Jul 9, 2020

Free Printables to help in meal planning

By now, you all know my love for the Indian Food Composition Tables 🙂 I have been going through the document in detail and have been compiling the list of foods rich in specific nutrients. If you haven't taken a look, you can access the complete list - Plant-based sources of macro and micro-nutrients. There is a separate post for each individual vitamin/mineral. It's still work-in-progress and not a complete analysis yet. 

My intention is not to promote Nutritionism but rather to help people recognize and appreciate the wide diversity of local and seasonal foods that are available in India and that can meet our nutritional requirements without the need for artificial supplements/health drinks.

Going through each and every post might be time-consuming. So in order to make our lives easier, I plan to make a master compilation that you can print it out and pin it up on your fridge. Whenever you write down your weekly/monthly grocery list, my wish is that you refer to these printables and plan your meals. 

Instead of asking "I want a diet chart for weight loss/PCOD/thyroid etc", let's take the effort to understand the key principles and plan our meals ourselves. It is more fun and empowering this way than to blindly follow a diet chart prepared/followed by a random stranger on social media.

The first printable I'm sharing is on the foods rich in key minerals - calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and selenium. There will be more printables I will be sharing in a similar format for vitamins and macro-nutrients as well.

Compilation of plant-based sources of minerals

Right Click on the image and click "Save Image as".

Let me know if you find this printable helpful in your meal planning.

Jul 6, 2020

How I brought down my Youtube subscriptions from 148 to 28?

"Mindful content consumption" or "Dejunk your mind" - pick a name for this exercise. I'm planning to share my journey on how I'm moving away from content overload to conscious content consumption. My first post in this series was on Instagram usage. Check it out if you haven't.

In this post, I plan to talk about Youtube content consumption.

Though Youtube has been around for a while, the content creation in India started to explode sometime around 2017. More content creators started to use this platform and create content frequently on a wide range of topics. 

I have been subscribing to many cooking channels, people who post interesting vlogs, cleaning and organizing videos, product management related content, productivity, time management, and much more. When I tried to curb my Instagram consumption last year by bringing it down to 30 min per day, all I was doing was switching over to Youtube for mindless scrolling and content consumption that captured my attention at that very point in time. There have been days when my Youtube watch time was nearly 3 hours 😞 I would end up watching so many recipes but would have tried only a few. When I questioned myself on my behavior, it wasn't fear of missing out (FOMO). Rather, it was the thirst towards learning and gathering new information on topics I'm most interested in. Also, whenever I would complete a task, I would end up relaxing for 10-15 minutes with my phone, consuming more content from Youtube. I felt like I deserved it and that it was my me-time.

Off late, my perspective towards me-time has shifted and I want to become more conscious about the information I feed my mind. Here's the step-by-step process of how I cleaned up my Youtube channel subscriptions.

1) I need to first become aware of the number of channels I'm subscribed to. Awareness is the key to making any change in our lives. As on 1st July 7:30PM, I was shocked to note that I had subscribed to 148 channels. I didn't expect this high number.

2) I had set myself a target that I would bring it down to 50 channels. I also announced it as an Instagram story to keep myself accountable.

3)The very same night, I sat down for 30 minutes and started unsubscribing to many channels using the following criteria:
  • Channels from which I haven't viewed content in the past one month
  • Channels that no longer upload any videos
  • Channels on topics that I no longer invest any effort in - there were a few channels that I had subscribed related to B2B sales, selling, sales enablement etc when I used to work with Mindtickle back in 2014-15.
Coming to the second criteria, as I was scrolling through the list, I came across this channel "geetradhu". I used to be a big fan of mama and mami a few years back. Such fun and candid conversations. But for the past year, they haven't uploaded any videos and as a subscriber, I had no idea that no new content was being posted. Our attention is being hijacked by the new and shiny.  On Instagram, if I remember someone not posting for a while, I might DM him/her to check if everything is okay. Let me admit, this happens extremely rarely. Whenever I take a break, I do hear from 5-6 people who would care to check if I'm doing okay. This is mainly due to our own efforts. The platforms don't enable such options.

Does any platform provide a way to connect with people who are no longer uploading/posting content? "Hey, you have been following geetradhu but they haven't uploaded in a while. Do you wanna message and check with them?" 

If I were a product manager of a social media platform, I would prioritize this feature. 

I digressed a bit here, but this needed to be highlighted.

After the first pass, I brought the subscriptions down to 72. Yes, around 50% unsubscribed.

