Do this One Task to Get Stuff Done Now

All my life I have waited for the next day to become get things done and to be more productive.

  • I will avoid browsing YouTube from tomorrow
  • I am not going to play games from next weekend (this I actually implemented, yay!)
  • I will save time by learning typing from tomorrow
  • and, so on..

The problem, as you may have guessed it, was the “tomorrow” never came.

We have a saying in Hindi that roughly translates to –

Do tomorrow’s work today. Do today’s work now.

This sounds so easy and obvious, but isn’t. I successfully managed to push things to the morrow that never existed.

The underlying problem is the human mind.

The mind is interested in what is being experienced **now ** more than what comes later. It doesn’t care about the future, not the next moment, and not the catastrophe you will unleash by watching the Wonder Woman make overshadow both Batman and Superman in one go.

So, this one day I applied the many ideas that brilliant people before me have kindly provided. I stopped waiting for the next day. I simply started doing stuff in the **now** (yes, the ‘now’ has really beautiful stars adjacent to it).

Take this blog for example. I could bury my head all day into productivity, technology and related topics, but not write a word about it. I did this over weeks and always woke up feeling lousy the subsequent day because of the wasted opportunities.

There are also a few “smaller” things that you continue to do but are dangerous in the larger realm of things. These things have the ability to give you the sense of satisfaction for accomplishing nothing – checking Facebook updates, double checking that you have read all latest blog posts in your feedly list, and act of making sure your Inbox is clean every five minutes.

I am not saying all things you do (especially the part where you eat food and play games) are not important.

game and eat.gif

You have to just prioritize the tasks on the table and refocus.

When I decided to change, I started pounding down my thoughts without a care for the world. I just open the editor and started writing now. (so, good luck reading this post)

The act of “doing things now” is not alien, but there is a part of you that is always persuaded to do the task later. This guy wants you to while away time now – eat fried foods, binge watch your favourite shows on NetFlix, play a game for 12 hours straight, and other such glorious things.

What you do to trigger the “love for the productive now” is pretty simple – you pick up the minute of the minutest stuff that needs to get done.

This may refer to –

  • read the first paragraph of the book that you always wanted to read to get to your next million
  • write the first paragraph of your next blog post
  • commit the first few lines of your latest program

Once you are through the first step, magic takes over.

You will just not stop at the first paragraph or the first few lines. You know in your veins that what you are doing is what you enjoy now, today and later in your life. All you have to do is continue translating that thought into action.

What do you think? Will starting with the minute tasks work to get on the plane of productivity nirvana?

 

Will you wait to become commoditized or automated?

The whole physical realm of humanity goes through iterative cycles. We improve, we make mistakes, we learn and we go forward.

The improvement is proven and makes absolute sense when viewing our limited existence as a collective whole. I have not gone back to hunting gathering days, and neither have my close friends and family. I do not have physical existential challenges (danger from nature, life threatnening diseases) as my ancestors.

We’ve improved by leaps and bounds in the past 5000 years of recorded history.

However, none of us like change when it knocks on our doors. We love to view the change happening to “inefficient others” –

  • Cheaper clothes
  • Faster, better, good looking cars
  • Online utility bills
  • Customer self service through intelligent, automated systems

But, seldom associate that to –

  • Faster machines replacing humans
  • Faster design process using efficient software, higher automation
  • Replacement of the poor sod at the cash counter
  • Replacement of the poor sod at the call center and “customer service” counters

In each of the above cases, the hapless humans may be you or me. There are hundreds and thousands of ways to interpret what is happening around us, but there is a common underlying theme.

The work is being commoditized or being automated.

Commoditized and automated are two different things, but the underlying theme basically is the same – there are cheaper or efficient (if not both) ways of getting things done. They are to be taken as a sign of changing times, which by no way should be considered evil.

