Tag Archives: work life balance

Hello, December!

Dear reader,

A warm Hello to you. Where are you as you read this? Curled up in a warm blanket, with a coffee in your hand? Or are you in a bus or a subway, commuting to office and peacefully reading a slice of other people’s lives, as passengers move in and out at each stop? Or are you in your garden, with a hose in your hand, watching over the big roses that you planted few weeks back? Or are you looking out a grey window, watching over buildings from a glass house, wondering about the purpose of your life?

I am on my bed, my blue blanket snuggled under my legs. My back is against the wall. On my left, from the window daylight shines like in a cloudy day. A motorbike just passed by, wheezing out noise. A carpenter is knocking repetitively on a plank of wood somewhere. Other than that, the sound of my typing into this blank screen adds to the audio spectrum. There is a feeble wind outside as I can see the leaves of a big, nameless tree fluttering. It is about 11.00 AM in the morning.

I have a busy workday ahead of me. At work, we are currently trying to understand how cloud platforms work. My mind is also filled with a bunch of creative ideas, still in their nascent stage, in want of fleshing out. I just finished writing a small piece which will go as a voice-over in one of my videos.

December is here. And to tell you the truth, the cold ain’t so bad yet. I am seeing folks updating pictures of snow on Facebook and WhatsApp statuses, but I don’t feel the chill yet. In a few days, Christmas will be here. The malls, the churches will light up in fairy lights and Christmas trees. It would be a spectacle to behold. We will exchange Secret Santa gifts at work. Maybe, we will go out on 24th night, me and my teammates, and we will sit in front of a church as the night turns into 25th. The air will be chilly, and people would be in colorful sweaters. We will eat cake after the service is over, wish each other merry Christmas, and return home to our comfortable beds.

December is that month when we take stock of the year. The memories that were made. The profits and losses. The balance sheets of life. Did we accomplish our 2018 resolutions? Did we lose that stubborn belly fat? Did we travel more, write more, and make new friends? Did we get over our heartbreaks? Did we lose a loved one? How do we summarize the year, put a final sum in the balance sheet and decide what to prioritize in the coming year?

The coming year. A new blank slate where no child has drawn a unsteady line with the white chalk. A new blank slate,before the duster has been rubbed. A new blank slate with the promise of incredible things happening. A year full of promise. To ourselves, and to others.

As I write this, a fraction of sunlight comes through my window – as if the sun understands the palpable glee in my heart as I write this. In this moment, I am peaceful. In this moment, I am full of hope. In this moment, I do not care how today will turn out and if we will meet the client’s expectations. In this moment, I feel confident that I will do well, today and in the times to come. In this moment, I am truly myself.

Are you?

Love,

Arpita

21 Day Challenge | Aug-Sep 2018 | Day 21

Twenty one days ago, I started on the journey of waking up early and finding clarity as far as my career is concerned.

I am happy to say that I have been able to achieve at least 60% of my target.

Mission 1: Wake up early

As far as waking up earlier is concerned, I have been able to do this for at least 15 out of 21 days. Granted, it is not 100 out of 100, but the objective was to put a habit around my morning routine. Before this, I had a bad night schedule when I only went to sleep around 1 AM. Now, there is a conscious effort to change that, and ensure that I head to bed at least by 11.30 PM. Fortunately, I have been able to do this for most days and it has now pretty much become a habit. On the days that I did not wake up early, it was primarily because I could not get to bed earlier because of some unavoidable reasons.

I am glad that I am back to a morning schedule. I have been sleeping well, I have been well rested and have been more productive. I study at least for 2-2.5 hours in the morning, and that has definitely helped towards my second goal of finding work clarity.

Mission 2: Get career clarity

On October 8th, I will complete three years of my professional career. I studied to be an electronics engineer and then moved onto analytics role. For the first 1.5 years of my career, I was convinced that I would move back into electronics. Another 1.5 years and multiple discussions and introspection later, I realized that I can achieve lot more in analytics with lot less effort at this point (given that this is my full time career) than I could ever do in electronics. So, I decided to take a practical stand, as opposed to chasing impossible dreams.

