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Making Of A Book #3: Interview Results πŸ“ƒ

Published almost 2 years agoΒ β€’Β 6 min read

Hi Reader,

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Happy Monday :)

I spent 15+ hours last week in interviews and synthesizing notes from the interviews.

πŸ’š I want to express my gratitude to the following 12 people who took time to let me interview them: Sudeepa, Harshita, Lokesh, Hruthik, Shreyash, Rishi, Sreekaran, Pramit, Chuck, Surbhi, Rishi U., and Amrit.

You let me go from the bubble I was in out into the real world by sharing your experiences. Thank you.

This is only the beginning, and I hope to continue spending more time interviewing the upcoming weeks.

In this newsletter, I wanted to share the highlights from the interviews, a note on "wasting my time", and my path forward.

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About Project: Balance

Project: Balance is about taking you from autopilot to awareness to agency, and building a life of intention across three major areas: your personal growth, your relationships, and your contribution to the world. The book helps you do this by first uncovering the hidden forces (personal, cultural, societal) that influence your attention, giving you the tools to choose between balance and imbalance, and helping you externalize your goals and build systems to live a life of joy.

πŸ’‘ Want to read the past editions of this newsletter? Check it all out here!

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Interview Results

Before diving into the results, below is a brief note on demographics.

(1) Everyone had their own definition for what a balanced life looks like. But I noticed a few themes in the responses:

  • Autonomy over time:"For me, Balance is having the agency to structure my days/weeks/months the way I want and do whatever I want in that time."
  • Love one's work:"For me, Balance is when you’re able to work without losing who you are as a person. And enjoy the work you’re doing."
  • Have time for oneself and their relationships:"Balance and happiness are centered around community for me. I enjoy sharing my time than spending it alone."

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(2) Only 2 out of the 12 people I interviewed said Yes to the question, "Would you say your life is currently balanced according to your description of a balanced life?" However, a majority of the other 10 mentioned that their life is intentionally imbalanced, that they're prioritizing one area over another temporarily to reach a bigger goal in life.

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(3) Interestingly, when I asked the question, "When was the last time your life was completely out of balance?", at least 50%+ mentioned it was the beginning of 2020, when the pandemic began. Although the reasons were different -- for one person it was struggles in personal relationship, for another it was focusing on just work, for yet another it was changing jobs -- there's a theme there. The pandemic dissolved boundaries between work and life, throwing balance into question.

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A note on "wasting my time"

Having too much time on your hands is a problem.

As you probably know, I quit my job ~6 months ago. Although I felt like I really quit only when the second cohort of my course ended in Feb 2022. The week after my course ended, I had a mostly empty calendar... and it was overwhelming.

So hearing at least 50%+ of the interviewees say a version of the following hit home for me:

"I feel I have too much time on my hands right now, since quitting my job. I've been spending it on social media and other attention-draining activities. I'm not happy with it, and feel very unproductive."

"It's not that I don't have time. Rather, I lack focus and motivation. When I sit down to do what I planned, I begin thinking about all the things I need to be doing. And later regret how I spent my time."

If that resonates with you, I wanted to share my 2 cents. The next time you feel like, Damn, I just wasted my time, see if the following helps:

  • Acknowledge the forces acting against you are stronger: It's true. Social media is so addictive because it's designed to be. Your poor, ancient brain is fighting a battle against thousands of smart engineers and billions of dollars invested into keeping you on it. So just acknowledge that what you're trying to do is not easy.
  • Ask yourself, Why is this a waste of time firstly? Is it a waste of time because you truly feel it is, or because someone else made it out to be? Generally, blanket statements such as Spending time on social media is a waste or Watching TV is a waste of time are not useful. You should think through and set thresholds for yourself, instead of letting someone else do it.
  • Have a detached curiosity to the problem: We generally tend to reason sensibly about someone else's problem than our own (aka Solomon's Paradox). This is because we have a certain detachment when it's someone else's problem that helps temper our emotion and be more grounded. I've been doing this for myself lately. Whenever I face an issue/dilemma, I let myself detach from it and approach it from a place of curiosity. Then, the problem becomes more fun to address.
  • Being more compassionate to yourself: I've spoken about this extensively in my article on journey from self-abuse to self-love. Take it from someone who used to mentally abuse herself a lot: it's not worth it. You spend most of your life talking to yourself, more than anyone else. You want that conversation to be one of compassion and love, not cynicism and hate.

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The Path Forward

Some of you who I interviewed asked me, "So, what's the deal with this book? What's the end goal?"

To quote E.L. Doctorow, "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

That's how I'm thinking about this book. :)

As of now, I'm clear of the next 10 ft that I can see with my headlights. They are:

  • Build a survey with a market research firm: I'm using insights from the 12 interviews from last week (and the 6 from this week) to build out a survey that can be sent to a mass audience. If you have recommendations of a firm/startup I can partner with to build this, hit reply and let me know!
  • Continue reading academic research: My friend and I are going to sit together this week to collect relevant academic research around the topics of balance, influences on attention, connection between stress and health, etc. Once we collect the top x papers, I'll then begin reading through them. If you have a good reference to search for papers / have a paper in mind I should look at, please send them my way!
  • Put down more of what's inside my head: Something I have not been doing enough of yet is writing what I already know. I'm hoping to set aside time this week to do more of this.

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I hope that gives you a glimpse into the path forward, Reader.

If you're finding this newsletter series useful (or fun), it would mean a lot if you invite a few friends to join in. Just forward them this email so they can sign up. :)

One thing's for sure. Whether you know it or not, you're keeping me accountable by being part of this newsletter.

Thank you so much for that.

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Yours truly,

Soundarya Balasubramani πŸ’š

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A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

– Lao Tzu.


Author's Journey

Below is my version of the 12 steps an author walks to publish a book (and where I am currently).

My current goal is to reach the Publishing stage in the journey within a year.

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