I have been experimenting and learning different things related to Productivity, Mindfulness, Happiness and Self-Improvement. I am learning and practicing techniques to make me a Better Person and a Mindful Tester. This page is intended to share all my learnings and help other people like me discover their better self.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review – “The 12 Week Year” by Brian & Michael

Source: https://www.amazon.com.

This is the Review of the book “The 12 Week Year” by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington

Have you ever created New Year resolutions/annual goals? You swear that you are going to lose weight, release a book, blog regularly, do more voluntary work, spend more time with family and so on… I openly admit that I am one such person. Over the past few years, I have tried various productivity hacks to make me reach my annual goals but this book gives a different take on setting goals and accomplishing them. Instead of setting annual goals, the authors talk about setting “12 Week goals”.  This is kind of similar to the concept I have been trying to follow i.e “Batching” my goals over several months and keep working on them.

The book gives practical examples and templates to set 12 Week goals. It also discusses various success stories of actual people following it and accomplishing their goals. These are my takeaways from this book-

  • Share your vision. It is easier to accomplish your goals when you set and share the vision with people. This is especially true in teams where we have a leader and he is rallying the troops to accomplish different tasks. Having a vision in these situations helps the team to remind themselves of what is the final goal and whether we are doing the right things based on the vision statement. This could be an individual or team vision.
  • Have processes in place to make you work when you don’t want to.  I have been in these situations several times where, I would want to workout in the morning but too lazy to wake up, want to work on my blog post but not getting the motivation to do it, want to work on a new Youtube video but get hungry (Yup, it happens to me on a regular basis). During these times, it helps to have something that motivates you to keep you focused on high priority goals every single day. One way I do this in my life is, I have printouts of inspirational quotes throughout my house and work area, when I face situations like this. Some of the quotes from my collection are-
    • It is not who you are underneath it is what you do that defines you
    • Tough times don’t last tough people do
    • Courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery of it
    • Rules are for the obedient of fools and the guidance of wise men
    • Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence
    • When life gives you mountains put those hiking shoes on and start walking
    • Life is just like toilet paper. You’re either on a roll, or you’re taking crap from some asshole.
    • Do not keep one leg in the PAST, one leg in the FUTURE and Pee on the PRESENT
    • You don’t have to be great to start but you have to start to be great
    • Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength

Something like this could help you out as well.

  • Score and Plan your week. You form a template with your goal, identify task/tactics to achieve that goal and score them each week. E.g- Check out the below template of a vision statement, goal and task breakdown taken from the book

The above picture shows how you set a vision statement, goals, identify tasks related to that goal, then score them.  The way we score is, say your goal is to lose 10 lbs (see above pic) and you have accomplished 4 out of 5 tasks for that week, then your score is 80% (4/5 * 100). The general goal is to have above 75% score each week.

  • Have Weekly Accountability Meetings. Once you share your vision with someone or a team, we need to keep ourselves accountable to different tasks identified based on the vision. We can identify trusted individuals who give valuable feedback on your work and have weekly meetings with them. You will update them on your progress and vice-versa (it could work both ways). The same is true in a team setting, where there is a manager/colleague who can help out out on a weekly basis. These are very similar to daily stand up meetings but the only difference is, this happens once a week instead of daily
  • Every week take 15 minutes to plan out your week and it should have 3 types of blocks when planning your tasks
    • Strategic blocks – You schedule a 3 hour uninterrupted block of time where you work on the different high priority tasks identified for the week. You do this once a week. This concept is very similar to the deep work blocks described in my Deep Work post
    • Buffer blocks – You schedule 1 hour blocks, one or two times a day. In this block, you do activities such as Follow-ups, e-mail communications, phone calls, meetings etc which are lower in priority and does not need deep focused work
    • Breakout blocks – You schedule a 3 hour block, once a week. This is to completely unwind from your busy week and do something totally unrelated to your tasks to relax your mind and body. It could be exercising, reading, listening to podcasts and may also be watching TV shows (I personally feel watching TV makes me more tired)

You can use the below template taken from the book to schedule your time blocks

  • A really powerful and inspiring sentence in this book that is worth mentioning here is “If you want different results, you need to be willing to do things differently and do different things”. This gave me goosebumps, as it is so true

Overall I found this book really interesting as it has a different take on goal setting and execution. This goes against conventional wisdom of setting annual goals.

