Getting along with minimal lifestyle-design again – #ProjectDoMoreWithLess 🙂

2016 has been an interesting and learning year for me. Both personally and professionally.

Personally, I was into my new relationship and was learning to adapt to differential habits we as humans have. It’s interesting how we want everyone else to be like us i.e. force our likings/habits and in the process ruin the relationship altogether. My learning from this is to embrace difference we all have as humans. I am still learning and it’s a long way to go.

Professionally, 2016 was more like reading/learning year for me. I didn’t design much but was reading about design and product development/management. My learning from this journey is that don’t just read articles or watch videos, put them into action. Plus, do one thing at a time and keep your mind focused on one goal until you get a good grip on it. Pretty obvious, right?! Well everyone has their right to their mistakes – a Good mistake that I did, was taking up too many projects at work and doing average in all of them. A year passed and from a design point of view in my career, I was at the same place I was in 2015. I grew very little in terms of enhancing/developing my design skills. Again, that’s another story for another blog post.

This blog post is about a new habit that I am trying to adopt lately. It’s about finding happiness by owning less. It’s about clearing up space around, both physically and mentally for the things that matter the most. It’s about reducing stress while increasing satisfaction and thus happiness in life. It’s about practicing Minimalism in every aspect of life.

This realization of practicing and putting minimalism in place came sudden and strong when I moved to a new apartment this year. In past 3 years, I’ve moved to 4 new apartments, all in 4 different locations/neighbourhood.

House #1 [Delhi]

House #2 [Delhi]

House #3 [Pune]

House #4 [Pune]

This constant change has led me to know more about the things I own. Every time I move to a new apartment, I come across things that I haven’t used for ages, but still kept them for any x number of reasons.

This year, while moving to my 3rd apartment, I noticed that I wasn’t using about 20%-30% of my total stuff and probably will not in near future as well. To give the gist, I had 2-3 shirts that I never wore, a small fridge that I wasn’t going to use because I live in a fully-furnished apt. now which has a bigger fridge, 2-3 extra bed sheets, 3 blue inked extra ball point pens, 2 same color highlighters, so on and so forth.

It was clear that I have hoarded a lot and using very less of my stuff. I’ve tried shedding things in the past but I do it when I am free or have nothing to do on a weekend. But this time I wanted to take this seriously and make this a habit. I needed to shed my belongings.

[Side note: If you’re struggling to see the value in adopting minimalism, don’t read further. Go and read why & how Joshua Becker, Joshua, Ryan and Leo Babauta adopted minimalism.]

Starting this year, among my other new year resolutions, I decided to audit my belongings, from big to medium to the smallest thing that I keep, I’ll audit everything, every 3-4 months. But in order to audit them in the most effective manner, I needed a system where I can track all my useless belongings better so later I can come back to it and decide to throw, donate, or sell.

Here’s how I am doing it:

  1. I am auditing every section of my house every 3rd or 4th month depending upon my availability and stuff hoarded along the way. After shedding a little in the last 6 months, I still have 3 closets to review.
  2. I have divided 4 sections for 4 weekends for the audit month. For example, I’ll audit kitchen the 1st weekend, bedroom room on 2nd, washroom on 3rd, and if anything is left, I am keeping the 4th weekend for that. Since I live in a studio apt., I don’t have rooms i.e. there’s only one room which has attached kitchen and washroom + a small balcony, but dividing them into sections is still easy.
  3. Maintain a note – Track everything. I am using Evernote to keep track of things that I am not using. You can use a notebook or a A4 paper. Don’t let this be an excuse. Just use anything to remember what you’re not using and can shed. Ex:
  4. Action time! Sell, donate or throw – Just do it! Once I’ve identified the items I’m not using or going to use, from different rooms/sections of my house, I decide what to do with them. I am using a combination of The 20-20 Method and The KonMari Method to decide what to do with my items. [I’ve explained what both of these rules mean below]

Rules you can follow:

You can use different rules or a combination of them while auditing and deciding what to do. I’ll list 3 of them here:

  1. The 20-20 Method by TheMinimalist.com says: “If you can get the item within 20 minutes of where you are and by spending less than $20, then you donate, sell or throw the item”
  2. The KonMari Method™ by Marie Kondo says (simplifying here) that if your belongings don’t spark joy when you hold them or when you’re around them, you should discard them. This is quite subjective and needs to be understood before applying.
  3. One Job, Multiple solutions Method says if you have multiple items for doing the same job, you can just keep one and shed the rest. For example, if you have 10 pens and you usually use 1-2 of them, you should shed the rest. People often keep things for the sake of keeping it. A lot of us are hoarders in general and like to collect stuff. Remember that collecting for the sake of it, is dangerous. It adds up to your space mentally and physically. You’ll spend more time maintaining stuff that you don’t own compared to using that time to do something you love.

So what’s my progress?

