Oct 17, 2020

Money Talk


 

For the past few weeks in the Online Minimalism Workshop (OMW) that I'm attending, the topic of discussion is Money. One of the questions that I'm asking myself is "What is my relationship with money?". I'm grateful that this question was triggered, thanks to OMW.


Each individual's relationship with money is influenced by multiple factors - upbringing, childhood experiences, personal values and beliefs, the influence of family, relatives, neighbors and many more.

Even when two people, for example, siblings who have experienced similar upbringing and childhood can have different perspectives and a different approach towards money. If they are brought up in an environment where money was less, they can either feel deprived or feel more responsible. The attitude they adopt will decide their relationship with money in their 20s and 30s.


For me, my attitude with money is more on the lines of RESPECT and RESPONSIBILITY. Having grown up in a middle-class household, there were times when Appa was struggling to make ends meet. This has taught me to be more responsible and not spend on impulse purchases or unnecessary/fancy items.


In one of the sessions, I came across this statement - "Help will come when needed". It wasn't easy for me to understand this phrase but as I pondered over, two examples from my life helped me get a deeper meaning.


I worked hard during my 12th grade (wrote detailed posts on this many years back), especially on the main subjects - Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. I did study well for my language papers but not as much as the main subjects. Govt of Tamilnadu had a merit scholarship offered at that point, based on the total score.

 

When the results came, I got a good score in all the subjects, including language papers. I got a district rank, which helped me secure the scholarship. This merit scholarship took away so much of the burden off Appa to pay for my Engineering tuition fees. And the irony is that this scholarship was announced only during that particular 5-year DMK tenure, after which it was discontinued.


The scholarship covered the tuition fees and exam/semester fees. BUT there was another major expense involved - books. Engineering textbooks were way too expensive and we couldn't afford to buy new textbooks every semester. Appa enrolled me in a book bank but they didn't have the prescribed textbooks that I needed. This problem got resolved by someone's generosity.

 

Shanthi akka, my senior used to stay very close to my home and our college bus pick up/drop points were the same. As I started my 2nd year, I remember chatting with her one day and requesting her to lend her books to me. Shanthi akka's response was this - "My father is buying me new books because my younger brother will start Engineering next year. So I need to retain these books for him. If I lent them to you, will you maintain them in good condition?". I promised Akka that I would keep the books safe and return them as soon as the semester exams were over. At the beginning of every semester, I would go to her apartment and pick up the books and as soon as the semester got over, I would return the books the very next day. I ensured I didn't underline or write anything on the books. I had wrapped the books in a newspaper and ensured there was no damage or smudges. As Akka saw me maintaining them in good condition, her trust in me increased and her initial hesitation vanished over some time. 


Based on my life experiences, I would rephrase the original statement this way - "Help will come to those who have a genuine need and are responsible". 


Going one step further, I also believe - "Repeated help will come to those who accept the help received from a place of gratitude than from a place of entitlement."


Another statement that I had been thinking over a lot this past week - "Money is like air. It will come and go as needed". I had a lot of doubts about this statement. One fine morning, as I was mulling over this statement and taking a brisk walk on my terrace, this explanation came to me from the universe - 

 

"If money is like air, then similar to those who take intentional, mindful, deep breaths inhale more air and improve their lung capacity, those who are conscious, respectful and responsible about their money will improve their earning and saving capacity."


One more statement that bothered me to the core - "Spendthrifts are fearless about the future". I just couldn't accept this statement. As I questioned why this statement made me so uncomfortable, I realized I had assumed the corollary to be true - "Frugal people are fearful about the future". I have always been a very frugal person when it comes to my resources - not just money. There have been times when Appa himself had mocked me saying I'm "kanjam" (miserly). Though it used to upset me in my 20s, I'm now glad that I have this frugal quality in me as it has helped me lead a contented lifestyle without chasing luxury.


Is the corollary true? Am I being frugal because I'm fearful about the future? Definitely not. I'm frugal because I'm responsible for the present and clear about my choices without getting influenced by society. The actions of people with frugal qualities come from a place of responsibility and not fear. 


