This blog is about my struggle to fight depression despite doing good business.
I used to be quite arrogant about the fact that I am quite disciplined when it comes to managing my time. I do everything on time and when they are supposed to be done but over the past few months, 5 months to be precise I am loosing this good habit of mine. As an entrepreneur or freelancer you need to be self-disciplined to do accomplish your daily tasks. Last 5 months were not really very great for me, it is not that my work is suffering or I am not making money but I have this feeling all the time of not achieving enough. It is really causing lot of trouble to me and I feel sad most of the times. Initially I didn't even realize anything was wrong with me.
Personally I like to challenge myself all the time and though last quarter was quite great for my company but personally I didn't do much myself. Everything was in fact great for the company - because I worked really hard in the 2nd quarter and sparxsys did really well but in the 3rd quarter I just didn't do enough, may be because everything seemed so right. Due to that fact I feel the work might suffer in coming months. I lost few leads and could not deliver some of the projects on time. I also planned to finish the JIRA video series which I wanted to launch last year. There are just so many "Pending" tasks in my issue tracker. I feel very bad about it. I realized that the reason for all this bad feeling that built up in me was primarily because I was not using my mind very much for doing new things. I worked really hard for few months followed by hardly any work for couple of months and it really affected me.
I was depressed
May be I didn't want to say that but probably this what depression is :) I have been working from home a lot these days and eating too much. Gained little extra weight. I am watching too much TV and just spending time on useless things. I think it is ok to get into low phases, you can't stay happy all the time but good thing is that I am getting out of it now. I did not even work at all for many days continuously because there was no motivation left or may be I was not doing anything exciting enough to give me "kick" (like Salman Khan movie).
It is not at all good to stay depressed as it will lead you to make bad decisions and it affects your relationships with clients. I really fought with few clients (sorry for that). Clients are usually annoying but since they pay us so we have to learn to tolerate them and still provide good service. There are lot of factors that contributes to depression and you need to keep a balance of every aspect of your life.
I think I am almost getting back to normal now and following things helped me. Just wanted to share with everyone.
1. Stick to a routine
I forced myself quite harshly to follow a daily routine. I started with organizing my work-rest-eat-sleep time on google calendar and I pasted notes all over my room. Yes this is crazy, when there was no space left on the walls I started writing on the door. I went crazy but I really need to remind myself to get into a discipline. Nobody likes to work hard and especially without any motivation it is even difficult but once you spend your day productively it feel really good and gives immense satisfaction.
2. Track your activities
I have been creating weekly sprints for our team every week, but it doesn't really help if you are struggling to manage your time and without a boss it is more difficult. I cannot expect my team to complete the weekly tasks if I am not doing it myself. I tried a different technique for few weeks. I simply kept track of how many hours I am working vs planned hours. Plain old effort variance technique. I know number of hours at desk doesn't mean productivity but I just wanted to stay focused and wanted to make sure that I am at least sitting in front of computer. During my down days I didn't even feel like looking into my laptop. So this technique kinda helped me. If my work efficiency was over 75% for 3 consecutive day then I would reward myself (more on that).
3. Find a boss
Leaving my full time job was a major decision. Of course I did that only when sparxsys business was well above threshold and we were making good money. One thing I didn't foresee before leaving my job is how to stay disciplined without a boss. I have been my own boss for a long time now but it happens all the time that I start loosing my focus, mainly because there was no one to ask me questions or there is no weekly report to submit to anyone. I felt the need of a boss. After lot of thoughts I finally made my wife my boss. She has her own business and she stays quite busy with her work and taking care of our 2 year old daughter but I asked her to spend some time on keeping an eye on me and my work. Now I share status of all the tasks, projects, revenue with her and she make sure I do what I am supposed to do to achieve the targets and I started paying her salary for her time. May be I will hire a new boss if more time is required in future.
4. Reward yourself
As I just said earlier that sometimes when you achieve something you planned for you should reward yourself. I really like to eat rogun josh, I could eat it every day but I tried to first finish my tasks and also achieve work efficiency of over 75% for atleast 3 days in succession to treat myself.
