Day 99/ 365 – No Time to read??

A few days back I happened to read an interview given by the new CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella. One of the points in the interview that really got me thinking was – how come a CEO of a company has so much time to sign up for online courses or read books? Also the types of books that they read are completely different than compared to what you and me would be reading. I am wondering how do they even find out about such books. Contrary to popular belief, as people climb higher in the organization the work pressure increases proportionately. And as work pressure increases, I am assuming it also increases the time spent in office. Also in this day and age most CXO’s are connected to work via iPads, blackberries, etc. I am sure they must be giving an equal amount of time to their families. So how does one really find time to read and read so many books?

I have been trying to understand that because since I have joined my current organization, my reading has become very minimal (except news).  One of my earlier CXO’s would make it a point to read a book for one hour each day. He also made it a point to work out in the gym every single day, spend time with his kid and wife and I used to be surprised how he managed to do all of that. One quality that I observed with him was, he was a stickler for time – never late to work, never late for meetings, always leave work around the same time – unless there were client meetings (and he still used to manage to read and workout). I guess that really worked for him. May be I need to prepare a routine where I am able to read at least for an hour each day and see how that goes. But it is time I pick up a good book and finish it. 




Day 93/ 365 – Two Weeks Notice

So I get an email at work yesterday announcing Mr. X has put in his papers and is serving 2 weeks notice and I think to myself – just two weeks? Are two weeks sufficient to handover to everything that you have been working on to someone else? First of all can you even identify a resource for handover in two weeks? I was very amazed to know that most companies in the US have only two weeks of notice period, while here in India most companies have 3 months of notice period. The difference in notice period duration is very drastic. I have often had HR managers say that the reason for such high notice is to restrict talent for leaving the organization, but I am not sure if there has been any research done to prove this. I believe if an employee finds a better opportunity, he or she is simply going to move on. In some cases he would buy out the notice period and in some case the prospective employer would buy out the notice period and in some cases the notice period would be waived off. So the question is why have such a long notice period?

The other reason that is often cited is that we need to hire someone as your replacement or you need to train your replacement and it takes time. Quite frankly, I find this reason to be not valid at all. Expecting someone who is on notice period to train someone may not be the best way to go out training the replacement as there is no motivation for someone who is leaving the organization to provide any value addition. More often than not, a person serving notice period is hardly assigned any work which is important in nature. Most of the times, it has been observed that person serving notice comes to work, marks his attendance, spends most of the time surfing the internet and then logs off and heads for the day. Most handover is normally completed within 3 weeks of the employee submitting his resignation and the rest of the time he is not being optimally utilized. However, he does get paid for the entire time. So this leads me to the question how do companies afford to have such a long notice period?

It has been observed that notice periods at CXO levels are relatively shorter compared to middle management.Wondering why isnt it the same across organization. I find this to be an interesting problem. May be I will reach out to people in HR and try and understand from them why such long notice periods in India? Is it because we cant identify resources? We dont have resources? Do we really have so much work that we cant handover whatever it is we are working on in 2 weeks? Or has recovering notice period from the employees become a new way to generate additional revenue for the organization? It is especially strange considering that organizations in developed nations, where is a shortage of resources, are able to find resources, get the hand over done in less than 2 weeks. Whereas organizations in resource rich country like ours resort to something like this.

Day 84/ 365 – Protest against toll payment

A couple of days back, Raj Thackeray – a politician, announced that people should no longer pay toll on the highways and if need me resort to violence. To carry out his diktat, his party members/ supporters started vandalizing toll booths across Maharashtra. I read about it in the newspapers and didn’t really think about it much, forgetting the fact that I use the Western Express highway to travel to work everyday and there are two toll booths that fall along my route to work. The next day while driving I encountered bumper to bumper traffic atleast a 1.5kms before the toll booth. I was thinking that the reason for such traffic could be an accident on the highway. However, on reaching closer to the toll booth, I saw a lot of people from his political party stopping cars and speaking with passengers. I was fearing the worst – that they might vandalize the car. On reaching my car, they requested me to not pay toll. I continued to move ahead and found the toll booth heavily guarded by the police. I was wondering how will someone avoid paying the toll with such heavy police presence. The entire ruckus cost me an extra 45 mins to reach work.

