Sunday, 15 September 2019

Brain Dump - Declogging a Cluttered Mind


Why don't we achieve as much as we want to, and are capable of, inspite of all the (mythical) multitasking that we do ? 

                 ........ FOCUS happens to be the single most important factor responsible for our inability to achieve to our potential  !

Now, let me ask whether you have any idea about the human attention span ?

Well, at present it stands at about 8 seconds and is bound to decrease further if the consumption of technology keeps increasing at this pace. In fact, a goldfish has a better attention span than humans.

So, in the midst of all this technology permeation and information overload, where do we,humans, stand ?  For humans, it's not really easy to survive this onslaught of information overdose and is bound to impact them adversely. We, humans, are already subject to many unconscious bias that lead to irrational thinking and decision-making (Related ArticleCognitive Biases - Braving The Brain Barriers and this information overload just adds to the existing problem. There is a direct impact our mental health and productivity.

Research says that we,humans, get about 50,000 thoughts per day and about 70% of these are negative and about 90% of these are repetitive. These thoughts could be anything ranging from fear, worries, ideas, chores, goals, aspirations, and so on. Our brain is definitely going to get clogged with so many thoughts and cloud our thinking and action.

Another fact about brain states that our body sends about 11 million bit of information per second for processing to the brain but the brain only processes about 40-50 bits of information per second in a conscious way.

Amidst the potential of human brain, the biggest challenge that gets posed to humans is how to derive sense from this barrage of thoughts and bring some meaning to our life, in terms of achieving our goals and accomplishing our dreams. This asks for a solution that could help us lay out the chaos happening in our brain (the thoughts) in front of us and then identify which one we need to focus on.

Let me share with you about an extremely simple tool/ technique that could help us turn this commotion into clarity. This tool is "Brain Dump". Lets dig deep and understand more about this tool

Definition and Background of Brain Dump

Brain Dump is a tool/ technique that helps us put down all our thoughts (random and specific) outside our brain (head used interchangeably) onto some other storage media, which can be physical or
digital. Another simple definition could be to perceive brain dump as transfer of knowledge/ information from our brain to some storage media. Even literally, the term "brain dump" refers to copying the (contents of ) brain to a different location, to protect against loss.

The term "brain dump" was popularised by David Allen , the Productivity Guru, in his book Getting Things Done


Need for Brain Dump

There's so much worth to all that we contain in our brain. The thoughts in our brain could very well be some unique idea, our aspirations, ambitions, goals, solutions to a difficult problem (talking only about the positive thoughts). For lack of an opportunity to pay attention to them and focus on them, we lose out on bringing them to fruition and/ or actualising them . "Brain Dump" is that opportunity to make things happen. Most importantly, brain dump helps us overcome the feeling of overwhelmingness and puts us in a state of better control of things pertaining to our life. Simply put, our thoughts create our destiny and if the brain is cluttered with too many thoughts, it only blocks us from realising our goals.

Leaving the thoughts unaddressed could put us under tremendous mental stress and may lead to frustration, anxiety, mood swings, depression and many similar issues.

There are tremendous benefits of brain dump. Some of the key ones include 
  • Clarity about next steps
  • In better Control of things
  • Results is Peace of Mind and makes more Calm and Relaxed
  • Makes us more Organised 
  • Allows us to be Creative in trying out new ideas and generating better solutions 
  • Manage Time Better 
  • Be more Relaxed and Stress Free   
  • Become more Focused to pay attention to the relevant
  • Get more Productive 
  • Helps in Decluttering and filtering out the irrelevant
  • Helps in Planning better 
Food for Thought - Remember, the writer's block syndrome ? Brain Dump could definitely be a means to help us step out of the block when the mind is struggling to put structure to words. 


How to do Brain Dump

Firstly, how do we identify that we need a brain dump ? Well, when the mind feels heavy and thinking appears cloudy is an indication that we need a brain dump to move it our of our head and lay it in front of us. 

