How I block apps on my phone.

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Me vs Apps competing for attention : pic credit

 

I told you about my 24 hour digital detox. And I promised I will explain how I block specific apps on my phone. The app I use to block apps (Cliched!) is “Appblock“.

Previously I used to uninstall facebook and twitter on phone and then reinstall. It is painful not just because of the reinstalling process, but I have to manually do the setting changes for like: disable video auto play, data consumption setting , etc etc, on each of the apps. It was a mind bottle neck for my worthy pursuit of digital detox. A simple search on web, and I found App block. It is super easy. I can have many profiles. Ex: I can have a profile for FB and twitter and I can have profile that includes all social media + email + chat + you name any app.

Isn’t it cool? Once I’ve done with my profiles it’s a matter of clicking on them to activate app block. Also, I can lock a profile after its activated. If I want to unlock, I can’t do it, unless I connect my phone to a charger. Very cool. Lot of barriers before you can get back in. It makes me super focused. Have a look at this video.

 

I tried the free version and I was super happy, went on to purchase the premium version at LKR 675/- ( $4.5 roughly). There are many alternatives in the play store.

Block your apps away ! Have fun.

Digital Detox ( facebook and twitter)

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pic credit

For the past 2 weeks, I formed a new habit. Once in a week, I’ll have a 24 hour vacation from facebook and twitter. Which means one day out of a 7 day week, I’ll be out of facebook and twitter. I questioned my self and got the answers. Here they are.

Q: Why just facebook and twitter? Why not email and chat apps?

facebook and twitter are the most addictive time wasters for me. Keeping a tab on that is really digital detox for me.

Q: How do you select the day ?

I select the day I can afford to be off the grid. I select the day I have to be off the grid. Which means the day I need to be full productive ( Or fully reflective) and also the day I can afford to be offline, which is when I feel people will need lesser interaction with me. This requires judgement. I also mention that I am going offline in a post on both FB and twitter.

Q: How do you really stay out of it. What’s the process ?

In my laptop I activate self control app for 24 hours. In my mobile I uninstall both FB and twitter apps. That’s it. I have no access to FB and twitter now.

Q: Uninstalling apps and installing again, isn’t that a pain?

Yes, it is. That’s why I found this wonderful app Appblock. More about that in a post later.

Q: What do you gain out of this. ?

I love FB and twitter. I learn a lot from people. I have the chance to promote my work. I can get help. I can reach out to people. With out FB and twitter I cannot imagine what would it be like to do the work I do.

But, there comes a time, that I cannot just let go off the phone to browse even at the slightest opportunity. That is when I know I need a detox. Then I plan the work and go offline. It’s just 24 hours. It’s not that much of a time for me to miss anything worthwhile in the internet. But it’s a more than enough time period for me to detox and come back fresh.

 

 

The herd mentality

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pic credit

At airports, especially at immigration points, people queue up to the longest tail. I am not kidding, I know, because I was once like that. What I thought then was ‘this is long, so this should be the right queue’. I never questioned, did not bother to look up at sign boards – but waited  with my neck bent on the phone.

Recently I did few experiments. To my surprise it opened up many doors.

At airport – I could see many counters with few people, but in a distance. All I need to to do was to walk 100 feet. Probably people do not want to take the trouble of hauling their luggages ( they are quite large, of course) to save 20 minutes. They stay where ever they are, mostly in the longest queue.

At a bank – I asked the person at the next counter (because there was no queue in front of him) whether I can get served. He nodded ! The moment I stepped up to the next counter, many followed me. Ok, the guy behind the counter was having off time, why even bother when people are happy lining up in one queue ?

At a meeting – I counted 55 people in the meeting room. We gathered for 50 minutes. Only 8 people contributed, or simply put, open their mouths to talk. Rest of us, listened. I asked from participants, why so many people wasting time. ? It could have been an email to 55 people. The answer fascinated me. ” people do not care for emails, sms, or even printed letters. They say they did not see it. When in a meeting their names are called , they are present, so they cannot avoid”. Again herd mentality. We think, if the number of people in the room is high, we are more engaged and we get more done. Utter rubbish, it’s a colossal abuse of human resources. But we leave contented.

