In 2018, I moved to Bangalore after joining SellerCrowd, a fully-remote company. While making the move, I realized and acknowledged the fact that maintaining a healthy lifestyle would be a challenge as I’ll mostly work from the comfort of my home.
Prior to this remote gig, I was with Wingify in Pune and was quite physically active during the time as:
Wingify had a big office that facilitated movement throughout the day.
There were a few football courts nearby my house so I was playing twice every week.
Pune’s traffic was less taxing so I spent my evenings meeting friends or go & eat in different parts of the city.
All that kept me moving and as a result, in good shape.
Now, after moving to Bangalore in 2018, I kept myself active by practicing yoga in the morning and some cycling around the neighborhood + some occasional training at the apartment’s gym.
About 6 months passed with just yoga and cycling but I still felt that I needed to get involved in some other sports/physical activities. This was mostly because I was practicing yoga nominally from my house and cycling was not quite fun because Bangalore‘s traffic isn’t a pleasure to cycle in. + I missed playing football too.
One evening while making my trip to my apartment’s gym half-heartedly, I noticed that a few kids were shouting in sync in the yoga room – which is just beside the gym. I went to peek and to my surprise, there was a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) session going on full-fledgedly.
I smiled, skipped gym that day and just stood there and watched the session go by. After the session got over, I went over to the instructor and without even asking what he’s going to teach me or how much time it’ll take me to go from White to Black belt (levels), I said: “I want to enroll in this class”.
Later when I thought about it, enrolling myself in the MMA class was a no brainer. Mostly because of my fascination towards close-combat fighting scenes I used to watch while growing up. Yes, I am talking about those Jackie Chan movies and Karate documentaries on Discovery channel and I was always intrigued by seeing these actors/athletes doing amazing stunts and at the same time being capable of defending themselves in tensed situations as a result of their training.
And that’s something I think I want to learn i.e.:
Having strength, flexibility, and more stamina
Capability to defend myself in tensed situations
Anyway, long story short, I enrolled about a year back and have been learning and practicing the basics under White belt. Last month I had my first belt exam and I graduated to Yellow belt!! 😀
FYI – The form that I am learning is called Goju-ryu which is one of the main traditional Okinawan (Japanese) styles of karate. The belt or levels starts with White (which I started with), and then people progress to Yellow (my current), followed by Orange, Green, Blue, Purple, Brown, Red, and Black. The change of belt color denotes the hard work and discipline that a student has put into mastering the art.
Well, that’s a brief summary of belts and the art form that I am learning. I’ll keep writing about my experience in MMA as I progress further. Till then, here’s a video of me performing a basic kata – Kata Junino.
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I started my Facebook account around July of 2007. If I remember correctly, 2006-2009 was a time when people were using Orkut (ha!) and later moved to Facebook. It’s been more than 12+ years for me and millions of others, being on Facebook. Since then, tech-giants have poured enormous resources to build many similar social platforms – fighting for our attention span and making money in the process.
Cut to 2019, we now have more social platforms than we actually need to stay connected. Facebook these days feels like a black hole to kill time. Instagram feels like a machine built to churn more pretentious and narcissistic humans. Twitter has everyone converse to look intellectually superior.
Facebook these days feels like a black hole to kill time. Instagram feels like a machine built to churn more pretentious and narcissistic humans. Twitter has everyone converse to look intellectually superior.
Given our use case, the pros of being on one of these social platforms under-weigh the cons.
For the last 2 years, my social media usage has gone up to about 2+ hours/day. While I shared something on a daily basis and it only took a few mins to post, I kept going back to check activity, many times a day. Sometimes it’s a ping from a friend. Sometimes it’s the curiosity of who’s liked or commented on my photo. Sometimes it’s just to refresh my brain with memes. But most of the time, it is my brain that has re-wired to grab my phone or computer and open one of these sites to check what’s new.
When I looked at the data (screenshot below) I found out that I spend over 1400+ hours every month on social media sites. That’s a lot of hours. That’s largely FOMO at play.
In recent years, a lot of research, interviews, and articles on social media companies have shed light on the dark practices that go inside to keep us hooked.
New notification types like “A photo of you from a year back”, “someone ABC visited your profile”, “People you follow have posted an image”, etc are all deployed to bring us back and spend more time. Instagram at one point (for a few months) started showing a red badge (indicating something unread or new) beside the “Open Facebook” CTA on Instagram – which was completely irrelevant to Instagram users and is a prime example of dark design pattern to bring users back by any means.
The addiction to open social apps follows us everywhere. When traveling, I noticed that I am spending more time sharing photos rather than enjoying the new country, getting to know the local people or experiencing their culture. Although I did enjoy going to places and was only spending about 30-60 mins posting photos each day, I do feel that I should have used that time to enjoy the place more vs. spending my travel time posting updates online.
Photos can always be shared later, no?
Furthermore, I realized that my addiction to social apps is also hampering my professional life. A few months back, I started reading this book called “Deep work” and just within 20-30 pages, the book made it very clear that in order to produce high-quality work, to think and solve complex problems, to build a focused mind, one MUST have a distractive free environment – leading to a focused and attentive brain.
The research is clear on how using social media apps on a regular basis rewires our brain to have a shorter span of focus time. We start finding it harder to sit and focus on the task at hand for more than a few minutes. At the same time, we also start craving smaller sets of dopamine hits more and more. Soon, we find ourselves constantly switching tabs, jumping apps to see activity, chatting with multiple people at once, watching short clips on YouTube, etc. While all that “work-&-play” in today’s startup culture might sound fun at the beginning, the damage it’s doing is really serious.
