Productivity Hacks

Minimum Viable Progress – Productivity Hack to Create Value

The biggest drain on our limited willpower is to start something. You might have observed that once you start, you get the momentum or the inertia to continue. Hence you should learn more about the concept of minimum viable progress.  

One major reason for that is when we think about a task in its entirety, it looks overwhelming. Our mind starts playing games to keep us away from any feeling of discomfort arising out of the task in hand demanding our efforts.  

However, there is a way out. 

Psychologically, once you start something, even if with a small act, you send a signal to the brain that what you’re doing is not far beyond your comfort zone. You’ve taken the first step, which is the most crucial. Remember, 

“Journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”

Minimal Viable Progress

MVP is a very commonly used abbreviation in the startup lingo. In startup parlance it stands for “Minimal Viable Product”. The intention is to build the simplest possible product that will be useful to the intended user, before the actual intended product evolves. Idea is not to do shabby work. On the contrary, you develop a better product because of including user feedback you collected with the MVP.

Similarly, we can devise our own version of MVP i.e. Minimum Viable Progress. We can start asking this question to ourselves, what is the smallest amount of progress that will be useful and valuable to the task we are trying to get done. To summarize, I am quoting these lines which I picked up from the treasure of ancient wisdom, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching

Confront the difficult

while it is still easy;

Accomplish the great task 

by a series of small acts.

Minimum Viable Preparation

Any creative work, any big project or any huge accomplishment requires preparation. There are 2 ways to prepare –

  1. Late and Big
  2. Early and Small

Late and big is more common. That’s when you keep postponing the work till the end and then you do the work required by pulling an all nighter. The work might get completed, but that’s like heavy lifting for your mental faculties. Not the most healthy and productive way for long term efficiency. 

The alternative is to start early and small. If getting focused attention is a problem, try this easy time management trick to get started. Do MVP – minimum viable progress / preparation.    

Wish to write an article, write a couple of sentences

Wish to make a presentation, open a power-point file and put down your thoughts. 

Wish to build a product, make a concept note.

Wish to design something, make a rough sketch on paper. 

Wish to prepare for a speech, pen down a few points. 

Start small, but start early. 

Word of caution, if you’ve tendencies of being a perfectionist at work, this can become counter productive. Your urge to perfect your creation, can push you into the never ending cycle of small improvements. But here you need to remind yourself that 

Done is better than perfect. 

Productivity Hacks

Effective Trick for Reducing Screen Time for Kids

Screens all around us and their non-stop capability to keep us entertained, are turning us into screen zombies. Almost all parents have this question in their mind – “How to reduce screen time for kids?”

People with kids at home will be able to relate that our kids are specially impacted because of so much screen time that has crept into their daily routine. 

Most of us, as parents, are concerned about the ever increasing impact it has on studies and their mental health. For many kids, the games on mobiles or playstations have seriously reduced their time spent in physical outdoor sports. In certain cases, excessive attachment to the screen is negatively impacting the social behavior of the young ones. 

As parents, we want the best for our kids and any effort to keep them away from screens results in a squabble and is met with friction.

How to Reduce Screen Time for Kids?

I got this very useful idea from Greg Mckeown’s book titled Essentialism – The disciplined pursuit of less. My wife and I decided to try this parenting idea. We implemented this with my kids and found it super effective and hence sharing with you. 

We introduced a token system. We gave 15 tokens each to both my sons every Sunday. Each token can be traded for 1 hour of screen time. Alternatively, each token can be exchanged for Rs.10 on the next Sunday. You can decide the amount of money and number of tokens based on your circumstances.

This worked like magic. Their screen time reduced drastically. From approximately 28 hours a week to 7-10 hours a week. That’s a whopping 75% reduction. This happened without any haggling or push from our side. 

Maybe it was the motivation generated out of additional cash of Rs.70-80 per week per son. Or maybe it was just the excitement of showing off self-control. Whatever it was, it worked very smoothly for us.

Let me share another effective but little more demanding approach to answer the nagging question – how to reduce screen time for kids?

