Learning the art of working

It’s normal to go through burnouts. It happens to writers too; ever heard the phrase ‘writer’s block’? That’s when no inspiration hits, and it involves procrastinating. You’re not alone when you feel like all you do is work hard but the payoff doesn’t seem or feel so good either. For the most part, a lot of people feel the same way. However, it’s important to realize that what’s lacking is your approach to your work – you need to work smarter, not harder.

Here are a few tips on how:

– Walk away
Whenever you feel like your workload is too much to bear or too overwhelming to deal with, take a quick break. Don’t just sit there, crowded behind a computer screen and let the feeling of a headache attacking your head get to you. A pile of tasks to complete on a Monday morning isn’t the way anyone wants their day to begin, but it can be done, if you tackle it the right way. Start slowly and by tackling one task at a time. If this continues to overwhelm you, take another break. Its okay to take breaks to refresh and relax your mind in-between getting your work done. Go outside and grab a couple of breaths of fresh air.

– Eliminate distractions
In today’s day and age, it’s easy to fall prey to simple distractions like your phone buzzing with a hundred notifications from the multiple social media apps you’ve downloaded, or the noise around you or even with having a disorganized workspace. If you’ve got some interesting projects and tasks lined up, that need your fullest attention, then it’s about time you eliminate your distractions. Switch your phone to silent mode for a few hours, ask your colleagues to keep it down in a polite manner and get your workspace cleaned up. There’s no harm in having a phone on silent; you can always respond to the notifications when you take a break. Your colleagues need to be supportive of you. And it’s always a good idea to have a clean desk and space so as to not clutter your mind and concentration.

– Create habits
Make habits out of routine things that need to get done and also boost your ability to work smarter. This can differ from industry to industry but the basics are similar. The moment you come in to work in the morning, make sure to check your email and respond to everyone. Task complete! Next, separate what needs to get done right away and what can be done a little later. Thereafter, tackle the immediate tasks. Take your breaks and then come back to finish what’s left to do. Be in the habit of keeping a clean workspace too. Always return missed phone calls. Small habits like these can change the way you work.

– Let someone else do it
Not every one of us would be brave enough to admit it, but sometimes, it’s okay to let someone else do the job if you are unable to. It doesn’t mean you’re any less better than the other person, but its okay to admit defeat when you know you’ve tried. This saves you a lot of time to work on the tasks that you can handle on the other hand.

– Work when you feel motivated
Nobody is going to get any work done by not feeling motivated. If you aren’t passionate about what you’re currently doing, then you need to re-evaluate a few things in your career journey and make a few changes. If you aren’t going into work feeling challenged and motivated, do something about it instead of moping and wading it out for the wrong reasons. You will produce the best of work and your abilities only when you are motivated; don’t ever forget that.

– Spend time outdoors
A change of scenario is always good for the mind and soul. If you’re constantly stuck in an office and around computer screens and people and walls, the occasional break from work and breath of fresh air won’t hurt. How about you take your work outside for an hour or two? It doesn’t hurt to ask, especially if it allows you to work better and smarter. You’ll find that your mind is refreshed and re-energized after 15 minutes of being outdoors. Imagine what it can do, if you spent an hour or two.

– Communicate regularly
Always let your colleagues and even boss know what you’re doing. Keep them up to date on the progress of your day to day tasks, just so that they know the effort you put in is an actuality. It’s easy to be overseen in a sea of people, but be informative and keep your boss in the loop. That way, even if something goes wrong, they’d already know you’ve made your best attempt at making things right.
**As published in the Ceylon Today Newspaper**

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Maniumpathy

It’s a rather gloomy and rainy Wednesday. I’d thoughts about canceling my scheduled visit, but on a whim, decided against it and stepped out of the house anyways. I’ve a fascination with old houses – properties that have been home to generations of families, and that are over 100 years of age. There’s something about houses that have history attached to it; there’s an inclination of charm and character unlike any other and there’s plenty of stories behind every crevice and brick.  

I explored Maniumpathy that day. The name alone intrigued me. I’m told it is derived from the city that the current owners’ family of this house came from – Manipay (Manipai), Jaffna. It was known to have been the Colombo 7 of the North, although the area had plenty of greenery and fields of paddy. The people were known to have been a dedicated and hard-working lot, which says a lot to be honest as many of them were health practitioners and doctors who came to Colombo on work.  

