Friday, October 3, 2008

Mis en Place : Guide to Doing Things in Daily Life

From Wikipidea:
Mis en place (pronounced [miz ɑ̃n plas], literally "put in place") is a French phrase defined by the Culinary Institute of America as "everything in place", as in set up.

Ever struggled with arranging a closet? Or if you are a CEO, ever struggled being on multiple boards with enough participation? If so, then you realize the only way you can fit in everything is if you know where it belongs.

Our life is like that. We have to know what goes into our days, if it has a place and how much place it takes. We have to chose to keep the best, and allot proper time for that in our life. For example, if you are a hobbyist you have to chose which hobby is going to have space in your life. Otherwise you will replace main things in your life with hobbys.

These are some of the strategies to have things in place in your daily life

1. Identify the Time Eaters
Are you working 2 jobs to payback your loans, or because you want to fill time? Are you commuting 2 hours to save 500 dollars on rent? Ask yourself this question, for all the stress causers and major time grabbers in your life

2. Think of Alternatives
What else would you like to do if you have the extra time? Would you be willing to buy 2 hours each day for extra 500 dollars a month? Translating time into money sometimes puts things in perspective

3. Don't clutter your day or Life
Life is precious. Don't fill it with unnecessary junk. Don't make a habit of doing too many small things, instead readjust your day to have time as major chunk. Just like too many spices spoil the flavor of a soup, too many things will overwhelm the life.

4. Have goal times
Just like you show up to work at a fixed time, have in place fixed time slots for your goals. You cannot walk out of a meeting. Similarly don't let anything disturb your goal time (unless it's something important, like a baby howling for attention).

5. Ask yourself why?
If you have to watch TV ask yourself why? Can you find a book instead? Most of the times the single question will save you time.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Time Sense: Take Time to Track Time

Ever wondered where does the time go? I think all of us do at one time or other. But if you do it often, it's "Time to Track Time"

1. Track time for at least 2 weeks
  • This is because you might have a bad week, and you want to have an average week
  • Also, when you start out you tend be extra cautious, which does not reflect your real lifestyle
2. Make a note of it everywhere @work, @ office, or in the mall
  • Ofcourse you do not want to be considered weird, so do it discretely: By sending yourself a text message, or jotting down on your notepad (if you are in meeting)
3. Track time in increments: 5 mins, 10 mins or 15 mins increments
  • Each person has different attention span. Some people can focus on one thing for 15 mins, some only for 2 mins. Track accordingly
  • Summarize in terms of "What" you are doing: (talking, dancing, reading) , "Why" you are doing (gossiping, hobby, research)
This is an example of how you can do this from late Prof. Randy Pauch's "Time Management" talk (Nov 2007), with the What and Why columns (activity/function)(The presentation is available @ )

  • Apart from the above columns, also track the names of people involved (spouse, neighbor), and location(house, office).
  • The people and location columns are really vital to know who takes up most of your time.
  • Be as specific as you can of what you are doing

4. At end of 2 weeks, add up and calculate the percentage of hours you spent on things that matter
  • This will tell you where and how you spend majority of your time
  • It might also give more insight into what you like doing most
5. Improve your habits for another 2 weeks
  • If you focus time was only 5 mins, try to increase your focus time from 5 minute intervals to 15 minutes
  • Also try to reduce time waster by atleast 50%, and replace them with good habits: Example if you spend daily 4 hrs on tv, see if you can replace that with exercise and meditation
  • Repeat this till you are satisfied how you spend your time


Sunday, August 3, 2008

How to Discover Happiness through Laughter

Laughter is the best cure...Laugh and the world laughs with you (or is it smile ?)

We encounter these and several adages through the day: in a book, in a movie, on the road.

Is laughter tied with happiness? Yes and no. Happiness is a state of mind. You can be serious and still feel the happiness inside you. Laughter is an indication that something amused you. It is short lived. If happiness is the goal, laughter can be one of the effective way develop happiness.

Medically laughter is very beneficial to our mind and body. Below are some online articles, click for more details

Cut Stress by Anticipating Laughter?

Laughter is good medicine for reducing stress, enhancing brain ...

Now establishing that there is some benefit of laughing, we need to find how we can laugh away through out the day:without joining laughing clubs, or without sounding goofy.

