A year in review 2018

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.

1st blog’s snippet. Back then I had the blog hosted under my portfolio domain ✍

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 🧭
My 2018 travelogue – Summed up by Google
  • 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. 👨‍👩‍👧‍👧
The happy SellerCrowd team during our get together in Lisbon, Portugal in 2018
  • 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.

My studio apartment in Pune (2016-18) 🏠

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.

DesignUp 2017 @Bangalore with these lovely designers from Wingify 👨‍👨‍👧‍👦

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.

BTW, here are a few quick snapshot of how my life looks like around my new house in Bangalore 😬

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. 🤯
More Madrid pictures here: Instagram album 📸
  • Traveled to Ooty, India: After Madrid, I traveled and worked from Ooty with my brother for about 10 days.
More Ooty pictures here: Instagram album 📸
  • 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. 🎒
My work setup, back at my parent’s place 💻
  • 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.

More Malaysia / Singapore pictures here: Instagram album 📸

  • 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. 🧡
More Lisbon pictures here: Instagram album 📸

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.

Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Dribbble

So that was it! A recap of good big things that happened in 2018 which made me really happy, content and a little wiser. So, here’s to a good writing start to 2019 and much more to follow. 🥂👋


P.S.: The blog cover is heavily inspired by Matt‘s latest YouTube video thumbnail.

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’

[bctt tweet=”The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again.” –Steve Jobs”]

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.