Sunday, October 25, 2020

Time

Sorry for disappearing for almost a month. Life changed suddenly (like it always does) and I am in the midst of that change. I will probably write about what I have "been through" in a subsequent blog post once I am through this.

If there is one thing that I feel we all have equal access to (regardless of race, wealth, color) is - time. Every human being on the planet gets 24 hours a day. Irrespective of how rich you are, you can't trade time and everyone is equally wealthy in terms of the number of minutes you have in a day.

We are obsessed with money, but if you are a middle-aged salaried man like me - you need to guard the finite resource - time - by trading away money to do things that take too much of your time. To value your time, you need to have an index cost to each hour of your time so that you can do a cost-benefit analysis of your "time" much more easily.

I know it sounds simple but this "cost-benefit" analysis can get really complex. There are some things we do with our time that are genuinely required. For e.g. spending time with family is priceless. Working out, eating, sleeping, daily ablutions are a required (mandatory) use of time. So then, this analysis is something we need to seriously do about the discretionary time (browsing, socializing, entertaining) that we spend. Or the chores (cooking, cleaning, paying bills) that seem to occupy all of your weekends. I know I have written about time-boxing before, so I am sort of repeating myself.

Anyway, this brings me to my last argument on this topic. As much as possible try to do the following two things with your chores:

  • Automate
  • Outsource

 If repetitive things can be automated (auto-investment, auto-bill-payment for e.g.) then do it! Save time on non-value added activities. If you can outsource boring, non-value added chores (filing taxes, washing, cleaning (to maids/ robots/ consultants)) then do it. Only DIY if you enjoy (entertainment) or have a health benefit (cleaning 1 hour is your workout of the week!) or it is really worth it (for you).

Sunday, September 6, 2020

I wear Speedos

As a few of you know, I enjoy swimming. I have been practicing it for more than a decade now. While I don't swim any better than before, over the years, I have spent a lot on swimming accessories and this blog post is my experience speaking.

First of all, my typical swimming gear is - Cap, Ear Plugs, Goggles, Swimming Shirt and Jammers. I have tried a few brands for each one of them and more or less settled on specific choices for each one. Today, I shall talk only about the Swimming Jammers. They look something like the picture below:

Over the years, I have tried a lot of brands like - Arena, TYR etc. Somehow none of them have lasted me more than a year with an average of 1-2 times a week swimming frequency. Maybe it was just my bad luck. The 2 times that I bought a Speedo Jammer, it sort of outlasted my expectations. My last one gave way after at least 220 km of swimming over a period of 4+ years. Mind you, I started tracking on my Garmin, at least a year after I bought the jammers.


I am amazed that they lasted so long. Chlorinated water is corrosive, and I don't expect anything to last that long. Hence this post commemorating them! I also notice that over the years, there has been significant progress in the material used and they seem to repel water better and last longer.

Anyway, since this has been a boring post, here are 2 videos for you to enjoy. First - a song named "Despacito" which was a viral sensation and has had more than 6.9B views (as of this writing).


And its parody by Mikey Bustos titled "I wear Speedos" which I think is a very nice and funny parody though slightly on the PG13+ side. Every time I say "Speedo" now, I can't help but thinking about this song.


P.S. - He ain't wearing jammers in the parody video. Jammers are longer and look more like cycling shorts than swimming attire.

 


Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Korean Tourism Commercial

 If you are an advertiser showing videos on YouTube in the 6-10 seconds before the actual video starts, your life is tough. First of all, you are interrupting someone's binge watching and that someone is more interested in looking at the countdown to "skip" your advertisement, than looking at it. If you are able to attract attention when the odds are against you, then I really think you are awesome at your game. I came across this random video about Korean tourism while binge watching YouTube and for some reason, I find it so addictive that I never skipped the commercial.

The ultimate compliment though is that, I actively searched for the commercial and also the song, the artist, the lyrics etc. etc. Now before I proceed, I want you to experience the commercial:


Now that the commercial is out of the way, I did some research on the song it is called "Tiger is coming". It is sung by this Korean band called "Leenalchi". The lyrics translated by a YouTube comment go like this:

A tiger is coming down, a tiger is coming
A beast is coming down
through the deep valley in the pine woods

His body is freckled,
His tail is stuffed
which is longer than a grown man's fathom.

Making the high hills shiver,
his front leg is like a quiver,
his hind paw is like a jar,
Both ears are ripped ajar.

Brandishing his sickle claws,
'Charrrr!'

He splashes grass roots and pebbles.
Opening his crimson jaws,
'Worirung!' he rumbles.

Like the sky falls and
the ground settles down,
The turtle hides his head and
on the ground bows down. 

Of-course I am no Korean, and I have not "verified" this from any Korean. It's just a random YouTube comment by this person.

If you wish to see their live performance of the same song, you should check this video out:


The dance is performed by this group called "Ambiguous Dance Company". You can see a lot of their videos on YouTube. Finally to top it off, I find another commercial by the same group quite nice and catchy as well:


Anyway, hats-off to the complete campaign! Everything is amazingly choreographed (literally and figuratively).

Thursday, August 13, 2020

How to get rid of your dandruff in a week?

