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This blog post started out as an internal memo I wrote to Team Zindagi – but some of it’s been adapted to suit my blog audience.
There aren’t a lot of times I can recall when I give up on something I’ve started. But after becoming a Systems Engineer for Cisco, I was really close to putting in my papers.
  • I had recently moved from professional services to systems engineering (someone who now had a Sales KRA) – and I genuinely sucked at closing.
  • In my previous role a professional services engineer, I could get by doing my job, by knowing just two or three technologies really well. But as a Cisco pre-sales guy, I was expected to sell “anything Cisco makes” – which was a lot.
  • I’ve always been a perfectionist – “If it’s not upto my satisfaction – I’ll not deliver it.”
  • As a result – I couldn’t cope up with the job’s expectations. I started missing deadlines. Many of my presentations went lack lustre. I became a liability for my sales counterpart.
  • I had recently gotten married AND gotten enrolled in a executive MBA from Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University – which demanded mandatory attendance 6 days a week!
  • I wasn’t able to give proper time to any facet of my life – my marriage, my studies or my job. There were occasions where I’d go from office to my MBA classes, then take a cab to the airport. The next day, upon returning to Delhi in the evening – I’d attend a 3 hour lecture before going home.
  • When in the class room, I was working on compliances and cross-references, responding to RFPs, replying to my mail, creating BoQs – while all the time thinking – Sure buddy, THIS is how you’ll pass Cost Accounting 101.
  • The pressure had gotten to me. Something had to give.. and it did. I had to decide and let go of one of these facets of my life. I quit my MBA – something I had worked so hard to get into 😢😢.
“You have to be so disciplined that even your distractions become focused.” ― Onyi Anyado
The above experience got me thinking about how to incorporate discipline in my work day, get better at time management and how I can accomplish more in the time allotted to me. I realised I had 5 facets to my life: My personal fitness, my education, my family n friends, my work, and my future / stuff I want to achieve; and I needed to allocate time for each facet.
This message is an attempt to distil my learnings and encourage you to try the tools I use to achieve peak performance. 
A special thanks to my friend and (then) sales counter-part in Cisco (Mr. Arpit Goyal – Brilliant sales guy; the Zig Ziglar of our times) because of whom I had my eureka moment to make this blueprint.
That day, sitting next to me in the Cisco office in CP, he asked me to prepare a BoQ for a customer and put his wrist watch right in front of me. The pressure induced by the needles of the wrist watch made me finish off the task in 1/4th the time I usually took for making a BoQ for such a solution!
I keep giving you challenges every day and see you rise up to the occasion to face them head on. You’re not afraid to work on new tech; you use your analytical muscles to solve problems and build solutions that make this great country smarter and closer to technical excellence. Genuinely – I see you all with a sense of pride – every day watching you grow as a team is a pleasure.
That said, seeing you operate each day, I see a team that’s capable of a lot more but not able to achieve peak performance.
  • We tend to be lackadaisical at times – Knowing your calibre – Work that can easily be finished in X minutes, usually stretches to hours.
  • When there’s a clear list of prioritised tasks in front of you, sometimes I see you gravitating towards the task that’s neither important not urgent (but perhaps provides you a technical challenge that excites you).
At times like these – the “engineer” in me wakes up and my immediate knee-jerk reaction has been to roll up my sleeves and dive in to help out and fix the problem at hand.
However, I believe that a “I’ll do it myself” is not the right attitude for me to take as a leader. I know my team has the right talent and It’s my responsibility to channelize it so that we succeed jointly as a team.
As CEO of Zindagi, I find a lot on my plate each day. The emails, SMSs, Whatsapp messages, voicemails, etc – they can get really overwhelming at times. As you know, I’ve parked my fitness regime for sometime. But despite everything; I do believe I am able to find time to mentor you guys, spend time with family n friends, to study and learn, and to grow this company.
Here’s how I operate each day (Tips I got from Tim Ferriss in his book “4-Hour Work Week”):
  • “What I do” is more important that “How I do it”. What’s the point of being effective if you’re not efficient! For every task assigned to me – I always look at the opportunity cost; and what is their expectation in terms of my responsibilities. I then juxtapose it with my current list of tasks and determine how I can find time to complete the additional work.
  • Three times a day, at scheduled times (10:00 AM. 1:00 PM. 3:00 PM) – a reminder goes off on my phone asking me – Are you being productive or just being active? 
    • I agree with Tim when he says “Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”
    • I force this question on myself – Am I just inventing things to do, to avoid the important stuff?
    • I study my RescueTime report to see what are the top three activities the I use to fill time to feel that I have been “productive”
    • There’s a post-it note next to Mom n Dad’s photo frame on my working desk that reads “If this is the only thing you’ll accomplish today, will you be satisfied with your day?”. This small note acts as a constant reminder to me, to be “effective” rather than efficient!
  • I do not multitask. I CAN’T multitask. I pick up one task at a time focus on completing that before moving on to the next.