For example, I have been wanting to redo my portfolio website for 3+ years now. Every year, I add it to my to-do list but hardly make any progress. This is largely due to the fact that my focus is not my priority and hence my priorities are not in focus. I am spending too much time posting micro-life updates, checking who’s commenting or liking pictures and then repeating the cycle again by planning what updates should be next. It’s not that I haven’t tried bringing my focus back to important goals, but as I mentioned earlier, a lack of shorter attention span and being focused way too much on my “social-media life” has hampered my attention span quite a lot. So much so that I can’t even sit for 1-2 hours straight and see through things at a stretch.
My focus is not my priority and hence my priorities are not in focus.
Worth noting that a lot of people can sit for a longer period of time but that isn’t the proxy of their non-addiction with social media apps. Shorter attention span is just one of the many side-effects of being addicted to social media. Some can’t focus. Some become narcissistic. Some have no real social life. Some start spending $$$ to look cooler online. The list just goes on.
Another big reason why I felt like taking a step back from using social media was that I didn’t want my morning to start with other people’s posts, pictures, and news. I want my mornings to start with a fresh mind, without any biases or discomfort by looking at an endless feed of 200+ people. I want to experience where my thoughts go and maybe just journal them.
Side note – Journaling helps in channeling one’s thoughts, gives thoughts a structure on paper, and results in a calmer and a lot less chaotic mind in the long run.
And that’s what I want my brain to be. Calmer and less chaotic.
Lastly, a recent conversation with one of my friends also pushed me to think more about my immense love for social media and to start tackling the problem seriously. We were discussing our thoughts on our overuse of social media and he made a funny yet applicable comment about this habit of ours of posting life updates quite frequently on social apps. He commented:
Your life is not an Uber ride that you need to notify people that frequently
I knew right at that moment what sort of updates he’s drawing parallels with the ride app, Uber. Just like our Uber app/driver sends us messages at every turn like, “Hey, I have arrived” or “Hey, your ride has started”, etc., we’re also sending our life updates in a similar fashion.
For example, when we go to a new city, we send updates “Hey, arrived in xyz city”. When we’re hanging out in a cafe/restaurant, we add stories on Instagram “Having an amazing time at this cafe/restaurant”. There’s an update for every breath we take these days. It is endless, it is tiring, and it is non-value adding action, to say the least. This doesn’t mean that we should not share news/updates about our lives but I think we need to be asking ourselves the real reason we’re doing it for and then be discreet in how often we share these little-valued updates.
2 months ago, when all the WHYs finally sank in and I accepted that I was and am addicted to social media, I decided to take measures to cut back on my social media consumption. Below I am listing down a few ways I cut down my social media time. Worth noting that the general outline of these action items was “OUT OF SIGHT = OUT OF MIND”.
“OUT OF SIGHT = OUT OF MIND” can be explained as – If something addictive is NOT in front of you, it’s more likely that you’ll NOT crave and reach out for it.
For example, if you like smoking and see a pack of cigarettes lying around or someone else taking a puff, chances of you picking up that cigarette are more likely. So trick here is to keep the pack of cigarettes out of the sight.
Similarly, If you’re obese (or not) and just trying to cut back on fat, having that sweet cookie or fried snack at your dining table won’t let you achieve your goal so easily. Again, if it’s easily accessible, it’s harder to resist. And when it comes to breaking old habits, our willpower is usually weaker at the beginning but improves as we keep at it.
On that note, here are the actionable items that have helped me for 2+ months now in cutting back social media time:
I started using a different phone for social apps. While auditing my screen time, I realized that I am mostly accessing my social accounts using my smartphone and less via my computer’s browser. Hence, I deleted all the social apps from my main phone and installed them on a spare OnePlus phone. Once that’s done, I am keeping the OnePlus phone inside my wardrobe’s drawer, making it even harder to be in my viewport.
Turned off my notifications on both phones. Keeping the phone in a completely different room and a drawer is just half work done. To actually make my OnePlus phone unnoticeable, I turned off all notifications from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Gmail, so I don’t get any sort of reminder that I have a phone full of distractions in my closet.
Setting a usage time every day. Creating rules are important while trying to form a new habit and breaking old ones. So rule #3 was to only use social apps during my evening time, after work hours and before going to bed. That is usually between 10 PM – 11 PM for me. Initially, I ended up going to my bedroom and using the phone to check notifications during the day too, but the urge slowly passed away as I progressed in this experiment.
Tip: Blocking your calendar just to check social apps can also help set the tone for this.
Delete shortcuts. Even after removing apps from my phone, installing them in a new phone, hiding the new phone in a closet, there was still a way that I could access these sites i.e. via my computer’s web browser. I had the shortcuts added on the Bookmark’s bar earlier for easy access, so I removed as them well.
Log out of social sites from my work and personal laptop. Along with removing the shortcuts from my Bookmark’s bar, I logged out of all the sites and deleted all saved passwords as well – ensuring it’s even harder for me to go to these sites on my computer and typing in passwords every time.
I’ve been trying to stay off of social media for about 2+ months now. It was hard at the beginning but the temptation to check activity has decreased a lot.
Earlier in November 2019, my overall monthly usage was around 1400+ hours. In 2 months, i.e. January 2020, I’ve managed to bring it down to under 400 hours.
Scorecard here is about a 73% decrease in social media usage over a period of 2 months. 🎉
One strategy that really helped in executing the above-mentioned methods was that I intentionally started this experiment when I was on a 3-week vacation – visiting family members.
