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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Everyone has an important role to play in this world. No one is less important or of lesser value than other. Every responsibility is equally important and needs to be carried out diligently.

THE GOSSIPS AROUND A YOUNG GIRL

As an IT Professional either you work as a team lead or work under a team leader. As far as my knowledge is concerned you lead a team. Probably you are a wonderful leader. Every time you work among people or with people. And when there are people, there are gossips and rumours. Some are lies, some are true yet hurtful. Have you ever heard your teammates talking against you? How do you react to the gossips and rumours that go on against you? Do they help you develop yourself or demoralize you? Do those pinching words and statements make your life miserable or they benefit you to rectify yourself for a better you?

This is the problem statement given to me by my leader in Candles Online and I think he knows me really well to ask me this question. I can write a book on this topic but I think I would end up sounding as a victim if I do so. This topic really touches a sensitive nerve and I can only share limited information because this is a public platform and people reading this article know me and probably work or have worked with me. If I wrote this as an anonymous, I would have revealed a lot of secrets than I do now.

I was 20 days away from my 22nd birthday when I joined the corporate life. It was right after my B.Tech that I joined an MNC (US based) and was new to Bangalore. I was a super-excited kid then, high on ambitions and a little bit careless and immature. Little did I know then that I was embarking a journey that will define me and my personality!

I joined a team which was male-dominated – in a team of 30 people we were only 4 women. And 2 of us were from the same college joining together. Other two were quite high in experience. Rest of the team was full of men in their mid to late 20s or even mid-30s. Well, initially it was all good. I loved being a part of this team. It was just perfect. Everybody was super helpful and they made me a part of this family in no time. I thought I made some great friends but I was not aware of the fact that friends made at the workplace are usually just meant for work.

Within 6 months of joining I was given a raise because I did some good work. But along with that I also got a shock of my life. It was apparent that people recognized my talent but sometimes I felt that I was being given too much importance because of that. Then one day I heard a lot of people laughing and gossiping in the next cubicle. Curious as I was, I peeped in to know what the joke was. By then the guys were quite comfortable in my company – so they said: “we are not able to decide whether to hire the green girl or the red one”. I was confused. “What do you mean?” I asked them. None of them said anything and walked away. I was curious so I poked a guy who had become a good friend by then. He said “Interviews are being conducted for further hiring. They were joking whether they should hire the girl in the green suit or red top.” I was shocked. “What? How does that even matter? How capable are those girls?” I asked. “How does it matter? Whoever is the prettiest will get picked?” He laughed. I almost missed a beat and not only that my shock was quite apparent on my face. He got it and said “Oh, don’t worry. Everybody is aware of your talent now.” “What do you mean ‘now’? Tell me what criteria was I hired on?” I almost shouted thinking hard what I wore on during my interviews. He hesitated and then said “Ok, if you really want to know. You didn’t do very well. You got most of it only partially right.” I was crying inside and trying very hard to not let it show. “Well, were there other ‘guys’ who did better than me?” He smirked, “Yes, from your college only.”

I remember this incident very well. Because that was the first ever shock I got in my corporate life. I thought everything was perfect and I had landed in a perfect place, a perfect team. What, I was hired to look pretty? My first reaction was to just resign but sanity took better off me and I decided to continue just to prove that I am rather talented and much more than most of them. So I became competitive, a bit too much maybe. That really went in my favour but all the while there was a sulking negativity inside me.

This same guy who had revealed this information to me, later on, went on to propose me for marriage. I refused since I was not in a state of mind to think about it. C’mon I was just 23. He got engaged quite soon in an arranged manner but for a long time, other teammates believed that I was heartbroken and sad because of his marriage. I continued to get a lot of attention in this area which I simply hated. Why did they want to interfere in my personal life? I can never understand. These rumours really irritated me to the extent that I completely cut off from this colleague with all personal aspects.

There is one more incident that stands out. I got a chance to visit the US in 2007 just a year after I joined. It was for a specific project and I was super excited. I had to travel with 3 other colleagues of mine. None of them was really good friends of mine. I was a very open and friendly person. I was a kid who used to speak her mind. I never really cared at that point of time “What would people think of me?” So the first weekend in the US, I asked these guys out for a swimming session. I was very excited because the hotel had a heated pool and the idea was too exhilarating for me as I love swimming. One of the guys agreed to join me. As a result, we met at the agreed time and I changed into my swimming costume and we had a good one hour of swimming which was very relaxing yet tiring.

Next day when I went to work, I got a ping from a colleague who was in India. And he asked me “How my swimming session was?” I was surprised. How did this news even travel thousands of miles? Was it a big deal? Well yes, it was. Apparently, every detail of that one hour was discussed which included the details of my swimming costume as well. Trust me, I really devastated after listening to all this. It was horrible. I felt so lonely in that country that I gave up the idea of studying abroad and working there. All I wanted was to come back home and be with my people. Well, it wasn’t possible then. I was there on a 3-month project, so I decided to confront these guys. I did but it just ended up in a fight and a bad argument.