Make your kids learn trivial stuff

They will enjoy the activity part and in the process you will teach them important life skills. You can chose the activity based on the age of the child. Mentioning some activities –

  • washing their clothes
  • dusting and cleaning
  • gardening
  • arranging their books
  • arranging their wardrobe
  • cleaning their shoes
  • writing an actual letter to grand parents
  • fabric painting
  • basic cooking (be careful) like making Maggie or pop-corn
  • making basic beverage like a lemonade
  • watering the plants

There are great advantages of learning small but fun things when kids are bored. Share in comments other activities which you have tried.

Systems like this can help us bring the desired results both at home and at work. To implement any system like this, start small and then slowly improve it. Any sudden or drastic change is normally deterred by people. So start small and recognize or incentivize people on small progress.

Productivity Hacks

Easy Time Management Trick for Better Productivity

To use any time management trick, you need to understand that your attention or ability to concentrate on something is the scarcest but most precious resource you have to do amazing work in your life.

I strongly believe your attention span or your ability to do deep work, is directly proportional to the value you can create. This is especially true for any knowledge worker be it coder, copywriter or fashion designer or manager.

If you seriously want to do good in your career, you need focus on important things which you are supposed to do.

But guess what, in our hyper distracted world, our attention span is at the rock bottom. There are scores of messages waiting for you on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger at any moment. Social media feeds are designed to lure you and make you crave for more and more novelty and thus leave you distracted from your work.

Don’t get scared, I am not asking you to quit social media. So, what’s the simple time management trick I am suggesting for doing deep work?

Time Management Trick – Time Blocking

Divide your work day into time slots. At the onset of the day, fill one activity in each slot. You can also club together similar smaller activities and work on them in a slot. I also believe seeking clarity about your work by asking right questions to right people, can save lot of time.

If your main KRA is to make sales call, you can have your first 120 minutes (including the breaks, if required) slots of fresh calling followed by next slot of 30 minutes for responding to emails. Followed again by 90 minutes of 3rd slot of follow up calls.

You can fit in breaks with in the time slots. Or you can make “break” as a time slot of 15 or 30 minutes. Breaks are very important to refresh and restart. You can arrange more slots based on what work you’re supposed to do.

With trial and error, you will achieve a perfect day divided into time blocks where you do only one thing by removing distractions as much as possible. Check out this complete guide on time blocking and related techniques to master them.

If you’re a manager and you’re responsible for variety of things including team management, your time blocking schedule can look something like this –

  • 9-10 am – Making client proposals
  • 10-11 am – Checking & replying to emails & social media messages
  • 11-12 am Team meeting or one-to-ones
  • And so on!

Trust me, this one change of using time blocking to arrange your work day, can save 2 hours wastage each done. Plus, it makes you more productive, less stressed and happier! So, start time blocking, start rocking!

Personal Growth Productivity Hacks

Grow Faster By Helping Your Boss to Make Decisions

You might be frustrated with your boss not replying to your emails where you asked him or her for a decision. You always believe that you would have been able to do your job perfectly, if your boss would have given timely answers to your questions.  

In short, you’re frustrated with a boss not willing to take decisions and it’s a common scenario hindering the growth of many promising individuals like yourself.   

Let me be blunt and tell you that you’re partially responsible for this situation. Hear me out. 

Decision making is not easy. It drains you of your mental energies. Psychologists have named this phenomenon as decision fatigue. Moreover, not all individuals are wired to be good and quick decision makers. So how to help your boss in better decision making?

Make it easy for your boss. Make it simple for him/ her to make a quick and good decision. 

Imagine you asking him a single line question (say on email), like “Can we implement a customer support software in our organization?”

And the answer never comes. You get frustrated. 

But when you think of it deeply, you’ve put the onus of all the hard work on him or her. Better approach is to give him or her all the information needed to make a good decision.

To Help in Better Decision Making

Follow the C-A-O approach.

The information you give should define the Context, that is what’s the current scenario and why do you want certain decision to be made.

Share the various Alternatives which are available as per your understanding of the situation. Do your background work well before laying out options.

Layout the possible Outcomes of implementing each alternative. Try to give impact of the alternatives in measurable terms like cost saving or revenue increase or man-days saved and so on.

In conclusion of that email or talk, present the case (very briefly) for the best alternative in your opinion. That will nudge your boss to take the decision as per your wish.

So, if you help you boss make quick decisions, you make his life easy plus add value to the organization by making things faster and smarter. So go ahead and help your boss. And see happy growth in your career!