Vacation time was a good time because I wasn’t expected to work and didn’t need a laptop. I also promised myself that I won’t work on any tech-based side project during that time. All I was doing during this time was hanging out with my cousins and just reading on my Kindle.
When I was back to my usual routine after 3 weeks of vacation, the benefits started to surface:
I felt more confident in resisting social media
I felt more present during my vacation time and even after coming back
My mornings, in random order, started feeling like a bliss. It kept going on-and-off but I definitely felt lighter and less cluttered mentally.
Since I am not spending 2+ hours every day on social media apps, I’ve allocated this time just to sit back and just do one activity during this time. For example, I’ll just sit back and drink tea, or call an old friend and catch up, or lie down on the sofa and just let my thoughts wander and watch them passively.
The feeling of FOMO has dialed down automatically. This has definitely decreased my anxiety levels. I am much calmer now.
And lastly, I am happy about the less screen-time I am able to achieve because of this – giving my eyes it’s own resting time.
Apart from my personal reasons, I kept coming across materials online which kept educating me on the side-effects of using social media apps on a regular basis. I am compiling the quotes/statements that stood out and convinced me further to reduce my usage of social media apps:
Dream conditioning – Paraphrasing, Leslie Coutterand here – she mentions that “through these social apps we see other people’s lives, where they’re eating, where they’re traveling to, which car they bought, what home they have, etc. All these pictures subconsciously affect our goals in the long run. Sooner than later, we forget our own dreams/desires/goals in life and start chasing goals or lifestyle that is socially validated or cheered.”
“If one is lacking acceptance, confidence, and security in their life, they get transfixed on getting a celebrity-like lifestyle because that’s how you get respect and attention according to media or social apps.” She calls it “media-driven dreams and ambitions to heal” one’s lack of self-worth.
“Social apps generate a feeling of need, lack and competition” – again, resulting in us doing things to prove our worth online.
“Tobacco just wanted your lungs, the app store wants your soul”
“What we find is the typical persona checks their phone every 15 minutes or less, and half of the time they check their phone, there’s no alert, no notification. It’s coming from inside their head, telling them: I haven’t checked Facebook in a while, I haven’t checked this Twitter feed for a while, I wonder if somebody commented on my Instagram post. That then generates cortisol and it starts to make you conscious and eventually, your goal is to get rid of that anxiety so you check in”
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If you’re wondering what my goal #1 and #2 are, I am yet to write about them. 😂 In the meantime, I am ready to talk about my 3rd goal for 2019 i.e. automating my home.
Well, It’ll be a side “hobby” and I’ll take it real slow. Things that I’ll automate are:
Cleaning (With a Robot Vacuum Cleaner which potentially has good mobile-app integration so I don’t have to be home to start the device)
Lights (voice-controlled with Phillips Hue Bulbs)
Fan (voice-controlled if I find a workaround with my existing fan system)
Geysers (voice-controlled with Smart plugs)
TV (By installing a separate RC signal with Raspberry-Pi)
This goal of automating the house comes from my long-lived fascination of 3 things:
Clean living environment – I am extremely fanatic about cleanliness. I’ve picked it up from my mom. Since the time I started living alone, I have always cleaned my house on my own. I don’t like dust getting accumulated for a longer period of time (2-3 days max is my threshold). Also, I don’t like unorganized stuff around me – this comes from being a designer as I am constantly trying to find symmetry and better layout in my designs and that transcends to my lifestyle as well. ✨
Productivity hacks – I have always gravitated towards the idea of improving productivity. I keep trying productivity hacks every now-and-then to better the output from what I already have, either for fun or for work. Although these experiments don’t lead to the desired output most of the times, irrespective of that, I do like to optimize little/big things around me. (P.S. I mostly do it for fun/learning. I am not a productivity-Hitler). 👨💻
Automation – Since the day I read the book, The 4 Hour Workweek, I started thinking about automating stuff that either takes a lot of time to get done or that I do not enjoy doing repetitively. For example, I like to prepare my breakfast and order lunch & dinner every day but then again, sometimes I just don’t want to. So I automated this part of my toutine with a service like Eat.Fit in Bangalore. Similarly, in my day job as a Product Designer, I introduced a design system so it can automate the component update process through all my mockups and hence speed up my design process (Read about why design systems are important here: Brad Frost’s Blog. 🤖
So what first?
I have always cleaned my house myself. I used to do dust-cleaning and mopping every weekend when I was in Pune. But then I moved to a bigger house in Bangalore. While dust cleaning was still manageable, mopping floor every weekend used to take a lot of time and effort. So finally, I started mopping every alternate weekend And for dust cleaning, I bought a hand-held vacuum cleaner last year expecting it to make my life easier. And honestly, it did make my life easier as mopping (a harder task) was down from 4x to 2x every month. 💪
But here’s the twist. In India, houses pick up dust easily because they’re mostly surrounded by busy roads and construction sites. Yes, the construction never stops in this country and we barely use any tools to isolate dust at construction sites. This led me to automate the dust-cleaning process for my house once and for all.
So, I am taking the first step towards automation by buying a vacuum robot to automate floor dust-cleaning. After researching a lot on Vacuuming Robots made by companies like iRobot, Dyson, and Xiaomi, it seemed like all of them were doing the same job quite decently but the prices varied a lot because of the brand names. Xiaomi’s robot seemed like the best of the lot as it was 1/2th the price of iRobot and 1/4th the price of a Dyson robot. Plus this was my first try at vacuuming robots, so I didn’t want to spend a lot and finding that my money wasn’t worth it.
