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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TOO BUSY??? IT’S TIME FOR REALITY CHECK

Quite busy.”

Huh, very busy dear, just don’t know how time is flying.”

How recently have you heard similar answers when you’ve asked someone, “How are you doing ?” Some people are busy, extremely busy all the time. 

Personally I don’t prefer using the word ‘busy’; it is a negative word. To be honest, time is never a constraint, we are. I may defer replying a message by sometime or may not have answered a call but will definitely make time to get back to them. I will never say, “I was busy”. It may be rude to the person who wanted my time. 

Being busy has become a status symbol. In reality what ‘being busy’ means is saying, “I am important to me“, “I don’t have time to spare for you”, “You are not my priority”. It won’t give a pleasant experience for the receiver. A person can be occupied for a day or month, for many months – but if we are telling others that we are busy, we are bragging. I really feel sorry when I hear someone saying ‘too busy’. In the right sense they are mismanaging time.

On the other hand, for some reason a lot of people think, if we say that we have time, it may be perceived as we are not doing anything productive. This is true to some extent. I have had people ask me, “Others are very busy, can you handle this?” Just because I am making myself available does not essentially mean I don’t have anything else to do. If I feel the need I will take time out of my schedule to be there for you. When people take this for granted, compare my life with others and say that all others are busy, it feels like a slap on the face. Isn’t this mean? We have to change our attitude towards “busy”; it is not a good state to be in.

If I take my own case, I am neither busy nor lazy, but there are certain tasks which I always try to keep towards the end, simply because I am not interested. When I don’t pay required attention to those tasks on time, pressure builds up and eventually I will do it. This may not be precisely procrastination because not all the tasks fall into this bucket, only specific ones. 

Job, family, kids, friends, hobbies, passions – definitely all of these are very important, also demand considerable amount of our time.  We all have the same 24 hours and similar responsibilities. Over time if we are unable to manage, we are not planning our day in a way that we can efficiently meet expectations. In short, we are lazy to plan or execute. Our efficiency gets hampered, we multitask, miss our deadlines, we are setting up ourselves to fail. This phase needs an introspection.

A popular notion is “Busy is the new lazy”, at first this might sound harsh, but once we understand what it really means, it makes sense. Successful people are never busy. When I read autobiographies, I often am awed of how they managed time, that seems to have brought them success more than any other factor.

It is easy to find out if we are being lazy, we don’t need to be an expert. If we are being lazy in the name of being ‘too busy’, how do we improve ourselves to do justice for  life’s responsibilities ?

  • Keep a watch on your routine, make a note of tasks that are least important, like playing video games, getting involved in not so important discussions.
  • Make a schedule of everyday tasks, try to stick to it as much as possible.
  • Prioritize the most important things to be handled early during the day. This would help us not to have stress.
  • Find out smart ways of getting things done. For example, Groceries – order them online if required.
  • Focus on one thing at a time and see it through completion.
  • Keep your distractions to the lowest for increased productivity.

Life is too short to be busy. When we are not ‘busy’, we have more time to spend with family and friends, exchange ideas, time to play, take good care of us and others. 

People who are good at managing time always have time, others are always busy !!