Guidelines to Laugh

  1. Watch funny sitcoms on TV: Sitcoms need not be the new ones, they can be 20 years old too. You don't have to share which ones you watch. Just make a habit of watching the ones that makes you laugh or chuckle throughout. Preferably avoid watching with someone who does not share the humor. Limit it to one 30 minute episode. Try to vary them each day. Otherwise you might become a tv addict.
  2. Find people who makes you chuckle:Try to have 5 minute chat with people who jokes. (More than that the joke may turn on you). If in a shop try to find the most cheerful salesperson, and pass a joking comment, they might come back with a witty statement. The goal is to smile as much as you can, without appearing weird.
  3. Limit Negative Environment: Since we live in a social environment, we cannot always avoid things or people that affect us negatively. So limit it. If you have to deal with in-laws you make you feel bad, limit the time you have to listen to them. Or keep talking about something which makes both of you smile. Try to be pleasant but not at expense of your happiness.
  4. Laughter is contagious: Walk in a mall and look at people who are laughing out loud. It will at least bring a smile to you. When in a group you don't always have to talk. Just listen to the wittiest people in the group, and laugh out loud. Most of the time others will too.
  5. Cartoons !!!: They are everywhere. In newspapers, tv, internet. For every life style there is a cartoon that might amuse you. If you are in IT it's dilbert. If you have a troublesome kid it's Dilbert. Sometimes looking at people and situations in terms of cartoons will bring a new perspective and bring out the laughs.
  6. Games: Bingo, or game of tennis, or anything that gets some part of your body moving will kick start the brain. Each action can be preceded with a laughter. You can play with a frown on your face, but better precede each action with a comment. If not you someone will laugh, and as we said laughter is contagious.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How to manage multiple projects

My previous post focused on how to start and finish.

But how do you know which of the billion things on your plate to focus on? There are many cogent methods to getting things done. But how to them both effectively and efficiently. Which of the things to do? All of them or Some of them?

The method I am following now is
  1. List all projects and subtasks
  2. Group Similar projects to eliminate redundancy. I discovered most of the time projects have some similar tasks (i.e material from can be reused in other project)
  3. Divide the day into 3 segments
  4. In Segment 1 , try to finish as many small tasks as possible (irrespective of project)
  5. In Segment 2, Focus on the most urgent project (based on deadline)
  6. In segment 3, Focus on the high yield projects (based on high return)
Below, I tried to summarize in 3 steps, the systems that inspired me.

Getting Things Done
  • A List Method, Divide the list into sub lists called next action.
  • 2 minute principle
  • Do it, file it or trash it.

Four Hour Work Week
  • Follows the 80/20 principle.
  • 80% of the benefits are derived from 20% (friends, projects, etc.)
  • 80% of the things can be done in 20 % of the time.
21 Segments
  • Each week consists of 21 segments;
  • 3 segments per day: morning, afternoon and evening
  • Organize your activities into these segments.
Printable CEO
  • Track tasks and how much time you spend on each of them
  • Mark your time in 15 minute bubbles
  • Several visual templates

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

10 Tips to Start -- Guidelines to Start a Task & Finish Successfully

Each day we have to start somewhere. Most of the life we focus on starting something. Starting to break a bad habit. Being it starting a new relationship. Or staring job search. Or just starting to 'start something'. Even though you have many to-do lists based on Franklin Covey's method or GTD method, it's important that with each of these item on the to-do you have to start and finish.

Some people seem to forever stuck in Start. Some might start with great trepidation, but once started finish fast. Who are you? Whoever you are, whatever system you foloow the satisfaction is in finishing.

Below are some guidelines to successfully start and finish a task.

Guideline to successfully start and finish.
1. Evaluate the Difficulty:

  • Estimate the size of the task.
  • Try to make a list of the basics you need to start
  • Talk to people who did the same task before, or browse the internet and search for the information.
  • Set a very short deadline to start: I will start in next 20 minutes and gather the information in a day.
  • Sometimes it might appear as a small task before you start, but only when you start it you will realize the enormity. If so, step back and re-evaluate.