The Xiaomi’s Robot Vaccum Cleaner collects dust from the floor as far as it can see and reach; it cleans in a systematic path vs a random one and if the battery gets low while cleaning, it goes to the charging dock, charges itself and resumes back from the same spot. The best part is that it comes with a really intuitive app developed by Xiaomi itself. Have a look below.
After buying this robot and using it for 8+ weeks now, I can attest that I wake up to a clean house every day without having to worry about it. Dust accumulation has gone down and because of that, I am mopping the house only alternate weekends or maybe less. As for the robot maintenance, the dust is very easy to dispose off as it gets contained in a filter box, so that’s also an “easy” one and contributes to less work/time spent on robot maintenance. ✅
In a nutshell, I’ve been using this for 8+ weeks now and I think this will be one of my best return-on-investment purchases of 2019. 💰
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Back in 2013, I started this blog to document my professional and personal journey. There was no theme that I wanted to run this blog on. I didn’t want it to be focused too much design, my travel journey or to give “gyan” all the time. I kept doing stuff offline & online that was interesting to me and I just felt like jotting them down so I can keep them somewhere on the web.
My goal back then was to just write 1 blog a month but I was never consistent. I barely wrote more than 1 in 2018. So starting this year, I am going to start blogging again. Nothing big, just 1 blog per month. That’s what I promised myself back in 2013 and that’s what I am going to try from now on.
So, on those lines, what’s a better way than to start other than by reflecting on what happened/what kept me busy in 2018. Actually, a lot happened which is worthy of mentioning here, but I think I can bucket them in certain themes and that’s what I’ll highlight in this post. So without further ado, here are a few key moments from 2018. ✌
1. Got a new remote job 👨💻
Since college days, I very much liked the idea of working remotely and fancied it more so after reading the book “The 4-Hour Workweek”. It took me a while (around 4 years) to make the switch from a typical corporate job but I think the journey in between helped me gain a better perspective about the job industry which in-turn made the remote job hunting (comparatively) easy.
I’ll complete a year of remote work this month (January 2019) and I’ve really enjoyed every bit of 2018, to say the least. There’s so much happened only because of this remote job that I can spend days jotting them down here. But, it’s just one blog post and I wanted to write only about the major highlights, so…here are a few notable things that happened because of my new remote job/lifestyle:
More “me” time. Having a regular 9-to-5 office job means a couple of hours being spent on getting ready, commuting daily, water-cooler conversations, etc., which I don’t have to deal with anymore. I now have more time in my hands which I can use to spend on other activities that I like (or just simply relax more.) 💆♂️
More traveling. Since the job is remote, I’ve traveled more in a year than I’d have done in 2-3 years combined if I were in a day job. To sum it up, I traveled to 5 countries, 23 cities, and 169 places. That’s Google being meticulous, not me. More on my travels below 🧭
Improved communication skills. Since my company is pretty distributed and we have people from all around the world, acing in communication becomes a must have. Although my English wasn’t that bad, but I think it was pretty average. Working with colleagues, communicating with them over Slack day-in-&-out and interacting with them personally face-to-face during team trips have definitely helped me polish my English even more. 💪
Better understanding of different cultures. Last year, I traveled in quite a decent amount (work related or otherwise) to meet office colleagues and other remote workers/travelers who come from various ethnic backgrounds. Getting to know about their culture, their way of living, what is acceptable and not acceptable in their cultures, and many other nitty-gritties has enriched and broadened my perspective about the world. Learning about these differences first hand is an undoubtedly valuable and fun experience. 👨👩👧👧
Less gossip. I am the kind of person who gets into gossip easily, I admit. So a remote job works best for people like me as I hardly get any chance to gossip about anything with anyone over a Slack chat. Telecommuting just makes it harder to get into stupid habits that a corporate day-job offers by default. 🤐
2. Moved to Bangalore 🏡
So after taking up the remote job in late January 2018, I wanted to stay back in Pune for a while to give myself some time to understand what sort of work routine and lifestyle I’ll have going forward. I had the comfort of a cute small studio apartment, friends from Wingify (my previous company) to have a quality social life and football games going twice every week to stay fit and happy.
But slowly, all my friends started moving out of Pune to join companies in different locations. Gradually, this left me alone in Pune with very few social connections. And also, living in a studio apartment served me well till the time I was working with Wingify. A small house doesn’t bite you when you work in a bigger office throughout the week and you just have to be in your studio apartment for 70-80% of the weekend. But soon the smaller space and lack of friends started biting me, so I decided to move to a bigger house and to a city where I already have my friends.
Bangalore seemed like the default choice for my next home as it already had a few of my friends working there, I liked the city’s urban culture and it already had a well-established design community which wasn’t there in Pune, mostly because Pune didn’t have a decent amount of design-centered IT companies, and Bangalore had plenty.
Thankfully I wasn’t making the switch blindly based on what I had heard about the design community in Bangalore. In 2017, I came to Bangalore for a 2-day trip to attend this design event called DesignUp which literally convinced me to make the move. The sheer presence of the designers (and other IT professionals) was amazingly vibrant and supportive. I had to be in Bangalore. ✊
Finally, I made the move to Bangalore in June last year, shifted to a bigger house and was busy setting up the house which is functional for a remote employee like me. Along those lines, “How to set up a house which allows remote work” is a bigger topic that I will cover in a separate blog post.
