How I Plan to Live More Intentionally in 2017

First of all, Happy New Year from Bhumi and me!

Being just a couple months away from completing my master’s in Business Analytics, I figured I should try to apply a more strategic and data-driven approach to analyze what I do with my life outside of work in an effort to live more intentionally.

There’s a common adage that I’ve heard through B-school, “what gets watched gets done” (not to be confused with “a watched pot never boils” – I know it’s weird that they’re seemingly contradictory). Anyways, the point is that if you track an action and are held accountable to it, then you are more likely to do that action. In school, you earned grades by completing your homework so you did it. But in college, the homework was rarely graded so you may not have done most of the homework problems.

Quick Overview of How Strategy is Applied at Work

Goals, Objectives and Strategy are important concepts in the workplace – especially in a marketing department. Those are the reasons we are paid to come into the office and complete the tasks that we do every day. An organization is founded with a mission or goals that executives translate into objectives for a given year. Then the leadership or management teams determine the strategies they want to deploy to reach those objectives, leading to the daily tactics. Those tactics are tracked using metrics, which help determine how well the tactics and strategies are working.

Here’s a hypothetical example to make these concepts more tangible:

  • Goal / Mission: Increase Awareness of Indian Culture in the U.S.
    • Objective 1: Become a top 10 Desi Blog in the U.S. for NRIs
    • Objective 2: Increase Reach to all 50 states in 2017
  • Strategy 1: Focus on South Asian organizations to gain new readers (influencer approach)
  • Strategy 2: Provide additional benefits to engaged readers/people who leave comments (word-of-mouth approach)
    • Tactic 1: Use email marketing to contact leaders of South Asian groups
    • Tactic 2: Send t-shirts to avid readers
      • Metrics: # of website visitors, email open rate, # of new subscribers, ranking on blog review sites, etc.
    • Next Step: If the email open rate is low, adjust the email content or find new targets, if you’re not getting any website visitors from Hawaii – fly to Hawaii and do something about it, etc.)

Taking a More Strategic Approach to Life

The cool (and slightly scary) thing is that it’s getting easier to do this with our personal lives because a lot of our activities are tracked and produce measurable data. Something you probably thought of right away: your fitbit or smartwatch. Something you may not have thought of is Google Maps Timeline. Here’s mine from 2016 zoomed in on Chicago:

chicago-visits-2016This provides a quick and easy way to find all the paces you visited or navigated to when you had your location turned on mobile. Is it creepy that a company has this data? Yes. But for now, it’s useful to me so I’m keeping this feature on. Using this data along with my very manual approach of writing down everything on a wall calendar helped track activities that we did in 2016. Here’s what I was able to capture:

Obviously in our 5 years of marriage, Bhumi and I regularly discuss our goals and objectives, but we were still pleased to see that the metrics in these graphs showed that we were closely aligned to what we wanted to achieve without putting a very detailed plan on paper.

Some positives we noticed:

  • We spent a lot of time with a lot of people in 2016 (pretty good for us introverts!)
  • The [time with parents + family stuff] == [cousin & sib stuff + friends stuff]! (we definitely try for this balance)
  • We left the state of Illinois nearly every month, including the East and West coast multiple times
  • Between trying restaurants, going to shows, biking on the lake, and just visiting the sites, we did pretty well being tourists in Chicago (we want to maximize this opportunity)

Some areas for improvement:

  • We only hosted a person or meal once per month (it felt like more)
  • We weren’t quite as involved in religious activities as we were in the years prior (no more YK)
  • We only had 6 weekends in the entire year where we didn’t go see people or have a scheduled event/activity (need more down time!)

Now you must be wondering, how were we judging the data in these metrics and categorizing them as positives and negatives? Well, the detailed plan below is how we’re going to make it easier for ourselves to make these judgements moving forward. We simply have to compare the metrics to the objectives to see if we were aligned to them.

P & B’s Detailed Strategic Life Plan for 2017 & Beyond

Goal / Mission:

  • Moksha (BHAG = Big Hairy Audacious Goal…yeah, we’re lucky our beliefs give us many lifetimes for this, heh)
  • Long-Term Happiness (tangible, but always challenging enough)

Over-arching Objectives for life that will contribute to long-term happiness:

Near-term Objectives:

Using Data to Make Life Decisions and Improvements

After developing your objectives, strategies and tactics all you have to do is go back to your metrics and look at which numbers you want to increase each month (indicated in green) or decrease (red) next year. Then be sure to add an action step to clarify what you’ll do to achieve this. You’ll notice that we added new metrics (indicated in yellow) to track things that will help us better understand if we’re working towards our objectives or not. We could have really gone nuts here and created many more (did you know I spent ~60 hours of my life watching Cubs games from October to November!? It was worth it.), but after a while there’s diminishing returns on the things you track. Track what you are willing to measure and use to make decisions or behavior changes.

Final Thoughts and Considerations

Thank you for reading this far. It’s been freeing getting this all down on paper. And I feel very lucky that we have the problem of “too many” people in our lives rather than the opposite. We are truly blessed and grateful that we have that many big rocks. Hopefully reading through my process was helpful and inspires you to connect with your big rocks and be just a little more intentional this year.

