LEARN THE PRODUCTIVITY SECRETS OF TOP PERFORMERS

This guide will teach you how to get unstuck, prioritize and make remarkable progress every single day

3 Immutable Laws of Personal Productivity

3 laws of personal productivity

Three immutable laws of personal productivity

It’s the Diwali Holiday’s and I was completely relaxed, taking a nap this afternoon. There was nothing specific in my mind, yet I was partly awake and partly sleeping. And suddenly, the thought of “three laws of personal productivity” popped up – out of nowhere. The idea became crystal clear in a few moments and I could not stop myself writing this blog.

Why Three Laws of Personal Productivity?

Behind any  phenomenon in the universe, there are underlying principles. For instance, we sitting on the chair right now or taking a walk down the street – is possible due to the Law of Gravity. Similarly, behind peak personal productivity and performance, there are some underlying principles. With only 1/6th of Earth’s gravity, we can’t walk on the moon, in a similar way, it is not possible to reach peak productivity levels without practicing these fundamental laws of productivity.

Here are the three laws of personal productivity:

  1. Putting Things Off From Head
  2. Developing Clarity
  3. Staying Relaxed and Focused

Let’s look into each of these laws and try to get a grip on them:

1. Putting Things Off From your Head

Writing all Stuff down into an external system you trust – be it an idea, a to-do item, a project or something to refer later on, is absolutely fundamental to personal productivity. Your mind is a focusing tool and it can be better used for creative purposes instead of storing an infinitely long list of things going on in your life. The key to store everything in a referencing system is – 1) It should be one single system – either a diary or a computer program or anything you will use often 2) You should review it regularly.

2. Developing Clarity

Most often, our biggest worries and stress comes from lack of clarity. “I missed my flight today, then what do I do next?” Until I have determined what exactly I am going to do about the situation next, that missed flight is not going to get off from my head. This is an extreme example but in our day-today lives, we have numerous small and big things we want to ‘have’ but we have not yet determined what exactly are we going to “Do” about them.

What’s the next precise physical action you are going to do to make progress or close on an open item. This boils down to developing clarity. Until clear next action is defined and written down, your mind is not going to stop bothering about it – taking away your valuable attention unnecessarily. Once you are clear about the next action on something and put that as a reminder, your mind stops thinking about it. You immediately feel relaxed and focused, free to live the moment.

3. Staying Relaxed and Focused

No worthwhile work is possible without a relaxed and focused mind. If we look around, there is more mediocre work than remarkable creation happening in our world. Is it because people are lesser talented? No, the fundamental reason why this is happening is because a majority of us constantly remain under stress and the infinite store of creativity within remains untapped and unused. Working even at a mild level of stress can deprive you of taking right decisions, let alone the the creative genius sitting inside you.

Staying relaxed and focused let’s you respond to situations appropriately, neither under-react, nor over-react. It let’s you produce real results with lesser efforts.

Now that you know the 3 laws of personal productivity – are you ready to start putting them into practice?

Try practicing them and see the remarkable difference it makes in your life…

If you are already practicing them, do share your experience!

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How to Develop a Focused and Relaxed State of Mind

developing relax and focused state of mind

how to develop relaxed and focused state of mind

I am a big fan of Bruce Lee and grew up watching his movies. It was fascinating to see his power packed punches and near perfect round-house kicks. While learning martial arts, I used to imitate him, dreaming to become like him – “some day”. That day never came. But, there is a profound learning from what he did and showed to the world about the power of Relaxation and Focus.

Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax

The more focused and relaxed we are, the better is our experience of life. An ideal state of focused and relaxed mind much resembles still water  – often referred as “mind like water” in GTD system.

What happens when you throw a pebble in a pond of still water? It responds in the exact proportion to the force and mass of the object thrown in it. Neither more, nor less.

In a “mind like water” state, you respond appropriately to the situation in front of you, neither overreact, nor under-react.

