Productive Me: A Better Use of Time and Grey Matter


It’s been more than a year since graduating from IIM Bangalore, and having been in employment for about the same period of time, I realize there are wow, a crazy amount of distractions out there.

For example, most of my free time used to go into watching TV series (Suits, Newsroom, Under the Dome),, a lot of tech websites, indian news websites, youtubing, facebooking, whatsapping, etc. And these are all buckets which I am consciously aware of, sucking out time.

I may sometimes mention in person, that there was a time when I was literally glued to facebook and gmail on my phone in college, to a point that I realized I needed to get that under control, and eventually restricted myself to checking once a day, between 6 and 6:30pm.

Now, I am right now, at a state where there is a healthy enough balance between getting work done (for which I am paid for), and fun things to do that somehow fill up the remaining time. However, it isn’t satisfying enough. I believe, like perhaps many others, have gotten sunk into time holes – activities, (like the CAT questions you know will take up too much time solve) which you do, but don’t really add any value to life.

I realized this a week ago, and have since uninstalled the 9gag app and removed 9gag link from my default home screens (yeah, don’t ask what it was doing there in the first place). Not bad, made it a week without needing to check.

Next up, I realize that we get into this ‘data consumption’ need too easily. We love being fed things. Updates, pictures, videos – we love new things, and we love that all you need to do is scroll down to get more of it.

And while we are busy consuming data, our other talents are slowly dying away. Our lives are now ‘work’ and ‘consume’ (data, and food, of course). What we need to start doing, is to replace that with ‘Get things done’, and ‘Produce for enjoyment’. If you are working in a place that you enjoy working in, then that’s already a huge improvement in your life. Now, let’s get you to a place where you do things you love, that also have a positive impact, with the skills you have.

I shall look into ways of doing this, and shall document these as much as possible. As for now, my first step is to reduce the cycle of consumption of data. Therefore, I shall begin by restricting myself to only certain hours per day for consumption. On weekdays, it is quite easy – switch to work, and you’re mostly good. But it could be better.

As a human experiment, I intend to limit myself to 2 hours of consumption (Facebook, Youtube, TV series, Movies), all included. The only exception I make is to reading books, as I believe I this should suffice as a good enough incentive for when I want to consume, but in a way that would be actually useful (Btw, reading ‘Lateral Thinking’ by De Bono, as there’s a two day workshop as part of my employment in a few weeks).

Now, with all the available free time, one must move to ‘Producing’. This blog is one such avenue. Coding, designing, playing the guitar (practicing for a performance, or recording to send to friends), talking to an old friend (interactions produce positive results by sharing information, ideas, etc), writing down ideas (more on this later). A full plethora of things to do. Recognize that ‘you’ as a person, with your history, upbringing, interactions with people, and perspective on life, in this time, exactly where you are now – Will Never Happen Again. Make sure you bring out the maximum usage of yourself, as only you can do what you can do.

‘Time’ Summary: Limit the hours of consuming (I intend to start with 3 hours per day). Start creating.

Grey Matter:

Now, to add on to a point about our uniqueness, and our skills: we are all geniuses. Now, I’m not comparing myself to dear old (and dead) Albert Einstein, but we all (yes, everyone), possesses the amazing ability to Think. Just reading this post required you do handle multiple complex interactions involving an electronic device, awareness of Internet technology, understanding hyperlinks, typing, language, and usage of virtual triggers like ‘scroll bars’ and other controls. Try asking a chimp to do that.

Even if you aren’t technologically strong (all the above I mentioned are already leaps and bounds ahead of vast majority of the world’s population, and you can do all of it), you can innovate in ways that will amaze even you. For example, to solve the problem of womenfolk carrying pots on their backs to bring water from far distances, someone innovated with a drum, with a sealed lid, that’s also shaped like a wide tire,  to which handles can be attached to so that they can be rolled easily for long distances.

Point is, we can think. Unfortunately, the consumption culture is slowly destroying it. If you are constantly given solutions, why would you solve them. And if you are asked to think something different, why, you can’t because you are so used to it being given to you.

Hence, I believe, we must all put our heads to use, in the idle time  (waiting for tea to boil, showering (I’m sure we do a lot of thinking here anyway), etc). Now, if your work anyway is too stressful, and you just want to relax and consume, then that’s understandable – you’e been thinking all day. However, I suggest you relax your mood by thinking of other ways of looking at what you’ve already been through today.

What I am suggesting, to put our brain power to use, is to solve problems. So here’s what I’m doing to do. Every day, I shall take page in a notebook, and write down 3 questions, with enough space to answer each one. This I shall do in the morning. And then by the evening, I shall jot down my final thoughts on them, and if required, do some light research on them. I am hoping to let my friends know about my plan here, so that they can offer questions (I can think of a few friends who have nothing but questions for me – thank you, I love you guys, keep them coming), to make sure that I keep thinking.

We are all Problem Solvers (apparently ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, and lazy people are the best for thinking of innovating solutions for reducing their effort further). So lets put our heads together to think of solutions, ideas, etc. I shall give it a shot to see how it goes, and would appreciate your encouragement on this. I’m not looking to find solutions to world hunger or war, but by jotting ideas and possible solutions, it should allow my brain to start to form analogies and new ways of looking at things that might help in the long run. I would of course, encourage you to do the same, but you can wait for feedback from me to see if its worth the effort.

‘Grey Matter’ Summary: Answer questions or solve problems everyday.

Most highly successful people are quite disciplined. Even if it seems they party like crazy or just don’t make sense, they are certainly clocking a crazy amount of hours doing what they want to do that brings them success. One of the ways you can do that is to reduce or eliminate wasted time.

Alright, I hope that I can get started on these things to do (this post was a long time coming, and is hopefully a start). Other things I have in mind is to set up a strict schedule of things to do (if you get my Good Mornings on time, you know I’m already on a decent start), and possibly hack my sleep.

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