I wonder what do political parties achieve by such populist measures. As per Raj Thackeray, the companies should provide better amenities for the toll tax charged. I, in principle, agree to what he says and means. But I also would blame the government who agreed to the current agreement with the contractor. If the agreement does not mention anything about better amenities, then the contractor is not obliged to do anything. Incidentally, the agreement was signed by Shiva Sena, BJP combined (Raj Thackeray was earlier part of Shiva Sena). There is also other argument floating around which says that since the project cost is recovered, toll should not be collected. To makers of such argument, I just have a simple argument to offer – the contractor is in the business to make money and earn profits. No company is going to invest in India if politicians start putting perceived thresholds on profit. Currently we have a wave of populist measures which the governments are announcing, from AAP in Delhi to NCP Cong in Maharashtra. If you look at it, all subsidies are generally paid by the government and how does the government get money – from you and me. So indirectly the tax paying people end up footing the bill and at the same time increasing the debt. I wonder when will we have governments who really understand the need of the hour and stop implementing populist reforms just for votes.


Day 70/ 365 – Blogging has taken a back seat

The last few days have been extremely exhausting at work with planning for this year and all going in full swing, I just haven’t had time to update  my thoughts on the blog. Even now I am updating the blog because I have a few minutes to spare before I get pulled into some other meeting or get busy updating another deck. I know this is not helping my Project 365 and I am way off course now. I need to close the gap as much as I can in the next few days. I should probably also start blogging in the morning, rather than writing in the evening when I am occupied with work and all. Hopefully, I will be getting back on track in the next couple of days with regular posts.475px-Busy_desk.svg

Day 66/ 365 – Desires of my heart

I have been thinking on this for quite some time now. I have been working since the age of 18, doing what I need to do to survive in this rat race. There have been lot of choices made – some intentional, some out unintentional and some out of compulsion. Those choices have basically changed me to become the person that I am today. However, what I truly want to do right now is to simply drop everything and explore the world on my bike along with my wife, and take tons of pictures. I have been bitten by the travel and photography bug. Want to live my remaining life on the road like a nomad – there would some thrill in doing that. Want to sleep under the open stars, wake up and watch a beautiful sunrise over the seas, over the desert, over the mountains. Walk through shallow rivers, dive in freezing waters, jump from the sky, and glide like bird. There are so many desires and so many things which I want to do. May be one day I will do those things – hope keeps me going – until then continue to enjoy what I am doing right now.


Day 57/ 365 – Reminiscing Old TV days

Today while having lunch we, me and some colleagues, started reminiscing about old days when we just had state sponsored TV channel. In the early 90’s satellite TV had not yet arrived in India and there was just one state sponsored television channel, Doordarshan, which was free to air for everyone. So we were discussing about the various shows which were telecasted during those days. I believe the content quality of those shows is far more superior to anything that current TV shows dish out in the name of family entertainment. There used to be shows like – Malgudi Days, Gul Gulshan, Gulfam, Wagle ki Duniya, Nukkad, Mungeri Lal ke Haseen Sapne etc. The quality of those shows was simply amazing. I think even now a lot of people watch them on Youtube. I remember my parents watching Rangoli every Sunday morning – a song – which would play songs (old and new), then me getting all excited to watch cartoons – Duck Tales, Talespin, Jungle Book and then we would sit and watch Mahabharata/ Ramayana any of the two which is ongoing. Then at 1pm there would news for mute and deaf – where one news reader would read out the news and the other would use sign language to convey the same. There would also be a movie on Sunday afternoon. The evening would begin with regional news followed by a Marathi program – Aamchi Maati Aamche Manasa. On Sunday’s you would also have Surabhi – show where they would showcase different places in India along with other interesting topics, followed by English language programs. I remember I was so excited when Doordarshan came up with another channel – DD2 Metro. It was supposed to showcase some of the favorite shows during certain times of the day – everyday. So now instead of watching TV only on Sunday, we could watch some shows on DD2. With the advent of satellite television in India, Doordarshan gradually lost its place and now is probably only watched by people who cant afford to have a satellite connection.

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Day 53/ 365 – Plan work better

Recently my wife has been spending a lot of time at work as she is handling multiple projects. Each of those projects are requiring a significant amount of her time resulting in her working pretty late into the night. Now I personally don’t prefer to spend more time at work unless there is some deadline or something unplanned has come along. However, most of the times I prefer working my 9 hours and then head home. Since my wife has been working overtime (and not getting paid for it also), I just thought to share some of things which I follow which helps me plan my day/ work better.  Not to say that my wife does not do this.

Warning: All of the below does not work when you receive unplanned tasks or something from the management (which is always, usually urgent).

1.       Plan your day

I spend at least 30-45 minutes planning my day and the activities which I need to accomplish in the day. I set out a to-do list every morning and allot numbers on those activities depending on the urgency level. The to-do list keeps getting updated once the day has begun with all the new activities getting added at the bottom of the list. The goal of the day is to accomplish everything that I have identified that needs to be completed today. Obviously, if any un-planned work occurs, the above does go for a toss. However, 90% of the times this works.

