Learn to say “No” (i)

No

“Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.”

-Bob Carter

What do you do when someone asks you to do a task you would rather not? Picture this scenario. You are working on a project early in the morning, trying to build momentum. Someone approaches. They ask if you have five minutes. They need your help to go over a report that they have to submit later today. What do you tell them?

You have three options. The first is to say “No. Go away.” That would do the trick and you might be able to get back to work after that but it won’t win you any allies that way. The second is to say “Yes” and allow the person take control of your schedule for the rest of the morning. You know the report was supposed to have been their responsibility and you feel they shouldn’t bother you. It’s not your job to look over their report. Yet you also feel you could do a better job of it than your colleague. Maybe they need a little help after all and you know you could write a better report than them. So you check the report and it’s a mess and you end up having to rewrite parts of it. By the time you are done, you have “helped” your colleague write a report and they can turn it in just in time. Then you go back to your original task and curse the fact that since you have wasted so much time you now have to work after office hours to finish your work.

No
No words necessary

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They are everywhere

A phone screen displaying "1 new message"

Where is your phone? In your pocket? A handbag? On a table in front of you? Or in your hand reading this article? Another question: How many phones do you have?

A lot of Nigerians have more than one phone. The logic seems to be use your smartphone for social media and have a dumb phone for use as a backup. Wherever you go today, you are likely to see someone happily pressing away at their phone’s screen. It’s no longer uncommon to see two people on a “date” busy typing away at their phones, completely ignoring each other.

A sea of phones
You can have too much of the good thing

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Work from home notes (ii)

A house with a figure inside working at a desk

Last week, I wrote about the pros and cons of working from home. Many people have had to adjust to a new reality of working during the COVID-19 pandemic. The adjustment has not been easy for some. If this was your first time having to work from home, you might have found yourself facing more distractions, incurring more expenses and not knowing when work ends and personal life begins. To aid your adjustment, I will share a few tips that worked for me: Continue reading “Work from home notes (ii)”

Work from home notes (i)

A house with a figure inside working at a desk

2020 has been a difficult year for many. The COVID-19 pandemic hit the world hard exposing weaknesses in political and healthcare systems. The economy has also not been spared. A lot of people have lost jobs. If you are among the lucky who still have your job, you might have had to adapt to a new way of working: work from home.

In a bid to limit the number of people under one roof and by so doing curb the rate of infections, employers have had to ask staff members to work away from the office. For many Nigerians, this was their first time working from home.

A sticky note that says "Please stay home"
Dream or nightmare

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Not all hours are created equal

Clock gears

If you ask most people, what hours they would consider their peak periods of alertness, they would say early morning hours. After a good night’s rest, they are fully rested and have the energy to dive into almost any task with greater enthusiasm. It also helps that at those hours, there are often fewer distractions. People are yet to have their first arguments for the day and as a result are often in a happier place.

Unfortunately, the early morning hours are the time that a lot of people waste on trivial tasks. Many people wake up at dawn, reach for their phones and start checking social media. Unless you are managing the social media profile of a company for a living or work in customer care, that is probably not the most productive use of your time. How much more could you get done if you learnt to harness an hour or two each morning?

Hourglass against a backdrop of dawn
What did you do this morning?

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Nothing will get done if you don’t set boundaries

A chlakboard drawing of an unplugged socket

Most people work in teams with other people. They also have obligations to their families and friends. As a result of these, we have to contend with the fact that:

  1. It is necessary not to isolate others.
  2. It is also necessary not to let others take advantage of you by dumping their work on you.
  3. It is ethical that you also not try to take advantage of others by dumping your work on them.
A silhouette man
Only For your deliverables

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Your tech habits could be the reason you aren’t getting anything done

A glitzy image of internet connected devices

Technology is supposed to make life easier. You are able to read this article on your device thanks to technology. I have a list of favourite productivity apps that wouldn’t exist today without advances in technology. Used properly, technology can be your best friend as you work towards achieving a more productive life.

Technology, however, is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you have apps and resources that can help with your productivity. On the other hand, you have social media and addictive games that are productivity traps.

A laptop, a tablet, a mobile phone and a camera on a table
How do you use your devices?

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What is distracting you today?

This is a distraction, ignore it and get back to kicking ass

Distractions are a part of life. When your neighbour says hi while you are in the middle of a complex calculation and you stop to say hi back only to find that you have forgotten what step you were on and have to start again from the beginning, that is a distraction. It is impossible to eliminate distractions from your life. You can’t stop your friendly neighbour saying hi when you’d rather work in peace. You also can’t predict when your children will try to get your attention with the latest picture they have drawn. What you can do is choose how you manage distractions.

Broadly speaking, the distractions we have to manage fall into two categories: internal and external. An internal distraction is you suddenly curious to find out the year popcorn was invented while doing your business accounting. An external distraction is that phone call from your friend while you are in a meeting.

Social media icons
Social distraction, sorry, media

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The SI Unit of work should be a Solid Hour

A signboard. It says Focus

My Physics teacher will probably kill me for the title of this article. What’s your BHAG? The Big, Hairy audacious goal. The one that scares you a little when you think about it. I’m sure you had one for the year. That’s why you are here. The year is almost over. Are you likely to get it achieved before the year ends? Many people come up with a great BHAG but struggle to commit to the work needed to achieve them. Does that sound like you?

The word "focused" marked by a green highlighter
I choose to do one thing alone

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Are all those whatsapp groups adding value to your life?

The Whatsapp logo cancelled

How many whatsapp groups are you in? How many add value to your life? How many were you added to without your consent? A lot of people are in whatsapp groups they would rather not be in simply because they can’t leave without other group members knowing and they want to avoid hurting the group admin’s feelings.

From extended family groups to project team groups to the group your friend created to discuss the latest MMM type scam, whatsapp groups are becoming a huge distraction. Even when a group has been set up for a valid purpose, it’s hard to stop members making irrelevant posts. Some members now post irrelevant content and immediately apologise saying it was sent in error. These “accidents” have become all too common for some people.

Silhouette of a crowd. The whatsapp icon is coming out of their heads
It takes a village to make a whatsapp group

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