Weekly Outbox 1: On African Democracy, Progressive Summarization Technique and Book on Anxiety

Starting this week, I’m going to be trying out something new. I don’t write enough nor read as much as I would like to (although, no matter how much I write and read, it will never be enough). So I’m going to be taking time out at the end of every week (or in today’s case, the start of a new one) to talk about my life that week. What I did/didn’t do, what I created/wrote/read/learned/studied, what I’m proud of and what kept me down. Some of them are ramblings, some a log of interesting things I’ve stumbled upon – all of them though are things worth introspecting over and seeking inspiration from to craft a more meaningful life – sometimes it is what I intend to use for work and with clients, sometimes it will be what I intend to apply to improve my own personal life. I have decided to call this series the “Weekly Outbox”. 

The Knowledge Tab

1. One of the things I’ve been trying my hands on is a new way of organizing information in Notion. As a freelancer who works with multiple clients at a time, and who has more than one passion projects going on in the background, having a knowledge management system is a must for me. Over the years I have experimented with different apps, tools, and techniques to create a system that works for me. But more often than not, I have had to use more than one app to manage my work, schedule tasks and figure out a way to keep track of my goals. I’ve realized that the more things you have to work with, the more complex the system of working gets, to the point that you are drowning in work, drowning in organizing everything and unable to make head or tail of where you stand when looking at everything from a bird’s eye view. Notion has taken away most of those complexities for me. I discovered Marie Poulin’s way of planning the year in Notion and it is by far the most comprehensive methodology I have come across for organizing information. Of course, it requires that you personalize it to suit your needs, but I love having a 360-degree dashboard on different levels – projects, assignments, and to-do tasks – and for all of them to be inter-related to each other. In the coming weeks, I’m going to explore more about how I can leverage this method further to create a second, digital version of my brain. 

2. Taking notes seems like a straightforward task – until you are consuming so much content that you don’t know when you might need it in the future or for what purposes and you are stuck with reading a lot, retaining a little. I came across this article on Progressive Summarization: A Practical Technique for Designing Discoverable Notes which talks of a system to design discoverable notes. What I particularly liked in this long(ish) piece is the layering technique – starting with a full text and drilling down to taking detailed notes (layer 1), marking in bold what’s important (layer 2), highlighting phrases/passages to make the “best of the best” stand out (layer 3), creating an executive summary of sorts out of the passages (layer 4) and remixing by adding one’s own personality, creativity, and ideas and putting the article to immediate use (layer 5). Of course, it’s a bit of work to work through layers 1 through 5 but then not all pieces need this depth of note-taking and the ones that do, are absolutely those that have such rich information and relevance that you want to put it to use right away. 

3. For those with an interest in world politics, the article “Young Africans want more democracy” from The Economist makes for an insightful read on the state of democracy in Africa. There is a young demographic emerging on the continent that values liberal ideas and freedom but they are ruled by aging, often power-hungry autocrats who are trying new ways of thwarting those who ask for democracy. From Botswana to the Central African Republic, from Somalia to Tanzania, this article covers a bit of almost all the African nations and says a lot about the political situation in a place where authoritarian regimes continue to flourish.

4. And for those interested in a bit of culture here’s a story about Desmond Nazareth, a 62-year-old from Mumbai, who has spent the past 20 years working to perfect an Indian equivalent to tequila and other mezcals. He has created what can rightly be termed as the Indian tequila. I’m not much of a spirits person myself, but reading about Nazareth’s journey from Mexico to the semi-arid Deccan plateau, on a quest to create an Indian tequila, was extremely enjoyable for the storyteller in me. 

From my passion projects

5. After a month-long hiatus, I am back to writing on Of B&B with a list of books that are going to releasing in March. Sidenote: if you enjoy literature, then this a place for you to be!

Books I’m worming through

6. I am extremely interested in learning about anxiety and depression, having been on the receiving end of both. I am currently working my way through The Anxiety Workbook by Arlin Cuncic. Cuncic has a background in clinical psychology and now works on issues related to social anxiety disorder. Split into 7-weeks, this workbook is designed to help readers overcome anxiety, stress, and panic using a technique called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Apart from continuing my way through this book, I plan on learning more about CBT in the coming weeks. 

7. One of the most riveting and comprehensive books that I’ve read on Indian history has to be India after Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha. I have 100-odd pages left in this tome to read and I’m hoping I can get through them tonight and then get to writing a review for the book later in the week.

8. I finished reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J K Rowling for what must be the nth time in my life. I have lost track of exactly how many times I have read this one (and all the other books in the series) but getting through them all is a yearly ritual of mine. It’s one of the most interesting and sound worlds ever created in fiction and Rowling’s storytelling is extremely gripping. Every time I read it I discover something new, fall in love with a different character and just simply enjoy being back at Hogwarts. 

Everything else 

9. This week has been a huge minus in terms of mental peace. Dealing with anxiety is like riding a roller coaster – some days are winning ones with absolutely not a shred of negativity, while others are nothing but emotional baggage of lead-weight thoughts. This week has been one of the latter kinds.

10. As a result of point 9, work progressed slowly. But because I am aware of all the hours I lost last week in trying to nurse my soul back to health, this week has started off on a much more healing note and I’m hoping to keep my energies up. Caffeine, meditation and a lot of more reading are to be indulged in this week!

I would love to hear how your week has been. Or if you have any comments/ideas related to any of the above, I would like to know them! 

Published by Sanskriti Nagar

I'm a storyteller on a journey - to connect people with places, the past with the present, the contemporary with the traditional. I'm just stepping into the shoes of an explorer, aspiring to be a globetrotter, and someday, a novelist. Follow me through my journeys, and if something does resonate with you, or you'd like me to cover a story for you, I'd love to catch up. (PS: I love coffee!)

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