How I improved my productivity with MoSCoW Prioritisation?

In 1994, The MoSCoW method of prioritization came into fruition by a software developer called Day Clegg. The initial purpose of developing this technique was to execute project-based work with a prioritisation framework under time constriction. MoSCoW method of prioritisation is also known as the MoSCoW analysis. As a prioritisation technique, this technique is a pillar in understanding and managing priorities.

The MoSCoW prioritisation technique is an abbreviation for which the corresponding capital letters have been categorised for a specific initiative.
M – Must have
S – Should have
C – Could have
W – Won’t have

What components are involved in the MoSCoW method?

Let’s break down the components of the MoSCoW method:

  1. Must-Have – A non-negotiable criteria; the essence of this step is critical to the outcome of the project. This is something that can’t be overlooked. For instance, if a project has been set with minimum requirements. It should be met for the success of the project.
  2. Should Have – An important criteria, but not essential to the success of the project. Improving upon ‘should have’ elevates the chances of success but can be postponed due to time or resource restriction. An example to consider, visiting a tropical country for a holiday – a should have would be ‘air conditioning’ without it the experience of the holiday would be a tough sell.
  3. Could Have – A criteria based on the trivial details of the project – everything that is fun and interesting about the project and serves no real purpose to its success. An example to consider is an automated doorbell that has an in-build sensor control. It’s nice to have such measures but serves no purpose.
  4. Won’t Have – A criteria that isn’t aligned with the goal of the project. This can be removed or re-visited at a later stage if the need calls for it.

Why use the MoSCoW method of prioritisation?

There are varying benefits to using the MoSCoW method of prioritisation.

  1. The method acts as a due diligence check against a project’s timeline. It presents with the notion of what needs to be completed first and provides a perceptive over the must-have’s.
  2. The method itself is a foundation for expanding ideas. It provides a level of measure to avoid sunk-cost bias and focus on balancing the priorities of the project.

How to incorporate this technique with other management techniques?

As a technique, I find that it’s well suited to be incorporated with other productivity techniques such as the Eisenhower Matrix in order to manage the priority of the task. 

Another technique to consider would be time-blocking. A means to allocate an activity to a given time frame to complete a task. It can fabricate a visualisation sense to focus our time on (must-have’s and could have’s). Hence, building an accountability loop to complete the tasks.

As simplistic it sounds, it can easily be incorporated into your productivity arsenal. It can provide agile benefits not to just oneself but can bring about a level of stability in the priorities subjected to the team. Hence, elevating the productivity of everyone working in the project towards one goal.


Why YOU need to consider second-order thinking?

Second-order thinking is the contingency applied to resolving the unravelling implications of first-order thinking. It engenders a thought process that is outside your comfort zone. As a consequential thinking model, it provides perceptive towards a thought process that provides long-term solutions. From the viewer’s perceptive what may seem to be an initial solution to an immediate problem can often result in unintended consequences. To balance such effects, one must consider second-order thinking.

In an example highlighted in this paper published by Benedict Evans on the topic of Cars and second order consequences. It explores second-order thinking and its consequences as the car industry makes a transition towards electric cars and autonomous drive.

Both electric and autonomy have profound consequences beyond the car industry itself. Half of the global oil production today goes to gasoline, and removing that demand will have geopolitical as well as industrial consequences. Over a million people are killed in car accidents every year around the world, mostly due to human error, and in a fully autonomous world, all of those (and many more injuries) will also go away.

The article highlights the integral notion of second-order thinking by steadily moving towards EV by considering:

  • Decreasing the opportunity of maintenance activities of the combustion engine. This diminishes the financial income of your average mechanic. 
  • The countless gas stations that would become redundant unless steady measures are taken to place in charging units to charge EV. This would affect the financial gains of the local retailers who own such gas stations by decreasing the volume of impulse purchases.
  • The purchasing volume of tobacco and alcohol would deplete since retailers who fill up gas often impulse purchase such commodities.
  • Slowly transitioning onto autonomous cars can have massive economical impact – the reduction in the cost of property damage, medical and emergency services, legal cost or loss of work. With autonomous drive fewer accidents would take place.
  • Policing data is easier to provide with AV cars consisting of 360-degree computer vision recording information.

