The Big Action Challenge Report Card: A Paradigm Shifter

I had blogged about ‘The Big Action Challenge’ 3 or so weeks ago. This was thanks to a newsletter from Robin Sharma suggesting 17 steps to double my productivity.
Here below is a detailed report card on how I did –
(Click to enlarge)
Now, the toughest part of this was the ‘Wake up at 5am’. In truth, 5am became 530am but this in itself was a paradigm shifter. I have been an ‘owl’ all through my life – ever since my 8th grade in school, my only life saver during exams was the night prior to the exam. During university, I learnt that the last minute doesn’t quite work so well. And now, I am learning that waking up in the morning is quite something else!
As I’ve mentioned in the card, I’ve managed it 3 out of 5 days every week i.e. 60% conversion rate which is not bad. Could it be better? Absolutely. The positives to take away are that I’m gradually getting into the habit of sleeping at 10pm or before. And I plan to improve this in time.
The benefits have been the positive –
– My mind is full of great ideas in the morning and running about and exercising gives me more time with them!
– Nothing like starting the day with exercise. Traveling to work feels great!
– A little bit of Caffeine is good for the brain. And now I generally start my day with a morning coffee. Never drank coffee previously..
– I get to work on my blog etc before getting to work..
– The days are MUCH more productive.
For evidence, here is a look at the week’s scores from my R15 system
Week 65: M, T and T are 5am days
Week 66: M, W, F are 5am days
Week 67: Vacation!
Week 68: M, T are 5am days. And I can bet today’s score will be higher than the 17.5 I made yesterday.
(This is aside from the fact I raised my daily target from 16 points-18points – which already felt like quite a stretch!)
This exercise has been a real paradigm shifter and I am looking forward to keeping it for life. Let’s see how it goes!
Stay inspired. And have a great Friday!
Update here: I was right. Today WAS super productive. The score would be ’24’ – a clear winner!

Sport shoes enroute to-and-from work

Thanks to a tennis class near work and my new early morning routine , I ended up wearing sport shoes to work, changing into my formal shoes and then changing back before going home. This way, I didn’t have to carry an extra pair of shoes every once in a while. (All great inventions arise out of lethargy and laziness after all)
The big realization here is that this has turned out to be very positive. Here’s why –
1. My route to work involves a fair amount of walking, some climbing stairs etc and my hard leather formal shoes are not meant for extensive walking on roads
2. After a while, formal shoes tend to tire the legs while sports shoes do the opposite.
3. I feel like I’m going to play! And I can feel my soles bouncing off the ground thanks to the nature of the shoes..
I thought this was pretty cool. It is not without downsides however. I had a couple of friends wonder if it is okay to wear tennis shoes to work. But I’ve decided to keep this little quirk as it has added quite some positivity. And, of course, I wouldn’t feel normal if I didn’t share it here..

2000: Remembering the Why and Saying Thank You

Well well. As it is often said, ‘who would’ve thunk?’ :)
This blog has now been up for 1136 days since May 12, 2008 or 3 years, 1 month and 10 days. For the geeks, that translates to 1.76 posts a day – an average no doubt helped greatly by 475 odd ‘Good Morning Quotes’.
And what a journey it has been. I vaguely remember my post celebrating 1000 and I think I would like to celebrate this moment in similar vein.
In typical style, 3 things then –
1. Remembering my 1st post

Here it is –

A learning a day..

The name says it all – Its just what the blog is intended to be. To help me re live some of those meaningful learnings. Hopefully, I will be able to keep up writing one a day.

(PS: I tend to have weirdly long days sometimes resulting in the next day being understandable short(36 hrs and then sleep through the next for example). So, the definition of day can be a bit..well.. shaky..

(PPS: That’s just me making excuses! Hoping to make it happen..)