Doing brain dump is quite easy and can be done in the following way 
  • Grab a pen and paper or open the note taking or word processing digital app or tool.  
  • Sit undisturbed for 20-30 min (we may alter the time based on our need - it could be less or more than the specified time). In case we decide to do it longer, we can take a short 5 min break in between
  • Write down everything that comes to the mind. It could be thoughts, feelings, errands, reminders, goals,dreams, fears, doubts, problems, solutions, aspirations, to-do, projects, etc. 
  • And there, we have the brain dump nicely laid in front of us
  • Now, we may use this dump for categorising the items, prioritising them for action (this step is not part of the brain dump process but an extension of it )

Features of Brain Dump
  • It needs minimal structure
  • It's free flowing in nature 
  • It does not expect us to be perfect in what we write
  • We may do the brain dump on a plain sheet or paper, or on some journal or any piece of stationery of our choice. Few of the types that you could buy are  Amazon Classic Notebook , Factor Notes Dotted Bullet , Doodle Adventure of the Mind Notebook
  • It's an anytime, anywhere activity and all it needs is some dedicated time.
  • Based on the need, it can be done at any time 
  • Based on the need, it can be done as many times  
  • It's personal in nature 
  • Initially, Brain Dump could be done an a demand/ ad-hoc basis but later it could be built within our daily routine, maybe twice a day - 1. before going to sleep, and 2. after waking up, as first thing in the morning.

Precautions during Brain Dump
  • Start brain dump simple and easy
  • Don't think too much during the activity. Simply, let the thoughts flow
  • Just write and write whatever comes to the mind
  • Don't be judgemental about what we write
  • Don't do it as a family, team or group activity. Remember, our thoughts are our own.
  • Don't bother if what you have written doesn't make sense. Eventually, it will  :)
  • Don't jump to categorising items before putting in down on some storage (paper sheet or digital tool)
  • You may use black or coloured pen/ pencils for brain dump but ensure that whatever we dump is legible
There are plenty of templates for brain dump available on the internet. Here's link to one of the simplest Brain Dump Template. Some of the digital tools we can use for brain dump are Google Docs, Evernote and any tool with a voice memo feature.

You may find more interesting Brain Dump journals here Brain Dump Journal

N.B. - The images used in this post/ article have been sourced from the internet. 

The post also contains some affiliate links and i may earn some commission for my endorsement, testimonial, and/ or link to any product or service from this post  


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Tuesday, 10 September 2019

SMART Goal-Setting (and Goal-Getting)


Goals ? Seriously !
Do we really need them at all in our life ?

Isn't that how many many of us feel about the importance/ relevance of goals in our life ? So many of us live with this notion that life is all action and we can do without goals. Aren't there so many of us who are continuously running without any sight of finish line ! And little do we bother about the destination till life stares us in our face and asks us this - What are you working towards ?

We spend so many precious years of our life, doing something(maybe many things) but achieving nothing (or little). We are living our life in "busyness" but without "business" (Related Post: BUSYNESS : The Utopian Paradox). Without goal(s), our life is like a "rocking chair", which when set in motion, keeps moving to and fro, but doesn't reach anywhere. 
 
Is it justified that we expend our life in working, without knowing what and why of it ? Goals are what brings purpose to our lives and satisfaction to our efforts. The sense of achievement and accomplishment guide our growth and makes our lives meaningful. The sooner we realise the importance of goals in our life, the sooner we will make something worth of our lives.

Let me share why all this talk about goals. It's for the simple reason that goal-setting can't be talked about in isolation, without a reference to goal(s) and goal-setting. Whenever we talk about goals, we need to talk about it from 2 perspective which are, 1. as an entity(noun) and 2. as a process(verb). 

Once we have a clarity about our goal(s), it's time to ensure that we establish it in the right manner and this is where the productivity tool comes into the picture. The tool i want to discuss about is perhaps the most popular and powerful tool for the purpose (of proper goal-setting). The tool is SMART and is an acronym that stands for Smart (S), Measurable (M), Attainable (A), Relevant (R) and Timely (T).


History and Background of SMART

George T. Doran, a consultant and a former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company,  is credited with using the SMART term for the first time in 1981, in his paper for the November issue of the Management Review. The paper was titled "There's a SMART way to write management goals and objectives".   

