A lot us generally try to keep some ideas to start doing something from the new year onwards and generally fizzle out within a month or two. Typical resolutions are like getting a six pack abs, running a marathon, learning to play an instrument etc. Many times we will end up with abstract goals or hard to achieve goals without any second thought into how difficult it is to achieve it.

What is the best way to hang on to a resolution? It is simple, concentrate on maintaining a streak of doing simple things every day instead of signing up for a large goal. I was able to achieve many things by doing simple things but everyday. Sort of a deliberate attempt at improving everyday by however small percentage that was.

This inspiration was drawn from Seinfeld calendar which was pointed out by my mentor. Maintaining a streak will bring discipline and will allow us to remain focussed on what we had signed up for. I had initially set out a goal to learn a foreign language to a level that if end up in a country speaking that language then I will be able to find my way to navigate around.

I did not go very far in learning another language when I had a resolution year on year to learn something. Things changed when I converted that to a streak, I installed Duolingo app and maintained a streak of not missing a single day of practice of learning a new language. It takes as little as 5 minutes to maintain the streak everyday. To my surprise I realised that I can learn to speak more than one language in a year at a tourist interaction level without consciously eyeing for it.

Little drops make mighty ocean

I had other streaks which helped me achieve different things without consciously working towards it. One such streak is minimum one blog a month that I have hit 10 years this month, it has been one of the most rewarding streaks that I have ever pursued. Plan for your lofty goals but approach it systematically through streaks.

The first thing that I noticed was the title of the audio book, which mentioned that it is ‘Illustrated’. I had my doubts, how an audio book could be illustrated, may be it was named not to clash with the book by Francesco Cirillo. The narration is lucid and it was easy for me grasp most of content while driving to office, so the illustration here was more to help paint the picture in the listener’s mind. After the drive to office when I sat down to review what I heard during the drive, that is the time I felt the disadvantage of the audio book format. Fortunately ‘The Pragmatic Bookshelf’ had made the table of contents available which helped to review the chapters after I had heard them. I would say the audio book is a complement to the Paper/e-book than a standalone audio book.

Coming to the technique discussed in the book, I was surprised the speed at which I found the technique to be effective. The simplest change I did to myself was to handle the interruptions and backlogs well. As a consultant I was used to constant interruptions and as a result grow a huge backlog of tasks. I set aside just two pomodori every day for some tasks (like blogs, presentations) which required some concentration, I was able to accomplish those tasks in far lesser amount of time than I used to take earlier. The effectiveness of that prompted me to get a diary to help plan and record my days. I have begun to find the difference it brings by keeping me focused and organised on my tasks and also made me come to a mindset to drop or delegate tasks I am not able to do.

Will I recommend this audio book to anyone? I had a glance at the paper book in the library, compared to that I would say the audio book as a standalone makes it difficult to go back and refer or review what you have listened. The technique is very useful to learn and it makes a good impact in a short amount time, my suggestion is to go for the e-book/paper book, and proceed one chapter at a time, try to implement, review and introduce your variations. You will be surprised to see how quick it starts changing your lifestyle.

Dr. Liz Alexander visited ThoughtWorks Bangalore today (Sunday Apr 29, 2012) to give a talk about writing a non-fiction book. Many thanks to her for agreeing to give a talk on a sunday morning. It was great to hear from someone who has written 13 books and has a readership of a million.

Below are my key takeaways from talk.

Why to write a book?

  • The question I like to answer is ……
  • Who is my target audience?
  • Where are the audience and how do I find them?


  • Establish a writing platform, show up at places, expand reputation. Blogs, magazine, conferences matter.

SEO of book writing, it is OES

  • O-Opt-in identifier. Take into account demography and psychography.
  • E-Emotional hook. Can people relate themselves to the book?
  • S-Special sauce. Our knowledge and expertise.

Help from others

  • We need the help of proof readers, critical reviewers, layout artists, cover artists, page look and feel designers for a book to be of publishable quality.


  • Vanity publishing vs commercial publishing
  • Vanity publishing requires upfront investment from the author to get it to the market.
  • Commercial publishing takes a lot of effort, credibility, being at the right place right time. Also pays upfront but a lion’s share of revenue goes to the publisher for the risk taken.

Ego vs care for readers

  • It will be tempting to push an idea into a book through vanity publishing which is like a startup idea being tried in a small office space at the corner of the road without any business plans.
  • The desire to sell the books written will also focus on what the readers want than trying to get the book published and not sell much.
  • Critical reviewers are very important to shape the final look. Friends, relatives and fans will just praise the effort without helping to improve.

Once again I thank Dr. Liz Alexander for her presence and sharing the knowledge, Rajiv Mathew for arranging the meetup.

Image: Rajiv Mathew/ThoughtWorks