Stayfocused in, Gmail Out – Increase productivity, reduce distractions.

Ok, one month into trying minimalism & simplifying my life, I have been making significant strides. For starts, I have felt bored more often in the past two weeks than I ever can remember. I am creating free time, which is good.

I am also through 300 pages of the first ever book I read since Harry Potter!

While minimalism at home makes sense, I have realized there is much more than physical objects that clog up our lives and work. My major breakthrough has been in using the chrome extension called “Stayfocused”. This app allows you to add websites that you are addicted to and allocate only few minutes to them per day after which they are blocked off on your device.

I have used this for the past couple of weeks and almost stopped looking at Facebook, goal.com, bbc sports and a few more of the sites I am addicted to. I now have the choice of channeling the additional time towards work or writing.

Though Facebook has taken a large amount of bashing for being unproductive, I also believe we need to look at another deterrent – GMAIL. When was the last time, you got a personal email on this platform?

For me, it was about 6 months ago. Yet I have not only had the app installed on my phone, also allowed it to auto sync continuously but also allowed it to throw up a prompt for every new email.

Over the past week, I have unsubscribed to all marketing emails. For those that do not allow me to unsubscribe (WTF man!!), I have created a rule to mark them as read. I have also muted the mail app and turned off the Autosync. I have experienced peace!

You can try this out too 😊

 

 

 

Feel free to comment some tips to increase productivity.

Stereotypes

Introvert, extrovert, ambivert.

Gen x, gen y, millenial.
Libran, Scorpion, Gemini.
Hindu, Muslim, Christian.
Tamil,Telugu,Mallu.
Northie, Southie,Gujju,Chinky.
Paki,Gora,Nigger, Sand Nigger.
Latino,Asian,Chinese,Caucasian.
MBA,Engineer,IIT,Commerce,arts.
IT, Automobile,Cook.
Rich,poor,middle class.
Thin, fat, man, woman, child, teen.

We have a lot of choices in describing anyone. Little do we realize, our choice of words greatly describe our perception as well as the perception of our audience on the subject in question. And it greatly affects them…. Sometimes, it ruins lives; destroys peace ; promotes hatred ; invokes suspicion; creates divide…

Maybe you did not talk to your next best friend because you classified them as one of these rather than embrace those differences.

It is the age of consuming new information. We are driven by the mad urge to know new things. But please be mindful that content that we consume is carelessly curated by viewership-hungry journalists that are highly incentivised to sensationalize every piece of news they get.

 

Getting serious about Minimalism – How to eliminate clutter?

It has been close to three weeks since I bumped on minimalism and I am taking slow but sure measures to declutter. Most of you must have seen my initial measures which I wrote about last week. I touched upon the topic of downsizing my stuff and also enforcing check points for reducing my time spent on social platforms.

Here are a few ways that I have embraced minimalism and gone about changing my life, slowly but surely.

Resolve to be happy!

The entire point of the change is for me to find more joy and happiness in life. Being a math driven guy, I can find more happiness by increasing the number of things I do that brings me joy or reducing those things that don’t. While the former involves a higher level of creativity, the latter is much easier to identify as your heart grumbles to you when you engage in things you don’t like. For example, I don’t enjoy tasks like ironing clothes, sorting out bills, organizing kitchenware, buying groceries etc. Doing nothing excites me more than doing any of these. So my first and probably only resolution is to be happy as I go about minimalizing everything around me.

Plan your pursuit

Probably the greatest risk of going back to our unproductive ways is when you realize that you suddenly have so much more time in your hands. If it has been years since you had a hobby, the extra time could drive you nuts. Our inertia would prompt us to move back to doing what we usually do – check our phones, dig our laptop or watch something on TV. Don’t blame yourself, our brain incentivizes us every time we find something new, so the urge to check your messages is biologically natural. As for me, I enrolled myself into a library and am 30% through with the first book I have held in my hand since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!!!!