4)I took a break for a couple of days and came back to this exercise. The main reason we subscribe to a channel is to ensure we don't miss out on their latest uploads. For videos that can be searched, we can simply use the Search option. For example, recipe videos can be easily searched given the name of the recipe. If we like a particular video, we can Save it. There is no need to be subscribed to a channel for these use cases.

Subscription is a way of inviting new content to our attention.

For the second round of cleanup, I asked myself a simple question, "Do I look forward to this content creator's new videos?" Using this question, I have now brought down my subscriptions to 28. Yes 28. Much less than the target of 50 🙂 So this gives me leeway to subscribe to a few more content creators if I find their content worthy of my attention.

Our attention is such a precious resource. Let's use it wisely. 

I see so many random vloggers who vlog every single detail of their lives. There is quite a bit of drama created in many of the vlogs. TV Serial makers can go on retirement now 😉 The thumbnail image and the title caption is being used extensively to grab our attention. Why invest our time and attention in such unwanted dramas?

Even if I choose to ignore all the drama creators and follow people who post useful content, how much of the content have I actually started practicing in my own life? What's the point of overloading our brains with more information if we are not putting it to use?

If you are spending too much time on Youtube, I hope these pointers will help you become more conscious of your content consumption.
Last but not the least, after you do this cleanup, whenever you are browsing Youtube, make sure you check the Subscription tab ONLY. If we go to "Recommended" section, we are again sucked into the world of content overload.  

Jul 3, 2020

The conversation

Last night, I couldn't sleep and was tossing and turning quite a bit. Then a conversation started happening in me that brought a lot of clarity.

Let's call the two characters - Logical Anu (LA) and Dreamer Anu (DA)

DA: I'm not able to sleep. And I know the reason. I've been hosting these workshops in the past few weeks but there are hardly any signups. Today, I announced the workshop for Saturday and there's only one confirmed registration so far. 
LA: Didn't you say it's for parents with children below 5 years age? How is it possible for them to sit through a 2-hour workshop?
DA: That's true....I was hoping that the mother and father can take turns and listen to the workshop, take notes and then have a fruitful interaction on how they can implement some of the ideas being shared.
LA: Hmm, that's possible but chances of it happening are farfetched. Child Nutrition is still the sole responsibility of the mother in our society. What other reasons do you think?
DA: Maybe, people have other commitments at the same time
LA: Yes, many online workshops are happening on Saturdays, people might have signed up for them.
DA: Also, there's a possibility that people might think Rs.500 for a 2-hour workshop is steep
LA: You have put in so much effort in researching, exploring and compiling the content for the workshop. If you offer it for free, people won't value it. I don't believe Rs.500 is steep in today's standards
DA: People might also think "She has been sharing her content for free through her blog and Instagram. Why pay for a workshop?"
LA: Yes, that's a valid point. But the blog content is based on individual ideas. You have tied them together in a proper structure for the workshop, along with personal experiences and anecdotes. That's what makes it valuable.
DA: True, I'm confident in the content I have prepared.
LA: What about marketing? What are the channels have you explored?
DA: I just posted on Instagram stories and updated my blog.
LA: Duh, Have you forgotten all you learned about marketing in your MBA programme? You will have to identify your target audience, figure out the online spaces where they frequent (groups, social media) and promote your workshop aggressively. 
DA: Hold on, I'm not looking for a large crowd. If I can empower at least 10 parents with the information I share, I'm more than happy. 
LA: How about influencers on Instagram? Did you reach out to any of them?
DA: No, I find the whole process so artificial. If anyone believes what I'm offering can make a difference in someone's lives, they would be motivated to share it themselves. Sucking up to influencers is definitely not my cup of tea. I have seen how an individual who used to say nasty things about an influencer then goes onto commenting nice things on every single post of that influencer, just because she wants to promote her business. I don't want to label her as a hypocrite because that's how the system is designed to be. 
LA: You are one adamant girl with respect to your principles. Maybe, you should put up videos of D more often. And for God's sake, why D? Why not reveal her real name? 
DA: hahaha....D is my daughter but that doesn't give me the right to invade her privacy. She might be too young to understand privacy but I don't want to use her. I see so many parents sharing videos of their kids, just before announcing their workshop on parenting. Why are these so-called influencers painting such a rosy picture of their lives? Why aren't they also showing reality? 
LA: Again, it is your personal value system coming to play here. It is your choice not to show a video of your daughter in a public forum, as much as it is their choice to show videos of their kids.
DA: Moreover, how is it going to help a young mother when she sees my daughter eating a bowl of veggies? If her child doesn't eat vegetables, it will only make her feel uncomfortable. I'd rather share the process I experienced and learned that has helped me in making my daughter eat her vegetables.
LA: That's a good perspective. Maybe, you should make your posts sound extremely aspirational. People will then feel more curious. Why not share raw vegan ideas or similar such higher goals? Why post a picture of kesari and bajji?
DA: I want people to know the reality, lady.....this is what I eat. People should be able to relate to me easily. This will motivate them to implement the ideas I share. We can aim to climb to step 10 of the ladder, only if we climb steps 1 to 9. Just standing at step 1 and looking at people in step 10 wouldn't help. 
LA: Phew....I ran out of my logical questions now. What do you plan to do?
DA: I enjoy conducting these workshops. I'm in a total state of "flow" during those 2 hours where I get to talk about the topic I'm most passionate about. I wish I had this information handed to me in a platter when D was a baby. I want young mothers to feel empowered. So even if it is just one registration, I'm going ahead with it. I don't treat this as a business but my CALLING. I'm answering this calling in multiple ways, one of them being these workshops. While I do my duty, the universe will take care of bringing the people. 

