Correspondence

This is the fourth month I’ve “gone independent” and what a whirlwind it’s been. It’s crazy how much paperwork everything in life calls for. 

It’s insane how much time one has to spend on administration. Even with the assistance of software, I’ve had to block time out for admin and correspondence. 

But spending time on clear correspondence can be valuable.

Some people say that one shouldn’t send long emails but I’d like to propose a different suggestion. Rather than have meetings all the time, sometimes a long email can be a good replacement. 

It means that the sender would have thought through the content of his/her message. The ideas contained would be more concise, better verbalised. 

It also gives the receiver the chance to read through the points, digest and provide better insights and comments, and perhaps even complementary ideas. 

Rather than bouncing back and forth during long meetings that in my experience, are usually dragged out longer than necessary, both sender and receiver are in the right frame of mind when sitting down in front of the information. 

And when a meeting actually happens, they would have already digested the concepts and ideas and can dive right into execution. 

Distractions

Today, I listened to a Foundr podcast about “doing your best work by working less”. In it, Jason Fried talked about the disruption that comes with being connected 24/7 and the subsequent real-time work chats. It’s something I’ve always hated.

Whatsapp has become like email for me, especially when it comes to work. There are always requests flooding your inbox, there’s always someone asking for your attention. I don’t always respond right away, and I don’t expect instant responses.

There are times when I’ve sent messages to someone who might be sitting right beside me, just so I won’t distract them from their task.

Friedman also mentioned that his company practices a policy called “no talk Thursdays” and to me, that sounds like heaven.

I’ve worked with people who don’t seem to understand the concept of deep work. I’d be in the middle of a task (sometimes with earphones on) and they’d speak to me anyway. A distraction is a distraction, no matter how important it may seem.

Lately I’ve realised that it’s the CEO or department head who does this (perhaps because they think whatever comes from them is highly important?) and then later complain that certain work isn’t done fast enough.

The other thing Friedman mentions is setting deadlines. While yes, I agree that people should be given the freedom to plan their own time, setting a deadline provides a set timeframe for the work to “be shipped”.  Otherwise, as Friedman said, there’s a tendency to keep tweaking.

For me, no deadline = not a priority. And I’ll keep tweaking.

Surmount

I’m not a morning person. After midnight is when my brain comes alive, even if I was up at 6am that day (only when absolutely necessary). 

When I first started work in media, I ran on three to four hours of sleep per night. Then if I needed to, I’d pay back my sleep debt on Sundays. 

By that I mean I would sleep from Saturday night until Monday morning, waking up only to drink water and pee. (Someone I know calls that “sleep-water therapy”.)

Getting out of bed anytime before 9am has always been a struggle but these days, I manage to force myself out of bed earlier. 

Although I have no fixed working hours, the main “person” I answer to is my calendar, in which I time-block periods of time to do specific work — either for clients or for my own projects. 

“If you wake up earlier, you’ll have more time to do your thing,” I tell myself. It works. 

Even an extra half hour to slowly sip my coffee, to journal, to just sit and let my mind wander, is therapeutic. 

I actively not worry about productivity, or the upcoming tasks of the day. I’ve already blocked off time to do those things — this is my time. 

Somehow, it makes the rest of the day feel more surmountable. 

Coaching

Even the best athletes have coaches. For someone who’s serious about their career, wouldn’t it make sense to get a coach too? 

I didn’t realise how valuable coaching would be until I tried it. 

Although on the surface I seemed to be in a comfortable space last year, it was an illusion. There was something missing, and I wasn’t sure what. 

And then, someone in a WhatsApp group chat I’m in recommended a career coach. Curious, I sent her a private message asking for more info. She sent me the coach’s contact details. 

I sat on it for some time and then decided that it was worth a try. I signed on for six sessions over a period of four months. At the time, I told Nitya (an amazing career coach) that my main goal was to raise $1mil for the business I was working on at the time. 