And my blogs have become more frequent, so I feel the creative juice flowing in my veins.

 

Now focusing on the question of removing actual items, here is how I got about it. I looked at some of the ways many minimalists (and there are millions of them) went about de-cluttering their houses. The most popular one is the 333 project where you live on 33 wearable items for 3 months. Then there is the packing party where you basically pack your entire home and then only unpack stuff that you need over the next 3 weeks. Eliminate just about everything else that does not get unpacked. You could also create a list of 100 items that you want in your house and remove everything else. I found all of these too radical & hence have found my own two-step process.

Two step removal of junk

Have a designated store area in the house. Put everything that you feel is not necessary into a suitcase and keep the suitcase in that area. You are allowed to get items back in from the suitcase if you find use for the item. If not, eliminate all items after 2 or 3 weeks. The main advantage of this process is that you don’t spend too much time making decisions on whether you need the item or not.

Twenty-20 rule

“But why don’t we keep this as backup, in case there is an emergency?” – There is always this question ringing in our minds. In fact, this question is the sole reason for us having 20 towels at home 🙂

A rule that greatly helped me overcome this anxiety was one I found at theminimalists.com. It goes like this, “If you can get the item within 20 minutes of where you are and by spending less than $20, then you can throw the backup items out.”

If only I had come across this simple rule, I would not have burdened my parent’s place with 5 suitcases full of items that I wanted to store when I moved from my Bangalore house to Singapore.

Remove off packaging

A simple but effective way to store items is to eliminate the packaging. For example, perfumes are always covered with cardboard. So too are fragile items and mobile phones. We keep the boxes as they help when we resell the phone, but is the cost difference so significant to warrant the space these boxes take up?

Stop those bills at the doorstep: Open them, take a picture, email to your account, pay immediately if possible and bin the bill.

One in, two out: For every new item that comes in, I eliminate two.

No more clothes:Dont buy them. If you do, then follow the one in, two out rule!

 

After following these, have I succeeded in de-cluttering my things? I am not even 30% of the way there 😊

I am keen to hear some ideas from you regarding how you got the clutter out of your house… Feel free to comment your suggestions.

Is minimalism necessary for Indians?

Ever since I got introduced to minimalism, one question has kept ringing in my head. “Is minimalism necessary for Indians?”.

In true Indian sense, I want to deny and dismiss the thought and say “no”. How can a western concept be applicable for India? Have our elders not always taught us to save and not be consumed by consumerism? On the flip side, if we were so good at saving money, why are we faced with so much debt? And why are our bedrooms so full of stuff?

There are economic factors involved here. Back when I was at school, we had two important decisions in life – the 50paisa samosa or the 75paisa samosa. Now the same samosa costs 75 Rupees in most coffee places. So, our elders did not account for inflation. But what has that got to do with minimalism?

I am not an expert in finance & will never claim to be one. But my belief is that irrespective of which era you belong, you are paid a sum that will help you keep your lifestyle intact. If that is not the case, we find jobs that satisfy these. So, finding the appropriate income is not a problem. Then the problem is at the other end of the spectrum – expenses. Minimalism can help a great deal when we consider where our incomes go to.

As is the case with most of the world, we have developed at a rapid pace over the past couple of decades. We can boast of our cities hosting skyscrapers and multi-national companies. We have developed many towns to cities and villages into towns. A lot of us own vehicles, and own houses. We live in a connected world and have owned a minimum of 10 mobile phones since our first.

There lies the problem. Almost all the money we have earned has gone into upgrading our lives. This is primarily due to social pressure. We need to own the latest and greatest gadget or most expensive car to be perceived as successful. Once the next version of the same device is released, we have to own it. This mentality leads to a lot of pressure as well as needless expenditure.

The next major expenditure that we undertake is owning a house. It is a status symbol to have our own flat. In some cases, marriages are determined by how many houses the bride or groom brings to the table.  When we work, it is quite easy to pocket a house loan and purchase the place. However, the banks do not let us pay back at our pace and instead force us to pay at theirs.