You can also learn to be focused and relaxed like a martial artist by following these three practices:

1. Take everything out of your mind

Your mind is a focusing tool, not a storage device to hold the large number of agreements you have made to yourself and others. Such commitments (often referred as “open loops”), take up unnecessary mental energy and attention – no matter how small they are. Unless these “open loops” are handled appropriately, your mind isn’t going to give up bothering you about them .

Here are the steps to handle your “open loops” – 1) Take them out of your head on a piece of paper  2) Determine what it is and the next action to be taken 3) Store them physically in an external system where you can come back to refer. Once you start doing this regularly, your mind will stop bothering you about those open loops. You will immediately experience a relaxed state of mind. More on this here.

2. Organize 

Life is full of uncertainties and staying disorganized adds one more layer to it. To me, being organized means keeping everything going around you in perspective and being fully aware of all the moving parts in your world. An organizing system comprises of – 1. Your projects and associated to-do’s 2. Reference material and inventory of ideas 3. Time specific commitments (calendar) 4. Action items to be done by you 5. Tasks you have delegated to others. Having a clear picture of all these five aspects will allow you to experience relaxation and a sense of control in your life.

3. Meditate

Meditating is like slowing down and cleaning up your mind so that it works optimally. In today’s demanding world, meditation is not optional, it is an important need. Here is a simple method to meditate (There are hundreds of ways to meditate and the one described below is probably the simplest method you can start with):

  1. Choose a quite place where there is minimum noise and zero distraction
  2. Sit down in a relaxed position either on a chair or on the floor
  3. Keep your posture straight and relaxed
  4. Close your eyes
  5. Focus on your breath

As soon as you close your eyes, your mind will start wandering aimlessly . Don’t try to force yourself to focus on breathing. Gradually your internal noise will start settling down and you will become calmer and calmer. Once you make a habit of meditating daily, you will begin to experience a greater sense of relaxation and focus. Start with 5 minutes and gradually increase to 10-15 or 30 minutes. You can learn more on mediation in this excellent book.

These three practices are simple, yet very profound in their impact. It takes only a few minutes everyday to practice them. Once you do, it will open up a new world of productivity  – the one where you are relaxed and focused, every moment.

What are your ideas to develop a relaxed and focused state of mind?

The Art of Elimination: Reduce your workload by 60% and make progress where it really matters

Elimination helps reduce your workload

Elimination helps filter stuff from your list

Most of us juggle everyday with too many things to do on our list. Some activities come by default as a part of our role, some activities are thrown by our boss, spouse or colleague, while some are added simply because we find them interesting.

Result – missed commitments, lousy output, delayed projects and stressful days.

I call it ‘too-much-to-do syndrome’.

Just because a certain to-do item is on your plate, it is not required to be done by yourself or done right away. What’s important is to distinguish and identify things you can defer or delegate to others before doing by yourself. Once you start putting the habit of filtering items from your To-Do list, you will enter into a new zone of productivity.

Elimination frees up your mental space

Imagine days when you have only 3-5 really important things to do versus 20 random things? How do you see yourself doing those few things? You will give your best in doing them. You will accomplish more, minus the stress.

Let’s look at how can you Eliminate things from your list and yet remain totally happy about it.

The Art of Eliminating

Removing stuff from your list is not about cutting corners or taking shortcuts, it’s about making intelligent choices so that you produce optimal results in areas that really matter. Elimination is done by asking yourself three simple questions to every single Project or To-Do Item that you come across. Here are these questions:

  1. Is it worth doing? – Saying Yes or No to a projects or To Do item depends on your goals, available resources and priorities.
  2. Is it worth doing now? – If a Project or To Do item is worth doing, does it have the necessary clarity?
  3. Can someone else do it? – If a Project or To Do item has necessary clarity, can someone else do it?

Let us look into each of these question in some more detail.

1. Is it worth doing?

Every-time you come across a new project or an interesting task, you need to ask yourself these critical questions – Is this project aligned to my goals? Do I have the necessary time and resources to take this activity? Is it realistic to do this task given my existing commitments? Once you answer these questions, you will be able to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to a new task with conviction. Saying No requires courage and real thinking.