Jul 1, 2020

Mindful Content Consumption on Instagram

Most of us have become more conscious about what we put in our mouths. We have now reached a stage where we need to become more conscious about what we put in our minds as well.

Similar to junk for the body, there is junk for our minds too. Yes, I'm talking about the various forms of content we consume. It is even worse, you know how? Even if you can gobble up a party pack of Lays chips in one go, our stomach would eventually push the Stop button and say, "Enough, I can't take it anymore". But with content, we can keep consuming so much in a single day. Our appetite for new content can never be satisfied unless we end up with eye irritation or headache late in the evening.

I love reading and I consume content in all forms - books, videos, articles, blogs, news etc. I used to be active on all social media platforms. I used to "Pocket" so many links, just so that I can read them at a later point of time. I used to open so many tabs in my browser. Many times I would hit a half-century of open tabs. My laptop would slow down but I wouldn't.

Last year, after reading Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism, I consciously started taking note of my content sources and consumption patterns. I had implemented a few changes then, which are still going strong. I completely stopped using Facebook and Twitter. I was sharing my content on nutrition and packaged foods but I hardly got much engagement. I could no longer resonate with the content I was consuming. After a point, I just lost interest in these platforms.

I also realized that I was spending more time on Instagram. So I came up with a 30-min time slot per day when I would install the app, post/comment/reply to DMs and then uninstall the app. This was working fine to some extent but the number of DMs and comments started to increase and it was hard to keep up with them in the 30-min slot. Moreover, I couldn't really engage with the posts of people whom I follow.

That's when a major realization happened. I "follow" someone because I find something of value from their posts. 

"Value" could be ideas (recipes, cooking tips) or inspirations (parenting, life hacks, productivity, personal experiences). 

The habit of randomly consuming content or bookmarking relevant posts seemed counter-productive until and unless I make the recipes or try out the insights I learned. 

Around that time, I was following around 150 people. I decided to set a "following" target to 100 and the decision to follow/unfollow happened with the help of these three questions:

Do I enjoy the content shared by this person?
Is the content from this person something I can practice in my life right away?
Do I feel overwhelmed or anxious when I see their content?

I was able to bring down the following count to 100 and was sustaining this number for quite some time. I used to have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) in my 20s but no longer in my 30s.

Then COVID happened and my content consumption went haywire in March. I went back to my twitter and Linkedin feeds, which only added to more anxiety. After a few days of panic and confusion, better sense prevailed. For most of April, I stopped using all social media platforms. From May, I starting using Instagram again, and even with the limited following count, there was just too much information for me to absorb. Pruning happened yet again and I have brought down my following count to 60, using the same three questions.

If you feel overwhelmed or disturbed after using social media, take a break for a few days. When you come back, make sure you go through the list of people whom you follow. If someone's content(including mine) makes you feel anxious or disturbed, mute them or unfollow them. Decide the technique based on what works for you. I personally don't like to mute as it gives a false perception. Moreover, I want to engage with the content of people who I follow. 

"Wait a minute. You have only spoken about consumption. What about connections and friendships we form on social media?", I hear your question.

