JIRA Training in Hyderabad, Chennai, Meeting old friends and traveling with one bag

Yeah I am back to writing blogs, I took a long break and I didn't really feel like writing much. Today I am actually writing during my work hours as I don't feel like working, in fact I am feeling guilty that I am not working but writing blog but that's ok. I have been working consistently hard for the past two months and I deserve to do little things that I like during my work hours :) I promise I will get back to work in 15 minutes.

Past two months were hectic and I was traveling a lot. I went to Hyderabad and made new clients there for JIRA consultancy work and I earlier this month I went to Chennai after several months and this time I liked begin there. May be the weather was surprisingly good. It rained when I landed in Chennai.

JIRA consultancy and training in Chennai

When I woke up and looked outside my hotel window I felt really nice. I spent few days in Chennai and unlike last time I went to different places to dine and enjoyed my time.

These days I am trying to revive contact with my old school and college friends. I realized that being social keeps you happy. I am still trying to organize a get together with my school buddies but over the past few months I met my college buddies after several years and it felt really good.

ASET College friends

Also I am learning new things. Recently I enrolled myself in French classes and I am thinking of understanding Agile methodologies in detail. I train companies on implementing JIRA Agile and over the years I have learned myself both SCRUM and KANBAN techniques. I have had several wonderful opportunities to work with several companies as a JIRA consultant. In the past 2 years my company Sparxsys has successfully implemented JIRA and other Atlassian tool many organizations and I feel really proud and little arrogant in saying that we are probably the best Atlassian consultants in India.

Recently I joined one workshop on Agile where they organized an exercise to build Leave Management System using Agile and I have to admit it was really a good session. I got some references from that workshop and I am thinking of doing some certification course on SCRM now.

Implementing Agile

The guy in the picture (unfortunately I forgot his name) works in HCL and the session he organized was wonderful. I will surely connect with him in near future. In fact many companies ask me to train their employees on SCRUM and it would be good to connect with good Agile trainers in Delhi NCR region.

What else?

I travel a lot these days for trainings and meeting clients for taking down their requirements and I feel really difficult to organize the travel. Book tickets, make hotel/cab arrangements and most importantly packing. I have now decided that I will travel with just one single backpack with everything I need. I am a great fan of Samsonite backpacks and I recently ditched my old Samsonite bag for a new one.

Samsonite Vizair backpack

The black bag on the left is Samsonite Vizair, it is bloody costly bag but it is an investment. I carry this bag to places and it keeps my laptop safe with shockers at the bottom and it has lot of spaces. I miss my old bag which was several nice pockets here and there but that bag sever me well for over 5 years and it started to torn from the edges. Although it still is in proper shape and I will probably use it for fun vacations.

You can buy this bag from Amazon. It is costly but as I said it is like a good investment and I plan to use it for the next 4 to 5 years for sure.

Phew, I am getting tired now after writing so much. Total I posted couple of blogs on my several sites and I feel good. Sometimes you are not sure about life's true purpose, in fact many people don't know what they want to do in life and everything seems out of control for them. I am not sure either as of now but I know for sure that writing is something that I love. Last year when I wrote my first published book "Mastering JIRA" I could not believe that I can really get something published. Now that I already have a book published I am thinking about writing more book in near future. It is like leaving a mark in the world :)

If you want to buy the book then click on the above link. I agree it is a bit costly but you can purchase the Kindle version :)

Have fun and stay happy!

Building good habits, learning french and yes I am writing after a long time

When I was little kid I used to hate the idea of going to school everyday at the same time, follow a strict routine everyday for several years, preparing for exams, going through school tests and final terms. Now when I look back I can not even image going through all those tough routines. I was really glad when I got out of school. Then I started college. It was comparatively easy, we can always bunk classes, go out for movies during class time and we actually had little freedom to spend time where ever we wanted, but still I used to get scared about the idea of exams. I never liked doing something without any reason and the only reason I studied and somehow managed to pass engineering was the fear of getting failed. What will happen if I fail? I was scared of so many things.

