Writing My To-be and To-do Lists…A Guide to Accomplishing Your Goals in 2017

I started the habit of writing what I want to achieve for the future in the year 2013. I was in the classroom in school (in Kenya) on a Sunday, alone. I drew a very big table on the white board. I drafted seven goals and the expected time of achieving them. For some of them, I didn’t achieve them on time. Like my trip to Dubai, I achieved 12 months after the date I set. I am thankful I wrote it down. It kept the goal in my memory most of the time.

Ever since then, I started the practice of writing the goals and what I want to be at the end of a year. This list, I refer to it as my to-be list. For example I wanted to become a green building professional at the end of 2014, which I humbly accomplished. After the to-be list, then I write monthly and weekly goals. So at the end of any particular month, I want to know what I would have achieved.

I created another list called the to-do list. I write what I want to do for the month, the coming week and the next days. Sometimes, I write my daily to-do lists in the morning of the said day, which is not a good thing. Brian Tracy, in his YouTube videos has advised is important you write what you want to do the next day before going to bed, in order to visualize you doing the tasks. I find that quite effective on the days I do it.

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Your list goes here!

I keep many of these records in books only meant for that. Call it my journal. So if I want to recall what I did on a said day from today till the 1st of January 2015, I can easily retrieve that in my notebooks/journal. It’s beautiful I think how I can pinpoint what I did, who I met, what new thing I learnt and the likes. I write them all down in my journal.

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But for many days that I relax without doing anything, I do not write anything. Or when I travel and have the mission of only exploring, I don’t keep a to-do list, except if there is something important I should do, which is mostly contacting or reminding someone about something.

At the beginning of 2016, I wrote down only five goals. Sadly. I accomplished two wonderfully. One, about reading twelve books, I partially reached it as I read only seven books only. My first goal, which is starting a PhD, I changed purposely because I didn’t feel I wanted to do that early. I just crossed it off. My last goal, sky-diving, I couldn’t. Money problems.

During the course of the year, I added a number of monthly goals to my to-be  lists. Among which is to monetize my blog, something that is really challenging. I wrote down other goals as well, and I achieved most of them.

The sad thing about my first initial five goals I wrote was that I set my ambitions far too low. All could have easily been accomplished. I didn’t write anything that I started working on in January that keeps me going till December. Not even blogging goals. From December 2015, I knew I wanted to increase my blog traffic, but I did not write down as a year goal. I only write them as monthly goals. Had I written something very challenging and more than a handful, perhaps I would have grown much more than what I am now. Having a big picture you always look at is very important.

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” Michelangelo

Although a few people say, not all that is written down is achieved. Most at times, it gets struck off easily or never been looked back again. For me, this practice works well for me. As you set out to start keeping a daily journal, I advise you have an introspection of yourself to understand how you will effect this new habit.

I like getting a new book, big enough to accommodate what I will all write down for the whole year. So by say mid-year, I could easily flip back and see my earlier set goals, and how much I did in achieving them. I will revise some goals and tactics in achieving them. It is always good to evaluate your action steps. And having one single book for this purpose. If you have two, it might be difficult carrying the two around always. I learnt it the hard way. In 2015, I started with a book that had a few pages. In no time, it filled up and I had to get another. After a few months in the other, I kept trying to recall my earlier goals written in the former book, and that had me always going back to get it.

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The last book I started in 2016; the autobiography Manchester United and Swede Footballer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Till today, I keep all my journals in my bedroom. Occasionally, I did pick any of them to review what I have done, what I left off that can be brought forward, or just simply as a reminder to how much I have done.

I think keeping a daily journal will set you in a good trajectory in achieving many goals you set for yourself. If you are the type that doesn’t set any goals, I advise you start, even if you are in school. If you do, but do not have a journal or need more orientation on how to keep one, I would be okay in sharing from my experiences. I will be running a few coaching sessions on how to start journaling. If you are interested in joining, sign up to my blog and fill the form below.