2. Is it worth doing now?

If your answer to a certain Project or To Do item is ‘Yes’, you need to ask yourself these questions – Do I have enough clarity on the task? Can I visualize the outcome clearly? If your answer is No, then you can take the necessary steps to develop clarity around it and come back to it later. Postponing things for later helps remove fog and develop clarity.

3. Can someone else do it?

It becomes easy to delegate once you know your key strength and identify activities you can do yourself. To identify your core activities, you need to ask yourself these questions – What are the skills am I really good at? What activities which I know can bring the most revenue to my business or line of work? What activities done by me can bring greatest value?

In my case, I could see that my core activities are – Writing and Connecting. These are the two core areas which I can do the best because of the domain knowledge and expertise I have accumulated. There are lots of other activities such as marketing, design, maintaining blog, book keeping and administration which are non-core and can be done by someone else. Delegating these non-core activities allows me to focus on writing good stuff and solving peoples productivity challenges.

Once you identify your core activity, you could make informed choices about doing things yourself versus delegating them to others.

Here are the golden rules of delegation:

  1. Delegate everything that do not fall into your core activity
  2. Delegate sensibly to the right resource with appropriate follow-up mechanism
  3. Delegate often

Finally…

Eliminating things from your list is a delicate art which you can master gradually by practicing the three questions each time you come across a new task. If you implement the three steps of Elimination really well, you can reduce up to 60% of your work-load. Now you are left with giving your best to the most important things to do – things you really care about accomplishing and making a difference.

Top 16 tips for stress-free productivity and remarkable living

Top 16 tips you can practice one a day

16 tips for productivity and stress free living

I am back from a  long and thrilling 40 days vacation. Living life in tents without luxuries such as bathroom, computers and living room now seems like a rare accomplishment.

I decided to start off writing my first blog post after the long break by putting together a list of my favorite tips on productivity and stress-free living.

Here you go:

  1. Have a purpose – higher than yourself
  2. Create Goals
  3. Make To-Do list
  4. Set your priorities
  5. Do one thing at a time
  6. Treat the first 3 hours of your day like gold
  7. Review your lists at least once a week
  8. Energize yourself
  9. Take a break
  10. Turn off e-mail and phone at least 2 hours a day
  11. Have open dialogue
  12. Express unspoken feelings
  13. Reflect often
  14. Stay calm
  15. Take a deep breath
  16. Celebrate accomplishments

I invite you to break from the norm and do one practice each day – starting from today.

Which practice did you choose today?

How to consume a low information diet and remain super productive

Productivity has a direct relationship with the quantity and quality of information we consume on a daily basis. Knowingly or unknowingly, we spend time in consuming ‘nice to have’ information. Such information is usually very interesting but mostly useless and contributes to the biggest killer of time.

The reason why we keep consuming such information is because we are unmindful about it. If we start distinguishing and skipping the ‘nice to have but useless’ information, we could save a lot of time and mental energy to do really productive stuff. Let us try to distinguish the type of information we consume everyday. The type of information we consume usually falls in one of the three categories below:

  1. Time sensitive information – Project delivery deadline, new customer lead, bills, tax intimation, travel information and many such information pieces are quite critical and requires immediate action. If we do not take prompt action, it could pose a serious threat to our work-ability.
  2. Should have information – Information we use in our projects and main stream work falls into this category. It could be analytics, subject matter books, blogs and useful knowledge that has direct impact on quality of our line of work.
  3. Nice to have information – Breaking news,  friend’s dog giving birth to a puppy, get rich quick schemes, social media gossips, lifestyle magazines –  the list is endless. Such information is usually spicy and interesting but not entirely useful.

The ‘nice to have’ information pose the biggest threat to productivity. Such information if consumed in high degree can cause stress, anxiety, loss of creativity, lack of original thinking, loos of inner peace and feeling of incompetency. Recent studies have shown that facebook can make you unhappy.

