Don’t just set goals, set systems.

Goal Setting Is a Hamster Wheel. Learn to Set Systems Instead. | Adam Alter | Big Think

If you already watched this video, you know what the heading meant. I wanted to share this message with you because I think you can benefit from it too. As we all share this habit of setting goals, because that is how we were taught as a method to live life successfully. But as described by Mr. Alter here so wisely, it is a failed system. It has inherent design flaws. You fail until you reach the anti-climax of achieving your goal. But even that is not enough, you are never satisfied. Even worse, now your hunger is increased and you set an even bigger goal, meaning longer period of failure. So, what is actually this magical system of System setting that overcomes these flaws?

System setting

System is, simply put, a habit.

Anything you do repeatedly, over a period of time, becomes a habit. In order to achieve a goal, you break that into smaller, daily steps and do that regularly. I mentioned about this small step in my earlier blog about Optimising our Ordinary lives.

Mindset shift

The challenge for you is not to define smaller, daily, doable steps to get to a goal but to forget about the goal altogether.

If you have to complete a project at work in a week, you can define smaller steps in that project, and do them daily and you would be surprised how natural it was to be on time, without stress. Of course, it is more complicated than that because there are other people who do not care for your system and there are people who will keep messing with your schedule. But if you are focused on doing that one thing daily, nothing can stop you from being on time.

Prioritise: how to make a task list

When you have created your daily habit but still have a lot of other tasks in a day, write them down. These can be anything, related or unrelated tasks. This list will protect your habit and keep you on the track.

Then, mark all the tasks you have to do today, another group for tomorrow and the rest of the items in another group. The first group can be named A, the other B and the third, C. Now in group A, mark the task you must do first as 1, making this task A1. Then mark the next important task as A2 and so on until all the tasks in group A have been assigned a number. This is the proposed order of doing things. Now do the same for group B and then for group C. Hence, now you have prioritised all the tasks that you are supposed to do today and in near future. Try to make this list as exhaustive and inclusive as possible. Include every task, even if it is taking out the garbage because this will remove unknown and unscheduled tasks from your planning and give you greater control over your day.

Try to do this at least once a week in the beginning. Not every day is as thrilling as today and some days you might wanna relax and let loose. This list-making method is an absolute hero at taking care of everything, so use it as frequently as you need it.


Changing yourself takes courage before anything because you have to accept that you are not perfect and have a flaw. Be a gentle critic of yourself. Then, once you accept flaws in your methods, you can change. And some of the information above may help you do it.

Hope this was helpful to you.

How to improve your Handwriting

Handwriting can be improved, at any stage of life. The only difference between improving your handwriting being in school vs improving your handwriting as an adult, is the amount of practise. As an adult you will get less practise to actually write and ponder over the shapes you just drew.

It is actually easier than it looks to improve your handwriting. Let us explore how.

Side quests

Before you go on for Boss fight, some side quests need to be taken care of. These are the following three:

  1. Get your favourite pen
  2. Get some sheets of paper
  3. Free your time (even 2 minutes count)

It is important that you know your tool. Choose a pen that you find the most satisfying to write with. It can be a ball point pen, ink pen or a roller pen. As long as it feels right in your hand, it is fine. My present favourite is Lamy ink pen because of its smoothness on the paper.

Any type of paper will do as long it is not made of raw pulp, hand made or anything that drinks ink. Check if it is compatible with your pen. Also, it should be smooth enough to let the pen skid without getting stuck in it.

And lastly, time. Just start with 5 minutes. And if you still like it after 5 minutes, you will make time yourself.

4 Steps to improve your Handwriting

Start with the Alphabet.

It is a good place to start to improving your handwriting by practising Alphabets. Back to school but his time with your choice. Following are the 26 letters of the English Alphabets for you to observe and practise.

Following Alphabets are a guide for you to practise. If you don’t like it, try a different one. Or maybe change these and make new ones. As long as you take care in drawing each letter, it’s fine.

