Category Archives: Productivity

Lessons on Global Competition from India

Even with the deepening of global business relationships and the influx of immigrants coming into the US, many American professionals still don’t realize how globally competitive markets really are. The past few years in the US, we’ve felt the pain of a tight job market. And I’m not convinced that my generation is prepared for the next wave of competition from abroad.

In the small town I grew up, it seemed we all deserved to be handed jobs once we graduated high school. If someone lost their job, it was NEVER their fault. And if someone’s job was outsourced, uh oh! Not fair!
Like my mom always used to tell me “Jessica, the world is not fair. Get used to it.”

But maybe the world is more fair than we think….

With the global nature of markets and the ease of communication between East and West, maybe we should seek to learn from our peers across the world who are putting in extra study time, specializing from a young age and sacrificing greatly to get ahead.

Expectations

When I lived in India, I noticed a few major differences in the way that middle class children are raised in comparison to American kids. Especially regarding the expectations that their parents have for their academic performance.

  • In America, we want our kids to be involved in activities which they enjoy. Allow them to explore their creative and athletic abilities.
  • There are no extra-curricular activities in India. After school kids go to ‘tuition’- which are extra study sessions.
  • In America we want our kids to be ‘well-rounded’.
  • In India, parents want their kids to be specialized in a steady field which guarantees employment in the future.
  • In America we want our kids to be in at least one competitive sport, and some parents push their kids to perform and compete. Parents participate in the support of athletic events and show ‘team spirit’.
  • Indian kids don’t really play sports unless its cricket (typically only boys). Girls and boys also play some light badminton on the roof of their house. They stay in their neighborhood within yelling distance of their mother. The only ‘team spirit’ that they feel is for Indian Cricket.
  • In America, the ranking and division of the sports teams are a major sway factor and reason for fame of a particular school.
  • In India, schools are known only for their academic quality and ranked accordingly.

Indian kids and American kids are happy. It all depends on cultural norms and the way the parents formulate and communicate expectations.

Desire for Security

One of the possible explanations for this Indian focus on academia is the desire for security. In America, many middle class families have grown up with a sense of financial security for generations. Our grandparents remember what it was like to live a life of uncertainty (due to the Depression), but our parents may have never been directly affected by severely tough times.
In India, the possibility of poverty  is not a distant reality. It is right here, right now. Indians are forced to face this every day as beggars and slums confront them on every time they cross the street. Striving for financial security is a must and a driving factor for most middle class Indian families.

So what can we take away from this?

The world will only become more competitive.
I think we will start seeing trends of American families who give their children a bit more guidance in academia. Clearly setting expectations of which fields they hope their children will go into. Parents will creatively find fun ways where kids can be involved in academia outside of school. Parents will allow time for sports and video games, but will set more stringent boundaries on the child’s free time.

We need to make sure that kids who grew up in America are ready for the wave of competition that is about to come. Instead of feeling entitled to a job, American kids need to be prepared to compete with peers like most middle class Indians, who started doing computer programming in 3rd grade.

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Dos and Dont’s of Working from Home

I’ve found that there are only a few activities I can successfully get done from my home office: answering simple short emails  that take less than 3 minutes, conference calls, and reTweeting others’ material  on Twitter. That’s it. Pretty pathetic, huh?

Why is it that my tea cupboard tempts me, the pile of laundry on my closet floor annoys me and that pile of leaves in the yard beckons me to go out and rake it up?

At home sometimes my creativity is so zapped by distractions, that I can hardly write a Tweet, much less create a semi-intelligent blog post or edit my company’s  sales process outline. Why does this happen to us?

Q: How does working from home zap our creativity?

A: We don’t eliminate the wrong distractions parts of our day by creating boundaries.

Lets examine the big distractions and challenges and how we can overcome them.


The ‘No Nos’ of Working from Home

1) Assume that Work Will Happen on Its Own

You probably don’t have a boss looking over your shoulder, nor do you have a detailed schedule that others are imposing on you. You must schedule times for tasks on your own and stick to it. Working from home requires an immense amount of discipline and one should be prepared to ‘be your own boss’. Schedule times to blog,  make sales calls, catch up on personal emails, etc. Honor your schedule.

