The Next Action

Too long; Will not read: Old wives got it right. First Things First. One step at a time. Rest between tasks. 

There is irony in the fact it took covid to drive in the impact of simplicity in tasks of daily living to me. Covid left many with an inability to sustain effort beyond a very short period. During the initial weeks after recovery, I struggled to put in 10 minutes of work, and many months later, still struggle to sustain effort for as little as 30-45 minutes.

David Allen, the proponent of GTD or Getting Things Done differentiates tasks and projects by saying anything that requires more than one step or one action is a project. We cannot “do” projects, but only the next logical action or step required to move the project forward. As I dealt with the reality of self isolation and impaired energy and attention, the next action helped find closure on activities of daily living, cooking, doing dishes, cleaning house.

Mixed Vegetables Fry


I was unable to embark on a task like cooking a meal and see it to completion at one go. So I started chunking it into next actions. Batching purchases based on a menu plan. Taking the veggies out of the fridge and keeping them on the counter. Taking out the chopping board and knife. Keeping a small bowl for waste near the chopping board. Similarly for recipes, chunking up tasks helped - making the paste, marinading, roasting spices for grinding, etc. I also learned how to make base preps and freeze them for subsequent use - mixed purees, boiled lentils, chopped and steamed veggies, gravy bases, marinades, etc.

I would work out the next action for each of the preparations and tasks needed to get the meal off the ground, and do them in periodic shorts bouts of effort. This often meant I started prepping tomorrow’s meal tonight. It took a little getting used to but once I got fluent, I wondered why I didn't do this all these years.

Another “hack” I deployed was to use time and heat to do the heavy lifting. Almost every culinary culture has its own variation of the “one pot.” Basically this throws a combination of carbs, proteins and fats, with spices and flavoring into a pot and slow-cooking them to release the flavors and goodness to a delicious climax. Kunda chicken, sous vide fish and poultry, khichdis and khichdas, rasallas, steamer fowl curries, dum biryanis, the list is endless. These all allow you to invest in small amounts of prep and then let time and heat do their thing. This also let me take breaks from being at the stove for a long stretch.


In the interest of public health, there was no help available to keep the house clean. But dust and grime don't care for your inabilities. So I learned to clean one room at a time, dusting and sweeping one day and mopping and decluttering another. In the course of three to four days, the whole house would get a once over. Thankfully, with the self isolation, things took longer to get dirtier, so in the long run, things evened out.


Two events trigger dishes - cooking and eating. So cook less frequently and eat less frequently. Cooking tends to generate more dishes than eating, especially if you are eating in self isolation. The symptomatic days made it more practical to batch dishes into one manageable session in the least frequent intervals. But later, when it was more an issue of energy versus letting water exposure and effort trigger a symptomatic crisis, it made more sense to clear out dishes from eating immediately after the meal. For cooking, using the waiting time between steps in the recipe to clear out accumulated dishes ensured the sink stayed manageable. I remembered all the domestic science advice I received all my life but never paid heed to.


The pandemic turned shopping on its head better than all the marketing gurus had been trying to do over the last 10 years. From the initial days of online groceries (2013 when Bigbasket sponsored the second Hyderabad Bloggers Meet), we had moved to the hyperlocal quick commerce models fully aware of the ecology/environment compromises being made. For everyone who needs groceries in 10 minutes or less, I have one thing to say - you aren’t organized much. But I am often guilty of starting a recipe with two ingredients missing, so I forgive us all. 

Quick commerce also allows me to buy small quantities of what I need to avoid wastage. Since I buy into the subscription models, I can place smaller orders and get the benefits of membership, of course, the ozone be damned. And I am still struggling with plastic and waste. But hey, I think about it. Better than virtue signalling or blowfishing, kada?

You still here?

Slow down. Life is short. Very short. You don't realize it till the finish line is in sight. Age, infirmity, disability and tragedy creep up on you faster than the vultures that circle our skies. Prioritize. Time. Energy. Attention. Affection. Take rest. Self care. 

Live meaningfully. Let your living have meaning. Not just to yourself. But to all who look at your life.

Assuming someone looks.
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