Blog2020-11-15T15:03:54+05:30

Dear (Business) Diary

Come December and we start thinking about business diary for the new year.

“What do I want to do about it in the new year?”

“Am I going to continue the way I did in the ending year or do something different?”

I always had one major issue with the business diaries. Since the pages are day-wise, I ended up having several pages nearly blank and some of the pages crammed to the extreme if I had a bunch of meetings and took several notes on that day. It looked very inefficient.

Some meetings ended into the lunch break and I had a problem of “what do I do with this brick”.

I ended up having an ever-growing heap of diaries from past years and did not know what to do with it.

Our presentations migrated from OHP (I am sure some readers don’t even know what this means) to Powerpoint and I had to carry a laptop for presentations. Even if I was not presenting, I still needed to carry a laptop for referring to relevant material. So when I was already carrying a laptop, carrying another bulky diary became inconvenient.

Eventually, as our meetings were booked online, the diary was not required to be used as a meetings planner.

Last but definitely not least, my notes stayed safe in the diary and only occasionally ended up in timely execution.

I had come up with a solution, a few years back for this, and it has been working quite well.

Here is my solution:

  1. Buy (or convince your organization (I had done that)) A5 size notebooks for taking notes in meetings. A5 size is so small that you could slide it in your jacket pocket or even if you carry it in hand, it is not heavy.
  2. In the meetings, take quick notes in the notebook instead of struggling to type them on digital devices. More often the display of your digital device might be required for some other purpose. Moreover scribble has to be faster than typing. If possible flag the action points right away while noting them down.
  3. Once you are back from the meeting, process your notes, and as you process them strike of those lines in the notebook. Your goal would be to keep your notebook in a state where everything written in it is struck off and the contents are transferred to a more durable and ubiquitous digital storage. Since you will be processing your notes immediately, you will end up making decisions about what you are going to do about each of them. Actions go to your to-do list. Minutes go to your digital meeting minutes document.  Some will end up in creating meeting invites. And so on.
  4. This notebook compliments your laptop which you will use to refer to your past notes.
  5. Once your notebook gets filled, you could happily shred it as it would have already served its purpose. Don’t forget to dogear a page that is a few pages before the end indicating that you should procure your next one, then.
  6. Interestingly you lose nothing if you lose this kind of notebook.
  7. Now the final question of what to do with the business diary. The easy answer is don’t buy. And if you are gifted one and is made with beautiful paper, repurpose it for creative work like drawing mind maps or taking notes during your learning sessions.

However, there is a small problem with it as these diaries do not have page numbers, and it could become tricky to search for your notes, later. The best way out is to reserve the first few pages of the diary for the table of contents and to use the dates in place of the page numbers in the table of contents.

Try out this simple but powerful idea in the coming year and witness its power.

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Bells and Whistles of Time Management – Quite Literally!

20th November is my youngest brother’s date of birth. Of late, surprisingly triggered by our mom, we all, including my two brothers, are into the fad of wishing each other in the family on birthdays at the stroke of midnight. Habitually, I had set an alarm for myself, to wish him, a couple of days ahead. I had to do the time zone math as he lives in California and I am in Mumbai.

Fast forward. Last Saturday afternoon, I was at a shopping mall (Yes, the first time since the first lockdown in March 2020!) and the alarm went off. I used a couple of snoozes to reach the exact time and then wished him a happy birthday on Whatsapp. Mission accomplished!

What is interesting is that when I had set the alarm, I had no idea where I would be in the afternoon on that Saturday. The shopping mall would have not been even in my guesses.  Had it not been the alarm, I would have missed this fun of surprising him at his midnight!

Things miserably fail when we try to time some work without alarm. We forget! We miss!! That is how our mind works and that is how our life is. As it turns out, our entire time management system has to take care of this single limitation of ours, but more about it later!

