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Personal Growth Productivity Hacks

Grow Faster By Helping Your Boss to Make Decisions

You might be frustrated with your boss not replying to your emails where you asked him or her for a decision. You always believe that you would have been able to do your job perfectly, if your boss would have given timely answers to your questions.  

In short, you’re frustrated with a boss not willing to take decisions and it’s a common scenario hindering the growth of many promising individuals like yourself.   

Let me be blunt and tell you that you’re partially responsible for this situation. Hear me out. 

Decision making is not easy. It drains you of your mental energies. Psychologists have named this phenomenon as decision fatigue. Moreover, not all individuals are wired to be good and quick decision makers. So how to help your boss in better decision making?

Make it easy for your boss. Make it simple for him/ her to make a quick and good decision. 

Imagine you asking him a single line question (say on email), like “Can we implement a customer support software in our organization?”

And the answer never comes. You get frustrated. 

But when you think of it deeply, you’ve put the onus of all the hard work on him or her. Better approach is to give him or her all the information needed to make a good decision.

To Help in Better Decision Making

Follow the C-A-O approach.

The information you give should define the Context, that is what’s the current scenario and why do you want certain decision to be made.

Share the various Alternatives which are available as per your understanding of the situation. Do your background work well before laying out options.

Layout the possible Outcomes of implementing each alternative. Try to give impact of the alternatives in measurable terms like cost saving or revenue increase or man-days saved and so on.

In conclusion of that email or talk, present the case (very briefly) for the best alternative in your opinion. That will nudge your boss to take the decision as per your wish.

So, if you help you boss make quick decisions, you make his life easy plus add value to the organization by making things faster and smarter. So go ahead and help your boss. And see happy growth in your career!

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Personal Growth

Seek Clarity for Success at Work

Today I am sharing with you one Mantra that helped me a lot in my work life. Something which can make your work life interesting, fulfilling and stress-free. It’s a 2 word mantra –  

SEEK CLARITY

I believe most of the people struggle in their work life not because they are lazy or they lack intent or they lack capabilities or intellect. They struggle because they don’t have clarity with respect to their work. 

Think of this like, you got out of your home ready to travel but you don’t know where to go. You’ve no clarity on the destination. You have to go nowhere. And you will reach nowhere. That’s your work life. Maybe that’s your personal life too. 

If that’s you – Don’t be scared. Don’t feel guilty. But you gotta do something. What?

Simple, seek clarity

You should have clarity on

  1. Clarity of Purpose – Why?
  2. Clarity of Responsibility – Who?
  3. Clarity of Plan – How?

Seek clarity from yourself. From others around you. From your boss, your colleagues and so on. 

Don’t hesitate to ask questions – about your work, your KRA, the value you’re adding to the organization, about your growth and so on. 

Everyday morning, you should start with a dedicated 10 minutes “clarity seeking time”. Plan your day out. Set daily goals like I will finish coding this module today. I will make 80 calls today. I will write 3 articles today. And so on. 

Trust me, if you do this you will be moving in the right direction and with less stress. 

So be a clarity seeker from today! All the best!

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Personal Growth

Let Things Go

I believe the sunk cost fallacy is the most common bias infesting a large portion of the human race. We know that it leads to poor investments, unfulfilling career and taxing relationships. But we are not good at cutting our losses and moving forward.

Wastage is Bad?

The reason for this is the contradictory belief inculcated in us since childhood that – We should not waste anything. Wastage is bad behavior.

Thus even if we get to know that we have made a not-so-good decision with our career or investment or project, etc., it’s difficult for us to abandon and move on. It feels like we’ll be wasting the time or money invested in it so far. So we keep investing more & thus losing more.

Because of our loss aversion and tendency of valuing what we own more than their actual worth, we fail to let go of a bad investment or a not-so-rewarding job or project.

The solution is to ask the question, if I’ve to do it afresh, will I do it? If NO is the answer, then just get out of it.

Winners don’t Quit?

Another myth which has been ingrained deeply in our conscience is – Winners don’t Quit. 

