In My Hands Today…

Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything – B.J. Fogg

The world’s leading expert on habit formation shows how you can have a happier, healthier life: by starting small.

When it comes to change, tiny is mighty. Start with two pushups a day, not a two-hour workout; or five deep breaths each morning rather than an hour of meditation. In Tiny Habits, B.J. Fogg brings his experience coaching more than 40,000 people to help you lose weight, de-stress, sleep better, or achieve any goal of your choice. You just need Fogg’s behavior formula: make it easy, make it fit your life, and make it rewarding. Whenever you get in your car, take one yoga breath. Smile. Whenever you get in bed, turn off your phone. Give yourself a high five.

Change can be easy—once it starts, it grows. Let B.J. Fogg show you exactly how.

Productivity Hacks for the New Year

As we start preparing for the new year, a common resolution is to be more productive and I am always on the lookout for productivity hacks that I can use.

Productivity is more than doing more things or ticking tasks off your to-do list. Productivity means only focusing on accomplishing important things. It is the ratio between the output of goods and services and the input of resources consumed in the process of production. Productivity is the ratio between the output of wealth and the input of resources used in production processes.

The ability to be productive is one of the critical determinants of professional success and personal happiness. Those who can consistently produce good quality output at a sustainable rate can advance in work and life. Being productive boosts morale and creates excellence.

Personal productivity impacts the quality and quantity of results produced. Thus, it’s crucial to improve productivity because higher levels of productivity translate to a better personal and professional life and allows to achieve much more in a given period. Being productive can help one prioritise tasks, manage time and resources efficiently, and frees up time for more rewarding activities.

So in no particular order, here are some of my favourite productivity hacks and some which are new to me and that I plan to use next year.

Plan Ahead: One of the best tools for being productive is to plan, be it a day, a week, a month, or even a year. I prefer to do a very broad plan for the year and refine it as I plan for a month and week and then a detailed plan for a day. I like to use Trello and create to-lists with cards per week. Within that card, I plan my week which helps me. The best part is ticking off a task which gives one a sense of satisfaction. A good schedule allows one to note down all tasks and not miss anything important. This also allows you to focus on what is important and should be completed first before focusing on the next important task. It would also help to note the tasks in the order of importance and start the day with the most important task, followed by the next and so on.

Break Down Goals: Any goal when broken down into its parts becomes easier to achieve. If a task is large or something that does not seem easily achievable, then when it is broken down into easily achievable parts, as each part gets ticked off, it becomes easier to accomplish and checking them off makes you feel you are in sight of the goal and seeing the progress also shows you are doing something to get to the end.

Don’t Obsess with Emails: A big drag on productivity is checking emails and other messages as soon as you hear the ding. Research shows that when people were limited to checking their email just three times per day, their stress levels decreased significantly. Those who limited their email checking also felt that they were more able to complete their most important work and felt a greater sense of accomplishment at work.

Learn to Say No: It is hard to say no, especially when the request comes from someone who has authority over you but saying no shifts the way our brain thinks and reacts to situations, allowing us more ability to make decisions for ourselves which affects our mental health. Saying no helps to prioritise leading to new opportunities that wouldn’t have been achievable by saying yes at the same time setting boundaries.

Use Website Blockers: This is something I started doing a few months back and it is a godsend when I am focusing on something. Website blockers help us stop popping over to distracting and unnecessary websites that stop us from being productive.

The Two-Minute Rule: When you start your day, there will be numerous small tasks that crop up. The rule of thumb is should be this – if a task can be completed in two minutes or less, do it and get on with your other tasks, otherwise, add the task to your To-Do list and do it later.

Group Similar Tasks: Batch similar tasks so you can complete them with the same frame of mind. This will make your work process flow smoothly and help you do more in less time.

Avoid Multitasking: I am guilty of this, as I am sure many of you reading this post. Though it may be tempting to do two or more things simultaneously, multitasking does more harm than good. Research shows that about 98% of people are less productive when they multitask as they are not focusing on a single task. Our brains cannot perform multiple tasks at the same time and in moments where we think we’re multitasking, we’re likely just switching quickly from task to task. Focusing on a single task is a much more effective approach.

Start the Day with either a Tough or Easy Task: This is a tough one and a personal hack. The way one starts the day dictates the flow of the rest of the day. You can either start by doing the most demanding task first, so everything else feels more effortless, or do the easiest thing first to gain valuable momentum. When the easiest tasks are completed first, ticking some items off the To-Do list is a good boost to the rest of the day. On the other hand, when a difficult task is finished first, it takes a huge load off your shoulders and the rest of the day becomes easier without the task hanging over your head.