The key to being productive is to identify the type of information before consuming it and then take a decision to not consume if it is ‘nice to have’ information.   You can do this by making a conscious effort. The easiest way to do this is by asking three simple questions to yourself:

  1. Is this information relevant to my line of work?
  2. What will I loose if I don’t consume this information right now?
  3. Can I live without this information?

If you start practicing these three questions and really honor your answer, your mind will get a lot of open space to create something remarkable. By consuming a low information diet, you may experience a lot of inner peace, freedom and being at ease with yourself.

What do you want to be? Information-hoalic or a creative superstar?

Do you strike a perfect productivity chord?

guitarMany people I have met try to improve productivity by making radical changes in their lifestyle and work patterns. Though, it is an ideal way to transform personal productivity, it doesn’t always seem to work.  If you are failing to improve your productivity inspite of all your radical efforts, it’s time to look at this totally simple yet very effective idea – Identifying your perfect productivity chord.

Think of productivity akin to tuning a musical instrument. Being an ardent fan of Indian classical music, I have seen that musician matches the right frequency and pitch of her instrument before playing it. Similarly. there is a way for us to identify our own mental frequency and pitch which can produce optimal output – I call it the ‘perfect productivity chord’.

Your perfect productive mood is when you can be 200% focused on your task and really put up solid stuff in a short amount of time.  You are ‘in-the-zone’.

So how do you find out your prefect productive chord?

The key to find out your prefect productivity chord is to discover what triggers it and then leverage it. Here are some pointers you can use to identify and strike your perfect productivity chord:

  1. Some Event – Something as simple as calling your best friend, victory of your favorite soccer team or even reading an article of your favorite author
  2. Some Topic – A subject in which you get elevated to talk about. Could be your favorite movie star or a great new gear you are looking to buy
  3. Some Time – Periods of time when you simply get excited to do the real work. For me it’s early mornings, for some it’s late night or very early mornings
  4. Some Place – I get instantly inspired when I am in open surrounded by natural beauty. I am writing this blog while sitting out in the open.

The list could go even longer. I hope you got the idea to get started in finding your perfect productivity chord.

I am keen to hear back about your prefect productivity chord. What did you discover?

The Productivity Practice of Staying Organized

Why Organize?

Work no longer has clearly defined boundaries. Organizing the constant inflow of information is a challenge many of us face today. If you don’t know how exactly you will store and use the information coming to you, you may become the victim of information (reactive behavior) or you may not be able to use it altogether, which could mean missing out on that big business deal or an important idea you thought while taking bath. 

In simple terms, organizing is about storing information such that you can find it at the right time at the right place in the right context. If you can’t find the stuff you are looking for in less than 60 seconds, you are not organized.  

Let’s get started and master the art of staying organized.

Organizing like a Pro

In the first practice, you collected every single piece of information in your physical or psychological world. Now you are going to process and organize it. Any kind of information fall into two broad categories:

  1. Actionable Stuff – You can do something this information such as writing an email, researching on your holiday destination, making a phone call or starting a project.
  2. Reference Stuff – Things in which no action is required but it is useful for future use. This could be statistics, reference content, design, links to websites and lot more.

Once you know the category of information, you can organize it further.

Let us deal with the Reference material first.

You can store all your reference material in a common location or a folder in your computer. I use Evernote to store all my reference material under a notebook called ‘References’. Evernote has this awesome capability to store just about any type of information in the form of a note.

You can probably do something similar using Dropbox or Google drive but there is no reason not to use Evernote. Use appropriate Notes (if you are using Evernote), folder structure or tags as needed. But keep it simple.

The next information category is ‘The Actionable items’. This can be further organized into two types:

  1. Projects: Anything that requires more than 2 action steps to complete is a Project.  A project therefore is a collection of actionable items necessary to achieve a specific outcome. It could be as big as restructuring your organization or as small as seeing your dentist.
  2. The “Next Action”: These are physical, visible actions you can take. Examples – Making a phone call, searching on internet, creating a document, brainstorming, writing notes, meeting someone.