2. Take the next Step
  • Take one step at a time. One foot in front of the other
  • Each day is a step. Estimate how much time you need to allocate each day to finish in time
  • Each day, check if you went up the stairs or down the stairs
  • If you are stuck, don't forget to talk to people.
  • The goal is to move forward and not stay on a step.

3. Re-Evaluate: Maybe this is a Finish

        • Many time people start with big goals, and feel discouraged as time passes. In such cases, stop and evaluate if you did reach a intermediate goal, and do not realize that
  • Think and see if may be you need to take a shorter route, or need few more steps to reach the top
  • Small finishes, will give you the motivation to keep moving forward.If it is breaking of bad habit like giving up coffee, even decreasing it by 50% is a small finish.
  • Celebrate your finishes. Brag about them. Write them down.


Photos are from Microsoft word clip art gallery

Monday, June 9, 2008

Your Life: Comedy or Tragedy

Ever wonder if your life is a comedy or tragedy? Well I did not till I stumbled upon a movie scene. "Stranger than Fiction" (2006) , and roughly here is the scene.

The guy keeps talking to a girl in a bakery. He has a small empty notebook, and on each of the facing pages are the titles "COMEDY" and "TRAGEDY" respectively. As he is conversing with the girl he marks a line every time he says something with a sense of humor on the comedy side. Every time he offends the girl, or says something stupid he marks a line on the tragedy side.

Try to track your conversations with people and see are they humorous in general, or are they morbid. If you don't agree with something, do you end a conversation with a laugh saying "that's a good way to look at it", or do you pout and say "I don't agree with you"?

Below is a good difference between tragedy and comedy thinking, from the source



We feel

We think

We're unique

We're like everyone else

We strive for the ideal

We accept the real

We despair the human condition

We celebrate our humanness

We can't change

We change in the nick of time

We're crippled for life

We learn from life

God punishes us

Other people humble us

It's someone else's fault

We asked for it

We die!

We live!

Bottom Line: Have a sense of humor, especially in difficult situations.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Minimalist Living

As humans we tend to associate our growth with accumulation. Accumulation of wealth, accumulation of social circle, accumulation of things, accumulation of thoughts....

Some of them are important for day to day. We have to identify the "positive accumulations" such as finances, or "negative accumulations" such as unnecessary things.

People tend to collect things sometimes to pass them on to next generation. A gorgeous wedding dress, or stamp collection which then can sell in case of emergencies makes sense. But passing on junk in the name of 'hobby collections' does not.

Minimalism is the new 'Mantra', being adopted by the current generation. Minimalist house, de-cluttering house, minimalist finances, minimalist art, simplify life, 80/20 rule -- all mean eliminate unnecessary things. We cannot organize our life unless we recognize the basic stuff. Extend the minimalism to all aspects of your life.

1. Think Practical

Be practical, when you identify the positive and negative things. Make sure they are specific to you.

Good relationships is a positive accumulation. More cash in bank is positive accumulation. If you like nature, more flower pots on the porch is positive accumulation. But if you do not have a green tumb, they will soon turn into sore spots.

If giving away your great great grand mother's wedding dress is going to wrench away your heart every time you think about it, you are accumulating negative feelings for life. Better keep the dress and lock it away in a corner. But hanging on to gazillion kid's clothes you will never use is clutter.

Accumulation of subject books you might never read is Negative accumulation, even though they stack neatly in your book shelf. One they get outdated very soon, and two they accumulate dust easily.

Think about long term maintenance. The first picture is of a basic bead. Easy to decorate up or down, and easy to clean and polish. The second bed might look great but will soon turn into a eye sore if it gathers dust.

Think a) Is it low maintenance on a daily basis b) Is it practical

(Both the photos are from

3. Think Global

Look at Minimalism as a life style, and not as a decoration style. Starting at having a Minimalist Living Room is a good start, but extend it to you office, your e-mails and your thoughts. Minimalism keeps you focused on the important stuff. At the end of the post are few links on how to minimalize in various aspects of your life.