At Colombo International Book Fair or at Big Bad Wolf– people flock, because everybody is going. It is books, so it should be good. Books equal knowledge and wisdom, right ? No ! If you read the books yes. Also if you read the right books. So going to a book fair, does not make you a wise person.

So what should we do?

Question the queues. (Why? What? When? How? Where? Who ?). Be mindful of what you want. Not what others want.

At airport – Look around for more counters. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. What do you lose anyway?  A question?

At a bank – Look around for more counters. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to use check and money deposit machines. People are still afraid to use them.

At a meeting – Before going to the meeting, clarify from the convener, what are we going to discuss. Check if things can be done by a simple email. Be forthright, but be helpful, do not act as if you want to avoid the responsibilities , but show that you are more inclined to do more in less time.

At Colombo International Book Fair or at Big Bad Wolf – Go at times, when there are less traffic. Use common sense. It saves time and stress. Buy books of course, but read them.

 

 

Up in the air

I can understand and appreciate all new tech advances, still I can’t believe how a plane works. It’s mind boggling for me to fathom that first commercial aircraft took off in 1914, which is more than hundred years ago!

I just arrived in Hague, Netherlands to attend a workshop for Civil Society leaders, invited by Open Government Partnership. (more on that in a future post)

I had the opportunity to fly Airbus 380 for the first time in my life. Honestly, it’s like a pilgrimage for a traveller-the double decker plane. At Dubai, before boarding, everyone was taking a picture of the giant. I just observed the magic and tried to figure out how on earth can this kind of elegant beast could be a reality.

I love window seats, and I take pics of earth from up above.

When I’m up in the air, when the world I inhabit zooms out in to a birds eye view, I realize the baggage I carry. From up above the earth is a gorgeous globe of beauty, layered in unique facets, mingled with cotton like clouds. It clears my mind from the debris of day to day struggles. How come we struggle so hard to have basic rights for humans. Why so much greed? I reflect on my self. What a privileged life I have, surrounded by great people. But why we struggle so much in meeting rooms to collaborate on a worthy cause?

Then my crazy mind poured over A380 again. Despite been the most elegant beast, it has its’ own share of issues. Production delays crippled by supply issues may lead to close A380 business completely.

A great solution to air travel hangs on the line. So is our struggle for social enterprises. Though looks sexy from outside, we carry our scars. I will be meeting 20 like minded civil society leaders for the next 3 days. I’m excited to be here. I’m curious to know how they do things differently in their countries.

Future Forward

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Today, I have changed the title of this blog site to ‘Future Forward’ from the old ‘common sense blog’. When I started this blog, I wanted to navigate the complexity of the world to make some sense through my writing.

Lately I found out having common sense and writing about it, is not enough. We need to apply that sense to make things work for us all. I’ll focus more on why and how. What, is up to each one of us to decide.

I have also created 5 categories: technology, education, mindfulness, leadership, and social enterprise. These 5 things fascinates me each day. What we do with these 5 things will shape up the world we build. Naturally there’ll be blending of categories in my writing. Not to worry, because world is too complex to categorise in to neat labels, so is my blog, which is a frequent evolution of my learning curve.

Future forward – because we need to sail in to unknowns , work out things faster, and repeat. This is becoming the normal, not the exception. Chaos and tension are part of even routine type of work. I will write twice a week, at-least.

I also added a new page. Check this out.

 

Attention: Apply urgently.

 

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pic: credit

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing, knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

~ Leonardo Da Vinci

I’m surprised about how much busy we are. No one seems to have time. Parents don’t have time for their kids. Managers don’t have time for their staff. And yet what happened to that promise of technology will make our lives much easier, speedier and better ?

Da Vinci’s statement above is a paradox in modern times. He mentions urgency, and applying. Well we all are busy, ain’t we ?