  


Dr. Savaranamuttu Hallock was one of them. He passed out as a doctor from the University of Aberdeen, after which he joined the Ceylon Medical Service. Since he had to move to Colombo to practice medicine, the property was bought over from its original owner and renovated to suit his family. The house was said to have been built in the year 1868. Technically therefore, the house is over 150 years of age. The front edifice has the year 1906 stamped across it and I’m guessing that was year the Dr. Hallock took over and it became the beautiful homey abode to him and his wife Annapuranie, and their nine children.

It was a stately house, as were plenty of others along the same street, originally known as Harley Street (currently Kynsey Road) and home to many health practitioners much like Dr. Hallock. Colonial attributes were a common feature – the well balanced structure and design of the house, the lush garden around it along with a back terrace, the wide and open front porch leading to the central living space, dining area and of course the personal living areas. Open ventilation and space was a prominent feature, as were minimalistic decorative motifs around the home; pillars that supported the back veranda area, antique furniture with fleur de lis motifs, and the beautifully carved eaves on the edges of the roof.

The house has turned over five generations and has been passed over to the next generation through the hands of the females. I’m quite surprised that this is so but in the most pleasant way possible. Currently, Adrian and Chrysanthie Basnayake are the home owners and eventually it will be passed over to their daughter, Annapuranie Anithra Basnayake.

Today, the home and has once again been painstakingly renovated to its original form with the aid of Architect Chamika de Alwis. It took over five years to complete, as attention to detail was key and it was important to retain much of its original charm and features. It has humbly since been open to visitors and guests alike as a boutique hotel in the heart of the city; Maniumpathy – the name paying homage to Manipay and the word ‘pathy’ means ‘home’ in Tamil.

The rooms at Maniumpathy pays homage to the strong and beautiful women of the family. The grand Master Suite has been named after Annapuranie, the first lady of the house. The other seven rooms are named after Soundhari, Poornam, Cynthia, Ranee, Vasanthi, Chrysanthie and Anithra. The room named after Chrysanthie was in fact originally Dr. Hallock’s clinic at one time.

Apart from the name concocting a connection to the family’s northern origins, there are strong resemblances and other characteristic features throughout Maniumpathy. Open space and ventilation is still a common feature and adds to the cosy and homey aspect of this colonial home. The garden has obviously been narrowed down as the left section gave rise to a new wing with an upper level to house more rooms.

The terrace opens out to a smaller garden space, flanked by the right and left wings, furnished with chairs and table suitable for enjoying a warm cup of coffee and perhaps even breakfast or an evening snack. Dusk, I’m told, brings about a soft and relaxed ambience. Lamps are lit in keeping with the calm and peaceful atmosphere. This area also overlooks a pool and a statue of the deity Nandi. The name stems from the Tamil word that means ‘ to grow’ or ‘to flourish’ and in Sanskrit means joy or happiness. His statue, I believe, therefore has been strategically placed, overlooking the entire edifice in the hopes of bringing about growth and happiness in the best way.

Decorative motifs are very much a prominent and common feature; apart from the additional northern trinkets that have been placed around the house – there’s also the grand ebony dining table that sits magnificently on the right wing, vintage lamps and Bakelite telephones, the bookshelves are well stocked with an array of best reads, and the classic furnishing combined with the white and grey washed walls add much character to this stately home. The Chrysanthie room includes an old stairway which has been restored finely, the two deluxe rooms named after Soundhari and Poornam include Jaffna style open courtyard bathrooms, and there are plenty of old photographs of the entire family placed in antique frames and scattered about Maniumpathy that give it a very homey effect.

I find Maniumpathy to be an oasis in the heart of Colombo; as although it is located on one of the most congested streets of the city, it somehow manages to retain an air of softness and charm. There’s something about it, from the moment you walk in; there’s that telltale aura of simplicity although there’s plenty of history and heritage. There’s comfort in sinking into one of the large couches or even sitting outside overlooking the grass and the pool. Nandi silently watches over.

I’m told that many European painters have stayed at the boutique hotel and chosen to find inspiration in its peaceful atmosphere. Older guests have been known to relate tales of how they used to play in this very house as children.

And the charm of generations that have lived before and Manipay lives on.
–Pictures courtesy Manor House Concepts– 

 

Weekends

View of the private garden from the veranda
Spend the weekend away from the city and for once, I actually feel rejuvenated. My friend and I picked a secluded and private property that housed 12 personal villas. We had not just a room to ourselves, but also our own private garden, terrace and veranda as well. 

