Many often ask how I’ve managed to do so much with the little time that we all have, and so I thought it’d be best to summarise my thoughts in a blog post.
Here are some tricks that have worked for me over the years.
1) Eliminate distractions. Turn off social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, as well as notifications.
Unless directly useful in your line of work, they can be extremely distracting. If you find yourself spending an excessive amount of time (>30 mins in a day) on social media, you should probably be actively blocking these sites (use the hosts file!).
For notifications, turn them off on whatever device you own. Ever since I permanently enabled the Do Not Disturb feature on my iPhone, life has been way more peaceful. If someone really wants to reach me or in an emergency, they call me.
If you want to measure how you’ve fared managing your time at the end of the week, check out RescueTime.
2) Grow productivity. Create workflows. Find your golden hours. Employ tools which increase your efficiency.
I’ve found it particularly useful to set out the tasks that I want to accomplish at the start of each day. In order not to make the list too overwhelming, I ensure it stays under five tasks. Next, stick this somewhere which is prominent enough to consistently remind you. I use a simple combination of coloured post-it notes and TextEdit on my Mac.
Not every single human being is productive from 9.30 am to 5.30pm, which is why I’m a huge fan of working from home, and also strongly against the face-time measure that is emphasised in many workplaces all over the world, especially more so in Singapore. If you know you work best at night, then shift your schedule around it! There’s nothing wrong with waking up late, or working past 3am if your focus is optimum at night.
Tools are incredibly important. Ever since I switched to a Mac, my productivity jumped by leaps and bounds. Use Chrome for browsing the Web. Use Mailbox for managing your emails. Use Dropbox for file-sharing. Use Clear for lists.
At The Pragmatic Lab, it is mandatory for all employees to work from home with the exception of meetings or get-togethers. We use a variety of online tools like Trello and Basecamp to communicate, which has proved to be very effective thus far.
3) Stop procrastinating. Procrastination is a self-defense mechanism that provides a temporary alleviation of our fears and pressure of doing things.
But the truth that stinks also makes sense: You can’t avoid something forever. Don’t give yourself a chance to hesitate. File your taxes. Clear that email that’s been rotting in your inbox since forever. Start that exercise routine. Go get it done. This post and this book sums it up pretty well.
These tips are what I’ve learned in life, and I hope that they’ll work for you as well as they did for me. Good luck!
Money is indeed an interesting item. It has become an object of want in our culture today, yet when we have large amounts of it, we have no idea what to do with it. A commoner sees another winning millions in lotteries then losing them the next day and wonders, is it because of our society? Have we been blinded by the stock phrase “Money is the solution to everything”? Are we slaves to the process of achieving wealth?
Usually, money seems to be the solution. It solves all sorts of problems, from your meals to housing to family, and so on. Furthermore, complemented by what we see, the rich seem to be leading better lives. Some of them have it all planned out: they buy a huge apartment, own a humongous car, marry the richer and provide their kids with an affluent lifestyle.
Yet through all this, we often miss the main purpose of money. What we need to recognize (and has been repeated enough if you read/learn/know enough) is that money is not the final prize that is offered in this game called Life. Chasing money in life is like playing an arcade machine that eats up your coins but never gives you the toy inside it that you want.
What is money really for, then? After two decades of existence on this planet, money to me, is an instrument. You set goals using money as a mechanism to achieve them. These goals, for instance (and also in my case), could be going to college. Investment in education takes up quite a chunk of money, so you earn money, and you use it for college. You don’t amass money and then figure out what to do with it. You use money to support and eventually achieve your goal. Often people trip over this important step and do the reverse.
Now let’s say, if you were one of the luckier ones, and money happens to be a byproduct - you produce it as a side effect, or you have a surplus. What do you do? It’s also important to plan before you reach this stage: how would you use your money to make an impact in someone’s life? In what ways would you help the world? For me, I would (1) support the needy. Those workers that built my house - why aren’t they as human beings entitled to the same luxuries that I have? (2) contribute to the development of new products - I enjoy seeing people being helped by new technology, as such I want to play a part in that movement.
Hopefully this piece clears up some misconceptions and disillusions about money that some might have. Mark Zuckerberg, who is valued in the billions after his recent Facebook IPO, has already pledged to give half of his wealth to charity. By thinking of money as an instrument, life becomes more meaningful.
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One dad believed in a company or the government taking care of you and your needs. He was always concerned about pay raises, retirement plans, medical benefits, sick leave, vacation days and other perks. He was impressed with two of his uncles who joined the military and earned a retirement and entitlement package for life after twenty years of active service. He loved the idea of medical benefits and PX privileges the military provided its retirees. He also loved the tenure system available through the university. The idea of job protection for life and job benefits seemed more important, at times, than the job. He would often say, “I’ve worked hard for the government, and I’m entitled to these benefits.”
