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The telecommuters’ top six smarts to stop procrastinating


Till we get into the zone, most telecommuters procrastinate. By reading ‘how to’ articles like this one (caught you). Transcribing and then whipping up a financier cake with salted caramel icing http://wp.me/pY1Bb-5V (guilty). Researching and playing phone shrink to a friend who will turn awkward if you land up unexpectedly at his/her office/home. After all this and more, you can change rapidly to fourth gear and ‘make it to deadline.’ Yes, you do make it to deadline. But totally drained afterwards.

We give such behavior tag lines like ‘creative freedom’ and ‘method to my madness’ and pride on being monks who have sold their Ferrari. But it is those people who value their time and space, say “not now; later,” and prefer to single task that get their day freed up to meet friends, see a movie and get their kids into a good college.

I can see a smirk on the faces of those who work in an office. From personal observations in the corporate world, let me say that holding endless meetings, smoking breaks, gossip in the pantry, calling your spouse or girl/boy friend from the washroom and minimizing Farmville screens and cricket scores are official forms of procrastinating.

So here are my top six smarts for telecommuters to start earning and stop procrastinating.

  •  Best time. Know your body clock. This is why you are telecommuting, remember? The reason you left the corporate world, endless strategy meetings and swiping your entry card. Or vice versa with your belongings in a box. Work with your personality and body slumps. You will see a dramatic rise in the quality of your work. For instance, I am overcome by an irresistible food-induced stupor after lunch wherein my brain fails to recognize any pattern, sound or object known to man. Unless I am at a conference (and even then). Nothing works. My editors and clients know that I am not ‘mentally available’ between two and four pm. However, I write very well at night and can stay up to 2 or 3 am without tiring. I prefer meetings first thing in the morning or after 5 pm. I also need my elevenses. Understanding your body clock makes the difference between forcing yourself to work and easily slipping “into the zone” because you are ready. This makes a happier telecommuter who has real time for friends and family. And bills getting paid on time.
  • Three top priorities. Now plan three top work priorities for the day. No more. No less. Write them out and place them next to your laptop. Slot them around your best times. The difficult part for any telecommuting procrastinator is to ‘Get into the zone.” But once they do, they are far more productive and work longer than most people who are ‘physically’ in an office.
  • Noon replies. Do you start the day replying to almost all your mails? Instead start with a good breakfast, sit at your work space and leave mails for lunch time. This saves vast tracts of time, especially, when you charge by the hour or day. Facebook is allowed when you take your elevenses break. Or after lunch. Or between your fav soap.
  • Phone calls. Yes, you have a kind heart and your friends love you. But if you are on deadline, sms and let your friend/ex-colleague know. Request them to ‘sms back if urgent.’ Keep your ‘zone times’ as sacred. If this seems cruel, try calling the same person with your own problems during work hours. Or call your homemaker friends when they have guests in town. Enjoy the rude satori, which will teach you how much other people respect their time. Even your best friends.
  • Zone alert. Find three places at home. Places next to television, the fridge and the bed are ruled out. For obvious reasons. If cramped for space, just reorient your desk where you see a window or blank wall. Or go to a coffee shop where you find your work output is maximum; where time flies and you look up to see that people are now ordering lunch..
  • No OCD. Above all, stop pretending that you now love housework or tidying your work desk. Good escape route but we all know what happens when you start to clean out that closet and discover something you forgot. Or your writing desk. The rule is “if it aint broke, don’t fix it.’  If you get the urge to escape, start by invoicing your clients. Or make a call to an old business contact just to say hi. People do appreciate it when you call without an agenda.

 Of course, there are many more ways. But if you are a typical telecommuting procrastinator – a seventh rule will make you exhausted and leave this page. Instead, reward yourself with a walk around the home and block. Telecommuting can get a bit lonely at times. So take time to smell the flowers and hear the birds. That is why you sold the Ferrari, you clever soul.

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Posted by on April 30, 2013 in Entrepreneurs - How to

 

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Rosemary and garlic Focaccia

Rosemary and garlic Focaccia

My first attempt at bread was during a long and cold winter. A friend and I mixed the yeast with warm water, waited, went for a walk, came back and it was still flat. We plodded on to make a bread that was hard as rock. The kind you find on beaches. It scared me away from bread for almost 15 years.
With so many different types of breads available in Dubai (my favourite being the now discontinued date and walnut bread from Spinneys), I decided not to try baking bread till two years ago. Got a good crust with an uncooked centre. Binned.
This year, the unusually hot summer made me reconsider bread again. So I read through various recipes on the internet and fell for the pixs on http://thewannabecountrygirl.com/homemade-focaccia/
I wanted that kind of bread. Followed the recipe, did the two rises but went shopping and came back late at night. So I put it in the fridge and knocked it down the next day. Divided it into three batches. The first could have made a good place mat. I tried a second attempt with a flatter shape that ended up as a shapeless alternative to a table tennis racket. I twisted the third and slashed the top. It was fragrant but hardened into a jaw-breaking roll. By then I was slowly going off bread again. Déjà vu!
So I decided now to go with my mistakes to a forum where people post their mistakes and other kind souls give solutions. This one was the best – really wonderful people who had created a long string, which detailed their methods and solutions. http://forums.egullet.org/index.php/topic/95345-minimalist-no-knead-bread-technique/
I read through the entire thread and realised that my mistakes started from step two onwards. For one, over-kneading like I was a baker starring in the movies. Two, thinking that slightly squishy dough was a mistake and adding flour to make it smooth. Apparently, the higher the water content, the better the bread. Also, the bread had to cook in a closed baking dish. Whaaat? But I trusted all these unknown people.
Combined all the advice to create a fragrant to die-for-focaccia. Of course, I want to stand on the rooftop and share my secrets with all those would-be bakers who fear bread. Go for it. My discerning teenager who loves the Carino’s bread was hooked. So I guess you can now show off to your family and friends.. Cut down on the oil wherever you wish. But why?

