Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's About Time

Women and Time Management

I am not a feminist. Nor am I into women's rights or anything of the sort. But this blog is written from a women's perspective- from my perspective, with no offense meant to anyone - just a straight- from-the-heart piece.

A long career in an industry where "deadlines"  rule our lives and "timelines" are excel sheets emailed to clients, has shown me a behaviour which is quite a paradox. Yes I am talking about "working late". It's quite fashionable to say that at times even  in social gatherings. "I work pretty late". " Oh ya, Mumbai is a safe city. I have come back alone at 3 in the morning". Or "this is the first free weekend after four months."

Now not for a moment am I making sweeping statements here.  The fact that "deadlines" rule the roost means that work goes on well past the official swipe time of 5.30 pm. The artwork HAS to leave tonight or else we miss catching the release.The tapes HAVE to be couriered. Understood. We have all gone through the grind.

But, working late has also  become a way of life for most of us today.  I have had youngsters coming up to me  with "  Can I leave early today?" " Sure, what time?" " Around 6.30" !!!!

What I have noticed and I can vouch for this is that most of my colleagues who manage to  leave around 630 pm are girls. ( We are all girls , even at 50). 
The first question asked to women in most interviews is- “Are you married?” If the answer is “yes”, the next question is “ Do you have kids?” God help her if she says yes. Because then follows a range of explanations provided proactively by the interviewee about how she has her in-laws to take care of her kids and how long hours are not a problem and how her kids are very well behaved and make no demands on her time. All because she thinks she is at a disadvantage.

This is the bane some of us have learnt to live with. So to prove a point, we stay back and show the world "Yes we can". Hours at work rather than productivity becomes the yardstick of appraisals.

Most people seem to have worked out timings very well. They come in late, because they have worked late. They work late because they have  started late. And in a work emvironment where even a signature printed on a mug is teamwork, the entire team has to work "late" because some people have come in late. It is a chicken and egg story really.

My stint in the UK on the Women and Leadership programme opened my eyes on how, in a world where women have to do all chores at home besides working,  time can be managed so efficiently and effectively that lights go off an hour after work. Does work get affected? Not at all. Do clients call and complain? Nopes.

It is possible because time is managed well,  work is planned well and prioratised. Fewer smoke breaks or shorter ones maybe can go a long way to freeing up everybody's time.

I was a "working late" girl as well. Till I realised bitterly the  price I had to pay for it.

1. My little girl has learnt her first words from my maid and not me. She has scribbled her A B Cs alone coz I am never home on time. She still eats dinner in front of the tv because the dining table is never set before ten at night. And oneday I look at her and realise that she is already four. Growing up. Without someone to hold her hand and  play with her everyday.

2.   I  had no time for connecting with friends. Except office lunches and coffees. I almost forgot what it was like to just spend an afternoon with my friend , and talk about Sister Teresa's favourite joke when we were in school.

3. Mealtimes were a compromise. The stress from late hours took its toll.

4. I  had no time. For reading, for  a hobby, for even calling up my mom, who was alone thousands of miles away.

Till oneday I decided to change the course of my life. And the way I worked.

And I am happy. And much more productive than I ever was. I come in  on the dot, plan the day knowing I have 8 hours, prioratise and manage everything. To my surprise, I actually get things done much earlier. That last email can always be sent tomorrow. The review with the executive can definitely wait  a couple of days. The team sees me leave on time and are relieved. No compulsions about working late coz boss is late.

I write this with a lot of feeling. Because the biggest price  I have paid for "working late"  habitually was that I lost touch with myself.  My strengths. My desires. And it's hard to recover. Very hard.


  1. Hi Babita...
    Reminds me of another colleague in Lowe way back in 2004-05. We used to psyche her to make her leave office. And she did the same thing as you did...Makes a lot of diference to you and people around!!!

    Way to go...
    Hi to Zoya!!!


  2. True. However, is it really about "not working late"... or is it all about having the right balance between personal and professional life and prioritisig the two effectively?

  3. Yes Vishakka I agree completely

  4. Yay yay Babita. Well said.
    Priya - the Bradford One

  5. wow, wish every boss starts thinking like u, or atleast the lady bosses. but superb writeup. i loved reading it.