Besides, I am also not sure if I truly see myself in the corporate in the long term. My father runs a small business back in the hometown and increasingly, I feel the need to do something of my own. As a woman, I realize that my career roles might be defined by my personal life decisions as well – hence, I want opportunities which help me work my best within those constraints.

Which is why, in the past 21 days, I have spoken to multiple people regarding what my career next steps should be. I have a rough 2-3 years plan as well as a 5 year plan in place. I do not see myself doing masters in the next 3 years, but I might end up doing an MBA (depending on how the 5 year plan shapes up) based on the needs. I do not wish to rush through anything. But primarily, over the course of the next two years, my goal is to work more hands-on so that I have developed a sense of depth in what I do. For this, I am not only looking at my current role at work but also freelancing opportunities. I also realize that for a data scientist, it might be a good idea to have a strong Kaggle profile and this my flow into the next 21 day challenge – stay tuned!

So all in all, here’s my assessment of the 21 day challenge:

Success Rate: 60%

Feel Good Factor (on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest): 4.5 (Yep, I am plenty happy with the last 21 days)

Next Steps:

  • Continue with the early morning schedule, put on another challenge if I see myself deviating
  • Come up with another challenge or focused next steps for the short term career plan

Happy to end this challenge on a good note! If you have been part of this journey, thank you. I was quite motivated by the enthusiasm some of you showed regarding this challenge and that definitely helped me stay on track. So thank you again, and be sure to drop in a note if you want to know more of the behind the scenes of the 21 day challenge!

Until later,

Arpita

Turning your life around… one day at a time

Have there been days when you just stayed inside the bed, kept looking at the ceiling (or more likely the cell-phone in the recent times), and felt nowhere like getting up and going through daily chores of life?

I am a single female, in my early twenties, living in Bangalore in a flat-sharing basis. I work in a moderate to high stress environment, spending approximately 48-50 hours a week at work. I do not have any family living with me. Quite a few times, I find myself slumping into a cycle of unsustainable habits. For quite the longest time, I formed the habit of staying up as late as 1.00 AM in the night, waking up around 9-10 AM next day. I did not eat good breakfast, and somewhere, through the entire day, I felt lacking in energy. Next day, same routine.

I was able to break out of this cycle, by keeping a close tab on myself. I started going to bed earlier, reducing time on the phone when I hit the bed. To a large extent, I realize that I end up staying late because I am too spent staying on my own and having minimal human contact – I usually do not have many people to talk to, so I try to fill it up with the phone. During the worst phase, I had even stopped reading, something which used to interest me a lot at a point.

Today, my lifestyle has improved a lot. I wake up around 8 AM on most days, go for a walk and come back and have a fulfilling breakfast. I spend some time reading work-related stuff, take my bath, cook lunch, eat and then leave for work. In between, I squeeze in time for some TV series, or read a page of a book. Currently reading Return of a King by William Dalrymple. If you guys have read any books by him, comment and let me know!

I have realized that for me the trick is in getting to bed early. On the days I am able to do this successfully, my routine is spectacular. I feel more positive about myself and more energetic too.

That said, such days are not everyday. This Friday night, after I came back from work, I was up till 1 AM, texting on my phone regarding some work-related issues, which I could have easily avoided. After that, I had quite a bit of difficulty falling asleep, I guess I might have only fallen asleep around 2.30 AM. I woke up in the morning at around 8.30 AM, groggy and very tired. My eyes were hurting from lack of sleep. I tried going back to sleep, but could not. I was too lazy to cut the pomegranate, so for breakfast I kept munching on biscuits. I thought I would chill for a while after, so I started watching The Office on phone. Lunch time came, I ordered food, too tired and lazy to cook. When I got off my phone, it was close to 7 PM – and I hadn’t gone outside my bed except for receiving my order and the occasional visit to the washroom. In fact, I did not even fill my water bottle for the longest time.