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Next week, some friends and I are going shopping for our journal of 2017. Have you got yours already? How has keeping a journal helped you? If you don’t keep one, why? Please comment below.

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German ‘Kajuru’ Castle in Northern Nigeria

The few months I was in Europe this year, I had visited a number of castles, especially in Germany. Tours to castles in Europe do not normally get me going because they all look similar. Once you visit one, you have seen eighty percent of what you will find in others. As such, after visiting a few in Germany and Czech Republic, I declined any trip to other castles.

But Kajuru Castle located in Kajuru, a town in northern Kaduna State of Nigeria will always get my yes. Maybe because it is not a traditional castle built for nobles or princes. It’s a holiday resort. So who doesn’t like to spend a holiday in a castle? When sweet Irene extended us the invitation, we came running.

Ever since we got back from the short holiday we spent there with my relatives, we cannot stop talking about the stay in the castle, the food we had, and the memories we created. We get many calls from those who missed it. The anxiousness to know more about the place is like a Barcelona or Real Madrid football club fan who missed the el-classico match and cannot wait to be told the final score.

Kajuru Castle is the most splendid man-made architectural feature I have seen in Nigeria. Absolutely beautiful and unique in all of Nigeria. The architecture is European, with stones forming parts of building frame. It stands tall on rocks, giving it the defense mechanism of seeing whoever is approaching it from all its sides.

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Now many might wonder how a German castle found its way in Nigeria. Some might be quick in linking it to colonial times. But no, it’s not a colonial castle. It was built between 1985 and 1989 by a German who was contracted to build the airport in Kaduna State.

Many people will find it hard to believe that this castle exists in Northern Nigeria. Built on the rocky area of Kajuru, just 35 km south east of Kaduna. When we went for a short hike round the castle to the neighbouring hamlets of fulanis living there and on top of some of the rocks, the view from outside is breath-taking. I stood in awe, admiring the castle from one of the rocks slightly higher than the one the castle was built on. It was just damn beautiful.

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As you drive uphill to the entrance of the castle, two towers on both sides of the gate intimidate you. There are three towers in all. Two have rooms on different floors and the other was fitted with woofer systems. Some slept in the room on the top most floor of one of the towers, while others slept in the master bedroom detached from the tower.

From the entrance, the terrain of the castle steeps down gently. On your right is a crocodile pond and on your left, a snake den. But the snake ran away we heard. Small snakes are occasionally seen in the castle though. There are peacocks and a cat in the castle.

Towards the end, is the one of a kind swimming pool. Built with iron steel and modest in size for anyone. As I dived in and swam to the other end, my body acclimatized with the slightly cold temperature of the water in the pool.

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Around the pool are sitting areas. On the right is a little open hut, where we had lunch and dinner on the first day. Because the castle is on a rock, you can enjoy a good view of the bush around you. You can see part of the Kajuru town on the north, scattered hamlets on the south and east, and rocks and bush all around.

Inside the living room are armours and different artifacts relating to Germany. A shelf of books in German, also hang waiting to be perused for a few seconds before they are dropped back. My German is not good enough to read and comprehend novels.

Natural daylight almost fills the living room during the day, saving the castle of energy. A power generator located outside the castle powers it. Although a grid connection is also possible, the general manager, our host Bela, decided it was cheaper running it on diesel generator.

Air-conditioners, refrigerators and all modern electrical equipment are found in the castle. It is not the most Porsche resort in terms of electrical devices, but it is the best in terms of a place for relaxation and meditation.

On the first day we arrived, a nearby school was having an event and we could hear a little of what they were saying over the speakers they used. Aside that, the only sound you will hear in the castle is a comforting silence, occasionally interjected with sounds of birds, peacocks, breeze and passersby on a motor bike outside the castle. The sound of the engines of the bike will be heard in some few seconds before it slowly vanishes away.