As part of all these questioning and thinking, I also realized one fundamental principle behind questioning - "Get more clarity on your questions first. Stay with your questions for longer. Do not be tempted to ask for answers. Do not ask half-baked questions to others, as it will only lead to more confusion".


I have used the word "Responsibility / Responsible" multiple times in this post. My relationship with money is indeed from a place of responsibility.


Oct 13, 2020

Why do we fail at being consistent with a habit?

 


  A few weeks back, I ran a Q&A on Insta Stories - "What are the challenges/obstacles you face in achieving your health goals?".  One of the common challenges mentioned was laziness. I had written a detailed post on 20 ways to overcome laziness.

The other important challenge that many had mentioned was "Lack of consistency".

Whenever we fail at being consistent with a habit, we perceive it to be a lack of motivation at a surface level.

Yes, motivation is extremely important, especially the intrinsic one, where you feel a strong urge/desire from within to pursue the habit.

Apart from intrinsic motivation, there are deeper factors to think about.

(1) Not enough clarity on the Why
Why do we want to wake up early?
Why do we want to work out in the morning hours?
Why do we want to quit junk food?
Why do we want to sleep on time?

The answer is not simply about staying fit and healthy. Go deeper and figure out your reasons. I wrote about my reasons on why I want to wake up early in this post.

(2) Higher opportunity cost
We place a higher value on the alternate activities that we would typically end up doing in place of the habits we want to do.

Some of us might feel that morning sleep hours are so blissful, it feels nice to snuggle inside a warm blanket and continue our sleep.
Some of us might feel that after a long day of work, it feels more relaxing to binge-watch a few episodes of our favorite series than to hit the bed on time.

Are you placing a higher value on such activities that compete with your habits? Be honest and figure out the answer.

(3) Expecting immediate results
Instant gratification is on the rise in every aspect of our lives. Our patience levels have reduced drastically. We no longer wait for the results that require prolonged effort. Our attention spans are dwindling.

In your journey of weight loss, do you weigh yourself every single day? Do you measure your waist and hip circumference once every few days?

(4) Not enjoying the process
Whatever be our goal, enjoying the process or journey towards reaching the goal is essential. If our minds are only focused on the goal, the process would feel like torture.

Do you enjoy the brisk walk or do you keep checking your step counter often to see whether you have reached the target number of steps?
Do you enjoy eating healthy meals or do you force yourself to eat healthy, so that you can shed a few kilos?

(5) Comparison with others' progress
Comparison with others might give a perception that it is motivating us to perform better. But it can easily grow into a sequence of obsession and disappointments. Whatever parameters you use to evaluate your performance, use them to compare with yourself.

Are you able to brisk walk comfortably for more time now than it was, say 2 months earlier?
Are you able to hold your Vrikshasana pose for more counts now than say 3 months earlier?

(6) Challenging either too much or too little
The new habits we adopt and the goals we set for ourselves might end up either too challenging or too comfortable. After a few days, we don't feel like continuing the activity.

If you are someone who wakes up every day at 8 AM, expecting yourself to wake up at 5 AM all of a sudden will only end up with disappointment.

(7) When the alternative is more attractive
This is more of a mindset we have acquired after many years of conditioning and habits.

Many of us find eating simple and healthy foods as boring and junk and packaged foods as more tasty and attractive.
Many of us find scrolling mindlessly through social media or binge-watching Netflix to be more relaxing as compared to doing nothing.

This mindset can self-sabotage our efforts of adopting a new habit. The classic example is the idea of a "cheat day" when we are super strict about our eating habits 5 days a week and then binge eat anything we like during weekends.

If this applies to you, ponder more on why you find the alternatives more attractive. What does this attraction mean to you? What do you value in them? You might be able to figure out the root cause.

For any new habit that you fail to be consistent at, think of these 7 reasons and see if one or more of them resonates with you.

Oct 6, 2020

10 Tips for effective Time-Boxing

 

10 tips for effective time-boxing

Around a month back, I shared in this post that I plan my day in 15-min time slots. I have received a couple of DMs on how to go about doing it. I spoke with someone in detail last evening on the same topic and I felt it would be useful to share my strategy and a few tips for those who would like to follow a similar time-boxing strategy to manage their time.

