The Miracle Morning Challenge – Potential Game Changer in personal development

At last, I finished something that I started. This week, I finished The Miracle Morning (TMM) 30-day challenge. As part of the 30-day challenge, I woke up at 4:15 AM and completed the SAVERS activities as mentioned in the book, “The Miracle Morning”, by Hal Elrod.

The Miracle Morning

Hal Elrod’s story and his success is very inspiring. You can check out his videos and books at his website. To me, the following quote was very inspiring. This is a quote from Jim Rohn that the author, Hal also liked and kinda started him off on his personal development journey.

“Your level of success, will rarely exceed your level of personal development, because success is something you attract by the person you become.” – Jim Rohn

Even though I read this book last year, I did not take up the 30-day challenge until I re-read it this year. After re-reading TMM book, I downloaded the PDFs from the website, printed them out and took up the 30-day challenge. I am so glad that I followed up on this challenge as it has given me a new found belief that these 30-day challenges are potential game-changers in my personal development.

I took 90 minutes to complete the “SAVERS” activities, every morning, from 4:30 to 6 AM. On weekdays, I started working from 6 AM, checking my email and then get onto conference calls by 6:30 AM. On weekends, the routine was different. On Saturday, I would write for this blog and on Sundays, would go to a Yoga class. (More on Yoga in a later post)

In other words, there were enough activities to fill the time productively and completely, otherwise there was a good chance that this would fail like my other experiments with waking up early. The first two weeks were not so easy and I had to drink two to three cups of coffee to stay functional during the day but the last two weeks were amazing. I had good energy and did not have to drink any coffee. Looks like, my body adjusted.

My plan is to stick to this habit and reap the benefits of waking up early. With spring in the air and summer approaching, I am hoping that I will continue with this habit that was formed over a period of 30 days.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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“It is definitely not a witch hunt”, how true is it?

MN_Oct_9-09_-_Witch_hunt

“It is definitely not a witch hunt” was one of the oft-repeated words by a PMO when the PMO tried to implement the so-called “health review meetings”. The original purpose of these health review meetings was to get help/guidance/direction from the executive sponsors at a portfolio level.  To get buy-in from project managers, these meetings were advertised as “no witch hunt” health reviews.

Before I get into the specifics of how these meetings turned out, let me first give out the definition of a witch-hunt. Dictionary.com defines witch hunt as follows

an intensive effort to discover and expose disloyalty, subversion,dishonesty, or the like, usually based on slight, doubtful, or irrelevant evidence.

Since the purpose of what these health reviews were and what they should not become was explained initially, the first few meetings were civil. Also, for the first few meetings the project managers were given the freedom to present the information that helped their projects get out of red. However, these presentations showed some departments in bad light and in many cases, the PMO was culpable too for not having the right tracking tools, right methodology etc.,

That’s when these meetings started to become political and took an ugly turn. To control the discussions, the PMO made a few changes. The first change was to identify, 3-4 weeks in advance, which projects will be presented in these meetings. The second change was to use these 3-4 weeks to review/update the presentations internally with the project managers so that the PMO was not shown in a bad light.

Now, the whole process became a project manager’s worst nightmare. First of all, the project was itself in red and needed lot of attention to get things under control. On top of that, there was a considerable amount of time spent to make sure the health review presentations were politically correct. That was not an easy job to do because of the integrity of some of the financial reporting tools. No wonder the project managers started to feel like these meetings were a drain of their time with not much help coming in terms of fixing the issues at hand.

The tactics of the PMO could not be hidden for a long time as the sponsors were smart 'First of all, let me congratulate everyone on the swell turnout and the really terrific job you all did on such short notice.'enough to see through the misrepresentation or dilution of facts. As you can imagine, the project managers were caught between a rock and a hard place. Instead of focussing on the issues at hand, the project managers had to explain the inconsistencies within their presentations. Within a few months, these meetings became – what is the phrase that I am searching for – yes, witch hunts.

This is another example of a good idea executed poorly. A few things done differently , as shown below, could have made this a huge success.

