Plan-the-day template

A manager I worked with recommended the following plan-the-day structure (screenshot below) as a way of keeping track of everything you’d like done in a day.  In addition to that, he rightly pointed out that I didn’t keep an archive of tasks done to refer to in case it was ever necessary (like I might have done if I were using a notebook).

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I have been using this over the past 2 months and I have found the in-built archiving feature useful since I automatically create a new page for a new day by copying the previous day’s page and making edits. While his structure was a sketch in his notebook, I’ve been using Microsoft OneNote – I’m a huge OneNote fan and here again, it is perfectly suited to this need.

Overall, I’ve been happy with this system and it’s definitely help me keep things organized and focused. In case you’re open to trying out a new system, I hope it helps you too!

Doing what you don’t want to do

Sometimes, showing up is awfully hard. Monday mornings have that effect on us. Maybe that’s why Woody Allen attributed 80% of success to showing up.

When you’re stuck wondering whether to do what you want or what you committed to, remind yourself that “want” is very short term. Notice how a good wake up song and some water on your face make you ready for a day when you might have considered staying in bed just 5 minutes back?

Doing what you don’t want to do is a big part of showing up. And developing the habit of showing up is as big a long term win as you can find.

On the All Powerful Bond Markets

This week’s learning is part 3 of a 12 part series on The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson. (Parts 1, 2)

Thanks to frequent warring among Italian states, rich citizens in Florence lent money to the government and received interest in return. These investors were then allowed to sell their bonds to other invest, thus creating a “market” for these government bonds.

We are all affected by the bond markets in 3 ways –

1) Most of the money we put away for our retirement are reinvested in the bond markets
2) A fall of value of government bonds results in higher interest rates resulting in painful consequences for borrowers. Let me explain that –

Let’s assume you own Japanese government bonds worth $100,000 dollars that normally gives interest of 1.5% (=$1,500). Now, the Japanese economy is doing well and the markets value these bonds at $102,000. Thus, the interest rate goes down to 1.47% (1,500/102,000) to compensate. Similarly, if the Japanese economy is doing badly or if investors fear a Japanese default, the value of these bonds will go down so the investors get a price that compensates the risk they take.

If the goes down to $80,000, the new interest rate is 1,500/80,000 = 1.88%. All of a sudden, the whole Japanese economy suffers a massive rise in interest rates. Thus, the bond markets control every price of stock, mortgage, or loan you pay! And the power in the bond markets is that it can punish poor financial regulation by reducing value of bonds, raising interest rates, and thus, making a deficit even harder to meet.

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Sketch by EB

Thus, a downward move by the bond market leaves the government with 3 options –

1) Default on a part of its debt realizing the bond market’s worst fears
2) Reduce expenditures to appease it
3) Increase income by raising taxes

While bonds were created to control government spending, it has ended up dictating it in a crisis.

And, like the Bond created by Ian Fleming, it has the license to kill.

Savor it

There are many movies, books, and blog posts that talk about the importance of savoring time with our loved ones. I’m not sure how many of those have any real impact. And I’m not sure how many of us savor it nearly as much as we should.

I’ve had long stints away from my loved ones for many years now. First, thanks to education and then work. The ‘loved one’ group has expanded from family to include many close friends (framily). These stints will soon get tougher now that I’m married. But, they do add so much perspective as I realize that the real time I get to spend with those I love is very limited and I’ve got to make the best of them. The trips back may be short in length but they can be very meaningful.

That’s my goal for this 2 week trip with a short trip back with family included. Life isn’t short but moments where we are truly alive can be woefully short if we aren’t conscious about how we spend our time. So I’m very excited about making it meaningful, and looking forward to savoring every moment.

If/when you meet your loved ones this weekend, I hope you’ll lead the way with lots of big tight hugs. Life is all about creating moments and we get very few with those we love. Make it meaningful. Savor it.

iTunes Radio

Now that all the noise about the iOS7 and iPhone 5S/C launches have died down, I’d like to share my vote for the best part of the launch. While I’ve enjoyed iOS7 so far, my vote for best feature is iTunes Radio hands down.

I honestly can’t get enough of it. I believe music listeners are of 2 kinds – ones who love to own their music and ones who don’t care. The latter have the likes Spotify taking care of their needs while the former have options of buying CDs/MP3s from Amazon or from iTunes.

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I had decided to invest in all media on iTunes but I was stuck with a problem over the past few months – discovery. I had a very random method of discovery – the largest sources of which were a couple of friends who used to send me good songs to listen to. I used to occasionally check out Grooveshark’s “most popular” list to figure out what’s new and popular. But, no more Grooveshark after 100% legal of course.

To cut a long story short, after many attempts at finding new good songs, iTunes Radio has been a blessing over this past week. After fiddling around with various stations, I searched for Coldplay and found a Coldplay station that plays songs similar to Coldplay. As you listen, you have 2 very powerful options –

1. Play songs like this one. Their algorithms must be very good because by the 3rd day of doing this often, 1 in every 3 songs were songs I already owned! They’re “getting” what I like listening to most of the time. I’d like my Avicii station to do better but I guess it’s still work in progress.

2. Add to iTunes wish list. After a bulk buy of music, I’ve been spending most of my monthly budget on TV shows/movies since. Now, all of a sudden, I have 20+ songs on my wish list and this isn’t going to stop any time soon. What a fantastic business idea!

In short, I love iTunes Radio and I hope you give it a shot.

You are only as good as your last game..

A footballer is only as good as his last game. If his last game was bad, he might not even get a chance to play the next. You don’t earn your salary because of the value you’ve added in your life to date. You earn it because of the value you added last month and the expectation on the amount of value you will add only goes up.

Not learning or growing on the job might have been an option when all workers were standing on an assembly line. It is not an option now.

Learn and get a shot at playing the next game or watch someone with more hunger take your place.

So, what are you learning on the job that’s making you better?

Some days just suck

Dramatic headline, I know. Allow me to explain.

I was in the midst of a really crap day a few days back. There were a couple of things that just seemed to be going against what I’d hoped for and this was compounded by a few minor annoyances that always loom like mountains on a bad day. I wasn’t feeling all that great either – I’d initially thought this was more mental than physical but I realized later it was a case of food poisoning and took me the best part of the day to recover.

I remember taking stock at mid-day and asking myself what my learning was for the day. I spent a few minutes thinking of something profound I’d learnt.

It turns out there was no profound lesson. I just learnt that some days..well..suck. It’s just part of life.

The moment I realized that, my focus shifted to getting done with work for the day and catching some sleep. If possible, also indulging myself in something that would take my mind off things (this didn’t happen). The day didn’t get better but the next day sure improved. On some days, that’s a big enough win. 

And, on a related note, when I’m not feeling all that good, I drink a lot of hot water. It seems to have a therapeutic effect. Do give it a shot.