From a cultural perspective, as well, we have forced ourselves to take up so much stuff. I remember having a conversation with my house owner in Delhi where they said “If a marriage invite is not delivered in hand, we would not attend the same. Also, if the invite is not delivered with proper gifts to us, then we will not attend the same.” Coming from the South, I have seen so many occasions where one has to gift a dhoti & white towel for my dad and a saree for my mom. If I dig my house, I am sure to chance upon 25 towels at home.

A lot of times, we are also sucked into sentimental purchases. Jewelry for instance, something that we buy to show our status, yet seldom wear due to safety concerns. We are pressed to giving gifts for birthday & dresses during various functions. Though these occupy space & cost, we cannot not buy these.

So instead of pondering over the question, “Is minimalism required for India”, I believe we can look at some advantages that minimalism can bring for us Indians.

  1. Less cleaning – Own less stuff, clean less stuff .
  2. Less decisions – You don’t need version 7 or version 8 of the phone unless it adds value to your life
  3. Less stress – Less pressure to spend or own stuff.
  4. Less debt – Once you have more savings, you can concentrate on getting rid of your debt
  5. Not tied to job – A stretch, but you can choose another job that is more aligned to your passion though the pay may be lesser. I know of many IT engineers who just want to be writers
  6. Generosity – Donate your excess stuff
  7. More space – Your home looks bigger. You can feel proud about it.
  8. More freedom – More time to spend thanks to less cleaning & less social media. More freedom to spend on occasions and experiences than material stuff.
  9. Better example for kids – A chance to change our mindset and influence our next generation to make better choices in life.
  10. Less comparison – You only let in things that add value to your life. Extend that to people as well & remove needless comparisons.

 

Feel free to add your thoughts as comments. I am well aware that as Indians, we are happy to argue about any topic. If you disagree and believe minimalism is not for Indians, I am all ears.

My first brush with minimalism

Minimalism is the practice of consciously reducing the amount of stuff in your life. This could be both material as well as other kinds of stuff. For more information of minimalism, I would recommend this TED talk by the minimalists – Ryan and Joshua. These guys gave up their six figure salaries to live minimal lives. Soon, they found more time to follow their passions and live a more fulfilling life. This included more of people, relationships and less of devices and distractions. A lot of people have taken up minimalism and enjoyed the benefits of it. I have been contemplating living a minimalist life too.

However I am going to try out a slight modification of the practice. For starts, I am not ready to leave my job yet 🙂 But there are situations at work where I can use minimalism to my advantage. I have cleaned up my desk and there is absolutely no clutter. The emptiness gives me the same kind of calm which I get in an empty conference room. I have also installed productivity tool which restricts my browsing activity to 10 minutes in the entire day. Generally speaking, I find that I have more time which is good.

At home, I have taken a resolution not to start any new series. So last Saturday I binge watched an entire season of “Shanara Chronicles” as a goodbye to Netflix. I still watch individual episodes of other series with my wife, however that is more to for the company rather than the series itself.

I had planned out that I would have 5 shirts, 3 trousers, 3 Jeans and 5 T-shirts. However I could never get myself to get rid of any of them. Most of them are in good condition and I did not have the heart. So the count stands at 18 shirts, 5 trousers, 4 Jeans and 8 T-shirts. Minimalist? Definitely not in this department!

As the saying goes, if something does not add value, remove it. I did the unthinkable, remember the Old Trafford Stadium puzzle I built? Well I got rid of it. I still love United though!

I have also looked into my phone & removed many apps that I dont use. As for those social apps that remain, I have silenced all notification, including vibrations so I am not distracted.

Now that I have taken so many measures? I dont know what to do with my time. Hence this post. My ask from you is to share some tips on how you can minimalise, or stay focused on minimalism, or what we can do with the time that I suddenly have in my hands?