Note: While reading a book whenever I come across something interesting, I highlight it on my Kindle. Later I turn those highlights into a blogpost. It is not a complete summary of the book. These are my notes which I intend to go back to later. Let’s start!

  • You can selectively add or remove a habit and thus, almost start to edit the person, giving you huge transformative power to mould the person into someone else—someone that this person may aspire to be.

  • Keystone habits are those that have a ripple effect on other habits and pretty much dictate your day. For a college student, a keystone habit might be waking up early in the morning. If they get up late habitually, they end up missing their morning classes, which might lead to feelings of guilt, lower grades and a reduction in self-esteem, reinforcing the self-image of being a bad student, a cycle that keeps repeating each semester. If only this student could get into the habit of waking up an hour before the first class, the entire cycle could be reversed. Another example of a keystone habit is a morning workout. Most people who start their day with a workout or a morning walk feel very positive and upbeat about the day and nothing can bring them down. Not willing to undo the work done in the morning, they are a lot more reluctant about eating anything unhealthy during the day, and each positive choice further strengthens their resolve.

  • Some useful tips for intelligently crafting your learning journey: Start by learning the fundamentals of that field. Most tasks and activities usually operate on some basic principles, and a conceptual understanding of those principles can provide a shortcut to the learning process. Hire a coach if you can afford one, or use a relevant online resource as a proxy for a coach. Your learning will be exponentially faster under the guidance of an expert. Break down the subject or skill into its building blocks. Using these fundamental units, create mental patterns and hooks, analogies and metaphors that will help you remember and understand the concepts better. Talk to experts and practitioners of the field and set realistic expectations. This is to ensure that you start with clear concepts and a proper understanding of the fundamentals. Make sure that you create an environment without distractions for your study and practice. Learning requires patience and focus, which get disrupted in a distracting environment. This includes distractions from the phone and social media, so if you want to get the most out of your practice, make sure to fully immerse yourself in that activity. Systematically review concepts regularly, but with a gap between learning and reviewing. New concepts need to be reinforced regularly, but the concepts you’ve known for a long time don’t need to be reviewed for recall. Many of us lament the fact that we don’t have the time to pursue all that life has to offer us. Now, twenty hours can be broken down into just one hour of practice a day for twenty days. Even if you can manage only an hour on the weekends, it still adds up to only ten weeks. Imagine learning the basics of a new skill in a few months, and keeping up this practice for years. During a phase in my life when I had a lot of free time on my hands, I tried my hand at juggling, starting with a few juggling books and some basic techniques. At first, juggling three balls seemed very difficult, but I managed to get there after just a few days of practice. Instead of trying mindlessly, I focused on getting the basics right from day one. This made the learning process both efficient and fun. The rewards of learning something quickly are immense, and such learning also activates the brain cells, boosts your cognitive power and enhances your effectiveness in other walks of life.

  • Productivity is about maximising impact during a finite amount of time. In business circles, people look at the return on capital. For productivity, we can look at the return on time. Depending on how you use your time, you can have mediocre returns, stellar returns or you may while away all your time. No matter what choice you make, you will do well to remember that you have a very limited amount of time to deploy, and every day, time is running out.

  • Productivity is as much about optimising your time for what truly matters to you as it is about not wasting time on things that don’t matter. This is where things can go really haywire, especially in our modern lifestyles. If you don’t pay conscious attention, every day can be nothing but a stream of continuous interruptions from a variety of sources vying for your attention. With instant messaging and social media, 24/7 connectivity on the phone, continuous video-streaming, emails popping up at all hours of the day, one can easily spend an entire day just responding to these external stimuli. This can create a semblance of being busy but will hardly ever lead to any meaningful or productive output.

  • There’s one last secret about naps that Daniel Pink, a one-time nap sceptic, recommends: having a cup of coffee just before you doze off. Caffeine, a stimulant, takes about twenty minutes to enter your bloodstream, so if you have a cup of coffee, set your alarm for twenty minutes and then take a nap. You’ll wake up refreshed and ready to go. He calls this technique ‘nappuccino’. Several companies now have nap rooms or nap pods, where employees can go for a quick, refreshing siesta to overcome the slump in their days.

  • One way to enhance creativity is to embrace chaos, something that might be quite a challenge for those who are used to structured and analytical ways of thinking. Embracing chaos means at times letting go of your sense of control and just going with the flow, taking things as they come and go. An organisation that has mastered the process of structured chaos is Pixar—the company that has produced fifteen blockbusters in a row, a streak unheard of in Hollywood or in almost any creative profession. How has Pixar managed these consistent successes over the last two decades? The company’s founders credit the meticulously crafted culture of creativity that was engineered right when the company was founded. At the heart of this process is a highly decentralised environment, in which everyone has complete freedom to voice their opinions and critique ideas without any fear of judgement or without the worry of stepping on someone’s toes. To further augment this, the company headquarters are designed in a way that leads to the most possible chance encounters among team members. Steve Jobs, who was the largest shareholder at Pixar, ensured that all the restrooms were right at the centre of the building to maximise chances of people running into each other, leading to casual discussions. And over a period of time, a lot of new ideas emerged from those casual interactions. A tool the company has adopted since the very beginning is akin to what we now call ‘rapid iteration’ and ‘fail-fast’. As the company makes progress with a plotline, creatives and early production sequences, the work is presented to a group of people from all departments in a no-holds-barred format. People can be brutally candid in their feedback and nit-pick on the smallest of details. This often leads to completely discarding the work and starting over. This daily iteration for many projects ultimately leads to a very polished product, which the box office has been now validating with one blockbuster success after another for years.