  1. Always be loyal to the project success. Assuming that the project delivery is aligned with the strategic initiatives of the company, staying loyal to the project rather than to your department is the right thing to do in almost all scenarios.
  2. Health reviews are not just sickness reviews. Rather than go through troubled projects only, throw in a few healthy projects that have stayed in green despite complexity of solutions, and major issues. Maybe the PM and the teams have figured out how to make things work and other PMs with the troubled projects may learn from that.
  3. Be prepared for some major organizational issues to show up. Eventually the root causes that have caused projects to fail will show up and it is a good thing. Knowing the problem is first step to solving the problem and so be prepared to accept these so that you can focus on fixing them.
  4. Focus on a benefit more than avoidance of a bad thing. Saying “no witch hunt” was like saying, “no hitting the wall” for NASCAR drivers since these drivers are trained not to look at the wall otherwise they will eventually run into it. 

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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Micromanagement needs to be defined as clearly as bullying is

I am sure that most managers would take offense when called a micromanager. Definitely, not as much as being called a bully but somewhere in that ballpark. Before, we get any MM-blog1deeper into the subject, let me categorically say that I am against micromanagement. Micromanagement takes away the micromanaged employee’s dignity and happiness at work. It may also impact the employee’s health, family, and social life. So, it is an evil that needs to be eliminated.

I am also sure that most most managers do not like to micromanage. In good companies, when managers are tagged as micromanagers, their careers may stop advancing and that is a good thing too. Micromanagement, just like bullying, must not be tolerated. But, before we start labeling managers as micromanagers, we first need to understand what micro-management is and isn’t. Otherwise, there is a good chance that some disengaged employees, to avoid accountability, can start misusing this label. So, it is required to understand micromanagement with the same clarity as that of bullying.

Micromanagement is defined as “management with excessive control or attention to details”. Many of us have come across micromanagement at work. I, for sure, was. I was once chewed up for missing a thousands separator in a financial report, a report that did not exist before and I created it from scratch to show the variance in the budget. Instead of worrying about the huge variance and how to fix it, the micromanager gave me a lecture on his pet peeve of seeing every number with a thousands separator. In this case, attention to details was a waste of time as there were bigger things to worry about.

Having said that, attention to details (not ALL details) and control (not excessive) is needed to get things done right and on time. Only then would teams flourish, projects succeed, and companies thrive. How much control is ideal? This needs to be determined by what is ideal for the project or the work at hand. The success of the work should be the determining factor. But, in most cases that is not the determining factor and that needs to be fixed.

MM Blog 2

The factor that plays a major role is the prior experience of the manager as well as the employee.

If the manager has been called a micromanager before by a disengaged employee then the manager may act safe and let the control slip. Or the manager worked for a micromanager before and hated it so much that this manager went to the other extreme, only to lose control.

If an engaged employee worked for a micromanager before then a paranoia may set in and cause the employee to look at all reasonable activities of accountability as micromanagement.

None of these attitudes are beneficial, since subjective criteria is being used to determine what is needed to succeed at the work at hand.

micromanagement-3

So, there is a need to have clear guidelines as to what micromanagement is and it should be as clearly defined as bullying is, so that no one is victimized by this workplace evil called micromanagement and at the same time great work is done by everyone so the teams flourish, projects succeed and companies thrive.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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The never-ending debate in the world of Project Management

One of the never-ending debate in the world of Project Management pertains to this question, “Does a PM in IT need to understand the technical solution?”. This question was asked in one of the LinkedIn groups, PMI Credentialed PMPs. There are many variants to this question but at the root of all this discussion is this question, “Who will successfully manage the project, a Project Manager with great Project Management Skills but average expertise with the technical solution or a great technical expert with average Project Management skills?”

Project success is dependent on many factors and only one of these is the expertise of the Project Manager, albeit a critical one. Having said that, let us look at the choices. Actually, there are only two real choices if you disregard the no-brainer ones. The no-brainer choices are at the two ends of the spectrum; a PM with great technical & great PMing skills and a PM with average technical & average PMing skills. You hire the former and not the latter, obviously. So, the decision comes down to two choices: average PM with outstanding technical skills vs outstanding PM with average technical skills. Choosing from one of these choices has divided the project management community into two camps.

