Jyotika, A New French Law and My 3-Year Old Niece

What does a French Law, a crazy taxi-driver in Kolkatta and a new flick starring Jyotika have in common?

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Recently we made a trip to Mamallapuram and when we were returning in the evening, I apparently felt the change in the weather right when we were crossing Sholinganallur (signalling the entry of urban area). The transformation of the weather was so evident that my uncle and aunt who were visiting Chennai from Coimbatore for the summer holidays said it out loudly.

I was taken aback when my aunt told me that their 3-year old little daughter said, ‘Verkkuthu!’ (which means sweaty) for the first time to her. She wasn’t exactly proud of it, neither was I happy about it.

Recently France has passed a law making ‘Green roofs’ mandatory compliance as part of any new building construction. And a week back I read about the news on a taxi with rooftop garden. And didn’t Jyothika, in the movie, ’36 Vayathinilae’, discovered herself by rooftop gardening.

Now do you see the connection. There is something blooming here!

Previously I wrote about living a simpler life. I am guessing, roof top gardening and other alternative practices is something that we must explore seriously on.

While back I collated an potential features of a green house using mind mapping. Though it sounds like a dream, the technology is already available with us to make it a reality.

1. Green Energy: First and the most know concept of a Green House is sourcing energy from renewable sources of energy like Solar & Wind Energy. Reducing the cost of power grid by aiming for decentralized energy production and using energy efficient instruments like CFL light bulbs can also be included in this.

2. Green Food: Being conscious of buying locally grown food (to avoid loss due to food mileage), better still growing one’s own food are another set of features.

3. Green Cooking: Using solar water heaters, gobar/ bio-gas for cooking are better alternatives

4. Green Water: Harvesting rainwater, recycling water and using water use efficiency systems like double-geared flush and WUE taps are some examples

5. Green Sanitation: Reusing/ recycling dry wastes like paper, plastic, metal and composting wet wastes (domestic/ kitchen wastes) are ideal features. I have heard of Ecosan toilets also.

6. Green Design: Theoretically, there seems to be lot of discussion on Sustainable Architecture, Bio-designs. Hopefully, we will see more of it soon in reality.

I hope, we will be able to adopt, if not all, at least of few of these practices in our homes.

As for my niece, she had left to Coimbatore. The first thing she asked her mom the next morning is, ‘Can we go to mama’s home?’ I hope I will give her more than enough reasons to welcome her to Chennai.

If you have any ideas or practices that you already adopting at your home, kindly share it with me. I will be glad to hear of such practices.

4 Proven Strategies to Make Habits Work for You

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

– Aristotle

Our life is composed full of habits – both good and bad.

There is huge gap between ‘What we know’ and ‘What we do’. We simply fail to create the necessary discipline to convert what we know to what we do. This is what I call the intention-behaviour gap.

Let’s face it – it is not that we are dumb or stupid to not know the difference between good and bad habits. We simply fail to acknowledge the struggle between the mind and the body.

“The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,”

– St.Paul

However, there is a way out. Here are few tips that helped me and probably would help you build some healthy habits.

  1. Start small: It could be as simple as ‘Floss one tooth’ suggested by a Stanford Professor, B.J.Fogg of Tiny Habits. Or trying starting your exercise habit by ‘Doing one push-up’ as suggested by Stephen Guise of Mini habits. I have been experimenting with a variety of tiny habits: doing 5-second stretches in the morning, building 2 minutes morning/ evening routines. It is easy to conquer and small wins is helping me built momentum to continue. Consistency is the key.
  2. Focus on one: Trying to conquer all at once is difficult – we all know it. But I learned it the hard way. I got greedy and tried too much in one shot. By narrowing my focus on just one habit at a time, I was able to concentrate. It helped me build some great habits:
    • I now got the habit of drinking a glass of water, immediately after I wake up.
    • I now start my work day at office (before I rampantly start checking my emails), by creating a daily to-do list.
    • I now drink at least a cup of fruit juice everyday.
  3. Schedule it: It is always better to allocate a particular time of the day to build your habit routine. When I started my habit building process, I realized the best time to build a routine is before I go to work or after I came back from work. For me, the 7 pm at night became my habit-building time. I have since then started including my exercise routine, daily meditation practice and writing everyday process during this time. So schedule your habit.
  4. Habit stacking: Just like most of you, ‘I forget to do it’ is the most common excuse I gave myself. Solution: Habit stacking. It is the art of queuing your new habit to an already existing habit.
    1. I will do meditation immediately after coming back from office.
    2. I will drink a cup of water immediately after I wake up.

After is the key word here. It is a great trick and use it to your advantage.

“Our greatest battle in our lives is the one between habit and knowledge!”

– Vedathiri Maharishi

I hope the tricks above will help you win in the battle.

Do share your wins in the comments below. I will be happy to hear your stories of success.

What is Your True Purpose in Life?

My Note: This is a guest post from Kim Baker of Spiral Spun.

