Distraction at work

There are many ways to be productive, many tools to use and many methods to follow. However, the tools which we use to be productive on our workstations and mobile, are all fighting for our attention. And the best way to get our attention is to brighten that screen when new notification comes or ping when it arrives first.

Ping for upcoming meeting in 15 min, ping for an email arrived in outlook, a ping someone put something in teams chat box, ohh a bigger ping, someone mentioned me in the chat! That’s cool, it’s all office and they want me on the top of all topics! Another ping from my mobile, this time my family is discussing something in WhatsApp group, as well as my “old school friend group” is on some topics. Let me not mention the constant screen popping from Facebook and Instagram! They all want me be around and participate to make me feel more socially connected!

For sure, both my workstation notification and mobile notifications are designed with good intent to keep me productive and be socially connected! But in second thought, too good is devil! There is no free lunch!

Desktop notifications are constant source of distraction
Teams made us more productive, specially post pandemic, however it’s also eating our focus time
Such mobile screens are not helping me with my productivity but bogging me down to be procrastinating more.

Fortunately I think under obligation all these platforms are offering to shutdown all these notifications! For sure these settings are difficult to find and enable. (We can guess why).

Spend time and follow these links to disable those focus eating notifications from your desktops. I use them regularly for not only for myself but also for my teammates.




The theme I follow is, when I feel need to check something, I’ll go and check, I don’t want something to remind me to do that. Mostly these notifications are not life saving one, and can be ignored. Anything urgent, they will reach to you, don’t worry. Focus on what’s in hand.

The fear of missing out

The fear of missing out is major incentive for one to go on check all those notifications. But to realise that the most important thing is front on oneself and a commitment to complete that Tak’s at hand has higher returns than the activities which demand my attention!

It is the perception that others are having more fun, living better lives, or experiencing better things than you. And this perception is completely false because it’s I’m who is creating the perception. So the way distraction works due to FOMO is the perception of missing out, followed by compulsive behavior to ensure one is not missing out. Hence the control over our feeling is very important to keep us on the track.

It’s not that easy as it said above. I understand. But the way forward is at least “awareness”’of the fact that such FOMO is impacting you and robbing you of your time and your focus. The realisation of this fact itself is a half war won! The rest half, is discipline and constantly reflecting on your journey of recovering your time and focus.

Visit following blogs and get yourself equipped with better tools.



What is organisational culture?

Many times I come across statements like “hire someone who will fit our organizational culture”, “this will not work on our organizational culture”, “the culture in this organization is different, and you need to adapt to…”…. What’s the organizational culture?

If it means anything, culture should describe the day-to-day experience of the ordinary worker. Culture is what makes the experience working at one company different from doing the same work at another company offering similar services or products.

The culture mostly gets developed in something “below the surface” organization. Remember the iceberg, that we have been shown in multiple management presentations, imagine that, and the tip of the iceberg is “the apparent organization” and the one which is not visible but heavily impacting the “culture” is “the below the surface” organization.

Small tip of iceberg is an”apparent organisation” rest of below it.

The hidden “below the surface” organization is what impacts most of us at workplace and our experience around it. This informal organization has its unofficial leaders, even rules to join or get a membership, they have their communication channel (some time more effective than formal organization). The informal organization makes decisions that affect whether or how well the official decisions are implemented.

The higher one is in an organization is, it’s less likely to know or understand what the everyday workplace experience is for an ordinary employee. Even one who rose through the ranks is unlikely to get it. Therefore, managers and leaders are the least likely to understand the culture of their organization though, ironically they are the ones most likely to talk about it.

The culture I think is a three dimensional thing, with following three axis

  • How do I feel about my job (High-Low)
  • How do I feel about my workgroup (High-Low)
  • How do I feel about my company? Valued? Included? Proud? (High-Low)
It’s complex, but once you know what it is, you will find a way to influence the culture and align it.

Giving meaning, purpose, direction and focus to work is the quintessential leadership role, leader need to understand the culture from ordinary employee’s point of view and support the organisation environment to make “culture” more inclusive and supportive to make it a success.

Coaching and Mentoring… Thought and a Goodread

Many a time we use this word quite interchangeably; however, a practitioner knows the Subtle difference between coaching and mentoring.

Mentoring is more personal, it’s one looking into the long future, focusing on improving one from a long-term perspective. A Mentor needs not to be a subject-matter expert, he needs life experience, which he will be sharing with us, and helping us with those life challenges. He for sure needs to share the same interests as the mentee, to be able to connect with the mentee and guide him for his success.

Coaching, on the other hand, is short term, focused on an immediate goal, highly domain oriented and the coach is a professional who helps coachee to identify the goal, and way to achieve it. A coach helps coachee to identify goals, develop plans to achieve them and helps them mitigate the risk with their domain knowledge.

