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Friday, September 27, 2013

Stop Checking Emails and Get More Work Done

One of the time sapping activities we all get entangled in is checking email. It has become work by itself. Think about it. How many times do we think we have work to do and then check email. But email is not work. It is a mode of communication. Just like any other. 

Sometimes, my dad used to see me work and ask me, what are doing doing the whole day checking emails. To him, it was something alien. He belonged to a generation who were used to inter office memos being taken down by a shorthand-typist and then physical copies being sent to the concerned people. The concept of cc (carbon-copy) also came from there. The typist used to carbon-copy the main typed sheet and send it out as fyi to the cc-ed people. People in that generation still got work done.

In the initial phase of my career I had a mail replication frequency of 1 min in Lotus Notes. I was obsessed with checking mails. Slowly, as I started to realize that email is just a means of communication and not the most important one at that, I have cut-down on my replication frequency to 60 min. Now, I rarely check my mails more than 3-4 times a day. I am trying to reduce that to twice a day.

I now work more by talking directly to people or chatting with them on instant messaging (Lotus Sametime). I find that it is much more effective and disruptive.
This way I have actually been able to increase my efficiency and am able to get much more done during my work hours.

My 2014 plan is to go back to a dumb phone so that I can get away from the urge of checking mails over the weekend (that's something I have still not got around doing).

Sunday, September 08, 2013

How to free up upto 20% of your work time?

Ever felt swamped with work and not know how to get all your ToDo's done? Well, I have. Plenty of times. Ever wonder how some people seem to get so much on their plates and yet get so much done? The trick they use is the art of delegation.

Here are some of the tips I have learnt from some of those who possess Ninja-like abilities to delegate.

  • Step 1: Find the right person for the job - Think about who in your team would be the best fit for the work-at-hand. Don't "dump" your work on the person person you see. If it is grunt-work which no one likes to do, then rotate it amongst the team (and don't forget your turn!)
  • Step 2: Explain "why" he is the right person to do the work and what he stands to gain - If you do step 1 well, you should be able to explain why you have chosen the person and what he stands to gain from the experience. I have learnt a lot from my managers who have delegated work to me. It has given me a glimpse into areas of work that I had no idea existed or found things that I really enjoyed doing. Don't assume that someone would not genuinely like to do something you personally dislike doing. It all boils down to step 1.
  • Step 3: Take time to explain what results are expected - Explain what you want to achieve as the end result. Don't focus on the process unless the process is critical. That gives the delegate an option of being creative and who knows, maybe come up with a better system that you followed.
  • Step 4: Empower him to take decisions - The delegate has to have some discretionary power to complete the work. If he needs to come to you every time a decision needs to be made, there is no point in delegating the work in the first place. One key objective of delegation is over time, the delegate should be in a position own the work himself, so that you can move on to value-added activities.
  • Step 5: Decide on periodic check-points at the start - It is important to decide on checkpoints at the start of the work. Initially, the delegate may need handholding and guidance. Use these checkpoints as coaching sessions and also to track progress. Over time, these checkpoints should become more and more infrequent and on-need-basis.
  • At the end, take feedback - Once the work is complete, sit with your delegate (even if its for a few mins) and take feedback on whether the work actually helped him in the way you initially thought it would. Ask about his learning from it and share your perspectives on how it could have been done better.
Your ability to delegate well is critical to ensure that you have enough time at your disposal to participate in activities that challenge and invigorate you. So, go ahead and plan for your next delegation.