Lover of simple living, Kim lives in UK with her two children. Writing for her, she says, is a way to explore, to discover and to be inspired – and also to let go of pain from the past and focus on the present. Besides writing, she loves to bake, garden and read books. I am really glad to have her guest post on my blog

I made a list…

  • to connect with the sacred in nature
  • to love my children
  • to learn and grow and help others to learn and grow
  • to take time to slow, savour and appreciate this one life
  • to write and paint and connect with others through these mediums
  • to live a rich deep creative life and inspire others to the same
  • to listen to birdsong, smell flowers, taste fresh tomatoes from the vine and linger in fields, forests and on seashores
  • to focus less on the abstract and get up close and personal to the actual, the real, the individual, the unique
  • to reconnect with growing things, with wildflowers and our wild selves
  • to get in touch with the essence of life, our intuition, the heart that beats in nature in rhythm with our own
  • to bring together those who wish to live a more authentic life
  • to live the life of the wild wolf woman inside and open my heart to others to join me
  • to encourage healing with words, pictures, word pictures, senses, inspiration
  • to live every moment as precious and sacred and bring the disparate parts of life together
  • to live with integrity and balance.
  • to make things, to use my hands building, crafting, growing, tending, nurturing, drawing, making, painting, writing, knitting, sewing, mending
  • to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness, of grace and gentle caring
  • to see the lightness in the heavy and the heavy in the light
  • to take time every day to create and notice the little things
  • to work with nature to heal myself and others with nourishing whole foods, water and herbs
  • to connect with others in meaningful conversations
  • to let go of hurtful pasts and seek new beginnings and new relationships
  • to embrace the strong feminine and allow her to be seen in the world

… some lofty aspirations there, right?  😉

I think perhaps something that has been causing me problems is a cognitive dissonance between the person who wrote the above list – who comes from a more intuitional way of living – and a more rational me who wants to be seen as intelligent and worldly and fit in with the normal view of life… I don’t think this last me is really me at all, but rather the norms of society projected onto me. Maybe I could work towards letting go of that. When I think about and read through the list above, it feels good, it feels like me, it feels right.

In my own small world this fits and if I didn’t have to interact with others I would have no difficulty being this person. But I do have to interact with others and I am wary of expressing this part of myself. I sometimes feel like I am bleeding in front of people when I do this. It hurts and is uncomfortable. I feel their judgement. I feel embarrassed for expressing this more female way of being. This way of being is not thought highly of in our culture. A whole bunch of ‘should’s’ assail me… I should be more clear, more certain, I should back up my words with facts and figures and references, I should be sensible and think more not feel more, but that is not how I want to live.

Last week I got caught up in the whole election extravaganza in this country. I feel strongly about certain policies, I voted, I followed the analysis… I was devastated with the result. And angry and frustrated and a whole lot of other things. All of this is a strong contrast to the person I want to be. The person who wrote the above list.

It made me think about how we make a difference, and I think that maybe politics is the reaction to things people do and how they live, not the cause. Real difference is made, I think, at a much smaller level. At the level of people, and actions, interactions, connections and words… real change happens in small moments every day in the way we speak, listen, take action, learn, grow, appreciate and care.

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” 

~ Robert F. Kennedy

Manual for Life – How I Learnt to Switch on Swing in my AC?

I recently struggled to get the ‘swing’ feature on my air conditioner remote to work. My struggle piqued my wife’s curiosity and she suggested that I refer to the manual.

As always, she made sense and I took her suggestion.

As I was going through the manual, I realised that these days we have manuals for the simplest things but we do not have instructions to make our lives enriching and simpler.

When human life takes form, it does not come with a soundly written manual of ‘do(s) and don’t(s)’ but there is quite a bit of literature written on the subject.

While Dr.Stephen R.Covey calls such instructional writing as Wisdom Literature’, Will Durant recommends 100 best books for Education. Western intellectual minds have been collating a collection of Great Books to further promote living strategies. In fact, this series is used as instructional text in several elite schools/ colleges around the world.

Some of the works that stand out are Dale Davidson’s Ancient Wisdom Project, which are experiments on  practicing life lessons. On the other hand, while,author Ryan Holiday admits that ancient practical philosophy inspire him, blogger Michael Bulchan recommends a reading list for wisdom and growth.

Locally, Tamil author, Suki Sivam provides us with an analysis of the essence of ancient wisdom for modern living through his books and audiobooks (in Tamil).

Now, returning to my initial quest of making my air conditioner ‘swing’, I ended up learning more than I first intended to about air conditioners through our modern research tool, Google. Who is to say that we won’t learn more than we intend to by inspiring each other?

If you have any reading lists or recommendations, please leave a comment for the benefit of everyone. Thank you kindly!

The Most Underrated Trick to Make Your Day Productive

Have you ever been inundated with a series of tasks and action items that you almost felt clueless about where to begin? Do you feel disoriented about keeping track of what you need to do and when to do it? After an exhausting day, do you still feel that you never got around doing the things you initially intended to do? Well, don’t worry, you are not alone.

Almost every day, most of us are flooded with tasks that we need to do. But due to the lack of an organized system, we end up finishing up the fringes and miss out on the important stuff. This is causing ineptitude among you and your employees.

The simple truth is that you have allowed yourself get caught up in the whirlwind of daily events, which is making you question the very purpose of your job and your organization.