Do not rush

I learned to write fast because I needed to. Writing fast is one way to write your language paper in time in exam. So, I had to balance the handwriting and speed to get the best marks. But you are in no rush now. You do not need to write under a time constraint. So, whenever you write, do not rush and write with half the speed you previously used to write. It will instantly improve your handwriting.

COpy letters

I used to pick typography as a kid from sign boards, tv ads, movies, even from cartoons. Keep your eye open for any interesting letter and add it in your arsenal. Try any letter couple of times with different styles and see how it fits. If it doesn’t, leave it. Full disclosure, I picked my ‘f’ from Professor Dumbledore’s handwriting in Harry Potter.

Mix letters

Try to scribble on any piece of paper you get and try to write as many possible versions of a letter as you can. One way to do this is to write different words with the same letter such for practising a with other letters, write apple, bat, create, master, camp, lamp, arc etc.

Benefits of having a good handwriting

Photo by George Milton on

Leave A lasting impression

Writing something is literally leaving a lasting impression on someone. When someone will look at your handwriting, they will make an assumption. Your handwriting can make you look confident or meek, optimistic or pessimistic, careful or careless.

Enjoy Writing

If you are fascinated by your handwriting and try to improve it, every written piece can become a relaxing experience. Doing something you like makes you happy. So enjoy writing, enjoy making each alphabet and it will bring you enough joy to write.

Train your brain

Good handwriting requires a good hand-eye coordination. It automatically takes a lot of concentration to do something good and repeat that. Once you reach a level that you do not require any longer to write well, challenge your handwriting again and start the process all over. Your brain loves challenges because they keep it fit.

That’s all folks. Hope you have fun improving your impression on this world.

How to improve your communication skills

I’ve been speaking for a long time. I have won Debates and Extempores in school and college and sometimes, I manage to win an argument or two against my wife, which I must say is more impressive than all other wins combined.

Here are some of the fine thoughts that I have on how one can improve their way of communicating so that they can make a compelling argument that may reach out to their audiance’s logos, pathos and ethos.

The complexity of communication

Communication means transfer of ideas from one person to another by the means of our senses. We communicate in our personal life and professional life differently because the place, person and time determine the type of words, tone and logic we use to communicate. To complicate matters further, most of us get no training for doing this in life other than our actual experiences of what works for a certain situation and what does not.

In life, three things will dictate the level of your professional success – your ability to speak, your ability to write and the quality of your ideas

Patrick Winsten, American Computer Scientist, MIT

Another feature of Communication is that it is an interactive process. It has a feedback loop. The person you are communicating with will give you suggestions about what works for them better and what does not. These suggestions can be direct instructions or subtle hints.

Some people are more perceptive of these hints and are, as a result, become excellent speakers and communicators. Great Orators can sense what their audience is thinking and they move a great number of people to action just with their words, a really tough task if the audience is not paid to listen to you. Others can write books filled with stories of information that can keep you sitting for hours, staring at some words etched on a page. They are communicating, just with different mediums.

So, it all comes down to this. What makes communication great? What makes people listen to you every time you say or write or gesture something?

Improving the Fundamentals

There is one trick that nature uses to create all the living and non-living things around us. It repeats the same step in different situations. How do mountains and volcanoes form? The tectonic plates move and when they press against each other, they either go up or down. Repeat that with continental plates, you get Mountains. Repeat that with Oceanic Plates, and you get Volcanoes. How does a tree grow so complex and tall? Each branch divides into two similar branches but smaller in size. Repeat that couple of times, and boom, a tree. And repeat that in Brazil, you get a Rainforest. Repeat that in the Himalayas, you get Pine trees.

Learning from nature’s simple yet powerful rules, we are going to form some rules about communication and we are gonna define ways to do that so that we can use them in different situations to generate different solutions.