Your work laptop is just THAT – a tool to get WORK done.

For the past few months, I have been goading you to respond to a bot on Slack everyday at 8 AM. This bot asks you four questions, collects responses and shares them with me:
  • How are you feeling today?
  • What did you Achieve yesterday?
  • What will you Achieve today?
  • What’s blocking your progress?
Honestly, this is not a way for me to track how you’re doing so I can do your performance appraisals. The purpose of automating this questionnaire is to give you a chance to list down your priorities for that particular day! This is so that you “attack the day” and accomplish all those tasks which you enlisted in the 3rd question.
  • Do not EVER open the lid of your laptop screen unless you have a clear list of priorities and tasks that it’ll help you achieve.
  • Remember, a carpenter uses his saw and hammer to get his work done, a gardener has a hose and a hedge trimmer. You, my friends – have your laptop.
  • When you’re in front of your work laptop – Work! Don’t have Facebook or Whatsapp open somewhere in the background – Sign out of any non-productive applications which pop up unnecessary notifications. I’m myself guilty of having gone down the rat hole of scrolling through status updates simply after clicking on a ostensibly benign notification asking “Did you see X’s comment to Y’s post?”
  • Turn off all notifications and distractions – focus on the work at hand.

Challenge yourself on every task you perform. Set deadlines that are “impossible” to achieve

Imagine that you’ve planned for this amazing vacation with family which you’re really looking forward to – it’s your well deserved time off, where you’ll have fun with your loved ones. The last thing you’d want is for a customer or a co-worker to call you up while you’re enjoying the cool ocean breeze (or fresh mountain air, if you may).
If you work for a corporation, you’ve applied for a PTO (Paid Time Out) well in advance.
Now, tell me if this sounds familiar and if you can relate – a few days before your planned holiday – your productivity, focus and performance are at their peak! You make every effort (most of which are successful) to ensure that all emails are answered, all leads on salesforce are closed, your inbox reaches zero count, etc – basically, you do everything you can to close all items you’re responsible for.
Why does this happen? Why do people like to boast that “Pressure brings out the best in me!”. Well, it’s actually something called Parkinson’s law (Thank you Tim Ferriss for introducing me to it). Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. It is the magic of the imminent deadline. If I give you 24 hours to complete a project, the time pressure forces you to focus on execution, and you have no choice but to do only the bare essentials.
So, pressure DOES bring out the best in us! If that is indeed the case, why not use this phenomenon to our advantage? Why not intentionally induce such pressure on ourselves by setting short deadlines on everything we do – so that we can do more… be more… achieve more in our life.
Time is the greatest asset you have… the number of breaths you’ll take in, the number of times the seconds hand of the clock moves for you – all of these are finite and counted. Work towards optimising the efforts you put in to every task.
How powerful is this concept of being able to “Buy more time”!
Imagine the possibilities of how you can use this time you “bought”:
  • Spend more quality time with family?
  • Learn a new skill
  • Set up a part time business while working your 9-6 job.

