Today we are proud to present, Brothers Arif and Ali Vakil, from Bangalore, India
Arif and Ali are brothers, who are running a family real-estate business in Bangalore with their father. Together with their corporate background, they’ve got a keen interest in a variety of topics, many that revolve around the Purpose of life, Islam and Spirituality. They pen down their thoughts sometimes in words other times in pictures at their blog. In 2008, their business was the first business to be trained in GTD in India and Arif and Ali were the first Certified GTD trainers in India. With that background we found them to be interesting candidates to interview for the readers of ProductiveMuslim?
1. Brother Arif and Ali, Please begin by telling us about yourself.
2. How did you two start out? Did you always plan to work together?
3. What’s your success story? What are the key ingredients for a project/ initiative to be successful?
From my school days, right through to my work days at KPMG and here in Bangalore, if and when a particular project or a hobby lights a fire in me, then there is no stopping me till I’ve achieved that goal or the fire dies down, which ever comes first. And there have been times when others have tried for me to be passionate about something, but if that love is not there, there’s nothing you can do about it. And I would be just trudging along to just get the task/job done. I’m sure all of us have felt that drive sometime or another in our lives. How little motivation we needed then to wakup in the morning to attend to the task/project/ or even a sport. How little supervision we needed. We’d give our best regardless if anyone is looking our shoulder or not. So first and foremost find your passion. Some already know what it is, others it may take some time, may be even years but keep looking. Ali has written a short insightful post on finding your purpose and passion here: How to find and fulfill your life’s purpose
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield: An amazing book. This book gives procrastination a large big kick on it’s backside. Gives you the philosophy, tips and techniques to keep on doing not good work, but GREAT work. Work that is inline with your purpose on this planet. Detailed review of the book here
- The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr: When are you fully engaged towards a task? It’s when your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy reservoirs are at it’s maximum. The Power of Full Engagement, guides you in recognising which energy reservoir is specifically below it’s optimal potential and what routines can you incorporate to ensure that you are running on full tank as much as possible, as far as possible.
4. How do you manage your time? Do you ever feel there’s too much to do or a certain task’s impossible?
- Hard-Landscape Items: These are things that I have to do at a certain day and at a certain time only. These mainly consist of pre-scheduled meetings. Eg. Next Friday 11:00 Am I have a meeting with my team. This is what is called my Hard-Landscape. Since I have made a commitment with someone else; on that day, during that time, there can be nothing else that I can be doing, so why be bothered about looking at anything else on my to-do list. I use Outlook Calendar synced to my Blackberry Calendar to track my Hard Landscape items.
- Soft-Landscape items: These are Things that I have to have done by a certain day, but at no specific time. There are mostly to do with tasks that have external deadlines that need to be done by a specified day. Eg a report that needs to be filed by next Thursday. I use the “Today’s Tasks” view of the Outlook Calendar to track my Soft Landscape items.
- My ASAP Lists: These are things that I have to do once the above two are tackled. These tasks don’t have a specific deadline to them, and are attended to after the soft landscape items are completed. Eg of these tasks are Emails that I need to be replied to, phone calls that I need to make etc. I use Outlook Tasks and my tasks app in blackberry to track this.
5. What keeps you going? How do you stay motivated?
- What’s the Next Action? If a task seems to big, I just ask myself, alright, what’s the next action on this? Or in other words, what’s the next Physcial Visible thing that I need to do? So, if I need to launch a real-estate project, my thought process goes something like this:Use the Power of Less: Leo Babuta’s Power of Less is an amazing book. It harnesses a powerful philosophy that one can do so much more by just focussing on Less. When the world seems so overwhelming. I start doing less. So I just focus upon just one or two of major tasks that I need to accomplish and stay at it till they are done. Only then move on to others. It so works and you get to experience an amazing high of accomplishing something.
“Hmm, okay Arif, we need to Increase the sales on our Real-Estate Project, what do I need to do about that. Well I need to finalise the marketing plan. Okay, to finalise the marketing plan, what is the next immediate thing that I need to do? I need to have a meeting with Ali. Is he available now? hmm maybe not. Okay, so what do I do about that? I send him an email that we’ll meet up on so and so time to discuss the marketing plan of our project and add that to my Outlook Calendar. A really huge task, becomes doable and I moved forward on it, because I asked myself, what’s the immediate Next Action that I need to take on it.
