Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Random Ramblings: It's About Time

Random Ramblings: 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 a long career in an industry wher..."

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.

The Consumer is NOT my wife

Wearing the consumer’s shoes more often than we do.
I am  in the business of advertising. I am also a  mother and wife. And yes I am a consumer. I consume multiple brands in multiple categories everyday. I like wearing some brands on my sleeves and lining some brands on my kitchen shelves. I  pride myself in coming up with insights on X brand of noodles or Y brand of  facewash. After all I use them everyday.
Time for a reality check. I am probably the top 2% of the country . Whichever scale I am categorized by. SEC, LSM etc etc. So my insights and understanding as a consumer need not necessarily reflect the attitude and behavior of Sita from Sonapur. Who in fact represents  a big percentage of the pop strata.
So how we get under the consumer’s skin?  How do we understand our consumer better?
Thanks to my 14 years in advertising and working on some power brands and power clients, I have the experience of some very good ways  of wearing the consumer’s shoes.
1.     A 24 hour  Consumer Observation: Spend   a day ( and a night) in the consumer’s house, simply observing. The trick is to almost melt into the background, letting the family go about their usual day, and the usual  routine. Some of the most amazing realities emerge in the  depths of the kitchen  over rotis.
           What to look for.
·         Routine
·         Consumption habits
·         Relationships, roles, responsibilities of family members
·         Cultural, religious influences
·         Media consumption

2.    Shopping  Journeys: Accompany the consumer on her shopping journeys. Could be anything from the regular groceries to the jewelry store. The best way to do this is of course during the monthly shopping. It is sheer magic to see the housewife manage budgets better than most accomplished finance directors.
           What to look for.
·         Buying behavior
·         Impulse vis a vis planned purchase
·         Time spent over each purchase
·         Interaction with retailer

3.    Shopper Observations: Simply spend a day at the kirana store, the neighbourhood mall, the sabzi mandi and watch. Observe.  It can definitely build on  to any thesis on consumer buying behavior.
           What to look for.
·         Cues to purchase
·         Impulse vis a vis planned purchase
·         Impact of displays
·         Window shopping patterns
·         Negotiation and bargaining in mandis

4.    Consumer Entertainment: Watch the channels that she watches, tune in to the  FM she listens to, read the magazine she browses.  Soak in the soap characters she is inspired by, the fashion trends she follows. The incentive is that we will also end up watching the brands that talk to her in these channels. We once had sessions called Eve Chats on a  hair brand that just meant the entire team sitting together for a hour reading regional magazines and watching regional soaps every month. The insights mined were unparalleled.
            What to look for.
·         The fabric of the shows/soaps- what appeals, what are the cultural/regional nuances
·         How are sensibilities addressed
·         The Engrossment quotient of each popular show
·         Features in magazines- what interests
·         Consumer letters to the editor
·         The key character of popular protagonists
·         The brands that beam during these shows and their conversations

5.     Make friends: The neighbourhood grocer, the mall attendant, the gol gappa walla can be the perfect lens for consumers when it comes to behavior. It’s time we spent  ten minutes with them. And chat.
            What to look for.
·         How do they sell their wares
·         Loyal consumers and what makes them tick
·         Buying behaviours

6.    Expert Talks: The gynaecologist, the temple priest, the school teacher, the gym trainer, the  beauty parlour lady , the reality show recruiting agent are experts. They have an understanding on consumers  that   none of us can hope to have.  Talk to them. And share their views.
            What to look for.
·         Understanding the consumer from their perspective
·         The changes and trends in lifestyle
·         Attitudinal changes
·         Stress Points and Happiness Moments

These are just a few ways in which we can live and breathe our consumers. To have a  conversation with them , we need to lead two lives.  With passion and not as a task.
That’s the only way the consumer truly becomes “family”. ( did not dare write “wife”)