Second-order thinking

First-order thinking is easy and convenient. Such superficial thinking is based on a set of assumptions and beliefs set by others. It does not take into account the unintended consequences of the implied decision. In hindsight, this engenders further problems than solutions.

In the book, the Most Important Thing by Howard Marks explains the difference between first and second-order thinking.

First-level thinkers look for simple formulas and easy answers.

Second-order thinking is the effect of digging through the beliefs that have been implemented by others. By deliberating and logically understand the problem, we give rise to second, third or nth order – we begin to consider the nature of the problem by thinking ‘outside the box’.

Second-level thinking is deep, complex and convoluted. The second-level thinker takes a great many things into account:

What is the range of likely future outcomes?

What outcome do I think will occur?

What’s the probability I’m right?

What does the consensus think?

How does my thinking differ from the consensus?

In the book The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking by Shane Parrish expands on the deficiency of second order thinking through this example:

We have been feeding antibiotics to livestock for decades to make the meat safer and cheaper. Only in recent years have we begun to realize that in doing so we have helped create bacteria that we cannot defend against. In 1963, the UC Santa Barbara ecologist and economist Garrett Hardin proposed his First Law of Ecology: “You can never merely do one thing.” We operate in a world of multiple, overlapping connections, like a web, with many significant, yet obscure and unpredictable, relationships. He developed second-order thinking into a tool, showing that if you don’t consider “the effects of the effects,” you can’t really claim to be doing any thinking at all. When it comes to the overuse of antibiotics in meat, the first-order consequence is that the animals gain more weight per pound of food consumed, and thus there is profit for the farmer. Animals are sold by weight, so the less food you have to use to bulk them up, the more money you will make when you go to sell them. The second-order effects, however, have many serious, negative consequences. The bacteria that survive this continued antibiotic exposure are antibiotic resistant. That means that the agricultural industry, when using these antibiotics as bulking agents, is allowing mass numbers of drug-resistant bacteria to become part of our food chain.

How to establish second order thinking?

To develop the process sequencing of adopting second-order thinking – one must evaluate the impact of first-order effects. 

Here’s a six-step process to consider:

  • Your initial solution – your initial solution is based on old beliefs and value that have been determined and created by others. This is the simplicity of first-order thinking with its immediate pros and cons.
  • Outcomes of the solution – to consider the increasing order of consequences of the initial solution. Evaluate further order of consequences and establishing their pros and cons.
  • Raised questions – carry out a question assessment on the consequences raised by asking further questions to understand and learn from the possibility of making the initial decision.
  • Ideal decision – filter through the pros from the decisions that have gone through 2nd, 3rd, nth order of consequences.
  • Gain feedback – based on the filtration process gain perceptive by completing the feedback loop. It will highlight areas of improvement and a refreshing perceptive from the larger audience.
  • To implement a new solution – By implementing the new decision, you compound the value of the improved decision. Understanding the approach of second-order thinking is a short term pain – it will take time, energy and effort, but the outcome is a long term gain.

What can we learn from second-order thinking?

It is evident that to understand the mechanics of the world, we ought to consider second-order and its subsequent effects. In hindsight, this allows us to become observant in constructing the web of connections that are operating around us; the denser the web of connections, the easier it becomes to reach a consensus and follow through with the decision.

Two things to consider:

  • To seek an immediate solution is not necessarily a means of solving a problem. Consider this question:

How often is the short-term gain worth protracted long term pain?

For example, the desire to consume junk food regularly to fulfil the pleasure gratification. The first-order effect is the feeling of consuming junk food. The second-order effect is the shire consumption over a long time could have on the health. The importance of second-order thinking provides a level of clarity by asking questions to ourselves – what I want my body to look like after five years? What health implication would I end up suffering from e.g. diabetes, hypertension? With regular consumption, will my mood be impacted? How will my weight affect my social life or working life?

