Journaling For The Busy You – The Five Minute Journal!

Making this new beginning today. Taking the 5 Minute Journal from ‘offline’ mode to online. For more details on the concept, check this link.


Quote of the day: Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.


(START OF THE DAY)

I am grateful for…

  1. being blessed with so many resourceful and enouraging people around. It makes seemingly uphill tasks a relatively easy and enjoyable journey.
  2. having the courage to use my ability to make life’s important decisions intentionally.
  3. the reunion and connect with old MBA school pals who are all in similar season of life. It’s such a mastermind group!

What would make today great?

  1. Having a clear and realistic plan and set the right expectations.
  2. Resuming the nature walk. 30 minutes today.
  3. Making specific decisions and progress. Collaborate, gather inputs but most importantly, don’t shy away from making decision making.
Daily affirmations. I am … being supported by the universe on my efforts!
 
(BEFORE HITTING THE BED)
Amazing things that happened today…
  1. The newly constructed and now operational flyover was a pleasant surprise. What used to take us a few hours took us less than 15 minutes. Thank God for little mercies.
  2. Amidst the challenges of life, handling people’s emotional outbursts and getting pushed and thrown around, the delicious home made Kadhi Chawal came as welcome break.
  3. Kids called us all into the living room for their dance performance. It lasted for a few minutes, but children’s giggles, smiles and carefree dancing, was almost shouting back at me that the simple pleasures in life are worth more than any millions. 
How could I have made today better?
  1. Worrying unneccesarily wasn’t a good idea. Obviously. It gave me nothing except doubts and anxiety. Could have tackled the feeling when it came, took some action(s), and moved on with rest ofthe day’s agenda. That would have made today better.
  2. They say that “what you schedule gets done!“. While that did happen eventually, but I could have been more intentional and created the schedule in the first hour of waking up.
  3. Could have spent some more time with the kids today. It’s a shame that although I was home, all I did was sharing with them about “The great indian rope challenge”, about which Ruskin Bond had written an interesting article. There’s room.

3 Free Chrome Extensions that Read Browser Text

People are different kinds – ones who absorb best through reading, ones who prefer the audio instructions and then the visual types who understand most through animation or videos.

Then there are also my type – We just don’t want to grow up. Still want someone to read us a bed time story before we go to sleep. Mom’s reading to the grandchildren, wife’s got better things to do in life, but thankfully there are the following tools which happily read out the text from the browser without making a fuss about it. These are all free to be used with Chrome, and my favorite among these is SpeakIt.

Goes without saying, this is a great tool for children also who would prefer someone reading stuff out to them. I particularly enjoy playing and replaying the blog or article for better understanding of the content. This is an aspect where reading usually isn’t that enjoyable, and besides it can harm the eyes. So, tune in guys:

SpeakIt

SpeakIt is a simple TTS (text to speech) tool. Kids highlight text in Chrome, click a button, and listen as the words are read aloud. This extension can read in more than 50 languages. Kids can adjust the speaking pace and select from a few voices. A similar TTS option on Chrome is Voice Instead.

Price: Free

Read Mode

Read Mode removes visual clutter from web pages to make them easier to read. It eliminates ads and animations and converts web pages into simple black-on-white text articles.

Chrome has a few variations on Read Mode that your child may want to try. For instance, Reader View also converts pages into text, and lets kids change the font and font size. And with Easy Reader, kids can select one section or part of page to view as reader-friendly text.

Price: Free

OneNote Web Clipper

With Web Clipper, kids can save anything from the Internet to OneNote, Microsoft’s note-taking platform. (Microsoft applications like OneNote and Word can be used in Chrome and other web browsers.) This allows kids to use Microsoft’s Immersive Reader to read text aloud from web pages. They can also look up word definitions and control the spacing, color and size of text for easier reading.

Price: Free

When You Answer Life’s Important Questions..

I am so excited to be on Editor’s page of The Scoop, our Toastmasters club’s magazine. After all, this has been a long and somewhat lost dream. This is certainly BIG for me to be the editor!