Belonging to one camp or the other is purely based on real-life, personal experience. As with all experiences, this experience is also subjective especially in the absence of any well defined metrics or thorough exercises in learning the lessons from the success/failures in the project. Naturally, the easy way out is to attribute project failure to the project manager and so the skills of the PM are now under scrutiny. Based on your assessment of what skills were lacking in the PM, you put the blame on those lacking skills. This experience, when repeated makes your bias stronger and you now start belonging to one camp or the other.

I said bias because no one starts with a blank slate. Most people are not scientific in their approach and so come to this question with a bias. If you can understand your bias and look at the issue scientifically then you will get to the answer on your own.

The answer that I have got after much analysis is that a smart, hard working and diligent Project Manager with outstanding Project Management skills has a greater chance of helping a project to succeed than the other way around. Let me explain with an example.

As we all know, Michael Jordan, came out of retirement for the second time to play for Washington Wizards. Actually, MJ was hired as a President to run the basketball operations and instead of running the operations, he decided to play but did not take the Wizards to even playoffs. What does this all have to do with our topic of Project Management at hand? Everything.Wizards Jordan X

You can draw parallels to this incident in the project management world too. If a PM is tied to his technical area and has been a superstar before then making him the leader of the project may cause the PM to jump in to fix technical issues, more often than not. Even MJ could not help his team but many technical experts think they are ageless superstars and jump in. In the basketball world, MJ had to resign his job as President of basketball operations to start playing so someone else can run the operations but in the PM world, the PM will try to do both and you can very well imagine the outcome. (I know of a project that is currently in the exact situation. The BAs, developers and testers have given up on this PM who is trying to do it all )

MJ - Wizards 2

Conclusion: An experienced PM would have developed strong project management skills running technical projects successfully and during his/her experience would have figured out a way to communicate technical risks/issues in the most effective manner. So, in my honest opinion, a successful PM with strong PMing skills is one of the best things that can happen for the success of a project. Get MJ of the Chicago Bulls but not MJ of the Washington Wizards.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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HowDoesSheDoIt.com – Useful tool for time crunched families

After deciding to eat healthy as a family, one of the things that makes it difficult to eat healthy is the planning that goes into it. That is where the website HowDoesSheDoIt.com comes handy.

I will get to the details of this website in a minute but before that I would like to explain why planning is necessary. There is a rule of thump in the productivity world that for every  hour you spend, you need to spend 10% of time in planning the work. This way the hour that you work can produce the best results. Using this rule of thump, if you were to spend 10 hours per week putting food on the table which includes the time you spend grocery shopping and cooking then you need to spend at least one hour planning this work to get the best possible outcomes.

The best possible outcomes in this case are eating healthy. If a little bit of planning is going to make this possible then it is worth the time.

There are many ways to plan. You can use pen/paper, or Excel Templates or online tools. grocery cartoonTo me, planning was the biggest chore. After planning then making the list of groceries was also painful. This is where the online tool decreased the pain of planning.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post about my juicing reboot experiments that initially failed and one of the reasons for the failures was the effort it took to plan. I tried to take the easy way out and it did not help. Then I came across this website www.HowDoesSheDoIt.com. It has all the features that I wanted. Listed below are some of the features.

  1. Free account creation
  2. Weekly Menu Planner that includes Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Snacks.
  3. Online recipes that you can pick from to plan your menu
  4. Create your own recipes or pick recipes of your friends
  5. Print your weekly menu planner
  6. Print the grocery list from the menus
  7. App to review your planner or grocery list in case you forget to print it.

As you can see, it is a very nifty tool and it helped me a lot. Before going on my juicing reboot, I painstakingly uploaded all the juicing recipes onto this tool and printed the grocery list. This way I was able to get the vegetables that I needed in the quantity that I needed. It may have been the key to my success in being able to complete the rebbot.