Yes, I am an open-minded girl. I like to dress up. I like to party and all. But how does that ever mean that I am seeking attention or I am ‘easy and available’. Well, that was what my image became after a few years of working in that team. I was linked with a lot of men even after I was married. I hate to remember that time. I have only recited a couple of incidents but those few years that I worked there – it was really bad. Sad as it is, I was not aware of any harassment at workplace policy neither did I take pains to figure those out.

Once I even heard a horrible comment passed for a girl who worked with us for a very short duration before she was fired. She was extremely pretty and was fired because she was extremely poor in her performance. The comment that was passed for her was – “Why did they have to fire her? All she had to do was to kiss each one of us every day. That would be enough for us.” I was flabbergasted when I heard this. I was so shocked that I couldn’t speak and retaliate. The only thought that ran again and again in my head was “Am I also talked about the same way?” Well, that comment was made in front of me without being scared of me. Why did I let that happen? I still don’t know. I probably lacked courage in letting such men know how they are supposed to behave. And because of that, I ended up being a victim.

I should have stood up for what I felt was wrong and insulting. Instead, I tried to be “cool girl” who doesn’t care. I should have spoken about it and took help from authorities to rectify so much that was wrong. Instead, I just stayed silent and tolerated. I took these guys to be my friends, believed them to be my own people when I constantly felt insulted by them. There was constant fear that kept growing, that fear was of being judged for every choice that I make. Choice of picking up what to wear each morning to the choice of laughing at somebody’s joke, choice of trying to be one of them and choice of talking to them and those multiple choices that I made during those years. One fine day when I decided to quit, everything ended just like that.

When I joined the new place, I decided that I want to be known for my work and not for anything else. It has been almost 5 years since that era ended and I lead a team now. I believe I am known for my work and I think I am happy with the way I have proven myself (to me). I made some strong rules when I joined this organization.

  1. No friends (especially male)
  2. No nonsense. Just talk work and come home
  3. Work super hard. Keep the focus always on work
  4. No extra-curricular. Earlier I used to participate in dance competitions, sports competitions and other such stuff.
  5. Always remember what you are being paid for and how you are returning back to the organization.
  6. Follow your intuition. If you don’t feel comfortable – speak up and loud.

My current organization has a good male to female ratio, so that really helps. Although, it was a horrible time that I went through in my first organization – I have become a much better and matured person since then. Every incident helps us to grow. Every person who comes in your life comes to teach you something. I have been through counselling and therapy sessions to get over the impact of all those years. It took time to rebuild my confidence and become who I am today. So, today I do not hold any grudges to any of the people I came across earlier.

I hope I answered your question well, Charlie!

LOOK WITHIN…

Meaning of life… What have I got myself into? Am I really equipped to write on this topic? In my 40 years of life on this earth have I really understood the meaning of life? Or have I just existed?

Human kind has been searching for answer of this question since their very existence. People have gone to the Himalayas to find the meaning of life. Some have immersed themselves in God others in social service. All seeking this one elusive answer.

Well I am not such a deep thinker. So I don’t know if I am equipped to write on this topic. But still I would like to share, what I have understood, through my experience is that we are where we are for a purpose. To understand this I took help of some great minds and famous people

Albert Einstein in one of his books wrote

“The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for life,”

So having established that there is a meaning or a purpose for us being born as humans. Let us now try to find out what that meaning is?

Pablo Picasso once said

“The meaning of Life is to find your gift and the purpose of life is to give it away!”

What does this mean? Most of the humans are merely existing. Like a boat without a sail drifting in water, going in whichever direction the current takes them. What we need is to find that one gift in us which we can give to others and spread happiness. That gives meaning to life. I don’t mean leave all your work and immerse in social work. I mean look for that one small thing in you that gives joy to the people around you.

I don’t need to go far to look for an example.  We all know our mentor at Candles Online – Chiradeep. He has a gift for writing, reaching out to people and motivating and counselling people. Look how beautifully he has used it to reach out to the world and touch so many hearts. He not only created “Candles Online” but also motivated a group of 20-25 young writers to write for the magazine every week. Looking at the readership statistics, Candles has reached every corner of the world and touched thousands of hearts. I admire the fact that he has beautifully woven this activity into his daily life while not missing out on any of his responsibilities of a being a family man, an employee etc.

Recently, I was in a seminar on Saga of Success. Dr Tuli (of Akash Tablet fame) was the speaker. He said that to build a successful business identify one cause that you will work for. How your business will make a difference in any one area. Work towards that goal and your business will flourish automatically. They made low cost computer tablets (costing less than Rs 5000/-), they created a market where there was none, build a successful business and helped a lot of low income households get access to computers.

These words hold true not only in business but also in our life. Look inside yourself, what is it that you can give to the world and spread happiness. The moment we find that we will also find the meaning of our life. In trying to spread happiness we will realise that we too feel happy and satisfied and life becomes meaningful and complete.