Disclaimer - Nothing listed below is carved in stone. I'm a human and I do tend to deviate at times from whatever I had planned. 
 
I don't follow any rigid schedule during weekends and festival days. This helps me to demarcate weekends and weekdays more clearly, given the current pandemic situation.
  
(1) Identify the days and timings to plan depending on your working days/sleep schedule etc. I plan my regular weekdays (Mon-Fri) in 15-min time slots from 6 AM to 10 PM.  
  
(2) Take a paper (or a digital calendar) and split the time into time slots that would work for you - 15-min or 30-min. I don't plan for every single 15-min time slot in this 16-hour window. I have deliberately left a few time-slots open, so that the schedule doesn't become too rigid.
     
(3) The primary purpose of this time-boxing strategy is to allocate time for activities that are important to me - self-care, cooking, learning, writing etc. Identify those activities that are non-negotiable and first add them to your time-boxing day calendar - exercise, meditation, learning, deep breathing etc. Block your time out for these activities before the other priorities take over.
     
(4) How you start your day determines how the rest of the day will progress. So take the time to plan your morning routine.
  1. As I mentioned earlier, I love the quiet, peaceful morning time where I get a couple of hours for myself. This is a strong motivator for me to wake up by 6 AM. 
  2. I usually sip my morning chai slowly while reading a newsletter from my favorite writer. For eg, today being a Tuesday, I ended up reading Mark Manson's newsletter. It arrives in my inbox on Monday evening but I would only read it during my allocated newsletter reading time. No precrastination. 
  3. If I have some topics/writing inspirations/brain waves in the morning hours, I quickly jot them down on Evernote on my laptop but I don't work on them in detail 
  4. I do a 30-40 minute basic Yoga practice in the morning. If the sun shines brightly, I go for a 20 min brisk walk in the terrace after Yoga 
  5. By 8:30AM, I'm done with a relaxed start, done my Yoga practice and got sun exposure
(5) I don't work for any employer at this point in time but I work on areas that I'm passionate about. From 9:30AM-11AM, I call it my laptop time.
  1. I work on either elaborating a blog post idea, wrapping up an almost-complete article or investing time in learning through online courses.  
  2. I use Instagram app on my Windows laptop and answer all DMs/replies to comments from my laptop. Only when I want to post a Post/Story, I install Instagram app and uninstall it immediately. Since I mostly share my lunch plate pics on Instagram, this install/uninstall time is typically between 2-2:30PM.    
(6) In the book "Digital Minimalism", Cal Newport talks about office hours where he consciously allocates time to connect with others. I got so inspired by this idea that I have adopted a similar strategy for myself. I call my 4:30-5:30PM window as my "Connection hours". I make myself available during this time for conversations with family, friends, colleagues from the industry, others in my network etc.
     
(7) I finish eating my dinner between 6:45-7:15PM. I don't wait for anyone. In my family, everyone eats when they are hungry. Dinner time is a key factor that influences multiple events - when we sleep, the quality of our sleep, when we wake up etc.
     
(8) I put my phone in "Do Not Disturb" mode around 8:30PM and I avoid using it after this time (on most days).
     
(9) My reading time (books) is typically between 9-10PM.
     
 (10) No binge-watching Netflix/Amazon Prime late in the nights, no social media on my phone. This helps me to fall asleep automatically by 10PM.
 
Time-boxing is super helpful as it gives us control over how we invest/spend our time. It is perfectly okay to watch Netflix, browse social media or Youtube but once we allocate a fixed time for these activities, then we are in control of the time spent. Hope these pointers were helpful. If there are any other questions related to time-boxing, do let me know.

Oct 2, 2020

My Master Menu List - How I track recipes?

 

Ever since the lockdown started in March, I haven't really been doing my weekly meal planning or sticking to a meal template as I had shared earlier. I plan only for the very next day's breakfast and lunch. Dinner would mostly be leftovers (from the same day's breakfast or lunch) or a simple khichdi/dosa.

Since March, I have been keeping track of the dishes I have cooked in a Google Keep note on my phone. Over the past few days, I have converted it into a Master Menu List. The spreadsheet lover that I am, I have been meaning to make this comprehensive list for quite some time.