2.       Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

Normally we have tons of things which we need to do and more often than not they are always urgent and someone, somewhere is always waiting for it. So what I do in such scenarios is, think and analyze if they are really that urgent. One of things that help me do this – I always ask the person by when he/ she needs the data or the report. I always request for dates which ensures that I am working on only those things which really need to be done today. This helps me avoid spending my time on other things which can be dealt later.

3.       Learn to say No

I had read somewhere “Always find a way to say a Yes”. I tend to disagree to this saying. I believe there are times when you need to learn to say No. I prefer saying a No, rather than agreeing to deliver a task by a certain amount of time and then failing to deliver it or not doing a quality job. Normally we have a tendency to please everyone and we tend to bite more than we can chew. Initially I would feel, if I say a no, what would the other person feel etc. However, as I grew professionally, I realized that it is alright to say a No if you have valid and genuine reasons behind it. Most of the times, your boss would understand and tell you not to worry about it.

4.       Meeting Prioritization

We all have a lot of meetings that we need to attend. I haven’t yet worked in an organization where I haven’t had multiple meetings scheduled in a single day. The best way to gain sometime is to analyze and understand whether you need to attend all the meetings. I normally identify the meetings which are absolutely essential for me to attend and plan my work around those meetings. There are a few days when all I do is attend meetings – during those days I ensure I don’t have any deliverable assigned for those days. Normally such days are few and far between and you would normally know them about a week in advance. Kindly check the your meeting Calendar on a regular basis. Seriously. It is the best tool to the plan your day.

These things have been working for me. Feel free to share what works for you.

Day 35/ 365 – Just travel

Since change of jobs a couple of months ago, I have been following the US holiday calendar. As many of you would be aware this is the Thanksgiving week and hence I have Thursday and Friday off. Taking advantage of the extra long weekend, I am hoping to go away for the weekend. Earlier in the day, I was discussing with my mom that I wish I could leave everything and just travel the world. That would be such an awesome thing to do. Sure traveling the world requires a lot of money and there are people who save quite a bit of money before they start traveling. Earning money while traveling to different places in the world would be such a thing. I really enjoy traveling, exploring new places, new people, local culture and cuisines (vegetarian – of course). It just thrills me to imagine that one day I would be traveling to the Pyramids, enjoying the boat ride over the Nile river, and the next day exploring the romantic city of Paris. That would be one of the best things in life to do – just travel. There are so many places to explore and so little time. A career in travel industry would have been awesome. While we (me and Saurav) were trekking through the Hampta Pass, the thought did strike us. The valley was so beautiful and everything about nature was just so nice, colorful and open compared to our desk jobs. We wanted to set up shop in Manali and offer trekking tours to people. May be we will do that, maybe we wont. Unfortunately, at this stage of my life, I am not sure if I would be able to switch careers. However, I do want to travel the world. May be after I have earned enough, I would probably call it a day and just set about exploring the world. In the mean time, I guess I will make do with being a project manager and enjoying vacations once in a year.

DSC00180 DSC00213 DSC00259 IMG_3303 IMG_3627Image courtesy Saurav Roy

Day 32/ 365 – Kaccha Limbu

Couple of days ago, me and a colleague were discussing about playing billiards over a cup of tea. I have played pool a couple of times, but am absolutely not good at it. I have always been confused about pool and billiards. Since I haven’t played much of either also don’t have much knowledge about it. So my colleague was explaining the key difference between the two games and how in billiards is played between two players or two teams and how he used to partner someone who was extremely good at the game in his previous organization. For his partner he used to be “Kaccha Limbu”. I had heard this term used after a very very long time and it immediately brought back floods of memories of my days as a kid.

A “Kaccha Limbu” is a term given to someone who is relatively new to the game and is allowed to have certain liberties because he does not know the game or is younger compared to the rest of the players. During my days as kid, when I used to play cricket with older players – I used to be a Kaccha Limbu. Others would bowl at me with slower pace, I was allowed to bat twice and sometimes I used to play from both the sides. It used to be fun playing with older kids and they really used to ensure that you were pampered and allowed to play but at the same time not at the expense of them losing. The best part about being Kaccha Limbu was you would get to do your favourite twice and at the same time get to learn so much. I wish this concept was applicable in our professional lives as well. If you commit a mistake, it doesn’t get held against you and you can redo the same task again. But that’s not how the real world works L and mistakes are held against you, perceptions are formed and you end up living with them throughout your tenure in the company or sometimes throughout your work life.