If you have tried similar kind of things for goal setting and execution or have some other similar techniques/approaches, please feel free to share them as comments here or you can contact me at – http://www.rajsubra.com/contact/.

For the experiments I have started doing, check out this post – http://www.rajsubra.com/2017/09/13/selfexperiment/

NOTE:

If you are interested to learn about different tips, tricks and tools to make you more Mindful, Productive, Self-Motivated and Happy subscribe to my blog on mindfulness by following the below process-

Step 1– In the right pane, Enter you Name, Email and select “Mindfulness”

Step 2- Hit Subscribe button

Or click the button below

72 hour “Deep Work” Week

In continuation with my previous post about Deep Work, I wanted to share my experiences doing Deep focused work. Over the past couple of months I have been doing the following-

  • Having different time blocks for doing work and noting them on post it notes in the office and at home. Here is an example below-

I also use an app called Focus Keeper which helps me track my time during these time blocks. I switch between the app and post it notes based on my mood. It tracks time and also shows how many time blocks you have done during the day as shown below

  • Once I finish documenting all the time blocks for the day, I record it in the Deep Work Chart. I created this chart to see how much deep focused work I can do every day, week and month. My deep work chart for the past 2 months are as shown below

September Month Deep Work Chart

October Month Deep Work Chart

As you may have noticed, I started off with a simple template and documented the Date and Time spent on deep work each day. Then, I started getting confused on what date referred to which day of the week. So created an extra column marking the days of the week too; in my template. You can download this deep work template for your own use by clicking on the below button

 

 

 

Analysis of my Deep Work-

Before I start my analysis, I should mention that, below are the things I consider deep work from my context

  • Focused time block of work where there are NO interruptions
  • Doing only 1 single task during the time block
  • I DO NOT consider working out, reading a book, having an uninterrupted conversation with a friend/loved one as deep work (for some this may be deep work)
  • A majority of my deep work are only for my side hustle activities like blogging, writing, working on my youtube channel, website, speaking and working on other creative things which I am currently doing
  • When I am at my day job, I try to do 2-3 time blocks on tasks related to my day job. But, I am finding it hard with a lot of interruptions which happens during the course of the day; as I work in the office and NOT remotely

 

The above being said, lets get into the breakdown of my deep work hours

September Deep Work47 hours

October Deep Work58.65 hours

In a day, we have 24 hours. So per week, we have 24 hours x 7 days = 168 hours.

Out of the 168 hours, say we get 8 hours of sleep everyday, then our sleep hours/week = 56 hours

So, Total hours/week for deep work = 168 – 56 = 112 hours

If you have a 9-5 day job like me, sometimes it gets really hard to do deep work because we have

  • Unnecessary meetings
  • Lot of context switching between e-mails, calls, co-workers coming to your desk etc.
  • Wi-Fi issues

And so on……

So this being said, lets take out the hours you work for your day job from this equation. During your day job, you would have to do the work assigned to you; no matter whether it is interesting or not and cannot do your side hustle stuff on company time and dime (I think this is un-ethical)

This leaves us with

8 hours/day in our 9-5 job = 56 hours

Total deep work a person can do with a day job and having side hustle stuff like me would be = 112 hours – 56 hours =

72 hours

 

In summary, we have 72 hours no matter what; to do deep work every single week. For me, I value my personal life and having fun during the course of the week. So out of the 72 hours I have, I think I am doing pretty good by having an average of 52.82 hours of deep work every month.

Imagine all the things you can do in these 72 hours? When people say they are really busy, I would advise trying to do a break down like this to see where you are investing your time. TIME IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ASSET YOU HAVE AND YOU NEED TO PROTECT IT. Remember, anything is possible if you respect your time.

My goal is to continuously keep working towards increasing my deep work hours and try to find a balance between how much deep work I can do while balancing my regular work, my personal life and my fun time too.

It is a work in progress…

If you have done similar kind of experiments or thoughts in this post, please feel free to share them as comments here or you can contact me at – http://www.rajsubra.com/contact/.