Alarm clocks have been waking us up since time immemorial, however, the form has been changing from a mechanical clock to a digital clock and now to the App on our smartphone. Now that our “alarm clock” is so portable, we could and should use it for more than just waking us up. Nothing complex, but this is the recipe:

  1. Set the alarm as soon as you plan to do something at a certain date and time in the future. Most Alarm Apps should allow you to set it for a certain date.
  2. Set the recurrence pattern, if you need the alarm on a specific day or days of the week.
  3. Don’t forget to name the alarm, lest you find yourself wondering what is this ringing for!
  4. Always factor for a few minutes of preparation time so set the alarm for a few minutes ahead.
  5. Snooze the alarm till you actually execute the work. Believe me, if you shut off the alarm, you would easily forget the task, although you may think you wouldn’t.

I have set up alarms for so many things for a guaranteed execution. Here are a couple of examples. When you are on a course of Vitamin D pills, you need to follow a complex frequency over a span of a few months. It might also help to set an alarm if you have a hard time-stop for a meeting.

So keep those bells ringing and wear the confidence of being in control of your plans!

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A Quick Guide for Remote Work Productivity

Call it pandemic or endemic, remote work is not going to go away in hurry! Remote work may look like an interesting proposition as no one is breathing fire on your neck and you get flexibility at work. But it is not that it does not have its own problems as you are not physically present in the office environment. For example, you may not get friendly reminders about your work or you may not get a chance to substantiate your contribution.

Here are some key ideas that should help you to stay productive and shine in the remote work environment:

  1. Go Agile: Follow Scrum or Agile method where you work on 15 days sprints. A sprint plan is made and approved by the manager at the beginning of a sprint. The sprint plan could be just for you or a team. The priorities are also set in the sprint plan. A sprint plan ensures that one has enough work at hand and will never be short of work even when your manager is not physically around. You also could use your time wisely when you have a bunch of different kinds of tasks.
  2. Adopt a robust Personal work management system: GTD is an excellent methodology to manage productivity at the personal level. A sprint plan would have set the goals, but each goal involves doing several tasks at the personal level and those tasks must be managed and tracked well. GTD ensures that the tasks are written down in a system and there is no reliance on memory or occasional nudges from superiors. This is very critical as there is no one who can oversee you when working remotely.
  3. Communicate deliberately: You will have regular video calls and email communication for work tracking, anyway. Additionally, you should share daily written updates about progress made in a day. This ensures that you and your manager are on the same page. It also keeps you on your toes to meet the daily targets and eventually the sprint plan. Additionally, one should provide weekly and monthly reports which should ensure that management has very clear visibility on progress and your time utilization.

This approach guarantees you stress-free productivity and builds the confidence of stakeholders in you.

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(Featured image: Photo by Ivan Samkov from Pexels)

Scan Your Way to Nostalgia

Our fond memories now get captured digitally in photo or video form. But it wasn’t so till ten to fifteen years back. So most of us still have loads of shoeboxes full of photo prints – invaluable memories but locked up somewhere and unavailable to share with others.

There are professional services that help you to get them scanned, but like many other services, even this service has got folded into our smartphones. You could scan your photo prints, at the comforts of your home and save money. Google brings you this power through a mobile App called Photoscan which is available on Android and iOS.

Photoscan is easy to use – almost a child’s play. Try to do this in good daylight, if possible. It senses the edges of the photo, as long as you keep it on a contrasting surface. If at all, it misses the edges, in a rare case, it provides a nice interface to adjust the corners. Photos get saved on the mobile device, in the Gallery App.

Now that the holiday season is ahead of us, it is a great time to take up such an interesting project. Here are additional tips:

  1. Create a good amount of disk space on your computer or cloud so that you could move scanned photos in small batches right away out of your phone.
  2. Rename the photos suitably, keeping retrieval in mind. Name them after the place, event, people, etc. in them.
  3. You don’t have to use your productive time for this. In fact, you should do this project in small time pockets when you are having a break from your important work.
  4. Now that you are doing this project in batches, use prioritization, so that your most precious photos get covered first. Don’t forget to mark photos that you have scanned on the back with a light color marker or soft pencil so that they don’t get mixed with the unscanned ones.
  5. Put this task in your to-do list so that you are reminded about it when you get those disposable time slots.