 If this sounds like a click bait article, I am sorry. I thought I share something I found out a couple of years ago and it seems to have worked for me till today.

Now before you proceed, here are some disclaimers:

  • I am not a doctor or a dermatologist or even remotely associated with the medical profession
  • People on the internet can write anything they want, and you should not trust them
  • This is my personal experience, and everyone's experience can be totally different
  • I am not being paid to write this blog post (or any other) so this just my honest opinion

Okay, with that list out of the way - let me tell you my story. As a school going kid, and subsequently through out my life, besides my weight and my looks the other thing I was always embarrassed about was my dandruff problem. I have had dandruff in my hair for as far back as I recall. I tried a lot of remedies - medical, Ayurvedic or advertised. Nothing really ever worked for me. Anti-dandruff shampoo was always a part of my grooming arsenal, and it just managed to sometimes reduce it, but I never really got rid of it. I tried crazy remedies like egg, beer, yogurt, shampoos with ZPTO on my head and other than the awkward smell, it didn't impact much.

Selsun 2.5% Suspension
 

A few years ago, someone advised me to use the Selsun 2.5% suspension shampoo to wash my hair everyday for a week and then subsequently alternate days for a month. The shampoo contains Selenium Sulfide. And it is apparently not available over the counter in USA. However, I can get it in a pharmacy in Singapore without a prescription.

My dandruff has completely disappeared ever since. I switched to using their Selsun Blue version once a week subsequently, and it dandruff has not recurred again. I am not "absolutely" sure if its really the shampoo or my diet, or my horoscope, or climate change, or just the fact that I am dangerously close to my 4th decade on this planet, and apparently dandruff is not an old person problem.

So all the best!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

From Bed to Desk (and back)

 It has been more than 4.5 months since I started working from home. Initially what was a novelty has now become mundane. This means the excitement of the false sense of "more time" (because of no travel and no commuting) is now gone. What was perceived to be more time initially for the first few weeks has been now quickly taken over by "more work" and procrastination. Now to be fair, in the initial few weeks of the pandemic, I did get a daily routine going on exercise, mental enrichment and education. However, now that's all gone.

My days now start with work right off the bed and working all the way to the wee hours of the night when I get exhausted and drop back into the bed. Many a times lunch and dinner is hurriedly gobbled while taking a work call.

I hope and pray that this is not the case for you, and I wish that things change for the better for me fast! Late to bed and early to rise makes Girish unhealthy, irritable and annoyed.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Philanthropy and the wisdom of Bill Gates

Growing up (especially during my Engineering days and the early part of my career), I was a big believer in the Open Source Software philosophy. In the late 90s and early 2000s the biggest perceived enemy of Open Source was Microsoft and by association Bill Gates. I was not very fond of him as a starry eyed under-graduate student.

Post my MBA, I wanted to work for an Open Source software company and change the world. Given the circumstances, that never happened and I went into (or rather continued) in commercial closed-source software.

Anyway, over the last decade, I have been passively following (online), listening and reading about Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation and my opinion about him has changed leaps and bounds. I have come to respect and admire him for the work he is doing globally on things that most Governments and Corporations are turning a blind eye towards. I feel like, he stepped away from the corporate world at the right time, and decided to change the world.

He has shot to prominence in this pandemic. One of the reasons being - his ominous TED talk in April 2015 where he spoke about such a pandemic coming in our lifetime and the deadly consequences of it.



Flash forward to 2020, with all the negativity and uncertainty around us it's refreshing to hear Bill Gates' views on the potentially positive outcomes we might have "after" this pandemic, on the world order.



If we stop being so toxic with each other on social media and so divisive about all our ideas (us vs. them thinking) we can sit back and look at the last 100 years of human progress and see that humanity has stepped up to any challenge always and worked to solve it together. For e.g. we have not had a catastrophic world war after 1945, we managed to not annihilate the planet through a nuclear war, we almost eradicated a lot of common diseases and infant mortality has been all time low. Now, if we put all our creative brains together and work towards solving problems of today - climate change, COVID-19 etc. we can leave this world a better place for future generations.

Friday, July 31, 2020

DOMS

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the pain in your muscles that sets in 24-72 hours after you have done a strenuous exercise. I have been slightly more active at home these days than before, and I realize that my body reminds me that I got muscle groups in my body that I have never ever used before.

I have now increased my "remote coaching" sessions to 3 times a week (Mon-Wed-Sat) which means (Tue-Thu-Sun) typically are my DOMS days. One more reason to TGIF. After almost 4 decades of disuse, some of my muscle groups are now waking up to the reality that they were never used.

There is no "known" cure for DOMS other than enduring it and letting your body heal by itself. The coaches recommend "Foam Rolling" but that just adds more to the misery. I look forward to the day when I have used most of my muscle groups so that they stop getting sore all the while!

Till then, I shall take this opportunity to thank my coaches for the misery.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Jump Rope Workout

Another interesting and effective cardio workout that I discovered in this pandemic is - Jump Rope Skipping. It has a very low learning curve (I picked up in matter of a few weeks) and it is quite fast to do. You can get an extremely great cardio workout in 5 minutes or less anytime of the day with almost no equipment other than the rope and no large space required.