In the editor’s note, I share what sowed the seeds of becoming an editor in my mind long back. Sometimes, we get clues about what we want to do in the most unusual places and unexpected times. If you are still looking for what you are meant to do,  pay attention to these times. Because teacher appears when the student least expects it.

Read on for full story…


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Do What You Say!

Say what you do

Do what you say

A harmonious life

isn’t too far away

 

“Don’t play on the phone

Don’t shout, don’t fight!”,

said I, while talking on the phone

and was I polite?

 

Kids are either on the tab

or fighting or crying..

Boss is bad, ..no one understands.

…every moment, I’m dying!

 

Either they’re all insane,

or may be..,

just may be,

I’m doing something ‘not right’?

 

I thought all day,

..even sat to pray.

When I slept,

“He” showed me the way,

 

“Say what you do

Do what you say

A harmonious life

isn’t too far away”

 

All this while,

I was looking outside.

Practicing this mantra,

brought ‘peace’ to my life.

 

Just say what you do

Do what you say

A harmonious life

really isn’t too far away!


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What Is Your Happiness Score?

“My boss is unnecessarily complaining about my work. It’s painful!”

“My boss asks me to do the things exactly as he wants. Why can’t he understand that I’m not him?”

“I am sitting idle since last 2 weeks since I have joined the team. I feel so unwanted!”

These are some real life dialogues from my interaction with people just last week. Many if not most people in the corporate world are unhappy with their work life. And since work life is a large part of your overall life, they’re unhappy in their life in general too!

Lot of them don’t even realize that something is going seriously wrong with them, until it is too late. They know it only when they have developed serious anxiety issues, stress or even depression.

John Lennon knew the purpose of life when he was 5 years old, and yet so many of us as mature adults keep forgetting that.

In the classroom, the teacher had asked the little John Lennon, “What do you want to be when you grow up?

His reply, “Happy!

Teacher said, “You didn’t understand my question, John.”

to which John said, “You don’t understand life, Teacher!”

Life’s purpose is to be happy. And it begins where we are at – at home and at work. We spend a considerable part of our life at work. So, we must know how we’re doing on our happiness levels and whether we need to do something about it.

With that in mind, we created a system –Your Happiness Score(TM) – and tested it as well for months! We have seen the Happiness levels increase significantly every time we use this system, consistently on a daily basis. This is based on the 5 keys to being joyful at work (French: joie de travailler):

Rate yourself on a scale of one to five on each of the following happiness keys :

  1. Freedom – If your boss wants you to do something “exactly like he wants!“, it doesn’t look like a place where you are getting enough creative freedom. Moreover, you don;t know what’s in his mind. The only way I can create something exactly like someone else wants it is when I am him. Which is usually not the case. Although reviews and feedback is alright, and is required for improving the deliverable further, but there is a thin line of difference between constructive feedback and forcing someone to being someone they are not! This thin line is quite significant to determine you happiness score.
  2. Connectedness – “Don’t speak with Gopal and if you do take me along!“, my boss says. Well, that itself is a cause for concern. Being connected to people in the team and outside too openly is important to your being. You should be able to talk to everyone without any fear, openly. You should be able to bring up the ‘elephants in the room’, without mincing words. How are you doing on these things. Are you able to discuss matters of significance with your team? Connectedness is a human needs and plays a key role in our happiness levels.
  3. Interesting Work – “Just do it because I say so!“, says your boss. Well, that’s not what makes the work meaningful for me. I want to know the reason why we’re doing it, what value am I adding to whom in the process. The bigger picture of the impact my work creates to a larger cause to the society, community or industry is what determines whether the work will be interesting to me or not.
  4. Being of use – “I am on the team for two weeks without anyone asking me to do anything!“. This is commonplace at work, and it creates a havoc in the minds of people who are sitting idle. We humans enjoy being useful and being idle only makes us feel worse. We may not believe it but it is true. If you’re sitting doing nothing, its not at all a good news. It i a serious cause for concern. Take some action if that’s the case or quit such a job. Believe me, you’d be better off.
  5. Well Balanced Life – “I come back so late that I don’t see my children during weekdays!” Well, is that worth it? I don’t think so. There is talk of the work life balance changing to work life integration, with the technology tools and changes in the work arrangements. But whatever we call it, we ought to do things other than just office work. Getting up in the morning, listening to some light music, some yoga or exercise, morning prayer with family, reading something different, attending to family functions and conferences, pursuing your hobbies, spending time with family making memories.. those things ought to be part of your life too. You can’t wait for the retirement to do all that. Life is a gift and we must live a portfolio life which is a mix of all of these things.

