Nov 30, 2020

My current desk


My current desk setup. I have been playing "musical chair" the whole of 2020, shifting my workplace across different rooms and desks. For the past couple of months, there wasn't a desk available either. I tried to focus, working out of the sofa in the living room and moving around with my laptop whenever someone switches on the TV. I could hardly focus and the main topic of my "complaints" was that I don't have any space or time to do deep work. This reflects in the less number of blog posts written in the past 2 months.


No, I don't work for any employer presently but I love to invest time in projects that are of self-interest (food and nutrition research, blogposts, courses, reading etc). 

My bandwidth became limited because of family related responsibilities in the past 2 months. And it is going to become even more limited in the next 4-5 months.

Before other family commitments take up my time and attention, I decided to secure a corner for myself, where I can do deep work, even if it is just for an hour or two in a day. Along with playing multiple roles (wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister etc) in a day, it is also important to allocate time when I'm "Anu" the individual, and where I have the physical and mental space to just be me.

Nov 26, 2020

Do you complain?



 Over the past few months, I have observed that I complain quite a bit about various issues. I haven't outpoured many of these complaints in public forums (blog, social media). Mostly, husband bore the brunt of my complaints sessions🙂

I'm glad at least I had the awareness that the rate of my complaining has increased. Being the analytical person I am, I initially thought I should keep count of the number of complaints in a day and then gradually decrease the count. But it was just too overwhelming to keep track and I discontinued it.

One conscious practice I'm trying to follow these days is to be aware whenever I get into complaining mode either with myself or with someone else. While I'm aware, I observe my thoughts and words. Just the fact that I'm being aware makes me more conscious and helps me pause and reflect.

I wouldn't say that I have put an end to this addictive habit, but the rate of complaining/cribbing has come down. 

Lack of gratitude is usually suggested as the reason why many of us complain about certain people/situations. Though it might be true, we have inherent biases that prevent us from focusing on the positives about certain people/situations from the past. Through the conscious practice of daily gratitude, we can overcome the effects of these default biases. But it is also worthwhile to understand the triggers behind such complaints. 

When I asked myself on many occasions, "Why am I complaining about this issue?", I realized that there were three common triggers that push me into this mode.
  1. I want to be in control of a situation. I want certain things to go as planned. If it goes haywire, I tend to complain about it.
  2. I want to be heard. Maybe, that's why I'm vocal about my thoughts and feelings. There is no point bottling up our feelings and then bursting out one fine day.
  3. I'm clear about my priorities, sometimes even fixated on them without giving any leeway for change. This has both pros and cons. If a person/situation comes in the way of executing my priorities, I get into complaining mode.
The point is not to JUDGE these triggers and classify them as right/wrong. All we need to do is to become aware of them.

Mark Manson in his article titled "Life is a video game. Here are the cheat codes" says,
Complaining takes a problem and then prolongs it.
How true! 

I understand this year has been tough for all of us. I'm sure some of us would have gotten into the complaining mode knowingly or unknowingly. There is no need to feel guilty about it. The main intention is not to put to an end to complaining altogether, which is a far-fetched goal. Let's try to understand what do we complain about and why we complain. This will give us insights into our deep-seated beliefs, wants and desires. Self-awareness is the key.

Nov 19, 2020

Benefits of eating an early dinner

 One major positive change that I made in 2020 is to have an early dinner before 7PM. I have mentioned this in a few posts but I believe this one needs a separate post in itself. 

Until last year, I used to finish my dinner by 8PM on most days. I slowly shifted the timings to 7:30, 7:15 and now 7PM. This shift by just an hour has made a huge difference in my life in multiple ways.

(1) I automatically feel sleepy by 9:30-10PM 
(2) Since there is a good 3-hour gap between the time I finish my dinner and the time I go to bed, the food I eat gets digested easily
(3) My stomach feels light when I wake up the next morning
(4) Bowel movements are regular 
(4) Sleep quality is much better
(5) I start to feel hungry by 8:30-9AM and my stomach is ready to eat a proper breakfast
(6) I have lost a few inches around my tummy. These were quite stubborn inches, by the way :-) And people with PCOD would know how hard it is to lose weight around the tummy
(7) My mind feels fresh and active the next morning. No sluggishness or lethargy

My dinner menu is quite simple. Usually, it is either dal rice, kichdi, dosa+chutney/sambhar, sambhar rice, rasam rice etc. Yes, I prefer to eat rice for dinner, as it suits my body and it digests easily. No soup, salad or rotis. Figure out what foods work for your body and choose accordingly. There are no universal guidelines applicable for all. 

