First things first

It has been more than a week since I moved my running/walking to evenings. And it has not worked out well. I used to be a lot more regular in the mornings. On thinking about it, here is why.

By deciding to go for running on any evening, I become heavily dependent on how my day goes. If I get done with work on time, and if I am energetic and in good mood by the end of the day, and if I don’t have any errands to run, and if I am not hungry by the time I get home, I can go for a walk or run around the block. You see the problem? If any of these conditions are not favorable, I skip my workout for the day.

On the other hand, in the mornings, the only condition for a jog is that I get up early, and that’s it. Even if the day turns out to be as hectic as it can be, I already get my daily dose of exercise before it gets busy.

Actually, this attitude holds true for any important task or project. If you have multiple things on your to-do list, pick up the most important ones and complete them first. For example, at work, try to complete the most important task at hand before even checking your email. You never know if you will get another chance of taking a look at it again that day.

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Make appointments with yourself

I wrote on how to create and maintain a successful to-do list and planning your day here. But regardless of careful planning and well-intentioned focus, interruptions do happen and we get distracted by various events during the day. Here is something that worked for me to make it easier to avoid getting sucked away from important projects by these distractions.

“Treat your busy times like an important appointment with boss or a client. And keep the appointment. It will keep bothersome interruptions from getting in the way of your work.” — The Book of Good Habits by Dirk Mathison

Creating a successful Todo list

There are a multitude of websites, books and systems dedicated to getting things done via lists. After trying out various tricks and strategies, I believe that the following will make a todo list work for anyone:

1. Have a hierarchy of tasks – life goals -> projects towards them -> tasks.
2. Have one master list to put every task on it.
3. Thoroughly review the list at least once a week and update everything created under #1 in this weekly review.
4. Aggressively remove items from your list, or make them top priority, if they stay too long in the list.
5. Have a system to schedule future tasks, a calander or tickler file, so you cannot forget them.
6. Copy completed work into an accomplished list. Review this list weekly to know your style and preference of working on projects. You will also feel good to see progress or get cautioned about lack of it.

And here is the most important tip.

Plan your day. Sit down every morning and take ten minutes to write a list of things (from your overall task list) you would like to accomplish. These few minutes can save a couple of hours (or more) of needless effort during the day. Keeping this list in front of you will also keep you focussed throughout the day on what is important and will help you prioritize when you get bogged down by interruptions and distractions.

Always do it with enthusiasm

In the corporate world, or even at home, if you HAVE to end up peforming some task or on a project regardless of how you feel about it, then try doing it cheerfully and with enthusiasm. Doing something while complaining about it at the same time is a no-win situation. If you are not successful, then the result may be linked to you not wanting it to do in the first place, no matter how hard you tried. And even if you accomplish in completing the task successfully, it may still leave a bad feeling around because you worked at it with a sad face all the time. Doing it with enthusiasm, on the other hand, has its own benefits:

1. Sucesss will be linked to your enthusiasm, zeal and spirit.

2. You will establish your image as someone who simply gets things done.

3. You may end up completing it sooner than planned, because you so much wanted to get rid of it.

4. You may start liking what you are doing along the way and maybe the work was not bad at all to begin with.

5. You will have the leverage of showing preference for working on more interesting stuff soon after you get done.

In the corporate world, the general rule is that you get to work on bigger and better things only when you demonstrate success at what you are doing right now.

Live for yourself

How many times do we perform actions because of other people? It happens so often that for some, living for others becomes a nature and a way of life. Here are some examples:

1. You cannot go and attend a pottery or dance class because you fear what would people start thinking about you if you do.
2. You have to buy that new plasma TV because the Sanders family just got one.
3. You have to watch the latest movies because if you don’t, you are not cool in others’ eyes.
4. You cannot forgive people for their actions because they should be made to realize what they have done to you.

The list can go on and on and almost every person can identify with at least one of those. At times, it starts to feel like a chain tied around your ankles and wrists that prevents you from doing things that you do (or should not do, in some cases). Not just that, keeping up with this state of mind is an uphill task, because the more people you interact with, more will be the variety of their expectations and judgements about you. You end up practically being a slave of others.

There is definitely a way out, and it may not seem easy at first. Stop and think again when you face any of the above-mentioned situations. Ask yourself: “How much does this matter to me? Is it more important for me to save for my kids’ education or should I spend on the plasma TV only to keep up with others?” If you really want to keep with others, you can try giving your kids a chance to be better than those of Sanders by offering your kids better education. Decide what is really worth your hard-earned money.