Rule # 1: Speak with a compassionate tone

Tone means the character you reflect in your voice. It is present in both the written and spoken word. For both, it is important to focus on the balance of facts, emotions and the need of the listener. It becomes easier to control and modify if you focus on the welfare of the listener and the needs of the listener. Even if you are expressing your need to have something, you should take care of the listener’s ability to do that. Let’s see the example below to show what I mean..

PhraseToneListener’s opinion
Would you like to go to a movie tonight?CompassionateOpen to suggestions, considerate of listeners’ choice, Polite
We should watch a movie tonight.AuthoritativeInconsiderate the listener’s choice

Let us take another example. Both are ads, aimed to introduce a certain Printer to customers.

PhraseTone Reader’s opinion
P55 is the best product in the market in its segment. Our products have stood out the test of time and our customers have rated us the best in the service category.SelfishFocussed on self, not very humble
Our P 55 printers are designed for your business needs and our services are focussed to keep your projects on time. We take pride in serving you the best product and services.CompassionateHumble, considerate of customer’s needs

A compassionate tone comes from an honest wish to be gentle to other human beings.

Whenever possible, practise the most compassionate way to say something in your head, and then say those words until this becomes your second nature. If it is not clear to you what is a compassionate tone, just watch someone you admire talk. For example, I like how Tom Hanks talks. He is one of the most liked people on Earth for a reason. You like him just by hearing him.

Rule # 2: Always have greetings ready

First impressions are hard to shake off. It is better to practice some form of greetings and goodbyes to make you stand out and sound confident. If you start with a good handshake and a confident introduction, the next words coming out of your mouth will have a better chance of being heard and remembered.

So, Practise the 1-2-3 of a greeting: Eye contact-Handskake/Gesture-Greeting in words. This will improve your reactions to sudden encounters and you would start off communication by sounding confident as a Leader.

Rule # 3: Do not start with a joke

Humour is a powerful tool to create a personality around people. It reflects intellect and openness to criticism. But never open a conversation with a joke. The danger with that is that in the beginning, people may still be adjusting to your tone, voice and loudness. Your well-timed and hilarious opener may as well be not heard at all because people were not adjusted to your talking. It’s best to put some jokes later or in the end.

Rule # 4: Know your volume

The correct speaking volume can help you become a much better speaker because then people can actually listen to you longer without having a headache. How to find it? Next time you speak to a friend, ask them to spot your volume. If it gets too high or too low, they should warn you. This was, in some time, you will notice yourself and control it.

Rule # 5: Understand the central issue

Whether you are debating in college or talking to someone at work about a new issue, to effectively be heard, you must always keep an eye on the main topic. You may get distracted by your own argument because maybe you just a long winding example of something not directly related to the issue or your opponent created some diversion, you must reorient yourself to the topic asap. Ask what is the end result of this debate? Is my next argument going to being me closer to it? Was the last argument going in the right direction?


Successful communication not only conveys your point to the listener but also tells you what the other side is feeling about the issue. Communication goes beyond words and gestures but also involves empathising with the person in front of you. All the steps and rules above are there so that you may understand the person you are communicating with, so that you may speak in a way that they understand.

So, understanding people around you will automatically improve the quality of your communication.

How to get better at your engineering job

If you are just starting in an engineering job, you may find it overwhelming to cope up with the amount of information you have to process on a daily basis, most of which was not taught to you in college. And then there is a problem of getting better at your job. Getting better at your job is different to learning in school because there is no fixed theory for you to first learn and then practise, and you are learning while always being judged by your boss. For the sake of ease of writing, I am going to assume your boss is a male.

What am I doing wrong?

Task related mistakes happen in one of these three categories – input, process and output.

For example, if the task is to prepare a report about the structural calculation of steel connections, the input is all the communication regarding the task till you start working on it, process is the actual calculation, problem solving, design considerations, report preparation etc, and the output will be saving your work, presenting your work to the boss etc.