Well, not that you have rated yourself on 1-5 on each of the above parameters, add up your individual scores and determine your Overall Happiness Score. The maximum your Happiness Score can be is 25 and the least is 5.

If your score is between:

  • 5 – 12: Situation is alarming and you need to take some steps today. Talk to someone you trust and make a decision. It could be as drastic as moving out of the project, organization or even that career.
  • 12-18: It’s concerning but you can possible do something to increase the score. Look at the areas where you are really low and see what can be done to address those areas. Continue to do what your doing on areas where your individual scores are good.
  • 18-25: Congratulations! You’re doing well. Your life is under control. At these scores, all you have to do is manage your scores in days to come, so they don’t come down.

Some people would ask, “What about Money? Fame? Parties? .. Don’t they bring happiness?”

Well, most of these would bring instant but temporary happiness, which often leads to long term distress. Of course we need money to sustain ourselves, but beyond a certain point, money won’t add to one’s happiness. For lasting joy, one must focus on things beyond these material things.

Well, that’s what I think. What about you?

Are there any other parameters you would consider to come up with the Happiness?


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What’s Your Message For The Newbies?

I was recently invited by USMS, IPU to deliver a talk to the new batch of MBA students. Here is my script, my message to the future generation, as they get ready in preparing for their corporate and entrepreneurial dreams!


It’s been 17 years since I passed out from this college – USMS, GGSIPU.

However, the memories are still fresh and intact of when I had scanning through the GGSIPU MBA entrance results list. That white ink-jet printout which was pasted on the display board outside the old Kashmere Gate campus auditorium.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had made it. My rank was 23!

I felt elated, after all I had finally made it to an MBA college, it was going to take me one step closer to my dreams.

There is so much I want to share of the experiences and learning I have had from that day till now.

I was wondering how do I convey it all. I decided to give it a shot to describe all I want to say in just one word. While it is very challenging to do that, I was able to come out with a word – The word is Believe.

Believe in yourself and believe in that everyone is here to support you achieve your dreams.

You are here to be ready to be leaders of tomorrow. These 2 years will enable you with everything that is needed to succeed in this disruptive business world. The college has world class lectures, it’s facilities are state of the art, and the course content is absolutely suited for you.

But we human beings are full of doubt. We will doubt that I just said. We will want to challenge that, question that and doubt that instead of believing that.

It is said in the corporate world that your career is 90% your own responsibility and 10% your Manager’s.

But people often forget that. They blame their managers for a bad appraisal, for not understanding their aspirations and on goes the list.

But does it help them. In my sixteen years of work experience, and I would be lying if I said I haven’t made that mistake myself, but I have never seen that approach working ever.

Similarly, at college, we need to remember that too – My career is 90% my responsibility, and 10% my support group’s – This support group includes your lecturers, your peers, your seniors. They are all here fully committed to help you. But you have to remember that the responsibility still lies with you.

That will change the game for you. This is a transition period for most of you, a transition from a student life to a corporate professional one. Enjoy this transition, while sitting on the driver’s seat, after all it’s about you, your career.

But don’t you ever feel alone. We are all there with you on the passenger’s seat. Your teachers. Your seniors. Alumni members.

We’re want you to succeed. We want you to reach where you have to go. We will guide you, encourage you and provide you all the tools and resources you will need. You just have to believe in your driving skills, and in your passenger’s rich experiences.

Here are my own apprehensions from the time when it was my Day 1 into an MBA college. Some of you may be able to relate with it, and I hope this will act as a starting point to bringing up your questions for me:

I THOUGHT I DIDN’T KNOW ENOUGH: After these many years, I have realized that one can never know enough. The mantra is to make daily habits that increase our knowledge a little bit every day.