2) “I Work Alone” Mentality

You are fiercely  independent, which is maybe why you are working for yourself or from a remote location. however, we don’t operate effectively in a vacuum. Seek an accountability partner who also works from home. Chat once a week to talk about your schedule, how well you are honoring your scheduled tasks and what your goals are for next week.

3) Bringing Work into your Personal Spaces

It sounds like common sense, but I have been guilty of this many times. When a 6am conference call is required to chat with colleagues in a different time zone, sometimes it feels good to snuggle under your bed covers and prop your computer up on a pillow . Don’t do it! Get up, make some tea. Find another warm chair in your house and get comfy there. This is one reason why your office should be comfy-see next point) under “Must Dos”.

Must Dos for Working at Home

1) Make your Workspace Enjoyable

Get a comfortable chair and a desk that you enjoy working at. Decorate your office (or designated work space) with pictures,  a nice color of paint and a nice ambiance. You should look forward to sitting in your office. If your office is uncomfortable and staunch you’ll probably end up sitting on the couch and eating Fritos instead. This hurts your personal productivity. Enjoy your office space.

2) Find Creative ways t0 Multitask

Eating and working at the same time is not the only way to save time (nor is it the cleanest).  Podcasts and audiobooks are my personal favorite to personal productivity! I can listen to business podcasts or audiobooks at any moment and you can do many other things simultaneously.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use audiobooks or podcasts:

  • while loading the dishwasher or cooking lunch
  • while exercising
  • while riding your bike to a meeting (or driving)
  • while getting ready or putting on makeup
  • while doing mundane tasks like data entry
  • while doing yard work

3) See Other People…Daily!

I can’t stress this enough. Schedule time to see people face to face every day! Even if this means going to visit your 90 year old next door neighbor for 20 minutes in the middle of your work day, do it. I find that being alone all day actually hurts my personal productivity. I need of social interaction I spend too much time on social media browsing my friend’s pictures, but the fact of the matter is- we need to talk to people face to face! I learned this the hard way when I looked at how many hours I was spending on different tasks per day. I was taking way too long to get even simple tasks done. I was bored. My advice is to get out! See people. I promise it will help your productivity.

Working from home can be one of the most challenging and rewarding endeavors. Be sure to set yourself up with the right circumstances to be productive.

A Cold Inspirational Start

Last winter I was sitting in my Chicago bungalow, under a blanket with a space heater next to me and a typing on my computer with gloves. It was the biggest storm of the season and I hadn’t left the house for days. But hey…I was still working!

I needed advice. My frozen fingers typed into google ‘work from home’, ‘working from home advice’, ‘Chicago work from home groups’…nothing but a few measly sites that gave me 10 tips which I already discovered myself long before.

Was there anyone else out there who wanted to know hot to be more productive by working from home? Anyone else who was going crazy sitting in their house all day?

One November afternoon during my work day, I contemplated what I’m uniquely good at. As I sat under a tree reading Selling the Invisible in my front yard taking my routine afternoon break from emails, it hit me like an apple allegedly hit Newton on the head- I am an expert on working from home.

I was inspired to start this blog from Andreas Kluth’s Global Nomad article on the Economist which I originally heard about from a favorite podcast of mine Indicast. The article’s point is that “Global Nomadism’ is changing the way we interact with each other. It is changing the way we work. It is changing our productivity. It changes our boundaries between work and personal.

As a lone US based ranger of a company based overseas, I wondered if anyone else was out there who felt like they were at work all the time. I’ve started this blog to create a Global Nomad community and place where other nomads can read funny stories and share thoughts about the advantages and frustrations of working from remote locations

Here are some of the topics I plan on covering:

  • Maximizing your time at work
  • Creative ways to multitask
  • Staying disciplined
  • Keeping productivity up
  • Social Interaction
  • Separating ‘work and personal’
  • Saving money for yourself and your company
  • Connecting with other ‘nomads’
  • Fun travel stories and tips
  • Managing your schedule

Three cheers for a nomadic lifestyle!

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