Unintended hiatuses… thanks for still being here!

Noting This Down: #28 (23/05/2021)

Hi friends,

Oh wow, I took a short unintended hiatus from this newsletter. Thanks to everyone for still being here, and welcome to the new subscribers since my last publication! 

For those who don’t know, I’ve been on a mini-sabbatical from work since February this year. And it’s been an eye-opening experience for my mental state. 

Here’s how the months have panned out for me since: 

  • February: "Oh wow, I have so much time on my hands! No more daily standups to run to. No more unnecessary meetings. My time is finally in my full control again. ... Wait, It's weird. What do I do now? Should I start looking at that list of items that I put off because I had no time to do anything? I need to fill up my time because I have an incessant need to stay productive. Maybe I'll write more, create more, etc. 

  • March: Okay ... I'm getting bored. Let's go look for a new role because why not. Goes into the interview circuit. Some of them pan out well. Gets a few job offers. Turns one down cos it didn't feel right. Got another offer and both sides keen, but turns out they went on hiring freeze and can't offer me right now. Aw man, looks like my break is not over yet. Starts thinking about re-evaluating my own possessions, enjoying the simpler things in life, paring down lifestyles. Cooks more. Plays games. Enjoys slow living. Gets stressed out that I don't have a job. Reminds myself I am fine - both mentally and financially. 

  • April-May: "You know what, I'm actually enjoying this much-slower pace of life. I'm not stressing about being irrelevant in my fast-moving career (that much). I have time to think, to enjoy other activities like experimenting in the kitchen, reading more, going out in the middle of the weekday because why not". There is a life outside the sphere of work. So in between job interviews and preparing for them, I'm relishing this slower pace of life and questioning what I hold dear. Spending uninterrupted time with my wife. Remembering we don't need a lot of money to enjoy a contented life. 

It took me 3 full months not working to really enter the mindset of “I’m on a break” and come to terms with not working. That’s how deeply I was entrenched in this whole hustle mindset and believing your days are a series of checkboxes to check off. I believed any minute you weren’t working towards your personal or professional goals was wasted time. 

Over the last few months, I’ve been spending less time on social media. I couldn’t go on social media without being inundated with update after update about the dismal state of the world, COVID updates, etc which left me anxious (especially with Singapore’s worsening lockdown) I’m learning how to engage with these endless streams of information more mindfully and thoughtfully.

Now, I recognise the ability to do this is a privilege in itself. Financial resources aside, we may not have the resources or capacity to take these breaks.

But as I reflect on this mental state and what these few months have been for me, I’m left with the question: how can I integrate this state of mind into my work days?

I’m not sure myself. Maybe times of rest and intense activity are like the seasons - have seasons where you go full throttle, but don’t forget you need seasons of respite too. Or are we looking at an overall lower intensity of activity that’s more sustainable? Hmm. 

💡Cultivate your curiosity

  • Your money? Or your life: I've been thinking a lot about the notion of money and work, and our relationship with these two omnipresent variables in our life. This thoughtful post summarises one of my favourite books about the topic. What is your relationship with money? How much is enough? What's your real hourly wage? Thinking like this is exhausting, but it redefines how we see work, money and our own consumption patterns. Your money or your life is more than 20 years old, but Highly recommend picking up the book.

  • Why time feels slow and fast during the pandemic: Another brain-altering video, this one answers multiple questions of how time felt in 2020 (and maybe 2021; hey we're already 5 months into 2021!) The more attention we give to time, the slower it feels. Most of us were bored or drawn into a repetitive cycle of activities in our days, making it feel long in the moment, but shorter when we look back as we did less. 

  • Know your soy sauce: The lifeblood of East and Southeast Asians around the world, some cool facts about soy sauce I learned recently 

📚 Think and create better

  • Questions to ask yourself: A fantastic list of thought-provoking questions when you’re in a sticky situation, or stuck in an endless loop of fear and shame. 

  • Typocard: Fun, minimal graphic maker. Perfect to make shareable images on social media, flash cards for your own reference without the bells and whistles of other design tools 

  • The danger of following “successful” celebrity figures: A cautionary tale against our deification of tech billionaires like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, etc. Just because these men are rich and intelligent in certain ways (corporate success), does not mean they should be leading authorities in other domains e.g relationships. This whole Elon Musk and Bitcoin situation has got me feeling sceptical. A reminder for us to critically evaluate the voices we listen to. 

🧠 Fun brain breaks

  • How much does that meeting cost? A fun calculator answering the question no one wants to answer: “is that meeting really needed?” Makes you think about scheduling that wasteful “20 minutes catch up with 5 people without a defined agenda or preparation. 

  • The Shape of Design: What is the marker of good design? Beyond the technical components, designers must also answer the fundamentals. Why is this being created? How does the creative process look like? Download the book or read it on the Web here. 

  • Fun visual design quiz that starts off easy and gets more difficult over time. Not sure what is considered ‘good’ design? Make this your next stop for an educational experience. Those who work with designers, I’m sure your designers will thank you for your improved design sense. 

Before you go:

This newsletter is a labour of love where I’m on a journey to cultivate my curiosity, unlearn and delve deep into living an intentional, curious life. 

Here’s a few things you can do if you’ve enjoyed reading this newsletter. 

Become a subscriber to get more stories and insights like these or forward this newsletter to friends who might enjoy it.

Follow me on Instagram where I review, reflect and talk about books: @letmereadthis

Follow me on Twitter: @joshuapohjl

I hope you have a lovely, healthy week ahead, 


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