Practice creativity: Creativity is deeply and scientifically connected to our mental well-being and overall longevity. Also, as we know, getting into the creative flow shifts our brainwaves into the theta state. But, creativity doesn’t need to be what you typically think of (painting, making art) — it’s simply processing your world around you. And, it’s in our human DNA. So, try anything creative, without a purpose and see what happens! You’ll be surprised how good of a behavior shift it is in terms of slowing down.
As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Dupi Singh. Dupi is the co-founder of a mental well-being startup called Daydreamers, whose mission is to help the world feel more alive by making creativity more accessible.
Dupi graduated from NYU’s Stern School of Business. A dedicated bread-maker and woodworker, Dupi has devoted his free time to mastering the art of handmade goods, which led him to founding Daydreamers.
Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thanks for having me! I recently co-founded a mental well-being startup called Daydreamers, but I had a path that’s all-too-familiar to most. As an immigrant to the United States, I was always told that I had to put my head down and work hard so that I could be successful. In turn, that meant dedicating all my time to getting into a good college, and once I arrived there, working really hard to get a great job. I ultimately went from NYU’s Stern School of Business to working in investment banking in New York City and then private equity in Silicon Valley. All the while, I was feeling unfulfilled and extremely “busy.”
One day, my fiancé realized that we were constantly running on life’s hamster wheel without reaching our fullest potential. We knew something had to change — and so, we started Daydreamers, which helps everyday adults like us build creative habits so that they can live happier, healthier lives. It’s been amazing to turn my own experiences into something that can help others who are struggling like I was.
Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?
Wow, that’s a lower number than I would have thought! According to our research at Daydreamers, we know that people today feel more burned out, lonely and unfulfilled than ever — and essentially we’re living in a productivity crisis. But, this feeling of being “rushed” isn’t necessarily new to our modern world, nor is it fully connected to our technologically-driven lives. In one of our podcast interviews for Daydreamer’s (un)productive podcast, we spoke with Celeste Headlee, the author of Do Nothing: How To Break Away From Overworking, Overdoing and Underliving, about how this obsession with productivity dates all the way back to the Industrial Revolution. Ultimately, when we switched from being a task-based society to an output-based society we became driven by the number of hours we work rather than the tasks we finish. Basically, we never get a break — and I know this first-hand from being in Investment Banking! This fact, compounded with our “always on” culture where we are attached to our devices — over 85% of people look at their emails within 15 minutes of waking up — impacts our ability to slow down, which is necessary for our health and longevity.
On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?
Before we dive into this, I want to acknowledge an important point: in my world view, productivity is deeply connected with our collective obsession to rush — and is nearly the opposite of living a healthy, happy life. If we’re promoting a world where achieving as many tasks in a certain amount of time leads to success, we’ll never be “done” — and ultimately, rushed to complete them. We know scientifically, and something we talk about constantly at Daydreamers, is that in order to get into the flow and lead a long-term healthy life, we must slow down. When we rush, our brain is constantly operating at an alpha wavelength, which is extremely task-oriented. True healing (and creative flow) happens when we slow down enough to experience a theta brainwave — and has long-term biological effects.
I believe we actually need to do the opposite of doing more as you say: we need to do less — much less. We are constantly living in a state of decision fatigue, which leads to burnout, stress and anxiety. Our generation has come up with a unique term with this — FOMO. But, our lives would dramatically improve if we slowed down and took things off of our plate. Creativity, health and happiness thrive in moments when we allow ourselves to relax.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Practice creativity: Creativity is deeply and scientifically connected to our mental well-being and overall longevity. Also, as we know, getting into the creative flow shifts our brainwaves into the theta state. But, creativity doesn’t need to be what you typically think of (painting, making art) — it’s simply processing your world around you. And, it’s in our human DNA. So, try anything creative, without a purpose and see what happens! You’ll be surprised how good of a behavior shift it is in terms of slowing down.
- Schedule in time to move: Working out is a great way that I calm down and slow down. It’s easy to get caught up in emails, so I have a reoccurring calendar reminder and treat it just as important as any other meeting. I’m not a body builder, but I love any activity that is physical and movement based.
- Batch tasks: My fiancé, and co-founder, Katina, got me into batching tasks. It’s used in the engineering world and essentially it means putting like tasks with like tasks. The mental load of switching between emails, creating slide decks and playing with your dog is huge. So, put together certain tasks, whether that’s on a specific day or for a set period of time.
- Take time before you respond: Oftentimes, it feels like we have to respond to emails or demands immediately. It’s been extremely helpful for me to prioritize, and turn off email reminders / Slack after a certain time — the world won’t end of you take the lead to prioritize your time. Our time is our most precious asset and we need to learn to treat it as such.
- Prioritize sleep: I’ve always been someone who could sleep until 3pm, but after working for years in finance I learned how to get by on 4 hours of sleep (sometimes none!). I used to be proud of that. But, sleep hygiene is highly connected to our productivity and longevity. Sleep is our time to rewire our brain — it allows us to do more with less time.
- Make space for a morning and evening routine: For a long time, I woke up and jumped straight into emails. But, when I created a structured morning routine that includes mindful time, making coffee without browsing through my phone, and catching up on morning podcasts it changed my approach to my day. Also, creating space to wind down before going to bed is extremely important for me. I deleted all my social media apps recently and I’ve found it’s super important to my evening routine.
How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?
I’ve never been someone who got into meditating, but I’ve lead a mindful life for as long as I could remember. I think that mindfulness means staying fully present in the moment — acknowledging and then releasing all the feelings that come up for you. I’ll never forget years ago when I was commuting to my investment banking job in downtown NYC from Williamsburg, Brooklyn and thousands of people would be waiting on the subway tracks during rush hour. They would push and shove, cutting in front of each other to get ahead. It was really important to me to practice, what I guess we could call mindfulness, in those moments. By accessing my inner sense of calm and not allow myself to get caught up in the rush was a really powerful practice — and helps me in a lot of ways even today.
Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?
Mindfulness is a practice that we can all access at any time. It’s simply staying fully present in the moment. So, practice mindfulness in nearly any task — while you’re cooking or answering an email. It’s that simple, and basically the antithesis of “rushing.”
Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?
At the core of being mindful is staying fully present to the task at hand. I am firm non-believer of the 80/20 rule and so, I try to devote 100% of attention to one task at a time for a few reasons: (i) give that task the respect and dedication it needs; (ii) stop pushing things off to later — this maybe a sign you truly do not care about the task; and (iii) we are not “good” at multi-tasking as much as we would like to believe so. Do less, but “achieve” more with your time.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices
I’m Sikh, so I like to listen to Mool Mantar (which are the opening words of the Sikh scripture based on spirituality) when I wake up in the morning. It slows me down and grounds me for the day. I use this time for me to reflect, connect and be present.
I love Essentialism by Greg McKeown — especially his description of time (Kairos versus Chronos).
Of course, I love the (un)productive podcast by Daydreamers — it’s an insightful deep dive into the habits creative people use in their everyday lives.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My mom would say this to me when I was young and it stuck with me, even though its meaning continues to evolve for me — “Excess of any kind can become harmful.” Striving for “balance” in life is my ultimate goal in life, and so I try to stay present and aware of my actions and thoughts throughout the day while making time for stuff that I enjoy, like working out or (literally) pondering life.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The movement I would hope to inspire is exactly what I’m working on right now: helping all people slow down and reach their fullest creative potential. If anyone wants to join, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your ideas at www.daydreamerspace.com!