Make two separate lists – one for all your “Projects” and another for all your “Next Actions”. Here is how you will organize your projects and next actions:

  1. Break down each project into a set of actionable steps – it represents a list of “Next Actions” entered in logical or linear fashion. You can track each project and corresponding to-do items within this list.
  2. There are some actionable items which needs to be done on a specific date or specific time(e.g. seeing a doctor on Friday) – add those To-Do items to your calendar and set a reminder.
  3. Many items in your list will fall into ‘Someday/Maybe’ category. These are your dream projects – a cool new idea you want to try out or a hobby you want to pursue, but you don’t have time right now. Get them inside your ‘Someday/Maybe’ list. Eventually some of it will mature and some of it will go away.
  4. Now you will be left with two major pieces of information. ‘To-do’ items which belong to a project and random ‘To-do’ items such as household chores, making phone calls or taking your kid for the music class. You can Prioritize these items appropriately and take actions.
  5. Another important consideration is “To-Do” items you can delegate to others. You can actually put all To-Do items which are important to get done by you have delegated to others in a separate “Follow up” list. You can refer to this list regularly to follow-up with others on tasks assigned to them.

To sum it up

Organizing your information into Reference and Actions is the key to being productive. A clear distinction between Project and a To-do item is really important to understand. If you treat your Project as a To-do item, it will look like an unclear task and it may never get done. Remember the golden rule – Project is not actionable, To-do item is actionable.

Practice Assignment

Back to the fun part – Your Assignment. (I know you hate em’) but I love the assignment as much as I love you. So here you go:

Step 1: Download Evernote and spend some time getting used to it

Step 2: Capture Everything in Evernote:

From the first practice, you have formed the habit of capturing every piece of information somewhere physically – on paper or in computer (If you have not done it, do that first). Create a notebook in Evernote called ‘Incoming’ and collect all your incoming stuff in there. Evernote can capture E-mails, photos, web urls, videos, voice memos, to-do lists and so on… Freakin’ awesome!

Step 3: Create 2 other notebooks in Evernote as below:

  1. References
  2. Projects

Step 4: From your Incoming notebook, copy all Non-actionable notes into References Notebook you just created in Evernote.

Step 5: Inside the Projects Notebook (created in step 3) create two notes as below:

  1. All Projects
  2. Someday/may be

Step 6: Transfer the all Actionable Information from your ‘Incoming’ folder as below:

  1. Copy all your projects and corresponding tasks in the ‘All Projects’ note
  2. Copy all your Someday/may be tasks or projects in the ‘Someday/may’ be note

Step 7: (Is’t there)Relax and have fun!

Keep practicing organizing this way on a daily basis until it becomes your second nature. Mastering productivity is a skill and you need to install this habit to master it. 

8 Must Ask Questions to Evaluate your Productivity

Determine your current productivity level by asking yourself 8 simple questions

asking yourself key productivity questions

Improving your productivity can have far reaching impact on your quality of life. Any kind of improvement can begin with knowing where we stand. This article will help you identify where you stand so that you can determine the next step with confidence.

I want you ask yourself some important questions to find out where do you stand in your productivity barometer. Here are 8 simple yet life changing questions I want you to answer. I promise that answering these questions will give you lots insights + there is a free take away waiting for you at the end of the article.

Here are the questions:

  1. Are your daily activities aligned to your larger goals?
  2. Do you feel you are on the right track to reach your goals?
  3. Do you maintain a delicate work-life balance?
  4. Are you living a life that you want?
  5. Do you feel that you are spending your time on the ‘right things’?
  6. Do you juggle between conflicting priorities?
  7. Do you have too many things on your mind?
  8. Is your life chaotic?

For questions 1 to 5 – If your answer is ‘No’, for at least ONE questions, then you need help with developing clarity and focus.