That was couple of years back and I was able to use the same recipes when I did a reboot sw-what-those-popsicles-have-vitamins-probably-maybeagain this year. Now, I am planning to go on a 10-Day Detox Diet that has been prescribed by Mark Hyman in his book, “The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet: Activate Your Body’s Natural Ability to Burn Fat and Lose Weight Fast”. I will enter the recipes and plan out the weekly planner so as to increase my chances of sticking to this 10-day diet.

Even though, I have used this online tool only when I was going on a special diet, it need not be that way. If eating healthy is one of your goals then a weekly menu planner that has online recipes plus a grocery list is something that makes planning easy. Try it out and let me know whether it worked for you.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

 

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My Top 7 Books on Brain Science

Brain_books-244x300

It seems there has been an explosive growth in the number of books recently published on brain science with a focus on self-development. These books on brain science keep popping up regularly either through recommendations on Amazon/Audible or at Barnes & Noble or even at my in-laws who are not your typical brain science readers. When I see these books my typical reaction is “Ooh, I have to read this book”. I don’t know what it is, either the titles are alluring or the subject is interesting, I somehow seem to get attracted to these books.

So, in the past 2-3 years I have read quite a few of these books and incidentally, have just started reading the book, “Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain” written by David Eagleman. Obviously, this book will not be in the list of top 7 books that I will be reviewing today.

  1. Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being. Written by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi.
  2. Boost Your Brain: The New Art+Science Behind Enhanced Brain Performance. Written by Majid Fotuhi and Christina Breda Antoniades
  3. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. Written by Joshua Foer
  4. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School. Written by John Medina
  5. Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Written by John J Ratey
  6. Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus & Working Smarter All Day Long. Written By David Rock
  7. You Are Not Your Brain: The Four-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking and Taking Control of Your Life. Written by Jeffery Schwartz

As you can see from the titles, each of these books promises a lot. So, naturally after reading not one but seven books, I should have become a transformed person with maximum health, focussed work and with full control of my life. Let me tell you that the transformation has not happened yet.

The simplest reason is that there is a gap between knowing and doing. No one can become a tennis player by reading books on tennis. Similarly, I have read these books and then not practiced fully any of the principles outlined in these books. That is regretful and while writing this post, I am telling myself that I need to reread these books to at least get some of the benefits listed here.

Having said that, what I remember the most is that these books kept me very engaged while I was reading them. Some changed my thinking for sure especially Joshua Foer’s book on memory. I tried a few books on improving my memory and did some exercises. As is it with everything else, I did not keep at these exercises.

Anyhow, check these books out and see if any of these interest you.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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What if….there is God? – part 4

In the first post of this series, I talked about how the question “Is there God?” is not the right question and how asking the question, “What if…there is God?” may get us to a more common understanding.

In the second post, I talked about the possible fundamental condition between the created and The Creator and this possibility is the reason for inability to see God.

In the third post, I talked about the hidden Reality which manifests through physical experience and spiritual experience.

In this post I will elaborate on the equation below with the focus on its relation to understanding God.

Reality = Physical Experience + Spiritual Experience

If God were to be real and since this is what I have been exploring with the question, “What if… there is God?”, the spiritual experience may be more conclusive for a limited time to the person who has the spiritual experience but cannot be the only experience. I think it has to be supplemented by the physical experience other wise the physical surroundings take over so much so that the spiritual experience gets relegated to a dream.

But the difficulty is with the physical experience. Comprehending the importance of the physical experience is critical here and let me explain.

Physical experience does not mean that I have to see God to know that God is real. Since I established that seeing God with human eyes may not be the basic condition for freewill, there could be other physical ways of knowing God. One such way is through miracles.

experience God

I know I am touching on a difficult and complex topic here but let me simplify. My definition of a miracle is an event, a physical event that you experience with a group. What you see/feel is what everyone around you sees/feels and there is no possible explanation for this happening with your current understanding of natural laws.  The only explanation left is that God made this event happen.

