Habits Make You Persistent

Cheryl Sandberg (Facebook), Richard Branson (Virgin Group) have something in common. They both carry their spiral bound notebook and a pen everywhere. When they have something important come up in their head that they need to act upon, they note it down. I am not sure about Branson, but Cheryl Sandberg rips off the page when the task is done. I found this article about Cheryl Sandberg’s spiral notebook.

Being effective in life doesn’t mean sacrificing things are Less Important for the things that are More Important. I believe, there is nothing in life that is LESS Important. Everything in life is important. What varies is the priority of every little thing in life at a given time, on a given day. Business, money, work, are all important. But at 2 a.m. while you are fast asleep, if your phone rings for an urgent matter, there is something weird. There is something wrong. That is, because that emergency wasn’t handled during your working day before it was an emergency. Some of us who work like that have made it a habit of dealing with multiple things at once, leaving them all undone at the end of the day, so that in the end, we have to put off the fire. Cheryl Sandberg and Richard Branson are not productive because they are wealthy and powerful, it is the other way around. Wealth, power and peace of mind are the outcomes of their habit of being organised.

I have two hobbies – playing guitar and photography. I have had both these hobbies for over three decades. They did not happen out of the blue. I bought my first cheap guitar thirty-five years ago, and the first cheap camera that my mother bought me was even earlier. I did not study these things. I just started doing them. Bit by bit, mistake by mistake, day by day, I improved. After practising, not getting a note while playing the guitar was just getting that – that particular (wrong) note did not belong there. The next attempt would then be with the right note. After getting the right note, it was practising the piece of music again so that I would remember the right notes and only played the right notes, until the right notes became a habit. In case of photography, each picture had the details that I needed to grasp. An underexposed picture meant using a slower shutter speed or a larger aperture the next time. A shaky picture meant using a tripod, or using a higher shutter speed the next time. Slowly, knowing the conditions of light and the right setting became a habit. I persisted. What made me persist was the practice of doing the right things repeatedly. When things go right, they are much more fun. So, it is important to do things repeatedly till they are right. One right song led to another right song, and a right photograph led to another right photograph.

Photography and music are the things that I enjoy. They are an escape for me, from the day to day grind. So, with them I do not have to persist. They just happen. The other things that aren’t that fun to do though, I have to discipline myself about them to persist. For instance, I am learning German. I have to remind myself to complete a chapter from the book, or else, over a period of time, I have to start from the beginning. Languages are something you forget if you are out of touch. So, I use a calendar on the phone; and I set reminders. Then, there are other things for which I set reminders, too. When I had joined the German class earlier, the tutor had the plan. Without the tutor, I have to plan my work myself. If I do not plan what to do during the time slots, those slots go unused; and life is wasted. Having finished things at the end of the day, I can sleep peacefully thinking, “I finished everything I had to finish”. That is the most important thing.

We have various commitments. We can fulfil them – it is up to us to fulfil them. We need to fulfil them in a manner that we can fulfil them well. Do only what you can do. What you cannot do now, plan it for later. Don’t do a lot. Do one thing, do it well. Plan to do things that really matter, every day.

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