Get more done: secrets to increasing your productivity at workplace

Why are the levels of efficiency at workplace so varied? Assuming similar levels of intelligence among people, why do we see few people effortlessly getting more work done than others? I’m sure each of us has come across at least one star-performer at office. Have you ever wondered what makes them successful every time?

Here are a few traits of highly productive people:

Pre Think: Before actually beginning to work on any task, compose a detailed pre-thought on the inputs that will be needed to deliver the desired output. Make a rough sketch of the entire work flow in your head and then simply execute it. This will help you to take the necessary steps to acquire all the raw data and information. Situations where you spend 2 hours doing a particular work procedure only to realize that it is not taking you anywhere closer to your objective will be substantially reduced. Thus, you save time and effort and improve your chances of delivering the task ahead of schedule.

Don’t get scared of hard workOften, we get a feeling that a particular task is very tedious and time-consuming. We either tend to avoid it or find some shorter alternatives (these alternatives may not give optimum results unless you have validated them at the pre-thinking stage). Usually, such tasks are not as tedious, lengthy or boring as you thought them to be. Once you take the plunge, you may also discover new hacks or smarter ways of completing the task, and the end result will always be sweet.

Do not panic: On particularly bad days, we are saddled with a lot of work, so much so that we think it is impossible to complete it in a single day. On top of that, you may have work that you are not exactly sure how to go about and execute. In such circumstances, first and foremost, “accept” at the beginning of the day that you will have to put in more than normal hours. Then, try to complete tasks that are simple, quick and easy. This will ease the mental clutter and pressure, and then you can approach the difficult work with a free and clear mind. The probability of success will improve drastically.

Say No: Do not take more than you can chew on your plate. Before agreeing to take up a new task, make sure you can do justice to your outstanding commitments as well as the new task. If you think you do not have time to take up the new task, clearly discuss the same with your supervisor or clients. Even after such discussions, if you are required to complete the work, then negotiate and agree on timelines that are reasonable. Also, too commonly, we don’t say no to meetings. It’s not obligatory on your part to accept every meeting blocked on your calendar. If you think it is irrelevant or the matter can be solved via other means of communication, then simply say no. Don’t spend productive time in unproductive meetings.

Master multitaskingMultitasking is the need of the hour. Completing one job, before approaching the next, can happen only in the ideal world and not in the real one. Therefore, we must learn to multitask effectively. To effectively multitask, one must master the technique of switch on and switch off. Being 100% on the current job is essential. Diverted attention will only lead to errors. So, break down a task into sensible parts. Complete some parts of a job efficiently and then approach parts of another job.

Take diverse breaks: Usually, people tend to take breaks by spending time with people from their department or immediate area, and hence their discussions always have a similar frame of reference. Perhaps, taking breaks with diverse groups, people who are not related to your field of work, can open new doors for ideas and perceptions. If that’s not possible, then take part in co-curricular activities where you can interact with a variety of people or look for opportunities to work with cross-functional teams. You will surely widen your horizon and gather new ways of approaching things.

Knowledge Time: There are days when we feel lazy and do not want to do regular tasks. Usually on days after meeting major deadlines, we feel like taking it easy. But if you sit there doing nothing, it may make you feel wretched. A good way to spend such days is to read something relevant to your field. Learning something new will always be interesting, invoke new thoughts and relieve boredom.

Be creative: Make sure you schedule some hours in your work week to think of your job differently. Try to think of something new you can do that will add value, ways to reduce the time you take to do a job or anything that will improve the quality of your deliverables and delight your customers (internal/external). This time should be completely dedicated to “out of the box” thinking. These few hours will go a long way in kicking your work up a notch.

Procrastination: No one can be enthusiastic to the T. We all tend to get lazy at some time or another. It is typical that some of your assignments may be tedious and not deadline-driven. But you know you have to dig in and complete it sooner or later. In such scenarios, it is best to set a deadline and communicate it to the concerned parties. Set weekly targets and conduct weekly review meetings to ensure progress is happening.

Image Credits: http://www.the-hour-glass.com/

 

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Hard Work or Luck – Which one works for you?