It is the perfect location to get away from the noise and hassles of a city. Bela said if you want to reboot or rest your mind, the castle is the place to do it, ‘take the opportunity to’. Although his way of rebooting is different from mine and might be different from yours. In essence you find calmness and solitude in this castle.

A Hungarian engineer Stephen (his Nigerian name is Mustapha) along with Hannatu were the engineers in our kitchen. Our dear co-host, Irene, was always watching out for our welfare. Our first meal at the castle was lunch. We had gulash, nokeldi, cucumber salad with yoghurt, garlic and green pepper. Dessert was somloi galuska, a delicious sweet cake. Before you get lost in the names, why don’t you see the photos below?

The taste of European culture didn’t end with the architecture of the German castle and Hungarian lunch. Dinner was Serbian, or more appropriately, Turkish. Pljeskavuca (grilled beef) with chips and spring onions together with Serbian salad. And then, the best thing since sliced bread, torta. Torta is the perfect cake you will want to melt on your tongue. Mustapha’s said its called the big cake. It took us 18 hours to finish it, although with much caution preventing us from finishing it that night.

Our last meal, lunch on Sunday, was vadas marha zsemlegomboccal, green salad sour cabage and torta again as dessert. The kids didn’t really like this meal, only torta.

But this short stay capped the holiday of holidays for me. I never saw it coming. I cannot wait to get back to Kajuru. Matter of fact, I think I have found a great place to start penning down a book. It’s the perfect environment to let loose your creative potential.

I am not sure what mindset people take out when they leave castles. But ours were rejuvenated, refreshed and cheerful. All we kept saying is this has been the perfect weekend ever. And just how long do you have to wait for your best weekend of the year if it falls in December?

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Final selfie with fam, Irene and Bela (our host)

Does Kajuru Castle interest you? Have you visited it or you want to? Ping me for details of how you can schedule a visit there.

PS: If you want to see more photos of Kajuru Castle, follow my Instagram account sadiqgulma.

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Understanding Success; the Case of the Richest Man in Nigeria

A very long time ago, I remember reading a publication of Daily Trust Newspaper about the richest man in Africa, Aliko Dangote. The two things I remember vividly about that article today were that he got a loan of 500, 000 Nigerian Naira and he was once in Lagos for something. Until recently, I listened to a TV programmer who intends to shoot a documentary about the success of this man. I was not the only one listening to him, other brilliant youths were. Some of them, like me, weren’t interested in the documentary that was not even out, just after listening to a bit of how the programmer intends to narrate Aliko’s story. Reason being that we already heard a lot about him and hearing it again will not give us a fresh impetus of motivation, some said like me. However, others mentioned he is the grandson of Dantata, a very wealthy man of Kano State then. Their premise is that he inherited the great amount of wealth and almost automatically rich at birth.

Listening to their arguments, my memory was immediately called into question, trying to remember whether it was a loan he got or money he inherited to start his business. Whatever it was, many preferred to learn about other entrepreneurs who they haven’t heard from before or who have no rich lineage, except if Dangote’s story is made more appealing with new information.

Last year, my mentor introduced me to an amazing author. He gave me an audio book of his. I played it only when I was in the car. All through, I was hearing the most wonderful analysis of how certain people achieved success, more than others. Ever since listening to that book, I had been interested in always understanding how people achieve success, beyond the ordinary.

Malcolm Gladwell was the author and the book was Outliers. Outliers is a story of success. He discussed how different people achieved their great success beyond what we ordinarily ask. “It is not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t”, he stated.

Malcolm persistently argues that there is something profoundly wrong with the way we make sense of success. He touches on the story of the Beatles, Bill Gates, Korean Airlines, Japanese paddy rice farmers, a certain type of education in the US, why Asians are more brilliant than the rest of us, why your birthday will determine if you make it to the National Football team of Canada and so on and so forth. Malcolm has sold the argument to me; there is something beyond effort that makes us succeed. I totally recommend this book to you.

