening to their own stuff live. When they see their papers disappearing into folders in seconds and their Next Actions identified while being neatly categorised into lists, they become instant converts.

If youíre a GTD practitioner and have not sat with somebody and gently guiding them to get their ins to empty, or have their filing done, youíre missing on severe instant gratification.

10. Insitutionalise the weekly review.
Take commitments from everybody when theyíll do their weekly review and at regular weekly staff meetings, do a simple show of hands exercise if a weekly review was done or not. Once they start practicing weekly review, the benefits are so enormous it doesnít take long to get addicted. And the weekly staff meeting checks will ensure that it sticks during those difficult weeks as well.

Iím having the time of my life, implementing GTD in Vakil Housing. We started with no intrays, no filing system, a culture of constant interruption. To all senior deparment heads now have their intrays in place, each their own respective general filing system and as of yesterday all emails ins were empty.

Well all this sounds like a lot of work Arif, man, is it really worth the effort?

Gosh, yeah itís worth it! Before you know it, you will have a team that will:
– be completely clear, focussed and determined to achieve their lifeís objectives and the organisationís objectives.
– stop looking at work as work but being looking at as a game where it actually becomes fun
– become control of their work, rather the work being in control of them.
– whistle more often while having a constant smile on their face.
– work with the confidence that theyíre doing what theyíre dong because itís the exact, most important, just the thing that they need to be doing to achieve their own as well as their organisationís purpose.

Go ahead try it out and feel free to check with me for any inputs or feedback.

Vakil Townscape: Grab the Pre-Launch offer

logo-low-res It’s that time of the year again at Vakil Housing, where everyone in the office is busy & excited about the launch of a new Project! This time we’ve got something very attractive to offer, and what’s even more exciting is that if you book a site before the launch you’ll get the advantage of booking it at the pre-launch price! Please read below fore more details about the project. If you’re interested to book a site, please call +9180-41193293 or email:

About Vakil Townscape:
Set in 25.79 acres, Vakil Townscape a BMRDA approved project is located in Bangalore’s quiet and green suburbia, Jigani. It will be a fully developed residential layout offering plots of 30×40, 30×50 and Odd size dimensions. It is close to the popular schools and offices, with Electronic City being just 12 Kms away.





Amenities include:
Club house – Swimming pool – Tennis court – Basketball court – Floral Parks and 24 hrs security.

Booking Form
Site Map

For Pre-Launch bookings call: +91-80-41193293

What is Vakil Housing doing to preserve the Environment?

The Grand Shalimar Bagh at Vakil Garden CityWe’re not the most environment conscious developer in Bangalore. No, that distinction solely belongs to BCIL, who with the goal of Zero Emission Development are building T-Zed Homes that consume just 60% of energy demand of 100 homes elsewhere. Truly, an outstanding effort. Worthy of recognition and applause. We have a lot to learn and miles to go. We too do care and below is our contribution to minimise nature resources at our projects and offices.
Within our Projects:
We strictly follow the local regulations and ensure that half of our layout is left open for roads, gardens, playgrounds and only the remaining half is used for building homes.

We try our best to minimise the use of grass, instead plant more trees and mini-forests as they consume significantly less water. To bring in variety almost all our projects have mini fruit orchards of either Cheeries, Chickoos, Papayas or Mangoes.

In all our current projects, Rain water harvesting systems have been planned for to ensure that the ground water is sufficiently recharged and dependance on Corporation Water provided by the Government is less.

Weíre the very first developers to introduce a Butterfly Park at Vakil Whispering Woods, where we’ve planted special flowers that butterflies are naturally attracted to, in an effort to woo back these winged wonders.
The treated residue water from Sewerage Treatment Plan instead of being disipated away is being redirected to water the open areas of landscaped gardens and mini-forests.

Recently we supported Concern India Foundation in the W2 Challenge campaign to bring greater awareness in the city on how to manage Waste and Water.

Within our offices:
In our corporate office too, we do all we can to eco-friendly. We recycle paper whenever we can, making scribble pads out of usable waste paper. We try being energy efficient by making sure that no computer, if idle, is running for more that 3 minutes. Sometime back we even had a screening of Al-Gore’s Inconvenient Truth too. No effort is too small when it comes to saving the planet. After all, itís the only one weíve got.
Thereís still a lot to do:
So we keep trying to do as much as we can. We are currently in discussion with Sahaas to help us set up a recycling unit so that 90% of the waste generated by homes shall be recycled and reused. We’re also relooking at the various materials used in the construction of our projects and researching if more eco-friendly alternatives (eg Terrazyme for roads) can be used.

We’re no BCIL, but we’re getting there.

This post is our contribution for Blog Action Day, joining thousands of other bloggers to write about one topic for a single day. This yearís topic is the environment.


How Small Business Owners can now, never miss that Million Dollar Idea.

Jott. Itís one heck of a brilliant idea. Itís been raved about here, here and here. Tips, tricks are being tailored for it to make it even more useful. It’s free. And I canít use it! Why, becuase itís only available in US and Canada. Hmph.

Whatís Jott? Itís this smart application that converts your mobile phone into a device that helps you remember important stuff. How? Well suppose youíre at a mall or youíre driving or just walking on the street, you pickup your cell phone, dial this one number, you hear a beep, after which you speak, ďumm by the way I must remember to buy milkÖand oh yeah also iíve got to submit that report to my boss.Ē and hangup. Within ten minutes the same message will be transcribed and emailed to you. And you know whatís so ironic? Itís that all the messages are being transcribed right here, in Bangalore. Hell they could very well be two blocks down from where Iím writing this blog post.

Ever since Iíve heard of this service, now all my good ideas come when I canít write them down.

But then hereís a thought. If all thatís required to make jott work is a place to record messages and someone to check and forward them, then all you small business owners (eg. me) who have at least a couple of staff donít need much to implement Jott in your own office. All it takes is:

– A receptionist (which you probably have)
– An additional phone line (not difficult to get)
– And an answering machine (very affordable)

Thatís it! You see, your receptionist is rarely busy from morning till evening. She gets large buckets of time throughout the day. All you need to do is leave an answering machine on an additional phone line with her. Now, each time youíve got an idea, just lift your mobile, hit a speed-dial key and just read out whatís on your mind. As soon as you have left a message, a LED shall flash on the answering machine, which signal your receptionists to hear your message and email it back to you or anybody for that matter. This doesn’t need to be avialble for the CEO or the Directors but the entire office can make use of this little setup.

A couple of examples from here on what you can use this set up for:

– Remind yourself of important things

– Record expenses

– Delegate an important tasks that you just remember to someone.

– Just got of the plane? Don’t call, just Jott your office that you’re now contactable.

This idea got me really excited. Hopefully we should have our Jott system set up by tomorrow and I canít wait to use it. Once Iíve done so, Iíll let you know how it goes.

Now, all I need is a good name for this system.

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