One other area of mistake is the non-work-related communication such as communication with our colleagues, body language etc.

How do I fix my mistakes?

1. Input mistakes

Understanding the task given by the boss

Being new to this, you may not know all the terms used during a conversation. When the boss is explaining you your task, always carry a notebook to note down the details and important terms. If you don’t know any term or a step of the task, ask before leaving his office and starting your work. Best to clear all the details when he is ready to discuss them. If he was in a rush and said he will explain it to you later, note it down, go to a colleague and ask him. Also, maintain a list of all the new words you hear. Best write it in an excel sheet so that you can go through them time to time. Use Anki or any other method of spaced repetition to recall those words for longer memory retention.

Forgetting what your boss said

As there will be a lot of information related to any task, such as, dimensions, alignments, algorithms, flowcharts, calculations, report format etc., you need to be able to record it. Use a notepad at all times when talking to your boss or wherever there is an exchange of information. Also, it makes you look serious about your job. Further, review everything as soon as you reach your desk because some of that you may have written in shorthand and even you won’t be able to decipher its meaning after one hour. So, rewrite the tasks and important info and make a step-by-step list by own. It should not take more than 10 minutes for you to finish.

2. Process mistakes

Taking too much time to submit

You may be getting stuck at one or several steps of a task. After writing down the steps, mark the difficult part where you may get stuck. Most of the time we get stuck because we want to solve that problem ourselves. It becomes a matter of pride and intellectual challenge. It works in college but it is not an efficient method at work because it costs you time and your time is worth money to your boss. And he will hate to lose any money. So, if you cannot figure out the solution in 15 minutes, ask a colleague to help you with it. Don’t be shy or fear any ridicule. You will make fool of yourself once but not asking will make a fool of you every time.

Calculation mistakes

Calculation mistakes often occur because of loss of concentration. First, get some coffee. Yes, you need to be fully awake and attentive. If possible, plan to calculate in your peak attention time, like mornings before 11:00. If not possible to choose or not a fan of coffee, chew a chewing gum, drink water at every 20 minutes or so and listen to some music you can focus with. I personally prefer some upbeat pop or when stuff gets serious, J.S.Bach is my main man. Stand up and walk after every 30-40 minutes of sitting.

Also, another reason of making calculation mistakes is that you did not consider all the information. Start by drawing a rough sketch on paper and applying all the loads. Go through all the loads Axes by Axes, the x, the y and the z. Consider all the angles and don’t be lazy thinking about difficult loading conditions.

Not making your work checkable

One of my most frequent mistakes was not making my work easy to follow. Generally, when you set out to either draw, model or calculate something, you will use various help lines, sketches, formula and reference material. But if you do not put the correct references where they belong, no one would be able to understand where did you get those values from. Make clear sketches and paragrapgh references to your work. If drawing in Autocad, make sure to pack all the help lines in a seperate layer, so that it can be displyed neatly when needed. The main idea here is that your boss or the person checking your work should not waste his time figuring out how you did it. He should be simply able to see it.

Error in preparing the report in the right format

Your boss may get pissed at little details like the orientation of an image or the font size being irregular because he wants to send this report to a client and this report will represent the company itself. So, it needs to be done in a standard way, down to the font size so as to maintain a level of professionalism and reflect expertise. Ask about an example report from last project and ask if there are any changes to be done with the format. If none, then stick to the script and if yes, note them down and do them before submitting the report back.

Not saving your work

This is a rookie mistake not to save your work if you are working on a software. Because software crash and then you lose your last 2 hours’ worth of work. Again, your time = ka Ching for your boss. So, press cltr + S and save him money.

Not using the office method of file management

File management is one thing you cannot learn in college. Every company has its local server where it stores files. And then there is an order of folders and location for each type of file. For example, if a project is about the planning and design of a road, there will folders named – incoming communication, outgoing communication, structural design, drawing, tender documents etc. Save your files in the correct folder and with specified name. The file name is a major game changer when it comes to work place maturity. Learn the right way by asking your boss or colleagues.

