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Fascinating Random Thoughts

Workplace advice that suck

I think our workplaces are packed with unpaid counsellors ready to dish out life-changing advice at the drop of a hat! If you can sense my sarcasm, you also know that almost 95% of all that you hear is based on the advisor’s observation. Not your context. The remaining 5% does’t even make sense.

I’ll focus on the 95 that does make sense but not necessarily apply to you. (Not that some of these sound “personal” and not work related… but that’s the point — most workplace advice have less to do with what’s going on at the workplace. Speaking of which, I might do another post on core business advice that you get at the workplace some other time.) Here we go:

Why don’t you meditate?

  • I have been trying to meditate for the past 10 years and believe me, it’s good but isn’t necessarily a magic pill. People recommend the practice when they see you stressed or overwhelmed. And a better way to tackle all of that is by creating some time to think and reflect.
  • Also, when do I meditate? In the mornings after I wake up? Why would I do that? I’ve been rested for the past 6-8 hours anyway! If you think meditating in the morning will help you “carry that calm” for the rest of the day — forget about it. Not happening unless you’ve been doing this for at least 10-20 years.
  • I think the best time to meditate is post-lunch when you experience that energy slump. It’s recommended that you meditate at least 90 to 120 minutes after having your meal as the practice slows down your digestion.
  • Meditating in the afternoon is much harder than mornings but would you rather practice something when it’s hard or when it’s easy? It depends on the purpose, right? People meditate so that they’re able to cope all that stress and hence, it make sense to do it in an environment that’s a tad stressful compared to my study at 4 am. But it’s easier said than done. So, we continue practicing in the morning hoping that we’re going to carry the calm during stressful times.
  • I prefer to take a 15-20 minute nap post lunch instead. It won’t ever replace meditation but is just as better. It helps my body feel rested, relaxed, centred, and calm.
  • You can either choose to meditate or take a nap — if someone offers this suggestion, take it up! And ensure that you’re meditating in the office. Even if that means you’re taking a power nap while sitting in a “meditative” pose.

Why don’t you wake up a little later?

  • This one’s usually happens when a colleague catches you yawing in the middle of a call or a meeting. It’s irritating as they don’t have a freaking clue the amount of work that needs to be done before you can wind your workday down.
  • Just say, “yes, sure; I’ll give it a try” and move on. It’s not worth the argument. If you do take the risk expect to get more advice on productivity, time management, and a positive mental attitude.
  • If you’re a driver-driver personality (like yours truly), I understand your plight. Know that there’s value is sleeping in late and if you can’t do that everyday, aim to do it on weekends. We really don’t have to knock everyday out of the park by waking up at 4 am. Sometimes 4:30 or even 5 am does wonders to our energy levels. You won’t know it until you experiment. And if possible, take it easy on the weekends. Figure out a different schedule to make up for the productive hours that you’re going to miss. Believe me, it’s okay to expect little form yourself sometime.

Why don’t you start early so you can finish early?

  • Easier said than done. This comment like the one above is without context. They don’t have a clue what’s happening in your life. Sure, waking up early sounds like an ideal thing to do but you need to sleep for at least a few (6 hours at least) hours to feel stable and productive.
  • I think we all should be able to wake up fully rested. That mostly happens when you clock in at least 6-8 hours of sleep. (Sometimes even 9 hours!) The key is to track the time you’re awake. Judiciously. It’s painful but definitely a strategy that can turn your life around for the good.
  • I recently did a week-long experiment — tracked every 15 minutes I was awake and I realised there’s a boatload of time I end up wasting. Despite that I usually am able to get a lot of things done. Doing this exercise has made me a lot more productive by making me intentional on how I use my time.
  • You don’t have to track your time every 15 minutes, though it’s what I would recommend. Start with 30 or even 60 minutes if the former sounds like an overkill. Understand that better time management is the only way you can get productive. (Most folks at the workplace who offer “time management” advice don’t even know what the hell they’re talking about. With all due respect. I’m talking about a system not an idea.)

Don’t eat a heavy break/lunch or a dinner

  • This one’s purely personal and highly subjective to the diet that you’re following. If you don’t follow one and you’re unhealthy, it’s time to consider a diet that’s balanced and will get you back in shape.
  • Having a meal post noon has a sedative effect on you. The only exception is when you have a salad or a portion of protein (only). Even then you might feel sleep if you haven’t had enough the night before.
  • Don’t expect the diet to do the work for you. What you eat is only half the equation and the other half is in the training you put your body through. There are no exceptions.
  • I prefer to underfeed (aka very, very, very light meal) myself for breakfast (which I skip 99% of the time) and lunch while having a hearty dinner. It works for me. Most folks won’t do this because they’ll “gain fat.” They’re probably right.
  • I also train twice a day most days of the week (lockdown or otherwise). So, that helps.

Why don’t you check with another colleague who’s doing an exceptional job in the area where you are struggling (or suck)?

  • Almost 99% of the time, this “colleague” is working on different things than I am otherwise I would have noticed and sought her out.
  • There’s no point in explaining to my colleague where I’m struggling as she will share what works for her, which doesn’t necessarily has to work for me. My context is different, which makes my challenge different from others too.
  • The big question is this, “how can you help me solve this problem?” People don’t ask this often. Particularly when they’ve been advised to work on something. If the answer to this is, “well, this is something you have to figure out” — good luck, you’re out on a limb and on your own. Jot down the expectation, block out some time and figure out a solution.
  • The alternative is to look for another job.
  • The best alternative, however, is to build a relationship with this colleague (who’s giving you the feedback) and find out what’s important to her. And how best can you help her? This does two things — you figure out a solution that works for you and most importantly this person and it changes the dynamics of your relationship. And people who’ve tried this have come back with positive feedback. It works.

If the above sounds like a rant, believe me, it is! I don’t even know why I get to hear half of them but it is what it is. Now that you’re aware, you should probably know where it’s coming from and be ready to do what’s right.

P.S. I don’t want you to argue with your colleagues because you know better. True wisdom is when you know where everyone’s coming from and still try to understand them better.