Archive | April, 2011

Healthy To-do Lists!

26 Apr

To do, gtd, listsImage Courtesy – Corbis

P.S. – This post is inspired from an article on Fast Company which I highly recommend reading.

I am sure you are well acquainted with To-do lists. Whether its done thru pen-paper, on your computer using notepad or using some cloud apps like Evernote, its something which millions of people count on to make them more effective, more productive. This post is not about why have a to-do list, its about how to make one judiciously and hence the adjective “healthy”!

To start with an analogy, we all have food-habits, however subconscious it may be. And there are definite patterns. Try writing down everything you eat for a week and you will see what I mean. Now having a food-habit is not the key, the key is whether your habit is a “healthy” one or an “unhealthy” one!

In a similar fashion, there are “healthy” and “unhealthy” to-do lists too!

Do I have your attention now? 🙂

Anything which is easy to do is also NOT easy to do. Its very easy to exercise, to be honest, to be humble, to help people, to be disciplined, to have a positive outlook, to always be optimistic, but these things are also easy NOT to do. How easy it is to skip your exercise schedule(though its really OK to skip at times to avoid the monotony of it!) specially when the trade-off is that ever so tempting sleep? How easy it is to be dishonest when making a fast buck is the result? How easy it is to be proud, arrogant when you become rich? How easy it is to be self-centered, selfish and have a false sense that everything must revolve around your needs, your desires, your views, your betterment? Very easy if you ask me!

Likewise, having a to-do list is very easy and also very easy NOT to make. I may write a separate post as to WHY have a to-do list and how it can bolster your productivity and giving you a sense of being in control of your time, but for now this post is for those who are already into to-do lists and how to further optimize it.

  • Use the medium which comes naturally to you and doesn’t feel forced : There are different and endless ways to make a to-do list. It can be the good old way of using pen-paper and then ticking off as you progress. It can be in the form of using Outlook/Google Tasks or choosing from a plethora of applications available for PC/MAC/Phone. It can be offline or on the cloud(on the web). The main thing is to use what you will remember to refer to. No point having an application if you wont remember to open that application. No point having it in your phone if you don’t even remember its there. For me personally pen-paper works best as its always in front of me on my desk. So there is no way I will overlook it. I have observed time and again that when I have a to-do list I feel more control of my day and at the end of the day have a sense of accomplishment than on days when I skip the list all-together and instead wander around my time feeling totally dejected and less worthy. Its really a work-flow thing. Its not about using the best application or the best paper quality of the best quality of pen, its about what you are comfortable with. If you travel a lot it may make sense to have it on the cloud using something like Evernote, so that where you are, you have your to-do lists with you. If you have a desk job an offline tool will work fine too! Try different tools and see which sticks!
  • Make a definite list, not a book : At any point of time thousands of thoughts are running in our mind. There is always so much to do and so less time. So when making lists its very easy to get carried away and having a lists which goes into pages. This totally dilutes the process as more the things on your list, less the possibility of finishing all or even giving into procrastination because it feels so overwhelming. Conversely having just a single task is also counter-productive as once you finish that task you will still wander thinking how to  make use of the remaining time. And very rarely a single task will take the entire day. So its very important to think through your to-do lists. Its nothing but planning your day out. So try to figure out the main tasks which are important(not necessarily urgent), approximate a time frame and then add another task. Ideally this should be done the previous night so that you can jump start your next day as you know what needs to be done. If for some reason you forget the previous night, devote 20-30 minutes in the morning and plan your day out. This is absolutely must. Devoting 30 mins chalking out your tasks  – instead of constantly trying to find what needs to be done – will save significant time during the day and make you super productive! Also don’t confuse to-do list with goals which can be short-term, medium-term and long term. Ideally To-do list are for the day or maximum for the second day. More than that and you are much likely to fall off-track and procrastinate.
  • Prioritize deeper : Once you have a number of tasks documented, you can further enhance your productivity by prioritizing among the tasks. Say for example its your anniversary and its your duty to make a reservation for dinner at your wife’s favorite restaurant. And if you know that they don’t take reservation until an hour before they open, don’t fret yourself. Simply mark it say #5 on your list. #1 can be sending the proposal to your client, #2 can be making the doctor’s appointment who is always traveling and so on. Say you have to pay your phone bill and today is the last day. Yes it must be on your to-do list, but you need not tackle it first thing in the morning. As long as you do it today even at the end of the day, its fine! Its human nature to attend to tasks which scream urgent but are not really urgent and important against tasks which scream important but may even be urgent. The lacuna is that things which are important but not urgent – the effect, the regret of not doing doesn’t appear until its too late. Things like having a healthy life-style. Yes its not necessary that I must go to gym today, I can start from tomorrow, but then tomorrow never comes and one day you get a wake up call in terms of….you know what I mean!
  • Keep your energy graph in mind while making the to-do lists : This one will take some time to incorporate as you will have to really observe yourself and your day for a few days. Lets say your actual working hours are from 9-7. That is 10 hours. Whether you are aware of not, your energy level is not same each and every hour of those 10 hours. Its like the stock market, keeps going up and down. Usually morning 2-3 hours till lunch you are at peak. Then after Lunch the energy level literally falls off the cliff. And earlier in the evening towards tea-time there is a spike in the energy level and so on. So you can time block your tasks in various hours. For example you will do all your routine tasks like paying bills, booking movie tickets, administrative tasks, etc which doesn’t require much mental energy. And keep the high energy hours –  when your mental engine is running at its peak –  for tasks that require your to “create”. Tasks like meeting a client, formulating a business proposal and so on. Working hours will differ from person to person, depending on whether are in a job or self-employed on various different factors. But the energy graph applies to one and all.