Before listening to the audio book, I thought I have heard all that there is about the success of Bill Gates, Microsoft founder. I was wrong by the time I had finished listening to that book. Bill Gates was not just smart and woke up on a faithful day to start putting together a computer processor. The general story on the street is that Bill had a wonderful idea of a computer, dropped out of Harvard, developed it and became successful. That easy. The same general thinking many of us possess of Aliko Dangote’s wealth. He inherited the money, and so multiplying it should be easier.

But the truth is, Bill Gates is who he is today because had enjoyed nine golden opportunities. He was lucky to be sent to a public high school that had a computer (time-sharing terminal as they refer to mainframe computers then). It was among the few High Schools in America then with such a computer.  He was also lucky to live close to the University of Washington thereafter and he would wake up between 3 am to 6 am in the morning to code on their computer. His proximity to their computer lab offered him the opportunity to visit it more frequently in those odd hours of the morning. After about seven years, he had been programmed for more ten thousand hours, a feat he himself says is difficult to match by more than 50 people in the world then.

If you have ever heard of the ten thousand hour rule, this is where it came from. It was Malcolm’s analysis. To know the other seven golden opportunities that made Bill Gates then, read Outliers.

After more than forty years, Microsoft is still doing excellent today. Dangote Group is in its fourth decade, expanding across Nigerian borders.

Same message someone kept reiterating over the weekend that managing a business for a very long time is a herculean task. Many entrepreneurs fail before they even celebrate their five years anniversary. Like me, I started two businesses with some friends. One was quite successful, earned us profit but we quit after two years. We just lost interest I think.

I know there is more to Dangote’s story than the loan or inheritance or sleeping under trucks. If I can have it my way, I wish to get an outlier’s analysis of the richest man in Africa. I haven’t read any book about him though, so perhaps it is already there. I want to know what he did every day for the past ten years before he took that loan. What type of school did he go and what type of education did he receive? How many hours did he spend doing other business before he got his breakthrough? What was the neighborhood around him like? And the rest.

I remember after I finished listening to the audio book last year, I asked myself if Dangote was an outlier. What qualifies you to be an outlier as described by Malcolm, is a lot and intriguing.

Many people say if Aliko’s business was not in Nigeria, he will not be as rich. Why?

Subscribe to my blog post below to know why and my analysis of what I think of him as an Outlier?

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Green Tour: What ‘green’ Thing to See in Abuja?

My likeness for green i.e. environment sustainability movement have me go on a number of ‘green’ tours. A green tour is going round to visit organizations, facilities, industries and sites that have incorporated some sort of environmental sustainability in their operations, business models or buildings. When I had a green tour in Berlin, we visited a water harvesting system that treats water in an innovative way, an organization that is using IT to improve transport sustainability, a water treatment plan, an environmental research organization etc.

Our choice of hotel and restaurant in Berlin was also mindful of who practices environmental sustainability. The restaurant we had lunch on the day of the tour was an organic one. The hotel we stayed have all sorts of awareness posters inviting people to conserve different resources.

But I live in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria where there isn’t much pronounced environmental sustainability movements. With a keen interest in sustainable cities, I tried to pin-point what could be great to see on a green tour in Abuja. The city, is thankful with many green areas that were fought so hard to preserve for their intended land use. There are beautiful tree canopies as you drive on the wide boulevards of many streets, especially in Wuse II and Maitama districts.

But I am looking at somewhere you can go to relax, and most importantly increase your knowledge (because that’s what a green tour is), I have selected some sites below to start with.

Sarius Palmetum

The name leaves you wondering what it is actually, and whether it is English Language or not. Palmetum means a collection of different types of palms. Mama, as they honourably call the owner gathers different types of plants and palms, both indigenous to Nigeria and those that aren’t. It is a park growing more than 400 different species of palms. I never knew there were such many of them in the world.

