What I learnt from a weekend home alone

A little about me, General ramblings, Thoughts


(Pug purely because he’s adorable) This weekend just past I decided to decline all social invitations and all outside commitments and have a full weekend (Friday 6:30pm – Monday 7:30am) completely by myself. I was tempted by the immense line up at Yestival (and as a long term sufferer of FOMO, this week has been especially tough hearing about what sounded like a magical weekend), asked to see family, have friends who I’ve neglected to spend time with in weeks, but I said no. I’m not sure why exactly but a part of me was really craving some alone time.

When I do the tests they tell me I’m an extrovert, if you meet me, you’d probably guess the same, but if what determines if you are or not, is where you get your energy from, this past weekend makes me question where on the scale I fall.

I used to hate being alone. If I had to be home alone, I’d eat away the time curled up in bed numbed by various box sets which looking back doesn’t really count as time well spent.  I’m certain now, deep down I was afraid of being alone. It’s only since my first Vipassana 10 day silent meditation retreat at the beginning of this year that I realised that my own company wasn’t so bad after all, I had nothing to fear and everything to gain.

I’m going to begin by listing everything that I did this weekend.

  • Woke up and meditated for 20 mins both Saturday and Sunday
  • Did a meal plan for the coming week, created a shopping list and did my big shop
  • Got a haircut
  • Went to the gym both days for approx. 45 mins
  • Cooked 3 delicious meals from scratch; my dad’s famous spiced scrambled eggs (so simple but incredible, will happily share the recipe), an asian chicken and noodle dish and a tray of coconut oil brownies, that went down a treat at work on Monday
  • Wrote a 1500 word blog post about my recent Escape to Umbria
  • Wrote up action plans from said trip
  • Tidied my flat
  • Watched an incredible documentary on Netflix; Alive Inside, a real tear jerker I warn you now, about the power of music to transform the lives of people suffering from dementia
  • Listened to 2 Tim Ferriss podcasts (Jimmy Chin & Lisa Randall)
  • Finished reading my Rebel Book Club read of the month Wild Courage by Elle Harrison
  • Got through a quarter of the Influence by Robert Caildini audiobook (3 hours)
  • Listened through my entire weekly Spotify Discover playlist and saved my favs
  • Gave myself a facial
  • Went shopping and got myself a sizeable winter wardrobe haul and did a personal fashion show to myself when I got home to remind my self of what I bought (please tell me I’m not the only one who does this?!)
  • Watched 5 episodes of Friends (towards the end of S4.. Ross & Emily are about to get married)
  • Got a full 10 hours sleep Friday and Saturday night
  • Did my full 20,000 steps over the weekend according to my phone

I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging here, though just thinking back I’m amazed at how much I feel got done. I write the list to illustrate what I learnt:

There is so, so much time

There are 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week.

I had 61 hours alone over the weekend, of which I spent 28 sleeping.

That still left me with 33 hours of time awake to fill with whatever I wanted. 33 hours is a seriously long time, in which you can do a hell of a lot. Time is a precious, non-renewable resource that I consider to be my most valuable possession, but I don’t think I have a shortage of it. I have the same number of hours in my weekend as everyone I love or admire out in the world. So ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I’m too busy’ are just confessions of what my priorities are at any given time. This weekend I prioritised rest, fitness, life planning and admin, myself. If I look at my life as a whole right now, I can’t say that I always prioritise the things that are important to me, this weekend was an exception rather than the rule, which worries and saddens me. This I need to change. Have you thought recently about how you spend you time? And what this implies about your priorities? Intentions, maybes, somedays are imaginary. All that is real is what we do.

How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives‘ – Annie Dillard

1 hour of planning saves 10 hours of doing

I have to confess… I have no idea where the above statement came from or if its accurate, but I read it on the interwebs last week and its stuck with me. So much so that first thing Saturday morning, I wrote out my master plan for the weekend to test it.


I’d say I stuck to about 85% of it and it astonished me. It surprised me how many times I forgot what I was planning to do and had to check back to the plan, I’m clearly a slow learner! There is definite value in writing down your plans, goals, dreams, whether that be micro daily ones or the big lifetime ones. Coincidentally, Robert Cialdini confirmed this with the research in Influence, the audiobook I’m listening to. The research says that both writing down your commitments and then going one step further and making them public make you far more likely to follow through.