The other believed in total financial self-reliance. He spoke out against the “entitlement” mentality and how it was creating weak and financially needy people.He was emphatic about being financially competent.
One dad struggled to save a few dollars. The other simply created investments.
Here are some lessons I learned that I’d like to share:
1) Comments that are targeted at you can be hurtful at first, but don’t take them personally
I was initially bothered by comments like ‘accent not native’, ‘trainer sounds too young’, ‘why teach when he can make money from building apps’.
However, it is important to not take them personally. View it from a larger perspective. Why are they criticizing you? There must be a reason why. Try to understand them and see what you are able to do.
For the record, English is my first language and I’ve been speaking it since I was born. I’m from Singapore, so the accent is slightly different (how many of you even know where Singapore is? ;). We don’t practice the American accent much here, but I try to make my voice as clear as possible. I’m also 19, and I’m trying to save up for college.
2) Filter out the unhelpful replies
The community on Hacker News does a good job of helping you with this by downvoting, but if you’re constantly glued to your thread, and the community does not have enough time to react fast enough, you will probably see the vicious comments most of the time. It is important to overlook these comments, such as the ‘Titanic creaking’ or ‘What a surprise. Only a commercial company would advertise…’. That’s really not helpful.
3) Post on a weekend
I initially posted my ‘Show HN’ topic on a weekday, I think Friday afternoon, and nobody picked it up. I made some modifications to the prices and added samples, and re-posted again on a Saturday afternoon. Traffic exploded after it was initially picked up. I think I hit about 10,000 unique visitors in a day.
4) Try to reply instantly
If you’re showing a demo, or selling a product, people will have questions and will want an immediate, if not quick response. The nature of Hacker News is such that they expect a reply rather immediately, especially when it pertains to your product. Providing support and ‘being there for your customers’ certainly counts here.
Remember not to launch your product and go to bed the next minute. I almost did this.
5) Use the suggestions to improve your product
The top request was to break down and subdivide my videos such that users would be able to buy individual items. Thanks for your feedback, and we’re glad to announce it’s now possible to do so!
Other requests were: reducing overall price ($149 to $129) and simplifying the product (it’s now separated by courses instead of packages).
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I don’t know why I used to complain so much.
I should be thankful, thankful for what God has blessed me in this life.
I shall never look back.
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There is not a trace of innovation in many workplaces in Singapore, from the civil service to the private sector.
I’ve talked to many people about why they are working in their current job.
Some people work because of the high salary the job offers.
Some people work because they want to be on par with their peers who are earning money.
Some people work because their parents told them to find a job.
Many of the above people have no idea that their concept of work is totally wrong. Which leads to articles like these: 80% of People Quietly Despise Their Lives.
Work is meant to be enjoyed. You should be waking up and heading to work with a grin on your face, knowing what you do for the rest of the day actually excites you.
You should not be heading to work unhappy, knowing that it is just going to be another boring day. If you cannot find satisfaction in your job, why on earth are you still stuck in the same job?
At this point, I strongly recommend you to read one of these books if you find yourself in one of the above scenarios: The 4-Hour Work Week, Rework, or Hacking Work. Each of these books have helped me to truly understand the meaning of work, and I have been successful in achieving what I truly want.
If you’re in Singapore and up for a cuppa, email me and we’ll catch up.
A lot of times, people bum around till they realize they haven’t done anything productive.
Then they ask me what they should be doing.
Well, it’s really darn simple.
Let me put it in three steps:
1) Look around you.
Wherever you are, on a train, in school, at your desk, just take a minute to observe things around you. Observe the environment, observe the people, observe the interactions. Take a minute to do just that.
2) Find the problems.
In every scenario, there are problems waiting to be solved. These may not be as inherent as they are, so you might want to repeat Step 1 if you didn’t find any problem. E.g. People are always squeezing onto trains during peak hours, how can we solve this?
3) Solve them.
It is as simple as it sounds. Use your skills, your talent, or your determination. Find a loophole, a solution, a key to the answer. If the problem is too big, you might want to take baby steps to solve them. Do not be afraid of large problems. Instead redefine them and slowly work your way through them.
Example: A year ago, I had some free time on hand. I picked up my iPhone and realized there was a major lack of usable dictionary applications. So I made my own dictionary, Definition, a really beautiful and fast dictionary, and it was extremely well-received by customers!
There are many problems out there waiting to be solved.
I’m not saying we should live in an idealistic world, but if our realistic world offers us so many problems to solve, why are still complaining of lack of things to do?