Most of you know the compounding effect. Small daily improvements over time lead to stunning results.

Instead of reading through the mainstream newspaper which is nothing but masala, I made it a daily habit to read MINT and ET for thirty minutes. I started ‘getting it’ in about 3 weeks.

THE FEAR OF BEING FOUND OUT: Most CEOs suffer from this fear. They think that they are not really any superior than anyone else in the organization. They fear that people will get to know this soon.

We also feel that – I made it to the college by fluke. I should mind my business and not talk or interact much otherwise, I might be found out. It will be embarrassing.

To this, I would quote what Steve Jobs said, “You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. … Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

My mantra is to run closer to your fears and embrace them. It may be extremely difficult, but at the end of it, it is most fulfilling.

UNSURE WHERE I WANT TO GO: We have very vague idea of where exactly do we want to go – I want to become an entrepreneur one day, and take up a job the next day. Try something out of the ordinary, something disruptive today, and something stable, less riskier the next day.

It’s so confusing. May be I want to become a lecturer. We have that feeling all the time.

The good news is that the rules of the corporate are changing. Organizations are encouraging that, becoming more open to that. What used to be called “Corporate Ladder” is changing to “Corporate Lattices”. Being a Quality Manager, becoming a Trainer and then moving to  Project Management stream is fast becoming a norm.

Taking a some steps forward, then sideways, even backwards in order to find out what is it that I really want to do is far more worth it than taking up a job that you don’t love.

Failing fast is the keyword these days.

Let me just conclude by saying: Have faith. Believe. Best wishes.

You are in the right place. You will succeed.


That was my message, and now, I want to hear from you.

Do you agree with what I shared? What would be your message to the newbies? 


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Are You A Clock Builder Or A Time Teller?

“There is so much going on – I am struggling to do what is expected of me- at home, at work. I am missing my tasks, and getting occasional brickbats. All this is leading to resentfulness, followed by regret and then guilt. I am so stressed! Is there a way out?”

The year was 2004, and I was just beginning my career.

I was almost at the bottom of the pyramid back then, and yet I felt the pain. However, I would see people in the middle management who would never miss a single task that requires attention.

Raja, Priyanka and I were cab mates. They were both much senior to me – both Senior Managers, and I was a team member. I would notice Raja using his paper notebook all the time – capturing the bullet points of the tasks, the risks, the issues. It was organized such that he could look at the previous day’s progress and cross out the ones which were completed, and carry forward the ones that didn’t.

I initially felt it was so uncool.

His notebook filled like a bucket does with the tap open, …really fast. He made sure he updated it for the day even before we reached office, and in office, he would be fully prepared with almost everything. He was effective in meetings and knew exactly what needed to be done today versus what could wait for tomorrow.

Priyanka would use her laptop for similar purpose but she too always was on top of things. They were both extremely well prepared before reaching the office.

On the other hand, I was usually asleep along the nearly 2 hour long journey to work. I would start thinking of work only after I reached office most of the time. That resulted in following:
-I didn’t have an agenda when I reached office. Since I didn’t have one of my own, I had no choice but to follow other’s agendas. 
-I was constantly struggling – challenged to complete the tasks in time, missing out on tasks, doing certain things awfully wrongly.

Overall, I was reactive, waiting for instructions and of course was not being effective and not happy. But I didn’t know what was going wrong.

I was being a time teller rather than being a clock builder

I asked Priyanka once, “You are working on multiple projects and yet you are always on top of everything. What tools do you use to manage?”

She told me about systems. Systems to take care of everything to manage. 

That system could be a notepad like in case of Raja or an excel list in case of Priyanka. Those are simply tools which help one in doing the work effectively.

While they were going with systems, I was going where ever the wind was taking me. Obviously they were happy driving things and had a greater chance of getting to where they planned to go. I on the other hand, didn’t even where I wanted to go.

I was lacking a system for my life, and that what was making it a painful journey for me. I didn’t know what tools I could use to have a ‘system‘ that worked for me.

