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Unrealistic Optimist vs Realistic Optimist

3 May

optimism, life, happiness

Came across  a very good article  –  “Be an Optimist Without Being a Fool”. It was one of those posts which we knew its true but somehow never remembered it. Its like cleaning away the dust off our intellectual knowledge which lies within all of us. I suggest reading that post before, to get an idea as this is my extension on the very same topic.

I am an ardent follower of things that inspire and motivate me day after day. It can be in the form of books, blogs, articles, podcast, etc. There is a whole industry behind it and is known by different names such as self-improvement, motivational coaching, self-growth and so on. Don’t bother too much about the name, the essence, the goal is same which is to make us better at various levels than we were yesterday.

The first step for any accomplishing anything worthwhile or a goal or a challenge is to believe that you can do it, belief that it will happen. If you wont believe in yourself, if you wont be positive, it just wont work.

But this is just half the task.

The other half is to be realistic about it and go about taking action.

Now it may seem as common sense, after all just believing that we would get that sales order for example, without actually doing anything is being naive. But a lot of people actually live that way. They do everything in their mind but nothing outside and then conclude that it doesn’t work. Talking is not enough, we need to walk the talk also.

Be an optimist that you will succeed but also keep in mind that it may not come easily and that’s being realistic. There will work, obstacles, challenges ahead and all this is nothing but part of life.

Its good to imagine what you wish to achieve, but also imagine the steps necessary which will help you achieve.

So being optimist is good, but being realistic optimist is what we all should strive for.



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!


This IS the Age of Distraction !

5 Apr

focus, distraction, gtd, timeImage Courtesy – Corbis


Lets say my destination is “writing this blog post”. Now I am not sure about the route which will take me to my destination. My only help at hand is the type of arrow signals which you seen in the above image. The challenging part, there are many such arrows on my way and each one is highly sensitive to wind. A slight breeze and the arrow changes its direction influenced by the breeze. And its one helluva windy day out there. Difficult to reach my destination eh?

Now getting to a real life analogy to the above story, our destination can be any work which is required on a computer or for that matter any work in today’s age in general. The different arrows represent a million things screaming for our attention, be it – blogs, podcasts, various RSS feeds, emails, You Tube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Mobile Phone Calls and Text Messages, TV, etc etc.

Welcome to the age of distraction my fellow companions!

We have everything available on our fingertips, millions of books, equal no. of TV shows and movies, so many goals to achieve, so much to do, so many people to meet or stay in touch. But we have lost the most important thing which enables us to do everything we wish to – Focus!

If I could buy one thing, it would surely be Focus. How life-saving it would be, if we could buy Focus say for 1 hr or  5 hours or 10 hours and so on. We would become so much more efficient, accomplish a lot than now and be in balance at various different fronts of our life.

But unfortunately or fortunately so many things in life are not capitalistic! 🙂

Just like happiness(at-least not the real one), peace, contentment is not sold in stores, so is Focus! To see it differently all the things which is valuable in life such is our mind, our will, our ability to make choices/decisions, our relationships are all free!

When was the last time when you were doing some important work and you got distracted by an email or Twitter or a call or a text msg or a TED Talk some one recommended and then started a cycle for further exploration, further clicking on links and before you realize the main work is yet to be done and a good couple of hours has passed??? Not too long ago right…or rather just sometime back?

There is no doubt Technology/Internet has empowered us, changed the way we live, work and play, but with it has come along many challenges which really test us on how we choose to spend our time and energy and sometimes also money!

Add to that a new beast or a new child(considering how it keeps crying for our attention) in the form of Social Media : multitasking, time management, to-do lists, self-management takes a new meaning all-together!

Whats interesting is that we spend so much time on being distracted yet we don’t seem to mind it or regret it not until later when the realization strikes us that we haven’t done much work today. My observation suggests that Social Media feeds dangerously and effectively on our human nature to be always feel busy, to be always gathering attention, to be involved, to feel attached, to be in the news.

I don’t know about you, but I surely love when I am Re-tweeted, or mentioned or replied to my tweets. or when some one “LIKES” my status,photos on Facebook, or when some one comments on my status/photos, etc. It feels good to be involved in a conversation. It makes me feel wanted, to be in the groove! Though I really hate when I comment on some one else activity and whenever some more people join in, I get notified that so on and so as commented on something you commented on! Duh! As a matter of fact Facebook tried to solve this by having an “unsubscribe” feature, but then apparently the foot-falls of people coming to Facebook dropped considerably(which was expected) and hence Facebook decided to do-away! Its a form of forcing us to accept something, but then what choice do we have!

I would not want to come to a conclusion that all this is bad, just that we need to be more alert, more careful, more disciplined on how we live our everyday lives! Though I am still surprised how few people are not even online at all. No email, no Facebook, nothing! These people truly enjoy the stone-age I guess. Just my opinion and I may be wrong. Its all subjective and relative to an extent!

This should ideally be a different post as to why go online, why go social! (Yes these tools have an immense power to distract us, but at the same time they are also immensely powerful in enabling us to stay in touch with people whom we care about and not only that but also connecting us with people who have accomplished a lot in life and can be inspiring for others. Those people are a mix of celebrities, politicians, sports-person, journalist, opinion-makers, authors, etc etc. Its a flat world now where people are changing from one job to next very fast and with a change of job comes change of location a lot of times. Friend, family are spread out through out the globe and Facebook enables us to be in touch! To be a part of what they are up-to, their photos of celebrations of festivals, if they have a new-born baby, the journey of that baby as he/she grows! Its just fantastic! And all these without being intrusive! Its like gossiping(for the lack of a better term) without actually making an effort to do so!

Imagine I saw a movie or went to a restaurant, and then sent text msgs, emails to people about whether I liked the movie/food or not. Crazy isn’t it? People would wonder whats wrong with me and what the hell am I updating them with all these details of my life! But this is exactly what I am doing constantly and people are chipping in and being a part of the conversation. Some disagree with my movie reviews, some agree, some were looking forward to the movie and my review may change their plans, etc etc!)

So get that to-do lists going and enjoy the online world provided its in balance and that it doesn’t hamper with the more meaningful things like your work-livelihood and your family!

Am keen to hear what you think?



P.S. – It took me a long time to finish this post! Yes distraction was my constant companion!

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