While in school the only thing I wanted was to get out, the same was the case in college. I used to think that I will do this and that when I get out. I was waiting for something but never knew what was it.

Then I started job, it was no better, going to the same place everyday through out the year without vacations. It was horrible experience. Since school time I was looking for freedom but never really got it and I was never really sure what was it that I was looking for, I never liked the idea of doing something because someone else wants you to. I worked for 11 years.

Finally I started my company, it felt really nice, I can choose my own working hours, work anytime and any day I like. After leaving my job I felt really good that finally I got the freedom to do whatever I want in life but somehow I never really felt completely happy, after all it was all about happiness, you do things to stay happy in life, this is the prime goal of human beings. My company Sparxsys have been doing really good every since we started except last year when for few months we didn't get much profit but I was able to run and stand up a successful company and we are good in what we do. Our client are happy and it feels good but for me it was exhausting. I felt tired all the time and honestly I was never happy. In fact when recall my old phases of life school, college, job. I was happiest in school when I used to follow a very strict routine. My parents were strict too, I remember I used to study during festival time too but during school whenever I got time I used to enjoy it a lot. I loved playing cricket, football, video games and spending time with friends. Now I feel it was the best time. Now I have all the freedom but still I don't enjoy that much.

Every since I started my company I was working hard to deliver projects but never really maintained a balance in life. I never traveled, took vacations and spent time with family & friends. I used to work 7 days a week and every day I used to feel tired and exhausted. I was not sure how long I can manage like this. It also affected the performance of our company and I thought this is not the real reason why I started my own company.

Recently I read the following two book.


The Power of Habit

After reading both the book I realized I should try making some changes in my daily schedule. First of all instead of trying to achieve too much I started focusing on few important essential tasks that brings the most value and also to be able to enjoy life I started building good habits and will power to follow these habits regularly.

Here is the list of things that I started doing now.

  • Start the day by reading a book for 20 minutes. Earlier I used to start the day by checking my email, which is like giving yourself stress in the beginning of the day
  • Go to gym everyday
  • Plan what things I will be doing today and remove every non essential item from my to do
  • Plan your weekly goals ahead
  • Plan your short term and long term goal. What you want to do 5 years from now? All the things you do should be towards achieving these goals. If not then don't do them.
  • Check Email only few times a day only after finishing the scheduled work.
  • Make No as the default answer, saying Yes to everything that comes my way is not good. You cannot keep everyone happy
  • Delay all new tasks that come in your way
  • Work means work, no facebook, twitter, internet browsing, whatsapp during the day
  • Follow the time table, like we used to do in school
  • Never travel more than 3 times in a month

Basically if you want to become any entrepreneur and do what you love it is fine but it is not fun either, you have to work hard to achieve your goals and most importantly never work day and night, you will burn yourself. We human beings have only limited amount of energy in the morning and as we work on our tasks we burn that energy. We need time to relax and away from work to refuel ourselves.

When you finish your day as you planned and achieve things you feel sense of satisfaction and whatever little enjoyment you do by rewarding yourself like watching TV or with beer that sense of satisfaction will make that reward more enjoyable. It is not possible to enjoy all the time. You have to do some work that you don't enjoy or if it is tough but that is ok. Once you get over those difficult tasks the feeling of completing them is really great. Till few months back I used to work all the time and there was no separation of my work and personal life. It was all mixed up.

You don't have to read any book to bring your life on track but it is not harm either. Apart from reading book everyday for 20 minutes I recently enrolled myself in French classes. It is really amazing to learn a new language and after a long time I feel good about doing something different. In the past few years I have acquired different skills but learning a foreign language is totally new for me. I knew little but french earlier but now I have decided that in few months I will try to converse with someone totally in french. I learning how to read, write and of course speak.