For questions 6 to 8 – If you are answer is ‘Yes’ for at least ONE questions, then you need help with developing your ability to organize and prioritize

Here is the bonus take away:

For a limited period, I am offering a free personal productivity assessmentFill out this form and answer a few simple questions. I will send you an interesting assessment of your productivity and some useful guidelines tailored for you. Totally personalized and free.

Here is the link to get you started….

Productivity Practice #2 – Identify your key Goals

Mind mapping to get clarity on your key Goals

Mind mapping allows you develop clarity around your key Goals

Every single day, we do a lot things, even then, many items gets pushed further in favor of others. What makes some actions important while other actions lesser important? The answer is – Goals.  A majority of successful people have a razor sharp focus on their key Goals. The trick is to select the right Goals worthy of your maximum attention. I recommend mind mapping to identify your key Goals. Here is how you can do that:

  1. Create a mind-map of your life like the illustration shown.  Different aspects of your life branching out
  2. Rank each Goal with a Satisfaction Score – Put a Satisfaction score with each Goal like this: ‘1’ – Fully satisfied, ‘2’ – moderately satisfied, ‘3’ – not satisfied.
  3. Now look at the items you have ranked ‘2’ and ‘3’ – you need to do something about those items
  4. Take these items and exactly determine what would it take to make that area become ‘1’

Here is an example to make it a little more clear – Suppose your area of Finance has a score of ‘3’, meaning you are not satisfied with that area. The first step is to identify what exactly in Finance that’s not working? Is it income, savings or something else? Exactly determined the objective and the end result which will make that area turn into ‘fully satisfied’. Likewise, write your all your Goals on a piece of paper. Here are are the guidelines to write your Goals:

  1. Write your Goal in present tense. The subconscious mind understands the language of ‘present’.
  2. Your Goal should begin with ‘I’
  3. The Goal should have a specific date
  4. Your Goal should be Affirmative. So, instead of writing – ‘I leave my job’, you can write – ‘I will be professionally independent’

Here are some examples of Goals using the above Guidelines:

  1. I am professionally independent by December 31st 2013
  2. I own a new house by March 31st 2013
  3. I start a new business by November 30th 2013

Goals written in this way makes your subconscious mind believe in them. The sheer belief of your subconscious mind will generate extraordinary actions. Write as many Goals as you can realistically achieve and stick those Goals around your workstation so that you keep getting reminded about them. Keep the number of Goals limited to what you can accomplish in the next one year. Create a Goal Chart or Calendar and stick it in front of your workstation. Also, it is a good habit to review, assess and update your Goals as things change.

You have just identified your Big Rocks. Now, it is going to be a lot more easier to take day today decisions on your actions items. We’ll take a deeper dive into the Action domain in the next practice.

The Ultimate Guide to stress-free Productivity and Remarkable Living

In the past few months, I kept looking for the answer of one simple question – “How do I live a life of purpose and values while remaining productive and stress-free?.  While looking for the answers, I garnered lots of wisdom, practices and insight partly by learning, partly experimenting and implementing some key principles.

While my productivity and quality of life has risen manyfold it was not an easy journey. To save all your time and effort in finding the right answers, I decided to put up a rather long compilation covering the 6 key practices I have learned after hundreds of hours of study and reflection. 

This article may take a few minutes to read, so get yourself focussed on doing one thing at a time, which is – reading this article.

Tip: While you are reading this article, take out pen & paper and challenge yourself in putting at least one practice to use. 

1. Find your Self Compass

The Self Compass is the fancy word I use for Self Awareness. Self-awareness is often mis-understood under the titles of spirituality, religious practices or meditation. It’s really not the case. Here is the definition of Self-awareness on Wikipedia:

Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals.

Why do you exist?

Find your inclination and connect it with something useful for people

One of the biggest challenges of our times is the lack of understanding of our own abilities and inclination. Many of us struggle, not because we do not have a talent but because there is a gross lack of “awareness” of it. We struggle because we go in directions given by our past constraints and perceptions, which often lead us to the wrong places.

