Lockdown Lessons: No one can lock down my mind - R Sridhar

R Sridhar, Partner, IDEAS-RS
R Sridhar, Partner, IDEAS-RS

The year 2020 has taught us several harsh lessons. Barely had we entered a new year with renewed hopes and expectations, when the global COVID-19 pandemic jolted all of us out of our comfortable ‘Normal’ zone and flung us into an uncertain world. Terms like lockdown, social distancing, quarantine, work from home, new normal, unprecedented times and the dreaded ‘R’ word – Recession – have become a part and parcel of our daily lives.

India is just emerging out of an over two-month lockdown – a period that has changed our lives, behaviours and the way we conduct business forever. The lessons that we have learnt during the lockdown period and our experiences during the year so far, will help us navigate a world that we had never imagined. Adgully’s latest endeavour – Lockdown Lessons – is an attempt to present the key learnings that India’s business honchos have learnt and imbibed, and which can help the industry navigate the new normal better.

Working from home for two decades now, R Sridhar, Partner, IDEAS-RS, (Former director of Ogilvy India), could be called a pro at it. In this inspiring interaction, Sridhar shares how he has been having a very productive time during the lockdown period and the lessons that he has learnt.

What are the key lockdown lessons learnt as a professional during the lockdown period?

I realised there are two aspects to the lockdown. One is the physical aspect. That you can’t move around freely as before. The second is the mindset aspect. It is like being imprisoned. During the Independence struggle, Lokmanya Tilak was imprisoned. He wrote ‘Geeta Rahasya’, a treatise on Bhagvad Geeta. Jawaharlal Nehru wrote ‘Discovery of India’.

My daily routine is that I get up at 4:00 am and have my bath. I read a few pages from my favourite books. Then I write my diary - a couple of pages every day. I have just started work on my dream project - writing fiction. I think I have an excellent plot - even if I say so myself.

I realised that the lockdown is a mind-game and if I did not handle it that way, I will be miserable. Be positive. Be energetic about everything you do. Exude enthusiasm. That is the lesson I learnt as a professional as well as an individual.

It is not as if I don’t miss the outside world or meeting friends. I do. WhatsApp has been the answer.

I attend a couple of webinars a week. I have delivered talks and online workshops. A week ago I was in a discussion with my dear friend - another Sridhar from Bangalore.

No one can lock down my mind, unless I let them. And I am not letting anyone do that.

What have been some of your key takeaways in terms of life lessons from the lockdown period?

It is important for me to understand what is important and what is in my control. My focus is only on what is important and in my control. I don’t worry about things that are important but not in my control. Nor do I worry about things in my control, but are not important.

I must say this is a struggle and not at all easy. But I am getting there.

At the end of it, I think I will emerge a smarter person than I was before the lockdown.

How did you manage and achieve work-life balance while working from home?

This has been my problem even before the lockdown, since I have been working from home for the last 20 years.

I can’t say I achieved it. Far from it. One thing that seems to work is I finish a substantial portion of my reading and writing during early morning hours. So, I am available to handle household chores during the day. I love washing utensils – I do that maybe two to three times a day. There are only two of us, so there are not too many utensils. I can provide an excellent testimonial for Vim Liquid!

My wife and I watch a lot of TV together. Everyday our daughter and grandkids appear on Whatsapp – that is a time I look forward to.

I have a huge collection of books. My ambition is to review all the books one by one.

I am working on a major project with my former colleague Krishna Mohan on making Chennai green.

I am beginning to understand work-life balance is not about how you allocate a number of hours. It is about how you allocate mind space.

I have started on my dream project - writing fiction.

It has been more than two months since the lockdown was enforced. How are you gearing up for back to office mode?

Luckily, my office is one of the rooms at home. But my clients will get back to office mode. I suspect even then all my meetings might be online. So, I am trying to make the most of online meetings. I am trying my hand at delivering talks online. Yesterday, I delivered an online talk – ‘I am not creative’ – to about 200 Rotarians from Chennai. That was a good experience.

I have been active on LinkedIn for several years now. I have over 12,000 connections. I have been writing LinkedIn articles regularly. The one I wrote about how David Ogilvy visited my home received an amazing response.

I am active on FB too, but not much on Twitter.

Any lessons that you picked up in financial management from the lockdown period?

I learnt an excellent lesson about financial management, which has come in handy during the lockdown period. My job is to earn money and it is my wife’s job to manage money. She does a brilliant job.

Lesson: Delegate the right responsibility to the right person!


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