3. Output mistakes

Executing everything your boss asked you to do

It will be taken care of if you are writing boss’s instruction down and following a step-by-step workflow. If still it happens, then it was because of some distraction, forgetting where to start from the next day, or because your boss modified some details too late in the job and it was one of the things in the start. To avoid these, take a pause before submitting your work, and review it. Did you check your list? is every concern addressed? Was anything updated? is any details marked red? just pay attention before submitting to these clues.

Communicating your ideas to the boss

This one will require some courage. Now we are in the realm of personal development. You may at some point want to ask your boss about an unrelated topic in your job or make a suggestion to him about a project which you may be your proposal for something new. How do you do that? Ideally, to be taken seriously, you need to be ready to start working on your proposal if asked. So, collect some background information about how you would execute it, or the numbers or steps related to that idea. Then find the right time. Technical communication is part timing and part data. It is okey to have partial knowledge about the data part because you won’t have all the information till you begin to work on it. Observe when your boss is not on the phone and is less engaged with people. Dealing with people requires energy and we don’t want him to be drained before listening to your idea. Then ask for permission to share some ideas and be precise about your idea. Start with your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a collection of sentences in which you will explain him your idea in an elevator ride from his office to the ground floor. Then after he decides to listen further, get into detail. If not, try later with a different idea or a different pitch.

4. Communication

Communicating with your client

You may not get a chance to talk to your client in the initial months but once you get to, be structured with it. There must be a mix of personal plus professional communication. No one likes to talk to a robot, so do not be one. Ask about their day before this call, to know a little about their mental state and also to establish a caring relationship. If they want to get to the details right on, ask about their plans for the day or weekend after the work discussion. Or if you know them from last call, ask about that last task. Ask about their opinions and suggestions. If nothing, ask about the weather in their city. But if your company is charging the client for the phone call and you are providing the solution on this call, be specific to the task from the beginning and talk about personal stuff at the end of the call. This way your client controls the time they want to talk and they won’t feel that you are stalling to make money, which would look unprofessional.

General communication skills

This is a topic worth its own article but I’ll try to sum it up here. There are verbal and non-verbal communication. Verbal is your language skills and non-verbal is your body language and dressing sense. To improve your verbal skills, learn the work-related vocabulary. Note down the new words you hear on a paper and keep making a list. Just read it without trying to remember it whenever you get time and make an excel sheet too if time permits you. As you will not look at that list anywhere outside your work as you have a life too, try to revise is every other day for just 10 minutes before starting a task.

Non-verbal communication is dictated by your body posture, facial expressions, tone and loudness of your voice and your dressing sense. Sit straight mostly, slouching posture shows you are bored or lazy. Try to smile whenever you greet someone. Be cautious of your voice as it changes with your emotions. Depending on the discussion, your voice can quiver, become too loud in excitement or anger, or too meek under pressure. Try to be mindful of this. These are subconscious reactions of our body to different situations which are either perceived by the body as rewarding or punishing. To avoid being awkward, this subconscious reaction needs to be controlled. Being mindful of your emotions will help you tame those changes.

Non-work talks with co-workers

If your get time to talk to your co-workers, use it well to develop healthy work relationships. If you are an extrovert, you are already laughing at the very notion of me suggesting you to talk because that is why you probably changed your job. But if you are an introvert like me, you should try to engage a little everyday with your colleagues. It is actually not that hard. Being an introvert, you are already good at listening. Use it. Ask about their weekend, the weather, any sports you follow or if nothing strikes, what are they eating. And build up your questions from the opening question. Follow up one or two question and then diverge to a different idea because you are not interrogating them. Also, talk about your side of the story too.

Am I all better now?

Yes, you are. But always keep an amateur mindset. Keep learning the trade, keep making mistakes. Just try not to repeat them.