Perfectionism is your enemy!

I say this with a lot of responsibility as the founder of a company which values quality – perfectionism is the enemy of productivity! If you’re ever tasked to do a certain activity, set an impossibly strict timeline to achieve that task. You’ll be surprised at how much you’d have accomplished when the countdown expires.
Get the bare essentials done; complete the MVP (minimal viable product); make the initial draft of the design doc or Visio file and send it out for review.
You are what you tolerate – I’m not asking you to tolerate crappy quality – I’m telling you that CONSISTENCY TRUMPS QUALITY! You’ll always have time to refine it once you receive additional feedback upon review.
I often use for setting these timeline pressures on myself. Egg Timer is a simple countdown timer – simply type in the number of minutes you’re setting for this “induced pressure” – and start working! It’ll provide you a full screen window showing a simply Javascript countdown clock!
Example usage: (defaults to seconds)

Jot down your affirmations and read them to yourself periodically

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” -Mark Twain
An affirmation is a promise; an oath; a vow that you make to yourself. Affirmations allow you to put into words who you are, who you want to become and what you wish to achieve. They’ll remind you of your own beliefs and values which you wrote down at a time when you had clarity of thought, focus and motivation.
Life’s hard – you’ll face disappointments at each and every step. With all the things that will happen to you every day, you’re bound to lose motivation, get depressed, and forget why you started on this path in the first place. It’s at times like these that your affirmations will help bring you back on track. I suggest writing them down in your journal and reading them daily.
Here are a few of my affirmations to get you in the frame of mind to write your own:
  • Every obstacle I face is molding me into the person I need to be.
  • The work my company does, contributes in the progress of this great country.
  • Entrepreneurship is a path of service and prosperity.
  • The passion I have for my work enables me to create real value.
  • There are no limits to what I can achieve.
  • My reputation is more important than profits
  • I always treat my team with respect and dignity.
  • I am assertive when the situation warrants it.
  • My work makes a difference in this world.
  • My courage, self-confidence and unwavering belief in my entrepreneurial dream keep me laser focused.
  • My creative mind plays an important role in all of my decisions.
  • My integrity influences every aspect of my business and personal life.
  • I am a lifelong student.
  • I am responsible for my success and failure.
  • I surround myself with people and things that inspire me to live my full potential.
  • I help others climb the ladder of success as I make my way to the top.
  • My financial abundance is a by-product of chasing and catching my vision.
  • I take entrepreneurship seriously, without taking myself too seriously.

Plan your tomorrow… tonight!

  • We normally tend to pick up the easiest task, or the most interesting task – even if it’s not high priority.
  • If you were to plan your next day – you’ll feel guilty writing the “easiest but less important / critical / urgent task” at the top of the list.
  • Without a plan, we tend to lets ourselves get away by answering email, and attending to other low priority tasks. This leads to stress towards the end of the day – when your customers or your manager will call you to ask for status.
  • By planning your day in advance – You are committing the “future you” to do the things the “present you” won’t do.
  • If you plan your day the night before – you’ll not only be able to get more done in less time, you’ll also add clarity to your day.
Before you go to sleep – get into a habit of writing down exactly what you’ll do the entire day tomorrow. Map out your day so you have a blueprint to work on.
“Someday is not a day of the week.” -Denise Brennan-Nelson

The magic of having BIG, ambitious goals – and writing them down

I remember reading about this story of a professor who asked his students to spend 2 hours writing down essays providing excruciating details of “what will a day in their lives look like, 10 years from now” – they had to describe what job they’ll have, how many children, their spouse, the kind of house they’d be living in, the cars they’ll be driving, etc.
Here’s what happened – when these students met at the college reunion 10 years later, they found that almost each and every one of those individuals had “become what they’d thought they’d become”!
Team – i sincerely suggest you try this too. Spend time to jot down all you intend to achieve in the next 10 years – think big; be ambitious; be over-ambitious. What looks like over-ambitious today – will appear achievable in the coming months. Categorise your goals as Personal, Professional and Education related goals.
“You have to dream, before your dreams can come true.” – A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Tools I use to achieve peak performance everyday