This master menu list is helpful in multiple ways:
  1. Helps me to track the recipes I have tried recently and their respective sources (blogs, videos etc)
  2. Gives me a quick inspiration when I run out of ideas
  3. Helps me to identify dishes that I can cook with less effort
  4. Gives me clarity on what my family members like to eat
The spreadsheet by itself may not be of much use to you, as this depends on your eating preferences, cuisines and your family members. Instead of sharing the entire spreadsheet, let me share the template and the thought behind it, so you can make one for yourself.
 
Master Menu List Template

 
Create a Google spreadsheet. This sheet needs to be easily accessible over phone and editable too. So an Excel sheet on your laptop may not be very helpful.
 
Create various sheets as per your need - I have created 5 sheets
    1. Breakfast
    2. Side dishes (North Indian)
    3. Side dishes (South Indian)
    4. Other cuisines
    5. Sweets/desserts/snacks
Under each sheet, I have created the following columns
    1. Category
    2. Dish Name
    3. Effort required (Low/Medium/High)
    4. Pre-preparation needed (Yes/No)
    5. Family member's preferences (If a family member likes the dish, then add an Yes. Else, add a No)
    6. Recipe source (URL / Blog name / Youtube channel name)
Once you have this template ready, 
  1. Add all the dishes you usually make. This shouldn't take more than an hour, unless you cook a LOT of variety 🙂
  2. Every time, you try a new recipe and it comes out well, add a row in the respective sheet, with all the details. The most important, being the recipe source
  3. Create filters for effort and pre-preparation. When you want to plan your daily/weekly menu, quickly glance through the list, filter out based on the required criteria
Optional columns to add - last made date, variations from the recipe, dependency on ingredients that are usually not available in your kitchen etc. Customize it as per your need.

This is a work-in-progress tracker and it may not be a complete, exhaustive list, which is perfectly okay. The idea is to get started and stay inspired.

Hope this template is helpful. Do you use any other methods to track the recipes you cook? Share in the comments below.

Oct 1, 2020

Book Review: Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss

 

 

 Information comes to you at the right time. There is no need to have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Over the past couple of years, I have come to believe in this statement strongly. And my experiences are reinforcing the truth behind this statement.

Sometime around 2004-05, one of my senior colleagues and I were discussing past lives, life after death, etc. She said to me, "I'm gonna give you a book, which I found to be very interesting. Give it a read over the weekend. But I want you to return it on Monday". I obliged and borrowed the book from her on a Friday evening. For some reason, I couldn't connect with the material and I was prioritizing other activities that weekend. I didn't go past the first two chapters and I returned the book to her on Monday, saying it was too heavy for me to absorb.

A few days back, a friend and I were having a conversation on a similar topic. She didn't mention this book though. The title of this book came up in another WhatsApp group conversation. I randomly checked my home library and I was pleasantly surprised to find this book. Seems my husband had bought it a few years back and he hasn't read it either.

For the past two days, I was completely hooked onto "Many Lives Many Masters" by
Dr Brian Weiss and found it to be such a fascinating read. At many times, I paused, underlined a few sentences, bracketed a few passages, and felt so impacted by the underlying message.

The book talks about the conversations between a psychiatrist and his patient, the hypnotherapy sessions, and the messages revealed during these sessions on past births and time between births. Reading without any expectations and keeping an open mind helps to absorb and appreciate the message shared. Whether you are a believer or not of rebirths/reincarnations, there are quite a few lessons that talk about leading a complete and contented life.

A few passages that I loved

The very first paragraph

"There is a reason for everything. Perhaps at the moment that an event occurs we have neither the insight nor the foresight to comprehend the reason, but with time and patience it will come to light"
"People are born with talents, abilities and powers accrued from other lifetimes" => Does this remind you of the movie Ezhaam Arivu? 🙂
"What is revealed to me is what is important to me, what concerns me"
"We choose when we will come into our physical state and when we will leave. We know when we have accomplished what we were sent down here to accomplish. We know when the time is up and you will accept your death"
"Our body is just a vehicle for us while we are here. It is our soul and our spirit that last forever"
"There is too much black or white thinking. All or none. This is not the way of nature."
If this information is important to you, I'm sure this book would come to you in some way or the other :-)

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