Whenever I talk about early dinner, I get atleast a couple of DMs asking whether I would feel hungry around 9-10PM. I don't feel hungry after dinner and I don't eat or drink anything else. I usually chew 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds (sombu/saunf) after dinner. This helps to ease the digestion. At the same time, this habit acts as a signal to my brain (and tummy) that no more food would follow from hereon.

Having an early dinner helps our body and mind in so many ways. Do give it a try. Take it slow, shift it back by 15-20 minutes at a time, continue it for a few weeks and then shift it further. 

P.S. If you sleep late by midnight or post that, then you might end up feeling hungry if you have an early dinner. Try to fix your sleep routine first, before changing your dinner timings.

Nov 13, 2020

Dealing with unexpected situations

A few days back, I stumbled upon a speech by Tamil Actor Satyaraj. It was just a small clip, a few seconds from his speech. Wish I could get hold of the entire speech.

I'm translating what he spoke in Tamil

"In life, if we want to be happy, we have to stop doing two things

(1) Stop worrying about what other people think of you

(2) Stop trying to change how other people should behave"

This was such a powerful statement. As I pondered over it, I realized that I have reduced the first thought pattern to a large extent over the years, which has brought in a lot of peace.


But I also realized that I get caught in the second thought pattern more often. Not just that, but I try to take it even further - Trying to change not just how people should behave but also change the different situations I encounter. Yeah, wishful thinking!


Life throws unexpected situations at us. They can neither be predicted nor be molded in a way we want them to unfold. Complete acceptance is the solution I hear from many. But I find it hard to reach that level of complete acceptance and surrender to the situation. I see myself resisting a lot when the situation is unfavorable to me.


Ever since I became aware of this nature of mine, instead of pushing myself hard to accept the situation, I have started to follow this 3-step process.


(1) I ask myself this question - "Can I do anything to change the situation?"

More often than not, the response is NO.


(2) I pick up my journal or open Evernote and journal about the situation on the following lines:

  • Why am I feeling uncomfortable about this situation?
  • How would this situation affect me?
  • Are there any positives that this situation can bring in?
  • What are the possible negative outcomes I'm foreseeing?
  • How can I address these? Are there any workarounds I can figure out?


(3) I reflect on my priorities and realign my schedule to accommodate the new situation but at the same time, not give up on what I needed to do for my happiness and peace.


From my experience, the key learning in the past few months is this - Acceptance and surrender might be the destination - a state of utmost peace, but for people in the journey, trying to practice complete acceptance without clear thinking and planning will only lead to more frustrations and helplessness.


The situation we encounter might be out of our control, but how we deal with it in an empowered way requires a good deal of planning and reflection.


Nov 9, 2020

Generalist or Specialist?



Yesterday, this thought flashed in my mind while I was pondering over certain things - "Be a generalist student and a specialist teacher".

There's this classic debate that's been going on for decades - "Should I be a generalist or a specialist?". I've been gravitating more towards being a generalist, as I'm curious to learn about a wide range of subjects. I'm yet to read the popular book "Range" by David Epstein that talks about the benefits of taking a generalist approach. It's on my reading list and I hope to get to it soon.


Why do I prefer to be a generalist? 

  • Life is too short to go deep into just one single area of interest. As you grow older, your interests start to change
  • When there is curiosity, it is best to ignite it by reading about the subject, researching and talking to people about the same.
  • By being interested in multiple subjects, you can cross-reference the ideas from each other.
  • Sustaining interest levels on a single topic for a long time is a big challenge for me.


Having said that, I also understand that if we are still learning, if our understanding is still evolving, it is best we don't teach or preach to a wider audience.


In Albert Einstein's words, 

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

Teaching is considered the most effective way to learn a subject better. If the intention to teach is to learn effectively, then we can share our learnings with a close friend or a family member and see if the way we explain it to them helps them understand the topic.


But teaching to a larger audience on a subject in which our understanding is still evolving leads to a lot of repercussions. 


  • The audience will easily be able to spot the contradictions. As our understanding evolves, what we believed to be true a few weeks back might undergo a shift, which is perfectly normal.
  • When students have a doubt or need clarification, it becomes difficult to answer them with clarity of thought. We start to fumble. Our body language and vocal expression would clearly show that we are not thorough with the subject. This breaks the trust of the audience.
  • Without going deeper, spending adequate time and effort in researching a subject and trying out the ideas ourselves for a good amount of time, we wouldn't be able to make an impact. It might end up confusing the audience more than being helpful.


This thought - "Be a generalist student and a specialist teacher" seems to be in alignment with the T model of learning, where we go deeper on a specific subject, build expertise and practice that gives us the clarity to teach others and at the same time, develop curiosity over a wide range of subjects.


Did this post resonate with you? Are you a generalist or a specialist? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.

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