This only proves why it is important to fix the sleep pattern. Last night, I did just that. I went to bed relatively earlier. Today, I went for a morning walk, came back, ate good breakfast, and studied for two hours. I cooked myself lunch, and again did some studying. I took a little nap in the afternoon, took my bath after, and then went to do some groceries. After that, I took another long walk, using that time, to speak to my mother and relatives on the phone. I came back, studied again. Cooked dinner with a flatmate, and had a good conversation over dinner. It’s about 11.30 PM right now and I need to go to sleep, and I will after I have finished this blogpost – but I accomplished so much today! Last night, I was so depressed from having wasted a complete day unnecessarily.

I guess what I want to tell you all is: there will be bad days even when you are getting to the right track. But the point is to make one single change in your routine, to muster the willpower to do one thing differently one day, and everything else falls in place. Try it!

The Happiness Project | Day 30

From six to thirty: it’s a bigggggggggggggg jump! Yes, I am talking about the missing 24-odd days of blogging in The Happiness Project.

I know I promised to write every single day in May, and I failed miserably at it. I have also not been uploading any videos on my YouTube channel. There is a reason behind this: generating content is difficult. Especially, when you are also trying to live your life at the same time. Not everyday you’d have stuff that you can talk about to an audience. And I am the sort of person who does not like to pour out content just for the sake of it.

Living the twenties is hard, especially if you are on your own, out of a relationship and living far away from family and suck at forming and maintaining friendships. An interesting bit I found about myself: even though I want to be around people (because being lonely sucks), I also love silence a lot. I like thinking by myself, and recording my thoughts in a diary. If I go out for two weekends straight, I find myself craving just being at home, having to do nothing other than chill out. That’s me!

As I was writing this, I revisited the first post in this series. The idea was to reconnect with the younger self of mine, who was more curious about things. I could not complete much of the things that I had listed down in that post, like growing plants and reading new books. But I definitely have started with a few things. There is no routine to anything yet, but I did make an effort to start.

For example, I got one of my previous teammates to come over at my place last weekend and help me with learning swimming. We also made cheesecake that evening, and it ended up being absolutely amazing. I also made an effort to go to a music school for guitar lessons. I did not really find the place worth joining at this point in time, but I did try doing something about learning an instrument.

I also started reading Mindy Kaling’s book, Is everything hanging out without me? I am making very slow progress, but I am at least getting somewhere.

Another interesting turn of events at work: I moved to a new project and am leading it. The last time I was really putting efforts in leading a team was around this time last year, and that time I was just pushed into the role because there was no one else to do the same thing. However, this year, I am a year older and have seen lot more stuff at work, and while I can’t say I am completely ready for the job, at least I have a few goals that I want to achieve in this role, and I trying my best to consciously work towards them.

So, as the clock strikes midnight and we step into brand new June of 2018, am I any happier? Well, definitely yes! Much more than I was when I began journaling this. Of course, not everything is perfect. I am feeling a bit weak physically this past week, and I am also waking up in the middle of the night every single day and am unable to fall asleep for an hour or two, and it scares me that the insomniac phase from the beginning of this year is returning again, but guess what? I try to not let that affect me. Yes, I would give anything to wake up earlier and get a lot more work done, but this is how it is. Maybe, something will change and my body clock with become right again. Maybe not. But I have to stay on top of my life.

So, what did I really learn in the past month?: Sometimes, breaking promises is good. Sometimes, letting yourself do what you feel like is good, even if they do not align to your goals. But in the other times, consciously trying to make 0.01% change towards your goals can lead to 10% increase in happiness. Okay, that’s a random number – but you get the point!

Thanks for being part of my journey! If you have been with me in this Happiness Project, I hope this concluding post makes up for the lack of the promised posts. Write to me in the Comments section – I love hearing from you guys!

Getting back on track – Part 1

For close to 8 months now, I have been struggling with mild depression. I had been going through a rough relationship patch, work life was hectic and there was little that I had been doing besides worrying about how stale my life was.

I have tried to pull back from that state: in January, I went to Pondicherry with some friends, in February bought my parents a new washing machine, in April I was taking part in NaNoWriMo and won it. Some of these things made me happy. But only marginally.

