Simple habits which made my work from home productive

I graduated and started my job remotely. Although WFH has it’s own benefits, the monotonicity got me into a slump eventually. The home workouts became irregular, sleeping pattern worsened and not meeting people for long time took a tole. Not to mention I was living alone during the start of the pandemic, which has it’s own pros and cons.

I actively tried to keep myself sane and productive by taking some very simple steps. These were all through trial and error for what worked for me. And to be honest I have never been better in terms of my lifestyle even as compared to pre pandemic times. There are different areas of my day I tried to optimize~ so here is a little sneak peek

On drinking water

Drinking the adequate amounts of water has been one of the challenging aspects of my day to day. Even before the pandemic it was a struggle to manage daily hydration levels. After the pandemic due to reduced activity I was drinking even less water leading to UTIs and other problems.

It took me several iterations to get to teach myself to drink the right amount of water everyday!

  • I started by keeping the measure of how much I am drinking by counting the glasses. I pretty much realized I was too lazy to refill them every time. Going to the kitchen is such a task!
  • I started keeping 1 liter glass bottle on my working table. I was doing much better in terms of just consuming 1 liter by evening and then realizing i hadn’t refilled it all day :(

What worked for me?

I now have 6, 500 ml glass bottles (it’s better to check the amount you consume with your nutritionist as it also varies with protein intake levels) which I refill early in the morning. I specifically went for transparent bottles, steel one’s didn't work for me because my mind didn't know how much water is left inside and it assumed to go towards the fact that there’s nothing left inside.

Looking back I feel I was dehydrated pretty much all my undergrad life. Insane right?

Ideas

My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.~ Anias Nin

Our spectacular minds are an idea generating factory. I strongly believe anyone can have good ideas in any field if

  1. They are reading enough about it
  2. They are thinking over what they are reading
  3. They are talking to people about it

When the pandemic started I was just doing the second. All conferences and meetups were not an option. I didn’t even realize meeting people from the same field had such a huge impact on me. Just before the pandemic I had attended Neurips 2019 in Vancouver and then visited Montreal (MILA) to meet some of the greatest researchers and companies working in the field. From there to not meeting anyone felt like a big hit. These are the three things I invested my time in —

Newsletters

I am really grateful to be working in a field (Machine Learning) which has quick readable sources of information to update yourself. I found newsletters to be the best for cutting out noise. You can find the list of letters I follow here.

I know this is a long list and I don't read everything everyday but twice a week I open up and note down the important things happening. This helps me connect to the world sitting at home.

Ideas diary

Words are a lens to focus one’s mind.
Ayn Rand

I strongly believe writing helps to clarify your own mind. I don't even think this is related to the pandemic. But after the pandemic started I had less people to just throw my ideas off to. I started keeping a physical diary where I write down every shitty / not shitty idea I get.

This could be related to work/ technical stuff/ writing or even personal/emotional wellbeing ideas. Pretty much anything. Writing and evaluating them again brings clarity and is pretty much similar to editing a draft for me these days.

Online Networking

I had always thought of networking as a means for professionally making connections. But surprisingly never to make new friends. I know the terms friends is highly convoluted but in my case here I am defining as people to discuss ideas with.

I made a point of connecting with atleast 1 person per week. I work mostly through LinkedIn but Twitter is also great, so I have heard.

Reading

Such a crazy time to be alive! Anywhere you look are opinions and advices. I have always tried to be conscious in what I am reading but with the increased social media usage this was getting more and more difficult. I have started keeping separate technical and non technical time for reading. Although this doesn't solve the problem of being mindful but now since I am saving links every time I find something interesting to read on social media, going through them again gives me a chance to evaluate whether I actually want to read it.

Working out

This is nothing new and probably everyone has heard how much working out helps your mental wellbeing. One thing I changed in my workout routine is to join classes instead of just taking a gym membership. This could be anything high or low intensity workouts (different things work for everyone).

I have also made a point to try one different type of workout every month. (Sometimes I count sauna as my workout :P) Now I have tried climbing, long range running, pilates, hot yoga and tango (that went badly). Obviously this gets repeated many times depending on the availability of things. In my experience this is a great way to keep your motivation levels up.

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Graph Intelligence @Microsoft

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Purvanshi Mehta

Purvanshi Mehta

Graph Intelligence @Microsoft

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