5. Separate Workplace
As I am writing this blog I can hear discussion on upcoming Delhi elections on TV in the other room. Sometimes when something really interesting comes up on tv, I leave everything I am doing and run towards the other room to watch the whole thing and when I check the clock, it is already 2 hours wasted. It is very easy to get distracted and I cannot help it, I am also human being and I too get distracted. There is no other way but to cut the distractions. I work in my separate home office where no one is allowed to come when I am working. I also try to keep this room as clean and organized as possible. Dirty room doesn't motivate to work for long hours.
6. Share your targets with others
During my weekly sprint meeting with my team I discuss the the upcoming personal and team targets with everyone and we discuss how much was achieved out of what we planned, we don't use any metrics to measure but it is mostly a feel of work done. We discuss openly and it really is embarrassing to achieve the least amount of work. For the past few months it was me who was not achieving a lot but I knew there was some problem that I need to fix with myself. When you share your goals with your team it also encourages you to take action on those goals no matter how small or big they are.
7. Ask family members to not disturb you
Working from home is something very new to Indian culture. When family members see you working from home they think that you are available for daily chores and little stupid chit chats. It is difficult to say no to them and even if you do they don't take it seriously. So you have to be harsh and make rules. I do my daily chores like bringing Milk, Eggs, Bread, throwing garbage early in the morning and other misc things are scheduled post 7 pm. I am still struggling to make more effective rules but I know this is quite important and you too should make a point to ask your family to understand that if you are at home all the time it doesn't mean you are useless creature. I am probably earning more money than ever, all by sitting at home and people who travel to Gurgaon and waste many hours in traveling are still better than me, at least in my family's mind. Indian families are not ready yet to accept that money can be earned by working smartly.
8. Unwind after work
I wake up between 3-4 AM and then I work till 6 AM and then I go to gym everyday. Health is prime important to me and even during my down days I made sure to not miss the gym. After 7 PM I usually go for evening walk. It really helps to unwind and relax your mind. I usually call my friends around this time. During the day I really look forward to this time. I come back home and spend time with my family and play with my daughter, by 9 PM I am usually dead tired and find it difficult to stay awake.
9. Take vacation regularly
Last month I took a small vacation and it really helped me to relax. When I came back I was quite energized, in fact now I feel that vacation was all I needed. Last year I worked really hard to bring business to sparxsys and achieved lot of goals. As of now we are probably the best JIRA Consultancy and Training company in India. During the last few months of the year I was probably too tired mentally to think straight and I made this mistake to continue working without taking any breaks. Now taking regular vacations is my goal. In fact this year I am planning to work even less. I will experiment working only 4 days a week and lets us see how it goes.
10. Pomodoro - really amazing technique
Finally I would like to mention one technique that really helped me to stay focused on the work. It happens with me quite a lot and in fact everyday that I am working on something and all of a sudden I switch to something else for few minutes not realizing that the other task/activity will suck my energy and when I come back to the original task I am all drained. Also it is difficult for me to keep working on a task continuously for a dedicated amount of time. Pomodoro technique says that you work continuously on a single task for 20 minutes, take a break of 5 minutes and again work for another 20 minutes followed by longer breaks. If you interrupt yourself then start again from 0 till 20 minutes. There are lot of apps for this technique. Search on google to know more about it. Really helpful.
Lastly I forgot to check what I wrote long time back - Are all startup founders unhappy? Things are fine with me now, I am back to normal work. After all this I am quite happy with the fact that I know what went wrong and I will make sure that I will not make the same mistakes again. One of which is over working. I wasted couple of months because I was exhausted myself completely and it took time to recuperate and just like body, mind needs rest. Most importantly I knew something is wrong with me and I tried ways to change it.
I am exploring ways to meditate these days. Lets us see how it goes. I will share the outcome and also I have been writing after a long time. Writing is really my passion. Whenever I am in doubt I write and it clears lot of confusion just by writing my thoughts.
Have a nice day! Enjoy