Upcoming JIRA Training in Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai

Life is full of ups and downs. Last two months especially December and January were not very exciting for me. I was no able to work productively and I need some break time. However in late January and so far in Feb things are super exciting for me. As I am moving ahead in my life I somehow feel that I am getting closer to what I want. At of the day if I feel happy and satisfied then everything is good. When I started my own company I had this tendency to try different kind of work, being in service industry it is tempting to try to get as many clients as you want. I did this mistake of doing any kind of work that brought money in the company, but everyone is difference. We started trainings on Drupal and then on JIRA since the beginning of our company inception but just recently we have decided to focus primarily on trainings.

We are currently not accepting any new Drupal website development work right now. That is a tough decision to make but it doesn't mean that we will not do Drupal. We have over 40 active projects to support with over 15 internal projects. We are happy serving these clients and since our trainings are bringing more cash than development work so we are happy to stay that way now. Trainings are tough business but more rewarding. We are now working on re-branding and putting life in some of our dead portals that were famous some year back.

Drupal development is costly and most of the Indian clients can't afford us any longer and we don't have the capacity to handle mediocre work now.

Now the exciting news is that recently we have been able to provide JIRA in various companies across India. It is amazing experience to travel these cities and meet different people. We always need to deviate a bit from our course. I personally never thought that this will happen. In fact when I first started using JIRA I didn't like it much.

In the month of February and March I will be traveling to Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and Pune for JIRA trainings. It is going to be quite hectic for me but after every successful training, it feels amazing. I always get nervous and little scared before every training. Various doubts and questions come up in my mind whether people will like my training or not but I guess it is good to get scared and later overcoming your fears makes you more confident and stronger for next challenge.

I am trying to blog more often now, I feel good after writing.


How I struggled with depression

How to cope with Depression

This blog is about my struggle to fight depression despite doing good business.

I used to be quite arrogant about the fact that I am quite disciplined when it comes to managing my time. I do everything on time and when they are supposed to be done but over the past few months, 5 months to be precise I am loosing this good habit of mine. As an entrepreneur or freelancer you need to be self-disciplined to do accomplish your daily tasks. Last 5 months were not really very great for me, it is not that my work is suffering or I am not making money but I have this feeling all the time of not achieving enough. It is really causing lot of trouble to me and I feel sad most of the times. Initially I didn't even realize anything was wrong with me.

Personally I like to challenge myself all the time and though last quarter was quite great for my company but personally I didn't do much myself. Everything was in fact great for the company - because I worked really hard in the 2nd quarter and sparxsys did really well but in the 3rd quarter I just didn't do enough, may be because everything seemed so right. Due to that fact I feel the work might suffer in coming months. I lost few leads and could not deliver some of the projects on time. I also planned to finish the JIRA video series which I wanted to launch last year. There are just so many "Pending" tasks in my issue tracker. I feel very bad about it. I realized that the reason for all this bad feeling that built up in me was primarily because I was not using my mind very much for doing new things. I worked really hard for few months followed by hardly any work for couple of months and it really affected me.

I was depressed
May be I didn't want to say that but probably this what depression is :) I have been working from home a lot these days and eating too much. Gained little extra weight. I am watching too much TV and just spending time on useless things. I think it is ok to get into low phases, you can't stay happy all the time but good thing is that I am getting out of it now. I did not even work at all for many days continuously because there was no motivation left or may be I was not doing anything exciting enough to give me "kick" (like Salman Khan movie).

It is not at all good to stay depressed as it will lead you to make bad decisions and it affects your relationships with clients. I really fought with few clients (sorry for that). Clients are usually annoying but since they pay us so we have to learn to tolerate them and still provide good service. There are lot of factors that contributes to depression and you need to keep a balance of every aspect of your life.

I think I am almost getting back to normal now and following things helped me. Just wanted to share with everyone.