But fret not. There is a trick to overcome this everyday mundane routine.

How did I discover the Trick?

In 2007, when I started my professional career, I was passionate about my work. Full of idealism. I even wanted to change the world!

Unfortunately I was not able to get anything done as I simply didn’t know how to go about doing stuff. I was given too many responsibilities too soon and did not know how to organize myself. My inefficiency and unorganized nature frustrated me.

However, all that changed when I learnt the simple trick of making a to-do list from my former boss. This simple trick proved to be the most efficient tool throughout my professional life span.

I observed that my boss had this interesting habit of jotting down a list of things that needed to be done first thing in the morning. He used a simple ruled notebook to record his task lists. Hence, I bought a notebook for myself and started listing the things that needed to be done and thus got myself organized. Through this simple list I was able to stop making excuses and begin accomplishing the responsibilities handed down to me.

Making a daily to-do list could be the most powerful way of improving your productivity. I learnt that almost all successful leaders make a list of things that they want to accomplish for the day. You too can follow this simple trick to get your work done in time.

Success is often a result of committing to the fundamentals over and over again.

– James Clear

To be able to make a concise list, follow the given instructions:

1. Collect 

Take stock of things that need to be done. Your mind will highlight the most urgent and short-term important tasks for the day. Note these down in your notebook and make a list.

You will now have a clear idea of what you are required to complete during the day. In order to capture the more important long-term tasks, I continue my note taking to determine what I want to accomplish maybe today, tomorrow or a in a week. For the sake of clarity, let us call this the Master List.

David Allen, author of the famous ‘Getting Things Donecalls this process ‘Capture’.

I begin my day with a collection of items that needs completion and I try to capture the other items as and when they pop up in my mind.

2. Organize

Once you have this Master List, you will realize immediately that you will not be able to do complete everything with your present flow of work.

Some tasks may require someone or something to be completed. Some tasks may also involve a particular location or context.

There are several ways of categorizing and organizing your task list:

  • Dr.Stephen Covey suggests prioritizing the to-do lists based on his Urgency-Importance matrix. He advises us to pay attention to the ‘Not Urgent-Important (Quadrant II)’. Dr.Covey calls this segmentation ‘Big rocks’.
  • Michael Linenberger has a completely opposite view in his ‘One Minute To-do list (1MTD)’ concept. He suggests prioritizing one’s task based on urgency rather than importance. His take is that a to-do list is urgent for a reason and we should respect that urgency.
  • Zen Habit’s famous Leo Baubata talks about identifying the Most Important Task(s) for the day. He suggests that we do not have more than three items on the list and advises us to ruthlessly delete the others.
  • David Allen suggests sorting our lists by contexts such as shop, home, office, online, calls, date, etc to organize our to-do list.
  • The 18-minutes fame business consultant, Peter Bregman suggests that we classify work lists into six different boxes based on the area/ department of work (For example, sales, training and so on and leave the last box for fringe tasks).

How I organize my list?

I use a combination of the above techniques.

  • First, I organize my to-do lists based on work areas. For example, sales, training, blogging and so on. This gives me clarity on the progress of each of the tasks. More importantly I make sure I do not miss any of the areas. 
  • Secondly, I contextualize wherever necessary by batching my work. For example, I batch my phone calls and check and respond to emails during particularly allotted time slots. 
  • Finally, when I get things done, I cross/ tick them off. Honestly, nothing beats the pleasure of knocking down a task on a list. That gives you the momentum to take on your next task.

3. Leverage Technology

If you are tech savvy, you can also use a variety of web and mobile apps that can help you collect and organize your to-do list. If this doesn’t work, you know a pen and a paper are your best tools.

I have started using Evernote to capture my task lists and my notes. At the same time, I also prefer having my daily to-do list in a notebook for easy access and clarity.

4. Schedule

Once our lists have been organized, we need to schedule the tasks on to a calendar. I use both Outlook Calendar (for my professional work) and Google Calendar (for both personal and professional needs). Google Calendar also gives you the flexibility to add an event to any particular time slot of the day. Cal Newport extends this idea of event time boxing our day and calls it ‘fixed-schedule productivity’.

5. Track and Review

It is as important to track and review your progress on a given task as it is to collect, organize and create your to-do list.

  • You can use simple ways of tracking your daily routine activities through Ben Franklin’s Virtues tracker and web apps such as Joe’s goals.
  • The much talked about Seinfeld’s productivity secret – ‘Don’t break the chain’ is another interesting way to track and hold yourself responsible for the consistency of a routine task over time. (For example: maximum number of cold calls, or save X amount of money every day).
  • The book, 4 Disciplines of Execution names this process as its 3rd Discipline. The idea is to create a scoreboard for tracking progress. A simple google spreadsheet can help you accomplish this goal.

Try Yourself!

My suggestion is that you start making a to-do list from today. You don’t have to get all the 5 systems in place immediately but you can begin by jotting down a list of things that you need to do during the day. You can organize your to-do list in a method that is convenient to you.

Now that you are armed with an organized list of things to do, you are pretty much set to make this day one of the most productive ever.