You know there are those days when you feel that everyone around you has climbed the ladder of success and you’re the only one struggling to even find the ladder. Then you reflect on yourself and don’t find good enough reasons for your not-so-successful times and finally end up calling these so-called successful people “lucky”. Okay, so I don’t just mean material success here. Maybe you think that a friend of yours has a great job, or another has an amazing married life, or someone else is travelling the world and the other one is running a startup. For each one success has a different meaning. It could be wealth, fame, fulfilling basic necessities, maintaining relationships, being a good spouse, imbibing the right values in their children, giving back to society depending on your circumstances and your choices.

Coming back to the question of luck, I think there is an almost equal division of views on this question of luck and hard work. Half of the people believe that whatever you attempt in life, in the end, it is your alleged destiny or luck that plays a key role in your life while the other half believe that you write your own destiny and that everything you achieve is an outcome of your efforts.

Make peace with things beyond control

Why are people born with unequal opportunities? There could be someone struggling to make a living while another is struggling to manage his wealth. While, I am no spiritual guru to comment on this but what I do think is that there is no point stressing over things beyond your control. It rather makes sense to accept that there is a thing called being in the right place at the right time.

Stay in your lane

The way I look at it is that you have been given a unique basket of tools at birth and no two baskets can be same. Whether you make a ship or a nail out of your basket is up to you. Often, we feel that we have been slogging for years in our life and are still yearning to fulfill that dream.  It is fairly easy for most of us to say we are working hard but are still not as successful as that school friend, or office colleague, or even Mr. Bill Gates.

All the successful people I know of have shaped their own feat. They did not simply wait for good fortune to knock on their doors. It is difficult to make anything happen if you just sit around and hope for it. You have no option but to take action. If you want to be a great husband, then you need to invest in your relationship. If you want to have your own startup, then you need to have a unique business idea and if you don’t then work it. Don’t expect the ideas to knock your door. If you want to start an NGO then take steps towards even if they are small steps, but moving in that direction is important.

It is essential to not just work hard but to work hard in the right direction. You sit in the office and work for 18 hours in the hope of becoming the MD of the Company but if you are not working in the right direction, then even if you work like this for the next 10 years you will still be at the same place.

Align with your inner drive

The other essential facet is working in alignment with your inner drive. So for example, you know you’re a natural leader, but due to whatsoever circumstances, you decide to become a scientist and do research in one closed room for years together it may not be highly probable that you achieve the peak of success. My idea here is that if you work in conjunction with your inner drive and yearn to fulfill it, you have the highest probability of becoming super successful. If you’re a social person and love relationships, you would be the happiest with friends and family around you making you successful. And, yes I don’t just mean material success over here.

Move on

I know another question will pop in your mind, however hard I work in the right direction I am STILL not successful. I know this feeling of resentment can kill your left over happiness, but you would want to look around for other opportunities and not just stare at the closed door for years together. In this process, it is pivotal to constantly refurbish yourself, shrug of your complacencies and prepare yourself for the next opportunity. Equally important is to appreciate that life is not constant and peaks and troughs are inescapable.

Here’s from me

I believe that meaningful hard work and embracing failures help in discovering your true self. After all, being successful was never easy! 🙂

Egos at Work

You may choose where you go, but who you are with may not always be a choice. We share varied and layered relationships with people. And, let’s face it, while you deal with different personalities, there is one common trait–EGO. It is everywhere, whether subtle or not.

Ego, in and of itself, is not necessarily a dangerous thing. Ego is an awareness of your own individuality and self-worth. It can help you feel confident and motivated and help you get things done. However, unhealthy ego can be a larger-than-life self-worth and translate to arrogance. If we all lived alone, we would not realize our self-worth and, hence, not have an ego. Therefore, it is a social need developed and nurtured by people around you and there is a fine line between ego and self-esteem. Though extremely subjective, perhaps maneuvering the ego skillfully could aptly achieve the right balance. For instance, steering your sense of self in way that people don’t take you for granted may be good idea rather than being too egoistical that people start alienating you.