Typically, a business needs more coaching at the operation level, and Mentoring at the management level. No rule, but an experience. I see myself using coaching as a constant tool to help make my team more effective and make them deliver the result, to boost their moral but also help them align to achieve long – term professional goals.

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

This book is really a compact and focused book toward making a more effective coach. It’s basically a focus on asking effective questions.

These powerful questions not only help get more insights on the problem which coaches want (or May want to, as he may not be clear what he wants), but it also helps him to explore more, be more aware of various opportunities to meet the expectations. Wonderful book, highly recommended read.

  1. The AWE Question >And What Else?
  2. The Focus Question > What’s the real challenge here for you?
  3. The Foundation Question > What Do You Want?
  4. The Lazy Question > How Can I Help?
  5. The Strategic Question >If You’re Saying Yes to This, What Are You Saying No To?
  6. The Learning Question >What Was Most Useful for You?
Book Summary

Task Vs. Project

Task without Projects?

What qualifies as Task? And what as Project?

“I see many people juggling with their pocket diary, todo list and many other reports, breaking down each activity as task, and ending day with a longer list than seeing few getting crossed off.”

Its depressing and deflating to see the to-do list growing, and no respite to already busy schedule.

the whole reason to maintain a todo list is making us more productive! right?

yes, in essence, its right, but its all depends on how we are making this list. and one of the key differentiation is identifying which items qualifies for being in task list and items which can be part of a project

So what is TASK : a task is something, which you can get it done in one seating, in one go, no follow-up to complete the task

and PROJECT : any thing, which has concrete outcome and a specified timelines. a Project will have many task (> 1 task)

Make a tea for spouse can be a Task if you go in kitchen and make tea in one go, but if you want to make that special Aasam tea, which needs some shopping list and some over night preparation, it qualifies for a Project with multiple tasks, e.g go out and get the special tea, get some special herbs, prepare overnight the water for that wonderful aroma etc…

I know, once we say Project, the fear of getting is complex crips in. But don’t worry, Project is only helping us to have them special focus, that it. It helps us declutter the great big to-do list. It make us see logical structure behind the reason of getting things done.

Once you are done with this, focus on how to make your todo more impactful.

While making a todo list there are many ways to make it light and compact, few of them are making [[Important and Imperative]] list, following [[Urgent and Important]] list

some good reads

Do This Now! List of Imperative Verbs – INK (inkforall.com)
The Eisenhower Matrix: Introduction & 3-Minute Video Tutorial

GTD – Someday List, a thought

I’m fan of GTD, in its spirit. GTD stands for getting things done.

GTD way of working ask to put some task in “Someday/ May be” list. The Someday/Maybe list is a big creative resource that can provide big adventures to your life and work. This list gives you permission to write down anything you can think of, without any kind of restrictions. Later you will have enough time to analyze what you have captured and eliminate it if it doesn’t make too much sense.

I had Someday list for quite a while. With day to day focus on actual ToDo with deadlines, this list is the one which I never opened. 👎

And reading some books on GTD, it’s seems something without any deadline goes to the back hole.

“Someday” is a curse to your dreams, because you’ll take your dreams to the grave.

Life is about moving and getting things done. We live in a giant rock with water and dirt, and we walk around like bags of meat and bone. What is really life about?
Leaving a legacy behind. Being remembered. But to achieve this we must work, work , work.
For that reason, don’t postpone something just because the timing isn’t right, if it is important to you and you want to do it eventually just go it and correct the course along the way of any obstacles if you find.

Take away: Deadlines are important to make sure your dreams are not dead 😊 !

Even if it’s not immediate, try to put some deadline.
black pencil on white printerpaper

Strategic Planning – an Oxymoron?

Nothing against strategy planning, many companies do, many entrepreneurs do it, and seems part of lingo for business consultants. But as I think more on this word ‘Strategic Planning’, the word it-self start making me more confused. Typically under strategic planning, is something organization takes as a list of activities, e.g. improve customer’s engagement, start new talent development program or launch a new product! off course good intention, but hardly meeting the end goal, as its mostly made without a strategy!

Strategy is how much value we create in first place,

  • value for customer,
  • for employee and
  • for supplier.

Strategy is what one come up with to over cum VUCA world (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity). Strategy is an set of choices, that position us in our chosen playing field in a way, that we will win. Strategy is a theory, it tells us why we should be in this playing field, and how we can do better on this playing field, and how we can be better on this playing field to better meet and exceed customer’s expectation. The strategy should be coherent and doable, and it should be easily translate to action!

