R Sridhar’s fail-safe mantra to work from home and be productive

Over the years, R Sridhar, former Director at Ogilvy & Mather, has built up a formidable reputation as an innovation facilitator, speaker, consultant & idea coach. As the world is forced to work from home amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Sridhar, who has been working from home for almost two decades, shares several helpful tips to remain productive and motivated. 

On March 25, 2000, I was completing 50 years. I was a whole-time director of Ogilvy & Mather India. (I spent 25 years at Ogilvy, which helped me grow as a professional and individual. Had fantastic bosses – SR Ayer, Ranjan Kapur, VS Chandrasekhar and Tej Kapur). 

When I turned 50, it struck me that I would have to retire at 58. I do not believe in the idea of retirement. So, I decided I will beat retirement and quit ahead of time. Started IDEAS-RS, a consulting firm. There were only two of us. My wife and I. 

Most important decision was that I will work at home. When we started, we were living in a two-bedroom flat at Vashi. So, I set up my work desk in one corner of the bedroom. We decided we did not want to build a large organisation and we will remain small. We decided to have only two employees. A part-time accounts person who would handle all accounts – billing, accounting, etc., and would work with our Chartered Accountant. A full-time driver – I didn’t want to risk driving around when my mind was pre-occupied. 

Later, we moved to an independent row house in Chembur. We converted one bedroom into my office. It has an additional desk and Desktop PC for my part-time accountant. All my books line the wall on both sides. 

My cousin, who started on his own, once told me that he would be in a shirt and trouser whenever he worked from home. I thought it was a good idea, but I was in a pair of jeans and T-shirt when at my work-desk. Those were in the early days. 

What has helped me remain productive are the following: 

  1. I have a clear job list for everyday, a To-do-list.
  2. What is not completed is carried over to the next day.

Not everything I do is based on the list. Sometimes I do things that were not planned. But those are exceptions than the rule. 

I initially started working to office hours – 9:30 am to 5:30 pm etc. That changed considerably. Now, I work anytime I have work. The most important to thing to watch out for is TV. It is so tempting to goof off to watch a match or a movie. 

Today, I work to my own timings. I get up fairly early, at 4:00 am. I read from 4:00 am to 5:00 am. Then I have writing exercises. There are many books that give you writing prompts. I write for about 30 minutes. 

I aim to keep at least two meetings a day. With clients, prospects, influencers, former colleagues, etc. I am a certified coach and am part of the Coaching Foundation of India. I am active in that alumni group and the Mumbai Chapter. I am also part of another coaching organisation, called Quinnergy. 

I sometimes meet my coachee in my home office. 

Here are a few things that work for me: 

  1. A clear job list with priorities. It is on my phone. Use any ToDo app. It must be linked to your calendar.
  2. I look at my calendar every morning – to look at appointments for the day as well as the next few days.
  3. I have become comfortable using Zoom, Zoho, etc. Great meeting tools that help me minimise face to face meetings. Saves a lot of time.
  4. I love reading and learning new things all the time. Books help me do that – huge collection on Kindle & physical books. I read books about writing, psychology, creative thinking, etc. Occasionally some fiction.
  5. I am active on LinkedIn – have 10,000 connections there.
  6. Active on FB too. Not much of a Twitter person.
  7. While at home, I used to make my own coffee & tea. I have given up both. So, now I just walk across to the kitchen to get myself a cup of hot water.
  8. While at home, my wife and I have lunch together.
  9. In the evenings we watch some TV shows together.
  10. I don’t take my mobile to my bed. It is left in another room. I pick it up in the morning to catch up on messages, missed calls, etc.

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