Executive Coaches Reveal: Six Ways to Work Smart
Mumbaikars’ lives revolve around the constant tick-tock of the clock. After all, big dreams are synonymous with Mumbai. Each second matters — much like the local trains that cannot afford even the slightest delay. Office-goers change stations, get to work, meet deadlines, rush to meet family obligations and then do it all again the next day, like clockwork.
Varsha Sanghavi, a 38-year-old doctor, wakes up at 4am, spends two hours on household chores, gets her daughter ready for school and leaves the house just in time to catch her train, bound for work. In a city where time is a luxury, Sanghvi negotiates her precious moments with care.
Early in her career, she realised that most Indian higher-ups believe that the smartest employees are the ones that stay late every day. “Many don’t understand the difference between a hard worker and a smart worker. It’s a catch-22 situation. You end up spending longer hours and even [coming in] on weekends, as you don’t want to lose in this rat race,” says Sanghavi. We asked Mumbai’s leading executive coaches how professionals like Sanghavi can overcome feelings of helplessness and take back control of their time.
1. Harness the three-bucket principle
If you don’t have any plans to quit your job and are up to your eyeballs in work, what is the next best option? “One of the things that I usually ask people to do is divide their 24 hours in to three buckets. Each bucket is allocated for the notional time they spend for their work, sleep and relationships, and hobbies,” says Rajeev Raju, executive coach and founder of Gravitas Consulting.
“If you spend 12 hours for work and eight hours for sleeping, then your other spheres of life would definitely take a beating,” he adds. “What I have seen is eventually people try to keep work in perspective and spend more time with family or do other activities that they enjoy.”
2. Be assertive
What are your work goals? Don’t be shy about showing colleagues what is important to you. “Otherwise,” Raju says, “it will be an uphill task to change your persona at your workplace. Then you can only pray your manager will change, or change your job.”
3. Take time to disconnect
Most of us are married — to our gadgets. And it is not always a happy marriage. Avoid checking emails during the productive hours of the day to minimise time wastage and allocate a specific time of the work day to deal with your devices.
Similarly, turn off notifications once you have returned home, ensuring you stay unplugged from the business world. Instead, consider exploring the numerous theatres of the city, like the National Centre for Performing Arts; broaden your mind at the Nehru Science Centre; or pledge to explore each café in your neighbourhood.
4. Plan your leisure
PepsiCo CEO Indra K Nooyi triggered a huge debate at the Aspen Ideas Festival last year after she said that women can’t have it all — but her perspective is not unique. Avni Palekar, a work-life balance coach for professional women, says it is quite common for working women to feel guilty about their busy schedule. “If they are at [the] office, they want to be at home, and vice versa. Men are also prone to guilt from missing at-home time, so it is important for professional men and women to make regular leisure plans.
“It is important to figure out the most important thing [in terms of leisure] that one should do in a week, or a year or a month,” says Palekar, referencing a concept made popular by bestselling book The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.
5. Don’t multitask
Despite popular belief, multitasking is not a real skill that anyone naturally possesses. The next time your boss asks you to do three different projects, remember that he or she does not mean to do all at once. Instead, divide your time and allocate an adequate amount of effort to each task. Otherwise, you will be bogged down by distractions, inefficiencies and errors.
6. Make work fun
If you don’t enjoy yourself at work, it doesn’t matter whether your workplace has a billiards table, a basketball court or a top-end gaming zone. You need to try to make work enjoyable, by building rapport with other team members. That means communicating like a family. “The majority of Indian employees don’t share their best practices with the rest of their team and are also unwilling to ask for help from their team members, says Raju. “If you want to become a smart worker, then you need to be willing to learn from your fellow team members. It’s important to build rapport and communicate with your team members."
Personalising your workplace is also another trick that work coaches suggest. “You can stack your workspace with green tea, chocolates and perfume, or hang pictures,” says Palekar. “The point is to make your workplace feel like your second home."
Mumbai’s leading work coaches have a final word for you: be smart and don’t lose sight of your main goals — whether they be professional or personal.