(Or, I may have lied – it may be a bit evil. Don’t you watch the movies?)

evil automation robot.png

 

Anywho, we will consider repurcussions of the bad AI later. To continue the train of thought that I had earlier – ws we move towards smarter machines, more novel ideas will present themselves for automation/commoditization.

So, what should the hitherto mentioned “poor sods” do? Should we be afraid of the future?Is humanity doomed in the all enlightened Watsons, Deep Minds and probably the Cortanas and Siris?

If you said “never”, and you should say “never” you dumb fellow, then congratulations – you represent all things human. The jobs created in the last hundred years, or the cubicles created in the last twenty years do not represent you and I.

The human spirit is being curious, finding the answer to the next big question and finding peace in the current moment. The world is a dizzyingly exciting puzzle of the physical, meta physical, philosophical, and everything in between.

What every human being has to do now is to just stop being afraid.

No matter what happens in the next two decades, and unless our worst dystopian nightmares come to life – we still do not go back to our hunter /gatherer days. Neither we need to start preparing our children to hunt deer, prepare for the next plague, or learn how to wield a knife properly (again, referring to the typical urban guys).

The need of the hour is to open the door to the change, give change an embarassing hand-shake and start dancing with it.

All you and I need to find is the small idea that can help us, and help others. And of course, it helps to follow that idea in action, continuously experiment through failures and successes, and persevere through all that.

Life is quite easy, boys and girls – go get that thing where you can create value yourself. The question that has to haunt you every moment of every day – “what did I do today that can help me in that pursuit”. Not each of those moments will be happy, I am sure, but all of them are well worth it.

It should never be a question of drifting to the next rotting branch, but to build a damn boat of all those branches and taking everyone and their dog for a ride (with all good intentions of course).

boat ride.jpg

Stop thinking about money by reading this book

My ‘Kindle Unlimited‘ subscription gives me access to some really good books, and then some excellent books. Since I don’t really have to pay money for the individual books, I get an opportunity to cause indigestion by selecting too many books to read and attempting to understand the world better.

It was with this sincerity I approached the book ‘I love money‘.

Although most of the mortals want a good love affair with money, I go into these glorious day-dreaming sessions of achieving beyond mere mortals by not having the need to think about money on a regular basis. I hope at least some of my reading will assist me in this pursuit – it has been a mixed bag so far.

i love money

‘I love money’ has noble ideas. In there, money is the good guy.

Money wants to be your friend if it isn’t not already. It has also gone ahead and written the foreword – what more would you expect?

The book announces to the whole world that you need to love money and make no bones about it.

Sadly, the entertainment value stops there.

‘I love money’ takes itself too seriously. It goes about creating a PhD-like course about how money is important, what it can do for you, how you should be doing stuff, and so on and so forth. A PhD course with some badly written content.

In this whole journey, you get many a cliche applied in today’s India (or let’s say your parent’s India if you are less than 30 years old).

Teach your children the value of Money (yes, with a capital ‘M’) and the virtues of saving, healthy habits, and other traits.

In the game of Money and Life, every opportunity matters.

Procrastination is a thief of both money and time.

Don’t jump to conclusions, or conclusions may jump back at you.

And things that a religious elder might not approve, but secretly admire anyway.

Start caring for money, treat it with lot of love and respect.

Sow the seeds of money consciousness deep in your heart.

Being playful with money is when you can see money and enjoy its natural beauty.

Pick up a currency and kiss it thereby expressing your love for money.

Well after reading 50% of this, I seriously started becoming uncomfortable. And, this had nothing to do with the nature of love expressed in the last sentence provided above.

The book simply calls upon you to respect/love money and has advice to treat money seriously – which includes gems like ‘note down who borrowed money from you’.

The book may be good advice and prep for the author’s workshop attendees. The book professes author’s love for money, and I have nothing against love of any kind (let’s not get wild here – afterall this is a G website). But, it fails miserably as a book.

There was no need to get so emotional about the message and create a melodrama about the ‘process of doing it’, ‘around doing it’, ‘about doing it’ and ‘how glorious you will be after doing it’. All the author needed to rather say was to ‘do the sh*t’ and ‘this is how it is done, baby’.