  • Building to deliver an effective argument – arguments are effective that have considered second-order thinking. By accounting for the pros and cons of an argument, we can anticipate potential challenges or questions.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider subscribing ✌🏽

How I structure my speech to persuade others?

The skill of persuasion is a trained cultural norm. We witness the sights of persuasion techniques through television commercials, debates, or to even witness my cousin Ramesh implementing his sales pitch on the family. We are subjected to it one way or another.

The philosopher Aristotle introduced a persuasive technique through the use of rhetoric. The persuasive appeal is defined by three modes of persuasion known as ethos, pathos, and logos also referred to as the rhetoric triangle.

Aristotle’s three modes of Persuasion


Ethos is a Greek word that means character. It appeals to the credibility and the reputation of the author/speaker. The use of ethos as a persuasion technique is the attempted means to persuade the audience based on a speaker’s understanding or knowledge.

Creditability of a speaker can be instilled on the merit of their expertise and how well they can convince the audience on the subject matter. This is achieved through historical experiences or expanding on the notion of research that has shown promising results. The ultimate goal of ethos is to engender trust.

In the book Words Like Loaded Pistols written by Sam Leith highlights:

Your audience needs to know (or to believe, which in rhetoric adds up to the same thing) that you are trustworthy, that you have a locus standing to talk on the subject, and that you speak in good faith. You need your audience to believe that you’re, in the well-known words, “A pretty straight kind of guy…you will be seeking to persuade your audience that you are one of them: that your interests and their interests are identical in the case or, to be more convincing, in all cases.

Often you can witness the use of ethos in brand commercials by hiring a celebrity figure to promote their product. There is a natural inclination that the celebrity is a common household name; a trustworthy figure and the product they are promoting are credible.

Here’s an example that you could consider checking out.


Where logic does not dictate, emotion does – pathos is the persuasion technique that allows a speaker to appeal through emotions (negative or positive) of the audience. It focuses on the values and beliefs of the audience. Once, the speaker can get a sense of its audience – they can evoke emotional reactions. In Greek, pathos means suffering or experience. The development of pathos is instilled through emotional tone and language that appeals to the personal experience of the audience. It can also be developed through implied meaning by sharing personal anecdotal experiences.

Implementation of pathos should be a natural process like bringing laughter in a situation. Within the book, the author highlights a tool called Aposiopesis which is –

A sudden breaking off as if at a loss for words – can be intended to stir pathos…it serves to commend the speech more easily to memory, to give pleasure to the audience. Delight is an end, as well as a means.

Pathos isn’t only about evoking emotions, it can also be used to counteract it. Let’s consider an example imagine a mother speaking to her annoyed children. Their annoyance is due to the fact they have to complete their homework instead of playing outside. The direction of the mother’s rule could work in two ways. She could abolish her children from playing outside, or she could work to alter their mindset. By transpiring calmness within her children and advocating if they complete their homework, they will then be able to go play outside.

An example of pathos can be highlighted in a well-renowned speech made by Martin Luther King, Jr – I have a dream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest—quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.


If ethos is the ground on which your argument stands, logos is what drives it forward: it is the stuff of your argument, the way one point proceeds to another as if to show that the conclusion to which you are aiming is not only the right one but soo necessary and reasonable as to be more or less the only one.

Logos is a Greek word that means word. Logos is the appeal to logic. It expands on the audience intellect based on the supporting information provided by the author/speaker. The basis of this persuasion technique entails:

  1. Facts – connectivity of facts to draw out clarity within the argument.
  2. Examples – through statistical data to support research
  3. Historical analogies – to highlight experience that are results of varied decisions.

There are two ways of approaching logos:

  • Deductive arguments
  • Inductive arguments

Deductive arguments: The assurance in achieving logos is through the connectivity of facts. Let’s consider a syllogism – a syllogism is a way of combining two premises and drawing a conclusion that follows logically from it. For instance, “All mammals are animals. All elephants are mammals. Therefore, all elephants are animals.” In this example, by proposing multiple statements that are connected with facts and are well reasoned to conclude.

