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Life & Productivity

Free education, and learning the art of observed intervention

Children in their nineties would know their lives were surrounded by two things – Books and outdoor play. There was nothing more to do. Especially in India, where formal education has been so important that it would become impossible for them to pursue a rewarding academic career without a proper degree. You can’t learn by yourself, that’s what that means. You have to have a certificate, which proves, although you can or can not in reality, that you are perfect for the job. Times are changing, though. We live in a time where books are not enough.

The world is simply transforming faster than books getting printed, and these books are, although some timeless, losing their importance faster than ever. Something similar is happening with our education system. Our education programs are not agile, which need to be. If we don’t transform them in speed with the world, students would not be able to cope with the future shock they would experience the moment they arrive into the practicalities of business, or profession. The core remains the same, and it remains pretty mundane, and it will be so, for time to come.

Take for example marketing. And I take this example, because everyone has to become a marketer, or a manager, at some point in their career, where selling their expertise is more important than their expertise itself. Except if you are a scientist on a government payroll or grant, you are going to have to pitch yourself, in front of a CEO, or possibly, you become the CEO, build some product out of your expertises, and pitch it to your potential customers. You get the point. Everyone sells.

To continue with the example, how do you become an excellent marketer? You believe graduate and undergraduate programs, and then you read a lot many marketing books, and maybe then you would realise the depth of this industry. This is a mundane way to study marketing, let alone anything else. Alright, I agree, it’s not completely wrong, they’re useful, but when it comes to keeping up with time, they’re useless. Sometimes, they lead to overwhelment, or information overload, leading to action paralysis.

First, marketing is something you can never learn without actually doing it, and second, the best marketing techniques are right in front of you, everyday, even right now. To believe that books can teach you everything you need to know about marketing, or any other subject for that matter, is a very limited approach. You need to experience it firsthand. You need to learn to observe, and understand the fine print that is visibly hidden from everyone around you. You need to see marketing in what others see as exciting opportunities. You have to know that you are being sold to, every moment of your life, and you need to be consciously choosing your purchasing decisions.

How do you become conscious, and observant? Well, experience. You can’t get that experience through books. Maybe, they can teach you the fundamentals of decision making, by giving you the best scenarios about how decisions were made in the listed scenarios, but you are always going to face something new, and that new is going to keep you troubling, if observation is not something essential to your syllabus.

To take this further, observe and listen to the marketing that’s all around you. How was this smartphone marketed to you? How did you come across your clothes, what made you choose these brands? How did you come across that kitchen table, or your iPhone, or your shoes, or anything else that you bought in the last thirty days? Make a note of their offer, the sales copy, the headline, and the pitch that made you want to spend money. Then try these observations with your product. Because if it caught your attention to buy, it worked.

Of course, the theory won’t apply everywhere. You can’t become a rocket scientist, or mathematician, although some would disagree. You don’t need someone to give you the theory all the time. You sometimes simply need to observe what they are doing.

Learning to observe is one of the most crucial skills in free education. If you want to learn something for free, learn to observe. Cultivating observation is not easy though, because not everything comes to you naturally. Sometimes, you need external help, or stimuli, to understand what to observe, and how observation works in your field of study. The tougher the observation aspect of any subject, the harder it will be for you to learn it. Sometimes, you will need a mentor to guide you through, and often it will take years before a subconscious observation pattern for that study is cultivated. You have to plant the roots of subjective observation into your subconscious.

To become exceptionally good at something, or anything that interests you, start by feeding your mind with information, that isn’t even understandable. Don’t worry if the information doesn’t sink in just yet, when you are trying to learn to observe. Let your conscious and subconscious mind take in all the available data, decipher the pattern, and then help you distinguish between different patterns, which you can then use to build advanced mental models, quite automatically, to observe patterns and scenarios.

But there is also a faster way to build such patterns – by applying the concept of psycho cybernetics, you can build mental models, that you subconscious can then use to achieve any desired result, almost on autopilot, which also includes learning to observe the innate patterns of any industry, any logical organisation of thoughts, or any for understanding how you are being stimulated, in consistent pattern, but do the things you do, so that you can do them better.

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Life & Productivity

Snooze Sprints – A surefire way to beat chronic procrastination

Every morning, we fight a battle with ourselves, in our bedrooms. When the alarm goes off, we pull out this devilish invention to fight the inevitability of waking up for the next nine minutes. And then, maybe for nine more minutes, and then some more. Most productivity experts will tell you that snoozing away your morning is bad for your day.

First, the argument is that the quality of sleep you get after pressing snooze is comparatively low. Dr. Matthew Mingrone, one of the lead physicians at Eos Sleep’s California center, says that it is, in fact, bad for sleep and can leave you groggier and more tired compared to getting out of bed after the first alarm. Instead of a deep sleep, our bodies experience light sleep, which promotes morning laziness and procrastination.

Second, in their book, Willpower, Roy Baumeister and John Tierney say that willpower depletes with use. If you spend your willpower fighting yourself out of bed in the morning, you will have less of it during the day when you most need it to handle that difficult colleague.

Yes, over 57 Americans are snoozers, with research suggesting that we spend around 3.5 months of our lives snoozing. That snooze button is responsible for delaying morning routines, feeling lazy all day, needing to rush into daily activities, and induction of anxiety in our day to day lives.

For most people, a snooze button is nothing more than a way to sleep a little more. It’s time to turn this productivity killer into a productivity tool. A simple change in perspective does the trick.

What is productivity to you?

