Light, weather, and productivity—thoughts from a summer rain shower

My (home) office is in a small attic conversion. I have a large window right in front of me, and a smaller one behind. Light from the small window creates a reflection on the monitor, so its shade stays down. I like a lot of light in the room, so I prefer keeping the shade on the large window open.

The large window faces south, and overlooks my backyard. The trees on the mount provide the backdrop. When the sun is up, the south-face means it shines straight through the window, and into my eyes. There’s a cluster of trees to the east end of the backyard that stops the sun coming in early in the morning. Later in the evening, the sun dips sufficiently to the West for the light to not fall straight on me. However, if the sun is out, for most of the day it shines straight into my eyes, forcing me to close the shade—darkening the room.

…if the sun is out.

That phrase is at the centre of my paradox.

I am happier when it is sunny. I am also a lot more productive when there’s a lot of light in my room. Sadly, the position of the window means that I can’t be both.
If the sun is out, I can’t keep the window open so am neither uber-productive nor very happy.
If the sun is not out, I can keep the window open, so am quite productive, if not as happy.

This is where the seasons also make a play. In winter, the days are short, and the sun rarely makes an appearance even in those short days. This makes most people sad, including me. But this also means that I can keep the window shade open all day. This gives a tremendous boost to my productivity (and relative mood).1

In summer, the days are long, and the sun makes an appearance more often. So I need to keep the window shade closed most days—a dampener to both productivity and the mood. The mood recovers a bit from walking/running in the sun during the midday break, but productivity does suffer.

Why am I writing this now? Because I just recorded this observation.

I had quite a productive autumn-winter-spring this year. However, I have been struggling a bit to keep the work going at the same pace since the sun started showing up. However, for the last 10 days or so, we have had a fair amount of rain and rain-like weather. This has meant very little strong sun, and I have been able to keep the window shades open. Productivity has been through the roof!

Continue reading Light, weather, and productivity—thoughts from a summer rain shower

Procrastinating through work

I need to do two big, hairy, scary work tasks. One is important and scary (unknown outcome), the other is hard (unknown input quantity, unknown outcome).

Instead I have been working all morning finishing off the less important, less scary tasks from the todo list.

I am procrastinating—escaping work by working on other stuff.

Continue reading Procrastinating through work

Me, here, now.

Finished Todo.txt for Android

I’m at the end of second phase of active development for Todo.txt for Android. All core functionality works sufficiently well for my own use. Dark mode is half baked, so will now be moved to the backlog for the next phase, whenever that happens.

Next few weeks may see small updates to the Chrome extensions—bug fixes and minor tweaks based on user feedback over the last month and a half.

Next up

Next up is starting a new project, or finding a new role. Either way, it’ll be a time of flux and vulnerability. Tread kindly, por favor!

Gardening

After neglecting the garden for 5+ years, I finally started getting my hands dirty this year. It’s been a surprising delight. The flowers are blooming. No plants have died yet. And the weeds are more under control than any time last year. All this for a couple of weekends’ work, and 5-10 mins every morning or evening.

I am really enjoying the work in the garden—probably too much according to R. There must be some truth in what Cal Newport said—creating physical things with our own hands.

Running

I’ve been running well. I really like my current running form, and the times have been reflecting the improvement. I ran my Park Run PB a couple of weeks ago at Woking—22:42. I have been off running so far this week due to an ankle injury picked up on Saturday (thankfully, after I’d completed my 14 mile run). Looking forward to testing the ankle again with a short run later today.

Reading

I’m loving reading ‘Turn the ship around’ by David Marquet. It’s one of those books that is best read in small bits, munched over for a while, then continued. The last book in this category was Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking fast and slow’. They’ll both stay in my forever library, with frequent references to notes and books.

I’m also reading Messy by Tim Harford. This is my active reading book, and will probably be finished tomorrow. It’s an interesting journey of rediscovery. I used to be atypical messy—thriving only in mess and chaos. Working independently forced me to learn discipline and to streamline my life processes. Now I am rediscovering the value of messiness. It’s a brilliant brain tickler for me—harmonising my tidy, streamlined life with a bit of messiness to add some anti-fragility.

The third book I’m currently reading is Sanjaya Baru’s ‘The accidental prime minister’. It’s hard reading, specially because I like the subject. The author covers too much of himself relative to the subject (the prime minister). It also, like bits of ‘Up in the air’, way too frequently delves into explanations and bureaucratic minutae. R tells me it gets better later, so I’m ploughing on.