I’ve started auditing my stuff this year but will be doing this more seriously now. Here are things that I’ve shed so far (with details):

This will be an ongoing process and I’ll keep updating this post. If you want to stay updated and follow me on my minimal journey, you can follow me on my Instagram Profile – I’ll be updating there too.

If you’re auditing your belongings or just starting up, I’d love to know your process and the journey so far. Feel free to mention in comments!

How I get my things done – The art of GTD

I’ve been writing blog posts on to-dos, posting my yearly and monthly list of getting things done since quite some time – mostly to keep track and social accountability. It was fun and productive, but I’ve stopped writing about my to-dos since the start of year 2016 as I switched my job location and got a little busy, but relied on digital note keeping system, for the time being, using Evernote mostly.

As 2016 approaches to an end, I am reflecting back on good and bad things that happened and also the lessons learned from them. I’ll post about them in a separate blog post, but while jotting them down, I thought of starting my habit of writing yearly and monthly to-dos again.

Why? Because to give you the gist of 2016, I didn’t do any personal design related projects as I was mostly busy consuming information. Mostly from books, online articles, and videos. 2016 was much like a reading year for me. Not like I read 50 books. But I surfed a lot over the internet reading new and random stuff – not the most productive use of my time, but it happened.

I don’t regret spending time reading new stuff, but I could have managed my time better on several occasions only if I had made some goals. I made none and I wandered around aimlessly. There’s an argument about information in need vs. information in case which argues about whether we should consume information only when we need it the most, or we should consume to prepare ourselves for worst case scenario. I believe it can be both and that’s why few of the information I consumed, made me happy and few didn’t.

So from 2017 onwards, I’ll start making yearly and monthly goals. Again. I’ll use the same note-taking method (i.e. using a pen and a notebook/memo pad) I’ve used in the past 3 years since getting serious about being productive and methodological about my work, to get things done.

Basic rules I follow to get things done:

  1. Use note keeping as a system to store every to-do to stay on top of everything that needs to be done.
  2. Use pen and paper (a small notebook or a diary) to jot down those to-dos. 

Here’s why I use a note keeping system and don’t rely on my brain power to remember things and also why I use a notebook or a diary for noting down my to-dos.

Why use note keeping as a system?

First, our mind has a very limited real-time memory which means we can’t store everything that we want to remember. Don’t believe me? Try remembering what you need to get done in a week starting from coming Monday till the weekend comes. I am sure that by the end of the week, you’ll find that you missed 60%-70% of the items that you first thought on day one i.e. Monday.

Second, our brains are working constantly to remember those items which are not really needed. That brain power could be used to do something else, something more important. By putting all those to-do items in a note keeping system, say in a diary, we’re freeing up space or brain power to do other things.

And third, a note keeping system is also a go-to point for revision, editing, adding new items and finally to refer to it time and again. We can’t do that with our limited brain power. When I dump everything I am thinking of in a notebook or a memo pad (which I mostly use), I become stress-free. I don’t work my brain out to remember those stuff anymore because I know that everything that I need to buy, to do or take action upon, is stored in a system that I can always go back to, refer and pick up.

Why use a pen and a paper for note keeping? 

As much as I want to think and believe that note taking on a smartphone, laptop or any other digital device works, I have been proven wrong. For this year 2016, I completely tried sticking to digital systems for my note taking purpose.

Here’s how I started. The format was pretty basic in the start, i.e. to-dos listed in bullets. But later I moved on to a better layout. I was using Evernote most of the time for this.

Note keeping with Evernote with pretty basic format, i.e. to-dos listed in bullets
Note keeping with Evernote with pretty basic format, i.e. to-dos listed in bullets
Note keeping with Evernote with improved layout
Note keeping with Evernote with improved layout

After a year of using digital system for note keeping, which includes smartphone apps, Evernote, or notepad on laptop, I realized that it wasn’t working and might never work even at it’s best. Here’s why:

  1. I used digital note keeping systems every day but found myself writing less to-do items. Mostly because it’s a digital device where I am taking a note which is connected to the internet and other applications. The distractions were huge. I found myself switching windows, replying to incoming messages or deviating to something completely unexpected on the device, like playing games. All in all, note keeping is best not done with systems that can increase our chances of getting distracted as we need to stay sharp and focused when making small or specifically big goals.
  2. Ticking off something on paper with pen or pencil is way more satisfying and liberating compared to just clicking or tapping on something as done in a digital device. This feeling that I am talking about, can’t be expressed in words. You need to do it yourself in order to feel the difference and the joy it brings.
  3. I also found myself writing more to-dos when I was writing them on my notebook compared to when I was writing them on my digital devices.

Now that you know the basics and the why, how and what of things. Let’s clear out more frequently asked questions so we can get things done in the best way possible.

Which notebook to use? 

Any that you like. But it must be paper-based. You can use A4 sheets, a small notebook, or something like a memo pad which I use mostly.

How often to write to-dos or goals? 

I usually write one yearly, then few monthly to-do in a notebook and little to-dos in a memo pad. So big picture goes to my notebook and small and everyday to-do details goes to my memo pad.

