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Five Free Tools that improve my Productivity and Performance Everyday – Happy in the Now

Five Free Tools that improve my Productivity and Performance Everyday – Happy in the Now

One of the greatest and simplest tools for learning more and growing is doing more – said Washington Irving.  And doing more with less of everything (time and resources) just makes this journey more interesting. Delve into the online world for any area – be it collaboration, time management, social media – and there are so amazing tools available that can help improve your business productivity as an organization or as an individual. After a few trial and error cycles, there are a few tools/apps that I have come to depend on extensively over the last year, after I went solo, which go a long way in helping me save time and organize my work-life better. I have meant to write this post for some time now as a “thank you” to all the smart creators who not only build great products but also give access and support for basic versions in the “freemium” model. I would also love to get your inputs on the tools that you have found useful and cannot do without on a day-to-day basis.

Here are my five favorite desk-top tools that increase my productivity, reduce stress and are fun and easy to use:

Productivity Tool #1: Evernote – this is my virtual notebook, I carry it with me across the four or five devices that I do my work on every day.  I use it just like I would a notebook – to-do lists, meeting minutes, blog ideas, thoughts that need further thought…. I use the web clipper extension to save articles, pdfs, audio while browsing to come back to later. I have created different notebooks in Evernote to organize my data into research, to-dos, posts from my favorite writers (have one for Seth Godin for example). Using Ifttt, I have also created a menu that allows my tweets to be archived into my Evernote through Buffer – sounds complicated but took me 3-4 clicks to get that in place. As Evernote team proclaims, it really does help me remember everything, capture anything, access anywhere and find things fast!

Need more reasons why you need Evernote? Read http://lifehacker.com/5964285/whats-all-the-fuss-about-evernote-why-do-people-use-it?

Productivity Tool #2: Buffer – I am fairly active on Twitter and people ask me where I find the time to tweet all the time there. My secret is Buffer – it allows me to store my tweets and schedule them to be tweeted at different times of the day. So for one hour daily, I browse, read and then buffer my “finds” and thoughts of the day through their Chrome extension and voila – I am all set for the day. I have used buffer over the past year and they have made the product better and better and now offer some nifty analytical stats to help grow my online brand and influence. I remember I had some questions in the beginning (October 2011) and wrote them a mail – and Leo Widrich, the co-founder responded with a detailed explanation within an hour. And they still do that even now – they wowed me through their support and I remain a loyal user and benefit from buffer every day.  They also allow buffering for Facebook, LinkedIn etc and for multiple accounts.

Think Buffer is not for you? Here are some nifty secret hacks and lesser known ways to use Buffer from the team: http://blog.bufferapp.com/top-hidden-buffer-hacks-features-social-sharing?

Productivity Tool #3: Dropbox – I remember the days when you needed ftp to upload and download files to share –  sheer torture. Compare that to what Dropbox offers – it truly is Sharing simplified. Multiple clients, multiple devices, multiple locations, multiple file types – no problem, everything in sync. My files are always available for me (and secure). I have created different folders for clients where I am not on their enterprise network and given them access. A boon for remote workers like me, it helps me to share my work with my customers in a secure way (Dropbox has a great security system). I also use this for my business outsourcing and cloud backup for all my documents in one place – a legal folder, a finance folder, a travel folder and a collaterals folder.

There is a lot that you can do with Dropbox – http://lifehacker.com/5933884/top-10-clever-uses-for-dropbox

Productivity Tool #4: Skype  – At CeBIT, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner revealed that 33% of the world’s voice calls happen on Skype now. Skype is a favorite not just for the money I save for international client calls but for its free screen sharing feature. It allows me to walk through proposals and presentations for my clients, collaborate and work on documents together or hold team review sessions. Group sharing is not free but it is total value for money if you need to work with teams across multiple locations. I can always be available for my clients and team through Skype messaging on all my devices. I also use Microsoft OCS/Lync for screen sharing but have found Skype voice and video quality superior.

More tips on getting the best out of Skype here: http://www.businessproductivity.com/how-to-save-money-using-skype/

Productivity Tool #5: Google Chrome – I am still undecided whether Google is a productivity saver or killer for me. Every time I get into Google, I lose track of time – and sink into the Google ocean. But I don’t dare provoke the Google gods (after all, I owe the growing popularity of this blog to them) so I got to list them here. Google Chrome has changed the way I browse – I find it far more superior to Internet Explorer. The reason I list this as a tool that improves my productivity (apart from the simplicity and speed) is because of its easy sync-ability (I can carry my browser with my customizations across devices), extensions (like Buffer and Evernote) and apps (go search google chrome productivity apps – there are tons and you could fall in love with a couple).

