Saturday, June 30, 2012

10 Commandments to Live By at Work

There are times when you get really bored of the routine. The time at work almost moves at a quasi-static pace, lunch breaks pass at the speed of light, and you wonder when you can head home and do something productive. You pledge that the next day will be better, and that you will not lose any more time than you've already wasted. But it simply doesn't happen - and before you realize it a month has passed. You hate saying that you procrastinated and that you are bored of the routine. However, that is exactly what you did.

A lot of us do not feel this suffocation, despite being affected by it. Even if we feel it, we do not like acting on it - which is worse. There are many indicators - loss in personal productivity, distracted mind, surfing social networking sites too often than required, multi-tasking when not required, fading interest, switching over to doing something trivial, etc. Statistics here and here suggest that there is a tremendous loss in productivity - not just by boredom, but by not acting on it timely.

You might have gone through this phase yourself or might know someone who is going through one. So what to do when you get trapped in this "routine boredom" and are not able to do anything about on it? I was going through a similar phase recently, when I took notice and decided to do something about it. Although I'm not a habitual procrastinator, I did get trapped in it this time. 

The first step was to admit that I was going through this phase. This is a really good time to sit back and do some ground level thinking about what is going wrong. About a year and half ago, I had made some "rules to live by" OR "Commandments" for working better. They had worked wonders for me. They had helped me stay focused and deliver really high quality output. These one and half years were one of the my best times in my professional life.

As I got busier in work, I realise now that I had stopped referring them and stopped living by them - which caused me to fret and worry more. So I decided to re-define them in the new context of things. Unlike last time, I am sharing these newly defined "10 Commandments" below.

Some ground rules for working better -
1. Focus on getting things done within a deadline. Don't drift.
2. Make a to-do list and just start doing it - one at a time.
3. Stick to the task at hand until it is done, unless something really critical comes up.
4. Review the day's work and find out what you could have done better.
5. Interact with whoever is required, without bias and get your work done.
6. When you are feeling down, quickly get back up and move ahead.
7. Don't let a bad mood/ harsh comment spoil your work. Bounce back. Quickly.
8. Read new articles only for 45 mins, spread through the day.
9. Check Personal Email only twice in a day (at 1pm and at 6pm).
10. Check Social Networks like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin only once a day (at 1pm).

I will be following these closely and will keep sharing results of which ones worked more, and how they are helping me in my day to day work.

Although I am not a time management expert, I found these practices are quite helpful and you know what? They work! I encourage you to make such a list and try it yourself.

How do you cope up with a loss of productivity? How do you deal with procrastination? Which tips would you like to add, edit or delete from the above 10 Commandments?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Listen To That Wee Warrior Inside You

What is your purpose? What are you here for?

Anytime you feel lost, feel that you're losing the traction, feel you're not heading anywhere, feel that you're not doing something right - the wee little voice inside you will ask these questions. Every time. Without fail. Time and again. To help you get back on track.

Hear that wee little voice inside you. Hear it when it squirms. Believe in it.

It keeps making you uncomfortable. Uncomfortable with stagnancy. Uncomfortable when you do what you don't like doing. Uncomfortable when you're not trying hard enough. Uncomfortable when you're dishonest. Uncomfortable when you lie.

Try however hard to avoid it - it will keep pestering you. That's what it is there for. That is your true voice. It keeps channeling you in the right direction. It is your inner compass. It keeps telling your true purpose.

Train yourself to listen to it and follow it. Nurture it. Don't ignore it. It won't ignore you. It will keep coming back. The brain will tell you ignore it. Ignore the brain.

That's the warrior fighting on your side. Constantly. Relentlessly. To help you succeed. To help you become better. To help you get over your evils. Listen to it. Be on its side.

Listen to that wee warrior. Listen to your voice. Listen to yourself.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

What 2 Volunteers from HelpAge India Taught Me

I was relaxing at home yesterday morning, watching some episodes of The Big Bang Theory. It was about 11am or so when the door bell rang. Two youngsters of about 25 years age were standing there with a broad grin on their faces.