Inductive arguments: These are based on generalisation. They initiate a type of hypothesis which can be tested for a valid conclusion, which doesn’t need to be true but provides a premise to be examined.

Another instance of logos to consider would be commonplace – in the book, the author highlights:

Any form of reasoning has to start from a set of premises, and in rhetoric, those premises are very often commonplaces. A commonplace is a piece of shared wisdom: a tribal assumption.

In the modern West, we’re confident that prevention is better than cure; that hard work deserves a reward; that no means no; that you are innocent until proven guilty, and that all men are created equal. But it would be a commonplace to a man of Aristotle’s generation and time that the opinions of women and slaves were quite irrelevant.

Commonplace are culturally specific, but they tend to be so deep-rooted in their appeal that passes for universal truths.

The metric of a speech should not just be subjected to only one of the modes of persuasion. It’s a skill that overlaps all three together by asking yourself does your message appeal emotion? Does it appeal logic? Does the audience find value in what you are trying to imply?

What did I learn from Elon Musk?

First principle thinking is the basis of solving a problem by questioning your ‘initial’ analogy or assumptions. The practice of breaking down the problem to its acute elements. It allows you to build new knowledge, information which engenders creative solutions. One of the greatest philosophers of our history Aristotle, who advocated his efforts towards his philosophical work in ‘the first principle thinking’ has been described in Terence Irwin book called Aristotle’s First Principles.

In every systematic inquiry (methodos) where there are first principles, or causes, or elements, knowledge and science result from acquiring knowledge of these; for we think we know something just in case we acquire knowledge of the primary causes, the primary first principles, all the way to the elements. It is clear, then, that in the science of nature as elsewhere, we should try first to determine questions about the first principles. The naturally proper direction of our road is from things better known and clearer to us, to things that are clearer and better known by nature; for the things known to us are not the same as the things known unconditionally (haplôs). Hence it is necessary for us to progress, following this procedure, from the things that are less clear by nature, but clearer to us, towards things that are clearer and better known by nature. (Phys. 184a10–21)

Simple conventional thinking is for the norm. We are conformed to the analogies, to the ideas, to the possibilities of others. It hinders our growth if we fail to raise any questions. Individuals who are avid users of first principle thinking are innovators. They stem original thoughts and find solutions which adds value. One of the most profound users of this principle is Elon Musk.

What is first principle thinking?

To acquire clarity on this subject, let’s explore a few examples that I’ve come to encounter.

In this interview, Kevin Rose interviewed Elon Must during which he stated:

Well, I do think there’s a good framework for thinking. It is physics. You know, the sort of first principles reasoning. Generally I think there are — what I mean by that is, boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there, as opposed to reasoning by analogy.

His example highlights why its important to think with first principle thinking.

Somebody could say — and in fact people do — that battery packs are really expensive and that’s just the way they will always be because that’s the way they have been in the past. Well, no, that’s pretty dumb – Because if you applied that reasoning to anything new, then you wouldn’t be able to ever get to that new thing you can’t say, “oh, nobody wants a car because horses are great, and we’re used to them and they can eat grass and there’s lots of grass all over the place and there’s no gasoline that people can buy”

He further enlightens us with his example on the cost of a battery.

Historically, it costs $600 per kilowatt-hour. And so it’s not going to be much better than that in the future. So the first principles would be, what are the material constituents of the batteries? What is the spot market value of the material constituents? It’s got cobalt, nickel, aluminum, carbon, and some polymers for separation, and a steel can. So break that down on a material basis; if we bought that on a London Metal Exchange, what would each of these things cost? Oh, jeez, it’s $80 per kilowatt-hour. So, clearly, you just need to think of clever ways to take those materials and combine them into the shape of a battery cell, and you can have batteries that are much, much cheaper than anyone realizes.

Similarly to the approach employed by a military strategist: John Boyd. He suggested the use of first principle using a simple framework. Let’s explore this to provide clarity.

Imagine you have three things:

  1. a bicycle
  2. a skier behind the motorboat.
  3. a military-grade tank

Using first principle thinking, let’s dismantle these elements into their constituent parts.