3. Traveled quite a lot 🗺
Working for a remote company allows you to just be anywhere. All you need is a good working internet connection and laptop (+most of your work on the cloud). This allowed me to experiment with my travel plans exactly how I imagined after reading the book “4 Hour Workweek”. Here are a few highlights:
Traveled to Madrid, Spain: My 2018’s travel journey kicked off by flying to Madrid, Spain for my company’s get together. The day I was flying to Madrid was the day I was joining my new company and It was definitely a first for me i.e. to be able to fly and get on-boarded in a new country, in your new job and on your first day. 🤯
Traveled to Ooty, India: After Madrid, I traveled and worked from Ooty with my brother for about 10 days.
Went home twice this year for 2+ weeks/visit: Again, I think going back to your hometown for straight 2+ weeks in one go is something that is highly unlikely to be allowed by most companies in India. Here, we do have policies like “WFH” and/or “Unlimited leaves”, but they’re mostly a marketing tactic to attract talent and never let anyone reap the benefits. And being remote gives you this location freedom by default. 🎒
Lived outside India for about 1.5 months: This was my first outside-India experiment where I traveled to a new country/city and worked. It wasn’t a vacation but it sure looked/felt like one. I was traveling with my friend who’s also a remote worker to de-risk the cons of traveling alone for the first time (if any). It was amazing and I’ll be doing it this year as well. If you’re interested, you can check the pictures from the trip here.
Lastly, traveled to Lisbon, Portugal: I spent my first few weeks of December 2018 in Lisbon. It was for another team get together for 3 weeks. Loved Lisbon more than Madrid as it has a different vibe and felt more homely. 🧡
I don’t think any day-job would offer this flexibility of being able to work from anywhere and anytime you want. Hence, I’ve come to believe that having a lifestyle that you desire is something is only possible for remote workers, freelancers and/or a CEO/people at executive positions in companies.
4. Made yoga somewhat a habit 🧘♂️
I started doing yoga after going remote. I was used to moving a lot when I was in Wingify as they had pretty big office there. But after going remote and working from home, comparatively, you move quite less. To tackle that, I started doing yoga in Pune but was less frequent there. After moving to Bangalore, I have tried doing yoga at least 4-5 times a week which is quite a good start IMHO.
5. Became completely debt free 💸
I studied Automotive Engg. on an education loan but didn’t finish my college degree. Irrespective of that, I had to pay the loan and it was a hefty amount. This year in April, I finished off my education loan by fast-tracking the payout. The feeling of clearing that debt can’t be expressed in words. 🙂
With that feeling of financial freedom, I decided right at that moment that I am not going to take any big loans in near future. Past few years of working towards paying out my education loan acted (and still acts) as a good reminder of how life can be less flexible when you have a big loan on your head. You can’t leave your job to relax a bit, you can’t start a business if you want, you can’t take another loan, so on and so forth. In short, you become risk-averse. So yeah, no more loans in foreseeable future and I am quite proud of getting that debt off. 🤠
Other than that, in 2018, there are things that happened in between, small and big. But I don’t want to write about everything here. I do post regularly on my social channels and if you’re interested, you can follow me there.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
The KonMari Method™ by Marie Kondosays (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.
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!
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I am a Facebook addict! I spend almost 1-2 hours (or more) on social networks on a daily basis. *sigh*
I was reading this article over the weekend: “Can we be both makers and managers?” [Link to the article], which explains it’s important to manage your roles as a human being when it comes to creation and management. Reading while jumping hyperlinks I landed on this post by Paul Jarvis on Productivity where he says:
“I suck at multi-tasking. Not just doing more than one thing at a time, but being interrupted when doing one task by something else. This comes mostly in the form of notifications on your computer or phone. Someone liked your photo on Instagram? Someone @’ed you on Twitter? A file was uploaded to Dropbox? New email?!
I’ve managed to not miss anything or forget anything in the 2 years since I’ve killed all notifications. Instead, I use the program I’m using at any given time, and when I’m done, I move onto something else. So I only see Twitter when I log into Twitter. I only see my inbox when I open up my email program. Focus works.”
After reading this, I logged out of my social accounts. It just felt the urgent need of doing that as I always end up going on facebook or other social channels every few minutes (say 30-40 mins) and end up seeing the same news feed I have seen earlier. It serves me no good and I waste my time in the process. Why I land up on my social accounts that often? Because:
I want to know what’s happening in or around the world (I have FOMO – Fear of missing out)
I want to share interesting some stuff – I realised I am not a social media manager nor my job description includes that. I do that on a personal level, and if I do it personally, I can do it any time of the day, week or month. I don’t need to be there all the time to share what I like. It should not come in between what’s important to me. Be it work, relationships, health or whatever.
Here’s my online surfing data recorded by RescueTime for November 2015:
Note: I forgot to start the OS app and only turned the Chrome extension on, so it couldn’t track my Photoshop or Sketch’s timings which could have been the productive time I have had while using my computer.
Nonetheless, I regret wasting my time surfing randomly on social networks. TIME TO MAKE SOME CHANGES NOW.
But, what I don’t want, is to lose my ability to share cool stuff I see or read online with my friends or/and to interested readers. I really like the newsletters I get every now and then from people or blog I have subscribed to. Two of which I enjoy reading are from Tim Ferriss (Author of The Four Hour Work Week) and Noah Kagan (CEO/Founder of AppSumo). They both have started sending newsletters with interesting stuff they see/read/do online and offline. I enjoy reading these newsletters for two reasons:
I get to read interesting curated stuff which I wouldn’t find or find after many hours of surfing online. Plus the content they share is aligned with the stuff I like to read or know about. So they do the hard work for me. I sit back, read, learn and enjoy.
