Escaping the seduction of social media

When it comes to using a smartphone, I am a vetaran. This is my 9th year with an Android phone. I started from the November of 2010 with a Samsung Galaxy S running Android 2.2 Eclair. My latest phone, Honor 7, runs Oreo 8.1. I have seen my usage patterns over nearly a decade and boy, I know what addiction to a smartphone, especially to social media means. The compulsions were many. Photos had to be shared on Instagram instantly. Wherever I was, I felt the urge to check in using Swarm. I repeatedly checked my Facebook timeline for the latest from everyone and I too constantly updated my latest status. WhatsApp was constantly buzzing on my phone. My addiction peaked between 2011 – 2014.

Since then, with the help of several habit-building podcasts and books, I have successfully set up habits to de-addict myself. These habits have been so successful that I don’t touch my phone for three hours after waking up. Nor do I touch my phone between 8:30 am to 5 pm on days when I am busy with my freelance work. Finally, I have a compulsory ‘turn off all electronic screens’ time after 10 pm. My laptop shuts down automatically if I don’t stop working.

None of the methods I suggest is radical. They are simple habits that make it hard for you to get to your social media apps. If you are an addict, then this post will attempt to cure you of social media addiction too. Please let me know if they work for you. Continue reading Escaping the seduction of social media

Nail your hands-off tasks to get more hands-on

If you are making a vegetable pulav, do you boil the rice first or chop the vegetables? If you want to learn Android, do you download the software first or start reading the tutorials? If you answered the first choice in both cases, then you are on the right track. You have the ability to spot invisible, trivial, but important tasks that need to be kick-started and performed in the background, while you move onto focus-requiring important tasks.

Life is full of tasks where you pay active attention to what you are doing. You can only do one, or at most two, such activities at a time. Let’s call them hands-on tasks. However, some other tasks chug along merrily in the background not seeking your undivided attention. But they need you to kick-start them before you walk away. Ideally, you want the results of such tasks to be ready by the time you are done with your hands-on tasks. These tasks are called hands-off tasks.

Often, the most productive days in your life are when you remember to start the hands-off tasks, with their results waiting for you when you need them. You sail smoothly from one activity to another in a seamless fashion.

Continue reading Nail your hands-off tasks to get more hands-on

Book Summary: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

Title: What got you here won’t get you there
Author: Marshall Goldsmith
Publisher: Hachette books
ISBN-10: 1781251568
ISBN-13: 978-1781251560
Buy here: Amazon.in | Amazon.com

Introduction

Marshall Goldsmith is a behaviour coach in leading companies. His day-to-day life involves working with CEOs of top companies, entrepreneurs, top lawyers and dignitaries. Goldsmith takes these already successful people and makes them more successful. How can he do that? Is he an engineer? A businessman? A mystic?

None of these. Goldman has discovered that for the people who are already in the top 2 percentile in their field, further growth is not limited by skill or lack of magic. Instead it is limited by their own behaviour. The way they behave with themselves, their colleagues, their families and their support group influences their success. Goldsmith describes 20 habits that act as a hindrance to further growth of these already highly successful people. With these habits, people stand in their own way. Some of them hit a plateau, while a few of them self-destruct, throwing away their careers and relationships. Continue reading Book Summary: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith


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The myth of Garbage in, Garbage out

Recently, I read the post Avoiding the GIGO trap, by author and marketing guru Seth Godin. It mentions how several systems punish the user by rejecting inputs not suited for those systems. A seasoned or a highly qualified user usually learns how to use such a system properly through experience or through a high level of aptitude for that system, but the rest of the world continues to struggle to even gain entry. Usually the users come to know about these limitations ONLY after their input is rejected after a lot of hard work or when a sub-standard input causes the system to come crashing down on them.

Seth Godin points out that these systems try to obsess with ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’ principle. He argues that is not a good thing. Examples of such systems include computer programming languages, some top-rated schools in India and Formula race cars. We’ll see why in the sections that follow. Continue reading The myth of Garbage in, Garbage out

Be your own guest

India is a country with several thousands of communities based on language, religion and native region. In the modern Indian workplace, it is difficult to tell one community from another. However, pick a few sample individuals and visit their homes. The lifestyle they live at home says a lot about the community they hail from. Given the same level of household income, some communities treat themselves like royalty, while others intentionally deprive themselves, calling it frugality. They only loosen up when guests visit them. Continue reading Be your own guest

Book summary: Miracle Morning

The Miracle Morning by Hal ElrodBook title: Miracle Morning
Author: Hal Elrod
Publisher: Self
ISBN-10: 0979019710
ISBN-13: 978-0979019715
Buy on: Amazon.in | Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

Introduction

In this book, the author Hal Elrod talks about how waking up early in the morning and then following 6 simple practices transformed his life. The author abbreviates the 6 things in his morning routine as SAVERS. In his 1-hour routine, he goes through 6 activities that give him the perspective he needs for the day. Continue reading Book summary: Miracle Morning

Why to break your routine for one day?