This statement is a very powerful motivator to generate conscientiousness. But it’s an over simplified truth. In fact, winners quit all the time. Yes, they don’t quit because they don’t work, they quit when the project doesn’t work as they expected. They know how to cut losses. 

To win a big war you have to let go of the urge of winning every battle. We need to choose our battles wisely. If by mistake we get into a wrong battle, we need to turn away and choose to look into a better direction. 

Hard Work Pays Off?

The most common teaching across all cultures is Hard work pays off. No doubt it does. But to whom? And How much? 

What it also does is, create a strong urge of constantly keeping oneself busy to avoid the guilt of not working hard enough. This in turn leads to shallow work which drains out our energy and leads to no growth. We feel stretched in a thousand directions with negligible progress in any. Better path to productivity is being very selective in what we do. Do less, do better. Learn to say no to all things which are not fitting into your bigger purpose. 

Sometimes you have to let things go so there’s room for better things to come into your life.

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Personal Growth

Being Happy is Being Successful

There’s enough scientific evidence that being happy brings success. This is contrary to our deep rooted beliefs and actions.

We have been hardwired to believe that being successful precedes being happy. Well-being in our life can only come after we are successful. The way societies and education systems are structured post industrial revolution across the globe, we work and study hard to achieve success. More often than not, this style of living is coupled with stress, anxiety and other negative emotions. These emotions are opposite of how happiness can be defined. 

Definition of Happiness

Happiness is the experience of frequent positive emotions, such as joy, interest, and pride, and infrequent (though not absent) negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety, and anger. 

The above definition is given by Sonja Lyubomirsky and her colleagues in their study on The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?

I feel the definition could have been a little broader to include a sense of belongingness and having a purpose in life. However, for our purpose this is good enough.

Another crucial point to note is that the amount of time spent being happy is far more important than the intensity of the feeling of happiness. 

What brings happiness?

There have been multiple philosophies on what factors contribute to our happiness. At times these are even contradictory to each other. For your academic understanding you might like to delve deeper in some of the important ones like Epicurean Happiness and Stoic Happiness Triangle

A Harvard study on adult development found that the quality of our social relationships is the most important factor influencing our long term happiness. 

There are many other factors which influence an individual’s happiness. However, I particularly like the 50-10-40 formula of happiness given by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky. According to this 50% of our happiness can be attributed to our genes, 10% to our circumstances and 40% to our attitude, optimism or our internal state of mind.  The numbers might not be accurate but it gives us a very important clue that we can control a considerable part of our happiness. Being happy can also be the result of very simple things in your life like learning trivial stuff regularly.

How does happiness result in success?

When you’re high-spirited you’re better prepared to handle work pressure and the resultant stress. This positively impacts your productivity and creativity.  

Secondly, when you’re perceived as a good-humored and radiant individual, you become socially more attractive. Thus you develop stronger bonds with other people in the organization because of the agreeableness. 

A cheerful individual, low on neuroticism will be emotionally more stable and thus more resilient in tough times and difficult situations.  

All the above factors result in personal success in the long term for any individual. 

Pursuit of happiness can be counter-productive. 

When our mind gets the signal that we are pursuing happiness, the first conclusion it makes is, we are not currently happy and we are trying to be happy. This exercise of trying to be happy will rarely be effective. 

A more effective way is to make ‘being happy’ as our default setting. By default I mean, the feeling you are in when you’re not encountering any other emotion like sadness or anger or guilt or sexually aroused. You’re just comfortable in your own skin. In short, if your default is being grumpy or tense or depressed, you should intentionally come back to being happy.  

As human beings, we are complex and we are capable of having a myriad cocktail of emotions at different times and at same time also. We should not try to suppress any feelings, whether good or bad. Being aware and acknowledging how you feel now, makes you better off in the long run.

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Personal Growth

How Learning Trivial Stuff Can Help in Overall Learning

Our brain likes novelty and variety. The more we get exposed to new experiences, it will reward you by working more efficiently on the complicated stuff which you need to do in your work life. We will explore how we can use this principle for double advantage in our life – learning trivial stuff and thus being more prepared to learn more complicated stuff.