For the experiments I have started doing, check out this post – http://www.rajsubra.com/2017/09/13/selfexperiment/

NOTE:

If you are interested to learn about different tips, tricks and tools to make you more Mindful,Productive, Self-Motivated and Happy subscribe to my blog on mindfulness by following the below process-

Step 1– In the right pane, Enter you Name, Email and select “Mindfulness”

Step 2- Hit Subscribe button

OR click the button below

 

 

Book Review- “Deep Work” by Cal Newport

Source: https://www.amazon.com

This is the Review of the book “Deep Work” by Cal Newport

This is a really inspirational book for people who want to get things done, do more creative work BUT not able to focus on things, prioritize things, reach goals; which in turn leaves us feeling like crap. Cal Newport with great clarity, distinguishes between 2 types of work – Shallow and Deep Work. He gives us various examples of how famous people have done great creative work and gives us different techniques and approaches to do the same.

What makes me relate to this book is that, he applies the principles discussed in the book in his own work; to show us how anyone can do Deep Work if they put some effort to actually do it. Really inspirational book for me. These are my takeaways from this book

  • Have time blocks for Deep Focused work, how much time you spend on the internet, Checking Email etc
  • Before your workday ends E.g 9-5 PM, spend 15 mins to prioritize and plan out next day’s work. After you do this, have some routines to remind you that, you are DONE with work and not going to go back to it until the next day. In this book, Cal says this phrase loudly so that he can hear it himself- “Complete Shutdown”, This signifies that his day has ended and he is not going to open his work laptop or check work e-mails. This sounds crazy but trust me I tried it and it really works if you put your mind to it
  • Practice “Productive Meditation“. This is a period in which you are occupied physically by doing things like Walking, Jogging, Driving. While doing this you DO NOT listen to music or talk to people BUT concentrate on a problem and spend this time thinking about it and trying to find a solution for it.
  • Have a “Deep Work Chart“. This is to document how much time you spend doing Deep focused work and how much time you are un-productive or spend doing other things which are not related to you goals. You can find mine here – My Deep Work Chart
  • Have “Packing Parties”. This is to take the help of your friends to pack things in your house quickly if you are moving by bribing them with Food and Beer. Another way I understood this is, pack all the stuff you think you don’t need and put it in a safe location, see whether you really miss it during the week/month. If you don’t, then you really don’t need them.
  • Schedule your day/ every minute of it (I would say at least the day). Cal is a productivity and focus Addict. In the book, he describes how he schedules each and every minute of his day to ensure he concentrates on things which only relates to reaching his goals. I tried this but not able to follow it. Needs a lot of practice

I have started doing my own deep work and recording it in a Deep Work Sheet for the past couple of months. Will share the results of it in a separate post, as it is worth mentioning some of the things I am noticing while doing this.

If you have done similar kind of experiments or thoughts in this post, please feel free to share them as comments here or you can contact me at – http://www.rajsubra.com/contact/.

For the experiments I have started doing, check out this post – http://www.rajsubra.com/2017/09/13/selfexperiment/

I have a follow up post to this, of how I am applying these things in my life. Check it out here – 72 hour Deep Work week

NOTE:

If you are interested to learn about different tips, tricks and tools to make you more Mindful, Productive, Self-Motivated and Happy subscribe to my blog on mindfulness by following the below process-

Step 1– In the right pane, Enter you Name, Email and select “Mindfulness”

Step 2- Hit Subscribe button

OR Click the below button

 

My Experience with Meditation using the Headspace App

Source: http://wallpapercave.com/meditation-wallpaper

I have started doing meditation on a regular basis for the past 4 months. I do miss 1-2 days here and there but I try to make it part of my routine. I should say that it has been having a positive impact on the way I think about myself and others. As I may have described in my earlier posts; I was really skeptical on the effects of meditation but everything changed once I started using the “Headspace App“.

The reason I like this App is, it is really simple to use and has an amazing user interface. One of the creators/the mind behind the app, who is also a Buddhist Monk – Andy Puddicombe  gives these guided mediation exercises. The way it works is….

You start with a 10 Day Foundation Course. You need to complete this course to unpack other modules in the app. You can select the duration of each exercise to 3, 5, 10, 15 or 20 mins based on the pack you select. This 10 day exercise teaches you the basics of meditation which is-

  • Closing your eyes and recognizing the different sounds and smells around you
  • Then, you gently scan through your body and notice different areas and how they feel at that instant
  • Then, you shift the attention to your breath and whenever you get distracted, you bring the attention back to the breath
  • Then, you let your mind loose to think about anything it wants for 20-30 seconds
  • Finally, shift the focus back to the real world recognizing the sounds and smells around you and open your eyes

 

After the 10 day course, you can choose to do different modules based on your interests. There are different modules for Anxiety, Stress, Sleep, Depression, Pregnancy, Cancer etc. There is also a freaking module for kids covering Sleep, Calm, Kindness, Focus and Waking Up.