Take Regular Breaks: Breaks are very important to be productive. Breaks give the mind a much-needed chance to recover from intense focus, prevent decision fatigue, relieve stress, increase creativity and help improve memory and focus. Learning to meditate during a mental break helps to relax the mind and body.

Use the Pomodoro Technique: A great technique to boost productivity is the Pomodoro technique which is tomato in Italian. Here, one works in short bursts for say 25 minutes and then takes a 5-minute break. This is one Pomodoro. After four pomodoros, take a longer, more restorative 15-30 minute break. This technique works because the human mind can concentrate on the same thing for a short span. I prefer to work for 50 minutes and take a 10-minute break, but you could use any time frame that works for you.

Work Near Natural Light: This is a simple but potent productivity hack. Working near natural light improves sleep quality, improves mental health, helps in the circadian rhythm, and physically improves Vitamin D levels in the body which is essential for several core bodily functions, including regulating the immune system, maintaining body weight, and ensuring healthy cognitive function.
A simple productivity hack is to create your workspace near natural light. Exposure to sunlight is believed to improve sleep, thereby contributing to your well-being and productivity levels.

Detach from Work after you are Done: Once you finish work for the day, detach from it and if possible, mute email and phone notifications until the next morning. This allows you to return the next morning with a fresh mind and perspective. If you can, separate your workspace from your personal space and this is even more important when you work from home.

Schedule Time for Self-Care: To be productive daily, self-care is essential. Self-care activities allow us to recharge ourselves to prevent burnout. Self-care can be anything that helps us relax and unwind. Reading, watching television, a relaxing bedtime ritual, a 10-minute walk, meditating, painting, or anything else.

What’s your favourite productivity hack? If I have missed any that you swear by, please share them so all of us can benefit from it.

In My Hands Today…

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown

Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin?
Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized?
Are you often busy but not productive?
Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas?

If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is the Way of the EssentialistThe Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done. It is not a time management strategy or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.

By forcing us to apply a more selective criterion for what is Essential, the disciplined pursuit of less empowers us to reclaim control of our own choices about where to spend our precious time and energy – instead of giving others the implicit permission to choose for us.

Essentialism is not one more thing – it’s a whole new way of doing everything. A must-read for any leader, manager, or individual who wants to learn who to do less, but better, in every area of their lives, Essentialism is a movement whose time has come.

In My Hands Today…

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World – Cal Newport

One of the most valuable skills in our economy is becoming increasingly rare. If you master this skill, you’ll achieve extraordinary results.

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep-spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there’s a better way.

In Deep Work, author and professor Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four “rules,” for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.

A mix of cultural criticism and actionable advice, Deep Work takes the reader on a journey through memorable stories-from Carl Jung building a stone tower in the woods to focus his mind, to a social media pioneer buying a round-trip business class ticket to Tokyo to write a book free from distraction in the air-and no-nonsense advice, such as the claim that most serious professionals should quit social media and that you should practice being bored. Deep Work is an indispensable guide to anyone seeking focused success in a distracted world.

In My Hands Today…

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World – Cal Newport

Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital minimalism applies this idea to our personal technology. It’s the key to living a focused life in an increasingly noisy world.

In this timely and enlightening book, the bestselling author of Deep Work introduces a philosophy for technology use that has already improved countless lives.

Digital minimalists are all around us. They’re the calm, happy people who can hold long conversations without furtive glances at their phones. They can get lost in a good book, a woodworking project, or a leisurely morning run. They can have fun with friends and family without the obsessive urge to document the experience. They stay informed about the news of the day, but don’t feel overwhelmed by it. They don’t experience “fear of missing out” because they already know which activities provide them meaning and satisfaction.

Now, Newport gives us a name for this quiet movement, and makes a persuasive case for its urgency in our tech-saturated world. Common sense tips, like turning off notifications, or occasional rituals like observing a digital sabbath, don’t go far enough in helping us take back control of our technological lives, and attempts to unplug completely are complicated by the demands of family, friends and work. What we need instead is a thoughtful method to decide what tools to use, for what purposes, and under what conditions.

Drawing on a diverse array of real-life examples, from Amish farmers to harried parents to Silicon Valley programmers, Newport identifies the common practices of digital minimalists and the ideas that underpin them. He shows how digital minimalists are rethinking their relationship to social media, rediscovering the pleasures of the offline world, and reconnecting with their inner selves through regular periods of solitude. He then shares strategies for integrating these practices into your life, starting with a thirty-day “digital declutter” process that has already helped thousands feel less overwhelmed and more in control.

Technology is intrinsically neither good nor bad. The key is using it to support your goals and values, rather than letting it use you. This book shows the way.