I learnt my jump rope skills from the video below, and while there are a lot of tricks that you can do, I am still at the basic "bounce" and working on my endurance. I will highly recommend stretching and warming up before you actually start jumping to prevent any injuries.


The more I am stuck at home, the more I realize that staying fit or working out is just a matter of discipline! I can imagine skipping late in the night or early in the morning) in a hotel room on a business trip. All you really need is a rope, and it is very light and compact to carry around. So all those excuses are just my lazy brain speaking all this while!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Big Bang Theory

So I finally completed seeing all 12 Seasons and 279 Episodes of The Big Bang Theory. I did love the series in the beginning, but towards the end it was more of me adhering to the escalation of commitment fallacy. I was just trying to reach the logical conclusion of the series without really enjoying it that much. And my subconscious mind kept telling me - you can't leave the series half way.

I calculated and it turns out to be approximately 93 hours of my life (assuming 20 minutes per episode). I took around 2.5 years to see it, so it was not exactly a binge watch. This becomes the 2nd series that I have watched completely (From S1:E1 to Season Last: Episode Last) after The IT Crowd. The IT Crowd however was much shorter and a lot weirder.

Anyway, watching the complete series of the Big Bang Theory made me think - a lot of times - I no longer enjoy a movie after reaching in the middle, but I still go all the way to the end just to "finish" it. In the recent past the only movie I stopped midway because I couldn't take it anymore was - "The Internship". And I remember forcing myself to continue to see it a bit more because it had a 6.3 on IMDB. Can't be so bad.

I think we all have this obsessive compulsion to finish the movies that we start, even if we don't particularly like them. I am going to now consciously start attempting to leave movies and series half way if I don't like them and see how it goes! Life is short, choose where you spend your time wisely! Even doing nothing is much better!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Masked

Whether you like it or not, masks are going to be an important accessory for the next several months (hopefully not years!). It's the new normal and in Singapore it has been mandatory to wear a mask if you step out of your house for the last 3 months.

I have already felt three inconveniences with wearing masks and here they are listed in no particular order:
  1. If you wear spectacles, masks fog them up - Yeah, I tried a lot of internet remedies so far, and nothing seems to work. This is the most annoying part of wearing a mask - I can't see properly when I breathe!
  2. You end up smelling your own breath - This is a minor annoyance. But I guess it's good in a way. Reminds you to brush and mouthwash regularly. I have experienced this before on red-eye flights.
  3. You can't read people's lips - I find this annoying. Now that I can't see people's lips, I realize that I have been seeing people's lips to interpret what they are talking when I meet them face to face. Last several conversations, I have difficulty understanding (especially if the person is new and his/ her accent is not something that I am used to before).
And no list is complete if you don't do both pros and cons. So here are some of the advantages I foresee of wearing masks:
  1. Masks reduce the spread of the virus - Well that's the most freaking obvious reason why everyone should be wearing masks in this pandemic. I am amused/ worried and downright angry that we are debating whether we should wear masks now!
  2. Face recognition software will have to now play catch-up (a-bit) - If you have not been living under a rock, you must have realized by now that facial recognition software is amazingly accurate. Just try Google photos for a few days, and you will realize. If Google is this great, the big-brother cameras watching you all the time on the street, must be 100x more intelligent and recognizing your faces and tracking you. I hope with the masks, the facial recognition software will need to be tweaked a bit, and so I think we might have a few months of anonymity on the street before they catch-up at recognizing us on the street again.
  3. Finally I have a fashion accessory for my face - My favorite clothing brand is making masks. So are a lot of high-fashion brands. It's a matter of weeks before which we all will start wearing designer masks and make a statement, just like how we currently make statements with our clothes, shoes and watches.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Auto Switch-off Internet

If you are having broadband internet at home, there is a high chance that you never ever switch off your router. Which means your Wi-Fi signal is always available. Besides reducing the life of your equipment and wasting electricity, I am not sure whether it is an ideal condition to leave your internet running all the while 24x7. So if you are someone who is worried about it like me, here is a simple solution:

Mechanical Power Timer

There are these cheap mechanical power timer outlets that are available that can be programmed to switch off for specific hours everyday (they are simple 24 hour timers and you can program them to switch off power to any appliance that is connected to them for designated hours). I have mine set to switch off my TV and Router every night from 11 PM to 7 AM. The advantage? Not only do I save electricity, but it forces me to go off to sleep at a fixed hour every night (TV and Internet are the biggest time wasters anyway), even if I am in the middle of a Netflix drama or surfing aimlessly some random YouTube videos.

I would highly recommend you buy these. Or if you have the budget, you can buy the electronic ones that can be programmed to follow a weekly schedule (Mon-Sun, 24 hours - so you could set it to switch off on weekday afternoons when you are not at home and change the hours for weekends - if you wanna binge watch Friday nights). Eco-friendly and help you to be disciplined!

Sunday, June 7, 2020

5 Tips for Remote Teams

The whole internet and also my workspace seems to be freaking out about working remotely and working from home. It has been 2+ months now that most of us are locked up at home and working remotely. Having an Asia-Pacific wide work role, I just realized that I have always worked remotely with geographically dispersed teams and other than the fact that I am spending a lot more time physically at home, nothing really has changed work-wise. My workload has of course increased in the pandemic, but I don't think there is any drop in me and my team's work efficiency.

