Six Wonderful Skills I’m glad I picked after School, which you can too.

25 Jul

I’ve truly had fantastic teachers throughout my life. Right throughout school, through religious school, during my association with Toastmasters, at my first job at KPMG all in Dubai and right now in Bangalore I’m extremely fortunate to have got highly intelligent, most sincere and extremely dedicated personalities giving their best to me. Issac Newton had once written, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” How beautifully put. I feel just the same. If I’m anything today, it’s because of God, my family and my teachers.

Looking back, here are a few additional skills that I’m really glad I picked apart from formal education. Many of the below skills have had significant positive impacts, some have even been life-changing.

1. GTD
Regular readers would’ve noticed that we regularly write about GTD on this blog. That’s because GTD is a truly phenomenal system that would greatly improve the performance of anybody. Be it a school going child, an office-going executive or a house-wife.

GTD is the ultimate time-management and stress-management system. GTD does that by dealing with issues on focussing your work, procrastination, organising home/work space, identifying priorities and helping you find what’s your purpose on this planet. It’s the true swiss-army knife set of skills that will have you the most prepared no matter what situation you are in. What would have been the result if I had picked-up GTD during my School Days? My grades would certainly be higher and I would have been even more focussed and clear on my goals in life. Any school or college kids reading this, or for that matter even those who’ve completed college many years ago, if there’s just one thing that you want to pick from this list, try GTD. Yes, it does require discipline but it’s fun, quite easy to implement and will propel learning all the below items in the list too.

For resources on GTD, have a look at my earlier blog post here where I’ve listed some resources where you can pick up GTD at the end. Ali has listed his favourite resources towards the end of this blog post here.

2. Speed Reading Skills
As I began to practice more and more GTD, work started becoming more and more under control and hence I was able to create more time for myself. Once I did so, I could finally spend more time doing what I love the most…reading! But then there are just SO many books and there’s just SO little time *sigh*. Although, I still am not able to read at the speed that I’d like to, however the few skills that I picked up from Norman Lewis’s How to Read Faster and Better have helped me cover many more books that I otherwise would. If I had learnt this during my school days, not only would I get through my textbooks faster, I would get a lot more out of my textbooks too.

Here are just couple of tips from Norman’s book:

– Read with a sense of urgency. Don’t languidly stroll your eyes over to the cover of the title, then to the bottom of the article, then to the picture and then start all over again. But when you’re reading a book, an article, this blog post, make yourself want to get to the end of it as soon as possible. Just reading with that sense of urgency easily increases one’s reading speed every time by 30%.

– Before reading any article, book, ask yourself: Why am I reading this? What would I get out of it? And similarly after having completed what you read, asking yourself once again: “What have I read? Have I got what I had in mind when I began reading this piece?

– Read more. Want to read faster you’ve got to read more. Have reading targets. Make a list of 7 books that you feel you simply must complete before you die. Yes, that’s right before you die. Now imagine you’ve got 6 months to live. Go ahead challenge yourself and complete those books.

Finally, ever since I’ve picked up on Speed Reading, it’s just not books, but newspapers, reports, emails, whatever text my eyes would glaze over I would absorb at a much faster rate and retain it appropriately too. Over time, the same skills obtained can very effectively be applied to listening as well, afterall listening is simply reading with your ears.

3. Critical Thinking Skills
Too many meetings in the Corporate World today simply get carried away and move from tangent to tangent simply because, facts and assumptions are not separated. Thanks to a little practice in Critical Thinking, I am able to distinguish, fact, assumptions, bias, argument and conclusion, from each other more rapidly now. A skill that has saved many hours of avoidable discussions as well as arguments.

To learn more about Critical Thinking visit this link on wikipedia. There are many books on Critical Thinking listed here on Amazon. I can’t seem to find the book I’ve read there, however I’m sure many other would be quite good, probably even better.

4. Touch Typing
Gosh, what a propeller this one skill has been throughout my career. It’s because I was the only Audit-Assistant who could touch type during my stint at KPMG, my Managers and Seniors would all come to me to get their reports typed and corrected, as often the typists and Admin Assistants would always be over-loaded. It’s because of this single opportunity which I learnt at a much faster rate in my early years at KPMG.

I can’t stress how essential Touch Typing is these days. The amount time one spends on the computer these days and if one doesn’t know typing…it’s almost as if he doesn’t know how to write. I’m so every grateful to my father who insisted and pushed me to learn typing and to my brother for motivating to gain speed.

We Use this software for others in our office to practice Touch Typing and here are other free softwares that you can give a try too to sharpen your typing skills.

5. Public Speaking

Needless to say Public Speaking comes so much in handy in the Corporate World. Be it for large scale presentations or just to conduct effective meetings. I joined a Toastmasters club right after completing school. The training and feedback mechanism of Toastmasters is highly refined. If you’ve put in enough preparation before each speech, you can feel the results evident with each project that you advance in your Toastmasters career. If Public Speaking is a skill you want to sharpen Toastmasters is the best place in the world to do that. There are Toastmaster Clubs all over the world and you can find out if you have a club near you over here.

6. Harry Lorayne’s memory techniques
These are real handy to pick-up early in one’s life. I have used his peg system to remember Case dates for my Law paper for my ACCA exams. These days I sometimes use Harry Lorayne’s Association technique to recall all the key points in some really good speeches that I hear. Once you get the hang of it, it’s really easy. Of all his memory techniques it’s the Association system and the Peg System that I’ve picked up and found quite useful. The peg system is a bit too long to explain it in detail in this post, you can read about it here. However the Association system, is relatively simple and quite wonderful. Suppose you have a list of items to remember, say a shopping list. An example of such a list would be:
1. Bread
2. Eggs
3. Bananas
4. Toilet paper

Now if you wanted to remember the list how would you do it? Harry Lorayne’s Association Technique says that just associate the first item with the next and the association exaggerated. So to remember the above list I would picture the following in my mind: A HUGE slice of bread, as big as a house already toasted is lying on a Garden. The sky all of a sudden gets dark, I look up and I see an equally large Omelet dropping from the sky that land on the bread with a splat. Large Banana Trees sprout from the ground beside the bread, when two Bananas get riped, pop out from the tree and land just next to the now Omelet sandwhich. A Giant Waiter comes picks up the Omelet sandwhich, with the bananas, wraps it in Toilet Paper to take it as a meal for a Guest.

Once I’ve got that pictured in my head for the first time, it doesn’t take me long to recall the shopping list of Bread, Eggs, Bananas and toilet Paper. This technique works beautifully for a list of 10, 20 or even 100 items. Ofcourse the best way to remember something is not to remember it and just write it down. But at times when that is not possible, this is truly a great technique to keep handy. Harry Lorayne’s book are ubiquitous. You can find them in any medium-sized bookshop. They’re all really good, but look out for the one’s that teach his Association system and Peg System. One example of a book that does that is this one.

I’m quite pleased to say that we’re trying to inculcate some of the above skills into our work Culture at Vakil Housing. Infact we’re the first company in India that are officially trained in GTD by a David Allen Company Associate. Also, if you walk down our office halls you’ll often find right from our Vice President & Senior Managers, to our Receptionists and one of our Drivers practicing Touch Typing.

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