Don’t use too many:
I tried various different tools, got very fond of some too. However, I realized over time that one should use a minimum number of tools that are required. Too many tools will only add to the misery. These tools are there to help in accomplishing the work at hand, and not to become confusing work themselves.

Don’t get too hung up on the tool itself:
Tools are a means to an end – not an end in itself. So, spending time playing around with it would be counter productive. Of course, you require the basic training to understand it, but sometimes we are tempted to go on an endless exploration when we are supposed to do the work. That is a Big NO!

Choice of Tool doesn’t matter so much:
Use tools to get the work done, as a medium and you will prosper. A single sheet of paper designed used consistently could work just as well.

While it’s okay to use these tools on a need basis throughout the day, it is important to use the ones what help plan the day, before you start your work day. It doesn’t take up a whole lot of your time once one gets the hang of it – it will take 15 minutes or less.

But those 15 minutes of planning the day would help you get on the driver’s seat for taking you to where you want to reach at the end of the day.

Now that you probably understand the importance of systems and tools in your professional (and even personal) life, here are the two that work best for me:

  1. Kanbanflow: This helps me organize my tasks based on my life priorities. It also has an in-built timer based on Pomodoro technique to complete the tasks. I use the FREE version which itself is extremely powerful. https://kanbanflow.com
  2. Trello: Another very powerful tool on similar lines is called Trello. It provides an ability to add attachments to the tasks and also allows a simple way to create tasks automatically by sending out an email to a Trello email address. www.trello.com

Our career is a Marathon… a long journey! What is required is to build systems (clocks) and not be naive by being time tellers each time. It would be too many times that we will be asked and it will burn us down before the finish line if we don’t create systems. 

What Systems are you using for productivity and effectiveness in your life? 


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My Biased Opinion of My Son’s First Ever Public Speech!

“The next speaker is Tanav Sawhney.“, said Shreya, the Gavelier of the Day.

Tanav, my 9 year old son, emerged from the chair, walked in a confident gait, wearing his hat, and took the place to start the show. 

He noticed that the Gavelier had not invited him on the stage with the formal title and speaker name format. It was supposed to go in this case like, “The King of Pop, Tanav Sawhney. Tanav Sawhney, The King of Pop

But that didn’t deter him. In fact, he said it himself and proceeded with his speech: “The King of Pop, Tanav Sawhney. Tanav Sawhney, The King of Pop”

He was loud and clear.

He started by asking the audience, “Do you know who is the King of Pop?

(Technique 1) Surprisingly not many people knew that, but isn’t that such a great technique to start the speech – by starting with a question to get the audience’s brain to start exercising. It brings such a great engagement from them.

Tanav remembered all the techniques I had told him at different points when he was preparing the speech.

(Technique 2) First ten seconds in the speech are the key – the audience will decide if they want to stay with you or leave you, in those ten seconds.

Tanav had been able to grab the attention in those ten seconds. There was so much he did in that time – seemed such a natural progression.

There was pin drop silence when he was speaking. The audience was all ears. They had decided to stay with him. His question was followed by him saying, “For the next 2 minutes, I am Michael Jackson!”

Bold statement. Requires a lot of confidence to say that you will step into the shoes of the King of Pop.

(Technique 3) Entertain the audience.

Right after that claim, Tanav did a spin around but acted like he fell. That might have disappointment the audience a bit because they had made up their minds to see something great.

But it was part of the plan to fall, only to get up. “Let me try again.“, he announced as he wore his hat.

This time around, he was able to spin around, jump up and land on his toes. He remained in that pose for a few seconds.

Audience was all cheers.

(Technique 4) Educate the audience

Information and value bombs dropped all through Tanav’s 3 minutes and 10 seconds speech.

Tanav continued with sharing more information about Michael, his full name, his love for pets and his rather unusual pets – a chimpanzee, and a python, him being the first black artist to come on MTV, the Queen of Pop, his love for humanity, his most selling albums and so on.

There was bags full of information for the audience to go back.

(Tehcnique 5) Tantalize the audience.