The initial research on the subject of goal-setting was done in 1960s and in 1968, Dr. Edwin A. Locke published his Goal Setting Theory to establish/ study the link between goal-setting and performance in organisations. The five principles of Locke's Goal-Setting Theory are as follow :
  • Clarity - the goal should be specific and clear
  • Challenge - the goal shouldn't be too easily achievable and should be such to stretch the person to some extent
  • Commitment - the goal should have the buy-in of the stakeholders, right from the beginning/ start
  • Feedback - regular and consistent feedback ensures the goal is on track
  • Task Complexity - breaking the bigger goal into small and easily manageable and achievable pieces

Elements of SMART

Let's delve deep into the 5 elements of the SMART goal-setting tool
  • S - Specific : This element deals with clarity about the outcome, objective and actions. 
  • M - Measurable : This element deals with measuring the progress towards accomplishment of the established (specific) goal.
  • A - Attainable : This element deals with the resources (skill, knowledge, competency, etc.) needed to accomplish the goal. This is where SWOT analysis could help (Related post: SWOT Matrix : Know Yourself First
  • R - Relevant : This element deals with determining the alignment of the goal with the overall bigger goal or purpose of life.
  • T - Timely/ Time-Bound : This element deals with the timelines/ deadlines/ target dates associated with the goal.

How to create SMART goals ?

Making use of few prompts or asking ourselves relevant questions could help us immensely in creating an effective goal. Let's look at the questions and prompts that could help us
  • Specific
    • Why do i want to achieve this goal ? (This also is the motivation for pursuing the goal) ?
    • What is it that i want to accomplish via this goal ? (making the outcome as specific as possible and going in as much detail as possible would help) ?
    • Who all are involved (stakeholders) in the goal ? This is where we need to be clear whether the goal can be achieved through individual effort or other's support/ help is also required ?
    • Few optional ones could be 
      • When is the goal to be focused upon ? This is relevant if "time frame" is a concern
      • Where is the goal to be pursued ? This is relevant if "location" is a concern
  • Measurable
    • What tangible metrics or methods can be used to measure progress ?
    • What are the identified milestones for measuring the progress ?
    • What information should be measured ?
    • Which "data sources" and "information collection methods" can be used ?
    • Which of the two measurement methods - qualitative or quantitative would be most effective for the purpose ?
  • Attainable 
    • What are my strengths ?
    • What are my weaknesses ?
    • What resources are needed to accomplish the goal ?
    • What competency needs to be focused upon ?
  •  Relevant
    • What is my purpose in life ?
    • Which big goal" am i trying to accomplish ?
    • How accomplishing this particular goal help towards achieving the "big goal" ?
  • Timely
    • How much time is available ?
    • How much time is needed for each of the identified mini-goals ?
Please note that the above questions are neither mandatory, nor comprehensive. They are just suggestive and you may make use of any other prompts/ questions for the purpose.


Tips for SMART goal-setting
  • Spend sufficient time in gaining clarity about your purpose/ passion in life. A small exercise that could help you in this is as follows -  "Sit in a quiet, comfortable place and position, away from distraction and close your eyes. Now, imagine yourself in future, a few years ahead (3 years/ 5 years) and notice yourself. Note how do you see yourself, in terms of work you are doing, environment you are working in, people you are surrounded with. Start refining the details as much as you can." Practising this consistently would sharpen the image and you would clearer about your passion, about what excites you, about what lies in your subconscious. 
  • Don't work on too many goals at a time. Identifying 1-2 goals is preferable and feasible
  • If the goal is big, break it into easily manageable mini-goals
  • Use rationality and not emotion to choose the goal to work on 
  • Ensure that the goal you select aligns with your overall purpose/ passion
  • Wherever possible, merge mini-goals is they are aimed at achieving the same outcome.
  • Try identifying the MIG (Most Important Goals), maybe 1 or 2. The easiest way to identify MIGs is to look for goals that will have the maximum impact on your life which means achieving those goals would build positive momentum in your life and have positive impact on other areas of your life too.

A bit about Goal -Getting

A set goal is only as good as on paper. There's a tendency to fall in "comfort zone" after setting the goal. Relevant, timely ACTIONS is what will enable us to accomplish the the goals. One of the effective strategies (that i ,also, personally use) is Reverse Planning or Backward Goal-Setting . This is where we start with the end-goal in mind and then work our way backwards. 

Another strategy is to work towards milestones, which comprises of achieving mini-goals. This way, we can control getting overwhelmed about the enormity of the goal and can plan to take mini-steps. Celebrating achieving the mini-goals add to the confidence and takes us closer to our main goal. (Related Post: The Art of Achieving Goals


Ending Note 

Remember, the process of goal accomplishment has 3 key stages, as mentioned below and as covered by me in this post. Just reiterating and summarising in a sentence the role of each the 3 stages below:

1. Understanding and Awareness about GOALS - This is the "WHY" of the process

2. Identifying and Setting the GOALS - This is the "WHAT" of the process. (I would cover the tool under this section)

3. Achieving the GOALS - This is the "HOW" of the process

In a nutshell, Goal-Getting to Goal-Setting is all about covering the WHY, WHAT and HOW of the Goals  !