Egos intricately form a critical aspect of any relationship. Unhealthy ego conflicts can be extremely unproductive, harm creativity, and impact decisions and people not directly involved. People can be egoistical about anything under the sun, be it intelligence, beauty, physique, age, experience, education, or even religion! Ego could also be unintentionally used as a shield to cover one’s insecurities. I totally believe that age is just a number because I have seen the so-called elderly, mature, and experienced people tarnishing homes, workplaces, and relationships with unhealthy egos. Ego clashes happen for several reasons, such as conflicting personalities, jealousy, or misunderstandings. They also happen when people compete and want to establish themselves as the alpha student, employee, or just as a “superior” human being. So how do you deal with this negative trait when you are regularly confronted with it?

Before you get caught in the whirlwind of strained relationships and things get nasty, it is important to completely understand the situation. Whether you are a purveyor of ego (we all know who we are) or a victim of ego– being aware of it, its effects, and the reason why ego exists at all can make a big difference. Sensitively handling it can make you different, by weeding out insecurities frustration and by building trust.

In any relationship, communication is paramount, and so it should be even when egos are at play. Usually, people do very little to neutralize the ego and iron out the pressures it can cause.  Having meaningful conversations and listening can aid in comprehending the root cause of the problem. In such conversations, it is important to have an open mind and appreciate differences in opinions. You may want to question them and understand the reason behind their behavior in order to find measures that can be taken to end it. Sometimes, big egos are just a craving attention. Validating their worth and feeding their ego from time to time, without ignoring the ones with subtle egos, can help. But it is important to know how much is enough. Once you start appealing to egos it can become a routine expectation. It is important to set limits on how far you are willing to give in.

Depending on the situation and the relationship, you could opt to privately communicate with the person and explain that while he or she brings along great experience and knowledge, it is critical to focus on the project or task rather than the people behind the work. Conversely, depending on the relationship, you may consciously choose to ignore such egomaniacs. This means leaving aside your ego and eliminating the urge to compete with them. Keeping the relationship only as professional or amicable and limiting contact with such people outside of that arena will help you focus on your work and priorities.

If it is a peer at work and things get out of hand, share the issue with your boss or with someone who knows you both and is trustworthy. But stay calm, be positive, and be open to advice from your boss or the trusted person to find a solution to the problem. At times, it is very tempting to also engage with egoistical people by pulling down others, but it is absolutely essential to refrain from this behavior. You never know when you could become a target of such humiliation.

The key to tackling ego lies in patience, maturity, and humility while having a peaceful approach without demeaning others.

As they say, the haughty shall be humbled, and the humble shall be lifted up.

Image Credits: http://msbusiness.com

 

Competition at Workplace: A Pointless Pursuit

School, college, workplace… one thing that is unattractively universal here is competition. Race is everywhere, be it in politics, business, corporate, college, sports, or even relationships! Most of us aren’t averse to competitiveness. We compete for resources in the form of food, shelter, jobs, or general status in society. We are constantly competing against one another or we band together in groups like warring tribes. Competition maybe a good motivator but not when we misapply it. Healthy competition helps you to avoid slipping into smugness and gives you that kick of not giving up but the tricky part is when you experience antagonism either in yourself or against yourself. I have personally gone through various phases of competitiveness in my life. There were times when I was blindly running to win against others without knowing that it was not really the track I wanted to run on—I just wanted the race.

So the question is —where do we draw the Line?

I don’t think anyone can ever draw this line, but I believe that each individual has to be aware of his or her own personality type and then determine the line of preference. If you’re the kind of person who wants to be individually rewarded and is achievement motivated, then you will want a competitor and that’s fine. While individual rivalry discourages the sharing of knowledge and talent, team competition can at least fuel collaboration among team members. It’s really your choice if you want a competitive regime. Though friendly competition may enhance your performance and efficiency and can even push you out of your comfort zone, fierce competition does more harm than good.