I believe you must have already read a lot of articles by now about leading remote teams, so here is my list for you:
  1. Communicate a lot more and a lot often - Unlike when you are sitting next to each other in the same office, casual conversations do not happen remotely. So make sure you as a manager make it a point to talk to your team much more often and over-communicate.
  2. Do video calls - While this sounds creepy, our brain is still wired to interpret other people's emotions by looking at their faces when they are speaking. It is bit of an effort for some people as they have to "get dressed" and be "presentable" but this is the single most important thing to build rapport!
  3. Use shared drives, shared folders and all the tools available to collaborate - Email is old school. While email is important, a lot of collaborative tools make it easy for multiple people to collaborate and work simultaneously on software, documents, presentations etc. Use them everywhere!
  4. Track progress and items through a central repository - Trello is my tool of choice to track items that my team is working on. Choose yours, and use it de facto for all deliverables!
  5. Do not expect people to be always online - I think this is a golden rule for building trust. Let your team work in hours that are most comfortable to them. There is no point in making them respond to emails/ instant messages instantly. Everyone is responsible and setting such unreasonable expectations just makes people more stressed and distracted.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Surya namaskar

Since I already wrote about Burpees, I also thought of writing about Surya-namaskars (Sun-salutations) as a wonderful full-body exercise to be done everyday in the morning.

Rather than randomly stretching my body and being lethargic till I get my first shot of caffeine, I find the sun-salutations as a very good form of stretching that wakes me up and recharges me. I typically target to do 12. Why 12? Well, I don't know - I just associate 12 with the Sun and doing anything less seems too little and any more, I get too tired and sweaty. 12 sun-salutations takes me approximately 6 minutes or less, just enough to not procrastinate and get my stretching done.

Now, it is an ancient yogic exercise. That means there are several variations and if you search for videos on YouTube, you can get lost in the wonder world of sun-salutations. I personally follow the method shown in the video below, but if you have a yoga instructor, I suppose it's best you follow that method.




And if you adopt the fast method of doing salutations as demonstrated by Baba Ramdev below, I am sure you can squeeze in 100 over (108?) Surya Namaskars like Burpees and get your cardio exercise done right in the morning!




Sunday, May 24, 2020

Athleisure clothing

I recently learnt a new term in clothing - Athleisure My simplistic mind interprets that term as "wearing athletic clothes for leisurely purposes". In this lock down and work from home experiment I have discovered a few things:

  1. Even if I am working from home, it's best to have a routine - So everyday I get up at almost the same time, do a small morning ritual and then get started with my work
  2. It's still good to have a work/life balance - While work hours have gone through the roof, I still like to demarcate my workday and personal time by changing apparel. I don't like to work in my pajamas cause it makes me feel lazy.
Now, now, like many of you know - Singapore is a tropical country. Shorts and t-shirts are the most comfortable apparel to wear literally anywhere. So my work from home attire is mostly that. I also realized that if I wear athletic shorts and t-shirts (active wear) to work at home - I sweat a bit less while working (its terribly hot in the afternoons) and every time I get a small break, I can squeeze in some reps. So athletic wear has become my new favorite clothing.

And while I researched for this article,  I understand that this trend ain't new. It has been around since the 1980s. Last year alone Americans bought 44B USD worth of athleisure apparel. So here I am again playing catch up! So this is a public service message only if you have been an old man like me, and have never heard of this convenience before!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Burpees

One body weight workout that you can do anywhere without any equipment and which helps boost your endurance as well as has a major cardio-component in it is - Burpees. They have proven to be mighty useful in the days of the pandemic as a quick exercise to be done for your cardio. I haven't gone out for a run/ jog or swim for almost 2 months now, and without the Burpees, I would have had no cardio exercise at all. My lovely coach has thoughtfully been giving us some crazy challenges with Burpees (including a 500 Burpees in 4 days challenge recently).

The Burpees have an interesting history. They were invented as a much milder form of exercise by a New York based Physiologist named Royal H. Burpee in the 1930s (hence the name!). The US military subsequently adopted it to be an exercise to measure fitness of army recruits during the World War II. According to this article, being able to perform 41 repetitions in a minute was considered excellent and anywhere less than 27 was considered poor. (I come in the very very poor category currently).

If you have ever participated in a Spartan race then you may recall that the punishment for failing an obstacle is - 30 burpees. Like most lazy people out there, I hate them. The exercise starts out looking simple but in a matter of a few repetitions, every inch of my body starts burning! No wonder it is used as an exercise to evaluate your level of fitness.

Burpee Animation from Sportsrec.com


So next time when you feel like you need to get your heart rate up in a confined space (like your home or even in your hotel room), all you need is 5 minutes and as many burpees as you can!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Taming your wandering mind

Since the lock-down I have been trying to discipline myself by better using my time. Things haven't been as rosy as I expected them to be, but well, at least I am trying.
So for the last 4 weeks I have been trying to make way for 8-10 minutes everyday for meditation (baby steps). Coming from India, meditation is something that everyone talks about and a lot of people practice it regularly. I know of at least a dozen of my friends who meditate regularly, so I thought I should follow their footsteps and experience the miracle of meditation.

