When will you live the present?

 

After a long time,  I read something that I wanted to read again..

.. and again.

.. and so the story goes.

The words did hit me that hard.

The paragraph is simple enough –

You believe that creating your best possible life is a matter of deciding what you want and then going after it, but in reality, you are psychologicallyincapable of being able to predict what will make you happy.

Your brain can only perceive what it’s known, so when you choose what you want for the future, you’re actually just re-creating a solution or an ideal of the past.

Ironically, when said ideas don’t come to fruition (things never look the way we think they will) you suffer, because you think you’ve failed, when really, you’re most likely experiencing something better than you could have chosen for yourself at the time. 

 

I cannot help going through this statement in my mind without uttering a “wow..”. Head over to Soul Anatomy to read the rest of the story.

Is there *anything* in life that you don’t link to the past?

You project the past on your future and want that past moment. You want to feel the exhilaration that was the specific moment and want that to experience again.

Or..

You want the world that you have constructed for yourself to be realized. The happy future is your own concoction of ideas or projections of a glorious past, corrected to suit your whims of course. Nothing wrong there – except that you think that the eternal happiness is always one step ahead of you.

Either of the two is an effort in vain.

You are either regretting or reliving the past, or yearning for the future full of happiness.

The human nature has made the present immaterial. The present is looked at as a tiny thread that connects this big, glorious or horrifying, full-of-missed-opportunities past with the always uncertain, happiness-lies-ahead future.

And, there lies the problem. When, my dear reader, will you live the present?

Learn productivity from productive people

Are you one of those who look at Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Jerry Seinfeld, Homer Simpson and scores of others and wonder – how the heck can they manage to cram so many things in so little time?

Do you ever contemplate if –

  • They time travel. While you and I have a slow trip to the next block, the successful people zip across the multiverse (also explains why they are successful – they learn across universes).
    time travel productivity
    Unquestionably, they cannot be bound by something silly like “only 24 hours in a day”.
  • The highly productive people have their brains wired differently. I would have given another Hollywood movie here, but I will leave it to you as homework.
  • They belong to, or have a secret arrangement with Jumper community to eliminate travel time?
    save time by becoming jumper
    Get coffee… whoosh… dictate to Secretary … whoosh .. travel to International Date Line (well, as much as a place as any) – you know the drill.

If you answer any of the questions as “yes” – you are weird and should consult a doctor.

Or..

.. you could also read a 19 page “5 Things Highly Productive People Do Every Day” that clearly outlines what the highly productive people do right every day.

Update: the book is gone. Get audiobook here.

Charlie Milan book review

It is simple, really. The facts are broken down into five categories for you uninitiated simpletons –

  1. Stick to a morning routine
  2. Exercise
  3. Value time
  4. Commit to Priorities
  5. Write Everything Down

No sh*t. That is it – you now are on the path to greatness automagically.

I am presently stuck at step (3). While I’ve outsourced the heck out, I am still trying to figure out what to do with all that time.

The book has its highlights –

  • Make time by getting up early and use that time productively
  • Outsource less productive work to free up your time
  • Free up your mind by writing stuff down
  • Use lift.do to cultivate a habit for 90 days (yep.. you read that right – lift.do)
  • Learn to exercise from beachbody.com (yep.. you read that right too. But stay here for two more minutes)

But, it isn’t quite there.

The book could have been far, far better. There are scores of things that people do, don’t do, or can’t do. While the author does make some points about how successful, productive people do stuff, the message gets diluted – real fast.

Did David Allen outsource his typing? Does Mr. Buffett do the chores? Did Bill Gates resolve the BSOD by himself? We are never going to find out here. The author superimposes his ideas in the later parts of the book, and the title just dissociates itself with the content.

The book does make a good 15 min read rather than wasting your time playing Farmville or watching TV.

5 Things Highly Productive People Do Every Day [Book died on Amazon]

Audio-book on Audible.

Are you being sad while pursuing happiness?

Are you happy?

Immediately upon reading this question, you will be thrown into a turmoil.

  • You start pondering about recent happenings, and whether there is any cause for happiness
  • You think about all the past events – either it may be your success in education or job, marriage, birth or something that delighted you
  • You even think about your current goals that WILL make you the happiest person in this part of the known universe

All this is typical human behavior.

Unfortunately, all this is just the wrong notion of happiness.

problem of pursuing happiness

 

What is wrong with pursuing happiness?