If you have this competitive nature, you should do an objective evaluation of your competitor. It is possible that your combatant is superior to you in terms of knowledge, behavior, or handling pressure. Don’t spend time proving otherwise or looking for means to pull them down through taunts or sarcasm or tricks. Instead, understand your flaws and once you identify your weaknesses, start working to improve them. Do your utmost to improve your knowledge, graft the right skills, change the way you perceive things, bring more ideas to the table, and work on your less than desirable traits. Take action, don’t just sit crying about things. Think of your opponent as an opportunity to refurbish yourself. And, yes, do not forget to give time to yourself to change and for others to accept the new you. You can’t expect instant success just because you think you have worked on your imperfections. Build credibility so that others can entrust you with responsibilities and you can have a fair chance to prove your worth.

Remember: “comparison is the thief of joy.” Most of us compare our behind-the-scenes footage with everyone else’s highlight reels.There will always be someone better than you and constantly chasing after flawlessness is like a dog chasing its tail. Even if you outpace your competitor, the satisfaction is temporary because your mind quickly moves on to the next entrant. Perhaps we can attempt to replace these “entrants” with ourselves and aim at outpacing our previous performances. 

Even if you are in the race with somebody else, strive to be amiable with your competitor, because fierce contention can sometimes open up doors for negative feelings of discouragement, bitterness, distrust, or envy. Try not to get personally attached to your competitiveness, compete with the work/performance not with the person as such.

At the workplace, what happens if a competitor later becomes your boss, teammate, or subordinate? Then, in the case of unhealthy competition, you would have to bear the brunt of the change in the equation between you and your competitor. So, to avoid this, you may consider to actually choose that person as your role model or mentor, rather than as a competitor. Selecting someone who has the kind of life and career you aspire to can act as a source of inspiration. If this role model becomes your mentor, he or she will usually be more than willing to help and guide you than he would if you treated him like your competitor.

I happened to ask Amit Dhadphale, Director-Transfer Pricing at PwC, India about his thoughts on Competition at Workplace and he said “People are constantly chasing this ever-moving object called satisfaction/happiness based on milestones and still not being able to be happy since somebody else got it faster/easier or early..Start with what you have, make something of it and be satisfied with what you have achieved and yes don’t forget to smell the roses.. after all it’s the journey that matters and not the destination”.

Competition is your cheerleader until you stop dancing to its tune. More than anyone else, go all-out outperform your benchmarks. So, keep calm and look into the mirror… that’s your competition!

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Fueled with Passion

What is the Purpose of Life? Hasn’t this question crisscrossed your mind several times? I would be lying if I said that it bothered me only a couple of times! Till date, no one has given me a simple answer to this question but they did tell me that this was something to be self-explored.

I don’t know whether purpose of life is synonymous to fulfilling the needs of life. I compared this thought with Maslow’s theory of needs of life which is a hierarchy of basic needs, psychological needs and self-fulfillment needs.It means that the individual at this stage seeks personal growth and attempts to achieve his full potential through some creative means.

 

maslows-hierarchy-of-needs

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Personally I would term this “creative means” as some sort of a hobby or something that one is passionate about. For one it could be athletics, for another it could be being an ideal life partner or for someone it could be climbing the mount Everest. Because, hobby is one such thing which gives you sense of satisfaction and makes you feel so good about yourself. Even if you are having a bad day or unhappy with your workplace or boss or co-worker or having troubles in your personal relationships, your hobby will never give a sense of disappointment because this is something that defines you and will always give you a sense of happiness.

So if you already have a hobby or a passion then life becomes simpler, but if not then it’s very essential to identify one. Think about it, what is it that brings a smile on your face? What is that you will never mind doing for free! What is it that you can spend hours upon? What sparks your creativity? What do you love talking about? These are certain questions that may help in figuring out what you are passionate about.

Once you have discovered your passion, what is the game plan? Does it mean that you quit you school, college or job and just pursue your passion? If you feel that this is the answer for it and by pursuing it you will be able to make a living for yourself or by adopting an alternate career option you will be able to devote more time to your passion then yes, you should go ahead!

But, for those of who want to pursue their existing career and think that they can chase their passions later in life should take a pause. The answer is not to take an extreme step but it can also be to adopt a middle path whereby you can work towards your career and passion both!