My work is usually hectic. Until the timings change happened (1-10 PM IST), I used to rush to office at around 9.30 AM and come back around 10.30 PM. All my day seemed to be consumed in that. After I returned from work, I refused to go to sleep right away – because I wanted to think about something other than my work. So I watched something or the other on my phone. This resulted in a vicious cycle wherein I slept late and woke up tired and rushed to kitchen to make lunch and then rushed to office to take an on-site call. I was angry at myself, then I was angry at my teammates for not being on time at work. I was throwing tantrums. Basically, it was all going downhill.

When I came to Bangalore in the last half of 2015, I didn’t imagine that two years down the line I would be writing this post. Back in the day, my only worry was to find a place to stay at a reasonable price and start to pay off the student loan and do it consistently. Thankfully, I have been able to do that. I also helped out a lot with things at home (financially). These made me happy, but perhaps not enough.

The only root cause that made me so weak is my relationship, it consumed my entire being. I was heavily invested in this relationship – had planned out what the future could be. When you are far away from your loved ones, you often miss the void that distance creates between you. You fail to see the fissures and cracks that are created everyday. One day, suddenly, you wake up to see the deep chasm and wonder how did you ever get there.

This is what happened to me. The person in concern stopped communicating to me entirely. He was active on his social media and I am sure in every other aspect of his life, but I simply could not get him to talk to me.

We spoke on and off – ever enough to convince me that the cracks were getting repaired. I feigned an imaginary break up, hoping it would make him notice. It didn’t.

I think we are too broken.

Meanwhile, I was sleeping even late, waking up around 10 AM and then hurrying to get ready for office. You’d think that the timing change at office would promote some good things back at home. Instead, things were as worse as they could perhaps get.

As I write this today, I am still not out of the depressed phase. But I am perhaps at a point in time when things are starting to look better. I spoke about the issues in my life to plenty of people (even had a mild breakdown at office), spoke to a cousin who I had not interacted in years. Talking about it helped. I was trying to hold onto any new tactic that I could find from people, to mend my broken life.

Today, I am consciously trying to change some things in life:

  1. No matter what happens, get to bed by 12: Haven’t  been entirely successful every day in this, but my bed time has definitely improved
  2. Wake up early: around 8-8.30ish for the last few days
  3. Do half an hour of yoga and meditation
  4. Not skip breakfast – With the help of my cousin, I am trying out multiple changes to my breakfast (Earlier, because of waking up early, I was missing it entirely or making do with the 12 PM brunch)
  5. Meet with people on weekends – Keep busy

These are simple changes, but at first they were hard to implement. Now, I am easing into it. It helps that I had always been a disciplined kid – always waking up early in the morning. In fact, that I was not waking up early was what was frustrating me the most, as if I was dealing with my depression by staying in bed)

I have been doing this only for 3 days now, but there’s already a positive feedback that I can feel. I am looking forward to waking up every morning, to experience something new. I still need to decide how to fill my morning space.

If you have been reading this far, thank you! Depression is not an easy thing to deal with. It takes strong willpower to get anywhere. I will be posting more on this space, as I deal with everyday life and return to being the person I used to be. Until then, thanks for being part of my journey!

 

Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!

A big part of grown up life is about taking decisions. Starting from what to cook for dinner, whether or not to buy the phone you have always wanted to, whether to move to a new place, when to say no, how to talk and convince people and so on.

Some of these decisions are easy to make, while others are more complicated. As, I grow I also understand the biases that I have. For example, as a person, I have never been the kind who likes to ‘advertise’. But every day at work, I am told, verbally and non-verbally, that I need to be able to sell what I am producing – in my case, my analysis. I need to be able to own the impact I create and say it out loud in front of the client. Well, like I said, I was never that person. My problem with advertising was, is, more often than not, people end up packaging lies as niceties and win brownie points. I am someone who likes white more than grey, which is why I struggle to polish the impact we might have created and presented it in a way that it is a big deal.

