HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR WORK LIFE BETTER

Strange, that I am writing this article now when my work-life is so much of a mess. There are emails to be sent, clarifications to be made, multiple releases to be closed, issues to be fixed, customer complaints to be handles, plan for 2019 to be done and much more. This is usually the case every year end because there are just too many things to close for the current year. And the show stopper question is “Did we meet our year end targets?” Things that were ignored and postponed all through the year need to be closed before the magic date – 31st Dec (For us, it is 24th Dec because last week of the year is work shutdown).  

Well, how to organize the work-life? I am not talking about work-life balance here because that is a different story all-together. I am only talking about managing work within working hours.

I am fortunate enough to work for an organization that has amazing work-culture. We can avail enough opportunities to manage our work life balance. Targets are flexible, negotiations are easy and deadlines are strict but are not insane. Something amazing happens when the organization gives its employees the ownership to manage their own work – employees are empowered and motivated to do the work and never really take advantage of a flexible work culture. That is what happens with me and my team. We have the option to work from home and take unlimited sick leaves. However, I hardly see people take undue advantage of it.

1. Ownership

Ownership is the key ingredient to manage your work life well. If you are not given ownership or you are not willing to take ownership – you cannot climb the ladder. Go beyond what is expected out of you. Take control of your career. Like one of my mentors always says – “Do not ask your manager, what is the next role for me. Figure it out yourself and if nothing existing invites you, then create a new role”. The very obvious question comes, “How can I create a role in an already established organization”. The answer is very simple, there are always problems. Identify the problems of your customers, peers, managers, subordinates and pick one and start solving it – in no time you have created a role for yourself. If you really create value, people around will see it and appreciate it.

So ownership is the key. Not just in your current role but go beyond what is expected out of you. See ahead what is next for you and create your own roles.

2. Time- management

Find a tool for time-management that works the best for you – it could even be a simple To-do list, need not be complicated tool. But have something that works and motivates you. If you do not have such a tool, you would invariably always end up working on wrong things. And if you really want to be able to spend no more than 8 hours at your work – time management tool is a must.

I am a Product Owner and one of the key responsibilities of my role is to set the priorities for my team members. Indirectly, I am sort of doing time management for my team which is 6-7 people. Sometimes, it drives me crazy. If I don’t do my job properly, the whole team will end up working on something that nobody needs, which is indeed a big disaster.

3. Urgent work vs. Important work

This is an important matrix that can help you decide what the right thing to work on is.

First quadrant shows work that is urgent and important. While working on these we are usually in the fire-fighting mode. If you spend too much time in this quadrant – you will end up stressed out.

Second quadrant is the place where ideally you must spend most of your time.

Third quadrant is the work that is urgent but not important. This is the kind of work that you should be able to delegate or decline.

Fourth quadrant is the work that is not urgent or important. Try to eliminate this kind of work as much possible.

4. Communication

It is very true that human beings are experts in partial listening. We listen/read only what we want to listen or read. This creates a huge barrier called miscommunication. Multiple options can be used to resolve this problem – always summarize the agreements at the end of each meeting, send out minutes of meetings at the end, when in doubt ask and ask more and keep the emails limited to the people who really need to know things. There are a lot of other ways also.

The key here is that when you listen, listen clearly. Do not already start thinking of your own response. When you speak, speak clearly. Ask and ask again, summarize to ensure that communication has happened like it should have.

5. Think win-win

Like every other relationship, trust and respect forms the foundation of your work relationships as well. The key to succeed to think win-win. If you want to step over somebody to get to higher position, then chances are that you too will get stepped upon. Think of making your team win and think of ways to make each person that you work with get to higher and better position. This would help create a healthy work culture in the organization or the team, which works for everybody in the long run.

There are many more that can be listed down. But these are the primary ones that each person working in a professional environment must keep in mind.

All the best for your endeavors!

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A SMILE – IS ENOUGH FOR ME TO KEEP GOING

Getting married, at an early age- not a child marriage though. It was not the time I intended to get married that is what I meant.

It just led me to grapple enough during the initial phases of my life. It was the time when I felt I should give up and drop away most of the time. I was like a fragile age of 21- which was the budding stage of my career. Work, home and marriage were tough to handle, as I never knew what to prioritize.

Anyways, no repent over the spilt milk.

When I was accentuated out, I spoke to friends, finally, when I thought I was crushing them with my silly grievances, I finally found nirvana in music. Lost in the music, it was easier for me to work along. Even when I was exhausted after work, I plugged in my music and did my household works.

For years this went on if I did ever recall.

I was also someone who enjoyed a lousy day, sleeping all day along, watching movies, doing nothing but just munching on every day. Seems I was never a fortunate one to enjoy it, as I was carrying the burdens of expectation beyond my reach. Managing my own dreams was easier than working on others demands.

Seems I was too exhausted, as I was breaking away and finally gave up my job which was either not meeting my expectations or vice versa.

Then came the blessed moments of my life, which I attribute as the best of my innings and truly the reason that I am happier in my life. Thinking about it buds a smile on me. Indeed the driving force in my life.

