The worst measure of productivity

2013/05/06

Of late, I’ve been coming across a lot of people who pride in how less they sleep. So much that, when there is a discussion around how hard they work, it always hovers around how less they sleep. And I have started to get a feeling that this is a measure of productivity for many people – hope I’m wrong here though.

While common sense would concur that this is not the best (if not the worst) measure of productivity, why would someone take pride in saying how less they sleep when the discussion is how hard they work? Is it because it is the easiest way to quantify the hard work quotient? Honestly, I have not come across any successful person talking about how many hours they sleep. In fact, I have only heard them advocating the importance of a good night’s sleep.

A better way to quantify the hard work quotient is probably how many hours we can put in at work on a weekly basis. This is holistic, gives time for all roles we need to play in life, and gives enough time for sleep. For example, I have read that Ashok Soota (co-founder of Mindtree consulting) clocks 70 hours a week at work. That is less than 50% of a week, still is a lot of work, gives enough time for all roles we want to play, and of course sleep. Needless to say, I believe he has to be highly productive given that he has been holding executive positions for more than half his lifetime, has co-founded one of the most successful companies, and at 70, has founded another company. Personally, I would like to clock not less than 55 hours at work every week – I know, I am not there yet.

So, do yourself a favor, sleep well, and if possible, take a power nap in the day. Basically, enjoy a productive life!!!

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12 Lessons Learnt from Failure…

2011/12/22

Learning from failure is a very important management principle that people talk about so much these days. It is a good tool no doubt, and I cannot claim that I don’t learn from them as much I can’t claim I don’t fail. So, here is a short list of my lessons from personal failures in whatever little experience I have. I definitely don’t have the breadth of experience to make a long list, so I will keep adding them as I get it.

  • Humility is an effective tool only if you have the power. If you don’t and still want to value humility, you are just a sitting duck.
  • If you think you are smarter than your boss, just shut up and find a better a job. You will not win the battle in case you decide to go for it.
  • If you do something embarrassing, own it, apologize and forget it. But beyond a point, pretend it didn’t happen. This holds true even if you have to live it up all the way.
  • Laugh at yourself. It’s much better than others laughing at you. And the chances of no one ever not laughing at you never exists.

These are lessons I learnt the hard way from other’s failures.

  • Behavior, intent & values should be consistent and complement one another. Bad behavior and good intent is pardonable. Good behavior but bad intent is a trait of the lesser being, easily identifiable, and not worth in the long run.
  • Insecurity breeds only in people who have absolutely no confidence in their skills and knowledge.
  • Having the right connections is no substitute for bad results. Even your connections will find ways of moving away if you produce bad results consistently.
  • Don’t do anything with money as the primary motivator. There is no way you will make enough money with inflation around.
  • But then, don’t pretend you don’t need money and you can survive on air and water. By the way, you need to pay your dues even for water.
  • Don’t try to work around people who deal with you honestly. You can never ever get back to them and there are not many people who do deal fairly.
  • BSing works in the short-term. Please don’t be apologetic in case you have short-term goals and BS to achieve it.
  • Kharma has its way of following you. Good and Bad!!!

So, what are your lessons from failures?


Treks do Teach something

2010/02/04

We completed our third trek in less than 6 months – not bad for a guy who is not even married for 6 months uh? I don’t know when I started to call my travel “treks”, or how I started liking them, but I have always believed in travelling frugal with minimal baggage – including just barely enough clothes, elementary toilet supplies, absolutely no medications, no major planning, and more importantly, just about enough money. I also believed a vacation essentially meant running as far away from civilization as possible – with access to basic human requirements – food, shelter and clothes (but I started longed for a credit card acceptance recently though).

So when I joined a group of people for regular treks, i was neither bowled over or nervous – excited I was though.  Each of the 9 treks I had done were unique in one sense and common in another. Unique because each had unique experiences (of course, why else are there so many places in the world to visit), common because what I saw and you could say “learnt” were pretty much common.

Never try to fight nature

Because you cannot. Simple! Try to be with it. Nature has its laws and we try to continuously break it for our convenience. Just like its natural for you get drenched if you are deep inside a jungle when its raining, its natural to shift according to the calls of natural cycles (like business cycles?). And don’t worry, you will catch a cold or fever only if you move to a warmer place immediately, if you allow the body temperature to shift according to the outside temperature, you should be fine (I’m no doc, but I learnt this the hard way).

Never be scared by things you cannot figure out

If you cannot figure out or see something, what is there in it to be scared? Risk management is a very serious subject, but buffering just for the heck of it saying “we might face something – who knows” is not a good strategy. Either identify them and figure them out, or just ignore them. When we hear strange jungle sounds but cannot see them, we tend to either ignore them or figure them out. Freaking out never helped us. If we know what it was, we sort of know what to do. If we see elephant droppings in millions around us, we do freak out, but never stop walking. Irrespective of what the “risk” is, decide on what you would to face it and move on.

Remember there is only one way – Forward

You might be tired, you might feel like puking or passing off, but you don’t have a choice, just keep moving in the direction the trails take you. Once the focus is set right and goals clearly established, just go for it with whatever you have. There is not bigger motivator for you than yourself. You just cannot turn back once you are committed – what you would loose is much more that way.

Stick together with your herd

Just like elephants do all the time, the best way to survive a three day jungle trek is being with your group unless you are on a tested trail – and let me tell you, trekking is no fun on a tested trail. When you are treading a new path, better stick around with the team. Do yourself a service, please don’t set yourself unrealistic expectations of being an one man army. Such a thing is only fantasy.

Take things as they come

Extension of point 2 – no point guessing what you would see of encounter next. Just move towards the goal as a team and trust your instincts and nature. You would encounter numerous hurdles (whats the fun or better still, “challenge” otherwise), but try to figure them out and move on, you have a better chance of success.

Its OK to follow someone

Yes, individualism is important and thats what keeps a person going and motivated, but honestly its OK to follow someone. If you cannot figure out the trails and someone else can, just follow him/her. You are safer that way. Similarly, if you want to lead, better be sure where you are heading. You might be on the wrong trail, but if you have your fundamentals right, you would reach the right course one way or the other. Get your fundamentals right, you can survive any challenge. Read Gandhi’s autobiography or Steven Covey’s leadership materials to get an understanding of what right fundamentals might mean.

Reserve the biggest celebration only for the ultimate goal

We have gone for binges on the peak only to realize that we cannot cover even a single mile without being dehydrated to death – not literally though. But when we do the binge after reaching safe ground, its not only rewarding, but sometimes we get a feeling the body also easeing out a bit – hallucinations maybe.

Have fun

You might not have water and now know when your next source of water would be, you might have to rely upon energy bars for nutrition (which my mom never allowed me to have more than 1 a day), you might not even have access to an ATM, but as long as you can find fun in what you do, you would not loose it mid way. Just enjoy what you are doing once you are committed, laugh at yourself a bit, don’t be too self conscious – just don’t worry, the world will survive 2012.

Disclaimer: If these sound very similar to the thousands of “leadership” articles you have come across already, I apologize – I read some too.


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