What I mean is, to adopt certain lifestyle and mindset changes that will help in achieving this “middle path.” If you think of your hobby or passion as a habit then it becomes as easy as brushing your teeth every morning. You can never go a day without it (I assume 😀 ). Another one could be doing some changes in your daily schedule and keeping a specific time slot  for it. If you think you can’t then maybe putting an alarm on your mobile can help! Look out for opportunities, people and forums that help you work towards your passion.

There have been days in my life when I felt that I have such a hectic schedule and only those people who are in schools or colleges can spend time on their hobbies. Then, i decided to keep a note of the way my day was spent and realized that i was just fooling myself by saying that there is no time. If nothing else, then i would fool myself by saying that the travel time to work is so high and so there is no time left. Someone then questioned me, why can’t you use your travel time to plan or read about your passion. Many of us including me spend atleast 15 minutes on social networking sites every day, what if we actually read about our hobby or even planned something about how to work towards it? Maybe the solution is to put “passion” time ahead of pleasure time”.

Sometimes, it also helps to have someone as your role model in that field. When you look up to that person it automatically inspires us to work on our passions.

This obviously doesn’t mean that we ignore our work or career and put our jobs on a backburner. But it definitely means that we need to work towards our passion and not just dream about it. Talking to others whom you are accountable to, for example your spouse or children or even your boss or co-worker may help. If we openly speak to them about it and seek their cooperation it will make things easier.

For me, when I spend time on my passion, which is dancing it is the most ecstatic feeling in the world and gives me a sense of being “alive” and not just living!

I still do not have an answer to my question on “purpose of life” but there is one thing that I have realized for sure and that is having a passion will surely make life meaningful!

“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.”
– Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Fueled with Passion

Career Characteristics

I thoroughly believe that though many things are destined in life but generally the things in life you do is a consequence of the choices you make.

Most of the far impacting choices we make are the ones in the formative years of life. One such choice is choosing the right career for you. It’s very common to see students making career choices either by compulsion of elders or peers or lack of knowledge or half baked knowledge and then later in life they regret their career choices.

I would not say that i always had a clear vision of what i wanted to do in life. But, yes i was pretty sure by the time i was in grade X. I always knew that science was not my cup of tea even though i had great scores in it. Having a liking for a subject is always different that scoring well in that subject. I knew that i was more interested in business, economics and finance. So, before my board results were out i was clear in mind to opt for commerce.

Now days, students are far clearer of what they want from life and have a great access to a lot of information. It may not be an easy choice but i think that with the kind of information available on every subject, taking this decision would not be such a tough one.

I would never propagate being a book worm and just doing well in academics! It is essential that you live your life by following your passions along with having a right career for yourself. This may mean that you also adopt your hobby as your career but make sure it is a long term and a sustainable one.

From my experience I can surely tell that being an all rounder is the key to success not only in school or college but also professionally. I would define all rounder as someone who follows one’s passions, is good with people and is knowledgeable.

To give a personal example, even though i have burnt midnight oil in school and even later to become a Chartered Accountant i never gave up my passion for dance and habit of reading. And, believe me this has truly helped me shaping a better personality for myself and having a holistic view in life.

This is something i practise even today…. My normal work schedule is quite hectic but i make it a point to manage my time in such a way that i can spend about 6-7 hours a week either in dance or exercise.

As far as building meaningful relations with people is concerned, it’s very important to value diverse opinions, respect everyone, be genuine and communicate effectively.

Having a great academic background will help you getting into your first job but to grow up the ladder it’s only about your attitude and the way you deal with people. A person’s character is built during the formative years and i believe that one should start practising and develop these skills right from the beginning.

One thing that i truly believe in is that there are no free lunches; so don’t let go of even a single day of your life and work as hard as possible towards your dreams and passions and it will surely pay you back.

Until next time, “Keep calm, work hard and be nice to people.”

Hello world!

A Chartered Accountant by profession and born to dance! Strongly believe that dance gives me the strength to sail through my life. Am not a genre specific blogger and this is my first attempt at blogging. I do not feel the need to write about any specific topic but want to write about topics close to my heart.