Keep the above points in mind and I can guarantee that your to-do lists and your productivity will soon be on a new level. Also remember that its OK, if sometimes you are not able to tick-mark all tasks on any given day. Carry forward it to the next day and resume your momentum. But don’t make a habit of doing this as its similar to credit card debt. Once your debt reaches a tipping point, no matter how hard you try you will always seem to be paying your bills with no end in sight!

Let me know how you make your to-do lists, as I am constantly looking for ways to improvise mine!



Video: Seth Godin on the Difference Between Leadership and Management

23 Apr

About  Seth : Seth Godin is a best-selling author and a renowned name for his unconventional views on Marketing/Social Media.

There is a very thin line between a leader and a manager and its not unusual to make the mistake of substituting one for another. For me a few differences which came to my mind –

  • Manager thinks short-term and a leader thinks long-term.
  • A manager sees how best to utilize a person’s skill for the task at hand. A leader uncovers skills in people who were themselves not aware of it.
  • A manager doesn’t connect(very few do) at different levels apart from the context of the work. A leader connects with its people at different levels and forms an attachment. Feeling attached is very important for people to accept some one as their leader.
  • Not every manager can be a leader and not every leader can be a manager.
  • A manager is good at execution, a leader is good at planning.

What according to you sets a leader apart from a manager?

Kindle, iPad, iPad2 !

21 Apr

ipad ipad2 kindle3 tablet amazon apple

If you are having Kindle or/and iPad1/iPad2…or if you planning to buy either or both, the following posts should be very interesting in helping you make a choice or re-affirming your choice!

Using iPad to make notes.

3 Questions before you buy iPad2.

Amazon Kindle3 after a month.

Personally I own a Kindle3 since last 5 months and now seriously looking to grab a Tablet! iPad2 clearly seems to be my choice, but Samsung Galaxy Tab is also on my radar. It has a smaller screen size of 7 inches as compared to 10 inches for iPad2, but it all depends what the use is. Bigger is not always better. So do a thoughtful study on what do you plan to use it for and make a prudent choice. Interestingly the author of the above posts, bought an iPad, but with time he realized it was not for him and eventually gave it away!

There are also new models coming in June end for Samsung Galaxy Tab in terms of bigger screen of 8.2 and 10.8 inches. But that would place it directly in the category of iPad2 and it will be one very difficult choice as to which one to pick!