  1. a bicycle has the following constituents – the seat, a pair of wheels, handlebar and gears
  2. a motorboat has the following constituents – the hull of a boat, a motor and a pair of skis.
  3. a military tank has the following constituents – a cannon gun, a pair of metallic threads and the outer plating.

From the individual constituent of the three elements – ask yourself what can we create? 

By utilizing the following:

  1. Bicycle – seat, handlebar 
  2. Military Tank – a pair of metallic threads
  3. Motorboat – a motor and a pair of skis

You can create a snowmobile. Applying the deconstructive approach of what we already know and building new innovation is the means of thinking from the first principle.

5 Step-method of establishing First Principle thinking

  1. Explain the idea – what’s the premise for your thinking?
  2. Challenge the current basis of the idea – gain a level of understanding if the idea could be approached from a different direction.
  3. Provide evidence – if the idea has any weight, gather evidence to prove it.
  4. What are the implications of the idea? – is it worse or better? Does it provide any value?
  5. What are the alternatives, if the idea doesn’t work out? – Is there’s a Plan B? Have you gained perceptive from others by asking for negative feedback to explore what they didn’t like about the idea?

Going back to the basics, we enterprise a beginner’s mindset. We engender a mindset of ‘how to achieve‘. Past analogies are not ideal; they rely on previous experiences. In the constantly changing environment, exploring innovation and frontiers are the result of first principle thinking.

If you enjoyed this post – please consider subscribing to my channel and let me know you thoughts on this mental model 🙂

If you haven’t already – visit my second home on the internet. It’s called The Monday Madness

Crack your productivity slump with Eisenhower Matrix

The development of Eisenhower of matrix came into motion by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States. His accomplishments stretched before and after he became the President. He achieved endeavours include:

  1. Instating programmes such as DARPA and NASA
  2. Instating the development of the Highway system in the US
  3. Served as the President of Columbia University
  4. Become the first supreme commander of NATO
  5. Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe
  6. Chief of Staff of the US Army

His productivity system referred to as the Eisenhower matrix highlights his ability to sustain his productive endeavours for a long period. In this method of Eisenhower matrix, the simplistic nature of this decision-making tool is used to highlight what’s important and urgent on your agenda.

So, let’s break this down:

It consists of four different quadrants and for each quadrant, there’s an actionable outcome on how to separate each task or objective in your to-do list.

  1. Urgent and important – these are tasks that should be completed now. 
  2. Important, but not urgent – can be scheduled at a later time or date.
  3. Urgent, but not important – tasks that can be delegated to others.
  4. Neither urgent nor important – task that can be eliminated or deleted.

There’s a feedback thought pattern behind this matrix because it makes the user’s question the ‘importance’ of the task. For tasks involving that are urgent and important, they should complete now like writing this post so I can publish it tonight. Tasks that are important, but not urgent should be scheduled like exercising, doing grocery shopping or calling family or friends. Differently, to urgent but not important tasks should be delegated to others like hiring a virtual assistant to carry out administrative work like answer emails or booking flights. And, finally, tasks that are neither urgent nor important like watching TV or spending hours on social media should not be entertained.

I found this matrix to be helpful because as a framework I can visualise the importance of each task. It allows me to make a conscious decision on what to focus on. Concerning with long term goals, this matrix provides an advantage of creating an overview and narrowing down on areas of procrastination.

Let me know your thoughts on this in the comments below 🙂

Zettelkasten Method: Taking smart notes

In the 1960s, the origin of the Zettelkasten method was established by a German sociologist Niklas Luhmann. He took the initiative of implementing his ideas and notes in an analogue-based system that relied on index cards. Stored within a physical slip-box called (Zettel translates to slip and Kasten to box). Through this, Luhmann compounded his knowledge for various interdisciplinary categories such as religion, law and economics. And, as a result, he was able to write 70 books and 500 academic papers.

Zettlekasten method – How Luhmann made it work?

  1. Wrote down each idea on an index card.
  2. Linked each card one after another through his taxonomy.
  3. Sorted individual cards based on reference or permanent slip box.

The slip box aided him to retrieve relevant knowledge to build ideas and arguments.

