Thursday, September 25, 2014

Simple Living : Seven Steps to being more Productive!

I have a confession to make - I am addicted to my To-Do Lists. For a while, just to be spontaneous and prove a point (because a close someone called me a four lettered word beginning with A...) I threw out my list and I can unhappily report back that those 2 weeks were a disaster - I didn't feel like I had accomplished much, we ate out 4 days because I hadn't planned our meals and I felt kinda sort of incomplete and unhappy. To be honest what works for me might not work for you -- you might still want to be the smell the roses, experience the experiences, dance in the rain & let the planning be damned...
Here are the seven things that have worked for me -
  1. Flaunt your To-Do List - more importantly nurture you not-to-do list. I think we get knee deep in non-critical activities ( too much Facebook time, coffee room gossip, constantly checking our phone or email, etc. etc.). I give small buckets of time in a day to these non-critical activities and don't flog myself later on time wasted on it.
  2. Embrace Single-Tasking - I abhor the term multi-tasking, it is pure sheer escapism, I would much rather dedicate my focus and attention on getting a single task completed well. This is different from being multi-threaded -- I can get multiple tasks done in a day and check them off my list.
  3. Establish a ritual - Rituals help us compose ourselves and make difficult processes easier because we can start on auto-pilot. I love to use the example of Pavlovian Dogs (shows my background in Psychology) - we attach a certain thought process to a stimuli. For me the smell of cardamom chai is one that signifies - all is well (my mother always gave me cardamom chai in the morning...I have established a morning ritual where I just sit and breathe for 5 minutes - no thoughts just focusing on the and out. Followed by my morning email, chit-chat with the husband or TV is allowed to intrude into my first 15 minutes of welcoming the new day.
  4. Serenade the  Pomodaro Technique - ok if today is confession time, I will admit to being an ardent follower of the Pomodaro Technique. No silly! it's not the mother sauce created by Pasta Pomodaro (admittedly a source of great plebeian pleasure for my son). This is a time management technique I adapted and made my own many years back...I break down my time slots (not to 25 minutes) but more like an hour slot with a 10 minute "get up and clear the mind time between"...I give myself internal deadlines for these tasks both work and personal.  It has been a game changer and has really made me focus on the work on hand and really embrace Single Tasking.
  5. I heart Exercise - I really advocate exercise as one of the top tools for productivity. Before I started exercising I really wimped out and used Fatigue as an excuse very easily for sliding out of a lot of things. I see that Exercise has made me more mindful of my health and  diet (I increased my visits to the farmer's market and make meal plans and  have embraced crock pot meals). According to MSNBC, researchers at Leeds Metropolitan University in the U.K. found that professionals who spent 30-60 minutes on their lunch break working out experienced an overall performance boost of about 15%. 
  6. Trouble Shooting the Bad Days - To be honest it's not as easy as I make it sound - some days I am just plain pissed and get out of the house feeling victimized and the door mat -- I am packing the lunch box and snack box, making the bed, hollering at K2 to get ready, working on the computer and then distracted because K2 has a permission slip for me to fill out. K1 asks me if I could please do XYZ for him before he leaves the house...I am so spitting mad by the time I leave the house !!! I really do dissect those days and try to understand the pitfalls and how I can avoid them...sometimes I can't fix it and I am ok with it (other days I vent and take it out on the boys!).
  7. Ditch the comparisons - Truth of the matter is I get intimidated every time I see these perfect looking mothers show up at the school...especially when K2 was in kindergarten...there was this mother who was a news reporter and she dropped off her child every day in school...she looked perfect...make up in place, clothes impeccable --- her daughter had the perfect lunch box- healthy and balanced, homework always done on time, nothing forgotten... I always felt a little inadequate around her (there I said it!)...around that time someone gave me a book to read (almost like cosmic intervention!) - The Gifts of Imperfection - this book explores how we can cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, "No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough," And to tell you the truth I have really tried to ditch comparisons...they ain't serving any purpose. It's better to do the best we can under the circumstances.
How is your week turning out? Did any of my Productivity Hacks resonate for you...what are the other things that you have embraced in your life that has made you feel at your productive best?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tentative Parenting : Shempa, two pokes & a curry undone !

There is a concept in Buddhism known as “Shempa” and next to Anomie is one of my favorite words -  a Shempa is a place where we are “hooked.” It’s something that gets under our skin, that works its way into our mind and we find after a while we can’t stop thinking about it and letting it go is difficult.  ---Meenakshi 

                                                                                                                                          Art Credit : VasuKi M.
I was a hungry grouch today - I was fasting and went over to the hospital for a blood draw...the  serene looking lady poked my left hand searching for the vein...moving the needle around...the vein collapsed and she had to poke me again on my right hand to draw blood...yes! if you saw a tired looking person walking around with two band-aids at the Oracle campus today...that was probably me. I had ten thousand uncharitable thoughts go through my head
# she hurt me
#let me give her a dirty look
And then I took a deep breath as she poked me the second time and I let that feeling of disgruntlement and ire course through me, not trying to hide it or smother it with false platitude.  Once I had felt that feeling fully I let it go completely without getting attached to it...the result was I was able to give the lady a smile and have a normal conversation with her around mundane nothings. I was also able to go about the rest of  the day *without* thinking about that unnecessary poke (which is now a large bruise). But as we should allow those negative moments to pass through us, we should also let the good little moments linger – like that energizing Zumba class, the hug from K2, or how good that coconut burfi tasted --- we typically hold on to the negative exchanges and fail to notice the sweet moments. We can minimize the bourgeois suffering (our self-creation in the end) by practicing -negative --pass through, positive--imprint!

I have been pretty full of myself the past 2 cooking has been on a roll and I have been dishing out Dals, Curries, Pastas, Soups and even exotic things like Haleem... which all turned out fabulous, however this week I got Guvar from the farmer's market which is my favorite vegetable and which I normally would simply saute with onions and eat by itself...delicious, known and simple. Not this week - I found a reasonably different recipe that I ventured to try and let me tell you the end-result wasn't was mostly inedible and I ended up throwing out most of was a humbling experience. To soothe my frugality at the waste of my absolute favorite (and rare to find in the farmer's market) vegetable I made some soul soothing coconut burfis. Here is the recipe I used

I swapped the order of the shredded coconut ( I used Bob Mill's Shredded Organic Coconut - unsweetened) and Condensed Milk (Trader Joe's Organic Condensed Milk)'s how it looked

And it tasted even better than it looked and I was ok with the curry that came undone. So to K2 I offered these words today as he cried a little bit over complex multiplication tables 
#Don't get attached to the results
#Enjoy the process

Dedicating this post to all those 9/11 mothers who loved and lost....