Knowing what the “big rocks” are and prioritizing them makes it easier to make decisions about the other little things because you know those don’t have as much of an impact on your objectives. Also, I’m sure you’ve heard about the studies that show writing down your goals and looking at them regularly helps you stick to them. I’ll be revisiting this post regularly to keep myself in check. And you too can help us reach our goals by asking about our progress – and also by letting us host you sometime this year 😉

Here’s to a fulfilling, productive and very happy 2017… HAPPY NEW YEAR (again)!

PS: Finances come with built-in data tracking. Budgets, retirement calculators, and other tools help you make decisions with your financial numbers in the same way the above table does. Set financial goals and budgets for a given time period, evaluate how you’re doing compared to the goal, and make adjustments as needed. I could do a post on this later, but there’s plenty of smarter people than me who have written about managing your money. My cousin Rishee gave us a great book on finances this year that I would recommend if you’re looking for something on this topic: The Simple Path to Wealth. The author also has a blog: http://jlcollinsnh.com/.

Jim Carrey Shares Wisdom on Outlook and Life with Students

jim-carreyI just stumbled across Jim Carrey’s commencement speech at the Maharishi University
of Management, and I am both shocked and smiling. His outlook is incredible! After just hearing him say a few things I immediately opened a Word doc to start taking notes because it was clear it was worth remembering what this happy soul had to say. Continue reading

Remove Laziness From Your Life on Kali Chaudas this Diwali

Diwali 2014 Dates:
Dhanteras (10/21) | Kali Chaudas (10/22) | Diwali (10/23) | New Year (10/24) | Bhai Beej (10/25)

In 2014 Kali Chaudas is on Wednesday, October 22. This 14th (“chaudas”) day of the month Ashwin reminds us to get up and make use of our strength to overcome the evil and darkness (“kali”) in our lives such as laziness, jealousy and negativity. We worship Kali Mata, the Goddess of Strength (“shakti”), on this day to give us the strength to overcome our own weakness and to for the courage to help others. Continue reading

On Dhanteras We Worship Lakshmi The Goddess of Wealth

Diwali 2014 Dates:
Dhanteras (10/21) | Kali Chaudas (10/22) | Diwali (10/23) | New Year (10/24) | Bhai Beej (10/25)

In 2014 Dhanteras is on Tuesday, October 21, and this day marks the beginning of the most exciting Hindu festival of the year: Diwali! “Dhan” means wealth and “teras” refers to the 13th day of the lunar calendar month Ashwin. This day is a time to reflect on our wealth, and a tool prescribed to us by our sages to help us do this is Lakshmi Puja. The family gets together to thank Lakshmi Mata, the Goddess of wealth, for all of their blessings and to ask for continued wealth in their lives. Continue reading

Promoting The Gita

Last Sunday in a pravachan (discourse/lecture) about the Gita, Dadaji stated how we promote and advertise good movies that we’ve seen, but we don’t do the same for the Gita. It’s true, how often have you seen a trailer on the tv or a giant sized poster marketing the benefits of the Gita? This was one of those recurring moments in pravachan where I felt like he was speaking directly to me. Who else besides a graphic designer was going to bother taking that statement at face value? That statement is what inspired this post and this:

 

I’m sure many people have seen the original Pass It On ad and this quote before. Have either of them moved you to take action in any sort of way? Apparently, this supposed quote from Einstein has:

I say “supposed” because there is an on-going debate about whether or not Einstein ever said this, and there don’t appear to be any sources for it. I found it ironic though that someone might have created a false advertisement for the Gita in the 1970’s by fabricating this quote AND that it actually works! This opens up a whole new can of worms though.

One of the most important lessons from the Gita is that the motive behind an action is paramount, not the actual action itself. With that idea alone the Gita explains how to turn every action – even the routine, mundane ones – into an offering to God. So the dilemma here is that we have a positive result occurring by the creation of false quote – more people  are reading the Gita. Is that okay? Well, that depends…

  • Scenario 1: Bookstore owner has an overstock of Gitas in his inventory, “How do I get rid of these and make some money off of them?!”
  • Scenario 2: Gita devotee who genuinely wants to share its message, “How do I get the Western world to even know that this book exist, much less read it?!”

Would you feel better about the quote if the person in scenario 2 created it? In the end isn’t it the same result? Why should it matter?

Perhaps you’re curious about my motives as I write this post and ask you to share the ads below too. That’s fair. Here are my some of them:

  • I saw a design/marketing challenge that related to my interests so I had to accept it
  • I fully believe in the awesomeness of the Gita and want to try a creative approach of promoting it
  • I want to grow my personal brand (that’s why my site is in the corner of each ad)
  • I like messing around with social media
There may be more, but I guess that’s between me and HIM.
Now if those motives are alright by you and you share any sort of affection towards the Gita, please humor me and change your Facebook timeline background image to any of the following banners (or pick Einsteins from above).

In the comments below, please share a quote, lesson, verse or anything you want to about why you think it’s worth sharing the Gita!

Oh, btw here’s a link to the Gita, go explore!