When I became a mother, there was a transformation in me, something beyond my expectations. I started to keep myself second in the queues or preferably last and considered to meet the needs of my child first and then the rest and finally me (which never happened though). Motherhood indeed steps us into a different world.  A world beyond imagination – as the feel was tremendous. I was someone like a career-oriented one who focused on winning. But with my little one in my arms, I wanted to just win her smile. Nothing else ever mattered me then.

Life is much easier when you are doing every bit of it yourself than expecting someone else to come into the picture.

It is the only thought I follow when I am lost in the countless number of responsibilities I have to carry on, in a day.

I am no different, as compared to any other mother in the world. I believe the rest do better than me always. The earlier years of my life taught me many things, that led me to handle this current line of responsibilities.

I fall and mend myself 

Like a baby learning to crawl and walk, I try and fall quite a number of times with none to pick me up when I fall off. I just pick myself up and push harder to reach my tasks.

My day begins in the early hours of the morning, as my kids are off to school by 7. It is quite early and I usually crib a lot in the morning, as the timings don’t let my kids sleep well. I have to cook her lunch and breakfast. Even though I can liberally choose simple ones, I don’t want to lose the taste of our Keralite dishes, which I savoured in my childhood.

I wake up by 5: 30, then either go for a walk or just idle around with a cup of tea in my hand with all things mounted on my stove. Call me a bad mom or irresponsible, I just taught my daughter who is hardly 8 years to dress up on her own. She does everything on her own- hence I am a proud mother.

Call it my lack of time management too- as I cannot dress her up, when I am in the kitchen. Thanks to her, as she helped me by doing her best for me.

Once all the lunch boxes are packed, and my kids and husband are off to school and office. It is my time.

I just clean up, my kitchen, and pending washing, simultaneously logging in to my work. Bein a work-from-home mother, I am privileged to do work in the comfort of my home. Thanks to all those who trust and assure work to me. It is great to ideally financially independent – that truly makes you feel great.

Another advantage I enjoy is the considerable amount of time, I can spend with my loving kids. It is the only pleasure I want to cherish until death. I work, do all my reading etc. the researching part of my content writer work before my kids arrive.

By evening time, I make something for kids and make them sit with me to finish their work, along with my work. As work is important- I can’t ignore that responsibility. As the day ends, I cook the hot dinner for my family and enjoy the bliss of togetherness on the dining table, where we enjoy the days’ joy, sharing what all we did the whole day.

In between all these, when I am struck with the lightning of thoughts, that are overflowing me- I just pen it down in my blogs. It gives me tremendous pleasure to share my thoughts through my writings.

Call me selfish

All day, even am burdened with responsibilities, I truly treasure my family. I just do everything I can without anyone around offering me help, as it is my happiness.

A joy that keeps me going is the smile of my kids and their happiness. 

MEET THE PROCRASTINATION QUEEN

OMG look at the time!

I still have so much to do.. Where did the time fly.. Why does it always happen with me….

Hi all meet the procrastination queen.. Yes. That’s me. Give me a dead line and I will wait for the last possible time to meet that dead line. No I don’t do it knowingly it just happens. In my defence I would say that it was never the case that I didn’t do my work. My school / college work was always complete and I was in the good books of my teachers. But I was constantly swaying between a state of complete inactivity and burst of frantic or frenzied activity.

This was the story of my college days. I must say I have come a long way from that. Now being a homemaker and mother I am much more organised (Need to set an example for my kids  …) but still I am far from perfect. Even today, one day before the project submission at my kid’s school you can see a glimpse of the former me and my children, running around trying to complete the model or project on time.

To a certain extent I guess it happens with all of us. We tend to put off work or chores that are uninteresting and boring. But what has to be done – has to be done. So finally we end up doing it hurriedly and in a haphazard manner.

Does it really help to procrastinate? Actually no. If there is something in our to do list that we are just delaying doing, its always there in the back of our mind. A small nagging feeling that does not go away even though we try hard to ignore it. All we are doing is increasing our tension.

And then when the work is over we have that guilt feeling of not giving our best to it. And a small regret that had we done it systematically we would have done a better job. Like even today I carry the regret that had I been more serious during the last few years of my school life I would have been an engineer today like my sister. I would also have a proper career. It was never the case that I didn’t have the brains or capacity it was just that I was lazy. Didn’t want to put in extra effort. And that habit of doing the thing at the last moment was my nemesis.  I had that typical Indian ‘Chalta hai ..’attitude. Never took my studies that seriously.

So guys my learning here is that no matter how boring or uncomfortable the work assigned to you is do it when the time is there in your hands. However much we try to ignore it the work never goes away rather it keeps becoming a bigger monster every time we sneak a look at it.

I really admire the people around me who have mastered the art of time management. I am learning from them. As I understand it’s the best to tackle the most uncomfortable or difficult task first this way we won’t have any excuse to procrastinate. Make a to-do list and start ticking it off systematically. Remember the clock keeps ticking and soon very soon we would regret our decision to procrastinate.

