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Post the hiatus

A few weeks ago, I was quite overwhelmed with everything I had committed to doing. I had started to feel like I was doing things to "keep up appearances" more than, deep down, actually wanting to do them.

So, I decided to take the minimalism approach to my life.

I first applied the idea of minimalism to material things. Everything that I own fits into two suitcases that I'm allowed to carry on a plane while not paying for extra baggage. That's about 30kgs worth of things. And I've moved countries with this limit twice now. When I was moving out of The Netherlands, I gave away all my books and my bicycle because I wouldn't have been able to carry them with me in this manner.

Next, I applied the idea of minimalism to my thoughts when I started practicing meditation after I was hooked onto the Headspace app. Here too, I learnt to hold only the essential thoughts in my head and let go of the rest. I'm still not as adept at this as I am with material things, but I'm certainly making an improvement.

Finally, a few weeks ago, I decided to apply the idea of minimalism to the things I commit to dedicate my time to. I stopped doing a lot of things, including publishing regular blog posts here. I decided to re-build the list of things I commit to dedicating my time to from the ground up such that I would only do the essential things - that is, I would only do things that I can give my hundred percent to and the things that I want to give my hundred percent to and the things that overlap with my values and my longer term outlook. And if something didn't fit in this criteria, I would stop doing it.

Cal Newport recently published an approach to de-cluttering our digital lives where he recommends we delete all the apps on our phones for a month and only install those that we really missed after that period.

I did that not with my apps, but the things I spend my time on - writing blog posts, writing fiction, reading books, reading articles, listening to podcasts, physical fitness, mental fitness, work, watching movies, travel, hanging out with friends and family, etc. If there was anything that I spent a significant amount of time on and did so repeatedly, I stopped doing that for five to eight weeks (where possible). Of course, I couldn't stop working for that long, so I took a 3 week vacation instead. But whatever I could stop, I did.

And then, I deliberately started adding them back, each one after determining that it was essential to the life I'm building for myself.

While I've let go of some things (like reading murder mysteries and now all fiction bar Murakami) for the foreseeable future (forever?), I've reintegrated other things back into my life - like I'm doing with blogging by publishing this post.

This exercise has helped me understand what I value and what is important to me and discard the others from my day to day. And I'm hoping this clarity sticks as I consider taking on new things that come my way.


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