So the first step in living a highly productive and remarkable life is identifying your passion and inclination. 

The easiest way to develop Self-awareness is to ask yourself questions that instigate self inquiryHere are some possible questions you can ask yourself: 

What are the core values of my life?What kind of things inspires me?If I had 10 million dollars in my bank account and only 10 years to live, what would I do? What kind of dreams did I see in my childhood? 

Here are 4 simple rules to develop Self-awareness:

  1. Do it Alone – Don’t ask Other’s about Your “Self”
  2. Don’t Judge – Do not judge yourself. Self awareness is just being “aware” of yourself and not to come to certain conclusion
  3. Write until you feel free – Capture resulting thoughts on a piece of paper. Write everything and read it. You can do this several times until you experience freedom.
  4. Don’t be in hurry – Don’t do it as if this is just another task. This is the most valuable time you can ever spend. Do it when you are not in a hurry and you have at least an hour to spare.

Once you become Self Aware, your ability to take actions will dramatically increase because you have a good sense of direction – you are guided by your Self Compass. I found this step to be the hardest one because it requires rigor and courage. If you get past this phase, rest of the journey an be much more pleasant.

2. Develop Clarity and Focus

As the soil, however rich it may be, cannot be productive without cultivation, so the mind without culture can never produce good fruit – Seneca

clear and focussed mind is the source of powerful actions. In his remarkable book, Kamal Sharma explains how one can maintain the Focus of a warrior and Peace of a monk by practicing silence and stillness. Here is a simple yet powerful analogy described in his book to develop clarity and focus:

Clear mind is the source of powerful actions

Practice calmness and stillness to develop clear mind

Imagine your mind like a glass full of water mixed with mud. You cannot see through the glass because the water is dark and muddy. If the glass of water is steered all the time, the mud in the water will never settle down and you will never be able to see through the water. However, if you kept that glass still for sometime, the mud will settle down and in just a couple of hours, entire mud will be settled at the bottom and the water will be clear. You can see through the glass again.

Just like the mud in the glass of water analogy, our mind is full of ‘thoughts’. Conflicting situations, changing priorities, peer pressure, family matters, relationship issues and a lot more. Our mind is racing at 160 miles an hour, pumping thoughts like a formula one car on a freeway. This is the dynamic state of mind, we call it – mud mixed with water. You do have the ability to slow it down and separate the mud from water.

Here is a simple way to develop clarity and focus in your mind:

Sit down and relax, close your eyes and stay calm for 30 minutes. You will notice that all your thoughts will begin settling down gradually. At the end of this exercise, your mind will be clear like water in the glass with mud settled down. You can clearly see though all available options because your mind has the space needed to think clearly. According to a research, decisions taken by a calm and peaceful mind are usually the right ones than the decisions taken in a hurry or in a state of chaos.

If you practice stillness and silence even for 10  minutes daily, it will have a remarkable impact on your Clarity and Focus.

3. Organize and Prioritize

The biggest job of a knowledge worker is to identify his job

Prioritize your goals, projects and tasks with rigour

We often get stressed due to  multiple priorities, projects and deadlines. There is just a lot going on and we can’t handle it all. As a result, we experience a gross lack of perspective and control in our lives. The simplest way to eliminate this clutter is by organizing and prioritizing. It might take one hour or four hours (depending on the clutter in your life) but in the end, you will be much more relaxed and focussed.

Write down everything you need to get done on a piece of paper. Capture everything that comes to your mind, small tasks, big tasks, long term goals, short terms goals, immediate actions – everything. Classify everything you have written down into 3 categories – Goals, Projects and Tasks. Here is a short guide to help you distinguish between Goal, Task and Project:

Let us imagine that you are planning to go on a Vacation. In this case, here is how your Goals, Projects and Tasks might look like:

  1. Goal: Going on a Vacation
  2. Project: Book Tickets
  3. Tasks: 1)Research destination, 2)Look into calendar for dates, 3)Call up Agent to book tickets

Goals are generally your broad definition of a major objective or accomplishments. Projects are the resultant activities emerging out of your Goals. While Tasks are the actual “action” items you can do physically at any point of time. Making a call, writing a document, searching on Google are all tasks. While projects are items which entail multiple steps or tasks.