So far, my meditation has been going the same way as my yoga. I have been sitting there pretending to focus on my breath while all sorts of thoughts wander through my mind. Reminds me of this video about the monkey mind by Mingyur Rinpoche. I try to focus on my breath but in a matter of few moments I lose my focus.



I don't think I am getting anywhere yet. But I think 4 weeks is too short a timeline to see any tangible benefits. So I shall continue and see if I can progress. I am intrigued by people who can pull it off so regularly!

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Distraction (curtailment) box

While I have stayed off social media for a long while now, my smartphone addiction is still an intriguing bit that I am unable to comprehend. Since the beginning of this year, I have been on a quest to understand this compulsory need to involuntarily check my mobile phone several times a day. It started with the download of an innocuous looking wallpaper from the Google Store called the "Unlock clock". All it really does is - show a count of how many times I "unlocked" my phone since the start of the day. It was scary at first to see that I checked my smartphone 60-80 times a day on a typical workday and it went down to 30-50 times a day on most weekends.

Subsequently I chanced upon a book titled "The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-tech World" and it jolted me back to reality. I realized that I am addicted to "information seeking" and subconsciously seeking out new information every few minutes from the easily accessible Internet and WhatsApp on my phone. Besides wasting my time on unnecessary information, I was also losing out on getting bored. So I came up with this rather simple idea. I went to Muji, bought a random plastic box with holes for handles on both sides. Now, I keep my phone in the box when I am at home. I call it my "Distraction Box" and I keep it far away from my living room and my Work from Home room. The advantage? I don't subconsciously check my phone anymore. Every time I am tempted to casually check my phone, I have to go through the special effort of going to the room where the box is kept, opening it and taking the phone out. This entire act, actually motivates me not to check my phone unnecessarily.

Distraction Box


Now, I just go occasionally (8-10 times a day) and read all the WhatsApp messages I have received, reply to them, put the phone back in the box and get on with my life. If I do get a phone call, the phone is always connected to my Bluetooth and I can still take the call.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Sit/stand desks

I love sit/stand desks. So much so that we have 2 at home. When we furnished our home first, I bought the mechanical variety that needs me to physically bring it up. Later after a few months in an IT show we saw an electronic one with 4 programmable pre-sets that can store (Up + Down) heights for 2 people. I went against my minimalism principles and ended up doing an impulse purchase. We have had this desk for 2+ years and I love it. I don't regret my decision to buy, and now in this global work from home experiment, I am so glad that I bought it. With my cheapskate ergonomics, its a nice setup for me.

My sit/stand setup


The advantage of having a desk like this is - I can occasionally stand-up and continue working and then when I feel tired, I can bring it down and sit. I have a daily 15 minute stand-up meeting with my team everyday morning (and I love to take it literally "standing" with my coffee!). If you have been sitting on the fence about having a sit/stand desk, I will implore you to seriously consider buying it!

We have been working from home for more than a month now, and as of today, it looks like we will work for at least a month more. So, it's better we get used to this new way of working and not yearn for going back to office any time soon!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Eisenhower Matrix

In my quest to be better organized in life, I read a lot of "self-help" stuff online and offline. Most of it I read and forget (cause it ain't that impressive). Something that has stayed in my mind for a while now is the concept of an Eisenhower matrix. I wanted to write about this in my previous post but was worried about making it too long. So here it is!

This matrix was apparently invented by Eisenhower (the US President) and it expects you to classify all your activities into 4 quadrants:

Eisenhower Matrix (also attributed to Stephen Covey)

  1. Do First - Urgent and Important - Things that are urgent and important have to be done first (I think we all understand this - so I have nothing much to add). The only thing we need to be careful about is - not all items on your list are both urgent and important. What may seem urgent may not really be (e.g. A customer email asking for something). And what may seem important (for e.g. because it came from your boss) - may not be that important.
  2. Plan or Schedule - Not-urgent but Important - This is the most tricky quadrant. We (or rather me!) procrastinate a lot in this quadrant. Learning that new thing (programming language/ skill/ musical instrument etc.) taking care of your health, talking to your family members etc. is important. But since it is not urgent, it gets postponed (forever). If you don't schedule time for it, it never happens.
  3. Delegate - Urgent but Not-Important - This quadrant consists of a lot of chores that are urgent, but can be delegated to others to do it (For e.g. you can schedule your bank to automatically pay your bills, credit cards, renew your policies etc. These are all tasks that are urgent, but can easily be delegated).
  4. Eliminate or Don't do - Not-urgent and Not-important - This is easier said than done. But a lot of things (social media?, status meetings, weekly catch-ups and the list goes on) are neither important nor urgent. There are more efficient ways of doing those things and it is best to learn to say no! I struggle a lot at this.
So next time you go on a retreat or take a break to ruminate, spend some time to think about all those things that are in your Quadrant 2 (Not-urgent but Important). What you start working on today will help you sometime down the line! It's best you think about them now and schedule them!