That’s all and you are ready to pull out photos right for the occasion. Recently I could make a quick mosaic of my photos when there was an appeal in our company to share childhood photos. Check out the feature image. Sorry, that’s the cutest possible, I looked, I guess 🙂

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How to Turbocharge Your To-Do List

​The people who have got their act together, don’t get distracted easily with trivial things. But even they find it difficult to focus. The primary reason they can’t focus on the work at hand is the thought of all that work, that they aren’t doing.

The world around us is continuously changing in both predictable and unpredictable ways. You often feel that you are losing control of your work. Instinctively, you decide to make a to-do list, and aha! You feel better. You get few things done. Fast forward a few days and then you notice that your to-do list has started crumbling with the onslaught of newer work.

Don’t blame your to-do list if this is happening with you too. Instead, turbocharge your to-do list. This is how you do it.

1.     Have just one place to make your master to-do list: a notebook, a spreadsheet, or whatever suits you but just one! You may temporarily collect some tasks elsewhere, but as soon as it is feasible, put them back into your master To-do list. Don’t worry even if it grows into a monster. But ensure that it is up to date all the time.

2.     Always scan your master to-do list once every weekend to pull out what is relevant for the coming week and focus only on that weekly to-do list during that week.

3.     All that you have to do every day is to review your weekly to-do list and make a day-specific to-do list and just focus on that small list that day.

4.     Any new tasks that come should go into your master to-do list. Some of them should also into your current week list if they are relevant for the ongoing week.

Now when you are working on some task, you know that that is the best use of that time slot and the other tasks that are not being done are safe in the list and will NOT be missed or will not fall through the cracks. This confidence keeps your mind calm enough to focus on the work at hand.

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(featured image: Photo by vikram sundaramoorthy from Pexels)

How to Quickly Create Your Meetings Requests in Google Calendar

Most meetings end, agreeing unanimously at least on one point and that is when to meet next! Phew, we have another meeting! And then more meetings!!

Meetings are an essential part of our work and sending meeting requests an essential chore. Most often sending meeting requests is a thankless job but it has the potential of creating chaos and confusion if not done correctly. If sending meeting requests is one of your activities, you should organize yourself so well that drafting and sending a meeting request should not take more than two minutes.

Let’s see two ideas with which Google Calendar (if that is what you use) can help you to clock that super-speed on a computer.

  1. Side panel of Gmail App – If you haven’t noticed, on the bottom right of the Gmail page you have the option to show the side panel. The side panel gives quick access to many other Apps and one of them is Google Calendar. All the GUI is very efficiently packed in that sidebar to get your work done fast. It also makes a lot of sense to create a meeting request just by side of your emails as you could refer them for the required information.

One neat trick Google Calendar does is to use the subject of the open email as the subject of the meeting being scheduled and you would be surprised to see how often that choice is better than what you had in your mind!

  1. Meeting Request Template – You may create meeting requests with the same content but for different people and at different times. You may like to have a sort of meeting request template to do this quickly.

Google Calendar being a web app opens a nice opportunity to do it. Create the meeting request of repetitive nature with all the details. While the meeting request is open, click on the hamburger menu and select “publish event”. On the Publish event GUI, copy the “link to the event” and paste it in the browser address bar and test it out. Finally, bookmark the URL on the bookmarks bar or in a suitable folder, for future use. Name the bookmark suitably. (Learn more about browser bookmarks here and here).

Next time, when you require to create a meeting request of that kind simply click on that bookmark and you will have the draft of the meeting request ready with the most laborious part taken care of.

Happy (perpetual) meeting season to you!

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(featured image: Photo by fauxels from Pexels )

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