Personal Dairy Writing for Busy People

This post originally appeared on Quora as an answer I wrote for the question, ‘How do I write an easy daily personal dairy even in our busy schedules? How and why to make it a daily habit?

“Dated 26/06/2017: Today was a good day.”

It is good start to get the habit of daily journaling. The problem is not with the actual journaling but making a habit out of it.

The best way to start any habit for that matter is conceive 3 different key items:

  1. Start Small
  2. Build a cue system
  3. Prepare for contingencies

Aim for writing at the least ‘one sentence’ on to your dairy everyday. That is the idea of starting small.

Find an already established habit/ routine as a trigger to serve as a reminder for diarying. For example, I do my morning journaling after my breakfast before I leave for office. I do my daily freewriting at the end of the day, after my dinner before my reading/ sleeptime. Find your cue.

There are times we will not feel it. It is okay. Just build a system of ‘If-then’ plan (technically called Implementation Intention) to help you overcome those obstacle. I tell myself,

If I don’t feel like writing, then I will scribble at least one sentence on my dairy.’

If I don’t feel like writing, then at least I will copy a text onto my dairy.’

If I don’t find time to write, then I will write at least one sentence.’

Make your own if-then statement, write it down.

I bet this trick could be used to build any type of habit. You will almost definitely win. Some of my friends even use a tracking system (like an HabitBull app or Seinfeld’s ‘Don’t break the chain’ system, or webapp like Joe’s Goal). You decide.

Hope it helps.

I have started my writing habit in September 2015. I have written 145 pages so far with more than 100,000 words in it. Almost most of my blog posts are taken from my 145 pages. It helps.

For more help read on:

The Full Meals Prioritization System

You have told repeatedly…

I have been using Workflowy for capturing and engaging with my to-do lists (more about it later). I tagged my tasks as high, medium, low. As proclaimed by many productivity gurus the first thing I did in the morning is to filter my tasks based on priority. Of course, as suggested, I filter the ‘high’ tasks and do them.

But on that particular day, I did the opposite – I filtered for ‘low’ tasks. The next hour or so I got almost all the low priority tasks done. The next step was to conquer my ‘high’ or ‘medium’ tasks. At the moment, I felt a great sense of relief, a comfort, a lack of annoyance or a nagging feeling. I felt ready to handle my ‘high’ tasks.

It is when I realised that there is an alternate approach to prioritizing and engaging with tasks.

  • Few suggest to eat the frog second, after handling low tasks
  • Get the mosquito tasks away and then do the big tasks, as Mark Forster suggests.

So as the heading of the title suggests, I would break my tasks into 3 different parts like in a meal:

  1. Starters/ Appetizers: Those mosquito, low-key tasks that would not consume neither your energy nor time. It builds momentum and ‘appetizes’ for the main course.
  2. Main Course: I don’t have to explain this. These are your high impact, deep work that you would like to engage for a longer period of time.
  3. Dessert: Now, a healthy dose of relaxing, chitchatting actually would help your productivity. So you can chose to close your day with what you want to do, that you may not actually have to do. Remember, this comes only after your main course, or it will spoil your appetite

There you have it, ‘Full Meals Prioritization’ system. Try prioritizing your tasks using this method – hope it works for you too.

11 Amazing Uses of Mind Mapping

I’m a mind mapping buff. At least I was. I even started a blog to publish my creative mind maps. The mind map above is what I consider my best piece. Yes, I created it.

Though I don’t use any mind mapping tools to make such interesting and colourful digital maps, I do employ them on paper for a variety of purposes. While there are enough articles and videos that explain what and how of a mind map, this article is an attempt at explaining the why. Here is a list of uses of mind maps, as I think:

  1. Thinking: Do we need a mind map to think? I understand your question. Sometimes to make thinking visible is the best way to think and advance decisions. Mind mapping is one of the simple ways to do it.
  2. Ideating/ brainstorming: Ken Robinson writes in his book ‘Elements’ an exercise to test what he calls ‘Creativity Quotient (CQ)’ – it is simple: take everyday object and come with as many alternative uses as possible. The more uses you come up with, the more creative you are. The exercise is a no-brainer. It is the fundamental process for brainstorming and what better way to start your brainstorming process than using a mind map. Given its non-linear structure and the visual appeal renders itself nicely as a tool for ideation.
  3. Notetaking: You are listening to a lecture, a TED talk or reading a great book/ an article. Traditionally, we are trained to take linear notes, try mind mapping for a change.
  4. Learning: Refer point 1 & 3
  5. Problem solving: As point 1 suggests, mind mapping can help you make thinking visible and hence help you break a problem and ultimately solve it.
  6. Listing: Instead of trying out linear listing, give mind mapping a try – listing could be fun and colorful, you know.
  7. Chunking: Same as point 5, you can break projects, tasks, content to help you detail it and identify even small steps.
  8. Writing: I wrote this post, using a mind map.
  9. Planning: Refer point 5 and 7. You can make a plan using a mind map
  10. Summarizing: Refer point 3.
  11. To do list: There is a little known web app called Subtask. As the website says, it is an online app for organizing and structuring your projects and tasks using mind mapping technique.

If I had did a good job, I must have convinced you to try out mind mapping technique for your purpose. Give it a try.

3 Steps to Finding Your MIT

With plethora of choices available in today’s world, finding one’s life purpose, the big goals, ironically, can be the most frustrating process in one’s life. That said, translating the same to daily actions would be another pain.

These days, I am using a shorter list to plan my day – some call it MIT (Most Important Tasks), but I prefer to have it nameless. I, personally, liked Kevin Kruse’s approach to find one’s MIT.

  • Step 1: Kevin first suggests to find the answer for ‘What are my/ workplace goals?’ 
  • Step 2: Second, more importantly, ask yourself, ‘What are the tasks that support the goals?’ Feel free to list how many ever tasks of varying length and nature. This is your brainstorming time.
  • Step 3: Now comes the most important and crucial part of the process. Kevin calls this ‘3 Power Questions’
    – “Which of these tasks provide the most value to the company?” This is key process of prioritization. Remember you can always do myriad of tasks, but the key is in identifying those that provide value and contribute to your big goal(s).
    – “Which tasks offer the most leverage (i.e., apply 80/20 principle)?” Not all tasks are equal – there are those high leverage tasks that make other tasks irrelevant and not needed. Find those.
    – “Which tasks can only I do?” While you might have identified a list of high-leverage tasks, you cannot and should not do all of them. Find those tasks that only you can do and want do. Ruthlessly delegate those tasks to your peers.

What remains is your MIT for the day. Kevin further goes on to suggest at least 1 to 3 hours per day to focus on your MIT, preferably during the first part of your day.

Try this exercise and find your MIT today. Have a productive and impactful day ahead!