- I eat my frogs first: Sometimes, my whole system falls apart. There are so many fires burning at office. Things at home front need my attention. Days pass by that I’m not able to check my email. After a week of that I don’t know what to do and what not to do. When that happens, first thing in the morning, I make a list of my MITs. MITs are my Most Important Tasks. What is the Most Important Task that I need to do for the one single day. More often your Most Important Task is the one that you have been avoiding the most. So I take the plunge and have that done early in the day, no matter how unpleasant it would seem. As Brian Tracy would put it, I would Eat that Frog. Once I’ve done my most pressing and unpleasant task, the rest of the day begins to seem much more pleasant.
- Getting Things Done by David Allen: GTD has changed my life. The whole concept of GTD, revolves around the fact that we are most productive, most efficient, when we are relaxed. Similarly we are least productive, least efficient, when we are stressed. Being relaxed doesn’t being in-attentive, infact you’re super alert, in total control, and simultaneously not-stressed about a single thing. We’ve all been there. The question is how to get back to that state once you’ve fallen off? Well, that’s where GTD comes in. I wish I could explain it in line or two, but it’s one of those things that you’ve got read it and practice it in totality to understand what I’m saying.
- Eat That Frog: Eat that Frog, is a book by Brian Tracy that has extended Mark Twain’s analogy of doing the toughest task of the day to eating an Ugly & Repulsive Frog. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and gained many insights that I was able to immediately put into practice.
My Productivity tool kit includes:
- Microsoft Outlook: For Calendar, Tasks and Notes.
- Blackberry: To carry my data on the go.
- Mindjet Mindmanager: I love making mindmaps. Most often I took notes not linearly but in mindmaps. And when I want to get brainstorming done on my comptuer I use Mindjet’s Mindmanager to do that.
- A small pocket notepad: Always…always…ALWAYS, carry a pocket notepad with you. We designed one that specifically addresses our needs. Either a nice fancy one or plain regular one, either way, always be close to paper so that you can note something down or you can offer the paper to someone else who wants to note something down for you.
- “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” – Jim Rohn
- “I don’t feel like it. What’s it? Why do you need to feel like something in order to do the work? They call it work because it’s difficult, not because it’s something you need to feel like.Very few people wake up in the morning and feel like taking big risks or feel like digging deep for something that has eluded them. People don’t usually feel like pushing themselves harder than they’ve pushed before or having conversations that might be uncomfortable. Of course, your feelings are irrelevant to whether or not the market expects great work. Do the work. Ignore the feelings part and the work will follow” – Seth Godin
7. What are the keys / ingredients of a Productive Muslim?
- Ensuring you are offering your ibadats punctually on time: There’s a Hadith that says, the importance that Allah (SWT) gives to you, is directly proportionate to the importance that we give to Allah SWT. A physical manifestation of that importance is getting up from your work desk when it’s time for Salaat. Out saying no to work and yes to prayer, exclaims that the purpose of the work is purely to get closer to Allah SWT. We are working productively not only because we desire to do so, but more because Allah SWT commands us to do so.
- Working on enhancing our Focus in Prayers: Only that portion of our prayer is accepted that we prayed with concentration. It’s a fair deal isn’t it? If throughout prayer, we have our minds wandering all over the place from home to work and back, what worth is that prayer after all. If we are exclaiming “Allah u Akbar”, but have everything other than God on our mind, what worth is that prayer after all. How can we expect God to accept our Salaat. Here are some tips to achieve Greater concentration in our prayers .
- Trying to adopt as many Mustahabat/Sunnat acts in our daily lives: If we do not have the habit of reciting the Quran, we should build that in. If we are already reciting namaaz regularly, then we should work upon offering Tahajjud.
8. Final words / advise to ProductiveMuslim fans
Getting things done is not the same as making things happen.
Jazaka’Allah Khair for your sharing your wisdom, Brothers Arif and Ali. Insha Allah, we look forward to working together on other ProductiveMuslim projects.