Planning is what typically we do, set of doable activities, list of todos. The plan need not be coherent, its really works in silos, its difficult to make a plan which encompasses company’s goal.

One thing to note, Strategy’s end game is external customer’s satisfaction (to take on market), however Planning’s end game is internal customer’s satisfaction, mostly the guys who make plan, and will be happy to make it success, invariably tweaking plan on its way to make it work somehow.

As planning is completely with internal set of resources and cost, which organization owes, its easy to control, and get it done, e.g how many people to hire? how much we should expand? how many product to launch etc..? Here, we are the one to decide ‘how much’ based on our control over cost and resource, hence a favourite tools for leaders.

Strategy is for external customer, which we can’t control, we can’t control the revenue or the outcome. Its not possible to tweak customer’s need to get the end result match our expectation. And hence its a difficult activity to pursue. Its very easy to say for example, I’ll launch a new product, however its not easy to say ‘customer will end up liking my product over my competitor. While we are working on planning to make customer happy, chances are alteast on competitor we will find out about this plan and figure out how to win.

Lets take example of budget flight operator e.g. Indigo or Southwest vs premium operators American airways, Lufthansa and ex Air India. When these people are busy in planning and optimizing their routes to make business more profitable, in journey missing most important aspect ‘customer’s satisfaction’, Indigo and Southwest moved away from hub and spoke design to point to point design, ensuring customer across 2nd tire cities now get easy access to destinations, the strategy here was ‘Substitute for local bus service, and prices are substantially lower prices than premium carriers, and focus on one air craft, and be specialize in short haul service’.

Sotthwest Airlines airplane on sky
Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

As a manager and leader, we taught to do thing, of which success we can prove in advance, to minimize the risk of failing. However in new business, a new strategy demands ambiguity, and old experience may not help build a strategy, to which we can’t prove the success in advance. We should be clear about our theory, if theory is right, this will put us in the playing filed which will put us in excellent place to exceed expectations from customer. We need to accept the fact that we can’t be sure the Strategy will work in advance, or we will succeed. By accepting this fact, we also accept the angst and anxiety to make it work, which is a good thing.

Not knowing for sure,

isn’t bad Management,

it’s a great Leadership.

To make Strategy to work, few suggestions

  • Layout the logic behind strategy clearly
  • Strategy is a journey, with clear logic, its easy to make changes, if logics are not matching with real word scenario. As we know why and which logic is failing, we can tweak strategy to adapt to new and more relevant logic.
  • Keep the Strategy simple. One pager -> where we are choosing to play, How ware choosing to win, The capabilities we need to have in place, and org structure to support this.
  • Accept the worry and angst during the journey .

Some good reads:

Brainstorming – multiple positions blade

Various concepts and finally easy solution out

Typically, Brainstorming session with multiple people leads to multiple ideas, but for this use case, it was only me, Saturday morning and paper and pen.

I dreamed about many complex ideas to get solution to the problem statement last night, and started putting them on paper in the morning. Constrains was, the blade (triangular piece) should be able to adjust angle, should hold the position under force and pressure and should be easy to manage.

Post this session the simplifying various concepts and removing complexity from each on of them , got a simplified version. Just bolt it thru. Will share updates once I get 3D done.

Change, How Fast? How to predict?

How to see the future without magical power...

Where is the car?

Photo clicked on Easter early morning in 1900, 5th Ave, New York

Where is the horse?

Photo clicked at same place on Easter Morning 1913

Assuming you can spot the car in first photo, it’s one single car moving along with all horse carts, and in the span of 13 year, can’t spot a single cart in this rush hours by cars (there is one, if you have good eyesight)

So what?

The change is fast, it’s consequential and it’s quintessential for life. And as Heraclitus said…

We can’t escape change, what will help reduce the anxiety for change is anticipating it. But without magical power or without magic ball, how to anticipate change or the future?

Anticipate future 🪄

Study Past

The past gives an ocean of information when it comes to understanding our behavior under a particular situation. If we are a good observer of the past, we can anticipate how we will behave with upcoming changes. As the changes are hardly drastic, unlike Pandemic like outlier events, the changes are typically subtle changes, what surprises us, is our ignorance. We ignore slight changes, which lead to big events. So, start studying the past, it could be as easy as just summarizing each day in your mind at the end of the day, week. (Can write diary, but I’m not good at it, hence not recommending it)

Trends in other domains will soon affect your domain

The future, as I said, is not always an outlier. We can’t prepare for outlier, and there is no point preparing for it, what we can do is connect the dots from past and help understand the upcoming future trends. Look for trends around, what’s happening in other industries will soon come to your domain. You need to be aware and forcefully look for changes happening in other industries.

