Home >opinion >Do less this year but do it better

Typically, a new year begins with the resolve to do more—make more money, invest more, save more, give back more, travel more, work out more consistently, spend more time with friends and family, read more, and so it goes.

How is it possible to do more of everything? Let’s say, for instance, you want to earn more. It may mean taking up more projects, committing more time, which may cut into your leisure. There is also a contradiction between the need to save more and travel more. It’s time for some reality checks.

We are already almost halfway into January. And if you are on social media or even on WhatsApp, then you must have wished thousands of people a happy new year. But how many of these people did you actually engage with or have a real conversation with? Various studies, over time, have shown that spending too much time on social media platforms can cause anxiety, depression and even lead to suicidal thoughts. Even Facebook, in a recent blog, admitted that social media can cause depression. However, the social networking giant pointed out that the problem affects users who are passively consuming information and are not interacting with others (bit.ly/2moL00H).

Likewise for health and fitness. There is a sea of information available out there of things to do for being fitter and healthier—from new super foods and new diets to new fitness regimes and workouts. Wellness is big business and the Indian wellness industry is growing at a healthy clip of 12% per annum on average to be a Rs1.5 trillion market by financial year 2020, according to a recent report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and consulting firm EY (bit.ly/2kAw63F).

In the past year, I have tried to go off sugar, off gluten and off dairy products but with very little success. I am crazy about trying new superfoods and food fads. So oats, nuts, sprouts, millets and sweet potatoes are now a regular part of my diet. However, there is an even longer list which includes cinnamon powder, moringa powder, chia seeds and flax seeds that remain to be introduced. There is also a new handheld Usha blend ‘n’ mix blender that is yet to be unboxed.

And I am not even talking about trying new forms of yoga or Pilates or CrossFit workouts. Or constantly wearing fitness trackers and activity bands, the sales of which have anyways been on the slide. Market leader Fitbit Inc.’s shares, at about $6, are worth less than a third of their $20 IPO price in 2015 (bit.ly/2Dk0I4n ). Meanwhile, Jawbone, which made the Up fitness tracker system, also exited the consumer market after burning close to $1 billion of investor money (tcrn.ch/2l1L07I).

It’s the same when it comes to the way we shop. The advent of fast fashion with brands like Zara, H&M and Forever 21, along with unending sales and convenience of shopping online lends itself well to consumers buying mindlessly. However, the psychological impact of buying discounted garments is that they appear to be less valuable, which then makes it easier for consumers to throw them out. In advanced countries like America where consumers value an abundance of clothing, the trash generated is equivalent to 9% of the total non-recycled waste as consumers throw away about 85% of their clothes—each year totaling 13 million tons of textile (to.pbs.org/2mgyH5F). Given the reports of a spike in sales during the recent festive season or the end of season sales, India seems to be following the US model of consumerism, and the environment hazards of this are well known.

However, there seems to be some signs of change. This can be seen in the way we travel. During the past year, experience tourism—walking tours, food trails and star gazing with experts—was one of the fastest growing segments for travel companies like Airbnb Inc. or Thomas Cook-owned Sterling Holidays. This, according to recent presentation by Future Group, is a counter-trend as consumers are now looking for authentic, multi-sensorial experiences following the boredom and superficiality created by a life led looking down into our screens (bit.ly/2CMhnwq).

Maybe what the new year warrants is to revisit the way we live in an increasingly connected world and the premium we put on our need for speed. Maybe, instead of doing more this year, we can try to do less, but do it better instead. So, try and buy fewer garments but of better quality. Instead of liking a hundred Facebook posts, pick up the phone and have a one-on-one conversation. Instead of trying multiple new fitness programmes, commit to one and master it.

Shop Talk will take a weekly look at consumer trends, behaviour and insights.

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