The practice of such a process in the current day of age while reviewing ideas from sources like kindle highlights, articles or Youtube videos can become simpler through bi-directional linking and tags. Using RoamResearch, I actively connect dots and create connections between different ideas. Something, Luhmann would have appreciated who built a Zettelkasten comprised of 90,000 handwritten index notes.

Something to consider: a book on how to take smart notes by Sonke Ahrens. A video by Shu omi.

How to apply the Zettlekasten method?

The break down of this method is based on three elements:

  1. Fleeting Notes
  2. Literature Notes
  3. Permanent Notes

Fleeting Notes

Ahren suggests:

Fleeting notes are just mere reminders of what is in your head. They should not cause any distraction. Put them into one place, which you define as your inbox.

Fleeting notes are trinket of information and ideas, which have a similar resemble to the concept of capture habit. In a podcast interview, Tiago Forte expands on the concept of Capture Habit. He suggests that capturing ideas should be based on intuition and something that deeply resonates with your interests. The initial philosophy behind this idea was recycled from a book called Getting things done by David Allen.

I have broken down my resources of capturing Fleeting notes:

  1. Drafts – I use this app while exercising my Default activity during lunchtime. This is free on App store.
  2. and mymind – These are two different google chrome extension I’ve recently come across that allows you to create and save information on the internet.
  3. Voice Memos – while working out in the gym, the immediate access to this app allows me to dictate my ideas.

Literature Notes

In my previously written blog post on ‘My process of reading a book‘ – I highlighted my kindle highlights are synced into Goodreads, which requires the manual input of copy-paste export onto Notion. 

Notion doesn’t have bi-directional links that allow similar ideas from various pieces of literature to be linked together.

Therefore, I have decided to break down my Literature Notes into two components:

As a primary Notion user – I have been compounding knowledge in my Scavenger’s list. I consider this as my Bulk storage which doesn’t consist of a tag system that can link different resources with similar ideas.

And, that’s where RoamResearch comes in as my value storage – the reason why I considered it as my value storage because I can be selective of the information that I wish to import and use my thought process to elaborate and reflect on the ideas that I’ve highlighted. I tend to keep this short and selective. These ideas will go on to become a permanent note with bi-directional links.

For clarity purposes, let’s provide a demonstration using RoamResearch.

I recently finished reading Make time – How to focus on what matters every day by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky. I’ll be filtering down my bulk storage and input few of the key insights from the book into my value storage.

Every (resonating idea) from a book, article or video becomes part of my literature note. Every literature note has the following:

  1. tag stating #literature note
  2. Type of resource (book, article, images or video)
  3. As a user preference, each literature note is highlighted.

The highlighted fields are either summarised in my own words or directly acquired from the resource. The example above highlights literature notes for four different points that will become permanent notes.

Permanent Notes

Ahren suggest:

The idea is not to collect, but to develop ideas, arguments and discussions. Does the new information contradict, correct, support or add to what you already have.

Permanent notes are a means to make you think about how each ‘literature notes’ can be relevant to your ideas, interests and own research. The emphasis is to make you better at combining ideas to generate newer ideas. This, in fact, raises many questions within the realm of understanding the idea. And, ultimately when piecing together an idea on a single note, write as if you’re writing for someone else. Write in full sentences, using the sources from your literature notes as a reference.

Ahren emphasises that only Permanent notes go into the slip-boxFleeting notes get discarded and Literature notes get their own reference box.

Here’s how my permanent note looks:

Following a repetition process of creating various Permanent Notes, you can begin to file additional (resources/ notes/questions) behind one another by supplementing your permanent notes through researching and strengthen your arguments, filling out missing information and answer difficult questions. Through the addition of bi-directional links wherever relevant, you can keep tabs on your ideas. And, such relevance is often complimented by “tags or keywords” that are a direct result on your interests.

Reduction steps of habit

Imagine for a moment that starting your day with a difficult habit and as your day progresses you reduce the difficulty of each habit.

