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How To...

April 23, 2018

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Indians stand in a queue outside a bank to withdraw cash in Ahmadabad, India. Roughly seven out of every 10 adults worldwide now has some form of a bank account, the World Bank said last Thursday, fueled largely by the proliferation of cell phone-based bank accounts and other simple bank account programs in places like India and Sub-Saharan Africa.—AP
Indians stand in a queue outside a bank to withdraw cash in Ahmadabad, India. Roughly seven out of every 10 adults worldwide now has some form of a bank account, the World Bank said last Thursday, fueled largely by the proliferation of cell phone-based bank accounts and other simple bank account programs in places like India and Sub-Saharan Africa.—AP

How working parents can build mindfulness

We all know that mindfulness can ease stress, but when you’re a working parent, it feels hard to find the time to fit in anything — even 10 minutes of meditation. Luckily, you can build mindfulness into your busy routine. Spend a few minutes writing down the activities you do each day: Drop the kids at school, stop for coffee and so on. Next, consider where mindfulness can fit. For example, with your morning cup of coffee, create a quick routine where you pause before the first sip, smell the aroma and take three intentional breaths. Finding these small but essential moments will benefit both you and your family.

(Adapted from “How Busy Working Parents Can Make Time for Mindfulness,” by Michelle Gale.)

Before a job, learn the company’s culture

When evaluating a job offer, it’s important to know whether you’ll fit in at the new company. But it can be hard to get an unvarnished view of an organisation’s culture during the interview process. Before you take the job, find people with objective, unbiased opinions of the organisation and its culture. They may be former employees or others who work with the company, such as consultants, contractors, or suppliers. Invite them out for coffee and say something like, “I’m trying to get a fuller picture of the company culture.” Then ask questions such as: What is this organisation like to work with? Where is it succeeding? What kinds of people do well in this organisation? What kinds of people leave? If you can, find out why the person you’re replacing is no longer there. Did they move on? Or get promoted?

(Adapted from “How to Tell If a Company’s Culture Is Right for You,” by Rebecca Knight.)

Good feedback is based on facts

When you’re asked to give feedback on a fellow employee, you want it to be useful. But unless you connect it to what matters to them — and separate it from your personal beliefs and preferences — they won’t be able to act on it.

— Emphasise facts, not interpretations. This means staying away from comments that are subjective: She’s self-centred. He lacks confidence.

— Point to specific behaviours instead: He doesn’t contribute during meetings. She interrupts me when I’m speaking. And ensure your feedback includes both negative and positive notes, which helps to counteract your personal biases and preferences.

For your colleague to improve, they need to know what they are doing well as well as where they have room to grow.

(Adapted from “How to Give Feedback People Can Actually Use,” by Jennifer Porter.)

Set boundaries when you work remotely

When you’re working from home, sneaking in a load of laundry may not seem like a big deal. But without boundaries, your day is likely to feel chaotic and fragmented. Give yourself structure by pretending you’re at the office. Set up ‘office hours’ (9am to 6pm, for example), and decide what is and isn’t acceptable to do during that time. Ask yourself, “If I was in the office, would I do this task during the day?” If the answer is no, do the activity before or after your set hours. Sure, it’s probably fine to take a call from a friend during your lunch break, or handle an urgent task like an emergency car repair. But these should be exceptions, not the rule.

(Adapted from “How to Stay Focused When You’re Working from Home,” by Elizabeth Grace Saunders.)

Get advice from those outside your field

When it comes to solving tough problems, tried-and-true methods can help — but they might hold you back from discovering a creative solution. If you’re in a rut with a particular problem, one way to break out is to solicit advice from unlikely sources — those who will see the issue in a completely different way. You don’t want experts in your discipline: If you’re working on a technology challenge, and you’ve talked to 10 technologists, the opinion of an 11th isn’t going to make a difference. Get ideas from someone outside your field. If you’re a consultant, for example, ask a musician or an improv comedian how they would solve the problem. And don’t discount their ideas just because they ‘don’t understand how things are done’ at your company. The goal is for their outside perspective to help you see past your assumptions.

(Adapted from “Simple Ways to Spot Unknown Unknowns,” by Dorie Clark.)

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, April 23rd, 2018