Our little veranda – my reading nook

Our stay at Calamansi Cove by Jetwing was of two nights, and on a full board basis. I’d recommend this to anyone who wishes to stay at their property simply because ofthe excellent  service and wonderful meals available via their set menus. Taking to account that everything was inclusive of service charges and taxes, it was well worth the money spent. 

Breakfast spread

The food was simply amazing. Breakfast choices included a continental spread inclusive of a separate plate of freshly baked breads, fruit, and pancakes apart from what you can see in the above image, and a fresh juice of our choice, plus coffee or tea. 

Poolside view

I made it a point to take a dip in the pool on both the days we stayed. The ocean was just a few metres away but the waves were pretty rough so a sea bath was certainly not an option. 

The beautiful Indian Ocean
Fried rice with devilled chicken for lunch
 

Lunch and dinner options on both days were quite extensive as well. My friend and I decided to pick different selections off the menu just so we could try everything. Again, the courses were so good – inclusive of a salad/appetizer, soup, main dish and dessert. 

I spent most of the two days just reading, mindful meditating and with my phone far away as possible. Sometimes, all we need is a getaway to be thankful for the life we have. 

xoxo

Living by the Latte Factor

At the beginning of every year, it’s always the same mind frame – try not to over spend; it’s about time I spent wisely. It never works, or rather is works for a short while and then not, and then again for a while and then again not. A friend of mine recently brought to light ‘the latte factor’. I immediately assumed this had to do with cups of coffee but how daft was I.  

According to Modesty Money, the latte factor is unconscious spending on the little everyday things that do not add value to our lives. This got me thinking. I mean, who doesn’t unconsciously spend on a cup of coffee in the morning, or a chunky moist brownie in the evening, or a new stylish pair of shoes on whim? There’s also the weekly stash of snacks you buy just to munch on while you watch your favourite tv shows, the soft gummy candy, the luscious scented handmade soap, a new journal with a funky cover that all adds up to little everyday things that really don’t add much value to yours or my life.  

How does this little spendings every now and then cause a dent in your bank account? Here’s an example – a weekly cup of coffee from a decent café in town could cost you say Rs. 500. For a month, that’s you spending Rs. 2,000 and for a year that’s Rs. 24,000. The number may seem to surprise you, but this is just assuming it’s one cup of regular coffee a week. Say you have twice that amount a week? That’s Rs. 48,000 a year spent on cups of coffee alone. Bet you didn’t imagine that!  

I’m someone who loves to eat out. My best friend and I tend to try out new restaurants and cafes so we bust quite a bit of cash on food and drinks. It’s something we love to do so I feel it doesn’t really fall into the category of the latte factor but here’s an example of how overspending can really cause a dent in your bank account if you aren’t mindful about it. Let’s said a single meal costs you Rs. 1,500 at a decent restaurant, this may include a regular drink or iced beverage. Twice a week? That’s Rs. 3,000. For a month that’s Rs. 12,000 and for a year? A whooping Rs. 144,000. I’ll let that settle in before you read further.  

What the latte factor does is shed light on the dangers of habitual yet unconscious spending. Rs 500 here and there won’t look like much but with a bird’s eye view of your every day or every other day spendings, it presents a clear and yet scary image of your financial habits.  

Recognizing the latte factor and changing a few habits isn’t going to make you rich. What it’ll do is, regulate or somewhat discipline your everyday spending habits in the long run. In reality, putting a complete stop to our habits and things we enjoy buying is extremely hard. I’ve been trying for a week and well, I feel like a cheap dud but I know I’m just cutting down on unnecessary spending so I tell myself it’s okay. The occasional cup of coffee or new book is alright. You deserve it. You see, the latte factor isn’t about holding on to every last cent or rupee until you’re old and wrinkly; it just sheds light on the unnecessary parts of literally throwing away money for no good measure or with no meaning.  

According to Modesty Money, the latte factor is about looking at everyday spendings and cutting down on what does not bring you joy or has no proper value to you. That is what needs to be eliminated. Cancel that gym membership you’ve had forever because you’ve not been going. Don’t give it to the temptation of a sale just because the prices would be reduced. Don’t turn your home cooked meal away and run to the nearest best café in town just because you feel like it. Think about it. This is about curbing unnecessary spendings, saving your hard earned money and possibly even investing wisely.

Good luck!