In today’s world, we have an acronym called TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday). The basis for this acronym is that people who put in difficult hours at work during the weekdays do not have to do so during the weekend. Instead they ‘get to do’ something leisurely and things they really love. TGIF suggests that you are slogging through your week and doing what’s not important to you. It says that you have given up control of your life to someone else who isn’t allowing you to do what you please. It says that you are a slave. It says that your life as you want it only happens during the weekends. TGIF is a depressing acronym.

With a career I love and with my each day being an opportunity to learn more and work on things I care about, the concept of TGIF is lost on me. But, I agree with one aspect TGIF suggests. Do something different from your daily routine at least once a week. Here is why. Continue reading Why to break your routine for one day?

What to do when choices overwhelm you… everyday!

You know the feeling when you stand at popular ice-cream outlets such as Gelato, Baskin Robbins or Natural’s. There are more than a hundred choices. If you’ve had a difficult day at work, you are tempted to walk out as your brain feels the fatigue of taking one more decision from a staggering number of choices. “Let’s just go eat the falooda from the road side vendor”, you say as you walk out. What should you do when you are overwhelmed with choices? Continue reading What to do when choices overwhelm you… everyday!

Book summary: Work clean by Dan Charnas

Book title: Work clean – The life changing power of mise-en-place
Author: Dan Charnas
ISBN-10: 1623365929
ISBN-13: 978-1623365929
Buy on Amazon.in | Amazon.com

Introduction

Mise-en-place is a French term that means that there is a place for everything and everything must be in its place. The use of French is because the term originated in culinary circles in France where chefs emphasise the importance of a clean and organised kitchen counter to do things efficiently and ensure high food quality. As a result, just like everything culinary, saute and hors d’ouvre, words from the romantic language stuck around in English too.

Having worked with leading chefs in the United States, the author Dan Charnas talks about how to plan, organise and clean up so that you get the best out of your activities. Throughout the book he illustrates stories and scenes from the America’s top restaurants that exhibit thorough planning, organisation, cleanliness, minimalism and maximum utilisation. Charnas extends the knowledge gained from cooking into his personal and professional lives. In this book, he teaches us how to do so. Continue reading Book summary: Work clean by Dan Charnas


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When your glass is half filled

You are making a delicious recipe which calls for chilly powder. You reach for the magic red stuff, when you realise to your horror that the jar is … empty!!! How could you have missed it? Damn it! You have to do without chilly. Or you have to stop cooking and go shopping. If you are like what I was a couple of months ago, you have been caught in this position several times. Delaying replenishing your supplies until you run out of them and then either making do without them or making a dash for it to get fresh supplies.

While some of you may be good at re-stocking the kitchen, you probably run out of talk time in the middle of a call with your spouse, who is half-way around the globe on a project. Only when your laptop pings about the hard disk being full after copying 7.7 GB out of an 8 GB Blue Ray HD movie do you realise that you should have paid attention to the free space.

How can you be more pro-active about replenishing things on time? What is a good time for a refill? There is no universal good rule, but you have to be consistent with one or two rules that make you act in a surefire way every time you begin running out of stuff. In this post, I introduce you to the 50% rule or the half-filled glass rule. Then we will see another variation of the rule.

50% rule

The rule is exactly what it says. You start planning action as soon as something depletes to 50%. It doesn’t mean that you rush out to shop right now. 50% is significantly less than full, but it still is sufficient enough to last until your next regular trip for restocking. I suggest that you use the trigger to put some things into your system. Set some reminders to remind you that a refill is needed. E.g. if the salt in your jar is down 50%, it is time to update your shopping list to buy fresh salt during your next weekly or monthly grocery shopping. At 50%, it is time to renew your phone talk time sometime within this week. So schedule a time for it on your calendar on a day free from other work, like a Saturday or a Sunday. Your digital wallet needs a recharge from your bank account, so set a standing instruction for the money transfer if such as facility exists.

Also don’t obsess with the number 50% to the dot. Do not tense up if things go down to 45%. Let’s say your talk-time was at 75% when you started a call. After the call, you see that it’s only 48%. You need not rush to recharge right now. Treat it just like the 50% rule. Let’s rephrase the rule: “When the level was above 50% and after another usage it dips to or below 50%, then it’s time to set a trigger, that will lead to action just in time, so that you don’t run out”. You can read about nudges and triggers in the post Grow awareness, but nudge yourself. The idea is to give yourself a reminder now, so that you will follow up before you run out of stuff.

Why not refill when the level is 80%?