Second, I get these newsletters directly in my inbox which is great, so that I don’t have to bookmark them or go back to some place to keep a tab on them. I read them at my own convenience and will.
So, about the changes I am going to make:
Log out of all the social accounts. Log in once a day for a start – My target is to reduce it to once in two days in the next 6 months.
Compile a note (on my Evernote or in a word doc) of interesting stuff I read online and share them via a blog post rather than going on Facebook or Twitter every single time I want to share them.
Let 2016 be distraction free! 🙂
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Here’s the list of books I will be reading this year [If you’re curious, here’s the full list of my goals this year – Link].
The list has been compiled mostly from a self-help perspective rather than just reading-for-fun perspective. I have also added the purchase links of the books in case you want to read them as well. I might also put my thoughts on these books in separate blog posts once I am done reading them. 🙂
The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses – by Eric Ries – Link
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity – by David Allen – Link
One Simple Idea: Turn Your Dreams into a Licensing Goldmine While Letting Others Do the Work – by Stephen Key – Link
The $100 Startup: Fire your Boss, Do what you Love and Work Better to Live More – by Chris Guillebeau – Link
2015’s here. Time to do things right and set some basics in place. Have learned few lessons last year applicable to work and life and hoping to go exponentially towards that vertical. As I believe : It’s the small things that matter. Hence, will be focusing on small things and some basics in work, health and extra curricular activities.
Before jumping right in to discuss what are my goals for this year, I think it’s good to reflect on the last year’s successes and failures first.
Good things happened in 2014 :
Learned how a startup operates (not completely, but to an extent) while working in one startup, which I joined in early November 2013. – Menily [now Menias – Website]
Learned why execution matters as went to an event which aimed at connecting creative entrepreneurs with people, skills and resources to turn their ideas into creative businesses – The Coalition. Pretty cool right? Not for me! Turns out I learned nothing except realizing that without an idea or direction and plus tackling procrastination (if you consider that to be a hurdle) no event or talk show is of much help.
Traveled to Gujrat – Everything in Gujrat is as shitty as any other state in India except the sea view and few other places Picture 2 from the trip : [Link], Picture 3 from the trip : [Link]
Semi-Graduated from College – Still have 10 backlogs left. [More on this in a later post]
Created job for myself in one big USA based advertising intelligence company – Exponential. [more on this in a later post. Quick fact for now – Most people in the company (including the CEO) are very humble]
Designed and launched MKA in association with Specta– An application aiming to improve our health related issues caused by sitting in front of computers for long hours via reminders. [Update : the team is working to make the application a smart one] [Check the app. here : Link]
MKA got featured in national newspaper
Learned to swim a bit – All by myself and a little help of Rahul. [Pic. – Link]
Bought things from my wishlist – Still have few left. [More on this in another blog post]
My cousin (male) married at the age of 35+ – Always happy to see these guys grow and getting wiser each day. They had their bad days in the past but succeeded anyway. [More on this on a later post]
Bad things happened in 2014 :
Didn’t finish my course in college – Have 10 backlogs left.
Procrastinated a lot – For instance missing deadlines on design projects or not going to gym often.
Stopped playing football – I used to play every alternate day in my university.
Stopped blogging – Didn’t blog since March 2014.
Got some belly – Football and running was enough to keep me fit which I stopped doing.
Bought books, but couldn’t finish – Example – The lean startup.
Watched porn a bit more than usual (Ahem!) – Is it a bad thing? Still have to figure that out.
Looking at past is fun. Right? Anyway, let’s concentrate on this year.
GOALS for 2015:
Write minimum 12 blog posts – Blog posts from now on will be mostly based on results from intentional/unintentional experiments in my life.
Put this blog’s branding in place – Working on a new theme for the blog as mentioned above. [Not finalized but yes, this is what it will be] [Update : 100% done]
Get 1000 blog subscribers/readers/monthly views – Writing good content which people will love to read/share will be the key.
Make my personal portfolio website [www.sankalpsinha.com] responsive – My website’s traffic data shows that most people (atleast 30%-40% of them) visit the website from a mobile device. So bound to push it to a responsive layout.
Travel and live in Singapore [minimum for 30 days]– I always wanted to travel to see places…people…good food. Why 30 days? Travel for me is to live and breathe the place not to sightsee them.
Launch e-commerce website of LETWALLINSPIRE – Always believed that with right inspiration, people can go a long way. LETWALLINSPIRE is the result of that belief. [Website]
Design minimum 20 posters for LETWALLINSPIRE – For e-commerce to be effective. [Posters designed so far – Link]
Turn MKA into a smart application – The current version doesn’t take human interaction with the computer in account and gives reminder every 40-55 minutes irrespective of whether the user was active or inactive, which disrupts many engagements of the user with the computer. [Here’s the current version – Link]
Host talks on building ideal lifestyle in minimum 5 colleges – Earning a decent money, working without stress, doing things you love – These are doable. I have done it pretty much and I think others can too. The talk will be based on how to design the ideal lifestyle for yourself.