But I am at a point in my career where I need to take a decision: whether to take the leap and let go of my inhibition that stops me from being an efficient salesperson or hold on to the misplaced ideals that have become the biases that drive me.

When I was a schoolgirl, I was looking towards a future which looked hopeful. In that future, I could have been anyone: a doctor, a storyteller, a pilot, a painter. In that future, I would have been someone who a lot of people would know and respect. In that future, people around me would be proud of me.

But now that I am living that future, I am not who I thought I would be. My popularity is much more limited than many people of my age. At this point, I don’t know if the people around me really respect me. Or if they even like the person that I am.

Yes, perhaps the aim is not to be liked by everyone. But sometimes, it matters what the people immediately around you make of you. What can you do to make these people happy? Who can you be that will bring a smile to people’s faces? Because no matter how much we say ‘I live for myself’, we are social animals who thrive amongst others.

Everyday, I find myself in two minds while taking decisions. Does it get any easier? I hope so.

Until later,

 

Why planning is important

As I mentioned in my last post, at office we are moving to a new timing: 1 PM to 10 PM IST. Like I also mentioned, the change evoked mixed reactions on the floors (much like any other change).

On the supposedly-bright side, meals for three times would be free. And that was what was worrying me the most. Dinner time is from 9.30 PM to 11.00 PM. Given everyone will be done with work at the same time almost, you can only imagine the rush in cafeteria. Last night I went to have dinner at 10.30, most of the food was finished, and the one place where they were still giving food there was such a huge queue that I came back and had a meager meal at home.

It annoys me that we could not plan for this better. Given the change, the logistics should have been planned so much better. Instead of ensuring employees work the scheduled time without fail, what we ended up doing is a mad rush of hungry people who have nothing but the pangs of hunger in mind.

I just don’t know where my life is headed right now. And unless a smart step is taken real soon, I don’t see how this is going to work.

 

Laughter is the best medicine

The last two weeks had been crazy at work – I had been returning late everyday. This week things are starting to look better.

Here is what I ensured to make sure we start leaving on time:

  • Setting right expectations with onsites – pushing back on deliverables that I do not foresee team completing without stretching
  • Trying to plan the day better

I realize that it is a continuous learning process and mistakes will happen. There will be days where we have to stretch, but things will get better as well. We just need to keep faith in ourselves.

The other thing that really keeps me going is the kind of fun environment we have at work. We are all mostly of the same age, so there is a open camaraderie. We are constantly cracking jokes, making fun of each other over silly things and laughing it out. Due to this, even during the most trying times, we can stay cool.

Tell me about some hard times you faced at work. What did you do to make things better?

Does your work define you?

Since this is May, I thought I’d write a few posts on our work lives. After all, work is where we spend the most part of our day to day lives.

Today, let me tell you what my work is like. I completed engineering and joined Mu Sigma, one of the core analytics company based out of Bangalore, India. My current project is related to an online travel agency. On a day-to-day basis, I look at the data the client sends us: how much which flight cost and what is the gross profit the client generated etc. We then use that data to build models that can help to predict certain future trends.

The work is interesting, as I am still finding my grips around learning the business. Work pressure is there, of course, but it is healthy. That is to say I don’t end up leaving office past midnight or something.

I have been in this industry not long enough to claim that my work defines me. But my work definitely has given me a lot of opportunities to learn. I have loved coding since college, even though I am not too great in it. We keep having good-code practice measures across the company to ensure we write good codes from which I learnt a lot. I guess this is what job experience does to you – the learnings that you acquire from the work you do leave their impact beyond the four walls of the company you are working for. You learn to value planning and time. At my workplace, we are always under pressure to give our best – if I fail to do all the tasks I plan for in the morning, I realize there has been a planing error. Next time, I try to plan better. There is a corrective force that is always in place.

What about you? Today, tell me what you job experience is like. Do you enjoy doing what you do? Does you work indeed define you? Tell me one challenge that you have faced at work and overcame successfully. I am all eyes to read your responses.

P.S: In case you are not comfortable commenting publicly, you can share your thoughts with me in the Message box below.