There are also Single modules (containing just 1 exercise) you can do while walking, sitting, while at work and even travelling. Here are some screenshots from my account

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based on the effects I was seeing with me and my body, I started reading different articles on meditation to understand the science behind it. Here are few of them I liked-

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/12/11/harvard-study-unveils-what-meditation-literally-does-to-the-brain/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/05/26/harvard-neuroscientist-meditation-not-only-reduces-stress-it-literally-changes-your-brain/?utm_term=.b14a9e1f0ba8

Effects of meditation on children
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/young-brains-benefit-meditation/story?id=19217997
https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2016/10/18/the-many-benefits-of-meditation-for-children/#2425d05edbe3

And there are million other studies on this.

How doing Mediation has impacted me and my life

Since I started doing meditation, I have become more mindful, empathetic, calm and have been able to make informed decisions based on data instead of emotions. Also, it has been constantly teaching me to be a good listener and a better leader. Seeing the changes in me, my wife has started doing meditation too, using the Headspace app.

If you have any other thoughts on meditation or other apps you use for it, please feel free to share it here in the comments or contact me here – http://www.rajsubra.com/contact/

On a side note, I am not getting paid by Headspace for this 🙂 It is my real life experience

 

NOTE:

If you are interested to learn about different tips, tricks and tools to make you more Mindful, Productive, Self-Motivated and Happy subscribe to my blog on mindfulness by following the below process-

Step 1– In the right pane, Enter you Name, Email and select “Mindfulness”

Step 2- Hit Subscribe button

OR Click the below button

My mindfulness, productivity and self realization experiment

 

Source: http://teachinglearnerswithmultipleneeds.blogspot.com/2014/11/a-thought-experiment.html

Me and my wife went on a long Europe trip in the first 2 weeks of June 2017. Once we came back, we were so tired after socializing with so many awesome people for long periods of time, that we reached a state of physical and mental burn out. By this point, I had already been reading different books and listening to various podcasts on mindfulness and productivity. So, I told my wife “Hey! Lets do an experiment”.

Over the past 5 years, we have watched a lot of mind numbing TV (Basically Netflix and Hulu) that the only thing we did coming back from work was to watch TV, sit by the couch and feel even more mentally tired. That being said, I told my wife “Lets NOT watch TV for 2 weeks and see how it goes?. There is no better time to do it then now, where we do not want to hear anyone talking for a while”. My wife agreed and this has what happened since then

  • Finished 9 books covering topics of ProductivityMindfulness, Self-help and motivation. You can find my reading list here – Books I read
  • Discovered a great Podcast named BeyondtheToDoList . I got so addicted to it that I have already listened to about 147 episodes till now. This is a great podcast because I learnt so many tips, tricks, books, other podcasts which revolved around my now favorite topics Mindfulness and Productivity. I totally recommend this to anyone who is in a similar situation as me or want to learn how to strategize your life, be a little less anxious, put in less effort and get more results
  • Started doing meditation more regularly with an amazing app called “Headspace“. I am the most skeptical person you would ever meet as I am a “Software Tester” by profession and with that in mind, I can confidently say this is the best meditation app I have ever used (I have tried about 10 meditation apps before) as it is so simple and easy to use. There is this Buddhist Monk guy turned SFO Entrepreneur – Andy Puddicombe who gives you the guided meditation exercises and takes you through the process step by step via the app. The sexy british accent is a plus.  I have been fighting with this on and off for the past year and half; to do meditation daily but now it is starting to slowly become a habit because of my experiment where I have a lot of time in my hand
  • I have To/Do Lists and prioritize them. Use a mixture of Evernote, Notes and physical pen/paper (More to come on this topic)
  • Every weekend I plan all my work and put it up on Google Calendar. Me and my wife have our own personal calendars. Apart from this, we also have a shared calendar
  • Working out regularly by waking up at 5 AM almost every day (Long weekends are usually slightly rough as there is a lot of beer involved 🙂 and also having great and meaningful conversations with family and friends )
  • Doing more mindful eating and drinking. Started drinking tea or sparkling water in the evenings 3 times/week, then my usual beer about 3-4 times/week (Just to be clear, I am not an alcoholic, just a curious beer drinker 🙂 )
  • I actually stop and say Hi to people inside/outside work. I have made it a goal to talk to at least 2 ppl in a day and ask them how they are doing and actually listen to them
  • Started using the “Moment” app which tracks the amount of time I spend on my phone and tracks lot more data regarding my phone usage. I have started to be really mindful about this and try to use my phone for less than 1hr 30mins/day (Before it was about 3.5 hours)
  • Started scheduling my e-mail checking time to 4 times a day. I DO NOT check e-mails any other time apart from these scheduled times. They range from early morning, before staring working, after lunch, then before I leave work
  • Started to put my phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode when I am working. To get more deep focus and meaning on what I am doing
  • Started to put time slots where I can do “Deep work” on my high priority things. Read the book of the same name and you will know what I am talking about
  • Started to appreciate the little things around me like the weather, people smiling, the plants we are growing in our downtown apartment etc.