Read minimum 12 books [List link will be here soon] [Update :1 book finished reading]
Sketch minimum 100 sketches – Here are few I have done in the past – Link [Follow my sketch updates here – Link] [Update : 15% done]
Learn 10 songs to play on guitar – Songs list will be here soon. For now I will be starting with Ed Sheeran’s Don’t. [Listen the original song here – Youtube Link]
Eat healthy – Here’s my target per month – 30 Liters of milk [1 liter a day], 60 eggs (boiled) on average [2 per day], 60 cheese slice [2 per day], 7-8 liter of fruit juice [500 ml every alternate day]
Get in shape – Have to figure out the best exercise according to my physic and need.
Manage finance better – Track every expense. [More on this in a later post]
Be more open – Analyze how I react to people and their behavior and set few guidelines/principles in life so to avoid being a hypocrite.
The best way to achieve all this is to break them in easy and doable steps every month, week and days (if you’re so mad about planning). I generally plan out things for the month and then let things flow out according to my engagements for different weeks/days. Most of the times I have failed. But that’s how you get to know how you’re performing.
So here’s my to-do list for January 2015 :
Write and publish 1 blog post[Update : 100% done]
Plan out branding for the blog – So to have a theme and framework to write and focus on.[Update : 100% done]
This is part 2 of the post : 21 lessons learned so far. Read the part 1 here : [Link]
Do you own thinking.
Often I get advice from people and it never ends. Some advices are good, some are bad. If I had listened and acted on all of them, I wouldn’t be here where I am today. That’s why I love this quote by Robert Downey Jr., “Listen, smile, agree, and then do whatever the fuck you were gonna do anyway.” Because in the end, you only take responsibility and credit of either failing or succeeding.
“Avoid the crowd. Do your own thinking independently. Be the chess player, not the chess piece” ~ Ralph Charell
Read stories of successful people, don’t adopt their personality.
I started reading few auto-biographies of successful people lately and have found the whole process very inspiring. One can learn a lot by reading biographies. It makes you wise. But, what I fear about immersing myself into such inspiring stories is I will start adopting their personality too which is the first step towards losing my original self.
“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.” ~Judy Garland
People older than you also have had dreams. Start pushing them towards achieving it.
My mother used to paint a lot before marriage. Gradually after marriage, her pace kept slowing down and after few years it completely stopped. But that passion for painting was never over. Likewise, everyone’s parent must have dreamt something. But over the years, after getting married and sacrificing everything for their families, they have just lost the spark.
I strongly feel that it’s our (child’s) responsibility too to push them towards doing things they always wanted to do. Remember? It’s never too late to start something.
“The stars are not going to align themselves perfectly for you to start any day.” ~The four hour work week
Keep shuffling your music playlist.
To my amazement, research have shown that listening to the same playlist for long enough kills creativity and restricts thinking. Best solution is to keep shuffling your playlist every now and then to stay fresh and to let creative juices flow in your body.
“When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.” ~Henry David Thoreau
Always keep a book to read.
I wasn’t a reader earlier. Not even in a least possible manner. In one of my trips to Varanasi in 2010, my cousin gifted me this book named :The Alchemist, mentioning “this is the book you should read or start with”. 2 weeks later I found that I like this process of discovering something new all of a sudden which gives a new perspective on life and also answers some of the questions. Since then I have read quite a few books. And the experience and knowledge I have gained, has made me more wiser.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” ~George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
Getting married can wait. Build something.
There are lot of things we know without having done it earlier. Like we know how marriage works and what are the challenges (almost). We know how it feels to get a job and do a 9-5 work everyday. Seen my dad and many others doing it. And the list goes on. On the other hand building or doing something which no one has ever built or done, be it concept/real product or few years of continuous travel for example, is extra ordinary. Those are few things we have to experience ourselves.
“Whatever good things we build end up building us.” ~Jim Rohn
Success brings acquaintances, friends and lovers . But above all, don’t loose sight of the end goal.
I designed a concept alarm clock (singNshock) and submitted the image to YankoDesign for publication in early 2013. They liked the design and published it the next week. To my amazement the design was all over the internet within a week after YankoDesign published it. I was flying high, I must say. It brought me a lot of traction and branded me as a designer in the industry. I have now friends from different parts of the world. Some are designers, some are entrepreneurs, some are writers and so on. But above all, that fame was only for the moment.
And fortunately I am surrounded by people who every now and then keeps my goal in check. Never let fame lure you out of what you have dreamt of.
“If you come to fame not understanding who you are, it will define who you are.” ~Oprah Winfrey
People are smarter than you think. Give them the responsibility and show that you trust them.
While working with one startup few months back I realized that people around us whom we thought couldn’t take much responsibility of (for example) being in-charge of the project and running it successfully, did just the opposite. Not only they completed the project in time, they also added new features to the product which we never thought of implementing. This happened only because we gave them the responsibility and showed trust even when we weren’t sure.
“The more you trust your intuition, the more empowered you become, the stronger you become, and the happier you become.” ~Gisele Bundchen
Always smile when you enter a room.
According to Mystery, one of the best pickup artists in the world, “The number one characteristic of an alpha male is smile. Smile when you enter a room. As soon as you walk in a club or a room full of people, the game is on. And by smiling, you look like you’re together, you’re fun, and you’re somebody.” ~Quoted by Neil Strauss in his book The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists.
“A smile is the universal welcome.” ~Max Eastman
Networking will only help when you have already done something.
Recently I attended an event named THE COALITION, a platform to support creative entrepreneurs in India. It was a 3 day event aiming to be a platform where new collaborations can happen, people can get to know other creative fields, people can pitch ideas to investors and so on. It took me only 1 full day at the event to realize that this is not my time to be at these kind of events.
