Sunday, April 26, 2020

Eisenhower Matrix

In my quest to be better organized in life, I read a lot of "self-help" stuff online and offline. Most of it I read and forget (cause it ain't that impressive). Something that has stayed in my mind for a while now is the concept of an Eisenhower matrix. I wanted to write about this in my previous post but was worried about making it too long. So here it is!

This matrix was apparently invented by Eisenhower (the US President) and it expects you to classify all your activities into 4 quadrants:

Eisenhower Matrix (also attributed to Stephen Covey)

  1. Do First - Urgent and Important - Things that are urgent and important have to be done first (I think we all understand this - so I have nothing much to add). The only thing we need to be careful about is - not all items on your list are both urgent and important. What may seem urgent may not really be (e.g. A customer email asking for something). And what may seem important (for e.g. because it came from your boss) - may not be that important.
  2. Plan or Schedule - Not-urgent but Important - This is the most tricky quadrant. We (or rather me!) procrastinate a lot in this quadrant. Learning that new thing (programming language/ skill/ musical instrument etc.) taking care of your health, talking to your family members etc. is important. But since it is not urgent, it gets postponed (forever). If you don't schedule time for it, it never happens.
  3. Delegate - Urgent but Not-Important - This quadrant consists of a lot of chores that are urgent, but can be delegated to others to do it (For e.g. you can schedule your bank to automatically pay your bills, credit cards, renew your policies etc. These are all tasks that are urgent, but can easily be delegated).
  4. Eliminate or Don't do - Not-urgent and Not-important - This is easier said than done. But a lot of things (social media?, status meetings, weekly catch-ups and the list goes on) are neither important nor urgent. There are more efficient ways of doing those things and it is best to learn to say no! I struggle a lot at this.
So next time you go on a retreat or take a break to ruminate, spend some time to think about all those things that are in your Quadrant 2 (Not-urgent but Important). What you start working on today will help you sometime down the line! It's best you think about them now and schedule them!

Sunday, April 19, 2020


If you know me long enough, you know that I am a big fan of To-Do lists. To-Do lists have been a part of my professional and personal life for as long as I remember. For team-work and where I have to coordinate with several people, I love Trello. Its Kan-ban like interface is nifty for tracking status and driving things to completion. However, lately I have realized that To-Do lists lack the "time required" component and that puts the tasks that take longer to a big disadvantage. In other words - on my to-do list a 2 minute task and a 2 hour task both occupy 1 line each. And my monkey brain always chooses to complete all the smaller tasks (to get my dopamine kicks) in the process pushing my big ticket tasks for "later" (Euphemism for "never").

I was researching a bit about this problem on the internet when I had my A-ha moment. (Trust me, if you have any kind of problem ever in your life, someone else somewhere has had that problem before, solved it and documented it somewhere on the internet for you. All you have to do is - search for it!). So the magic bullet to complement your To-Do lists is - Time-boxing

Time-boxing is just a sophisticated way of doing these 3 things:
  1. Assign a priority value to every item on your to-do list
  2. Estimate time required to do every item on your to-do list
  3. Assign that item on your calendar for a specific time-slot based on the time you estimated in (2) above
So a simple list of 5 Tasks on your To-Do List after Time-boxing would look something like this on your calendar:


Its of-course much more difficult than just creating a To-Do List. But it gives you an idea of the finite time you really have and helps you prioritize your work for the day/ week or a given time period. Also, when you start estimating the time (or effort) required to complete a task, you identify which tasks are actually projects that need to be accomplished and work towards breaking them down into smaller manageable tasks that can be done over a period of time!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Repeat Everyday

As I grow old, I realize that I can probably learn almost anything as long as I decide to do a tiny bit of it everyday and religiously stick to my routine. Note that I ain't saying I would be "good" at that something, I am just saying - "I can learn something". I believe that forming a periodic (daily/ weekly/ monthly) routine is the easiest way to start to do anything in life.

So for the last several years, I have been struggling to learn Vietnamese. It's a difficult language (may be not as difficult as Mandarin) but still difficult because of all the tones that they use! I had several false starts and I almost gave up. Till I found this app for my phone called Duolingo. It's a fun little language teaching app that promises to teach you a new language in "15 minutes per day". (The caveat is - it doesn't tell you how many days!).

Anyway, it's been a year since I have been diligently doing my Vietnamese learning on Duolingo everyday 15 minutes for 365+ days. I just got a nifty little celebratory badge from them indicating so.

365 Days of learning everyday

Can I speak Vietnamese fluently now? Hell no. Do I know more Vietnamese than what I did a year ago? Hell, yes! I can count, I can read, I can name some colors, I can tell the time, and if you listen to me carefully enough you can get the context of what I am trying to say (sometimes!).  Anyway, as long as I continue, I can only get better. So this is a small little success that I thought I share with all of you and inspire you to start your learning journey today! I actually have shared Duolingo with a lot of friends and what started as a lonely exercise now has become a mini-community learning a language of their choice everyday.

Anyway, I have now decided to challenge myself a bit more this year. I have a very weak upper body and I have sucked at pull-ups all my life. So now, I have installed a pull-up bar at home, and all I am practicing all these weeks is to hang on it (dead-hang) for 30 seconds everyday. I hope, I can do 10 pull-ups someday in the future, however far away that future is!

Pull-up Bar

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The future of work

I know you have read at least a thousand blogs by now that talk about the future of work after the lock-down. This one is no different. Just the fact that since you are my readers, I am entitled to dump my opinion on you. My company is forcing us to work from home since the last 3 weeks and I realized a few things this weekend:
  1. These 3 weeks have been the most efficient work-weeks of my life! It doesn't matter that I don't go to office, my work follows me home and is happy to be with me anywhere I go (during lunch and even on nature's calls)
  2. I don't really need to physically interact with my colleagues to get things done. We are all very comfortable working virtually with each other and life goes on. Water-cooler gossip has gone down and that's about it
  3. Most of my work is with prospects and customers, so even when there is no lock-down, having a physical space in office is actually just a waste of space.
So this is what I feel should happen in the not so distant future. A lot of companies (especially in my sector) will not lease offices anymore. It's an unnecessary expense that can be easily gotten rid of. In stead, a lot of employees like me will be made to work from home. Offices will pay for equipment so that we can work from home smoothly (internet/ chairs/ desks/ monitors/ calling equipment/ webcams etc). The cost per employee is definitely lower than running an office. We will all meet once a week or at definite intervals in a co-working space for the physical interaction that is needed once in a while.

Organizations will save office lease costs and employees will work their asses off from home. Imagine when work is actually at home, there is no more work-life balance!