Working at office with inbox, whatsapp, facebook, instagram and twitter open is not urgency nor applying. It is simply distraction. What Da Vinci wants us to apply urgently is our attention. Reading about the maestro himself, I found how immersed he had been about his work. Nothing in the world – absolutely nothing would distract him from the work he had on his mind. He used to lock him self in his lab for hours, sometimes few days until he came up with a solution. Good that there was no social media back then.

Social media is great. Create your own work, show it to the world, get people to see you, your work and your dedication. Then, of course, social media can be an amazing platform for you.

Are we using our finite attention well ? Are you addicted to distractions to an extent you cannot control ?

A great book to read is ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport. Or search youtube to see his TED talk. You will be blown away.

How to be a good technician. ( A different perspective)

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I meet some remarkable young people in Sri Lanka at the most unlikeliest of places. I found one last week, in front of a hardware store in my neighbourhood. It was 730 in the morning. I was there to rent a water motor, he was there to rent a heavy duty drill. He’s a mechanic, an expert on tractors.

We started chatting. He mentioned about a good mechanic he knows who’s work is like a super charm. I said, there are many good craftsmen in Sri Lanka, under the radar, not getting the recognition and respect. Then he said something amazing, that prompted me to write this post.

“Yes we have great technicians, but they don’t thrive to be what they truly can be. They don’t work hard as much as they are capable. Many form bad habits. They booze, gamble, and go after other women. ”

He went on to say, ” If one has good skills, if one can keep the 5 precepts , one can have a good life, money will come”

The air of confidence he told me this was so powerful, I took his energy in to the rest of my day. He’s 25.

***5 precepts the Buddha recommended for lay people, as found in the Dhammapada

Whoever destroys living beings,

speaks false words, who in the world

takes that which is not given to him,

or goes too with another’s wife,

or takes distilled, fermented drinks —

whatever man indulges thus

extirpates the roots of himself

even here in this very world.

(Dhp. 246-7)

 

When to startup

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pic credit: Dialog

After the #ngage session, after the food ran out, few young people (age 20-30) asked me questions. I could distill them to this question.

” I want to do a startup on something I love, but cannot find time with my current job. Should I quit? “

My answer is A BIG NO.

I’m 37.  If you have asked me the same question when I was 30, I’d have said yes.

I remember, back then, when a uni undergrad pitched his prototype during a hackathon, I asked him, “are you gonna do a job, or continue this prototype after graduation?” He said he’d do a job, but would improve prototype as a side kick. I laughed saying “you are not serious. Hence you will not make it.’

I don’t know what happened to him or his side kick. But I do know, what I said to him was wrong. I am sorry. I have seen more of  the world since.  Hence I beg to differ.

Here’s the reality I witnessed that changed my answer from yes to NO!

 1) Work is work

Work is work, either when you are employed, or running your own thing. Actually work is very much harder when it is your thing. In both cases, you’ll be judged by the quality of the work you do- the ownership you take to improve things in you, and around you. So get good actual work experience. Take back something that you can share in interviews with a gleam in your eye.

The HR managers I talk to, say “I’ll hire anyone ( no need of certificates) who’s willing to work hard”. Because most of the educated young people today, are sitting on their certificates, and have taken advise from entrepreneurial gurus to ‘work smart’. Work smart has been tactically reduced to ” just get by doing the easiest and laziest”. ( Logic: If I am paid the same salary, why should I work harder than them)

 2) A Good boss

At young age, a good foundation is equivalent to work a good few years under a good boss. A good boss is someone who uses your strengths and improves your potential. Who instills discipline in you. Makes you go get. Inspires you.

This is so important if you want to start on your own. Many lose this opportunity for the sake of next best opportunity- usually an improved benefits package. 2 years is now considered way too long a time to spend at one place.

 3) Why start from scratch?

when you startup on your own, let’s imagine, with out work experience, you may have to learn everything from scratch. You go through the process alone. It’s a time killer, an emotional black hole.

In a job, you see the processes, you can observe. You learn from many. Your risk is low. Learning is high. Of course you have to be ultra curious  and hungry to learn and be proactive. No body gives you opportunities. You create them, or you get none.