If someone (not your near and dear one) hurts you, ask yourself: “how much does this person matter to me?” You have so many things to occupy your mind with and projects to undertake for yourself, family and friends that you cannot keep thinking about the situation in the back of your mind. Deal with it, immediately. Either forgive or forget. You have things to do and you want to move on.

If you want to attend something fun such as a pottery or Latin dance class, stop worrying about what others will think. Instead ask how you would feel about yourself once you get done with it? Will you feel good? Will you be impressed by yourself?

People will think about your actions only for a moment because they too have a life of their own. But if all they do is talk about you amongst themselves to judge you, then they are not worth your concern. Either way, there is no reason to live for “people”. Live for your family, for your real friends, and most importantly, for yourself.

Ideal career

A quick thought about an ideal career led to the following characteristics (not necessarily in that order):

* Reputation
* Esteemed
* Power
* Impactful
* Definite career path
* Money
* Stable
* Secure
* Balanced family life
* Reasonable travel
* No forced location transfers
* In control
* Unique
* Motivated every day
* High quality of work
* Ability to help others

It should also provide the following:

* Increase incoming revenue
* Enhance knowledge in various fields and capacities
* Develop progressive learning experience

How about you? What does an ideal career bring up in your mind?

Hare and tortoise

We all know about the story of hare and tortoise. Yesterday I was thinking about an analogy in the corporate world. Lets say you got recognized for your hard work this past year by upper management. Everyone in the group is admiring you for the achievement. At that point, you can leverage your position of advantage in two opposite ways:

1. Rest on your laurels and keep doing the same tasks. It can lead to either you becoming easy-going at what you have been doing (because suddenly you think you are better than what you were a day ago), and/or it can lead to others catching up on you (and very soon they will..it is just a matter of time in this corporate rat race) and one day you will again become part of the crowd. Your name may get a mention in corporate circles or parties as someone who once got recognized for the hard work. Management will shower favors upon you for some time, but those will eventually stop.

2. Use your position at this point to demand greater responsibility (but not necessarily more work) so that you get another opportunity to prove yourself, and it could even be in a different area of work than what you do at present. This will eventually lead to your own professional growth and will continue enhancing your positive reputation.

It is obvious to consciously choose #2.

Be clear in your speech

Just came from an all-hands meeting of my group, where senior management spoke about the revenue, expectations and the direction in which we are heading. One aspect of their talk was noticeable. No matter how casual they were at times, none of them ever uttered crutch words such as “umm”, “aah”, “so”, “you know” and “like”.

Toastmasters speeches focus on avoiding such words, but the impact in real world is far greater. The speakers seemed to have clarity in their thoughts, and made everyone believe in what they were saying.

It is an important aspect of how effective leaders and managers speak…not just in their talks, lectures and speeches but even in their day-to-day conversations.

This too shall pass away

When you feel bad about something, could be anything…your state of life at present, the parking ticket you just got, that the cat dropped milk on the floor you just cleaned or that your wife is getting mad on you for no valid reason…say this in your mind…”This Too Shall Pass Away.”

Nothing related to you in this world is permanent: yourself, your feelings, your posessions…everything changes or fades away with time. Knowing in the moment that any bad feeling or situation is temporary and is not going to last forever will give perspective to the situation at hand and will generate positive train of thoughts.

I learned this from a parable of Akbar and Birbal.

Never leave an argument in anger

Arguments always come up between two (or more) people close to each other in a family and one of them can turn into heated ones. One may feel tempted to simply walk away from it in rage, which is not the right way to end an argument for the following reasons:

1. After going away, both parties keep thinking about the argument, which is a waste of time and mental energy. It may also lead to unnecessary escalation of more enfuriating thoughts and incorrect assumptions.

2. Life is improbable in terms of events. It is possible, even if remote, that this could be the last meeting between the two. In case of such an event, a person will end up repenting his/her action of getting unnecessarily angry but it will be too late by then.

3. If one person does not get enough chance to speak his/her side of the argument before the other walks away, he/she will feel insulted, which adds to the issue already at hand.

It is therefore always better to resolve the issue then and there before walking away, unless both parties “agree” that the issue is complex enough to contemplate for some time before meeting again. But in such cases, it is important that the agreement is mutual.

Walking away in anger and shutting the door behind you is not an intelligent option.