There are lots more that you can do with Google:  10 great Google tools you need in your business workflow – http://www.continu-it.com/google-productivity-tools-small-business/

Bonus Productivity Tool:  Wordpress.com of course – it is that simple and easy that even I could become a blogger.

Anything you can do needs to be done, so pick up the tool of your choice and get started ~ Ben Linder

Have you used these tools? Have you used them any differently? Which desktop tools do you use every day to improve your productivity? I would love to hear back and learn from you

Pic Courtesy : http://www.flickr.com/photos/markop/1441643371/

Beginning 2018 Strong with a Simple Exercise

Beginning 2018 Strong with a Simple Exercise

And just like that, in the blink of an eye, another year has come to an end, and a new year has begun. For many of us the past year may not have fulfilled all the hopes we started it with. For many it may have been the ‘fantastic’ year our well wishers wished us to have. And for some it may have been bittersweet – a little bit of the good and a little bit of the not-so-good. But it has been only a few days since this new year has begun and each of us must try to   begin it strong. Maybe you couldn’t achieve all the goals you had in mind for 2017. By Beginning 2018 Strong, you can set yourself   up for a great start to the year!

Wherever you are right now, you can do this simple exercise which will not take you more than fifteen minutes to complete. At the end of this exercise, believe us, you will feel a lot lighter. You will also feel at peace with yourself and with the year that has passed and find yourself looking forward to the new year with renewed enthusiasm. To get started, find yourself a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, and a pen and a paper. You can also use your phone if you don’t have a pen or a paper.

Here are the ten things that you should proceed to put down –

  1. The goals/ thoughts/ objectives you had in mind when you started 2017
  2. Your achievements for the year/ the best thing that happened to you in 2017
  3. What you wanted to, but couldn’t accomplish for the year
  4. On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy you are with your profession/ professional life (10 being the highest)
  5. On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy you are with your work – life balance (10 being the highest)
  6. Things that you wish hadn’t happened
  7. Things that you wish had happened differently
  8. The single most important thing for 2018
  9. The most important people in your life
  10. Everything   you are grateful for

What now?

When you have put down all of these, you will notice that a lot of the worries or concerns that you had have evaporated. What changed? Nothing. You just took time out to communicate with yourself, to check on yourself. You just indulged in a small act of immense self-love. When you put all of this down, you will have in writing everything that you loved and did not like about the year. You will also find answers to a lot of questions that you may have had for yourself. Notice that these answers did not come from reading a blog post on the internet or from a trusted friend, but from yourself.

Feeling the power of gratitude, of knowing that there are things and people you are grateful for, is in itself an answer to many problems we may have faced. Knowing who the most important people are in our lives, and making them priorities is not something all of us do at a conscious level. Making these small changes in your life lend you immense strength. Asking yourself how happy you are with your professional and your personal life are both questions all of us mostly evade, when we know we aren’t too happy. However, it is only acknowledgement of how we feel that will lead us to change our circumstances for the better.

New years   and birthdays are milestones in time. These two occasions are typically the times when we tend to look back and retrospect. Accepting how you feel, affirming your sense of self, and feeling strong from within about what’s coming up is the only way that one should focus on treating these milestones. True, not everything, or maybe hardly anything may have gone as you planned. When that’s how its been, remember that true strength and power lies in resilience. In getting up with rejuvenated passion, no matter what.

Here is wishing you a very happy and peaceful new year!

P.S. – Let kindness be your motto!

Why Mental Health Should Be Your Primary Resolution for 2018

Why Mental Health Should Be Your Primary Resolution for 2018

Come the new year, we find ourselves assessing how the past year was, and how we can be better this year. How we can do more this year – in terms of work, interpersonal relationships, and other things that matter to us. We commit to being better, more productive.  To make the most out of our work, to spending more time with our family, also fall into our list of resolutions. We promise ourselves to be healthier this year – to eat healthy and work out regularly. This year though, leave all these resolutions behind to focus on one single resolution, which is indeed the most important thing – your mental health. Why? Because being at a peak state of mind enables us in the best possible way – to deliver our best not only at work, but also in other aspects of our life.

Here are five simple ways for you to begin practicing your new year resolution.

  1. Acknowledge the need for mental health

    This is the very basic step towards practicing mental health care. Many of us feel ashamed to think that we may need to think about mental health as a separate aspect of health care. Getting rid of this stigma and acknowledging that not just you, but every one needs to focus on mental health is the first step. Remind yourself that you can either ignore this and wonder where you are going wrong, or acknowledge and start discovering your true potential.