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Time-boxing

If you know me long enough, you know that I am a big fan of To-Do lists. To-Do lists have been a part of my professional and personal life for as long as I remember. For team-work and where I have to coordinate with several people, I love Trello. Its Kan-ban like interface is nifty for tracking status and driving things to completion. However, lately I have realized that To-Do lists lack the "time required" component and that puts the tasks that take longer to a big disadvantage. In other words - on my to-do list a 2 minute task and a 2 hour task both occupy 1 line each. And my monkey brain always chooses to complete all the smaller tasks (to get my dopamine kicks) in the process pushing my big ticket tasks for "later" (Euphemism for "never").

I was researching a bit about this problem on the internet when I had my A-ha moment. (Trust me, if you have any kind of problem ever in your life, someone else somewhere has had that problem before, solved it and documented it somewhere on the internet for you. All you have to do is - search for it!). So the magic bullet to complement your To-Do lists is - Time-boxing

Time-boxing is just a sophisticated way of doing these 3 things:
  1. Assign a priority value to every item on your to-do list
  2. Estimate time required to do every item on your to-do list
  3. Assign that item on your calendar for a specific time-slot based on the time you estimated in (2) above
So a simple list of 5 Tasks on your To-Do List after Time-boxing would look something like this on your calendar:

Time-boxing

Its of-course much more difficult than just creating a To-Do List. But it gives you an idea of the finite time you really have and helps you prioritize your work for the day/ week or a given time period. Also, when you start estimating the time (or effort) required to complete a task, you identify which tasks are actually projects that need to be accomplished and work towards breaking them down into smaller manageable tasks that can be done over a period of time!


Sunday, April 12, 2020

Repeat Everyday

As I grow old, I realize that I can probably learn almost anything as long as I decide to do a tiny bit of it everyday and religiously stick to my routine. Note that I ain't saying I would be "good" at that something, I am just saying - "I can learn something". I believe that forming a periodic (daily/ weekly/ monthly) routine is the easiest way to start to do anything in life.

So for the last several years, I have been struggling to learn Vietnamese. It's a difficult language (may be not as difficult as Mandarin) but still difficult because of all the tones that they use! I had several false starts and I almost gave up. Till I found this app for my phone called Duolingo. It's a fun little language teaching app that promises to teach you a new language in "15 minutes per day". (The caveat is - it doesn't tell you how many days!).

Anyway, it's been a year since I have been diligently doing my Vietnamese learning on Duolingo everyday 15 minutes for 365+ days. I just got a nifty little celebratory badge from them indicating so.

365 Days of learning everyday


Can I speak Vietnamese fluently now? Hell no. Do I know more Vietnamese than what I did a year ago? Hell, yes! I can count, I can read, I can name some colors, I can tell the time, and if you listen to me carefully enough you can get the context of what I am trying to say (sometimes!).  Anyway, as long as I continue, I can only get better. So this is a small little success that I thought I share with all of you and inspire you to start your learning journey today! I actually have shared Duolingo with a lot of friends and what started as a lonely exercise now has become a mini-community learning a language of their choice everyday.

Anyway, I have now decided to challenge myself a bit more this year. I have a very weak upper body and I have sucked at pull-ups all my life. So now, I have installed a pull-up bar at home, and all I am practicing all these weeks is to hang on it (dead-hang) for 30 seconds everyday. I hope, I can do 10 pull-ups someday in the future, however far away that future is!

Pull-up Bar


Saturday, April 11, 2020

The future of work

I know you have read at least a thousand blogs by now that talk about the future of work after the lock-down. This one is no different. Just the fact that since you are my readers, I am entitled to dump my opinion on you. My company is forcing us to work from home since the last 3 weeks and I realized a few things this weekend:
  1. These 3 weeks have been the most efficient work-weeks of my life! It doesn't matter that I don't go to office, my work follows me home and is happy to be with me anywhere I go (during lunch and even on nature's calls)
  2. I don't really need to physically interact with my colleagues to get things done. We are all very comfortable working virtually with each other and life goes on. Water-cooler gossip has gone down and that's about it
  3. Most of my work is with prospects and customers, so even when there is no lock-down, having a physical space in office is actually just a waste of space.
So this is what I feel should happen in the not so distant future. A lot of companies (especially in my sector) will not lease offices anymore. It's an unnecessary expense that can be easily gotten rid of. In stead, a lot of employees like me will be made to work from home. Offices will pay for equipment so that we can work from home smoothly (internet/ chairs/ desks/ monitors/ calling equipment/ webcams etc). The cost per employee is definitely lower than running an office. We will all meet once a week or at definite intervals in a co-working space for the physical interaction that is needed once in a while.

Organizations will save office lease costs and employees will work their asses off from home. Imagine when work is actually at home, there is no more work-life balance!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Count your blessings


To all my friends who are complaining about this lock-down - count your blessings!

  1. We are amongst the lucky few who can continue to work from home (make a living, earn money) while we are locked down at home
  2. We can absolutely survive (and thrive) from home (everything is available online - entertainment, essential foods, pharmaceuticals, capital goods etc. - you name it you can order it!)
  3. We can entertain ourselves (video games, card games, board games, Netflix, Amazon Prime, TV, YouTube etc.) You name it you have it!
  4. We can study any subject we like online and even get some certifications! (Coursera, Udemy etc.)
  5. You can virtually talk with anyone around the world at anytime through video chats (use it!) No friend is far away. We can do high-quality HD video calls with people tens of thousands of miles away! That's unprecedented in the history of mankind.