There are 3 Cs that we try to accomplish by spending time on social media - Creation, Consumption and Connection.  The main objective of this article is to be mindful of the 2nd C - Consumption.

Regarding the 3rd C, I asked myself - How are Connections formed on social media? 
It again goes back to discovery through value. I find something valuable and interesting in a post. I start following the person. As I explore their previous posts, I start noticing synergies in our thought process/ideologies/beliefs. I connect with the person more through his/her posts, we DM each other and we form a bond of friendship. This whole process takes time and doesn't happen overnight. For someone like me, I prefer to have this circle of friendship quite small. It is just not feasible for me to build a large network of "friends" on social media. Friendship needs time commitment from both parties involved. 

In this post, I have shared how I'm mindfully consuming content on Instagram. In the subsequent posts, I'll talk about newsletters, emails, Youtube channels, WhatsApp groups etc.

Jun 25, 2020


What is me-time? This is a question I'm pondering about. 

These are the activities I earlier considered as me-time:
reading, browsing my phone (Instagram, Youtube), browsing my laptop (articles, blogs), watching movies.
I've started to take a different perspective these days.
Me-time is when I'm with myself and my thoughts without any distractions.
All the activities I had listed above are not really my thoughts. I'm investing my time and energy in the thoughts of others in the form of books, movies and social media updates. These are filtered information that is being shared. There are quite a few insights that I have gleaned from these sources over the years. But only when I started incorporating those insights in my life, I learned more about what works and what doesn't work for my situation.

Learning from others doesn't give a complete picture of the context. What we see/hear/read is only the final outcome that a person shares on any platform. This blogpost is a filtered output of my thoughts on how I have started to interpret me-time.

Let's take social media as an example - we only share what we want others to see. We don't share a complete view of us - the good, the bad and the ugly. Firstly, it is humanly impossible to share each and everything that happens in our day-to-day lives. Even if we roam around with a camera on hand all the time, we filter and show only the parts of our day which we feel like sharing.

When we see a post, our mind immediately creates a perception of the person sharing that post. These perceptions are shortcuts that our mind creates to categorize people. This happens subconsciously based on our beliefs, the environment we grew up in and many other factors.

These mental shortcuts are useful for us to foresee any danger and be prepared to fight/flight. But they can also mislead us and we might end up forming false perceptions of a person. "Don't judge a book by its cover" equivalent of "Don't judge a person based on what he/she shares on social media", if I may say so.

Recently, I had assumed something about a person based on what she shared on her social media feed but later when I realized the assumption was wrong, I felt a tinge of disappointment.

My point is that we try to grab our "me-time" from our loved ones, in order to scroll through our phones and absorb these false perceptions created on social media. Same goes with youtube channels where many people show their perfectly crafted lives in the form of vlogs but the reality is totally different. 

Yes, we can take inspiration from many people but a mere collection of ideas will not take us anywhere. As I reflect deeper, the books I love the most are those from which I have been able to incorporate certain ideas into my work or personal life. 

I'm trying to be more mindful and conscious of my "content consumption" these days. I have started to ask myself the following questions:

How much time I'm spending on consumption?
What is the quality of the content I'm consuming? Is it worth my time?
How much is the quantity of the content I'm consuming? Is it worth the context switch I'm experiencing, consuming on a wide range of topics?
How do I feel after consuming the content? Is it triggering or influencing my emotions in any way?
What are the learnings/takeaways from the content consumed? How do I plan to apply the same?

As I'm reducing my content consumption patterns, I'm also trying to grab me-time opportunities where I'm with my thoughts completely. An important idea I learned in my minimalism workshop with Durgesh Nandhini is this - "Chores are a form of meditation with eyes open". This statement was an eye-opener. Though I never detested doing chores at home, I never thought of it from this perspective.

Thanks to lockdown, I'm more engaged in household chores for which I had a house-help earlier. I'm also now making sure that I don't multitask while doing chores. I used to proclaim, "multitasking is my strength" but I now seek out opportunities to focus completely on a single task at hand without any distractions.

My me-time is now shifted to the following activities:
  • Cooking
  • Washing dishes
  • Sweeping and mopping
  • Folding clothes
  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Yoga and Pranayama
  • Walking (no step counters, no music, no podcasts, no audiobooks)
  • Sitting quietly without doing anything - toughest one but I'm trying 🙂
What is me-time according to you?

P.S. The structure of this blog post came to me while washing dishes last evening :-)

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