  2. Take care of yourself

    Invest in yourself. Invest in self- care. Do the small things that make you happy, for yourself. Create your rituals and spread them through the day. For example, make it a point to meditate for at least ten minutes – first thing in the morning. Wake up early so you can read the news and have a cup of tea at leisure. Meet people who make you happy. Don’t be afraid to move away from people who make you sad or anxious. Understand that you are precious and people who you choose to give your time to, must understand this.

  3. Never be sorry for taking care for yourself

    Making yourself your first priority is never something you should feel sorry about, or allow anyone to make you feel sorry about. This is possible only when you whole-heartedly agree to, and believe in this. Keep reminding yourself that you can make other happy, only when you are happy. Remember, to give, you must first have.

  4. If you need help, reach out

    Without a moment’s hesitation, do so. Know that you are surrounded by people who love you, care for you and want to be there for you. All you need to do is reach out, and ask for help. You cannot expect people to know it when you need help, if you don’t really ask. So when you want to speak to someone, reach out. If you feel like what you are feeling right now is overwhelming you, ask for help from someone in a position to offer it to you.

  5. Be an example – help others help themselves

    Speak about how you are practicing mental health care. You realize how important it truly is, when you see how others are also benefiting from it. Tell your friends how staying true to your resolution has been helping you, and tell them about all the little things you have been doing. You never who may benefit from hearing you talk about how making mental health a priority has changed your life. Maybe hearing someone say it is just the push they may have needed to put them on a similar path.

Mindfulness as a gateway to Mental Health

In some of our previous posts, we have explored the concept of mindfulness and how mindfulness is indispensable to having a productive and satisfying work life. Mindfulness is indeed another facet of mental health. Being mindful is a beautiful way of reclaiming, and taking care of your mental health.

What does being “mindful” mean? Very simply put, it means being aware, being present in the moment. Or like our favorite phrase at OBOlinx, it simply means being “Happy in the Now.” In our endless pursuit for success, and achievement of goals in the world of work, we focus more on achieving the end result, rather than on the journey to get closer to our goals. Being mindful means to invest all our focus in the present moment, and not in the future.

Carolyn Gregoire, in her article on “How Mindfulness is Revolutionizing Mental Health Care”, speaks about how mindfulness is an effective way of taking care of your mental health.

We quote from the article,

More than 350 million people globally suffer from depression, and 1 in 13 people around the world have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Overall, the World Health Organization estimates that roughly 450 million people suffer from some form of mental or neurological disorder — and that roughly one in four people will be affected at some point in their lives.

These numbers are staggering. With the rise of mental illness and the increasingly pressing need for effective treatments, there’s never been a more important moment for mindfulness — the ability to cultivate a focused, non-judgmental awareness on the present moment. Research has shown mindfulness and meditation-based programs to hold promise for treating a number of psychiatric conditions, including depressionanxietypost-traumatic stress disorderbipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
As research has mounted in recent years, mindfulness has migrated from spiritual retreat centers to medical facilities. Now, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) — the largest scientific organization in the world dedicated to research on the understanding and treatment of mental illness — is getting serious about investigating mindfulness as a complementary treatment for a range of mental health conditions.
Like the Zen master Thich Naht Hanh says so evocatively, “Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves. It is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.”

Mental Health Awareness at Work

Centuries of stigma associated with mental health have today brought us to a stage where it takes a huge amount of effort to even acknowledge that one might need a mental health intervention. The culture we are a part of, has never made mental health a priority. And the people who have done it, are perceived as ‘lesser’ individuals. Thus, the stigma continues to be perpetuated. It is a proven and researched fact that at least one person in twenty five has a mental health issue. This problem can be tackled in  a significant manner by creating awareness about it in the world of work. There is an urgent need to build in awareness regarding mental health into organizational cultures.

By creating a work environment where the employees have access to basic mental health resources, should they need it, is a great way of showing support for mental health concerns. When we say resources, we mean very simple, basic resources, which in fact should become a norm. For example, a counselor at a designated desk. If the organisation cannot afford a full-time counselor, you could bring someone on board for 2 or 3 days a week and he/ she could be made available on appointment. Similarly, other easy ways are by creating a resource pool of short  video clips or documents on mental health which could be circulated amongst the employees on email.

Mental Health First!

When we speak about health, we think about the best food for our body, the best gym to go to stay fit, the best healthcare to access in case of an issue. We seldom think of our mental health with the same urgency, or approach. This is a very strange phenomenon given the fact that it is the state of your mental health which becomes a guiding force for everything you do.