Be an Entrepreneur

Whatever you do, think like an entrepreneur, what does that mean? When you are an entrepreneur, you have skin in the game. You are invested, and you will have strategies to minimize risk. Now that comes naturally to entrepreneurial person, as he will always strive to survive and succeed. This is a mindset switch. Just thinking of yourself as an owner of a product, department, or organization you are responsible for, you will start working toward sustaining it. Thinking you own your life itself brings lots of clarity and ownership. We will stop playing blame games if we own our life.


The anticipation also forms the basis for the next two actionable, “explore” and “formulate”. How to formulate? Look for the following items to get some hints

  • What did last Year’s strategic plan say?
  • What does your boss or organization want?
  • What new you expect this year and why?

Formulate Strategy

  • Write your vision statement.
  • Write down the strategic plan to show how you will respond and flesh out the mission statement out of your vision.
  • Figure out ways to make sure your future comes out the way you want.
The process is important, as important as the product 
The object of the plan is to change something so it must be IMPLEMENTED!

Hofstadter’s Law

Any task you planning to tackle will always take longer than you expect, “even when you take into account Hofstadter’s law” in other word, even if you know that a given project is likely to overturn, and you adjust your schedule accordingly, it will overrun your new estimated finishing time too

Whatever you plan, you gonna miss it!

I’m following productivity tools for past most than a decade, and teaching teams and people on productivity, time management and planning and prioritisation for past 10 years, and I came across this law!

It’s like I’m getting answers to my never ending grinding of brain to be “more productive” and get my inbox zero!

It never happens, even if it happens, it stays that way for short while to be more frustrated and more demanding on self to be more productive, it’s never ending quest to be more efficient.

So the crux of this law is, even if you give yourself a standard advice during planning to give yourself twice as much as time needed for activities that your think you needed, could actually make matter worst, I.e failing in meeting that too.

This law is everywhere. We are so used to it, we just ignore it. However great companies are, however they are full of “planners” and “project departments”, they all face the same ire and same sense of “falling behind schedule”. Whether it’s Airbus delaying and messing up with A380, or Boing messing up with its upcoming human space flight (I’m sure both companies pride themselves for best of the best talents on world for risk based planning of their project. But here we are. Whether it’s desi L&T, having one of the biggest project departments in India, messing with timelines on each and every projects (ahmm… sea link) or Reliance for that matter. Or take our daily failure of estimating in how much time it will take to pick up the groceries on the way home from work. I underestimate each time. It’s so evident, but it’s so hidden.

With much fanfare for this project, it’s what I understand 1/5th of whole scope, and not taking about cost escalations and timelines.

This is little unsettling, because the law seems true, certainly seems to be in my experience ~ it suggest something very strange : that the activities we try to plan for somehow actively resist our efforts to make them conform to our plans


Our effort to be come good planners, not only fails but causes things to take longer still. To be fair, specially during pandemic, whenever me and my partner tried to book some vacation in advance, eventually failed to execute due to last minute lock down announcements (planners are missing may be) or something at work didn’t stick to the plan.

Trouble with so emotionally invested in planning for future my whole life is though, while it occasionally prevent a catastrophe, the rest of the time it tend to exacerbate the very anxiety it was supposed to take care. Non stop reviews of plan, anxiety on probable delays and upcoming delays, so much so, small success of achieving a milestone was getting overwhelmed by upcoming doubts on future millstones and actions to avoid those future delays, misses the opportunity on applauding what went great with last achieved milestones.

No one is certain about future, specially you can never be truly certain about the future, when we don’t see present and appreciate it.


Productivity Is More about Mind-Management than Time-Management

by Aytekin Tank

Came across a blog with above title. And it’s wonderful. It’s really mindset that.l needs to be fined tuned over what tools we use to make us more productive.

We have many tools and strategies as well as long list of self help books, what’s needed is a mindset to change once’s practice and become more productive.

What I have seen, including myself , we use and learn all these tools with Big Bang, but go back to original “productivity”, blaming either the tools, or being modest and blaming self discipline. Whatever those reasons are, the root cause is always “I’m not motivated” of being productive.

How counter productive is this? Oxymoron may be. But that’s the truth. The truth is, unless one has high Blood pressure or deep sickness, one doesn’t look for his health easily (I know, some of you reading this will be as fit as Rambo, but listen me out), similarly as ping the burn out is manageable and the underperformance is not impacting my routine I’m ok with my habit of loosing sight of my goals or procrastinate something.

But why to wait?

Look for opportunities and start now. Start now saving time and start now in investing future. I’ll talk about this in coming blog. Meanwhile do visit the blog which I came across. https://www.jotform.com/blog/productivity-is-more-about-mind-management-than-time-management/