Over the course of our sessions, and as that goal shifted (due to situational changes), I came to realise that I was deeply unhappy with the position that I was in. 

And rather than focus on feelings or trying to provide a solution, Nitya asked, “What can you do about this?”

And then when I told her, she helped me to lay my action plan out step-by-step. Goal, objective, strategy, tactics.

It helped me to solidify the understanding that while a lot of things are not within my control, there are things that are

What we often don’t realise is that we have the answers. We know what we want. We know what we’re supposed to do. We just don’t have the clarity, or sometimes space, to verbalise the answers. 

And without precise language, our thoughts stay in our heads, never to be turned into actions.

Or perhaps are turned into actions, but how can we improve on, and optimise those actions even further? 

A good coach doesn’t provide answers, I think. Instead, she provides suggestions and techniques for us to discover the answers within ourselves, and find our own solutions. 

Goals

“We are kept from our goal, not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal,” said Robert Brault. 

Ever since reading that quote in The One Thing by Gary Keller, it’s been stuck in my head. 

It’s helped me to say no to things, cut certain clients and reminds me to keep on track., even when the path may be difficult.

But on track to what? 

If I were to say that I don’t know what I want, I’d be lying. I do have an idea of what I want to do and where I want to be. Narrowing it all down to just ONE THING, is the tough part. 

I am constantly finding myself back under the fig tree. And now, having taken bites out of several, I find myself wanting more, wanting different. 

Perhaps the one thing that I need to do is figure out how I can eat them all, as many as I want, without dropping dead. 

And perhaps now is the right time to do it, considering that we’re only one week away from heading into Aquarius season, my time of the year. 

2018 has been a tough year, but I’m looking forward to the real new year (which starts in February this year, of course). 

Weightloss

Totally unscientific tips for losing saddlebags without actually working out

If you don’t know what saddlebags are, lucky you! You probably don’t have them. 

Saddlebag isn’t an actual body part name. It’s just the term used for the saddlebag-like appearance in your thigh area when you don’t have enough muscle to hold the fats up. 

It’s the worst thing to have if you like wearing bodycon dresses. And shapewear can only do so much. 

So if you don’t like working out, here’s what you can do!

#1: Work so hard you only have time for one meal

This serves a dual purpose of being more productive, while cutting calories. Considering our daily activities, compared to our caveman ancestors, we don’t need more than one meal a day. Drink more water, of course.

#2: Do more creative or problem-solving work

Your brain is a calorie hog. Although it’s only 2% of your body weight, it uses at least 20% of your body’s minimum calorie requirement. If you think harder, you’ll use up even more calories — very little extra, but better than nothing.

#3: Work part-time in F&B

If your idea of exercise is climbing the stairs (like mine is), working an F&B job is a full-on workout. After a long day of brain-crushing labour, a long night of taking orders, serving drinks and clearing tables is just the workout one needs. 

Seriously, do the 20-minute workout per day. It’s much easier. 

Chaos

There are days when I find myself wordless, when I stare at the blinking cursor on the blank screen and freeze. 

It’s not that I have nothing to say. I’ve come to realise that this happens when there are things I can’t say.When the things I really want to put into writing are too deep-dark-secret to be shared with the world. 

This “dishonesty” has put me through a positive feedback loop of self-denial, and even more secrets. 

But how does one write about trauma, without reliving it and the emotions involved? How do I write about the bad things, without sounding like a complainer? 

In 12 Rules for Life, which I’m still plodding through, Jordan Peterson writes about walking the line between Order and Chaos. 

I suppose this same balance has to be found with everything, even in the art of writing. 

The key is being able to harness the chaos of creativity, then applying order to the raw piece of work. 

Too often, I start with order. When it comes to client work, it’s a more efficient way to do things. 

Here are the lines, now colour them in. There’s more structure, fewer variables. Less time wasted. 

Now that I’m attempting other sorts of work, it’s time to embrace Chaos. 

To say, with some level of fear but zero hesitation, “Hello Chaos, my old friend.”