And the journey is continuing. We started this experiment on June 19th, 2017. Although, this was supposed to last only for 2 weeks, we started liking this way of life and have been extending it through September (may extend for more months, only time will tell).

The reason I have started blogging on these topics (apart from my Software Testing Blog) is, I wanted to do journal my experiments not only on my notepad but share it with other people too; with the hope that people can get ideas out of it and realize everyone is suffering through the same kind of problems.

I know I may sound too Zen to some people but it is definitely having a positive impact on me and my wife’s life. More to come…

NOTE: If you are doing similar kind of experiments and willing to share it with me or have any feedback on my posts, please feel free to comment or contact me here – http://www.rajsubra.com/contact/

UPDATES SINCE

Oct 25th, 2017 –

  • I had to watch the Cavs play, so renewed my NBA TV subscription. I have watched 2 games since Oct 17th. But, I still have Netflix and Hulu subscription on pause

Oct 5th, 2017 –

  • We still haven’t watched TV (including my wife)
  • We temporarily stopped Netflix and Hulu Subscription. They have this cool “Pause” option we used so that we do not lose our entire history if we decide to start it back again
  • I should admit and say that I watch about 2 movies every month (either in theatre or at home). I also sneaked in about 15 mins of HGTV during a recent conference trip in DC
  • I love Basketball and my favorite team the “Cleveland Cavaliers” are starting there regular season game on Oct 17th. Still debating whether to renew my NBA TV subscription and just ONLY watch the games. Still confused…..

Starting a New Blog on Productivity, Mindfulness, Happiness and Self-Improvement

This is not a mobile testing article but trust me you will want to read about my new blog I am starting…

2017 has been a life changing year for me. It started with my road trip from my home town Chicago to Cleveland. I decided on listening to the audio book 10% Happier by Dan Harris. Before listening to this book, I was in a similar situation like him not in terms of getting high on drugs (you will know what I am talking about when you read the book) but being super stressed at work, starting to feel un-emotional about things and aimed at only doing things which were beneficial to me (Or I thought it was) which is keep working hard, keep looking for the next big opportunity, earn more money/fame/glory and not looking back. It was like a car on cruise control mode which I kept refueling again and again without thinking about how the other parts of the car like the engine, brakes, tires, oil were wearing out (Yup I like car metaphors).

Listening to this book was like a lightning bolt hitting me, as I had a sudden awakening on the reality of my life and how I am affecting others and pulling them into the vortex of Raj’s crazy and stressful life.

This is when I decided that, I have to start reading more books on Mindfulness -> Which in turn seeped into Productivity -> Which in turn seeped into Happiness -> Which in turn seeped into Stoicism -> Which in turn seeped into Giving/Forgiving instead of just Earning/Spending. If you do not believe me look at the list of books I have read in 2017 here – http://www.rajsubra.com/inspirational-books-articles/

This has totally changed me and now I have been experimenting with various things in life. Thus, I have started a new blog on my website with different things I have been trying out, in my journey to be more mindful, stress-free, productive and apathetic to people. I will still be blogging on mobile testing and testing in general, continue my quarterly testing newsletter and keep doing all my training and skype coaching classes on Mobile Testing. This is just an addition to the things I have been trying out.

So, If you are interested to learn about different tips, tricks and tools to make you a more Mindful Tester; subscribe to my blog on mindfulness by following the below process-

Step 1– In the right pane, Enter you Name, Email and select “Mindfulness”

Step 3- Hit Subscribe button

OR Click the below button

In case of any questions please feel free to email me at raj@rajsubra.com or contact me here – http://www.rajsubra.com/contact/