Tag Archive

Tag Archives for " profession "

On Productivity | Avoid “If I am there then I have to attend” tasks.



I usually do not write much about my work. But I thought this one deserves a mention. After a very long time, I decided to work from home today. Hold on! Actually for the very first time, I worked from home. I thought it will be a good to share how it felt.

A good start would be to first understand what made me decide to work from home for the very first time. On any given day, my work involves coordinating and interactive with a lot of people. I do not sit at my office reception, but you have to trust me that it does involve a lot of touch points. While things wouldn’t stop moving if I am not there, there are things which need my attention to progress. There are basically a few categories in which I can classify the work I do:

  • Foreground tasks: These are obvious tasks which I need to take up. It could be writing a proposal (yes, on the last day of submission),  interacting with customers, project meetings, taking interviews and what not. The idea is that these are visible tasks and require my presence absolutely. If I skip any of these, it would have an immediate impact.
  • Background tasks: These are not-so-obvious (but not unimportant!) tasks. It could be updating some tracker. Coming up with a sales plan. Feature planning for a product release. Updating some section of the company’s website. Writing a JD for a new opening etc. etc. The idea is that if these get pushed, there’s no immediate impact. They usually keep happening in the background and either have a relaxed or no deadline.  But if forgotten or ignored, they can back-fire in a significant way and make you uncomfortable.
  • If I am there then I have to attend tasks: These are very special tasks which deserve a mention. Of late, I’ve realized that I have to do certain stuff if I am there in the office. These are usually random discussions and meetings which are bound to happen as a part of everyday work. These are completely unplanned and can take up significant time. While I wouldn’t mention examples, these tasks are usually the ones which could happen without me but if I am around, I am expected to participate. Not that I do not add value, but I could skip some of these without too much of an impact. People will manage among them somehow. Recently, I noticed that about 30-40% of such tasks can move on without me with almost no significant impact.

I have been looking for ways to improve productivity for some time now. I am trying to organize and manage work accordingly. I had to put in a focused effort on writing one of the proposals (a foreground work) so I decided to take the plunge and work from home. Here are my observations:

  • Foreground tasks:  I had to work on a critical proposal and spend quality time which is a foreground task according to our classification. I was able to spend quality time. I thought I was quite productive as well.
  • Background tasks: Although I had not planned, I was surprised that I was not only able to complete my foreground task, I was able to wrap up a couple of background tasks as well with a great deal of efficiency.
  • If I am there then I have to attend tasks: You would think I could completely stay away from these tasks. Not exactly. But then, I spent significantly less time on these in comparison to what I spend on any given day.

I was super productive.. I was able to accomplish much more than I had planned. I have the energy and enthusiasm to write this post.  And I am feeling great.

Now that I think of all this, here’s what I think I’ve learnt:

  • It is important to manage your accessibility. If you are too accessible and get-go with any random work which comes up, the productivity is bound to suffer. Even a one minute digression can cost 15-20 minutes. It takes a minute to get out of context, but it takes several minutes to get it back.
  • You can’t multi-task in a literal sense. You need to slice the time effectively.
  • Those background tasks are very important. They should not be ignored. These are the ones which will take you to the next level.
  • Try to stay away from If I am there then I have to attend as much as possible. Choose the ones which actually need you.

It is good to look things from a different vantage point once in a while. I am surprised how I could analyze my own work schedule by just changing the work conditions a little.




The BIG demo!

I usually do not post my work related stuff. However, this one deserves a post!

Over the last couple of weeks, I got an opportunity to be a part of a demo, whose scale dwarfs all the projects I’ve been so far associated with (barring one during the early stage of my career). And the client was none other than the Indian Air Force!

My role in the entire solution was quite limited, so I got an opportunity to observe and understand what goes behind the scenes in such high net worth, high risk bids. The proposed solution spanned across various aspects of operations where a software solution could fit in. It involved security, document management, learning and knowledge management, ERP, content management and what not. Of course it involved more than one vendor coming together and propose the solution. While it was a very tensed and hectic two weeks, it was a great learning experience for me. Before I share those, I’ve come up with an analogy to explain the sitution.

What I observed was the fact that people had built great rooms with all amenities one could think of, but the rooms were never put together to build the house.

What I mean is that all modules were impressive and functional standalone, but when integrated, resulted in an enterprise disaster. At times, no one had a clue what was going along.

Moving ahead, I noticed that the most impressive demonstrations were not where we were trying to showcase the product, but those where we demonstrated how would the software solve the problem. The reviewers were not interested in what the software could do, they were more interested in how it would reduce their burden and improve efficiency. Even a very basic product with minimal features could win over a complicated one if it addresses the problem effectively.

I’ve realized this earlier as well. Some big products in the market have become so established that they *drive* the clients adopt to their implementation. While most organizations wouldn’t mind doing so, there are some who would not spare!

Lastly, I would like to mention that after this demo, I’ve developed a great respect for the Indian Air Force. These guys know *exactly* what they require. You just couldn’t convince them to succumb to the product’s hi-fi features which was worthless to them. They had a very clear picture of the final outcome.

I met some very talented people during the course of presentations and learnt a lot of things in the power packed two weeks.

Looking forward for more such opportunities!


The ‘Missed Call’ game…

We all must have played the missed call game at some point. Ok let me clarify. What I refer to a ‘missed calls’ in this post are not genuinely missed calls, but calls which are made to someone deliberately and with a confidence that the other party wouldn’t receive them. A missed call is usually one or two rings at max. Why would one do that? Hmmm.. I can think of the following by observing people around me:

  • To play! Yes, I know people play this missed call game for fun.
  • To convey something without spending a penny. Some people actually use this very effectively. One missed call means ‘I am fine’, two could mean ‘call me’, three could mean……
  • It is a very popular means to pass on your number to someone. Well saves money and saves effort so why not use it?
  • To tease someone or to disturb someone (please don’t do this).
  • To show someone how many times you remember him/her in a day!!
  • Of course when you run out of balance and just have enough to be able to call. You give missed calls in anticipation that the receiver would call you back.
  • Oh I just remembered one more. When you dial a number, hit the call button and then immediately realize that you have dialled the wrong number, or you have dialled the wrong person.

Alright. I think these are enough examples some of which perfectly justify those missed calls. You can, of course, find many others. My aim is not to list down all possible reasons for missed calls on this earth.

I have recently come across a breed of people who use this as a cost cutting measure in their organization!! 95% of missed calls on my mobile are from those people. And I only share a professional relation with them. They would just give a call and ensure it doesn’t ring more than twice most of the times. It takes at least 3 rings to even take the mobile out of your pocket. So anything under 3 rings is a missed call. They know that I would call them back as I usually have a habit of wrapping a few things up in time (note that I said a ‘few’ things. I am sluggish at a lot of ‘other’ things).

Fortunately we are living in times where phone calls have become dirt cheap. Unless you run a call center, telephone calls are going to be  insignificant to other operating expenses. Why create a bad impression trying to save a few hundred bucks? While you do save a few bucks, you lose your reputation. I would prefer losing a few bucks rather than losing a billion dollar reputation.

There are tons of other ways to save communication costs. For instance use of instant messengers like gtalk or yahoo. Or use Skype, gtalk etc. for crystal clear voice calls. And all this comes free. You just need to bear a nominal fixed internet cost. So just be informed and innovative rather than resorting to the ‘missed call’ game in your profession!