Habit as a deterrent


Most self help books and blogs typically advocate the use of habits and rituals for attaining goals. For example, they would say get up early at 530AM and do half hour of exercise. Or, set aside half hour a day for journalling. While it does help a lot of times to do this, this has its own problems. For example, you get up late one day, you would blame yourself and postpone the exercise for the next day. If you still want to do it, it would hit other rituals of yours, and delay yourself further and so on. Worse still, you would be grumbling at yourself for not having done your initial ritual(s).

I recently read this great FastCo article, which talks about about this conundrum. If you rather set yourself a goal of half hour exercise per day, this could work out better. You could do a 15 minute work out sometime in the afternoon. Perhaps work in another 15 minute walk after lunch. Maybe take your kid to the park and do some walking there. You would reach your half hour of exercise.

Today may not be the same as tomorrow. Maybe I could not get up early enough today because I had late night conference calls the previous day. Maybe I would be able to get up much earlier the next day. So again, the ritual goes against this philosophy.

Again, this is not a satisfy-all formula. In fact, that is the whole point. What works for today may not work for tomorrow. What works for exercise may not hold for diet. What works for the summer days may not work for winters. Hold yourself accountable for the end goal rather than how you reach the goal.

(Reference: FastCompany article)

(image src: flickr)

Only 20 hours to learn a new skill

Great TED talk that explains how it takes only 20 hours to learn a new skill and be moderately proficient in it. The speakers talks about the 10000 hour theory (by Malcolm Gladwell and other folks before him) as the time it takes to learn a new skill and become a master at it. Most times, that is not what we are look for. We want to get to basic proficiency in the shortest period of time.

(via TheMuse)

PillPack – Another Great Ideo Idea

Another super idea from Ideo – the design firm. Basic premise is to help folks take their medicines correctly at the right dosage at the right times. Without having to sort through medicines by yourself and figure what to take in the morning, afternoon, or night, pillpack works with your prescription and gives you these small tearable pouches with the date and time printed on them. You just tear the appropriate pouch and take the pills in the pouch. Nice. Another real world problem solved.

(via fastcodesign)

27 unwritten rules for conference calls


We recently saw the conference call in real life parody. While it was all hilarious and all that, in all seriousness, there are several rules that can make things better. TheMuse has a great list of 27 unwritten rules for conference calls.

Several gems here:

Schedule the call for the length of time you need, and remember that this can be five, 10, or 20 minutes. You should not be rounding to the nearest 30-minute increment.

Just like with meetings, start on time. Waiting for stragglers only encourages them.

If someone joins late, do not catch him or her up. It wastes everyone else’s time. Encourage this person to catch up with someone at the end of call to see what was missed.

Five minutes before the end of the call, warn everyone that it’s wrapping up, and ask if there are any questions. Do not let it run over if at all possible—it’s disrespectful of other people’s time.

Read the full article here. [link]

(image src: flickr)

Great Wisdom from Seth Godin


I read this great FastCo article about 4 Bullet points that Seth gave in a talk to Creatives on how to do Design that matters. I personally feel that, these are great points for even non-creatives. For that matter, these are great for anybody who ‘produces’ as part of their job. And yes, I count software lines of code as production. I count efficient management of projects as production too.

The four points are:

  1. Do it in purpose
  2. Tell stories that resonate with those in charge
  3. Demand responsibility, and do not worry at all about authority.
  4. Reflect credit but embrace blame.

I agree with all of these points a 100%. I have actually practiced some of these points in different points in time in my career, and they _work_.

Seth apparently ended the talk with a great quote:

“I have no doubt the people in this room are going to succeed. The question is: Are you going to matter?”

Love the quote.

Read the full article here.

Image courtesy: http://startupquote.com/post/528945569

The Meeting Rule

I follow a meeting rule which is borrowed from Steve Jobs rule book. I read this in the Walter Isacson biography.

I will attend a meeting if, by attending the meeting, one of two things happen — I gain something from the meeting, or the other folks in the meeting gain something from me.

I follow the same rule when calling for a meeting, and inviting folks to it.

As a corollary rule, I will always _NOT_ carry a laptop to a meeting, unless I am presenting, or if I have been explicitly asked to take notes. The reason is that, if I do take the laptop, I will be distracted and be tempted to work in parallel. This would break the first rule. I will neither contribute fully to the meeting, nor will I gain something in its entirety.

Following these two rules sometimes gets me very antsy when a meeting is poorly conducted. But that is beyond my realm of control. I try my very best to ensure that my meetings are efficient.

Taoism and productivity ?

That is exactly Scott H Young is talking about. I was very impressed by the blog post. It is indeed very practical and at the same time intruiging. Defenitely thought provoking. Consider the post starting:

Central to the Taoist philosophy is the concept of the Tao, or Way. This Way is a force that underlies the universe. Humans have free will, so they can follow the Way or depart from it. When they depart, however, they suffer because they are no longer aligned with nature.

The Way and Peak Productivity

As I mentioned in a previous article, you don’t have to view the Way as a mystical force. Another way to view it is like the peak operating state of a machine, when there is no internal friction between the gears. For a person, this is when all of your internal mental states are working without friction. Also, all the areas of your life are supporting you towards your goals instead of competing against each other.

This frictionless state of peak productivity and the Taoist concept of the Way are very similar. Taking this metaphor further, I think there are a number of ways you can apply it to your life:

Read the full post here.

Beyond Life hacks …

Gina Trapani, chief life hacker supreme, has an excellent article titled “Beyond Life Hacks … Reusable solutions to common productivity problems.”

I will let you read the first paragraph:

Let’s face it: when you’ve run into serious productivity roadblocks like procrastination, distraction, and overwhelmed paralysis, keyboard shortcuts and index cards aren’t going to save you—only better patterns of behavior will.

And she goes on to describe some common problems, and some useful tips to handle them. Common problems include – distractions, procrastination, information overload etc.

A good read – the article is here.