I know that this simple explanation has many holes in its reasoning. There have been many so-called miracles that were easily explained through science. For example, in the movie, “Gods must be crazy”, the Coca-cola bottle falling from the sky has a simple explanation but is a miracle to the folks who have never seen it before. Here is the scene which I think is now a Coca-cola ad.

There are also opposing viewpoints to the entire miracle business as shown by Einstein’s quote below.

There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

I may have to respectfully disagree with Mr.Enistein here because I think there is a third way. Yes, I understand both points of view. No miracles vs everything is a miracle.

My point is that miraculous happenings are a way of knowing that God is real. This is the third way. These happenings are rare and are very conclusive to the people around them. There can be no pooh-poohing this miracle and similarly, there cannot be this feeling of “yeah, this is an everyday part of my life. I am blessed God! Now, let’s go to Starbucks” kinda miracle. There is a specific purpose and specific conditions for these types of miracles in my personal and honest opinion.

I will try to explain my concept of a miracle in the next post by using “Parting of the Red Sea” as an example.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

|<<< part 1, <<< part 2, <<< part 3, >>> part 5(yet to come)

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“What do you do for fun?” can be a difficult question to answer

how boring

I heard a speech recently where the speaker was asked this question at a party and had a difficult time coming up with an answer. For some this question, “What do you do for fun?” is the easiest one to answer. You may have come across these folks who could be any one of the hikers, the fishermen, the skiers, the gardeners etc., to name a few. They will go on for hours and make you wish that you had asked a different ice breaker question.

Don’t get me wrong. This is a pretty good ice breaker question and since the purpose of socializing is to connect with folks who have similar interests as yours, you may find out some interests that match and thereby connect.

For some it could be a very difficult question to answer. I used to be in this category too. I did not know how to make “reading books”, “going to the movies” and “watching TV” sound like fun. I could visualize the judgmental look I would get if I answer this question truthfully. So, I would tell that I have been very busy at work lately but if I had time then I would like to go hiking or play tennis or something like that and avoid the question completely.

This was my predicament too until Gretchen Rubin, in her book, “Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun”, gave me an out and this is what she wrote.

I tended to overrate the fun activities that I didn’t do and underrate my own inclinations. I felt like the things that other people enjoyed were more valuable, or more cultured… more, well, legitimate. But now it was time to “Be Gretchen.” I needed to acknowledge to myself what I enjoyed, not what I wished I enjoyed. If something was really fun for me, it would pass this test: I looked forward to it; I found it energizing , not draining; and I didn’t feel guilty about it later.

Rubin, Gretchen (2009-12-16). The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun (Kindle Locations 2024-2028). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Of all the peer pressures that one has, what you do for fun should not be one of them. With this insight, I felt at peace with my idea of fun. It is perfectly fine if my idea of fun is to curl up with a non-fiction business book or my idea of a fun outdoor activity is to go to a park, sit on the grass and read a book.

The speaker I mentioned at the beginning of the post had a distinguished career and found the time he spent working was the time he had the most fun. But he understood that work as fun was something that other people would not find amusing or interesting. So, naturally he had difficulty answering that question at a party.

Anyhow, the crux of the matter is that we should not see what we like to do for fun from other’s perspective. What is fun for me is my business (as long as it legal, ethical,,,,)  and it does not matter what others think of me.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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Word of caution. Lumosity can be addicting

In my earlier post on Lumosity, One simple and easy way to improve brain power – Use lumosity, I talked about how I was planning to start using lumosity. The good news is that I started using lumosity and the bad news is that I am kinda addicted to some of the games.

brain workoutBefore I get into the details of the addiction, here are some of my stats that Lumosity has tracked.

  1. I have played at least 1 game in 23 days in the past 4 weeks.
  2. My Lumosity Performance Index (LPI) has gone up by 42%
  3. Out of the 5 areas (Speed, Attention, Flexibility, Memory and Problem Solving), the most improvement that I have shown is in Flexibility
  4. I am in 52nd overall percentile which means I am not average anymore (woo hooo) although by not much of a margin.
  5. My worst area is Speed where I am at 38.5 percentile.