While there was so much shared in Tanav’s speech, there was so much more for audience to go back and research on their own. Tanav’s speech was like a trailer for the audience’s mind to be at work even after the session has ended.

I can say with certainly that a few will definitely look up on Youtube and Google and learn and enjoy Michael’s songs.

And Tanav did complete justice to the trailer – He sang as he had mentioned about the most selling albums and even danced, showing his own love for the greatness of Michael and inspiring the audience to find out more.

(Technique 6) Play the part with all you’ve got and enjoy.

You learn best in moments of enjoyment.

Tanav sprinkled humor in his speech throughout. Like when he asked, “Do you know what is MJ’s python’s name?”

Then added, “It’s Madonna, the Queen of Pop!”

Hilarious.

The way to entertain the audience is to enjoy the speech yourself. Tanav was thoroughly enjoying the act such as when he acted like MJ’s chimpanzee and python, when he danced and on it goes.

His use of props – the MJ Hat, the black armband and even the choice of his dress showed that he is here to perform. Just like Him.

His moving from one place to the next when he shared MJ’s three most selling albums was very impressive – very experienced speakers forget that so often. He used the stage with such perfection when he pointed to three different places while mentioning, the people who are dying, the children in pain and people living in poverty.

Hat’s off!

(Technique 7) Give them something original. Something novel.

Tanav said, “His full name was Michael Joseph Jackson.” and then he added, “He is called MJ in short form, but I think he should be called MJJ..

The way Tanav emerged out of Michael’s body, and said, “I was trapped inside Michael for so long.”


With all the above going on in a ~3 minutes speech, it’s easy to forget the overall message the speaker wants to convey.

(Technique 8) There must be a single clear overall message for the audience.

As Tanav emerged out of Michael’s body, he said, “I am Tanav. I also want to help the people who are dying, the children in pain and the those living in poverty”

Then he urged the audience, “You also please help them, and be like Him and me.

I write Him in capitals because I feel the way Tanav said it, there was a double meaning in that, he meant not only Michael but also God Almighty himself. Tanav had pointed up above as he had said “Him”.

Something even he may not be able to understand himself also being a nine year old, but he will realize it as he grows.

(Technique 9) The last ten seconds are the final key

Tanav was at peace as he said “..be like Him and me.” His eyes slowly closing peacefully, and his arms and head stretching upwards and then back.

He remained in that pose for a few seconds before he said, “Thanks.

That made every soul in the audience believe in Tanav’s message.

He received the audience’s standing applause with such grace and then moved out of the stage with a moonwalk.

Video is attached. Please write your unbiased opinion in the comments below.


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If Toastmasters Was A Person..

On 13th June 2013, I took the first step.

Never could I imagine this step would end up being one of the best one of my life. After all, it wasn’t a big deal going to attend a Toastmasters club meeting as a guest.

Couple of meetings and something in it looked nice. I didn’t exactly know what it was but it was enough for me to decide that I would join as a member.

With each meeting, I sensed something was going right. Still not sure where it would take me but it was enough for me to keep going the path. I was enjoying each step and learning along the way. So, I kept going.

It kept getting better. Today, after being in a relationship with Toastmasters for 5 years, I sometimes think if Toastmasters was a person, she would be

  1. Kind – After all, Toastmasters is the only place where I learnt that there is a way to give feedback to transform lives without being rude or angry!
  2. Empowering – Toastmasters lets me try out my wings, with all sincerely, without mocking, or laughing or shaming!
  3. Open– Toastmasters is the epitome of openness – It welcomes people and ideas from diverse professions, ages, religions…!
  4. Curious– Toastmasters encourages me to have that childlike quality to know more, do more and be more, always!
  5. Running her own race– Toastmasters teaches me to compete with only one person – myself, and be the best version of ‘me’!
  6. Joyful– Toastmasters validates for me that we certainly learn best in moments of enjoyment!
  7. and let you Be – Toastmasters lets you be! It doesn’t force you to change, or to be someone else. There is something very special about letting one be!

Above qualities are also the qualities I look for in my friends. If Toastmasters were a person, it would certainly be my best friend!


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