Look at your list and classify each item by the category it belongs to. Write ‘G’ near the item which is Goal, write ‘P’ near the item which is Project and ‘T’ near the item which is a Task. Next, identify the most important priorities out of these. What goals or projects will free you up the most? What are the most burning items which when taken care of will relieve you or make you feel great?

Once you identify your top priorities, a lot of less important things will just go away. Now you have razor sharp focus on doing the most important things first and then handle the rest.

4. Visualize Outcomes

Visualize outcome to produce results

Visualizing outcome maximizes the probably of intended outcome

Identifying and articulating clearly defined outcomes makes a whole lot of difference in accomplishing your projects and goals. Our brain has the natural ability to visualize outcome. This has been nicely articulated in David Allen’s GTD system. Here is an excerpt:

Suppose you are out for  a dinner.  What initially caused you to think about doing it? – was that to satisfy hunger, socialize with friends, celebrate a special occasion or sign a business deal. As soon as any of these turn into a real inclination, you have a clear intention. Your intention was your purpose. The next immediate thing you will think about is the ambience, quality of food and service, affordability, convenience and comfort. These were your principles that guided your purpose of going for dinner. And as soon as you have your purpose and principles in place, you probably also imagined some positive picture of what you might experience or how the evening would turn out – may be the people involved, the atmosphere and/or the outcome. That was your outcome visioning.

You need to follow these three steps to visualize your outcome:

  1. Identify the purpose
  2. Define the principles
  3. Visualize the outcome

Outcome visioning is a way to vividly visualize and experience the end result which is consistent with the success of a project or goal. For all your goals and projects, you must visualize your outcomes clearly and vividly. Clearly visualizing your outcome will give you the energy and motivation to accomplish it. It will bring greater certainty to the result.

Take your outcome and put it in physical existence around you. You can create a chart in front of your desk which captures your outcome in the form of a slogan or visual. The more your brain is exposed to “visualizing” the outcome, the more power it will generate to accomplish it.

5. Consume Low Information Diet

Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. – Albert Einstein

low information diet

Reduce the amount of information you consume each day

In a world flooding with free information, we have started consuming it more than we can digest. What was the last newspaper article that you found to be useful in your area of influence?

Every information that you consume has to be processed, stored and indexed by the brain. Your brain is working tirelessly (almost uselessly) to process the huge inflow of information from TV, Internet, Social media and other sources. Too much information creates information sickness and alienate you from real life.

In his book 4 Hours work week, Tim Ferris has nicely articulated the principle of “low information diet” to produce optimum output. Start practicing low information diet.  Stop surfing endlessly for the hot deal or the latest new gadget. Keep yourself focussed to the minimum information you need. You can discipline yourself by promising to spend at max 30 minutes surfing the web and 30 minutes reading blogs. Follow the ritual of one book at a time and keep your reading limited to most important topics related to your area.

6. Reflect and Refine

Living a life of purpose and stress-free productivity is akin to learning an art. You keep reflecting and refining yourself as you climb up each stair. With constantly moving parts we need to constantly learn and maneuver along the course.

Reflect and refine your moves as you learn

The difference between a good maneuvering and bad maneuvering lies in ReflectionReflecting on your experiences brings Wisdom. Nothing is more valuable than the Wisdom you develop for yourself. Here is how you can do it:

On a typical day or at least once a week, look at what worked in your life, what did not work and what you can learn. Look for things which gives you energy and try to do them more. Reflecting upon your experiences will make you wiser and allow you to make smarter choices.

You have the insight, the practices and the skills to use them. You have a gift. I want you to Poke the box and start a practice. Right now!

What did you choose to do? What’s the purpose of your life?

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