My monthly to-do in a myPaperclip notebook
My monthly to-do in a myPaperclip notebook
Little and daily to-dos in a memo pad
Little and daily to-dos in a memo pad

To sum it up, getting things done is a piece of cake once you get the system and resources needed in place. Initially, you’ll struggle to keep up with the system i.e. you’ll forget to jot down little details, you’ll end up writing too many items on too many devices, or you’ll miss on to complete a lot of items you wrote. Remember this is not a fight to get everything done that you write, rather this is to practice and convert writing your to-do items in a piece of paper every day, month and year into a habit.

Happy getting things done and here’s a picture of all of my memo pad sheets till date 🙂 Cheers!

All of my to-do items from year 2015
All of my to-do items from year 2015

The power of just ‘Reading’

The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again.”… Click To Tweet

Reading what world has been upto helps a lot. I have noticed that when I slack into daily routine of work and reserve weekends to relax and recharge, I feel guilty of not getting anywhere in terms of growth. Of course I am getting to learn a lot while working in a cool company and helping people build products which millions love, but at the same time, it is an automated process – I will learn even if I don’t do anything after office hours. So, there’s this guilt sometimes, a guilt of not proactively doing things that makes me happy and for which I should feel productive.

When I read stuffs, be it over the internet or a book, I sense that I have started to focus my energy on creative things, things which I want to do, I drive lessons from those online articles or videos I watch and relate/apply to my process for the work to be done. Interestingly, I start feeling productive even without having start to work for that project. The process of engaging myself in planning of the project makes me feel productive and focused already.

I suddenly start feeling this sense of control that I don’t get while working on weekdays and not reading or doing anything productive. I feel that everything is in control. I need not to worry about where to start the project from, whom to approach for guidance, what materials to read in order to research, how to find time to do it, how to keep doing it while having a day job. Nothing seems impossible. I wonder if anyone has felt this way.

Let me know if you can relate to this. I can use some high-fives 🙂

Why this blog?

1_Jan_2013_whythisblog

Since childhood, I hated books. I had this perspective that people who read books, write novels, articles or blogs are boring. They live a monotonous life and are introverts. I still remember myself tagging few people as “boring” because of this particular notion.

Still today, I hate to study and you know the reason, it’s because the topics are not of my interest (which is widely a generalized case). But as I grew up and developed interest in design, I decided to make a career in it. Later, while moving forward, I started developing questions like “how to be more focused towards your goal”, “what to do when off-tracked”, “how to lead a good life” and so on. I wanted answers. This led me to follow some self-help blogs and writers (offering the same) like Zen Habits, Paulo Coelho, Robin Sharma and others which at some extent answered my questions. I searched everywhere and got many answers but the most common of all was: TO WRITE. I was amazed by discovering that “writing” was on the top of the chart. So to give writing a try, I begun documenting my routine and works (which is a short of writing, I decided to stick to) from 24th of September, 2012 (5 days after I launched my portfolio website).

I started to plan in advance like what I wanted to do the next day, next week, next month or next year. By documenting every step, I discovered that my brain had started to re-wire and it acted accordingly. I tried to maintain the pace of documentation, but failed many times during the course.

By writing I dumped whatever’s in there, in my head and those write-ups reflected my thinking level, my personality, what I am now, what I wanted to be, what I needed in life, etc. Writing made my thinking visible. It has refined my ideas. It has enhanced my power of perception. As I believe that “what you think, you can write and what you write, you can think upon”.

I still document my plans and it was only through the process of writing and to cross-check my position which made me realize that through writing or expressing my thoughts, I can always know about myself, where I stand and what actions do I need to take to make any changes. Also by writing something knowingly or unknowingly you’re trying to analyze the content. So I think this whole writing process is a tool to analyze and improve your personality in many ways. These results forced me to admit and appreciate that journalist and writers who have continued to read and write their whole life are not only making a living out of it, but are also improving their personality day-by-day. They re-wire their brain functions by these processes.

Relevantly, this book: The Shallows – What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, written by Nicholas Carr, explains how the internet is deteriorating our brain functions in many ways, is a must read.

Thus, finally I decided to start a blog only to pen down and analyze my views on a particular subject so that I can act accordingly, in near future. Some of you who might be thinking me as adopting a profession in writing (as a professional blogger), I’d like to clarify two things:

  1. What this blog is not about
  2. What this blog is about

This blog is not about:

  1. making money
  2. trying to change anyone’s life (not my motto) because I think people change their own lives
  3. getting readers or views
  4. promoting something (although I am promoting “writing” here)
  5. starting a career in blogging
  6. showing my knowledge

This blog is about:

  1. developing a writing habit
  2. expressing my thoughts and opinions
  3. improving myself by analyzing my views

And, by the way, it’s my mom’s birthday today! So CHEERS!

1_Jan_2013_happybdayma

Your visit is really appreciated. Enjoy reading and writing to have an open mind.