The best outcome of this pandemic has been that most of my prospects are now open to doing video conferencing without having to physically see me in a meeting room! All the IT security measures have magically disappeared as now I can login remotely to most systems (which they earlier didn't allow). I hope this sustains after all this is over. I am hoping we finally end up reducing global business travel and reduce our carbon footprints!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The COVID-19 Cut

So Singapore is not yet technically under a complete lock-down for COVID-19. We are still allowed to go out as long as we maintain social distancing and do not form large groups of people. But looking at the pandemic situation worldwide, I think (personal opinion), it's wise to stay at home as much as possible and only step out for essential services. That would mean - grocery shopping (if you can't buy things online) and an occasional walk or a run in a not crowded open area to get a feel of the nature. Again I repeat, we are not under a lock-down yet and things might change till you even read this blog post.

One of the monthly necessities that men like me have is a haircut. I had been delaying my haircut for a while cause you can't socially distance yourself from your barber. While robots can perform complex surgeries already, they still can't style you up. I guess we will have to wait a decade at least for robots to develop a sense of fashion.

So finally last week I succumbed to my unruly hair and went to the hair dresser. And I decided to cut my hair as short as possible so that I won't have to go to the hair dresser again - at-least for 6-8 weeks. So here I am presenting my new COVID Cut. I ain't interacting with anybody so it suits me well while I am holed up in my home working my bottom from home.


TCC
The COVID Cut

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The global work from home experiment

As the virus situation evolves, I am guessing a lot of us have now officially started working from home. While working from home in the IT sector (my industry) is not something new, continuously working from home is a bit of a new experiment for all of us this time!

My job involves working with remote teams across Asia during the day and Europe in the evening so I am stuck to communication devices most of the times. Life is getting intense and my day starts around 07:00 AM and ends after 08:30 PM almost everyday juggling multiple time zones and people.  I also realize I take little or no breaks when I work from home.

There is a general sense of business as usual though everyone has the virus at the back of their minds. It seems like it is here to stay longer than anyone of us expected it to be. I am sure there is also a serious economic downturn on the horizon and I hope we come out of it strong.

It's 2020 and I am thankful that we have 24 hours reliable, stable bandwidth and always-on internet connectivity. We can share our desktops, do video calls and talk to each other almost as if we are together (without the human-touch factor!). I hope this comfort with working remotely with each other prevails even after this threat is gone. Will save a lot on business travel (time, money, inconvenience)..

I hope you all are coping well. After working from home for almost a week now, I have started appreciating the little things in life. E.g. - I love how airy and bright my home is if I open up all the windows and doors, I love the sparse look, I love my sit-stand desk, I enjoy using my blue-tooth headsets and I feel I am 10 times more productive because of no cross chatter from my colleagues or people dropping by my desk asking for something that is urgent for them disrupting me from my urgent and important tasks!

Take care, stay safe, stay healthy and be happy!
And, its time now we actually called our long-lost friends and spoke to each other!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Body weight exercises

You don't need a gym membership to be fit. All you need is determination. I know I sound like a "guru" there, but after spending thousands of dollars over several decades on gym memberships that I hardly utilized and didn't see much of a difference, I can tell you that I see more progress (relative to where I started) in a year of only doing "body weight" exercises than more than a decade of pumping puny weights in gyms.

So let me get started. These are the exercises that you can easily do at home (or hotel room, or at office when no one is looking) without any equipment whatsoever:


  1. Burpees
  2. Push-ups (and other upper body variation exercises)
  3. Squats/ Lunges (and other lower body variation exercises)
  4. Planks (and other core exercises)
  5. Sun Salutations (and other stretching/ Yoga exercises)


All you really need is 30 minutes (or 3 - 10 minute intervals) or (10 - 3 minute intervals) or 20 minutes or 10 minutes or just 5 minutes a day. I hope you get what I am hinting at - you need to "make" time and the discipline to do it even if you don't see any progress for weeks together.

If you are currently unfit and can't even do a single set of any of these exercises, then try their regressions. Start from what you can do.

Repeat. Everyday.

Eventually you see progress and that's what should keep you motivated on your path to fitness! So if you have been a lazy bum like me, drop whatever you are doing right now - and try your first push-up, or your first squat (if you are in a public place and can't push up!). There you go! Now let's start.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Leap year disease

So today is 29th February. By the looks of it, this blog has seen 4 of them (leap years) already. This 29th is a bit unique. I have never actually experienced an infectious disease spread the way the current COVID-19 has gripped the world. Being in Singapore, I am quite close to the action. While I am generally impressed by how Singapore is containing the spread by strict quarantine and contact tracing measures, it doesn't look like it is going to be contained anytime soon globally.

As of writing this blog, it ain't a global pandemic yet (according to WHO's strict definitions). In my entire working life (though I went through 2 big recessions) I haven't ever experienced business slowing down the way I can see it now. Maybe because I was never in a sales related function before.