You are taught from time immemorial to set your sights on “becoming successful”. You set goals for yourself in order to achieve this happiness.

Goals are necessary to plan your life. They help you remain motivated about today, and to make plans for tomorrow.

But, what a lot of us tend to do is treat goals as the pre-requisite for happiness. 

The problem is this “goal-based happiness”.

Let’s say you have the goal to earn five million dollars in three years.

You plan each step of the way to take steps towards your goal. You outline what you want to do every month for the next three years. You work really hard to earn, save, and earn some more.

If you are like the majority, you will also postpone today’s happiness. You justify that by thinking that as a necessary sacrifice for the tremendous joy of success waiting in the future.

And one fine day, you reach that five million magic number.

You are delighted that all your hard work has paid off. You pat your back for being focused, party a bit, share happiness with your near and dear, and feel exhilarated about living.

After two weeks, the achievement does not get you the same “kick”. You start drawing a bigger picture. Yes, you did “it”. And now, it is time to move on.

You just shift your goal posts. You now want ten million, a bigger house, a bigger car, or anything else that rocks your boat.

Goals give a purpose to life. By all means dedicate yourself towards that purpose. Strive towards your set objectives and get a kick out of achieving them. But, tagging your happiness to achievement will rid you of the joy of today.

You become too busy thinking about how happy or sad you will be with those goals. It is too easy to get worried about each passing moment and wondering whether that time has helped towards your objectives. You want to “postpone happiness” until the goal is achieved.

By doing that you fail today regardless of the success or failure that is tomorrow. You plan and measure your journey but don’t live in it.

journey towards success

 

Find happiness in the journey

This life is lived every moment.

You can spend “this moment” happy that you are inching towards your goal and excited about what life is teaching you now. Or, you could spend it in anxiety about success or failure and make that your life.

Targeting happiness at the end of achievement of a goal is horribly short-lived. It does give your moment of “true happiness” but sadly that lasts only moments. The real joy is to be found in the journey.

“Today” is a joyous occasion  –

  • since you succeeded
  • you failed and learnt a valuable lesson
  • you made small progress towards your goals or set the bar higher due to changing situations

Any or all of this make up your today and that’s what you got now. Learn to enjoy them, cherish them, and live them.

Condition yourself to be happy while you journey towards your defined successes. You enjoy your life better by tuning in today rather than planning that for some future day.

3 ways to browse responsibly

Internet is one of the greatest inventions ever.

You can get access to invaluable information at the click of a button, connect with smart people around the world, and be the harbinger of change.

You can also choose to while away your time, get entertained, have a laugh or two, and check the status of your 121 friends for the 3rd time in the hour.

Even if you are the person with absolute self-control, Internet makes it really easy to get distracted and switch between productivity-heaven to hell with one click.

enjoying non-productive time browsing websites

Fear not my friends. There are other tools that smarter people have built to solve this problem.

Here are 3 great tools that you will find useful. They are completely free and there is no reason for you not to use them starting today.

 

1. Strict Workflow

This is one of the tools I like the best. Strict Workflow is a Chrome browser extension that sits pretty in the background and blocks non-productive websites for 25 min at one stretch.

Why 25 min? Well, it follows the Pomodoro technique to make you focus on your work for 25 min followed by a 5 min break. You can change the work time and break time as you wish.

You can also specify which sites to block. It does make your life harder if you are working on Facebook apps, but should work just fine for the rest of us.

strict workflow browser extension to improve productivity

What more – you cannot change the options once the timer is started. You have to complete the stipulated work time, or disable the extension 🙂

This extension because it follows a strict pattern of work and break phases, and the timer is inbuilt. Having the timer and the block is a big productivity booster. It encourages you to stay focused, bring urgency to the task at hand, and also blocks non-productive tasks.

On the downside, it does not have a counterpart for Firefox.

 

2. StayFocusd

StayFocusd is another Chrome extension that gets the same job done.

What I like about this extension is the sheer number of options that I can leverage to control my wayward ways.

block time wasting websites

You can do several useful things using this extension –

  • Block/allow specific web sites
  • Track your time on work/non-work sites
  • Allow the non-productive browsing only during specific times of the day, and for a pre-defined duration
  • Set a challenge to disable. You would think twice or thrice before typing away the challenge that disables the preset pattern of blocking websites
  • You also have a nuclear option to block all sites except for allowed sites for that intense focus that may save the world
    stayfocusd allow specific websites and improve productivity

You could use StayFocusd independently, or alongside Strict Workflow.