It wasn't a typical grin you expect from a door-to-door Salesman. It was something more pleasant, more serene, more genuine. I was curious. I welcomed them in anyway.

HelpAge India
Image credit:
They told me that they were from Help Age India, and if I had heard of it. I told them, “Of course, it is a popular NGO.” They were pleased.

They began explaining how they too were working professionals during the weekdays and transformed into HelpAge volunteers full-time on weekends. It was something they wanted to do to contribute to our society. They explained the plight of so many old people who are left on the streets unattended and were in poor health. They explained how we offer fresh food to even our pets at home, but how these grannies and grandpas are unable to even feed themselves and have to eat left-over and unhygienic food on the street.

They went on to explain how these grannies and grandpas, turn blind due to their inability to get timely cataract treatment. They said, the word was “Timely”. If such needy people can get timely help, they can maintain descent health.

This is where HelpAge India comes into the picture. They had schemes for providing free and timely treatment. Not only this, they also gave them employments subsequently so their self-esteem grows and they don't have to resort to the streets again. HelpAge was interested in solving their problems once and for all. They were collecting funds for full the treatment of these old people.

While sharing their experiences about such fund-collection drives, they shared some very heartless responses  of people. I can’t even imagine people responding, “How many more days do they have to live? Why to invest money there” How outright unemotional and inhuman. I felt anger surge within me against those who were so cruel.

Like many others, I too happily handed over a cheque they could encash later. It was the least I could do. They studied a list of more people they had to visit for HelpAge India and bid me adieu.

I was convinced about the noble cause these two youngsters were contributing to. 2-3 things stood out for me:
  1.  There is no dearth of people who question, discuss, argue at great length about how much they want to help, but when the time comes, they simply turn away from an opportunity.
  2. It was the first time I met Help Age India volunteers. Although I had read quite a bit about how HelpAge India functioned, it was my first time that someone personally explained me its impact so comprehensively. I was happy that such volunteers were actually doing their bit. That was what stood out. They were doing it, not just speaking about it.
  3.  They taught me that you don’t need to be a Bill Gates or Narayana Murthy or Anna Hazare to bring about a change. You can contribute to change yourself, in your own capacity, in your own way.
It struck me later that what really distinguishes a leader from the rest is that they actually do it. They don’t just preach. They do it. That is why people look upto them. They have the experience of actually implementing something they believe in. Laggards are only concerned, they don’t influence. They stay within their circle of concern without ever growing their circle of influence.

Let me explain this in a little greater detail. These are 2 very important concepts explained in the best seller ‘The 7Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Steven Covey. Simply stating, a Circle of Concern is something that you’re only concerned about, you're worried about. A Circle of Influence is about things you can influence, you can act on. This is one of most profound concepts I've learnt.

Let’s take a closer look. We come across many people who crib, complain and whine about the state of society (or India or business) is and how it is going from bad to worse. They are really ‘concerned’ about the state of affairs. They scream from their guts about how bad the roads are, how corrupt the politicians are, how bad administration is, how bad their bosses are, how flawed the HR policy is, etc. The list can be endless. And by now, you must have also guessed the names of people in your acquaintance who do this. These are the people who stay in their Circle of Concern and don’t do anything to influence it/ change it.

There is the other breed of people who probably don’t say much, but just get things done. These also exist in your work place, in your locality, in your institution, in your group. These are the people others go to for a solution, or when they have to get things done. They believe in doing things, rather than just sitting on it and endlessly arguing. They like to act on it. Period. These are the people who expand their Circle of Influence and shorten their Circle of Concern.

Whenever they see a problem, they ask “How can I change this myself?” “What role can I play, however tiny, that will change things for the better?” Then they go ahead and just do it.

A person always has a choice between these two. He can either sit on it, or act on it. He can either choose to grow his circle of influence and in effect, reduce the circle of concern. This choice defines a person in his social, personal and professional sphere of life. These are the choices that even make or break a person.

Become a better person. Make the right choice. Don't sit on it. Act Now.

What steps are you taking today to expand your circle of influence? How can you reduce the circle of concern? What is that one thing you always wanted to do, but did not do it yet? Well, go ahead and do it now. Do share your experiences below. Thanks.