Most of our modern world addictions like social media or video games are designed around this behavior. In our hyper-distracted and hyper-connected world, the new experiences or the novel stimuli can come from various sources like playing video games, social media feeds, dating applications, watching movies and so on. In his bestseller book titled Hooked, author Nir Eyal reveals how successful companies create products people can’t resist by exploiting our love for novelty and variety. It’s a must read if you wish to build irresistible products.  

Novelty can also come from meeting new people, travelling, age old adventures like trekking, hiking, camping, diving and so on. Most importantly the urge of novelty can be satisfied by regularly learning new things.     

Get Novelty by Learning New Things

Learning simple new things keeps our mind stimulated and energized. Its impact on the brain is similar to what light exercise has on our body. In both cases we become better prepared for more challenging tasks ahead. 

There is a “novelty center” (scientific name being substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area or SN/VTA) of the brain, which responds to novel stimuli. This area is closely linked to areas of the brain called the hippocampus and the amygdala, both of which play large roles in learning and memory. You can read in detail about Novelty and the Brain here. 

Knowledge Illusion

Knowledge Illusion prevents us from genuinely being open to new learning. The collective knowledge of humans has increased beyond all limits. As a human race, we know so much more than our ancestors about everything from the expanse of our universe to the immense power of the smallest atom. 

However at an individual level we seem to be going backwards. Our ancestors, right from the hunter gatherers to the more recent ones, knew so much more about basic survival skills which helped them sail through their life. Progress in technology has made our life easier and we don’t have to learn doing many chores which were essential a few centuries back. 

Personally we understand too little about the technology being used all around us. We wrongly believe the collective knowledge as our own knowledge and we never make an effort to learn trivial stuff like cooking or stitching. If you wish to delve deeper into this concept you can read the book titled – The Knowledge Illusion: The myth of individual thought and the power of collective wisdom by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach. 

I’m not saying that these activities are crucial in our kind of hyper-served times. What I’m saying is, the advantage of frequently learning new and simple stuff goes beyond the obvious.  

What to Learn? 

For the purpose of using learning to satisfy the urge of novelty, we should keep it restricted to intellectually less demanding stuff. If we start learning complicated stuff, which is equivalent to heavy weight lifting for our brain, it can prove counterproductive. Our will power and our capacity to concentrate are limited and these also deplete very fast. Thus keeping our learning light and fun, will serve the desired purpose of enrich ing our mind with what it needs – novelty and giving us back what we need – more brain power for complicated stuff we need to tackle in our professional life.   

We can start developing basic skills in the most ubiquitous technology around us like electric equipment, computers, automobiles and so on. This will give us more power in case of emergencies. 

There are some slightly advanced skills like cooking or knitting or driving or swimming, which can be tackled in small chunks everyday. Cook one item a week, take driving lessons every alternate day and so on. Take it easy. Don’t start more than one learning at a time. Once you’re comfortable with one, take up another. Go low on the earlier one and high on the new one. However, if you feel like mastering any stuff which you picked up, it moves out of our consideration for this purpose. It becomes part of your more intellectually or physically demanding learning regime. 

Other Advantages of Learning Trivial Stuff

In the process of learning new simple stuff, Who knows you might be developing new and interesting hobbies like doodling, cooking, pottery, gardening and many more. 

Trivial, intellectually less demanding stuff gives you a much needed break from monotony of daily life

You’re better equipped to handle emergencies at home or outside like fixing a fan to fixing a car. Learning first-aid techniques, home-remedies, CPR, handling of fire equipment and similar other easy to garner skills can help you fight emergencies and save yourself and people around you.  

You’re better prepared to live life on your own if you know basic survival skills like cooking, driving, story-telling and so on.  

The most obvious place to start with is being more focused, being more interested in things around. Be inquisitive. Be a learner.

Categories
Personal Growth

Writing Daily Journal – A Powerful Habit

Consciousness in our action (and our inaction) infuses vitality and meaning into our life. 

Everyday writing daily journal provides an opportunity to ponder upon the day gone or the day to come. It also shows a mirror to the subdued consciousness with which certain days are spent.  