I hope this disease does not have a catastrophic impact on the global economy and we are able to contain it fast enough. I can however first hand experience the impact it is having on travel and tourism especially with all touristy places in Singapore deserted, and a lot of restaurants looking empty even on traditionally busy days.


Sunday, February 2, 2020

Hydration packs

I have never been that into physical fitness. Growing up, I was more of the stay at home - study and read books kind of guy - that occasionally played some badminton and table tennis and hardly ever engaged in team sports. I was a disaster in the favorite Indian team sport - Cricket, and I was even worst in Football. I hardly scraped through my physical training exams, and I generally belonged to the geek category.

Unfortunately, this ritual of me growing up - now sourly shows as I age (not so gracefully!). I picked up occasional physical fitness more seriously in my 30s. While I yearn to be more disciplined so that I age gracefully, that determination is fairly lacking.

Anyway, since you have already experienced my love for water containers before here and here, I thought I add to this list another of my hydration gear that I purchased a few months ago - A hydration pack. Now hydration packs for me have always been that "serious" fitness gear that endurance athletes use. It's like stuff that I see on TV and then see my fit friends carry it around. Never in my life I ever thought I needed one till until recently when I started doing short hikes (read - few hours).

If you go on the trail for anything in excess of 3 hours, then carrying hydration in this part of the world is essential. I used to carry bottles before, but you realize that it's inconvenient because it's bulky and heavy. Also with the necessity of carrying mobile phones, house keys, and money almost everywhere, the need for a small pack that I could keep on my back along with some water in it grew. And so I invested in a hydration pack.

Treks have been much pleasant now. I don't have any particular pack to recommend, just the fact that having a hydration pack on your back, makes life just so much more easier. And the best part is - you can drink water from a tube whenever you want, and as you start to tire and drink more water the weight on your back correspondingly decreases.

If you are into casual hiking or trekking or trail running and are sitting on the fence thinking about whether to invest in this piece of hydration equipment - I would whole-heartedly recommend - go for it! And if you are a serious mountaineer, don't smirk. This is for newbies like me.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Begpackers

Indian passport is not felt welcome in most countries in the world. I practically need a visa almost everywhere I travel. While some countries are sweet (like they allow me to get a visa on arrival), most expect me to give hundreds of documents to prove my intentions of visiting them, and also that I will make my way "out" of their country. I need to prove I have sufficient funds, I need to book my flights, my hotel tickets, medical insurance, travel insurance and above all provide itinerary of what I am going to do there, even on the weekends in between. And then to top it all some countries also require my last 10 years travel history!

This is annoying at least and downright humiliating at worst. I remember one particular nasty visa interview in which I told the officer that I ain't interested in visiting your country, if not for my business trip. She didn't like my answer, and I got a visa that was valid for exactly the dates of my meetings.

Anyway, this blog-post isn't about that. It's about the citizens of these privileged countries that come to south-east Asia unchecked (as a virtue of their passports). They have no money, no return tickets and then they go around most of Asia by begging. You can go Google "begpackers" and look for yourself the photos that vividly explain what I am saying. A lose definition of begpackers (beggars + backpackers) would be  - people from first world countries travelling to poorer countries in Asia and asking for money to continue their journey. The reason they can enter the country in the first place is because of their privileged passport.

My office in Singapore is in a touristy area, and I also occasionally pass such privileged travelers on my lunch break. I guess Singapore is much more stricter than it's south-east Asian neighbors so you see it more often in Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and of-course Bali. Most (if not all) of these "beg packers" I can only guess based on their skin color come from the privileged western countries.

Anyway, I completely understand why the visa system is currently the way it is. And I don't think there is any easy solution for what I feel is fundamentally unfair (classifying people just on the basis of their place of origin). However, till this can be sorted out by a better system, I guess, my fellow Indians and people with not so privileged passports will continue to suffer and get annoyed by the privileged begpackers.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The New Year Celebration Irony

So every year we all make resolutions and decide to do a better job of our life in the next year as compared to the previous year. Then many of us go party late into the night on the 31st of December and get drunk, wasted and start our new year with a terrible hangover and a late start.

So  much for having a "good start" to the new year. New Year Celebration is probably the worst celebration that the entire world has. It has no reasonable meaning whatsoever (why celebrate the earth going around the sun?) and even if we celebrate, the alcohol induced late night on the first day of the next cycle of 365/6 days is morbidly insane.

Anyway, statistically most new year resolutions are broken in the first 3 weeks of January. So as you read this blog, most of us have already given up on whatever resolutions we had. Some of us celebrate the lunar new year, so yeah, theoretically we have another chance of setting up a resolution for 3 more weeks before we break that one. And if you happen to be an Indian (from Maharashtra) then you get another chance in April (Gudi Padwa).

Anyway, as I get older, I have discovered (like many of you already know), a resolution is better off if you decide to follow something as a habit. "Habit forming" is more effective than yearly resolutions. Whether it is learning a language, learning a new musical instrument, exercising, keeping your house clean or just plain dieting to maintain your health, it's the consistency that matters more than anything else. Resolutions are essentially habits to be formed for the rest of your life. And to set those habits, you can start anytime, not just the beginning of a year.