Monday, October 18, 2010

Why I eat alone(usually) and probably you should too

Update Here is the followup to this blog

Note : No, I'm not the geeky dude who rarely talks to people and is socially awkward 8-)

Sometime back, I had no time to work on my pet projects, blogs and readings. Or so I thought..

The myth : "I don't have enough time"
As for anything in life, there are exceptions, and I'm sure there are people who truly don't have time. e.g. Anyone who just had a baby, or is doing a Ph.D & working part time Or someone doing a startup(bootstrap), coding, raising funds and pitching over lunch meetings.

For the rest of us this does not hold true.
The myth should be transformed into this statement - "I don't have enough interest to do xyz, hence I never find time for it"

If you truly have interest and think you don't have time, read along.

Not long ago I lived this myth, till I actually read Timothy Ferris. He does startups, writes books, finds time to blog & do all kinds of interesting things. His book is life changing, and its on my reading list for the second time.

I thought you had to be a superman to find time to all these things. Turns out you can do them all  without wearing your underwear over your trousers.

Here are some changes I made to my lifestyle -

30 mins. everyday down the drain
Most people get 30 to 45 mins. for lunch. Typically you'll have a group of 4-5 people huddled around a table eating. The topics of discussion are mostly -
  • Some world event - How the middle east peace process is worthless
  • Some take over in the industry - Google just bought blindtype, did you hear about it ?
  • Something they did over the weekend or will do - "And this guy sitting across our table, farted while ordering" 8-))))

Do you notice something in the topics above ?
  • You have little or no impact on them or from them
  • You don't want to discuss many of them, but one of your colleague does
  • They don't add anything of value to you
  • And there are a lot faster ways to keep yourself informed e.g your rss reader, etc.

I understand that once in a while one does need this. But, doing this everyday for years at a stretch didn't seem correct, I thought there was a chance to improve here. You can utilize these 30 mins. in learning something new or reading about a new topic.

Here is what I tried - I wanted to start learning a new computer language. I was bored with Java and had heard good things about Python. I subscribed to this podcast and started listening to the 5/10 min. episodes while I munched on my sandwich. Also, the list of books I wanted to read was close to two dozen, hence I started listening to their audiobook versions! There is list of good books at the bottom of this post, which I've either read or am currently reading/listening.

You would be surprised at the amount of reading you can finish if you do it for 30 mins. everyday. Once you start doing this, you will eagerly await your lunch break, since it provides food for both your body & mind.

Living consciously (Mindfully) - My experiment
Now now ! You going all philosophical on me mate !!

Not yet 8-) I'm not Thich Nhat Hanh.

I'm referring to the part where we get lost thinking about one thing, while doing something totally different. Or try to do multiple things at a time. No matter how much you believe, Humans cannot multitask.
We have a limited quota of attention, and as soon as we divide it our performance takes a severe beating.

Here is an experiment I did -
I bought a simple kitchen timer, the simplest kind and tried to time my getting-ready routine in the morning. Surprised I was. My maximum time went shaving, taking a shower, and getting ready after that. It took me exactly the same time to get ready after shower as it took to shower ! I timed and consciously concentrated on showering, cutting my time to a precise 7 mins from 12.

I would've dismissed the above experiment as time paranoia, about a year back. But that's not the point, its an experiment in concentrating on the task at hand and not letting your mind wander. 7 mins. of focusing might sound small, but it isn't. I learnt that within a month I was focusing better, concentrating longer and fighting distractions more effectively in general.

I once read that you don't make something out of your life working 8-5, its what you do after 5, that determines it. [ tweet this sentence ]

Your work life is not coffee break time
If you have an 8-5 job, do your job in that time. Don't take more than 15 mins. per day to do the following during office hours-
  • Coffee breaks
  • Chat breaks
  • Smoking breaks

In my 10 years of experience, I've seen my fair share of people who take these breaks a lot more than 15 mins. Plus they take them about 3 to 4 times in a day. Of course, no 2 days are equal, and you'll need more breaks on some days. But seems setting a limit is something one can do. If you take a break, because you are "Bored" at your job, it probably means L
  • that you need to take some extra initiative, or
  • take on more responsibility, or
  • develop new tools or ways to be more productive
  • And if none of the above work, maybe you need a more challenging job - your skills are way over what your job is asking you to do.

The benefits - You will finish your work on time, get home and can start working on your pet projects.

The above points have changed my 8-6 & after 6 life. I am finally working on my pet project, writing blogs and completing tasks faster.

I will soon follow up with another blog with more of this.
Here is the followup to this blog.

Lessons :
  1. Don't waste your lunch time
  2. Live consciously - Don't multitask - only one task at hand.
  3. At work - minimize distractions

If you have similar hacks, please do let me know, I'm always in a mood to learn.

As promised here are some good books to read -
22 immutable laws of marketing - I'm currently reading this, and its a mere 132 pages of condensed awesomeness
4 Hour work week
Six pillars of self esteem
The invisible Gorilla
Atlas Shrugged
The fountain head
Economics in one lesson
Mindless Eating: Why we eat more than we think

Update Here is the followup to this blog

BTW, I customized this blogger theme.
If you like it, I'll share the template.


  1. Interesting ideas. I personally find letting my mind wander while taking a shower a good thing - I find it relaxing and I can often get all kinds of interesting ideas while at it.

  2. True, many of my friends have that. For me, it seems the time after a good run or exercise is the time when it wanders around.

  3. I agree completely on the no multi-tasking. Focus allows momentum, and MOMENTUM COUNTS when working. It's about the flow of energy - you get focused, your momentum builds, your energy flow increases, you get more done. Breaking momentum on a task (by multi-tasking) hurts productivity and work quality.

  4. "Focus allows momentum, and MOMENTUM COUNTS when working." Thanks, that just went on my twitter.

  5. Very helpful advice. Thanks so much for this. :)

  6. To have the discipline to follow something like this in itself it a great thing. Thanks for Sharing!