Haha. Well, for one – my writing style has evolved.
2. Why does this blog exist?
I think the 1st post explains the purpose very clearly. The idea was/is simple – every day of this wonderful life is a journey worth remembering because we learn something every single day. Of course, the learnings may not really be all that apparent but they exist all the same. We just have to look carefully.
Why did I then not just choose to keep a journal?
For one, it feels a lot better celebrating a moment like this with you. I also a believe in the ‘Butterfly effect’. One action of ours often has a ripple effect and this blog only reinforces that.
Who knows? Someday, a learning from this blog might lift a dejected soul, save a life, inspire someone who is searching for meaning, help someone on their way to a goal, give someone a reason to smile when they have none.
Besides, I also feel there is great power in sharing your stories. Aside from the fact that others can learn from your successes and failures, it also helps you. These learnings are reinforced a lot stronger.
Sharing my learnings with you also reminds me to ‘practice what I preach’. There would be no point in sharing these learnings and not living them.
3. Giving Thanks
It is time for the ‘A Learning a Day’ Oscars again. I had a short list on my 1,000 post. I am not going to bother with the list this time. Those were the days of 10-15 readers a day – often just family and friends and a rare visitor who stumbled onto the page.
Now, it is the norm to have around a 100 visitors a day aside from those who read it via email, Google Reader and the like. Still very small but the beauty of it has been the organic growth and I can feel the momentum building as the quality of the posts get better. (I am working on it!)
So, thank you to all who read this blog from time to time. It is very nice knowing that you find something of value that brings you back here. Thanks to all those who like the blog on Facebook, follow the blog via Google’s follow widget, subscribe via email or via RSS on your various readers.
A special thank you to those who take time to comment and like the posts. It makes a HUGE difference. Thank you for taking the time to touch my life! It is only since I started blogging that I have been active on other blogs. It sometimes takes a bit of blogging experience to know how much a simple response to a post can mean..
Of course, a note to all those friends, family, mentors, colleagues who inspire me every day. Thank you. None of this would be possible with you..
And finally, to all who read this – stay inspired, happy and let’s keep learning and growing every day.
Quoting from a birthday card I received last year

‘We’re never older, Only better’

All the best!
Yours Sincerely,

Bad Mistake

I am 2 posts away from 2,000 blog posts (!!) and I am begin to wonder if it has stayed true to its purpose.
One of the biggest reasons for it’s existence is to not fear mistakes but ensure creative, constructive and corrective responses to those. This morning, I made a bad mistake – for the 1st time in 3 years, my Monday Learning email was repeated!
Essentially, the content was repeated. One part of me felt completely annoyed at myself at the moment I realized. But, after some thought, I’ve realized there are a bunch of positives –
1. I realize how many people really read the emails ;)
2. A little bit of reinforcement is helpful at times – so I hope the story strikes a positive chord
3. It is an opportunity to better strengthen my system. Seems like my repository system is not working as well as it should. 99.9% is not good enough.
4. I should listen to myself. There was a niggling feeling last night as I prepared the email that I might have sent it. But then, I chose to ignore it..
5. And finally, I had this blog to thank. Now, as I was soul searching about whether it had stayed true to it’s purpose, I realize it has. I screwed up. I hope not to overly disappoint those who receive the email!
All that said, that’s that. And now it is time for response. And respond I will.
Here’s to failing forward and building better systems!

3 Simple GTD Ideas and a Tip for Better Meetings

A close someone just replied to my productivity book learning asking for a few tips on how to act on the David Allen suggestions with an additional question – How do I better manage taking notes during meetings?

Principle 1: Never leave ideas in your head.

Situation: Situations where we get ideas are in the shower, in the car, while walking around and doing meaningless tasks / tasks that don’t require thoughts.
Solution: Use something that you carry around all the time. Some people carry notebooks.. i prefer just writing them on my phone. Every phone these days has a ‘Notes’ feature – you can keep putting these ideas in and email them to yourself so you know you will never forget. This generally eliminates a LOT of stress. These ideas could be anything – a simpler way to solve bank payment for example – just putting it down helps greatly.
What’s also important is you keep an idea collection ‘bin’ somewhere. When you email all these ideas, try and put them all in one place (instead of processing them all at once) so you can collect them and your brain knows it is there safe. When you have time to plan, you can plan accordingly.
I use Microsoft OneNote as my bin and would recommend it above all else (yes, even Evernote)
Principle 2: Always decide 1 action step
Solution: Simple – just pen down the ideas with the action step. Eg: Clean room versus room has to be cleaned

Principle 3: Group admin tasks
Solution: Once you have a working bin (I use a file on the computer – a close friend uses a notebook), you can plan stuff on a Sunday morning. Then, you can start combining all admin tasks for a single day – instead of doing them one at a time.

Problem: How can I take comprehensive meeting notes?

Best Practice: I learnt this from my senior consultant on project over the past 2 months. Every time we had a meeting, he had his email window open where he took down all meeting notes. As soon as the meeting was over, he emailed it to everybody to check if he had the correct points. This accomplished 2 things – proved he was listening and also reminded everyone of actions they promised. Besides, if there was a misunderstanding, it was corrected early.

If the meeting was face to face, he diligently took notes and first thing as soon as he got out, sent everyone a follow up email with action steps.
These are simple ideas which make huge differences over the long run. All the best. And do suggest ideas that make you more productive!