Some things I started with

  • Deleted the "Maybe some day I will talk" contacts from my cell phone
  • Sold / donated the books I might not read
  • Boxed all utensils, and started taking as need basis. Keeping them to no more than 2 utensils of same type per person (2 spoons)
  • Started setting bills to auto-pay
  • Any song in my collection, I have a problem with goes into a may-be list

4. Think Critical

Any one who was forced to evacuate, or pack in a hurry faces the problem what do I really need?
When evacuating, you have to pack your life in couple of suitcases. You do not pack you'r CDs or the tea cups your wife's brother's friend's neighbor gave. You pack your photos and documents. Same is true for a true minimalist living. If you have 1000 mails in you'r inbox, and you are given only an hour to go through which would you keep? If you have only 1 day to visti, which friends would you hang out with? If you have to move to a brand new house which are the 5 pieces of furniture you will choose?

I have only two suitcases, which hold all my critical life. Everything else, I can walk away in hearth beat.

5. Think Fast

Visualize. Imagine empty space. Savor it in mind. Whatever keeps you moving fast, do it.

If you are just starting on this path, start with the smallest aspect of your life. If you have 20 books and 500 e-mails in your life, start with the books. This is also what I call a top down approach. Starting small helps me to deal with confusion earlier in the path. It also helps you in getting detached part. Have a "percentage goal". That means aim for 5% reduction in all parts of your life, then go for 10 %. Otherwise you will be stuck in cleaning your house, and will not deal with other parts of your life.

Links that inspired me in "The Minimalist" process.

Bottom Line: Which other aspects will of your life you expand the minimalist living to?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Musing and Amusing

Everyone wonders, ponders, scratches their head once in a while. Not because of dandruff, lice or because of too much time on their hands. One sometimes may be amused by these too and most probably not.

Our so called musings might provide the insight into how we perceive life or a problem. For example, after waking up, you stumble onto the porch, pick up your morning papers and does not care about the neighbor’s dog littering on your porch. You are in good shape. You are focused and not distracted by the little annoying things that creep on you. But if you go out, and think about the dog, neighbor and what not, and scream at the paper boy for throwing your paper a micro inch outside your fence, you have problems.

Same with Amusing. What amuses you? A kid telling he caught a 10 feet fish, or your boss losing his/her head?

For whoever treading on a self-improvement path, the best place to start is analyzing their musings and amusings (I know their is no such word, but hey this is my blog). They tell you about your mood that day, your strengths and sense of humor and so much more.

So go ahead and log on your morning (and if you have the patience, afternoon and midnight) musings, and the stuff that amuses you.

You might discover after all you do not need self-improvement books and videos. You just might need to notice the right stuff, and focus on the stuff that matters.

Learn to Play, aka be a Team Player !!!


Today’s word that meets all the above criteria is the word Play.

“All work and no Play, makes — a dull boy”, no longer means work less. It means work smart. It means : be a Team Player. It might come as a shock to the Einsteins of the world, but genius is not the main criteria to succeed. Being a team player is very important too.

In today’s world development is occurs in infinitesimal steps. So are the contributions. So what does it take to win, or in some cases lose.

More Stuff

Bottom Line

If you succeed being a team player in one aspect in life, it is assured you will have fun in all the other aspects too.

Save yourself in new place

Quotes that will help in real life

From the book “Turning Tables” by Heather and Rose MacDoweel, Hard cover - Pg: 44

“Never Ask Why” (try not to even think it). Say “Of course” or “I’ll attend to it immediately” ‘

“DO: Treat bus boys like a rich aunt .If you’r nice to them, you stand to make a lot more money”

My comments: Here bus boys could refer to the people at lower level than you, but on whom you depend. For example, the assistants who research your material at work, the paper boy who delivers you’r daily paper. Money could be literal or a metaphor for any kind of help.

“DON’T: Be honest if anyone asks how you like working at Roulette. You love what you do and plan to stay forever.”

My comments: Substitute Roulette with your work place, or if you are visiting relatives their place. No one likes to think they are working/living in a place that is not cool.

Blog Rules !!!

Before I venture into the established and well trodden road of blogging, I wanted to identify what the posts should be based on. At the bare minimum, they should meet the following criteria, and more

  1. It should universally apply for a individual, a family, or a career
  2. It should be the one that moves the above from “ok” to “exceptional”
  3. It is the once characteristic that keeps the above afloat, in spite of all their negative qualities
  4. Each post should revolve around one word
  5. More important it should be a non boring,i.e. a Fun word.
  6. Each post should be backed up by at least 1 selected references
  7. Each post should have a bottom line