Category Archives: Productivity
Have you heard of the howling dog story? It’s not as well-known as other moral stories, but this one packs a good punch. There are different iterations but the essence is the same.
Here’s my retelling of the story:
Tom just moved into a new neighborhood recently. He liked his house and his environment, but there was one thing he didn’t get.
His neighbor, Mr Tan, had a dog that kept howling non-stop. Literally. Day in, day out.
Initially Tom thought the dog was just going through a phase, so he ignored the howls, thinking it would eventually stop.
But it didn’t. It continued howling.
1 day passed. Nothing changed. 2 days passed. Still howling. 3 days. 5 days. 1 week. 2 weeks. 1 month. Still howling, with no signs of stopping.
“Auuuhhh………….Oouuuuuhhhhh…….Au au auuhhhhh..”
Finally, Tom couldn’t stand it anymore. One fine day, he walked over to Mr Tan’s house to see what was going on.
Sure enough, there was the dog, sitting at the front porch, howling pitifully to whoever was walking by.
“Auuuhhh…Ouuuhhh….Auuuuuuuuuuuuuu………Au au au auu au au auuuuhhhhh….”
On the other hand, Mr Tan was relaxing on his bench at the lawn, leisurely reading his newspapers and sipping a cup of coffee.
Wondering what was going on, Tom walked up to Mr Tan.
Tom: “Hi Mr Tan, is that your dog?”
Mr Tan: “Which dog?” He glanced around. “Oh that. Yep he’s mine.”
Tom: “Why does he keep howling?”
Mr Tan: “Oh, that’s cause he’s sitting on a nail.”
Tom: “Sitting on a nail?!?” Tom gave the dog a bewildered look.
“..Okay… so why doesn’t he just get away from the nail then??”
“Well, Tom………”, Mr Tan took a slow sip of his coffee before replying.
“…That’s because he doesn’t find it painful enough yet.”
All of us have nails in our lives that are poking us. Some of us have career nails. Jobs we don’t enjoy. Work that’s dragging us down and sucking our life away. Jobs that we complain about, day in day out, yet we don’t do anything about them. Managers and/or colleagues who stifle us. Recognition that’s overdue. Limited career developments. Unsatisfactory pay and benefits. Not having made a name for ourselves yet in our career.
Some of us have relationship nails. Not being able to find our special someone. Seeing people around us get attached/married while we remain single. Having someone but not sure if he/she is really “the one”. Having a partner who isn’t around enough. Having a partner who is around too much. Having a partner who is too domineering. Unsorted doubts and grievances.
Some of us have financial nails. Increasing expenditures that aren’t matched by our income. Increasing responsibilities we can’t handle. Savings that dip month after month. Increasing debt from credit cards. Not enough money to buy what we want. Making do by limiting our expenditures.
Some of us have study nails. Increasing backlog in homework that we need to catch up on. Upcoming exams we’ve not studied for. Pending projects and assessments that we’ve not completed yet. Revision that should have been completed long ago. Academic-related issues we have not sorted out with our professors/teachers.
Some of us have dream nails. Dreams that we really want to pursue but aren’t for some reason. Dreams that we have been thinking about for a while but haven’t acted on yet. Dreams we are scared to see unfulfilled when it’s too late for us to do anything.
And there are so many other nails. Health nails. Friendship nails. Spirituality nails. Family nails. Habit nails.
Each of us have different nails poking us. Some of us have a couple of big nails that pokes us every once in a while. Some of us have several small nails that poke on and off. Some of us have multiple big and small nails that poke repeatedly. Rather than take action, most of the times we just sit and howl. Cause the pokes aren’t painful enough.
Are there any nails in your life you are not addressing?
Why? Is it cause they are not painful enough yet?
What are you going to do about them?
Act immediately or do something when it’s too late to do anything?
Don’t wait until the nails really hurt before you take action. Because when that happens, that usually means it’s too late to do anything.
You might want to read:
How To Achieve Any Goals Successfully (7-part goal achievement series)
What Are You Running Away From? – Dealing with avoidance behaviors in our lives
How To Overcome Procrastination (5-part series)
Copyright © Celestine Chua
Most goals usually set off on a high note. At the beginning, you are self-driven and motivated to achieve them. You diligently adhere to your plan. When you do, you feel terrific. You are on an upward momentum and the possibilities of what’s next excites you. For a while, you look forward to what’s next.