Your guess is as good as mine!

We(Indians) are grabbing Tablets, Smartphones like never before!

16 Apr

So, yesterday I was at Croma at Oberoi Mall, Goregaon(E). For those who are not familiar with Croma, its a retail chain from TATA Group for Consumer Electronics and Durables. I simply love going to these stores, since they are quite huge and have probably every Consumer Electronics all under one roof, be it Laptops, Desktops, Peripheral, Mobiles, Cameras, Tablets, TVs, etc etc. They are quiet spacious, well laid out and unlike many other stores, the salespeople don’t become your shadow just so that they can”close” a deal.  In-fact I have never bought anything from Croma so far, as I found their prices a bit higher(5-10%) than what I may get outside. But its about the experience of getting a “feel” of the product you have in mind before actually buying it.

This time I had gone to inquire about iPhone4 and iPad2. As expected they had no clue as to when either is coming. Though the fault lies with Apple and to their hyper-secrecy about product launches and their release dates. And since Apple has a only-hate relationship with India, it doesn’t make it better.

The other reason I went was to get a feel of  iPad-1 and Samsung Galaxy Tab(since I really want to get a Tablet and thinking seriously about it) and also to check out the latest Android-powered Smartphones which is flooding, literally flooding the Indian market.

I was in the store for about 45 minutes and had an experience which I couldn’t have imagined a few years or even months back. So lets begin –