Look elsewhere if you want to read about money advice or how to get along with money.

 

I Love Money by  Suresh Padmanabhan.

Being a freak can be a good thing

Who knew that ‘freak’ – a common term with negative connotations, can turn out to be more than what it seems on face value.

At least that’s what the authors of Freakonomics and Super-freakonomics will have you believe. What else would you expect from them when ‘brand freak’ is at stake here.

Or, could it be really true? Is being a freak really a good thing to happen? Should you retrain yourself to be one?

The answers are nicely explained in an entertaining package that can provide enough material for your discussions at a party, water cooler, an intelligentsia get-together, or a big audience that is polite enough to not throw tomatoes when you are trying to fill-in the blanks between acts.

Seriously, it is excellent.

If you have not read freakonomics or its twin, you should be ashamed. You should close the browser, buy the book at your nearest book store, read it and return to this page. Or better yet, head over to Amazon and buy it on Kindle if you are indeed a freak.

‘Think like a freak’ did not have the same shocking factor as the first book.

think like a freak book

By this time, you would know the line of thought, how the facts are presented in the form of stories, and you are expecting some unbelievable things to be thrown at you in the commonest of scenarios.

All that excitement is very much part of the book.

The book answers some typical problems that would have nagged you when you are trying to think ‘intellectually’. Can’t remember when that was? Well, get in the line – you are in a well-populated place.

Without giving away spoilers, here are the three gems that influenced my thoughts.

Why do people predict things even if they don’t know?

The book convincingly explains how incentives have a role in making people predict things. If you are a economist, you will get a lot of fame and fortune by predicting doom at the end of century.

What happens if that doom never happens – well, no one really cares in the few weeks or months after your prediction. It it doesn’t happen, people will discuss some more and move on to the next big thing.

No one has a strong incentive to track everyone else’s bad predictions. There is also no strong incentive to say “I don’t know”. That would mean you are a person with no knowledge, and have nothing interesting to say.

So, people predict even when it is statistically proven that the future predictions seldom work in the context of the present.

Don’t be contained by your biases

There is always an interesting angle to look at the problem and solve it. But, we always gravitate towards the most biased.

People may take the road less travelled and have a better opportunity to succeed, but they seldom do that. The reason if you look back is quite evident – if you took a ’empirically accepted path’ and fail, you have tried hard enough. But the society will not be so kind if you fail doing something ‘stupid’. No one wants to be that guy even if dumb stats say on the contrary.

Freaks don’t need to be controlled by these biases, giving them more chances of success.

An example – the ‘hot dog eating contest’. Takeru Kobayashi, a new comer from Japan, did not think the 28.5 hot dogs was the upper limit. He ended up eating 50 hot dogs and set a new record that would not be beaten for the next couple of years.

Raw talent is over-rated.

Practice and you will achieve the most ambitious of the tasks that you wanted to master. Corelate and solve problems rather than thinking about how monstrous the problem appears and how many people who are supposedly smarter have not found their way out of its charms.

In Summary

Although the book is a quick read – it is well worth the 3-4 hours that you will spend on it. ‘Think like a freak’ may not revolutionize your thinking and lead you towards freakdom, but it sure initiate you to the process.

 

Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Evitt and Stephen J. Dubner.

Learn to type like a pro

I have been associated with computers for more than two decades now.

During this time, I have typed programs, typed posts, typed emails and then typed some more. As you may have guessed by now – it is safe to assume that I have typed a lot during this time.

All this typing would have consumed time – ** a lot of ** time. If I had a paisa for each time I saved money while typing content of 100 words, I would have retired by now to Goa or Kerala as a billionaire.

Before proceeding further, let us delve into a bit of history.

When computers came to be, it would have been an ideal if computers would have understood lesser humans like me with some magic and a bit of science. But that was not to be.