Plenty of templates for SMART Goal-Setting at http://templatelab.com/smart-goals/

N.B. - The images used in this post/ article have been sourced from the internet


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Saturday, 7 September 2019

SWOT Matrix : Know Yourself First


Productivity Tool/ Technique : SWOT Matrix/ Framework

Let me begin with a short story (please note that the characters are fictitious):

Ramesh is a highly ambitious, confident and successful working professional. He is always up for any challenge thrown at him by his boss and takes it head on. He wants to climb the ladder of promotion and success as fast as he can and doesn't say NO to anything that he thinks serves his ambitions. 

But, as we all know, life is unpredictable and always holds many a tricks up its' sleeves. The market dynamics changes and Ramesh's organisation enters into a merger with another one. Two organisations with different values, different work cultures, different territories, different product lines and with many more dissimilarities (than) similarities have now become one. The new reporting structure now has Ramesh reporting to the CEO of the other organisation. The CEO, for obvious reasons, is focused on preparing a common strategy and pitch for the merged entity. He (CEO) is looking for someone to lead this project and sensing this as an opportunity to impress the new management, Ramesh offers his candidature for the position. While other shortlisted candidates take it easy on the timelines during their pitch, Ramesh overcommits and proposes a rather unreasonable timeline for the project. But being a HPI (High Potential Individual), Ramesh gets the nod by the management. Now, here's Ramesh working on the project and a couple of months into the project, he feels all stressed and burnt out (to say the least). Unable to cope up with the pressure of the task, he gives up and fails miserably. It's not about what happens/ happened next but about why this ended this way ?

The question that i want to put is not about why Ramesh chose to overcommit (because that reasons are obvious) but why others didn't chose to overcommit ? What was it that prompted them to propose/ pitch it the way they did ?

But before we jump to the answer, how about a little bit of pondering on the above and try to relate it to situations/ events from our lives. Has it happened to us/ with us/ around us ? 
   
We all have ambitions, we all are hungry for success but do we ever pause and think about how this attitude of ours could prove to be counterproductive if we don't tread the road cautiously ! How many times have we jumped the gun and taken up an assignment/ project in haste and then regretted it afterwards ? I am sure, most of us, have been in such a situation, at least once (if not more) in our life.

Now the answers

Whether it was overconfidence or miscalculation of time/ effort or some other factor, it is all because of an inability to self-assess during times of venturing into an unknown or lesser known terrain. Assuming that while Ramesh jumped the gun to grab the position, others took some time to self-assess and then provide a pitch.

Let's talk about the VUCA  (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) that we live/ work in. The environment that we operate in is dynamic and poses new challenges every day, every moment. The "survival of the fittest" is the mantra to sustain in this VUCA world and becoming the "fittest" is about being ready to face any new challenge. The "readiness" is about ensuring the following 2 things:

1. knowing what the challenge (task, assignment, project, etc.) entails and
2. knowing what i know in terms of knowledge, skill, competencies needed to address the challenge.
   
Had Ramesh not reacted and spent some time gauging the gap between what the challenge entailed and where his current abilities and capabilities stood, he wold have done a much better job of the project/ task. Likewise, we need to ask ourselves, about how willing and equipped we are to deal with challenges (big and small) posed by the VUCA world ? I would leave the "willingness" portion for a different post and just talk about the part about being equipped to deal with challenges and exigencies. Many a times, we may we willing but may not be equipped appropriately.

Whether you are from the category of willing or unwilling, i am going to share about an extremely simple tool, SWOT Matrix, that could equip us to be better prepared for any challenge in our lives (personal or professional). Let's learn more about SWOT


Background of SWOT

SWOT is an acronym which stands for Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat

SWOT Matrix or Analysis, is a framework or technique, initially developed for businesses/ corporates, for strategising business growth and enabling the organisations to gain competitive advantage in the market. SWOT was invented in 1960s by a management consultant named Albert Humphrey during his research at Stanford University. After "corporate planning" failed to deliver for businesses, a need was felt for a tool that could help organisations in proper long-term planning. The simplicity of the tool ensured it's wide acceptance by the businesses (big and small) and gradually into the "personal" arena as well. In this post, we are going to discuss about SWOT in context of "personal" arena only. 