CELEBRATING FAILURES

We all celebrate success. We throw a party, call up friends and family or go out for dinner or a date, or if we’re alone, we let our hair down and unwind with a drink or do something we have been wanting to do, that helps us relax. Some pious folks pray for their achievements and do poojas or make an offering to their Gods. While some lucky ones celebrate by going out on a vacation!

Celebrating success is a natural outcome of our happiness and achievement. It’s a way of rewarding ourselves for our hard work.  But what about celebrating failures though? Do we ever give a thought to that?

‘Why?’, you ask. ‘What’s to celebrate in failures?’

Good question! I’ll ask you a question in return, “What does failure teach us?”

It teaches us that we need to do better. It teaches us patience, humility. It teaches us the value of hard work and how to wait for the right opportunity. But most importantly, it teaches us not to give up!

With so many good lessons to teach us, how can failure be bad?

You may counter by pointing out that it feels bad when we fail. Sometimes the failure is a huge setback to our attempts. Yes, it does feel bad, specially if it’s happened to you more than once for the same thing. Most of us take failure very seriously. We become depressed, enraged, desolate, hopeless and withdraw into ourselves. It’s normal to feel that way when we fail.

But say, if you were to enjoy your failure, would it do you any harm? Say if you couldn’t pass an important test that you were preparing for, would it be so bad if, after failing, you throw away your sour mood and declare, ‘Oh, so what?! I’ll try again. Harder!’ And then you proceed to call out your friends for dinner, and your friends tell you the same thing, ‘You’ll do better next time”. And you will! Because you have already made up your mind to try harder again. That serves as positive reinforcement for your brain, the party and your own will to try again. It sends your brain the signal that you do not take defeat as a full stop to your attempts.

Positive reinforcement is a Psychology term that roughly means being awarded for a certain kind of behavior. We frequently use this in everyday life to motivate ourselves. Even organisations have long been using this to motivate their employees to aim higher and get better results. An example is how you tell yourself while slogging for your exams, “Just this one week and then I’ll have all the time in the world”, or how a dog is trained by giving it a treat for good behavior. The benefit of positive reinforcement is that we condition ourselves to perform better in order to get that reward, till it becomes our habit to perform better.

This is what celebrating failure does to you. When your brain looks at failure as a reason to celebrate, it conditions itself to not give in to depressing thoughts and instead looks for that rewarding incident/thing that reinforces its will to strive harder, while enjoying the process of trying again.

Celebrating failure need not come only in the form of a reward or a celebration. You could choose the way you want to celebrate differently than the usual connotations of ‘celebrating’. You could meditate, or try a new activity, or try another way of achieving the same goal. You could tell yourself, ‘Regardless of whether I succeed or fail in this attempt, I will do a certain thing to enjoy myself’. Remember, enjoying yourself while you strive to attain something is as important as making the effort itself. Otherwise the task will seem tedious, and you will be inclined to fail more because of mental tiredness than actual lack of capability.

The aim of celebrating failure is NOT the celebration itself;

It is to overcome the depression of failure and the fear of failing again. 

Do the following when you feel you’re becoming depressed over your failure – 

  1. Stop blaming yourself.
  2. Think of things to calm yourself down, like meditation, or a movie you like, or a hangout you like to go to.
  3. Surround yourself with people who support you; don’t drive them away.
  4. Look inwards and identify the reasons why you failed.
  5. After you have identified the causes, decide to either avoid those causes the next time, or try harder to overcome them, or plan another route.
  6. Now go ahead, have a blast. Chances are, by the time you come to this step, you will have already overcome your depression.

Our failures are our means to be a better person. They teach us to strive harder, be smarter about our choices and they teach us that success is not an easily earned thing. Think of all those achievers in history who have had successful lives – M.S. Dhoni, Rafael Nadal, Leonardo DiCaprio, Aishwarya Rai, Gita Phogat... Do you think they never faced failures, flops, being shunned by someone, being called ‘inadequate’? But they didn’t stop at their failures. They treated them as lessons and went on to the next project they had. They did not dwell on their past and their mistakes. If they had given up and succumbed to depression, we wouldn’t know their names today.

If you are still not convinced why celebrating failure is better than mourning them, click on this link and watch this inspirational video by Elizabeth Gilbert, the Author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love‘, who talks about how she overcame the fear of writing a book that wouldn’t match up with the success of Eat, Pray, Love, while also discussing how she overcame recurring failures to become a successful writer. I love it when she says, “I love writing more than I hate failing at writing”. That is why she couldn’t give up on writing in spite of her failures, because writing was ‘home’ for her. That is real passion for your work!

Remember, the most difficult part of overcoming failure is the attempt to overcome it. Celebrating it helps in making it easier for you to overcome that fear.

Let not failure defeat you.

Let it be a stepping stone to your next success.

I’ll leave you with the words of the great leader Winston Churchill,

 

Success consists of going from failure to failure, without loss of enthusiasm.

 

Pradita Kapahi