on being too regimented

doing a lot more work this year than last year

About a year or two into The Quad, I realised that I was working a lot more than I had. While the advice is to not add something to your plate before removing something else, it is difficult to be that self-aware all the time. Or at least, I was not that self-aware back then. Plus, following one's dream means you do over-extend yourself significantly. Even though our goal at The Quad is not to create an empire or the largest fitness company in India or any such thing, but simply to help as many people as we can fall in love with fitness, it takes up a lot of time.

Photo courtesy: Rahul Sadagopan and The Quad.

At the end of each year, as Raj and I do an analysis of our work-day, we realise we were getting more efficient and cramming in a lot more work as well.

While the efficiency part is great, for the last year, I've found myself questioning the amount of busyness I find myself in. I have a hunch, and I don't know to explain it any better - I need to be less busy to do better work or busyness does not mean better. In fact, I think busyness is a flaw.

the 4-hour workweek

Now, that does not mean I need to wrap up work in 3 hours and play videogames all day. I have realised that I've been on auto-pilot a bit too much, and not been self-aware and under control. Days and weeks slip away just because there's a ton of work that needs to be done and as an inexperienced entrepreneur, I'd assume it is on me (or Raj) as the founders.

Conversations with more experienced people, which I realise now was too ahead for my brain, are finally making sense over the last 2 years. And if I could bring it down to one quality - be aware of what you are doing.

Every day, starting work at 5 am, and ending work nominally by 6 pm but sometimes a lot further after - that was making me dumb. It was making me stressed. It was making me stop enjoying what I was doing. It was making me do average work. This could not go on.

Understanding myself, adding self-awareness, and deconstructing patterns of behaviour has been how I am starting to solve this for myself. I want to do great work. I want to not be busy all the time. I want enough time for not just fun things, but for interesting things. While much greater writers and thinkers have spoken about these things at length, another discovery I've made for myself is reading is not enough - converting that abstract into actuality is the key for me. And that's easier said than done.

an interesting question on being too regimented

Last week, I was having a conversation with a friend who reads my writing, and he asked an interesting question.

By bringing in all of these fixes / cues /  nudges to different aspects of your daily routines, are you making your life too regimented?
Are these inefficiencies in our day-to-day life to be eliminated, or do they serve a different and necessary purpose?

Valid question.

Data reporting dashboard on a laptop screen.
Photo by Stephen Dawson / Unsplash

If we are constantly tinkering with ourselves, will we end up over-analysing? Being a bit too constrained and regimented with our day? Saying things like "if it is not on my calendar, I don't do it".

He follows up with another interesting question about whether these inefficiencies are to be eliminated or enjoyed? Do they serve no purpose at all?

my current path

I was grappling with a similar question before I embarked on my current path. To be clear, I don't know if I am on the best path, but I do know I am on a path that's in the right direction. At least, that's how it feels currently.

I am not a "let's put it on the calendar" kinda person. In fact, my earlier attempts to be productive involved me blocking out my calendar for a specific task. Invariably, something else would come up and I'd not do the job at the time scheduled, and that's how my work-day would extend way past when it should have. This was one pattern I realised.

After a 3 to 4 hour off road trek we made it to Hveradalir. A truly breathtaking site as steam came out of the many geysers from the rivers below. The build up of steam created surreal views covering the many slopes behind and had us climbing these few mountains for a special shot.
Photo by Alexander Milo / Unsplash

By looking at this pattern with a microscope, by trying to deconstruct why this was happening, I arrived on a few things.

  1. not delegating enough.
  2. not differentiating between urgent and important. and thereby having a bit too much clutter in my thinking and doing.
  3. not letting go of something before adding something new.
  4. not having enough free time during my day to allow my brain to think and process.
  5. not being in the moment but doing a weird multi-tasking thing.
  6. not having enough anchors in my day.

All of these are skills to be cultivated. Walking up the stairs when an elevator is around is not a force of will but just a habit that I automatically do. Similarly, having the awareness (and making it a habit) to say no to a piece of work that should be done by someone else took time. But by breaking my patterns, by adding these nudges and fixes to my mind and my day, I can feel the difference.

I am less stressed.

I do better quality work.

I am a lot more in control.

I am not a procrastinator.

I am nicer to myself.

I am still not that guy in Limitless, but I am moving away from busyness and auto-pilot running my day and my life.

Constraints are important. Constraints add value and structure. The issue is in either extreme - too structured or completely lacking in structure. There's a place in-between that's a happy place for me.

And more importantly, even when a day goes away from me, I am aware that it is that kinda day, and I can trace why it is happening. And instead of being frustrated, I just tell myself "Today is a busyness-kinda day". And while it is still not yet an autotelic experience, it is not a horrible day.

And chunks of my day are slowly turning out to be autotelic experiences which seems like a good thing.

For me, taking stock daily and weekly and adding these nudges and tweaks, and seeing if they help or not has been useful. And not constraining. I am in control, and that makes a world of a difference.

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