For such a system to exist, it must have the following:

  • actionable, easily able to verify your most difficult to least difficult habits
  • obvious, habits that are accountable and attractive

I believe I’ve developed a method that I like to call the ‘reduction steps of habit‘, where I can assign myself the most difficult habits at the start of the day because I’m more productive in the mornings. And, follow-through with the selection of habits with ease as the day comes to an end. 

Figure 1: My initial conceptualisation of the idea

So, let’s break this down and provide some definitions for clarity:

The (y-variable) – Time, setting the scope of the day in conjunction with your habits, so morning to evenings. The (x-variable) – Difficulty, starting the day by completing the most arduous habit and ease into the rest of the day with less demanding habits.

By completing a difficult habit in the early morning, you gain that mental advantage of a win as you begin with your day. And, this mentality is like a preset to overcoming the challenges of the day. 

The thought process behind the reduction step, it provides that dopamine boost as you progress down each step. It is a way to make one ‘feel accomplished’ about completing a difficult habit. And secondly, no-one likes to complete a difficult habit in the evenings hence ending the day with easier habits.

I used Figure 1 as an initial template – through research, I started to consider my most and least difficult habits. Here, are few examples to consider:

Figure 2 highlights by creating an association bar (hard, medium and easy) for the level of difficulty, it provides an indication where I can place my habits accordingly within that week.

Figure 2: Expanding on the difficulty variable for user friendly interface.

I can position myself to allocate my habits into varying difficulties. By doing this, I experimented with the following:

I demoted a habit to a lower difficulty based on how comfortable I felt. The reason for this is as a difficult habit becomes easier to accomplish I should practice that habit at a later stage of the day. Hence, leaving room for new difficult habits to take place. And, if the demoted habit becomes difficult to manage I can promote it back to a higher difficulty.

There is versatility in following the reduction habit of steps because you are not subjected to the same pattern of habits each week. The ability to promote and demote habits (upon your own decision) provides leverage to your day and how you manage each habit accordingly.

As they say, you should practice what you preach and for this reason, I’ve devised a working template that I’m currently following as highlighted in (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Working template.

So, give it a try and see if this can be useful to you. I would be very much interested to know your feedback on this.

Staying productive at work

I am in the second rotation of my 2-year program as a graduate engineer, working in a “hands-on” engineering department. In a 7.5 hour shift, I’m allocated one-hour for my lunch break. I see this as an opportunity to reflect and learn and it is something I’ve been doing in my previous jobs.

Before COVID-19, I would spend these 60 minutes having lunch with a group of colleagues in the canteen. However, with the changing normality and the current measures of 2m distance, I now have my lunch in my car or much recently being introduced to an outdoor seating bench that I’d no clue about; an amazing revelation.

During my downtime, I have been experimenting with an idea called the Default activity. I have allocated this time in working towards my writing and exploring potential ideas on either:

  1. Writing a blog post
  2. Planning ideas for future video.
  3. Listening to a podcast

Initially, the way I was practising this was through my iPhone however, the flexibility to switch over from Notion to Instagram or any other social media was relatively easy and tempting. There were no layers of friction and added to my set-up cost of getting into the mindset of:

  1. Either writing again
  2. Or re-thinking my thought process for a potential video idea.

Hence, I decided to experiment with the tools I was using during these 60 minutes of my downtime. I exercised the use of my iPad.

While I’m writing this post, in this beautiful afternoon weather, sitting outdoor, I opened up my iPad and noticed the most critical difference in my set up. I had a more creative mindset because of the change in my environment and the tool I was using. I was adding value to my ideas and conceptualising them into potential videos or blog post.

In comparison to the iPhone, it provided the perception of consumption-based mindset.

The Feynman way!

Imagine for one moment that you find yourself not been able to understand a difficult concept or if you get the grasp of it, you find it difficult to explain it to anyone? And within that moment, what do you do? Do you just give up? Do provide yourself with the false confidence ‘Yeah, I know it or I get it?’ I would be lying if I said I haven’t fallen for the ‘Yeah, I know it‘ trap. And, to remedy that I came across a technique known as the Feynman Technique.

