Saikat Pyne is the Communications Manager at Times Internet, India’s largest digital products company, and has consulted with over 40 leading brands in his career.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’ve always been fascinated by how we influence each other, and leaned into this curiosity. The prospect of leveraging tech for storytelling led me to join the founding team of Business Insider India. This appetite to constantly experiment and start afresh has been the guiding light in my (rather reckless) career.
I was among the first crop of startup correspondents in India as billions of VC dollars were flowing into the country for the first time back in the early 2010s. In 2016, I joined Paytm, a (relatively new) digital payments company as a Corporate Communications Specialist. The brand recently went on to have India’s largest IPO.
Since December 2018, I’ve been a part of the strategic communications team at Times Internet, where we advise CMOs, Communication Leads & Marketing Managers of Times Group’s portfolio brands on brand building and reputation management.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I spend most of my time in one of three roles – the content creator, the content/marketing strategist and (somewhat of) a design director. I try not to lock myself into a role for too long, as I serve as many as five marketing & communications teams daily.
My day begins between 5:30-6 AM with a sip of water, and an hour and a half of uninterrupted writing for one of my three blogs, my upcoming book or LinkedIn. After breakfast, I get to work at 10 AM armed with a to-do list. This list is often what’s between me and pure insanity. I highly recommend having one.
At 1 PM, I break for lunch for half an hour and for my mid-day stretching routine. It’s tea-time at 4 PM, and I’m off at 7 PM. In the 7 hours that I’m at my desk, I’m either on call with my design lead eyeballing concepts, creating content or on calls with business or agency Leads, trying to understand business problems, and advising them on content-led solutions.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
We are on a 100% remote and flexible work model at Times Internet, and it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to my professional life. Being in total control over your workdays, and not having li’l inane stuff chip away at our working hours has done so much for my productivity.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
To me, work-life balance is both an abstract idea and a daily reality, and they are intrinsically linked.
For instance, as a weekly ritual, I check in with myself weekly if I’m dedicating enough time to myself and my family, constantly reminding myself not to get sucked into ‘hustle culture’ and that my work is only a part of my life.
As a part of my daily reality, I never call my colleagues after 6 PM, have f.lux on my work Mac to remind me of the time of the day, and a funny cuckoo alarm that rings at lunch hour, tea-time and at the end of my workday. When that goes off, I gotta move and come back to my desk the next day.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Owing to the unprecedented number of COVID cases, India imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. That meant I was locked up in my Delhi apartment for over 6 months with little to no exercise in 2020. That also meant I gained over 20 lbs, and acquired a terrible backache. Super alarming!
This year, I got my family a personal trainer. We work out thrice a week for an hour, and I go for a 10K walk every. single. day. It’s the best decision I made in 2021.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
My all-time favourite books are Free To Focus, Four Thousand Weeks, Sapiens and Linchpin. My regular podcasts are Philosophy for our times, the Marketing Book podcast and 5 Minute Business Book Summaries. For newsletters, besides The Ken’s Nutgraf, I am on the mailing list of a bunch of marketers, technologists and creatives like Seth Godin, Dan Nelken & Naval Ravikant.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Besides my Macbook and OnePlus smartphone (boring!), I recently bought a new pair of the OnePlus Buds Pro that has completely transformed my life. Once the ANC kicks in and cuts out all the noise, it’s so much easier to focus. The only downside is you often tend to get ‘lost’ while working, hence the cuckoo alarm!
Besides these, I have my USB-powered mini hand blender that makes you a fresh cuppa, or a protein shake in seconds. There’s also my regular cologne (Dior Sauvage EDP) and Bath & Body Works Stress Relief Pillow Spray. Works like a miracle.
In terms of apps, I use Cred and Kuvera for money management, a Pedometer app for my daily walks and YouTube Music for ad-free music.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Personally, I’m fascinated with the work schedules of Tristan Harris, the founder of the Center for Humane Technology, the Indian-American entrepreneur and investor Naval Ravikant and the comedian Vir Das.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
At the risk of sounding preachy, I’d say we underestimate how much our fears dominate our personalities. As a species, we are not ‘evolved’. We are very much monkeys who have figured out how to use smartphones.
Most blue-collar workers can achieve a certain level of sanity & work-life balance instantly if we realise there is no need to try so hard to ‘stay alive’, scared of stinkers, scared we’ll miss that promotion, scared we’ll lose all credibility.
Our biology has evolved to keep us alive. It’ll veto anything life-threatening, like a fire. Let’s not misguide it into thinking not replying to late-night emails is urgent and seriously hampers our well being. The moment we put our foot down and decide to have boundaries, a lot can change.
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