“Don’t count the days, make the days count.” -Muhammad Ali
Finally – here are the tools I use to achieve peak performance every day.
  1. A Broken clothes hanger converted into an iPad stand
  2. A Generation 1 iPad used only as a stopwatch.
  3. An A4 size paper which is my “Daily Achievement Blueprint”
  4. My timesheet log (A ruled moleskin notebook)
  5. My daily journal (A ruled moleskin notebook)
  6. My Idea pad (a waiters pad)
Here’s how I manage each work day:
  • Each night, before I sleep, I fill up my “Daily Achievement Blueprint” (DAP)- it’s a document I received as a part of having attended a Udemy course facilitated by one of the best speakers I’ve listened to – Mr. Chris Haroun. Click here to watch this course.
  • On the top 30% of this paper, I list down my 5 top personal, work and education goals. I also mention my “North Star” goal – the most important goal for me to achieve out of the above 15.
  • On the bottom 70% of this paper – my entire tomorrow is broken up into “30 minute chunks”. I fill up these time slots on what I will work on at these times of the day. This is my map – this is what holds me accountable to myself. Whenever I’m jotting down my tasks for the next day, I can glance up at the top 30% of the paper and compare how this task ties in with my long term goals – it also allows me to prioritise each task.
  • This way – when I open my Mac the next day, I already know what I need to start working on.
  • My work desk also consists of a make-shift iPad stand which let’s me prop up a generation-1 iPad that I bought in the year 2011. This device serves just one function now – that of a large timer.
  • Whenever I start any task (anything – be it me calling someone, someone calling me, my writing a proposal, replying to my email, writing a blog post, communicating with my team on Slack, etc) – I rush to start the clock to know how much time I will spend on that task.
  • In my timesheet log, for each task I worked on, I scribble down a quick description of the task and how much time it took me to finish it.
  • For the times when I travel, I carry my DAP in a A4 size folder which has a clipboard in it.
  • Right before dinner, I spend 5 minutes writing in my journal – it’s a summary of how my day went and how I  could have done stuff better.
  • Here’s what I realised after the first few days of writing in my journal – it started to depress me to write down how my day went. My journal entries looked like “complaints about my past 10 hours”. So I decided to incorporate some of the ideas of Tim Ferriss’s 5 minute journal into my journal entries.
  • Basically, Tim says – Visit your journal twice a day; once in the morning – where you write down:
    • What 3 things that you’re grateful for?
    • What three things would make today great?
    • Jot down a few of your daily affirmations… then in the evening, you visit your journal again to list down:
    • 3 awesome things that happened today
    • How could I have made today even better?
  • Finally, wherever I go, I always carry a small “waiters pad” with me – something that’ll fit in my shirts pocket or slide comfortably in my jeans. This is my idea pad. Any time I think of an idea, I have this pad handy to jot it down.
  • An idea need not be a business idea – it could be an idea for a better way to do the work we do at Zindagi, an idea about a new blog post topic, something very operational which I would forget if I don’t get it down on paper immediately, etc.
  • The “idea to have an idea pad” is borrowed from a man for whom I have a lot of respect. Best selling author and successful entrepreneur, James Altucher.
Here is the “before” and “after” of the Clothes hanger. Use a good quality pair of pliers, and be prepared for a couple of hangers to go waste in the process. Please be careful not to injure yourself in the process.
Here’s a pic of my “Idea Pad”:

What do you think?

Team, I don’t expect you to mimic what I do. This blueprint is what works for me – maybe this will motivate you to develop a system that works well for you; or perhaps you can pick up some tips that’ll help you squeeze more out of each day.