 

3. FocalFilter

All these browser extensions are fine, but what if you are technically advanced to browse without a standard browser, or just switch to Miro for the movie trailer that everyone’s seeing.

FocalFilter is the answer to your woes.

It may not be as advanced as the browser extensions, but it does something very simple. The program will run natively on Windows and block specified websites for a predefined time period – on all browsers/programs.

focalfilter block access to websites for predefined period

The program has a light footprint and is easy to install and use.

If you find the lack of options here disheartening, you may pay $19 to get Cold Turkey. It has all the bells and whistles that you can hope for.

Again, you can use FocalFilter alone or combine this with the power of other two extensions mentioned here.

 

Anything goes when you are needed to work for the good of humanity. Rock on!

Inspire others by offering a helping hand

Imagine this.

You are a 20-year-old kid. Your parents could not afford school. You had pre-decided you did not have it in you anyway. You grew up without anyone noticing how.

You went on to get trained on something as humble as bicycle repair.

You gradually learnt the art and the science behind bicycles – 10 years of that to be precise. You get to know the people who come to get their cycles repaired, and how the world works.

And finally, you think you have everything figured out by branching out on your own.

If you are in India, you have primarily two options –

  1. Approach your relatives and friends (who are themselves poor, but a little interest on the side would not harm anyone.
  2. Approach your friendly, neighbourhood go-to guy who makes money go around. The same guy suddenly becomes a toughie when you don’t afford to pay back an instalment. You get owned immediately after – forget the principal, you can’t even think straight about the interest

All this for Rs. 5,000, or Rs. 10,000.

That’s not you, of course. But, that is the real story of Kumar from Karnataka, a 30-year-old who finally decided to get his own business.

get micro finance to set up own business.

Kumar’s story is just one of the countless entrepreneurs who can be found in many villages, towns, and cities. It is inspiring to say the least. We are the people who tend to ignore them.

It is something that most of us here in India relate with, and “think of doing something”.

And then, we forget that. We, the people, are too busy mending our own lives, nurturing our own egos, and fighting our own battles.

We tend to forget that we are the fortunate few. One of those who can afford to pay Rs. 100 without as much as an afterthought, if not for the entire Rs. 10,000 that could have meant using a bus/bike/local train instead of the car.

We are the people who tend to ignore Kumars of the world, but leave it to them to sort out their own problems.

But, not anymore.

Not if you and I could help them at the click of a button with money that would have gone to a dinner + shopping + movie, or as the fortnight’s fuel bill.

 

Micro-finance to the rescue

You get to help people like Kumar and many others through a system called microfinancing.

Many of us will be familiar with the success stories driven by Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh. He is the best known of people who took microfinance to new levels. He localized the way things work, helped people around him, and made the concept well known.

Microfinance provides small loans to people who are less fortunate with money aspects. It gives them some maneuverability and an option to get out of the debt trap.

And, it can be driven by people like – yes, you and me.

 

How can you help?

Rangde.org is one of the recent websites I discovered that tries to make a difference. And, you can make a difference as well.

I was hooked when I went through a few stories and saw what people are trying to do in spite of the disparaging conditions around them. All they need is some financial backing.

Rangde makes it easy for you to be that guy or girl.

You select the purpose of the loan (education, vocational courses, microcredit), select regions/people whom you find inspiring and inspire them in turn. It takes as little as Rs.100 to get started.

rangde micro invest and inspire others

 

And that Rs. 100 gets back to you after the loan term if you invest in Micro venture or in a business. You can get interest on your investment if you so desire.

Rangde has put in place an infrastructure to identify potential, qualified borrowers, disburse the loans and collect the repayments. Rangde connects you to the people in need through field agents.

Loans are disbursed at a flat interest that depends on the nature of microfinancing.

interest rates

 

Field partners collect the amount as per repayment schedule. Rangde invests a significant percentage in them, collects a 2% fee to sustain itself, and (if relevant) gets you an interest too.

Rangde has won its share of awards and is a recognized non-profit doing its part towards the good of the society.

rangde.org awards

You, on the other hand, have a well-built website at your disposal. Invest just like you add items to the shopping cart, and pay securely through credit card or through your bank.

You can also track your investments, and track how you are doing your bit at the click of a few buttons and a small amount of money. You could become a larger part of this cycle by getting involved in the activities, or donate to Rangde as well.

So, what are you waiting for?

 

Visit rangde.org and get inspired today.