Tag Archives: stay focused

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Async Communication

The topic of asynchronous communication has gained great momentum through the pandemic. The office settings did not help us acknowledge the amount of time we spent in meetings , but through remote working it has become surfaced as a dominant pain that we are in meetings all the time! Terms like focus time , personal hour etc. have gained traction and everybody is trying to find space between blurry lines of work and home. It seems to be a never ending battle.

Personally for me I have not been able to realize the significance of focus time , as for decades we operated with out , going around doing our job. I think that we have a set of things to do , run and drive outcomes and most of the job profiles will not allow for the concepts of focus time to be successful although analytics and software implements will make a recommendation for same. It also confuses other people who want to work , discuss and brainstorm , whether I should reach out or not!

For me following strategy works best

  • Being an early riser , I tend to read and clear my Inbox before starting my regular days
  • Use the concept of urgent and important to determine how to create short term focus [ needs to answered within a day ] versus [ week ] or [ month ] . Beyond that it does not require attention now
  • I try to gamify time management and use asynchronous methods of guiding through my workloads by keeping lean focus area list , leverage negotiation and delegation to increase greater span of work and rest goes to backlog
  • Write first culture is important to drive thought process and discussion. Without writing we can never move forward and will always rely on verbal communication which is meeting
  • Using tools effectively to drive To-Do lists and putting specific blocks on calendar to carry out desired tasks.
  • Maintain to-do list at personal level , group level and 1-1 level to drive agenda at different velocity and focus
  • Create focused chat groups for short term goals and encourage no-meetings but asynchronous communication
  • I re-purpose meeting to cover additional agenda and avoid another meeting
  • Strengthen decision making . It seems that we try to be risk averse and find more people to help take decision because we are either not breaking the problem to manageable levels or are too weary to take a call and move forward.

Above are some of practical everyday ways of managing . Having said that there is no perfect answer and you would still have bad days. In order to focus continue to keep this problem at the core of efficient working so that everybody is reminded not to be pulled into a meeting without a purpose and if pulled should have exit path with some action items [ of which one should be not to have another meeting ]

Good Reads

Make Process The Winner!

We encounter problems statements everyday and there are ‘n’ number of ways to solve them. In addition to this there is no good or bad way of solving them !

Over a period of time I have come to see that we generally get into conflict due to internal workings and although we do arrive at solution but the journey does become painful for individuals who might be pivoting to solve it.

One of the things that I tried to experiment and improve upon was trying to make ‘process’ the winner & keeping ‘problem’ in centre of the ‘solution’ . Most of the time we make mistake of putting people in centre of the solution and try to solve for them whilst , it should be other way round where we focus on problem and make ultimately process the winner so that people then are able to scale themselves using a solution which was designed to support process.

Looks simple in the way I put it .. but honestly it becomes difficult and requires one to really sieve out various layers to iterate on solution that makes process the winner !

15 years on..Journey thru Professional Wilderness

I still remember this day 15 years back , when I was heading alone to Kolkata for joining my training at TCS . It was raining hard , when I arrived at the station. Being a day scholar most of my life , this was a big step forward outside the protected layers of my family cocoon , making way to lead an independent life…This kicked off series of things in my life from getting to learn German language to being trained on making myself presentable while I speak.. It was an interesting experience for me .. and my first tryst with professional life.

Things moved fast , training came to an end and we were told to join the Delhi centre.. moving in corridors and making some friends as moved along , I found myself in midst of pros, the seasoned and the newbies 🙂 .. all but shared one common thing , searching to attach purpose to what they were working for .. Lots of learning & great foundation years for me…then somewhat I looked to progress my self financially as well wanted to exposure beyond current .. usual human paradox of more want & higher expectation …I spent then good bit of my career with CSC and learnt new things , especially in area of team management and new culture.. My life was starting to look like the sinusoidal wave ..I was feeling bored with regular stuff so I made a shift to Oracle India. Amazing to learn the technology and process.. Awesome product company to work for and for me by now I had taste of IT services biggies to large product company ..