Why do we have problems focusing on a task?  Breakdowns and burn outs are very common today, why? Why do we find it so hard to sustain and nurture relationships? Given the pace that the world expects of us, it is not a surprise that we all face these problems, and more. However, by focusing on preserving and nurturing your mental health, and never being afraid or ashamed to reach out for help, we will truly succeed in taking care of ourselves, and others. Write this down on a sticky note and stick at home and in your workplace, so it serves as a gentle reminder – “My Mental Health before Anything Else!”

Winding Down: Your Holiday Reading List for 2017

This post goes out to all the readers/ nerds/ bookworms out there. It is that time of the year again, time to bring in the tide and the cheer. You have probably been very busy winding up at work, to plan a holiday reading list. But we’ve got you covered there. For a break, and since you’re on break these recommendations have nothing to do with the world of work! All you need to do now, is source these books, make your self a mug of steaming hot chocolate, and settle down under the covers with a read. Sounds like bliss? We agree!

  1. Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng

    What happens when trouble breaks out in an idyllic little town, where the lives of all its residents are perfectly planned and pre-determined? A narrative weaving together tales of two mothers, their children, against the backdrop of a nail-biting mystery involving a custody battle over an adoption. A nail-biting mystery, succinctly described by the talented Celeste Ng. Listed as the Goodread Choice 2017 winner, this drama and thriller will surely keep you on edge! Buy here.

  2. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy

    How to tell a shattered story? By slowly becoming everbody. No. By slowly becoming everything.’
    Two decades after her first book, God of Small Things, which won the Booker prize, Arundhati Roy has come out with her second master piece. Riding under the garb of fiction, she invokes the politics of Kashmir, of the saffron brigade, the rights and lives of the ‘third sex’, all woven through a fantastical narrative. This book requires patience, because more than a story it is a condensation of her thoughts about everything through her years of activism. A must read however, because of the courageous account of the India as we know it, or maybe refuse to know it as. Indeed, she tells the shattered story by becoming everybody and everything. Buy here.

  3. Chocolat, Joanne Harris

    While it is very unfair to the other recommendations on this list, if there was just one book you want to pick, we’d recommend this. Also a hit motion picture, Joanne Harris’s Chocolat is a story about love, acceptance, travel, religion, the home and the world, all of this brought together by something almost no one can resist – Chocolate. Just the perfect holiday read, this book will make you laugh and cry and in the need leave you feeling grateful that you read it. We also recommend two of her other books – Blackberry Wine and Three Quarters of an Orange – a delight for your senses. Buy here.

  4. Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom

    This classic is based on a real life story. The narrator documents beautifully, the life and more importantly the ending of the life of his favorite professor. This book captures in rare honesty the motions of life. Through the story of Professor Morrie we learn that there is beauty in everything. There is beauty in life, there is beauty in pain and suffering, for as long as we breathe there will always be something to be grateful for. If you haven’t already read this, this is a great time for you to read it. Nothing like ending the year on a note of gratitude. Buy here.

  5. The Last Interview – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, edited by David Streitfeld

    The Last Interview is a series on famous personalities with transcripts from their prominent interviews, and their last interview. If you are a Marquez fan (even if you aren’t), you will love this read. From discussing his extremely diverse works, magic realism as a trope in his Nobel winning book – A Hundred Years of Solitude, to his belief and disbelief in politics, and how he can never write without a yellow flower at his desk – get insights into the life of one of the world’s most loved writers. Buy here. 

Happy Reading folks!

Have recommendations to add to this list? Comment below!

The 5 Zen Strategies for Success

The 5 Zen Strategies for Success

Being successful is not just about opportunities and hard work, there is something else that comes even before these two factors many of us consider to be the most important factors for success. It is your attitude. Your attitude about how far you are willing to go, and how deep you are willing to dive to change yourself from within is what makes all the difference. And if you are ready then this post is just the right thing for you to read. Read on to find out what the 5 Zen strategies are for success!

  1. Breathe

    All the Zen masters you will ever read about, will stress on one foremost thing – breath, and breathing. Because while we underestimate it, our breath is the most fundamental aspect of our lives.  We are because we breathe. Not many of us believe in the power of tuning into our breaths and staying there awhile. But those of us who do, know how very powerful it can be. Meditation is nothing but a practice of breathing mindfully. To be aware of the rhythm of the breath as we breathe in and breathe out. This practice allows us to clean our minds and get rid of anything that does not deserve our mind space. To breathe is the first and foremost of all Zen strategies you have got to master!