Too Jurassic?

You may think that this concept of writing on paper with pen is too jurassic in this Generation-Y day and age. We’ve got Evernote, OneNote, Samsung Galaxy note, iPad and it’s magic pen, etc – and this bloke here, who calls himself the CEO of a technology company is still using thereby bloomer tools of yore.
Well, truth be told – I love Evernote. I’m a premium subscription user. Evernote (and it’s sister app Scannable) is the second most used app on my iPhone (first being Gmail). Matter of fact, I’m writing this text on Evernote for Mac.
Multiple times in the past, I’ve tried using digital tools for tracking my time, managing my tasks, or making journal entries – but for some reason – it just doesn’t work. It’s like – 2 imaginary hands come out of the iPhone or Mac, catch hold of both my ears, and suck me into operational tasks as opposed to tracking my activity. This is the reason I prefer to maintain an “air gap” between the “tools I use to get work done” v/s the “tools I use to track/manage/record the work done”

Too Claustrophobic?

Do you find this kind of time tracking close to paranoia? Do you think you can never work like this as it “shackles you”, “inhibits your creativity”, “prevents free thoughts”, etc?
Well, my humble suggestion to you would be – give it a try. I believe in this system! I’ve seen it work for me… me, the guy with a history of being the biggest procrastinator ever! It taught me the value of time and task management. It taught me discipline. It helped me become a better at entrepreneurship.
There’ve been times when I’ve hit the pause button on this system for a few days, and for those days, I’m  completely lost in terms of what I achieved, how I contributed to my team/company, did I move closer to my goals or away from them?
There’s a scene in the Bradley Cooper starrer, Limitless – where the protagonist starts experiencing side effects of the NZT drug. He’s unable to account for the way he lived his life for the last 12 hours.
Ok i may be exaggerating a bit here – but my system does have merit…
I now know I need to hire a VP, Operations for Zindagi. Someone who’ll help in team management, handle followups on tasks, own the Trello Kanbans for each project, and help with the admin functions. How am I so sure I need an operations guy? I looked at my timesheet logs for the past few weeks and found that 55% of my time was being spent in post-sales / operations activities as opposed to being pre-sales activities, executive decisions, business development or learning a new skill! There’s no way I’d have gotten that kind of visibility without the timesheet log.
When I look back at my day – I can easily quantify what I achieved, what I could have done better.
This regime has greatly helped me in managing my time, getting work done, squeezing time out for family and friends, and taking me closer to achieving my goals.


Team, there are two kinds of people in this world – those who see things happen, and those who make things happen. At Zindagi, we represent the latter. I consider you as Entrepreneurial Employees who possess the zeal, the innovative mindset and that desire to execute, that makes you achieve peak performance at all times.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” – Steve Jobs
I believe we’re all doing great work. I believe we’re making a difference to this world by our actions. And I see the passion for technology in each one of you.
I remember taking advice from someone before plunging into starting my own company. He said “I don’t get it – you’ll be doing the same stuff that everyone else does – you’ll perhaps do it with a lot of passion – that’s it. So what?”.
“My mother said to me, “If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general, if you become a monk you’ll end up as the pope.” Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”
– Pablo Picasso
I wish to see each and everyone of you become trusted consultants, problem solvers, and domain experts who not only have thorough command over their respective technologies, but can document and confidently articulate a complex solution in simple language to top decision makers.
A key requirement to achieve such peak performance is to incorporate discipline in your daily schedule. I humbly request you to try the above methodology for the next 30 days. I’m confident that it’ll make a positive impact to your personal and professional growth. If you find that it helps you – spread the word; motivate others to try it to achieve peak productivity.
Dear readers of my blog – thank you for taking the time to read this post. I’m eager to know what systems you use to incorporate discipline and increase performance in your day to day routine to help you reach peak performance. Happy to receive feedback on what you think of my system. Please share your comments below. Thank you.
Abhijit Anand

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