Somewhere down the line spending 2 years … I thought to challenge myself to do MBA and took a plunge by packing my wife – my critical support system back to home town .. on a journey of self planned sacrifice by leaving job behind .. and taking financial risk to earn a degree at S P Jain . This was truly a new phase of my life and my rationale was demand of techno-functional is high but less satisfy that ethos.. I was still good at coding and if I could club my communication skills with business acumen , I would have a good recipe to contribute back in the value chain at a higher level…

Post MBA I worked at  AnthelioAvotus , something which was my second learning ground after TCS . It taught me to be a leader and connected with great people , who again were trying to seek purpose in what they did.. a quest which seldom is successful .. and when it is , it creates radiance and sustainability for self and org. After spending almost 3 years in this nursery , I joined Cimpress India . We sell the Vistaprint brand here.. I have been heading technology for last 3.5 years plus now and solving newer problems everybody. My sense of purpose remains at highest levels here and I think I am able to learn albeit little , on how to connect dots between value and capability..It is starting to take shape and hence the I say I find more of purpose at Cimpress.

All along I have made great friends , met many people , learned alot but yet discovering … above all I cherish the teams I worked with & for …a support ecosystem , which can only be next to your family if not above them … Three cheers to all my peers and team mates to make me feel like that..

Thanks to my primary strength my wife and kid .. along with my parents , who have allowed me to spare time with the companies I have worked for and supported me to give my best …

Urgent v/s Important Matrix

It’s been time since I wrote something and much is attributed to my own inability to manage as well as do things which I would love to do. This post is a reflection of a tool which can help all of us (including me) to remain focused. Nothing which I invented but again as I said earlier, my posts are more about what I learn/observe or get as guidance from my peers in industry. The tool carries a little treatment from principles of mathematics and how I wonder that this subject finds its way in almost everything which we do!!

Ever thought of prioritizing your tasks and making an effort to remain on-course to complete what you aimed for? We all start our day with an activity list. Some make it in form of notes whilst other would end with making a mind map of it but everybody does have a loose sense of what they are going to do. If you were to survey people and ask them what percentage of activity they really got accomplished, I am sure with certain level of confidence that it would not be a very great percentage to be pleased about personally.

We may start our day by reaching office, engage ourselves with some kind of beverage (non-alcoholic!!) and look at our list of activities. One gets to start to try and accomplish what he embarked upon just to be interrupted by an urgent work which his / her boss handed over just now and needs by noon before lunch!!! And yes this is the start of the end of your prioritization because now you have something which did not find place when you actually planned your day.

It is hard to make somebody visualize this, so I will draw a rough picture of what I am about to explain:

Urgent v/s Importan Matrix

The tool itself is very simple treatment of scatter chart and does not much explain once drawn, so I would not spend time explain what is shown above but would recommend a fun exercise to graph your activity chart on this matrix and see how it helps you to remain focused by clustering similar activities together in quadrants of urgent v/s important. When you see yourself doing this against a timeline chart it allows you derive goals, which can span from being daily to whatever time horizon you wished for.

One would argue how this can stem the sudden inclusion of tasks that disturb our schedule? , well the beauty of this is that it shows how much you deviate and how long you keep deviating by certain occurrence of tasks that necessarily when you analyze may not always turn out to be for example hitting the first quadrant right away. We generally tend to have impulsive reaction to what we get on ad-hoc basis and don’t process information is usual manner considering either time paucity or in general inability to either say “No” or setting right expectation about when we would be able to respect that activity with our time. We have tendency to forget that our time box is only as much that quadrant will map out or show, and there is no concept of infinity applied to it!!! , thus leading to stretched hours and undue stress to complete our work. In the end we end up having what we call competing priorities with no rules. The ability to think through in the manner explained above may help us provide some ground rules on how to make our priorities compete for the one common resource “Our Time”.

Traffic Light Problem…

OK…before I sign-off from the blog , I remembered to share something. I found this pretty interesting in terms of  how I view it.  Whoever gets an opportunity to read this , please do share your experience also.

Situation is little peculiar…Imagine that you are in the front-line of cars or whatever favorite vehicle you are driving and hit a red-light. Usually we tend to see if the signal is working or not. If it is not working , then it tends to be a very easy decision…navigate  through the risk and cross over. Think about the fact that   it is working and you need to wait for it to go green. As it seems in general we see lot of honking happening around us to cross-over!!

You need to make a decision on how to move in this case. Yield under pressure and break the process , thereby allowing others behind you to follow into same decision or to wait and cut the noise around you , so that you can remain focused to follow the process.

In office also we are faced with these situations where as leader of the pack you got to follow process for one and all. One should always have this principle that we don’t break already working process and prevent people from committing mistake while we remain in front of the pack. This allows for one to come out as strong leader and get valued for principles , which requires strong will to follow as well practice. This way one aids in a culture that creates an atmosphere of self-discipline rather the policing approach.