  2. The STOP technique

    The second of our five zen strategies, is understanding the value of the STOP technique. Every time we get overwhelmed, our defense mechanism works itself up – as is natural. However, with a little bit of mindfulness, we can change how we are when we feel overwhelmed. Every time you feel like something isn’t working out the way you expected it to, or is too much for you to handle – say STOP. S – Stop, T- Take a Breath, O – Observe, P – Proceed. As soon as you do this, no matter what the situation is, you will have a greater clarity than you did a few moments ago.

  3. One thing at a time

    We believe that multi-tasking is a sign of greater efficiency. However in the current day context, there are more things competing for our attention than ever. So quite contradictory to being productive and efficient, multitasking can be detrimental to our productivity. Focusing on one thing at a time, and giving it our best enhances our efficiency and also gives us confidence to be able to finish tasks in a structured manner. Following this technique not only increases our productivity but also the quality of the same. Instead of doing multiple things at the same time, doing one task at a time with our full concentration is bound to get us better results.

  4. Respond don’t React

    It takes a while to understand the difference between responding and reacting. But when you do, you realize that you could have saved yourself a lot of unnecessary stress if you tried distinguishing between the two, earlier. Like they say – better late than never. We react when we perceive the situation from a personal point of view. We react when we want to defend ourselves. Many situations of conflict that arise in the work place can be de-escalated if either or both parties responded instead of reacting. When we respond, we detach ourselves from the situation and adopt a practical and logical point of view to what the argument at hand is. On the other hand, reactions are guided by emotions and not logic.

  5. Gratitude

    Making gratitude a practice is one of the most powerful, and fastest ways to unlock the immense potential within us. There is a very simple logic to this claim. When we are grateful for what we have, and what we are, we possess a state of mind where anything seems more. Making gratitude a habit is the most beautiful thing you could do for yourself. Every time you think something is wrong, or there is lack of something – look around you and within you, with your eyes and your heart open, and tell us if you still didn’t find anything to be grateful for.

Have your own Zen strategies? Write to us and tell us more about them!

The Stages of the Pay-Cheque for Millenials

The Stages of the Pay-Cheque for Millenials

You have probably received your pay-cheque for the month, or are about to in a day or two. Which is why,  reading this hopefully will make you laugh instead of invoking grief or tears. Once caught in the web of what millenials refer to as “adulting” there is no escaping. Your timelines, plans and most other things in life are structured around the much awaiting pay for the month. And from the day you receive it, to the day you realize you are broke, there are a few distinct stages. Here is summarizing the five distinct stages of the pay-cheque.

Stage 1 – Around the 15th of the Month

Somewhere around the middle of the month is when your pocket starts to feel lighter and you realize that you have started to make plans with your next pay, already! This is also the stage where you indulge in self-shaming, by telling yourself that you have, once again, successfully sabotaged your ‘saving’ plans and plan on salvaging it best you can.

Stage 2 – Around the 23rd of the Month

This is the stage where you “really” make up your mind to be prudent with your earnings from now on, and save money from the next month. All of a sudden it strikes you that you are in your late twenties and don’t have a single proper financial investment to your credit, and that snowballs into a different level of existential crisis – now a mixture of financial, emotional and just everything conceivable because life hits you smack on your face.

Stage 3 – Around the 25th of the Month

Your account balance is currently about Rs. 88.56. It is so sad that it’s actually funny. This is when you start living on leftovers, and cancelling any and all weekend plans. You make your peace with staying in and watching Netflix – unless, you’ve been too broke to pay for the internet! The situation is dire and you start feeling jealous of your friends who are still living with their parents – at least they have free access to unlimited good food!

Stage 4 – Between the 30th – 2nd

This stage can also be referred to as the ‘dance of joy’/ ‘I am so rich’/ ‘YESSS’ stage. That beautiful moment when your salary gets credited to your account and you get a text message informing you of it. It would be safe to bet that we are all so proud and overjoyed with those monthly texts that we don’t delete them. The week that follows the pay-day is when we believe we can afford everything we may want. We also realize that the money was spent in our head long before it hit our accounts, because of the several plans pinned on the month’s salary. Old habits do die hard.

Stage 5 – Around the 15th of the Month

Your account balance has steadily diminished yet again – the rent has been paid, the maid has been paid, phone bills, internet, grocery and a zillion other things you never thought you’d have to pay for. And then of course, all the things that you want and don’t need.

And here we are again. Back where we started. And so continues the endless vicious cycle. To end on a positive note though, if you love what you do, all of this becomes worth it! Happy adulting folks!