As a 24-year-old, I often sleep in, depend on food services and restaurants for daily meals, have late night outs and skip exercise more often than not.
Let's start at the start. I moved from Hyderabad to Bangalore after I shut down my startup. I joined a mobile development firm as a project manager. My workplace is flexible about work timings. I do not blame my work timings for my lifestyle, but that combined with being away from home gave me a certain freedom to design my lifestyle. A pretty bad one.
I began to panic when I observed some of the effects of my new lifestyle: hair-loss, increase in weight, dullness, laziness, short attention span and terrible financial discipline. That evening I sat down and made a list of traits I desperately needed to inculcate and started making conscious attempts to change my routine.
Though it has been only few months, I want to share some of my learnings and achievements.
What were these traits I was trying to achieve?
- Clarity: I judge the quality of my day and life-in-large based on the clarity I have. As a project manager, developers and colleagues rely on my judgments for their daily tasks.
- Constant learning: This is equivalent of weight training for my brain. It is quite challenging to be a non-tech PM. One needs to be on top of latest tech.
- Financial discipline: Oh man, this was something I never got right. By the 15th of every month I had no clue where 90 percent of my salary had gone. From weekday eating habits to weekend parties, there was no accountability.
- Attention span: As a kid, I could read 1000-page book in few days (yes, I was one those bookworms). Fast-forward to 2014-15, and I would take three months to finish a 200-page book. Thirty minutes into something and I would be lost in a turmoil of thoughts, mails, notifications and conversations. Let's just say multiple open tabs on my Internet browser didn't help my cause.
- Being more conscious of self: Overall, I wanted to be conscious of every action I execute and every word I speak or type. Each day was like fire fighting and by the end of the day, my body and mind would speak different languages.
What changes did I bring to my routine?
- Waking up early: I used to be in office by 10:30-11:00 a.m. My previous attempts to wake up early had failed miserably. Our bodies never cooperate with sudden shift in behaviors. So, I advanced my wakeup time by 30 minutes every few weeks. Guess what, I moved from 10 a.m. to 6 a.m. over last three months. Initially, it was slow but as I noticed better results I set higher goals. Now, I am at work by 8-8:30 a.m.
- Cutting the noise: I quit Facebook. This helped me to weed out irrelevant events, gossip and tension (I could write a separate post on the benefits of quitting FB). This helped me focus on myself rather than giving importance to something else out there. Two months and going strong. I am an easy prey to news sites. To avoid spending too much time on these sites, I use selfcontrol app. I absolutely love this app.
- Spending time in silence: I am not sure what to call this. After I get up, I sit silently for 15-20 minutes. I do not meditate; I just remain silent. I do not look at my phone or think of work. Take some time to appreciate yourself for waking up on time.
- Planning my day: Good thing about being a PM, I regularly use tools like Evernote, workLife and calendars to loosely plan my day. I had to relook at how I could use these tools to my advantage. I create a to-do list on Evernote before I start my work each day, usually during the first 30 minutes. My list includes action items, reading list, personal chores, etc. I schedule my meetings a week in advance. These tools give me complete control over my work and more importantly serve as a vault for, thoughts and ideas.
When you transfer all your tasks and ideas from your head into text, you feel lighter and more relaxed. You put in your energy into executing your tasks rather than trying to recollect a new task every few minutes.
- Accounting finances: This was the most difficult habit to pick up. Over the past few months, I've been using a spreadsheet to track my spending and this worked out pretty good. I update my sheet by 11 p.m. EOD. I successfully tracked 28/30 days for the month of November. A crucial thing I learnt was not to spend money I didn't have. Getting a credit card was one of the worst decisions of my life. I mean my credit card issues hadn't become adverse but only because I cancelled before it did.. I have long way to go to get my financials right but i had to start somewhere.
- Learning: By sorting my sleep and work habits, I discovered underutilized time. I have learnt so many things over the last 3-6 months. I learnt how to use Evernote and calendar effectively. Instead of relying on third party app to track my financials, I spent time learning tricks of spreadsheet to manage my own finances. To support my new ideas and side projects, I started working on Sketch. It gave immense satisfaction to create something new. To bring my designs to life, I am now focussing on HTML/CSS.
"Take some time to appreciate yourself for waking up on time."
The key is to pick up habits that you feel comfortable about. Set small attainable goals every week. You will learn as you go along. Everything you do from waking-up to hitting the sack has an effect on your lifestyle. Slow and constant improvement can change many things for the good.
This is just the beginning. I plan to improve on my newly acquired habits. Now my goals for the next few months are:
- Cook my own meals
- Do more physical work
- Learn about investments and savings
- Read more, browse less and write often
- Travel frequently
Vishwarath has a keen interest in Entrepreurnership, UI/UX and a dream for building an organisation with a lasting impact. He has prior experience of founding a startup, StudentLive and currently works as a project manager at Y Media Labs.
A version of this post originally appeared on Medium.
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