1. Stick to a routine
I forced myself quite harshly to follow a daily routine. I started with organizing my work-rest-eat-sleep time on google calendar and I pasted notes all over my room. Yes this is crazy, when there was no space left on the walls I started writing on the door. I went crazy but I really need to remind myself to get into a discipline. Nobody likes to work hard and especially without any motivation it is even difficult but once you spend your day productively it feel really good and gives immense satisfaction.

2. Track your activities
I have been creating weekly sprints for our team every week, but it doesn't really help if you are struggling to manage your time and without a boss it is more difficult. I cannot expect my team to complete the weekly tasks if I am not doing it myself. I tried a different technique for few weeks. I simply kept track of how many hours I am working vs planned hours. Plain old effort variance technique. I know number of hours at desk doesn't mean productivity but I just wanted to stay focused and wanted to make sure that I am at least sitting in front of computer. During my down days I didn't even feel like looking into my laptop. So this technique kinda helped me. If my work efficiency was over 75% for 3 consecutive day then I would reward myself (more on that).

3. Find a boss
Leaving my full time job was a major decision. Of course I did that only when sparxsys business was well above threshold and we were making good money. One thing I didn't foresee before leaving my job is how to stay disciplined without a boss. I have been my own boss for a long time now but it happens all the time that I start loosing my focus, mainly because there was no one to ask me questions or there is no weekly report to submit to anyone. I felt the need of a boss. After lot of thoughts I finally made my wife my boss. She has her own business and she stays quite busy with her work and taking care of our 2 year old daughter but I asked her to spend some time on keeping an eye on me and my work. Now I share status of all the tasks, projects, revenue with her and she make sure I do what I am supposed to do to achieve the targets and I started paying her salary for her time. May be I will hire a new boss if more time is required in future.

4. Reward yourself
As I just said earlier that sometimes when you achieve something you planned for you should reward yourself. I really like to eat rogun josh, I could eat it every day but I tried to first finish my tasks and also achieve work efficiency of over 75% for atleast 3 days in succession to treat myself.

5. Separate Workplace
As I am writing this blog I can hear discussion on upcoming Delhi elections on TV in the other room. Sometimes when something really interesting comes up on tv, I leave everything I am doing and run towards the other room to watch the whole thing and when I check the clock, it is already 2 hours wasted. It is very easy to get distracted and I cannot help it, I am also human being and I too get distracted. There is no other way but to cut the distractions. I work in my separate home office where no one is allowed to come when I am working. I also try to keep this room as clean and organized as possible. Dirty room doesn't motivate to work for long hours.

6. Share your targets with others
During my weekly sprint meeting with my team I discuss the the upcoming personal and team targets with everyone and we discuss how much was achieved out of what we planned, we don't use any metrics to measure but it is mostly a feel of work done. We discuss openly and it really is embarrassing to achieve the least amount of work. For the past few months it was me who was not achieving a lot but I knew there was some problem that I need to fix with myself. When you share your goals with your team it also encourages you to take action on those goals no matter how small or big they are.

7. Ask family members to not disturb you
Working from home is something very new to Indian culture. When family members see you working from home they think that you are available for daily chores and little stupid chit chats. It is difficult to say no to them and even if you do they don't take it seriously. So you have to be harsh and make rules. I do my daily chores like bringing Milk, Eggs, Bread, throwing garbage early in the morning and other misc things are scheduled post 7 pm. I am still struggling to make more effective rules but I know this is quite important and you too should make a point to ask your family to understand that if you are at home all the time it doesn't mean you are useless creature. I am probably earning more money than ever, all by sitting at home and people who travel to Gurgaon and waste many hours in traveling are still better than me, at least in my family's mind. Indian families are not ready yet to accept that money can be earned by working smartly.

8. Unwind after work
I wake up between 3-4 AM and then I work till 6 AM and then I go to gym everyday. Health is prime important to me and even during my down days I made sure to not miss the gym. After 7 PM I usually go for evening walk. It really helps to unwind and relax your mind. I usually call my friends around this time. During the day I really look forward to this time. I come back home and spend time with my family and play with my daughter, by 9 PM I am usually dead tired and find it difficult to stay awake.