In our context we will restrict writing to the daily habit of journaling your thoughts. I prefer my writings to be in a physical diary but you can have a digital equivalent of it. It might sound common sense, but going date wise will create a better experience. Going back in the past will be easier and more relevant that way.

Why Writing Daily Journal is Important?

There are various benefits of writing. Without any claim of being exhaustive, I will try to list a few for you to think about. 

It makes you conscious

The days come and the days go. Since we hardly spend any time reflecting upon the life we are living, it goes on unconsciously. Writing can become an exercise to awaken your mind, awaken your thought process, awaken your consciousness. At least for the time you write you become calm and mindful. I would say almost meditative, which brings internal stillness, which is must for any meaningful contribution to the world.

It improves your memory

If you’ve to record something, you will have to recall it. When you become regular with writing daily journal, the day gone by will flash in front of you. Don’t worry if that doesn’t happen on the day you start writing because eventually it is bound to happen. Moreover, when you have written something, it will be sketched in your memory for future.

It makes you a visual thinker  

A little effort towards improving how you write can introduce you to the concepts of visual thinking like mind maps, storyboards, doodling, story-telling and more! It makes your writing more descriptive and vibrant. 

It makes you self-aware

There is an extremely popular adage, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Writing daily journal gives you that measuring tool in your life. This makes you contemplate on how effective or how productive you were in the day gone by. It’s the first step towards improving yourself.    

It helps in habit forming

If you’re committed to self-growth you will have to dabble with lots of growth strategies, daily routines and rituals like exercising, reading, networking, getting your daily dose of motivation and so on. By writing daily journal about what habits you’re trying to inculcate in your life or by simply mentioning what repetitive tasks you did today, you’re committing to its continuity and recording its progress too. Thus the chances of the habit getting permanent improves substantially. If you wish to learn the art and science of habit forming, I highly recommend Atomic Habits by James Clear

It chronicles your growth  

It also journals the progress of your intellectual faculties. Over a period of time you will be able to analyse where you were going wrong or what was the piece of understanding which was missing at a particular point of time in the past. Journaling daily gives you a factual written chronological account of your growth as an individual. 

What to Write?

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

Louis L’Amour 

Regularly penning down thoughts creates a priceless repository of content which depicts your relationships, your state of mind on a particular day, your struggles, your excitements, your commitments and your failures. 

So just sit everyday, preferably at a set time and write. With time you will know what you wish to write. For beginners let me suggest a few ideas from which you can pick one or more for any specific day –

  • List short-term and long-term goals
  • Thoughts which are bugging you
  • The realizations you had
  • Delve deeper into the powerful thought you had
  • Reflect on your accomplishments
  • Things you’re curious about
  • List your passion projects
  • Important actions to be taken
  • Make a gratitude list & count your blessings
  • Draw mind-maps or doodles
  • What new did you learn
  • What you want to pursue tomorrow
  • The self-commitments 
  • Your bucket list

This list can go on. Most important thing is to start and to continue. Things will fall in place eventually. 

What can go wrong? 

When you try to follow a rigid daily writing routine, there are chances of slip ups. This has a detrimental effect on our motivation. Our brain gets the signal that our plan to write everyday is not succeeding and thus it’s a bad plan. Our brain has this tendency of reducing motivation towards all flawed plans.   

The chances of habit formation goes up significantly when our brain is convinced about the goal you’re trying to pursue and the plan you have to execute it. Thus in place of a long term rigid schedule, you may go with short term (like a week) flexible scheduling for your writing. Timing of the day doesn’t matter, how much you write doesn’t matter. What matters the most is you write something everyday. 

Where to start?

Get hold of a physical diary where you can start writing daily journal. Writing with pen on a paper has scientific benefits for your memory.

Ideally you should write on today’s date page. The writing will be restricted to 1 leaf because of space constraint, which is in a way good, because you know where to stop. However, if you feel the urge of writing more, you can insert a loose leaf or probably take the topic out from your diary to a blog or another notebook for capturing random thoughts.