Need for SWOT 

Let me give you few prompts to ponder 

  • Would it help to have a plan for my life to make the best of it ?
  • Would having clarity about my goals and actions help me achieve more ?
  • Would knowing more about myself help me be more realistic in my expectations and actions ?
  • Would i prefer to be proactive in my approach wherever possible ?
  • Would being competent help me be more competitive ? 
  • Don't we all prefer to be better prepared for life ?
The dynamic ecosystem that we are a part of doesn't leave us with any other option but to say "yes" to one or more of the above and even one "yes" is a reason enough to start applying SWOT Framework/ Matrix in our lives. We all will be better prepared to deal with life if we have a strategy for it, a strategy that is based on facts.   



Elements of SWOT Framework 

There are 4 key elements of the framework which are (S) Strengths, (W) Weaknesses, (O) Opportunities and (T) Threats. From these Strengths and Weaknesses are 2 elements which are internal, positive and helpful whereas the other 2 elements, Opportunities and Threats are external,  negative and potentially harmful.

  • S - Strengths : Strength refers to the strong points that we possess, the qualities that separates us or differentiates us favourably from our competitors. Some of these strong points could be our knowledge, education, experience, competency, skill, or anything alike. Many of these could be put in tangible terms. 
  •  W- Weaknesses : Weaknesses refer to the weak links in us, things which are better in our competitors, limitations that exist in us, things we are not strong in compared to our competitors. Some of the examples are any undeveloped/ underdeveloped skill needed in the context to operate effectively and efficiently. The gaps and areas of improvement in us all refer to the Weakness element.
  • O - Opportunities : This refers to the identified potential for growth and development, based on our identified goals and ambitions. This refers to any of the future plans that we identify and set for ourselves to achieve. This may be a direct outcome of our existing Strengths element. This element refers to the favourable conditions that aids our pursuit of relevant context-defined goals/ objectives. 
  • T - Threats : This refers to the anticipated barriers, bottlenecks or problems that we may face in our effort to achieve our future goals. Thus may be a direct outcome of our existing Weaknesses element. This element refers to anything that may be a potential risk in our effort towards pursuing relevant context-defined goals/ objectives.
There's no control we can exert over the Opportunities and Threats elements because these are defined by market factors, which are beyond our scope of control



Using/ Applying SWOT

  • Pick up the context for the SWOT analysis. It could our personal goal, any difficult situation or scenario, or a problem requiring effective decision-making 
  • Place the SWOT template in front. We can either download a ready-made template or draw it ourselves.
  • Keeping the context in mind, start filling in the Strengths quadrant and then the Weaknesses quadrant
  • Now, to fill up Opportunities quadrant, reflect/ ponder on the already identified Strengths and write down what all opportunities our existing strength could provide
  • Likewise, to fill up the Threats quadrant, reflect/ ponder on the already identified Weaknesses and write down what all future threats these present weaknesses of mine could create
  • Once the 4 quadrants are complete, analyse them and come out with an executable Plan of Action (POA). 

Few Precautions while doing SWOT
  • Keep it short and manageable by making it relevant and applicable to the context
  • Be rational while filling up the quadrants
  • While doing SWOT, bear in mind that it is to be done with reference to our competitor 
  • Avoid making the SWOT complex by not mixing multiple contexts/ scenarios. If need be, do SWOT for each of the identified context separately
  • Ensure that the focus of SWOT is appropriate to give us the specific outcomes. The focus should not be too narrow or too broad
  • While filling the quadrants, wear outsider's eyes to see the Strengths and Weaknesses.
  • Don't over-rely on SWOT as a comprehensive diagnostic approach. 
  • Repeat the SWOT at regular intervals to ensure consistency of effort and direction 
To end the post, few important points to remember about SWOT 
  • SWOT is a good, simple and effective tool and could be a good starting point but if we need a more comprehensive and holistic diagnostics, then we should not hesitate to make use of other tools as well.
  • the main purpose of SWOT is enable us to arrive at a Plan of Action. So, ultimately, the effectiveness of the SWOT Analysis done by us would only be as effective as our actions. So, we need to ensure that we take appropriate actions.