The above 2 points highlight to me that clearly theres a lot to say for effective time management and goal setting. I attended a mini course on time management at Escape the City by the lovely Alejandro Kaufmann a few months ago and picked up the art of time blocking which I have to say has changed my life. Time blocking encourages you think about the important stuff you want to achieve in the coming days and block time out in advance to do it. I now try to do this each week for work, blocking huge chunks of time where I can focus on specific tasks. It reminded me of a brilliant post by Paul Graham, co-founder of Y-Combinator who writes brilliantly about the difference between the Makers Schedule and the Managers Schedule. All to often in a corporate where I find myself currently is heavily skewed towards a ‘Managers Schedule’.

Time alone is time well spent

I mentioned in my last post that you are the average of the people you surround yourself with. I strongly believe that one of those people should be yourself. I want to be mostly me, honestly. I don’t know who that is yet, and I’m sure it will evolve over time, but spending time alone is one catalyst to figuring it out. Just 2 and a half days helped me reconnect with a few things about myself.

  1. I’m deeply in love with music. On some some level I was probably aware of this already, and sometimes I think but surely everyone is right? Who doesn’t love music? But I feel like I take it to another level in my head… The documentary I watched, Alive Inside, all about the power of music resonated so deeply. Actually if you look at my Netflix wishlist, my audible wish list, my book wishlist (outside of the genre of self-development!), its full of music history, musical autobiographies. I’d say one of my favourite books ever is John Peel’s autobiography, Margrave of the Marshes. I love new music… Spotify Discover brings me endless joy and excitement at the moment. I hadn’t noticed it really before but on the tube, bus, walking down the street, I’m the one trying to keep head and feet from tapping uncontrollably to the beats pouring into my ears. Whilst cooking I had my speakers turned up high as I danced around my kitchen as I cooked. If you’ve ever seen me on a night out on the dance floor… it speaks for itself! I’m in my own little world. I’ve always been this way, thinking back, but only now I’m paying attention and connecting those dots.

2. My second love is space and time and all the wonders of the universe. Also heavily featured in the books and documentary wish lists. I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. I read Simon Singh’s Big Bang when I was 12. Cosmos: A space time odyssey is probably one of my fav TV shows ever.

3. I love to cook. For myself, for others, savoury, sweet. It excites me.

4. I love to write! The post I wrote on Saturday was the first time I felt like I’d spoken in my own voice for a really long time and here I am again.

5. I currently don’t invest my time in the above 4 things as much as I’d like.

We spend so much time doing what we should do for some goal outside of ourselves, I think we bury our natural passions and the things that excite us just because they excite us. I’m never going to be an astronaut (fingers crossed for a trip to space though!), but that doesn’t mean that following that excitement is a waste of time. I can’t play an instrument (yet), music probably won’t ever make me money, but it makes me fundamentally happier and more my whole self. Elle Luna a wildly incredible artist and author wrote a beautiful book which comes to mind whenever I think about this, The Crossroads of Should and Must. If you haven’t read her blog post, it’s an absolute must.

Time and how I’m spending it, is clearly on my mind a lot right now, reading back this post!

I’m also enjoying trying to breakdown my experiences in to what I’m learning as it’s helping me focus and have a purpose to what I’m writing. Any feedback is greatly appreciated. 🙂 Coming up in the next couple of weeks or so… I’ll be sharing what I’m learning at work in my role in corporate learning and development, at Rebel Book Club, at the first ever Escape Mondays, perhaps my experiences as a property guardian and TEDx Brixton…

@rimapatel7 on Twitter

@poppetino on Instagram

What I learnt from escaping to Umbria

A little about me, Events


Last weekend I had a mini escape from my whirlwind world, to the idyllic Tribewanted getaway; Monestevole in Umbria, Italy. Escape the City were running a weekend long workshop and it didn’t take much convincing to book my spot. Knowing Escape it would be exactly what I needed, even though I wasn’t exactly sure what that was. Romy one of my fellow escapees writes wonderfully about some of the experiences we shared here, and I also wanted to share some of the things I learnt.

You are the average of the people you surround yourself with

Do not underestimate this one. Being surrounded by open, like-minded, inspiring people all weekend, made me feel centred and invincible, like I could take on the world and I was going to laugh until it hurt while I did it. The right people energise you, support and encourage you and make you feel like all your crazy ideas are possible. The wrong people drain you, make you doubt yourself and your ambition and stir up all of your deeply buried insecurities. Think carefully about who you choose to spend your time with and be ruthless. This reminded me of something I’d heard of from Tim Ferriss, an 80/20 emotional inventory. What are the 20% of things in your life that are causing 80% of your stress, worry or sadness? What 20% is causing 80% of your joy and excitement? Can you avoid that bad 20% and plan more of the good 20% into your life? I did this recently and its shocking to see where the bulk of my frustrations come from, and it helped me refocus my energy. (Bad mornings=bad days, so one of my goals is to wake up 1h earlier each day).

