Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Drawing boundaries: Between work and life

I'm glad to post today that my work obsession is over. I mean I love working. I feel I'm ambitious and excited to get working every day. However, I have stopped carrying work over to evenings, weekends and holidays. I feel no real urge to do so (unless there is a rare catastrophe).

The reason I find it particularly remarkable to write about is because, it took me 3 years (beginning 2011 March in fact) and hard work to get to this state of health. I hadn't seen it coming at all at the time that my obsession had begun (in 2007/8). At that time, I almost felt a bit snooty for doing such 'great work' and being at the helm of things. I even remember talking (almost with pride) about how I had to take myself out to Bombay and actually felt bad to apply for 'leave' for a long weekend with a national holiday. Maybe it was the lack of other fun things in life or a sense of immense ghissu-ness (Tiara syndrome) with which I actually thought working so hard was a good thing. Of course, it was, severely short sighted.

I felt burnt out. My relationships at all levels- family and friends included- suffered. I was constantly angry, upset and my only friends were people from office with whom I also spoke enthusiastically about work (and occasionally Sex and the City). It didn't help that I was travelling 5 hours (as a best case scenario) everyday to and fro office for 6 years. I was living the lie that no one else would understand. Which wasn't really far off. What was there for anyone to understand anyway - I was working till 3am and still getting out of home at 5:30 am the same morning for a power point presentation frequently for no visible rewards (at that time or afterwards). I was pushing myself almost as a habit. This, in my 20s, and making myself a big bore in the process.

travelogue 10
When will I get a change times (Photo credit: tim caynes)
Thankfully, I didn't need to have a baby to start talking about the lack of balance. However, once in the hospital with family, my boss called and without being human (or mildly kind), he asked me where a certain 'excel sheet' was (and not how I was doing). At that time I realised for the first time,
  • In rage: my boss is a jerk. I am a resource. I am a resource working for a jerk. No one cares because it was put up as my choice.
  • In reflection: more importantly, it was unsustainable and indeed my own doing
  • In further depth: the moot point, nothing or no one would come crumbling down if i drew boundaries
idea-funeral illustration
Overworking my way to the creativity-dead zone (Photo credit:
 It has been helpful that I came to Germany in the meantime to recover. Indian companies and work culture makes it far worse and easy to fall pray to such behaviour and I am not the only person who suffered so. However, also, living in Europe makes me feel a lot more human and beyond a replaceable number. Not to say that everything in India is like that. But the numbers and the inherent replaceability does make a difference. 

Now, I take time to walk back from work and make that my daily meditation time. I have friends beyond my workplace and I do not suffer from work mail guilt pangs once out of office. I am finally making lists of things I want to learn and feel alive with. This is immensely helpful even at work because:
  • I prioritize tasks better which means the impact is greater
  • I'm trying to be fully present at work or home. Qualitatively it makes me feel good, and I do not suffer from unnecessary work guilt. I feel refreshed at 9am at the start of work.
  • Better boundaries translates to me not getting a feeling of being taken for granted by anyone
Many people ask me why I decided to get back to a degree, even after a Master's already. This was the story. The truth is I was too chicken to take a sabbatical year off in Bali to regain my work spirit. I chose to get a break through academics instead. This has been a risk too, but something that I could live with. I worry for people unable to take breaks from work. It takes much effort to get out.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Does everyone have a story?

Marienplatz (Photo credit: edwin.11)
I've not been on the blog a bit because I finally got Internet at home after 5 weeks that flew. I didn't read as I expected. I just walked around the Alt-stadt a fair bit, moved into an Alt-bau beyond that tower in the picture and tip toed on candle light unearthing love and new found glittering treasures. I also jumped on Marienplatz because baby Ri came to our world 4 whole days ago. I want to take him hiking soon. He is speedily learning how to drink milk.

In the meantime, while being in a new city and meeting new people, I had an interesting discussion with an entrepreneur. We talked about creating stories. He said storytelling was a buzzword. I wanted to argue but listened. Storytellers in reality were few, he continued, the good ones he meant. I thought this through a lot. Doesn't everyone have a story? I started this blog post with 5 of them in the first paragraph.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Why do you blog ?

A friend of mine recently commented on my re-newed Pinterest activity and said, oh this can help your blog. I thought momentarily and snapped saying, I do not blog for money. At Someplace Else, that is true. This is a personal blog. I talk about people and services that make me happy and all of it is earned not paid.
postcards from new york
A postcard arrived in 2013
At this point I can perhaps talk about my utter disappointment of Whatsapp being sold out to Facebook. My first reaction was of disappointment, and somehow that's not changed. The fan in me died several times with the news. Maybe it is the fact that I live in Germany and am getting sensitive about my data by and by. Although, in the most non-German way, I do share a lot of me and a lot of personal data on this blog without much push.

The reason I am willing to be authentic here and share-without monetary incentives- is not to say that there isn't an incentive at all. I blog to connect. In the past many years, and especially in the past week, I've connected with so many kind souls who respond, help and share their views in most humbling ways. That makes me want to write here. Even in the midst of no internet (frustrating is not just a word) while again being the babe in a new old city.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Are You Creating Value For Others?

Last summer I attended an interesting leadership workshop which in the end led us to creating the top 3 things we'd like to 'work-on' to improve ourselves. It didn't necessarily have to be just work. My top initiatives were all related to interpersonal skills including:
  • appreciating people
  • creating value for others
  • spending time with people (not via tech toys)
In the past six months I have tried doing all these. However, a lot of these ideas are hard to measure and keep track of. I fail myself often. But I like to try.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Anxiety is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but doesn't get you too far"

Sometimes these days, I feel guilty of writing on my own blog. Because, the moment I start writing, I recall the 400,000 things on the to-do list, unfinished. And they haunt me. And I can't focus on one thing then. (It is perfectly true that I took on far too much work from October and no matter how much I justify it, at times it was unsustainable). And I'm tired of giving in to to-dos every day. And I've struggled with unnecessary anxiety for as long as I can remember. Thankfully I was able to self-control, but it has been good enough for nightmares, sleepless nights, email checks at 2 a.m., anger and irritation (often). My blog is my shrink.

3 things I learnt to reduce anxiety

At the airport last year, with 5 hours to go before the flight and with Shantaram not holding my interest, I thought through the past year to reflect on what I had understood differently. And my notes included these.

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