9. Take vacation regularly
Last month I took a small vacation and it really helped me to relax. When I came back I was quite energized, in fact now I feel that vacation was all I needed. Last year I worked really hard to bring business to sparxsys and achieved lot of goals. As of now we are probably the best JIRA Consultancy and Training company in India. During the last few months of the year I was probably too tired mentally to think straight and I made this mistake to continue working without taking any breaks. Now taking regular vacations is my goal. In fact this year I am planning to work even less. I will experiment working only 4 days a week and lets us see how it goes.

10. Pomodoro - really amazing technique
Finally I would like to mention one technique that really helped me to stay focused on the work. It happens with me quite a lot and in fact everyday that I am working on something and all of a sudden I switch to something else for few minutes not realizing that the other task/activity will suck my energy and when I come back to the original task I am all drained. Also it is difficult for me to keep working on a task continuously for a dedicated amount of time. Pomodoro technique says that you work continuously on a single task for 20 minutes, take a break of 5 minutes and again work for another 20 minutes followed by longer breaks. If you interrupt yourself then start again from 0 till 20 minutes. There are lot of apps for this technique. Search on google to know more about it. Really helpful.

Lastly I forgot to check what I wrote long time back - Are all startup founders unhappy? Things are fine with me now, I am back to normal work. After all this I am quite happy with the fact that I know what went wrong and I will make sure that I will not make the same mistakes again. One of which is over working. I wasted couple of months because I was exhausted myself completely and it took time to recuperate and just like body, mind needs rest. Most importantly I knew something is wrong with me and I tried ways to change it.

I am exploring ways to meditate these days. Lets us see how it goes. I will share the outcome and also I have been writing after a long time. Writing is really my passion. Whenever I am in doubt I write and it clears lot of confusion just by writing my thoughts.

Have a nice day! Enjoy

How I usually start my new month (to increase the cash flow)

Every month in the beginning I take 3 empty page, write something on it and stick them in my room where I can see them everyday. What are these three pages?

Page 1: Pending Money
I don't have the luxury to hire an accountant or someone who can simply take care of collecting money for all the work that we guys do at sparxsys. At any given time we usually do 5-6 projects, sometimes more, sometimes less but we do have lots of projects which are in maintenance. Every month we need to ask our dear clients to pay us pending dues, that is important activity for us so that we can pay our salaries and cover our expenses. Every month I prepare a list of all such pending payments. The active projects priorities are also defined by how much cash flow is coming and from which client.

For instance there are two client. One is paying x amount for 2 month project and other is paying x amount for 1 month project, so obviouly we give more attention to the later. We make it very clear to the client that amount of money is directly proportional to the service and quality of work. Of course we never work below a certain limit.

Page 2: Open Leads
We always have projects in pipeline and many people contact us regularly, either for Drupal services or JIRA Training. Getting new projects and making new clients is also important. It also ensures that we have plenty of work that will pay for our expenses. Now sometimes we do get lazy on this aspect but as a business owner who need to make sure that business is coming otherwise the company will eventually fail.

Page 3: Daily Time Table
I follow a well defined time table everyday, expect when I need to meet someone. I divide my day into various slots and each slot is dedicated to my work based on their priorities and more importantly the value they bring to the company and every month I spend some time thinking about what activity need to be done at what time, so I can utilize my time wisely and have a productive day in the end. I keep improvising my daily schedule a bit but I always keep some uninterrupted time only for myself that is usually 3AM to 6AM in the morning when no one calls me. I don't check emails or browse the net. I disconnect internet sometimes during this time too. Rest of the day can never be planned ahead. A new client could ask you to meet or people will call us.

Running a company is not easy. In the end the cash flow matters, especially in service industry where we work under pressure. We just work 4.5 days a week and this has only been possible because we plan ahead with great precision.


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