It is the little things

Umbrian life was simple. We slept, we ate, we drank, we stroked the kittens, we chatted and plotted, we laughed, and it was perfect. The big group trip of the weekend was to the local Chestnut Festival in Preggio. We ate chestnuts, drank 1 euro red wine and laughed uncontrollably at the guy with the phallic, homemade instrument. We all have a tendency to overcomplicate our lives until it becomes unclear why we’re doing what we’re doing. Happiness and contentment are always within touching distance if we stop for a second and remind ourselves whats truly important.

Frequently mentioned over the weekend was #smallsteps. Each tiny step we take in the direction we want to go in adds up to a life long journey of endless miles of memories and achievements. We all made a commitment to making a number of small and not so small steps and promised to hold each other accountable to them.


Get some perspective

Before I left for Umbria I felt trapped inside an exhausted mind and body with no idea what I wanted or even needed. Thankfully, a wise chapter in The One Thing by Gary Keller, had reminded me to plan my rest/break/recovery time first. So back in September, I knew having just pulled off TEDx Brixton the weekend before, I’d need some space to process and rest, so I booked my spot on Escape to Umbria. Thank god I did. Inside my normal life I was feeling uninspired and stressed by work, tired and overwhelmed with TEDx finishing. From Umbria I saw that this was just the way I was feeling at a point in time. I had the space, the people and the right questions to process everything that had happened and think about what was next. I urge you to think about when you might need some space, some perspective and block that time out now. Its hard to find the time when you’re in the middle of it all. Also, know the difference between a restful break and one that leaves you more tired than when you left! (My next break will be a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat in January!)

We all need warmth and validation

Sometimes I like to think that I’m emotionally strong and stable and independent. I’m all good on my own and I’ll get on with my life just fine, with or without the support of others. Up to a point that’s true, but trust me… when you’re welcomed warmly and openly into Monestevole by Adrienne, the general manager, when you hear someone else share your story positively and impressed, when someone tells you that your ideas are interesting and that they could help you maybe, when you’re told you can do whatever makes you comfortable and don’t have to explain yourself here, when you get a fist full of personal post it notes telling you how awesome you are, that warm feeling of being accepted and validated is incredible and like no other. You can’t recreate it on your own. Lucy, one of the escapees, described it as the moment when your ‘shoulders drop‘. You relax, you open up, you stop trying so hard to do it all yourself and you let others in. There is such power in finding a place where your ‘shoulders drop’, where you are free to be vulnerable and honest and yourself, and then miraculously accepted and even liked! In our busy lives I think we forget that this is what most of us spend our whole lives in search of, a place to be our whole self and be unconditionally accepted for it.

You already know the answers

This one came up in a number of forms, through various discussions over the weekend. Over and over again when we all tried to explain what we wanted and some of our thoughts of how we were going to get it, we apologised for our vague, incoherent ramblings. And time and time again everyone else responded by noticing the remarkable coherency of our dreams and plans. It felt as though our answers were basically fully formed, but they only revealed themselves when we were asked the right questions.

Linked to this were the discussions we had over dinner about some of our experiences as Samaritans listening volunteers. The rigorous training you receive as a volunteer focuses on the art of active listening and the fundamental principle of self-determination. You’ll never understand fully another person’s situation and therefore can’t offer them any advice, only reflect back whats been said to you, to help them come to their own understanding and plan. This is an act of empowerment and it applies to all of us. We know what we have to do, sometimes we just need an encouraging sounding board and the right questions to bring it in to our consciousness.

It never stops

We all varied in ages, experiences, backgrounds, industries, passions, achievements. Yet not one person felt that they had reached a point where they had achieved everything they wanted to. We were all impressed and inspired by each others stories, what we’d all achieved so far, what our plans for world domination were for the future, but each of us down played it and felt like we had infinitely further still to go. Rightly so in many ways. As a wise lady and fellow escapee Shari, from MP Cosmetics writes, ‘Anything that does not grow is dead‘.

I’d encourage all of us to be proud of everything we’ve done to date. Own it, shout about it, sure. We’ve all come so far and achieved so much. But we can’t stop here, we’re not done yet. We have so much more to give to the world. We need to keep growing, creating, giving together until there’s nothing left to give. The more we do, the more we can and must do. This might sound competitive, ambitious, tireless and it is, but we are not competing with anyone else out there, we are only competing with ourselves, to be the fullest, truest versions of ourselves. Do it. Do it afraid, but just do it.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.Marianne Williamson

Thanks Escape the City, Monestevole, Tribewanted and the wonderful, wacky bunch that joined me in Umbria 🙂 ❤

@rimapatel7 on Twitter

@poppetino on Instagram