On a touring level, it is a park where you can go and relax or have your events like weddings and birthday parties. At the same time, it is a botanical garden displaying the different types of palms and plants.

The full name is actually Sarius Palmetum Botanical Garden but you will understand I refer to it as both a park and a garden. The owners have a plan of making it a holiday resort as well. So there you have 3 things all in one location.

Normal entrance to this park on Ibrahim Babangida Boulevard is charged at 1000 NGN per day. When we visited with Per, we had a guided tour of the park offered by a passionate landscape architect who takes care of the plants. Ever since this introduction to different types of palms, I have always watched out for palms with keen interest.

There is natural stream that flows all through this 21 hectare planned resort. The owners have decided to construct embankments around the river to conserve it. A small waterfall exists on your way in. Hills and small rock formations in also lie in the garden. The place is truly blessed with physical features with architectural aesthetics.

I did recommend it for a casual walk up and down in the park and for the team building events.

There are monkeys as well in the garden we learned, but they are rarely seen when people visit.

It is a new project, some of the palms are still growing.  The park is partly under construction but the tour guide cannot wait till then. It is still a great location to take refuge at. You forget you are in Abuja for a while.

Abuja Technology Village

Abuja Technology Village (ATV) as it is popularly abbreviated is a science and technology park (STP), under construction. Sitting on more than a 100 hectare plot of land, it is meant to be the go to destination for companies and organizations interested in innovation and sustainability in technology, energy, ICT  and the likes. There are a number of science parks in the world, with ATV being the first in Nigeria, under development.

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How cool will this place be? very …
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A natural river currently at the site. It will still remain there after constructing the ATV.

What is green about this village is that all buildings to be constructed must follow the green building standards and regulations set by the overseers. A huge book of all those standards is developed to help guide intending developers. General goals are set down and building plans and elevations have already been done. The first office building to be constructed will be a LEED certified building.

At the moment, there is not much to see on ground. Only a little part of it is under construction. What should be in your itinerary is not the actual ATV that is on your way to the airport, but its office located in Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) to see the scaled model of how the finished village will be when finished. The office is on Aguiyi Ironsi Street. There is no public announcement of a tour offered to visitors, but the organization mentioned on their website they would love to hear from you. And if you can establish some mutual interest with ATV and inform them of your intention, perhaps your tour of the model be arranged by the nice people I met there.

Millennium Park

This 32 hectare green park designed by Italian architect Manfredi Nicolleti is a place to be if you want to relax, alone or with a number of friends, and while watching others do the same too (like a day at the beach). Many people throng here during weekends to have picnics, parties or even attend a talk or meeting. It is the largest public park in Abuja. The serene and big environment makes it cool for everyone to have their own space. Small artificial fountains are built along where a river flows in the middle of the park. You can also see the Aso Rock when you are in the park.

Talking about going to parks, many people say Nigerians do not have a culture of going to relax in parks. It is more of a foreign/non-African culture I agree. But many of us do not visit them because of the conversions in their use. When you are supposed to find a space to meditate or with minimal noises, some people turn the parks into ‘mama put’ restaurants or a music club, blasting loud music to disturb everyone.

However, if we have the sort of Millennium Park in every district in Abuja, I think many of us will start frequenting them. Many cannot just drive all the way to Millennium Park, one of my friend says.

Entrance to this park in Maitama is free.

There are other places worth visiting and that could be included in your green tour, like the Children’s Park and Zoo, IBB Golf course, Lower Usuma Dam Water Treatment Plant (there is a solar farm just opposite it), etc. I couldn’t identify an organic restaurant.

I will keep updating this blog when I find something interestingly green.

Is there a place in Abuja that appeals to you in a green way that I haven’t mentioned? Please mention in the comment section below. If you want to get more blogs like this and be updated on the additions to this blog, please subscribe to my blog below.

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