Continue reading Me, here, now.

It’s just noon

It’s noon.
I have done 2.5 hours of deep, productive work.
I have run 5 miles.
I have showered, and had lunch.
I have spent half an hour hugging the boy on the sofa.

I am back at the work table for the second session.
It’s just noon.

This is turning out to be a good day. Yesterday was a good day too. Perhaps the March sadness really is behind me :)

Continue reading It’s just noon

Walk the dog…

I wake up early, make a coffee, and start working straight away. So, by 9 or 10 AM, I’ve got in 2-3 hours of work, and need a break. The dog and I go for a walk.

We return, we have breakfast, and I head up to work again. He sleeps.

After another couple of hours of focussed work, I’m in need of a break again by noon/1PM. So, unless R has already claimed it, the dog and I go for another walk.

We return, have lunch, and watch TV for a bit. Then I return to work upstairs, and he goes back to doing what he does best – sleep.

By around 6 or 7 in the evening, my head is screaming for a break again. Literally screaming – tinnitus has been getting quite bad lately. So we do whatever helps. A.k.a. the dog and I go for a walk, again.

I have always loved walking. I went for lone walks after fights with parents as a teenager. I enjoyed going for lone walks in Delhi in my early 20s – it helped living so close to Siri fort forest. I loved walking around the campus in Calcutta, and at the sea front in Bombay.

I occasionally enjoy company on my walks. I go for a daily walk with Dad when I’m in Karnal. I also enjoyed walking around with a few friends in Bombay and Calcutta. Once in a while I even enjoy having R come along for a walk.

More often, I prefer to be alone. Walks are my time to let the mind wander, or focus, or rest. Let the mind do what it wants while the legs, the lungs, and the heart get some loosening. After all most of the non-walking time is just the opposite – mind at work, everything else resting. Having company on a walk means the mind has to engage – converse, debate, listen (to remember). Not rest. Not recover.

Walking with Chewie isn’t the same. He doesn’t tax my mind too much, yet keeps my heart entertained. He loves all the tracks – muddy, sandy, gravely, boggy – that I keep exploring. He loves hills as much as I do. He enjoys exploring smells in the woods. He loves rivers and the sea. He enjoys being out and about, likely more than even me.

So, when I hit a mental road block with work, I look at him, and he’s up for it. We go for a walk.

When I’m anxious or tense, he takes me for a walk.

When I need to clear my head, or escape tension in the house, he indulges me with another walk.

I’m grateful to have him, always, on the walk.

Sometimes when I’m deep in work, when it’s -4°C and horizontal rain outside, when my body is still aching from the previous run/ride/swim/yoga, he comes and nudges my arm away from the keyboard with his nose. He wants to go for a walk.

I coddle him, delay him, curse him, plead with him. Then he wins. We go for a walk.

Continue reading Walk the dog…

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain - on life vs lazy
Anthony Bourdain – on life vs lazy

Some people leave a mark.

I have never met Anthony. I have never seen any of his TV shows. I have just read one of his books – Kitchen Confidential. I gave it 3 stars.

And yet, I’ve found him hard to forget since I finished the book. He has a way, with words, and a personality that makes him hard to forget. He should not be likeable, it’s hard to sympathise for him, he’s often an asshole, and very much proud of it. Yet, he’s also appealing, and often, surprisingly, likeable.

I guess his charm comes from embodying the hard bits of our lives – the grime, the slime, the hard knocks, the sweat, the wrong calls – and taking them on the chin (or dishing them out), casually. Like most of us do, yet refuse to accept that we do.

There were parts of his book where I wanted to punch him in the face, and ask him to shut his hole, and write something useful. There were other parts that I didn’t want to end. And then there were a few that I bookmarked for frequent return.

He seems my kind of screwed up guy. A guy I would love to know. A guy I would even love to hate to work with.

Continue reading Anthony Bourdain

Definition: Flexible working hours

What does it mean when the job description says “flexible working hours”?

Old definition:

We, the firm, are flexible on the hours you want to work. You choose the hours you want to work, we just want the work done.

New definition1:

We want you to be flexible, to work the hours that we want. Don’t expect fixed, or predictable hours. Be ready to work when we say, for how long we say.


  1. Mostly seen in the startup and on-demand (Uber/Deliveroo) sectors.