  • There were 3 demo-iPads for customers to experience it. The entire time I was there, I couldn’t get to even one. There were people drooling over it and many more crowding awaiting their chance to get a feel of this gadget which didn’t even existed and no one heard of a few months back (Yes iPad-1 was officially launched in India only in Feb 2011, almost after 10 months since it came out in US). I was sure it will take a long time for my chance to come and hence decided to move on.
  • I went to the section of iPad/iPod accessories. As I was checking out, I over-heard few conversations people were having on their mobile phones. And no I was not eaves-dropping, neither had the intention of doing it. Just that people were talking reasonably loudly and with so excitement, it was difficult to not pay attention. Each and every conversation was about people asking their friends/tech-gurus as to which Smartphone they should buy, but more importantly whether they should buy a Blackberry or an Android ones, whether they can sync it with their Outlook, whether it has a Google App so that they can be in touch with their emails, maps, calendars and so on! Wow! I was so proud to see my fellow countrymen being up-to date with latest technology and everyone wants to make their life(work, personal) more efficient, more exciting, more moving with the times. I also heard one guy talking about whether Gingerbread is the latest from Android or is it Froyo! Super-cool!
  • Now before people caught me listening to them, it was time to move on. Now I was just walking casually with no particular section/product in mind to go to, when I noticed many people carry something which very closely resembled diary/notebook. I thought may be they were part of the same corporate crowd, who have just come out for some conference or going to one. But when I see youngsters(in casual attire) and many women also carrying it, I felt not all could be attending conferences. And then one women opened her diary and there it was – Samsung Galaxy Tab! So people were actually carrying their Tablets just like they carry their mobile phones! Very very interesting! Though I have to say I didn’t see a single i-Pad, everyone who had a Tablet had a Samsung Galaxy Tab! Tablet didn’t exist not too long ago and it already gained immense popularity that it has become a part of their being just like a Mobile phone! And keep in mind that Samsung Galaxy Tab is not really cheap at around INR 24k($520). So in-spite of the high entry barrier, many people are actually shelling out so much signifies the change in consumer mindset, buying preferences and that if a product is new, exciting, innovative, even if not for the masses, people would buy it if the product/marketers(think of Steve Jobs, he totally makes you believe that you HAVE to buy Apple products and how it will change your lives or make it far more interesting and fun) can create a need for them! Its a very dynamic time to be in, as far as Sales/Marketing professionals are concerned!
  • Now it was time to head to my last section of Smartphones! Even though I don’t change my phones regularly I love to be updated as to what new phones are coming out, what platform they are on, the features and the price bracket! Before there used to be just one section for mobile-phones and within that section a handful were smartphones. But now there is a separate section just for smartphones and the no. of models on display far exceed the non-smartphones. And not a single person was at the non-smartphones section! While I was checking out the Samsung i9003(which is the successor to the immensely popular i9000, but which has been discontinued as the demand far exceeded the supply and the SAMOLED screen which gave it the best display ever was in deep shortage), 3-4 people came and instead of checking out the models themselves asked the sales-person as to which are the models which are 3G enabled, which are the models that support video-calling, which are the models that are Android based and whether the Android version was Froyo or something else! The last query the sales-person was slightly less informed but apart from that he was well aware of the products, which goes on to say that he gets these types of questions every single day! A lot of credit goes to the manufacturers who have been consistently dropping the prices and now you can get an Android Smartphone for under 10k($220)! People clearly don’t mind shelling out a few bucks more if they can get a fully-loaded phone! This is not to say that high-end phones are not worth, as a lot of factors come into play which dictates the price of a phone! Interestingly there was just one iPhone 3GS on display priced at around 30k($650) and expectantly no body seem to be interested in it! Well if you can get a similar phone for half the price, is unlocked why would anyone go for the overly priced iPhone! But then Apple is not known for its reasonable pricing and some may say that, it is exactly what makes it exclusive.
  • My last experience is a beautiful reflection of the Indian culture. There was a family checking out few smartphones(Father, Mother, Daughter and Son). The boy must be around 10-12 years, the girl 15-18. The father and son were busy checking out the phones. The mother and daughter were engrossed spectators. Now 2 models were short-listed(I assume it was a family day out for the son to get a new phone!). Not surprisingly the son liked the model which cost slightly more than the model his father liked! Now came the climax! The son wants the one he liked. The father clearly wants to save some money, but at the same time doesn’t want to disappoint the son by dictating what to buy! As you can see its a very complicated situation! Enter the mother! Even though she has no idea about phones, she magically says something(as they were not speaking in English or Hindi, I couldn’t catch the magic-words of the mother) to her son, her son thinks for sometime and then happily agrees on the model his father had in mind! A difficult situation has been solved rather effortlessly! The entire family is happy!
To sum it up – 
  • People may spend a lot of time trying out Apple products but when its time to buy, to shed some fat off the wallet, very few people buy Apple!
  • Tablets are selling like hot-cakes! Though Samsung Galaxy Tab is easily outselling iPad!
  • The time is in favor of Smartphones and more on the Android platform! Blackberrys are too boring, too outdated, iPhones are too expensive! Android are fun and cheap!
  • There are still families, where the parents decide the gadgets for their children or at-least have a say. This group may be diminishing, but it still exists!
  • There is a demand of 3G and Video-calling is very high. If the service providers can improve their infrastructure, have a reasonable pricing, people would happily pay!
  • There was a time in India, when if it was priced lower it would sell. But not anymore. Price is not the only criteria where buying is concerned.


Surfing the net is the #1 activity people do on their Tablets, but there was no Wi-fi or rather not one available for public use inside Croma. So at-least on the Tablets, Wi-fi should be hooked up for to be able to see how the browsing experience is on a Tablet! And the reason Smartphones are gaining popularity is because of apps, this is the primary reason why still iPhone rules overall and where Android is catching up. So even while buying Smartphones people may want to see the App market and the apps available before zeroing in on a particular phone. Wi-fi is must!


One more thing, few people asked the sales-person as to which is the latest model from Samsung and repeatedly the sales-person mentioned Samsung Galaxy Tab! It can be used to make calls, but I don’t think it should be categorized as a smartphone for obvious reasons(Size!). Its primarily  a Tablet!



Interesting Article on Public Speaking and About the Pressure to Perform!

10 Apr

London Business School’s Business Strategy Review blog has some real thoughtful articles!


You can subscribe to their RSS here.


P.S. – The Kings Speech is a fantastic movie! Its about how a person overcomes his own shortcomings under tremendous pressure! Must-watch!

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