4) You do have extra time to do a side kick.

Yes, you definitely have time while doing a full time job.

Cut down your TV time, movie time, Facebook time, Weddings ( a colossal Sri Lankan time waster) etc. etc.

5) Be stable. Learn to save. Learn to minimise risk.

Read the above point few times. Forced will power only lasts until you run out of cash to put food on the table.

6) Build a Network of people who can help you.

If you have done good work at your job, if you have helped people to do better, you can use their blessings. They’ll introduce you to people who can help you. World is full of good people.

When you have above 6 things under your belt, you are on a good launching pad. Side kicks can well be full time work, gradually.

P.S: There are many people who have taken the leap of faith and have become super stars. We hear about them on media. But we do not hear about the people who did not make it. We do not hear each of their stories. There are many. Try to take the middle path, not veering in to extremes of high risk adrenaline or lethargy. 

The ministry of utmost happiness

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I saw a small boutique type M.D.Gunasena store in Fort, in front of the World Trade Centre. Been the book worm I am, made a mental note to visit it after the meeting.

They provided the same discounts they provide at the book fair. That tempted me to browse the books inside. ( At Book Fair, all I could do was to browse through a puddle of humans).

I came across “The ministry of utmost happiness” by Arundhati Roy. It was a wonderfully designed hard cover wrapped in a thin layer of polythene. I thought it would cost a lot, might as well get it on kindle. Yet to my surprise, it  was just Rs.1300 (with 15% discount). As of now the kindle price is $19 ( Rs.2900 +).

min of happiness 2

 

I read a lot on kindle, multiple books at a time. Mostly management, technology, and leadership genre. Yet this book, with its’ exquisite hard cover design, shiny papers with a nostalgic aroma, and eye soothing blend of multiple fonts – got me to throw away all other books, kindle and distractions- to sit down, to switch fan on, to sip water,  and read it like nothing else mattered in this world. Every sentence in the book feels like hand made and mind crafted. sometimes I read a sentence twice or thrice to capture the beauty of words creating a magical landscape of characters and their surroundings.

This is the first time in , may be , I don’t know like in 5 years, that I’ve sat down, completely ready to immerse in a novel. Funny thing is, been an avid kindle reader, I go to the reviews and comments section of books. I could remember there were many negative comments for this book by readers and reviewers. That’s why even with the heavy discount, I hesitated for a moment to purchase it. I realised how much I am now conditioned by the internet comments.

Back to my old ways. Reading a book completely.

Back then, I used to read a book or an article, underline all the words I don’t know, jot down all those unknown words in an exercise book one after another. Then I’ll take Malalsekara dictionary and find the meaning of each word, write it on the exercise book. Rather than memorising (COPY PASTE), I would read the book again, pausing at each underlined ( unknown) words. I would pause because I wanted to check if my mind can come up with the meaning. If I could not, I’ll look at my word book and would INSTALL that new word in my mind.

Here I am after 15 years, doing the same – learning new words and new rhythms of story telling – sharpening my linguistic saw.

Outsourcing everything

There are things you cannot outsource. There are things that cannot be ‘Uber of this’ or ‘AirBnB of that’. As much as there are trends, we should not be enslaved to think that everything can be outsourced to cut cost or look sexy launching an app. There are many failure stories, that does not get your attention.

There’s so much of human touch needed in serving the customer now. Never been a time like this where products and services are sold in abundance, but customers want personal attention. This is a conundrum. Growth does not mean just achieving new numbers. Growth requires the expansion of your existing relationships with customers. When organizations outsource their core value areas for the sake of sanity and cost, brutal outcomes may happen.

For example: I was rudely surprised when I was treated badly by an insurance agent, when I needed their service the most. After 2 and half years of paying monthly premiums, here I was looking for the first service from them. The person had no regard for this. He treated me as one of those ( I understand there are bad customers ) crooked ones. I immediately got back to the sales person who sold me the policy. He understood. Patched things up. In insurance, what matters is that interaction the customer have once in a while. Those precious moments decide whether the customer would stay or not.