I like the feeling of having achieved something, especially in the mornings. Initially, my mornings were snoozed and delayed, and my plans would never manifest. I dreamed of getting up at 4:00 in the morning, going for long walks or jogs, meditating, practicing Surya Namaskar, returning home in sweat, cooking my favorite breakfast, having that perfect morning shower, getting ready, and going to work. Heck, I also dreamed of writing for one hour in the morning. None of which manifested. I snoozed away my mornings and days, trying to build a productive morning routine, which only turned into a procrastinated nightmare.

And let’s face it, mornings are hards for most people, as the statistics prove above. Most people would love that 9 minutes of delay in getting out of bed, and probably, many other things they want to do in the morning and during the day.

I had to change the way my mornings went drastically. For productivity, I would have to accept that I only have a limited amount of time at hand before I hit the day. Say, I wake up at 4:00 in the morning, I have 4 hours for myself. If I wake up at 6:00, I have two. My work starts at 8:00 and ends around 5:30 in the evening. After which, I don’t try to be productive. I want to relax, enjoy my acoustic mixtape, maybe read something, or practice my newly found love for programming. The rest of the day is about exploring. If I had my first two (or four) hours sorted, I would be mentally at peace with myself during the day, staying in the positive feeling of being in control of my achievements.

So, first, you need to understand and figure out your productivity cycle. Make a list of all the things. Make it no longer than eight items you would like to get done, especially in the mornings if you have motivation for mornings like me.

For me, a productive morning is when I have meditated, practiced Surya Namaskar, done with some pranayama, worked on some blog posts, prepared my lunch, had tea with breakfast, and got my room cleaned and arranged. I also make a list of all the things I need to achieve at work during the morning. But this is a lot of work to do in the mornings, that too, regularly, and with consistency.

My Snooze Sprint

When my alarm goes off, I press the snooze button, get up in bed, and meditate. There you have it. The first task was achieved. I simply stay in the feeling of gratitude, my mind slowly catching up with the silence of the morning, and focusing on my breath, become aware, and flushing my body with prana using Pran Mudra meditation. I stay there until the alarm goes off again.

I press the snooze button again, get out of bed, make the bed, clean up, brush, and for the 9 minutes, I get ready to hit the next snooze. This is a buffer snooze for me. It helps me prepare for the upcoming tasks. By this time, I have meditated in just 15 minutes, started my day, made my bed, and have done the usual necessary things. The key is to get it done before the alarm goes off again.

Snooze again, I sit for pranayama. Nothing much. A bit of Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom, and Aum chanting. This goes on for the next nine minutes. Keep doing it until the alarm goes off again.

The alarm goes off. I snooze again and practice Surya Namaskar.

Hit that damn snooze button again, and I am in the kitchen, and in the next 9 minutes, I have to decide what I will be having for lunch. I soak the rice, get the curry ready, and get all the ingredients ready for cooking. I don’t have to start cooking because this sprint is a tool to get me going and nothing more. I get it ready. And, well, also make tea. In about 9 minutes, I have it ready until the alarm goes off again.

Cool. Snooze again. I fire up the laptop and choose any topic from the list of topics I want to write on. Just start typing. Don’t worry about anything else for the next 9 minutes except putting those 100 words into the word processor. Whatever you write, but write. You have managed to get yourself going, which is enough for now.

Snooze again, and make a list of what I want to achieve during the day. I have a time planner, making it easy for me to decide what I want to accomplish during the day. I also prefer using Google Calendar to plan the day, as it also displays my day to day commitments. The calendar helps me decide better and stay committed to deadlines.

Simple. In less than an hour, I have meditated, practiced yoga, exercised, set my meal plan, started working on a blog post, and planned my day. Especially if you get up at 4:00, you will see that your productivity and motivations will be off the charts.

Setting up your own snooze sprints

The joy of snooze sprint is not that you will have achieved a lot. There is only enough you can complete in an hour or two, but the motivation you receive from having accomplished something, taking control of your day, is utterly satisfying. Setting your snooze spring should be easy now, but let me give you some bullets to keep in mind, however.

  1. Snooze Sprints are not about getting work done but getting you rolling with your multiple goals quickly without losing momentum. When you first press the snooze button, make sure you have the most straightforward task on hand. You shouldn’t need any equipment or even have to move to get this task going.
  2. Make sure you know what you want to do after pressing the snooze button. I made a list of things to include in my snooze spring, and I follow the same order of snoozing every day. The tasks will probably be boring and tedious, but you only need to do them for less than 9 minutes. And I assure you, if they mean something in your life, you will do them for sure on you are on a roll after your first snooze.
  3. You don’t necessarily have to a snooze sprint in the morning. You can set the alarm to go off for a particular activity in mind and have a list of other activities follow up. You can maybe have a snooze spring during work when you want to decide and get started with a particular task you regularly tend to procrastinate on. Just do it for 10 minutes when the alarm goes off, and then snooze onto other activities.
  4. After a few days, the little sprints turn into habits. Maybe, you won’t have to snooze for every activity, but they will come naturally to you. This will create a morning routine you will be able to stick to for long.
  5. Don’t stop for the next activity. Let’s say you included pushups in your snooze sprint. On the first day, you could barely do more than twenty pushups. And you still have six minutes to go. Simply take a minute of rest, try to do it again, or continue with the next activity. This is a sprint. The only thing you need to keep in mind is to continue jumping from one activity quickly, without wasting any time.
  6. The first time you do something that requires consistent effort, it won’t be up to the mark. My Surya Namaskar postures were pathetic, and I couldn’t do more than five reps in the beginning. That’s alright. Observe yourself. What needs improvement? Be grateful for the five reps that you could do without any practice. Keep the pace.