You need:
4 cups all-purpose bread flour + half cup extra
1/8 tsp active yeast
2 tsps brown sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 cups lukewarm water

Topping
Sea salt
2 tsp rosemary
½ tsp caraway
½ tsp black sesame seeds
6 cloves small garlic

Put yeast in warm water, stir and add sugar. It should froth in 10 minutes. Many recipes call for 2 tsps yeast but it is a mistake. Ignore. Less is more here. The Dubai summer will do the rest of the rise. Mix the salt with the flour. If you have the food processor, dig out your dough hooks and put the flour in the bowl. Switch on and slowly pour the water with yeast. Around 5 minutes, stop and continue to knead to a slightly sticky mass (Not smooth). Add 2 tsp of the oil to dough. After, say, some 10 kneads, put some oil in the food processor bowl, roll the sticky dough and coat it with the oil. Cover with a wet tea cloth and leave in a warm place till dough is doubled (say four to five hours). Those without food processors can always knead by hand. Takes the same time anyways.
Take the baking dish (the old ceramic ones with glass lids are great). Pour a generous amount of olive oil on the base of the pan. Now knock down the dough for just one minute. Not more. This is called the minimalist approach, according to the forum. Place the dough on the baking dish and press down to cover the base. Use your fingers and punch holes into the dough. Cover again with wet tea cloth used earlier. Leave for one hour till it has risen again.
Pour some olive oil into the holes. Resist urge to knock it down. Sprinkle the dough with rosemary, caraway seeds, black sesame seeds, garlic and half tsp of sea salt. Now cover and bake in a 180C preheated oven. Yes. The forum says that the steam ensures that the bread is soft. After 25 minutes, remove lid and continue to bake at 160C till the top turns a nice golden brown. Pour a quarter cup water twice during this phase on the floor of the oven shelf.  The steam makes the bread moist.

Sunset and freshly baked rosemary and garlic focaccia bread

Serve with sliced cold orange bell peppers and sliced cold peppered potatoes. The mild sweetness of the bell peppers contrasts with the mildly salted focaccia bread and the minimalism of the cold potatoes.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Recipes

 

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Moist Carrot-n-apple-raisin cake (butter-free)

Moist Carrot-n-apple-raisin cake (butter-free)

Carrot-n-apple-n-raisin cake – shot with Nikon D60

A favourite kid was coming home for Friday lunch with her parents. But dessert was a huge question mark – she is lactose intolerant. That meant that dessert must not have milk, butter and any other dairy product. It did not help that she cannot have chocolate either. For a seasoned Indian foodie in Dubai, it was a very tough situation. Since she was just three years old, I bravely decided to make a fruitcake with apples, carrots and raisins – part of her permitted and favourite food list. But no butter? OMG. I had just one hour to go.

Of fruit and cake
Being really partial to chocolate cakes, I had stopped trying my hand at fruitcakes for the last eight years. Though I love carrot cakes, the chapters of my baking history will unravel a passion for baking, a penchant for being distracted by the phone, my article or kid and the ending – with sunken and burnt fruit at the bottom of the cake tin. But this time, maybe it helped that I really adore this little kid. So I surfed the net and read through many recipes as usual. But I did not like the ingredients in some and found the others very complex.

It worked

So as usual, I went on deconstruct mode – looked through many recipes, found the most common denominators, searched my kitchen, assembled and substituted ingredients since I am too lazy to drive to the nearest supermarket. And then changed the order of the recipe to what works for me. Seriously. Most cooks omit the finer points and make scared and potential foodies think they cant cook. Not this one.
The end of this story? A really moist and delicious cake.. The little one asked for more. Was so  delighted, I packed a quarter of the cake in foil for her Mum to take home… Here goes…

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Spice powder (Dry grind cinnamon, cardamoms and half of a mace. Reserve ¼ tsp for the shredded fruit and mix rest with flour) (you can make your own fav spice mix)

Assemble
One and a half cup brown sugar
4 eggs
Half cup oil

Fruit
Grate 1 large carrot and two Fuji apples and mix it with one cup of raisins. Mix a tablespoon of brown sugar, some flour and ¼ spoon of the spice powder (mentioned above) and add to the shredded fruit. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Method

Beat eggs and sugar with the hand mixer. Then slowly add oil. Next add the spiced flour mix. Oil a springform baking tin. Dust lightly with flour. Pour half of the flour mix, layer with half of the fruit, then add remaining flour and layer on top with the fruit. Smoothen the flour batter gently over the fruit.
Bake for at least 50 mins or until knife inserted in center comes clean. Remove and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Ease off the springform pan and cool further – though I served it when it was warm and aromatic. Store rest in an airtight tin.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2012 in Recipes

 

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