The problem extended on the other side as well. The people who were frontlining our conversations with computers formed their own secret societies and started talking to computers faster than ever before. Normal people would have done all that through a brain-computer interface – but we are talking about the cream-of-the-cream technologists here. So, they went ahead copying the humble typewriter.

And, thus started our (and eventually my) hate-hate relationships with keyboards.

— end of history lesson —

Keyboards enable me to talk to computers, but I never really called that a proper conversation. With all the mistakes I make in my typing, my computer would have launched itself into space & exploring Andromeda rather than be a party to the conversation.

Suffice to say that my typing –

  • is not fast – nowhere near it
  • is not accurate – backspace key on my keyboard often gets worn out. So much so that I have a bunch of cheap keyboards I bought only to extract the backspace key

The natural question now would be – why the heck would I not learn “touch typing”?

Believe me, it was not for the lack of will. Each time I see someone typing like this, I would drown in pity for my computer.

fast typing

I wanted to be like the hacker who can complete a 100-line Perl script while using his left hand to drink coffee.

So, it would be with the greatest of urgency that I would swear to become a ‘typing emiretus’ fifteen days hence. I would restart searching for a good typing program. I would download at least three and try at least five including the programs I had downloaded in my last great attempt. I tried

I tried gamifying the heck of the system without luck, and did not achieve anything by measuring my speed with specific keys. I even tried following tips by nobel prize winning typists, and for sometime, I tried typing with my wrists tied behind my back.

All of them were disasters. I would simply jump up and down one day, and try to stare down the computer the next.

staring the computer without typing

I would simply get bored of the whole exercise and revert to my old style after unceremoniously dropping everything. I could not accomplish much beyond the up/down arrows and A, W, S and D keys. And, that expertise was because of a game that I couldn’t simply stop playing.

 

To make matters worse, the point and click configuration I was doing at work to be called as an expert was replaced by something that would need me to type long programs.

Surely, the universe was against me.

Or, was it?

It was not long before I realized that I was the universe. So, the act of typing, or the lack of it, was also the self. And, huzzah to self, I tried my luck at the finding out the shiniest new program that could lift me up to the level of the aforesaid hacker (but this time he would be typing Javascript).

You know what – this story does indeed have a good ending. I came across this website called keybr.com.

type faster like a pro using keybr

I suddenly was enlightened about what I had been missing all this while –

  • I get bored of repeated typing of characters like this
    fff bbb ddd kkk ili lll
    This does not make sense people – it belongs to the unfortunate souls who are learning to type on a typewriter.
  • Since I could not really pronounce ‘fff’ and its counterparts, I had a hard time retaining it in my mind.
    I am not that intelligent.
  • I am not a person who has problems locating a key. Remember, I had typed typing with wrists tied behind my back. My big problem was not using all the fingers as God(s) would wish them to be.
    I could not sustain interest if I had to start all the way from using only the index finger to my whatever the other finger is called.
  • I would get real emotional about a program chastising me by holding off on a key just because I did not type it correctly. I was equally unhappy with a program that would accept whatever junk that came to it after ONE MISTAKEN KEY PRESS and score me negative numbers just because it could.

Keybr was the panacea I was looking for.

First things first – I loved that the program did not start from the very basics. I get to see words that I can pronounce and remember them for typing. This would be  the natural way of learning to type since that is what I do all the time.

Next, the program would gently show me the way with animation that I did not take kindly to. More importantly if there is a significant time lapse ( let us say 4 seconds) of me typing in wrong characters, it would treat my decision of refusing to type a character and move on. So the characters I typed after ONE MISTAKE (again in caps), would be ok.

Finally, I would not choose lessons one after the other or put up with a program that dare says I was a failure and could not proceed. Instead, I would be led like a king into deeper and deeper typing knowledge until I was ready to fight the dragon.

Oh, for God’s sake keybr! Why did it take so much time for me to find you? Now is the time I become a typing God before the Cortana, Siri and the like take over the world.