But then after a period of time, the momentum wanes. You think about the goal, but you don’t feel like working on it. You become rooted by inertia and you start to procrastinate. Frustrated by the lack of results, you begin to resist your goals. You subconsciously turn to other activities as avoidance.
When Goals Stop Working
I’m an advocate of goal setting because it works. Goals are important and they serve their place. If you don’t already set goals on regular basis, here are 6 important reasons why you should do so.
But there are times when goals don’t work. Such as:
- When you no longer feel motivated by the goals.
- When you dread/avoid working on the goals. You see them as a chore, another “task” to be completed. You have to literally force yourself just to do them.
- When your goals make you feel lousy about yourself (more than they inspire you).
- When you feel your goals are like a burden.
- When you don’t even remember why you want those goals in the first place.
There are times when I feel burdened by my goals. For example, I set targets to write a certain number of articles and guest posts every month. If I don’t achieve them after the goal date, I would feel lousy. Then for a period of time, I would be dancing the tango between trying to accomplish the goal ASAP and getting nowhere in it.
I have learned from experience that forcing myself to write is the last thing to do when I feel uninspired. Doing so brings me nowhere. Not only do I spend a copious amount of time and effort just to get the words out, the end result is unreadable. The writing is convoluted, the words are empty, nothing connects in the writing with the reader – you can easily tell it’s written in an uninspired state. Articles I write when I’m uninspired never get to see the light of the day. Whatever writing I manage to churn out gets deleted/trashed, and in the end I’m back to the drawing board (or in this case, the WordPress editor). Now that’s a whole load of time and effort wasted and I feel even worse off because all my effort went down to the drain.
Likewise for some of my clients, there are times when they have goals which they are no longer inspired by. Initially they would be enthusiastic about their goals, sticking to the plans they created and making good headway. But after a while, they begin to slip. They feel bad about it and try to pick up the pieces with limited success, making them feel even worse. They become weighed down by their goals, as if they are a ton of bricks.
If you find this happening to you, that’s means your goals no longer inspire you. That means it’s time to relook into your goals list.
Relooking Into Your Goals List
The very reason why you set goals is so you can achieve more than you would without goals. Yet, if your very goals are putting you off, making you feel crappy and causing a misalignment inside you, then your goals aren’t exactly helping you to achieve more. In fact, they are probably making you achieve lesser than normal since it’s stirring up all these negativity in you. You are too busy resisting and battling these stray thoughts that you are too tired to do anything else. That’s red alert that something is wrong.
There are various reasons why you may be uninspired by your goals now:
- You became attached to your performance of those goals. When you didn’t achieve your earlier milestones, you became weighed down. This snowballs into a bigger burden over time and repeat encounters.
- Your goal was just a way to achieve your desired outcome, which should be your real goal to begin with. (Read Principle #4 on Objective vs. Activity Goals.) It has since become irrelevant as you know of other, better ways to achieve your envisioned outcome.
- You lost touch with why you wanted these goals or there is no longer a reason to achieve these goals
- Your priorities/interests have changed and you are no longer interested in achieving these goals
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Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man a Rooster in disguise.
OK, jokes aside, rising up early has been advocated by numerous Time Management and productivity experts out there. You will scores of blogs talking about how to become an early riser, giving you challenges to become an early riser, give you benefits of rising early etc etc. Around 1400+ years ago, Islam instituted the Fajr prayer which is performed just after dawn and before the sun rises. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) made the following dua (prayer) for the people of his Ummah (his followers):
“Oh Allah, bless my Ummah in the early part of the morning” (Tirmizi)
The folks at ProductiveMuslim.com have come out with a great animated video on praying Fajr (and staying awake after it)! It highlights perfectly the productivity boost you get by the early morning start, with the spiritual calmness that praying Fajr gives you. In addition, you get to take advantage of the dua of the Prophet (SAW)!
It is not an easy thing, requires making changes in your life (sleeping early for one!), and needs strong will power. However, I can say from personal experience that the prayer I enjoy the most is the Fajr prayer in the masjid. Moreover, the day that I sleep through Fajr time, my day is always tired and lazy. I am still not at the level that I manage to stay up after Fajr (even after going to the masjid!) but that is because I have been unable to change my sleeping habits to turn in early at night. May Allah make me and the rest of us among those who pray Fajr in the masjid and make us among those who stay awake after it. Aameen.