All these stats are definitely helpful and kinda motivate you to keep playing Lumosity. This is how I probably got hooked. So, a word of caution to you if you were influenced by my earlier post. Any game can be addictive even if its purpose is to help you. I have learnt it the hard way now.

I have been playing Lumosity these past two weeks whenever I had free time. That is the reason why there has been a gap in my blog posts. I am still in the middle of my addiction and the two games that I have become addicted to are “Word Bubbles Rising” for verbal fluency and “Train of Thought” for divided attention.

Word Bubbles Rising is a game where you are given word stems like “ai”, “coll”, “mis” etc, and you need to complete unique words to get points. The word lengths are from 3 to 10+ and each word length group must get at least 3 to get a star. If you finish all the stars then you get bonus points for each word. This tests your verbal fluency and your memory to recall the words.

Train of Thought is a game where multiple colored trains keep coming out of the tunnel and you have to find a path for each train to get to its matching station.

I will update later when I overcome this addiction, hopefully soon. I wanted to get a quick word out about how lumosity can be addictive. I think that could be one of the reasons why Lumosity does not allow kids younger than 13 to play these games.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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Why budgeting is a good idea

A few years back I was reading Mahatma Gandhi’s biography, “An Autobiography or The Story of my Experiments with Truth” and came across this passage that made me appreciate one more facet of Gandhi’s life.

“I kept account of every farthing I spent, and my expenses were carefully calculated. Every little item such as omnibus fares or postage or a couple of coppers spent on newspapers, would be entered, and the balance struck every evening before going to bed. That habit has stayed with me ever since, and I know that as a result, though I have had to handle public funds amounting to lakhs, I have succeeded in exercising strict economy in their disbursement, and instead of outstanding debts have had invariably a surplus balance in respect of all the movements I have led. Let every youth take a leaf out of my book and make it a point to account for everything that comes into and goes out of his pocket, and like me he is sure to be a gainer in the end.”

Excerpt From: Desai (Translator), Mahadev. “An Autobiography or The Story of my Experiments with Truth.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/2Qkew.l

I understood Gandhi’s advice at an intellectual level but putting it into practice…well… I am not a Gandhi…let me leave it at that.

To me the word budgeting had a lot of negative connotations.

  1. Budgeting is restrictive
  2. Budgeting is hard work
  3. Budgeting does not work
  4. Budgeting is not for everyone especially not me.

These negative connotations were slowly being bombarded through various sources. I had budgetsa co-worker who was passionate about budgeting. He sent me Excel templates and instructions on how to use them. I read some financial books that put budgeting as the first step. Vicki Robin in her book, “Your Money or Your Life” made a great case for budgeting and not just budgeting but the relationship of money with your life’s energy.

Slowly and surely these negative connotations have all been neutralized and in their place I have some new insights on budgeting.

  1. Budgeting is about freedom
  2. Budgeting is about valuing your time and energy
  3. Budgeting is about prioritizing
  4. Budgeting is easy

 1. Budgeting is about freedom

By setting a limit for spending, I am not restricting myself but giving myself permission to spend that money. I am consciously deciding to spend the money I allocated without any guilt whatsoever. This is freedom.

2. Budgeting is about valuing your time and energy.

Realizing the equation between the money you earn and what it costed you in terms of your time and your energy will make it easy to walk away from that random and mindless purchase.

3. Budgeting is about prioritizing

Knowing what is important vs what is not important to you personally is very critical. Say, you like clothes or travel or eating out or cars and don’t care so much about books or movies or cable or cellphones. If you decide on your #1 priority for spending then you can put a limit on it that can be satisfactory to you. Similarly, you can put a limit on your lower priorities. Anything you save spending on your lower priorities can be added onto your higher priorities which will give you more satisfaction.

 4. Budgeting is easy

I have started using Mint which makes it so easy to budget and track your spending. There are similar tools available to track spending but I have liked Mint so far and planning on using it.

Following Gandhi’s advice of tracking expenses daily may be a bit too much but weekly or even monthly tracking of your budget is not a bad idea.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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