To download the SWOT template, please visit this wonderful link on internet - 

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Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Wheel of Life : Creating a Balanced Life


PRODUCTIVITY TOOL - Wheel of Life  

Why do we crave for a "balanced life" even though we know that it's not easy to achieve ? 

The answer is straightforward - A "balanced life" is a sure recipe for order, happiness and satisfaction in life which is so essential for a fulfilling life !

But this "balance" comes with the caveat that it may not take much for things to go "out of order" in our life inspite of our best efforts to hang on to the balanced state. The moment imbalance starts to creep in, is when things get out of control for us and we start to struggle to get things back in order and get our life back on track ! 

The resulting stress, mental chaos and confusion is exactly the reason that we need to address this "imbalance" in our life and do it with a well-rounded approach. Developing a well-rounded approach is made simple by answering the most fundamental question - What is my understanding of "balance" in life ? If the understanding is all about meeting the ad-hoc or urgent needs of life then the approach is bound to collapse. On the other hand, if the understanding is broader in nature and incorporates the key impact areas of life, then the approach is bound to succeed. 

The three key guiding pointers for building an effective approach towards a "balanced life" are  

  • Identifying the key impact areas of our life
  • Scoring/ Gauging the current level of "balance" in each of the identified areas
  • Shift from seeking a balanced life towards seeking a "well-balanced" life
The task of accomplishing the above is made simpler by a tool that is easy-to-use and yet so effective in building clarity. The tool is known as WHEEL OF LIFE and is often the very first tool used by coaches with their clients to help them become clear about their focus areas. The simplicity of the tool cannot undermine its' effectiveness. Let's look more closely at the tool   

About the tool - Wheel of Life
The Wheel of Life is an extremely simple yet robust framework for bringing in life through self-assessment and reflection. It is a visual representation of the status quo/ balance/ imbalance that exists in our life and provides a "helicopter view" of things in our life. This holistic view which the tool provides enables us to gauge where we stand in various areas of our life and where we need to pay attention to bring balance/ better balance in our life. 

The credit for creating the modern version of Wheel of Life goes to Paul J. Meyer, the founder of Success Motivation Institute though the tool has its roots in Buddhism. The modern version of the tool was created by Paul J. Meyer in the 1960s and has been popular ever since then.

The tool consist of a circle divided into various pie shaped sections/ segment, where each section/ segment denotes an identified key areas of our life. Each section has a scoring scale of 1-10 (1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest) with 1 placed closer to the centre of the wheel and 10 placed towards 
Among the plenty of advantages that the tool offers, the key benefits include self-awareness/ self-reflection, clarity and prioritisation. The tool is a great saviour for times when we feel lost and stuck. 


Using the Tool

The following steps would enable us to derive the best from the tool
  • Identify the key categories/ areas of your life, the areas that are meaningful and impact our life. Identifying too many areas may not be much helpful so it makes sense to restrict the categories to 8 in number. 
  • Label each section/ segment with an area from the list of 8 identified areas
  • Score yourself for each area, on a scale of 1-10, based on the current level of satisfaction or balance
  • Based on the score identified, draw a line across each segment 
  • The resultant drawing will give an indication about how bumpy the ride is at present and where we need to pay attention to make the ride smooth.

Few important things to remember 
  • In the scoring scale of  1-10, 1 denotes the most dissatisfied/ imbalanced  and 10 denotes most satisfied/ balanced. As we move along the scale from 1-10, the rest of the scores (2-9) denote the gradual improvement in the level of satisfaction/ level.
  • The range of scores denote the status quo
    • the scores of 1-4 denote an high level of dissatisfaction and ask for immediate measures to address the issues and seize the opportunities. This score could be an indication of our neglect towards a particular area, which we did not seem necessary to attend to till now. 
    • the scores of 5-7 denote a reasonable level of satisfaction in the particular areas but also indicate the need to step up the game and make the best use of opportunities to move to the next level.  
    • the scores of 8-10 denote a high level of satisfaction and also an indication of not to become complacent in the particular areas but to retain the momentum.
  • There's always a need to ensure that we operate at a minimum level to always ensure the basic life balance and my experience has shown that a score of 6 is always essential for every identified area.   
The beauty of the tool lies in not being dependent on a specific template. Though there are plenty of online downloads available, such as http://cmaleadershipconsultants.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/CMA-Coaching-Wheel.pdf  but we can draw it ourselves too and get started. 