Breakdown of the technique

  1. Engage or choose a concept of interest that you wish to expand your understanding. Hint – avoid complicated jargon to mask your understanding.
  2. Critical to this step, the method of delivery – the use of simple and colloquial language that can be used to teach a 6th grader. Express your ideas with simplicity for instances, work through example problems to highlight the methodology of a concept.
  3. Fill in the gaps – using relevant literature to fill in the missing information to explain the concept with clarity. In the event of explaining this to a 6th grader, break down technical terms. Anticipate follow up questions like – ‘what does that mean?’ or ‘what happens if you changed this?’.
  4. Review material or provide simplification – if you are unable to explain the concept to a 6th grader, review your material so, it’s understandable. Since the ultimate test of understanding is able to convey it to others.

The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks.– Mortimer Adler

The beauty of this technique it generalises the concept by indicating any limitation in your knowledge and highlights areas of improvement. By positioning yourself to explain a concept, you are not only creating new neural pathways to build “an explanation picture”, but you’re also reinforcing yourself to build core ideas of that concept from memory and in this way activating recall of what you have understood.

While writing this post, I’d a reminiscing flashback to when I was mentoring – a placement student at work. Someone who’s battling a ‘don’t care attitude’, I quickly realised the best way to approach, this 10th grader is not through the bombardment of information. But to set him a problem to solve. The mistakes he made or questions he expressed ‘how do I do this?’ or ‘what does that mean?’ enabled me to explain the concept through active recall which enabled him to make progress.

Feynman Technique is a difference-maker in leveraging our learning – to heighten our ability to tear apart what we understand and reconstruct it for others. And, if we practise this technique consistently, we can turn those false ‘Yeah, I get it‘ statements to thing of actuality.

TEA Framework

As my mother would say “Start your day with aadrak ki chai”, translation “ginger tea”. As I consume my strongly infused-ginger tea, I practice my newfound zeal of reviewing saved articles on Instapaper. Reviewing the article ‘TEA: The 3 Pillars of Productivity You Need To Unlock Your Full Potential‘ highlights the lack of time, energy, and attention that may cause people to not achieve their full productivity potential.


Often you would hear people say ‘I wish there were more hours into the day’ directly or indirectly we find ourselves in a plethora of work. We have the energy and attention to complete such work, but the only component that is missing is time.

How to solve this?

I am going to be using this as a default example to address all three elements. For instance, if you’re someone who wants to learn how to play the piano. You could apply the following solutions:

  1. Calendar in 30 minutes to learn before you start your day.
  2. Freeing up time elsewhere especially during lunch
  3. Or you could schedule a trainer to teach you to play the piano for a half-hour.


With lack of energy, builds frustration because you know what you need to achieve and have allocated time to that task but can’t follow through to completion. And, usually, the main cause of such distractions are seen in the form of procrastination. 

For the individual who intends to play the piano, the lack of motivation hinders their desire to practice even though they have allocated time towards it. They find procrastination through social media or other trivial tasks.

How to solve this?

  1. Make it difficult for yourself to be procrastinate – whether that be deleting social media apps of your phone or asking a family member to hide your phone.
  2. Another solution would be to ask your (assistant, family member, friend) to change your social media password on days of practice. And, only return your phone when you’re through with your training session.


With a lack of attention, there is a subdued feeling of getting everything under control. But, that’s never the case because you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work and hence a loss of focus is imminent. In such cases, we usually refer to statements like ‘I have soo much work, I don’t know where to start‘. For the individual learning the piano on the weekend, their commitment to practice is stagnated by external factors like grocery shopping or house chores.

How to solve this?

  1. Taking measures like putting up a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door.
  2. Making people aware of your commitment – it could be through automated emails, putting up your weekend schedule on the fridge, or even verbally mentioning to people.


I do believe there needs to be a fourth element to this framework. To me, the real meaning of motivation is progress. In the example, of an individual learning the piano, their motivation to continuously practice each day and building a system of cues to make the process of learning with limited distractions. This evidently will make learning more enjoyable and a lot more productive.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please let me know your thoughts and subscribe to my content.