A valid question. But be warned that you don’t want to replenish too soon. You will caught in a loop of quick refills. Imagine you want to refill a jar of tea as soon as it goes down to 80% after 20% of it is used. Refill packets do not come in such small sizes. So you will end up buying too much and hoarding. Why renew things at 80% when 50% works quite well?

Frequent refilling also causes stress. Your attitude will change to one that fears scarcity. Even when you possess 80% of something, you will feel like you possess too less and start refilling. It’s only a matter of time before your hoarding gets out of control.

The 50% with other conditions

What about a large 10 kg sack of wheat, a 10 terabyte hard disk or ₹ 10,000 cash in your wallet? With the 50% rule, at 5 kg of wheat, 5 TB of space and at ₹ 5,000 cash, you are still weeks, sometimes even months away from running out of stuff. Isn’t the 50% rule wasteful here?

First, I don’t recommend hoarding so much. 10 kg of wheat is too heavy to handle. You may hardly ever use 10 TB of space. It is unsafe to carry ₹ 10,000 in your wallet. But I get it. You expect guests and you need a lot of wheat over the next month. You are hoping to collect a lot of movies, videos and animation over the next 3 months or you are going to use your computer as a server machine. After 4 withdrawals a month, the bank starts charging you for any more withdrawals. So it makes sense to withdraw a large amount of cash in one go.

Let’s vary our 50% some more, so you get more rules to guide you. First consider you how much you already have. Secondly, consider the rate at which you use it. 10 kg of wheat is a lot if you use only 200 – 300 grams per day. But if you have a lot of members in your house and you end up using a kilo every two days, then 10 kg will run out in 2 weeks. A 10 TB hard disk is an ocean if all you work on are Word documents, but not when you work with 3-D animation. If the shops in your area take cards or digital money then keeping ₹ 10,000 in cash is an overkill. But in a small town with cash economy, that cash may be depleted within a week.

I suggest you look at past usage and estimate how many days something will last. If you haven’t been recording past usage, maybe you should start now. With that estimate in hand, here are three rules that work well.

  1. If you keep running out of stuff every 2 – 3 days, you should consider increasing the capacity to start with. Refilling too frequently is stressful and distracting.
    E.g. if you eat 4 slices of bread everyday, then a loaf of 12 slices of bread will keep running out every 3 days. I suggest that you start buying a loaf of 20 slices. That way, bread can be purchased along with your weekly shopping.
  2. Sometimes, increasing capacity is not desirable. Some vegetables start dehydrating or rotting beyond day 2. Your smartphone’s battery is going to run out every day and you cannot just fit a higher capacity battery into it. A routine of replenishing every day or every two days is then inevitable. But you can at least look for delegation or automation instead of having to do it yourself. It helps if the local dairy drops fresh milk to your doorstep every day. You can link your digital wallet with your bank account such that if the balance goes below a certain value, then a certain amount is refilled automatically (e.g., this is possible with PayTM). The latest versions of Android can be set up to back up photos to Google Photos and automatically delete photos which are backed up. This saves previous space on your phone’s SD card.
  3. The ideal situation is if you are at 50% and your stuff will last more than 3 days and upto two weeks. You can schedule your refills / maintenance for a day which focuses on re-stocking, e.g. a day dedicated to shopping, a day dedicated to taking backup. E.g. During your holidays, if you take 20 pictures on a DLSR camera everyday in RAW format, you would consume 400 MB per day. After 5 days of photography, you’d consume 2 GB. That would be 50% of a 4 GB card. You would still have 5 days of photography left. So a 4 GB card can last for 10 days. This is great if you have a weekly backup routine. A 4 GB card is a sweet spot for your rate of photography.
  4. If you are at 50% and your stuff will last several weeks to months, then stop using the 50% rule! It is time to apply the 10% rule for those items, i.e. act only when 10% remains. E.g. A sack of 5 kg or 10 kg sack of wheat for a family of two.

Where not to use the 50% rule at all

50% rule is not panacea, nor is it a good idea to apply everywhere. Here are two cases where you shouldn’t use the 50% rule.

  1. Charging electronic devices should not follow the 50% rule. Electronic batteries containing Lithium Ion composition are sensitive. Their lives are affected by the pattern in which they are charged.
    Ideally you should not start charging a battery until only 20% of its charge remains. Nor should you disconnect the charger before it has charged upto 80%. The second rule is not easy to follow if you need to leave and take your electronics with you.
  2. If you have finished eating 50% of the food on your plate, you shouldn’t go for a second serving already. You should finish whatever’s on your plate and if you still have the appetite, go for a second serving.

Conclusion

If you are a busy bachelor not able to stay on top of your rations or a busy mom with too many things to do, the 50% rule hopefully provides you with an easy framework to replenish your supplies on time.