So, grease your Wheel of Life and start putting your life in balance ! 

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Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Stop Chasing the Wrong Rainbow !


Life is a good teaser and most of us are always running to catch up with its' (life) pace. Amidst all the "chasing after life" that we get engaged in,  little do we realize that, we are, in fact, chasing a rainbow. However promising and colorful this rainbow may appear, and however sincerely we may go after it, we may still not be able to catch up the rainbow. Mindless chasing just make the matter worse. This is when a little pause for doing course correction could make the things better for us. We may ask ourselves whether we are chasing the wrong rainbow ? Maybe chasing an illusion of perfection and "being preferred" that may have got manifested out of our unrealistic expectations. 

Chasing a rainbow that exists in the context of a world that is governed by a cut-throat competition and where competitiveness guides for all our pursuits, aspirations outdo ability and we are constantly striving to outdo others (in every conceivable way), makes it imperative for us to ensure that we chase the right rainbow if we want to live a fulfilling life. The repercussions of chasing a wrong rainbow are fraught with implications that would leave us exhausted, clueless and disappointed. 

Before choosing which rainbow to chase, it is good to realize that life will always play a "catch me if you can" game with us and whether we fall trap to it or not is going to define the outcomes in our life. Chase the wrong rainbow and we would always be running and seeking without any end; choose the right rainbow and we would make the best of whatever life brings our way.  

Let's understand what a wrong rainbow comprises. Always remember that even a wrong rainbow could appear quite appealing and enticing and may fool us into a make-believe. So, the best way to get started is to ask ourselves -  What are we seeking in life ?What exactly, are we, running after in life ?

So, when it's about chasing the wrong rainbow, we tend to end up chasing things that are BIGGER, BETTER, FASTER, SMARTER and MORE. Our frame of reference is "others" and our intention, always, is to outdo others. Blame it on clouded thinking and inflated ego, we just live a life of constant comparison, always keen to prove a point to others. The control of our life is handed over to others and all our energy and effort goes in being a notch above others. The "tangibles" seem to be defining our success here, in this scenario. For example, to be termed/ perceived more successful than others, i need to be the BEST IN EVERYTHING, whether its about owning a home (bigger than others), driving a car (faster than others), having a job or business (smarter than others), bank balance (more money than others). Chasing a rainbow comprising of the above 5 components will always be a never-ending struggle because there will always be someone better than us in some way. So, this eternal quest of perfection will always stand in our way of living a satisfying and successful life.

Now, let's look at what a right kind of rainbow looks like. Progression instead of Perfection defines this rainbow and there never really is any chase involved in it. It's all about a very calm and patient seeking of peace and order. The SMALL, LESS and NOW characterizes the nature of things being sought. The control of life remains with "oneself" and intention is to become the BEST VERSION OF ONESELF, without any need to enter into competition with others. The seeker is happy and satisfied with whatever there is and "tangibles" do not hold much relevance in this context. Chasing/ Seeking this rainbow is a guarantee of eternal satisfaction and success in life. A small house, small car, enjoying every task to the hilt is all very satisfying and satiating.

So, reflect whether you need to stop chasing the wrong rainbow and if need be create your own rainbow, that aligns well with the fundamental principles of living life well.

Remember, it's never too late to Stop Chasing Life and instead Start Living It !

Friday, 26 July 2019

Embracing The New Paradigm Shift in "Balancing Life" !


We, humans, have always craved for harmony and sought balance in life. The more ways we have invented/ discovered to keep ourselves busy and occupied, work-wise, the more need we have generated to find ways to focus and pay attention to other areas of our life, beyond "work".

Various paradigm shifts have shaped our evolution and growth (if one may call it so !) as a modern society - a society which thrives on technology and seeks impeccability in everything. The shift from industrialisation to urbanisation, opened us up to more work and skills, but also had repercussions, which made us vulnerable to stress, pressure, ill-health, and like. When the realisation of a holistic health dawned on us, we started our quest for achieving/ maintaining work-life balance, to ensure that life is lived well in all dimensions.

