It has been historically considered more appropriate to opt for action over inaction. A doer is always regarded as an achiever; his counterpart is a naysayer, a pessimist, a stick-in-the-mud or simply a lazy lump of lard. But there are times when it is strategically better to draw in your horns, look carefully at what is happening around you, and sit tight.
One piece of advice that headhunters give jobseekers during crisis times is to look half a dozen times before they leap. The new offer may seem exciting, says Mumbai-based HR consultant Shashi Rao. But every action plan needs a budget. You may have discussed a lot of things during the interview stage. But in an economic downturn, people tend to stay with the tried and tested. Soon after you join, you will be told there is no money to implement your grand vision.
There is another danger. Some firms follow the Lifo system in accounting and administration. The acronym stands for last in, first out. The most recent recruit is the first to get the boot when things get tough, says Rao.
It makes sense in several ways. First, it rewards loyalty, which has always been a desirable in the Indian environment. Second, newer recruits are likely to be better paid than their peers (why otherwise did they join). You save much more by getting rid of them first.
In the IT and the IT-enabled services industries, this is happening already. Attrition rates have dropped sharply. This is not because there are fewer jobs on offer, though that is obviously a factor. IT professionals look around, they see that the best of firms are benching their staff and paying them only subsistence wages. They are sacking people (who passed muster all these years) on grounds of underperformance. It is better to stay where you are in such climes; after all, the HR head is your drinking buddy.
A not-to-do list is not necessarily negative. Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, sees such a list as a necessary precursor to a to-do list. If, for instance, you decide that your health demands a jog every morning, you might need to cut down on your preprandial whiskeys. The abstinence is a not-to-do, but it is inspired by a to-do — the morning run. Collins gives the example of a decision to read more, which may need to start off with a decision to watch less TV.
A not-to-do list is as important — if not more so — than a to-do list, says management consultant and magazine writer Johanna Rothman. When you make a to-do list, youre listing, categorising and prioritising all the work you need to accomplish. But with a not-to-do list, youre first thinking about why you are working, and ensuring that youre accomplishing the strategically important work… There is always more work you can do. And there will never be enough time to do it all. The key to successful work is to pick and choose which work to do and when. Ask yourself these questions:
* What does the organisation pay me to do?
* What work helps me fulfil that mission?
* What work is important to the organisation, but should not be done by me?
* What work is not needed by the organisation?
It is often easier — at the workplace or while appearing for a job interview — to bone up on what you should not be doing rather than on what you should be trying to do. It is easier to pardon omission than commission, says Rao. There are times when the laid-back are at the front.
THE WAYS OF THE MULE
A not-to-do list for entrepreneurs and office workers
1.Do not answer calls from unrecognised phone numbers. Let them go to voicemail.
2.Do not email first thing in the morning or last thing at night. The former scrambles your priorities and plans for the day, and the latter just gives you insomnia.
3.Do not agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time.
4.Do not let people ramble.
5.Do not check email constantly; batch and check at set times only.
6.Do not over-communicate with low-profit, high-maintenance customers.
7.Do not work more to fix everything. Prioritise. If you dont prioritise, everything seems urgent and important.
8.Do not carry a cellphone or Crackberry 24x7. Take at least one day off per week from digital leashes.
9.Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should. Work is not all of life.
Source: Timothy Ferris, author of The 4-hour Workweek