I had my designs in place, I had my concepts at place, but in real world ideas alone don’t work. One really need a real prototype of his/her idea. Otherwise everything I say is worthless. That is why I didn’t attended the rest of the event because networking there only have had helped me if I had anything to show, a working prototype of my ideas.
Doesn’t matter what I write. I just write about any topic now a days.
Why? Because it has :
Improved my writing skills
Improved my reading speed
Enhanced my vocabulary
“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.” ~Benjamin Franklin
Keep smiling and DO MORE 🙂
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I am turning 21 today and am not as excited as it might seem. All I am excited and concerned is of what next I will be learning and experiencing in life and for that what I have to do today. I spent the last 21 years of my life doing almost nothing. But I had the opportunity to learn great things which most people learn later after their active lives (18-50).
I couldn’t be happier to recall what I have learned and how it will help me shape me my future. So today I am sharing 21 lessons I have learned in the past 2 decades.
Age is merely an excuse not to start anything.
In the past 3 and half years while studying in Sharda University, I saw people ranging from age 24-60 procrastinating about starting/doing things they always wanted to do. The reply was more or less the same and was like this : “Oh! I am too old for this”. I hope this doesn’t happen with me or you. Start slow, but start.
“Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.” ~Napoleon Hill
Don’t judge people. It’s a waste of my own time.
People grew up in a different environment than mine and have their own reason. I wrongly judged many people many times and found later that they were just the opposite I thought they would be. I guess I can’t control everyone and everything. Can I? So it’s better to move on and let few things be as they are. I know it will save a lot of time.
“Learning to ignore things is one of the greatest paths to inner peace” ~Robert J. Sawyer
Practice mind control.
In 2013, I read Robin Sharma’s The monk who sold his ferarri. The book was great and had a lot of positive insights. But out of all, one I remember in particular, i.e. the art of mind control. It suggests that those who can control their mind can control anything. Also, I recently bought a book (suggested by many elite performers around the world) : Getting things done by David Allen. I only finished reading the first chapter of the book and the result so far by applying the first few suggestions are great. Allen has advised to dump everything we need to do from buying eggs for home to finishing the work project into a piece of paper, note or a dairy. The essence of this routine is to clear your mind first and then to focus only on what’s important.
“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.” ~Bruce lee
Atleast stay fit.
Since childhood I was quite active in sports. Played cricket mostly till high-school. Started playing football since I joined university. I see people craving for gym, healthy tips from experts and every other words of wisdom they believe can bring them the hot figure they desire. But the truth I realized is you don’t need a great figure to stay healthy. You just need to be fit enough. For that, one can exercise (yoga, running or gym) or play a sport. (I need to work on my skinny body though)
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” ~Jim Rohn
Treat work as every other general activity in life.
I have noticed that when playing football, watching movies or doing anything interesting but in a limited amount of time, I don’t get bored or I don’t get stressed. Treating work in the same way as a general activity with a short timeline can really bring results for my work and my life too.”By working only when you’re most effective, life is both more productive and more enjoyable. It’s the perfect example of having the cake and eating it too.” ~4HWW
“By working only when you’re most effective, life is both more productive and more enjoyable. It’s the perfect example of having the cake and eating it too.” ~4HWW
Don’t sit in front of the computer without an agenda.
Woke up at 8:00 AM, brushed my teeth, had breakfast, started using the computer while thinking to just check my email/facebook for few minutes and will quickly return to the project at hand, but it turns out 2:00 PM on the clock. This is what happens with me most of the time when I use my computer without any agenda. Internet is a great tool to push human race forward, but it’s also a tool to suck up time. Define first what you want to do with the tools then use it.
“A goal without a timeline is just a dream” ~Robert Herjavec
Spend some time alone.
Here’s a quote from best seller book : The 4 hour workweek “After years of repetitive work, you will often need to dig hard to find your passions, redefine your dreams, and revive hobbies that you let atrophy to near extinction. The goal must be to pursue and experience the best in the world.” The quote pretty much sums up why spending some time alone is very important. I have experienced that a several minutes of meeting with silence can bring a lot of positive thoughts and the right direction for life. It frees your mind and enables you to think clearly again.
“I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.” ~Olivia Wilde
I am not talking about Armani Jeans or Van Huesen all the time, but there are a lot of clothing in the market that costs you 1/4th a pair of Armani and yet is drop dead gorgeous in appearance. One must spend some money on their clothing and I know, nobody has ever regret it. But don’t get carried away in the name of fashion. Keep it classic.
“Clothing is the first step to building a character.” ~Sylvester Stallone
Have a minimal wardrobe.
I used to have 5 t-shirts, 5 shirts, 4-5 jeans/trousers and several sweatshirts/jackets. And what I found while traveling is that they restrict my freedom. It occupies a space in mind and tightens me up. From 2013 I have started donating clothes which got short or wore off. Once I gave more than half of my clothing which I didn’t wanted to have, I bought new ones only with a sense of minimalism. Now I only have 12 clothes including summer and winter wear. I feel lighter in mind and with my wardrobe.
“Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu
Have multiple interests and source of income
Most of the time I spend my days working on design projects or playing football. But there are days when I don’t like doing any of those activities. That’s why I have started cultivating other hobbies/interests like reading informative books, sketching and will be starting playing guitar again. The same goes with source of income. Most people rely on only 1 source of income i.e. their permanent job. In recent years, there never have been the worst time to rely on one and only job for paying bills. Jobs have become more and more insecure than ever and it will stay this way or worsen in the future.
“Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.” ~Henry Miller