Now, it's time for a reality check - the above mentioned quest for "work-life" balance was good as long as technology had not permeated our lives. With the advent of Internet/ Web, things shaped differently for us. The paradigm shifts, triggered by technology, have been frequent and overwhelming, with the result that we are given no time and opportunity to look away from the screens (desktops, laptops, tablets, gadgets, smartphones, and the like). Each of these paradigm shifts have left us hopping from one tool to another and our addiction to these "screens" has in fact created a resultant shift in the act of balancing our life. It's no longer "Work-Life" Balance that we need to worry about, now it's the "Online-Offline" Balance.

The need or desire to be more productive, efficient or effective, that kept us glued to our gadgets and smartphones has now turned into a strong urge or habit and this has become our undoing and the key reason for not letting us detach from this addiction of "Online".  And this addiction comes with a plenty to be regretful about later - be it our health (physical, mental and emotional), relationships, achievement or peace of mind, whereby everything takes a hit and leaves us deficient.

Science tells us that humans have immense capability and potential for more but i am sure, in all probability, this was not in reference to our ability to manage multiple gadgets and screens. This "Online-Offline" imbalance has, in fact, rendered us deficient in terms of focus, attention span, concentration and ultimately achievement. The psychological impact of this "Online-Offline" imbalance is quite alarming where it could result in acute depression, low self-esteem and self-confidence.

With so much at stake because of this "Online-Offline" imbalance, it makes sense to address it and bring order and peace back in our life. The 3-step approach of Reflect, Analyse and Act

  • Reflect - Aren't we all living life in the fast lane, courtesy technology ? And most of the time, don't we lose track of where we are headed because of this "busyness" ? This is precisely why "Reflect" step provides a great opportunity to take stock of things and seize back control of our life. This (Reflect) is the time to ponder and ask ourself few pertinent questions such as 
    • Am i spending a major chunk of my time being "Online", consciously or unconsciously, with or without reason ?
    • Am i compromising on important offline tasks, actions, activities ?
    • Have i ever felt short of time to complete certain important tasks because of my online busyness ?
    • Do i have a plan/ schedule/ purpose for my "Online"activities ?
    • Has "being online" become a habit or addiction for me ?
    • Do i tend to spend endless hours/ minutes being "online" and ignore/ shy away from doing anything else, even though it might be an important matter ?
    • Has "being/ working online" become a habit or addiction for me ? 
  • Analyze -  This is where we get specific about details and ask ourself the following questions 
    • What are my online and offline needs and how much is the time demand for them ?
    • Against the identified time need for online and offline activities, how much time do i actually spend on online and offline activities ?
    • How much am i losing out in terms of time, effort, energy and achievement by being unnecessarily online ?
    • In recent past, what important tasks, projects, assignments I could not complete because of my excessive online behaviour ?
    • What is my driving force to go "online", most of the times ? Is this driving force constructive and taking me closer to my life goals ?
    • Identify your online consumption, in terms of few key areas like Work(Professional), Personal, Leisure, Self-Development, Entertainment and Networking. 
  • Act - Achieving the "Online-Offline" balance is a continuous process and only concrete and consistent actions/ steps could help us achieve this balance. Some of the actions we could take are as mentioned below :
    • Always have a tentative daily plan or a checklist, clearly segregating the online and offline activities you need to do during the day
    • Prioritise your activities (online and offline) in terms of their importance and assign them a timeline. For online activities, define a time cut-off limit to remain on track
    • Limit your screen time by applying strategies like
      • switching off gadgets at a specified time
      • keeping gadgets out of bounds when working offline
      • observing a technology downtime day during the week
    • Attach an objective to every online activity
    • Align your every online activity to a goal, big or small, short-term or long-term
    • Seek/ Engage an accountability partner for keeping you on track about your online consumption. It could be a friend, colleague, relative or even a coach.
    • Wherever possible, shift from small screen to a big screen to reduce too much interactivity
    • Be mindful while working online as this will help you remain focused and observant.  
    • If most of your online consumption is for leisure/ entertainment, replace that time with some useful and constructive hobby, such as reading, music, drawing/ painting, etc.
    • Find appropriate substitutes for online activities that could be replaced with their offline counterparts, without any loss of productivity, such as reading the traditional print books instead of reading a digital version, meeting close by friends in person than chatting online.  
    • Never lose any opportunity to be in the "real world", such as meeting up with friends/ people in person, go travelling, playing a sport, going for a walk, and things similar. 
Value yourself and you will always make the best use of time !