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Monday, 25 November 2013

26 November 2013: Round The World ticket

Well, I'm 2 days late with my weekly blog update but was travelling over the weekend between Boston and Seoul via Heathrow. Actually, I could have updated the blog while on a 4 hour transit in the T5 BA lounge but prioritised some work emails that demanded my attention.

It's a daily challenge to prioritise what should be done next. Although I enjoy strategising, it can become draining when there are many competing priorities. To put all into perspective, I usually think about what I would like to have completed by the end of the day and by the end of the week. If I keep the daily and weekly goals in perspective, it contributes to reaching monthly goals in work and life in general.

I'll probably write a lot about email over time but one thing useful is to avoid opening my inbox first thing in the morning, or last thing at night unless I plan to spend the next hour, or 8 hours being sucked into the latest demands. For example, reading email right before bed almost guarantees an 'urgent' request will come from a colleague in the USA which I then need to respond to. Even if  plan to respond in the morning, it often plays on my mind which makes it difficult to sleep. Colleagues have said the same thing about emailing and  late night teleconferences.

It's a fine balance to achieve a good level of responsiveness to colleagues when at the same time, maintaining good mental health and clarity. Pushing back makes one appear unhelpful but can also make people realise they need to plan their own workload more carefully and give colleagues adequate time to respond. I see those who are praised for 'going the extra mile' and working 12 hour days to please everyone but I wonder, at what cost to that person? I have won a few of these awards in the past but I have my doubts about whether it was worth it.

What I have noticed in recent times is that if I'm firm and clear in my actions without making excuses, people are generally understanding and adjust their approach or planning.

So, having said all that, I haven't yet described the past week. As per the title, I'm currently on a Round The World ticket on business travel to Cambridge - Boston, Seoul and Shanghai. The journey to Boston was a long one with stop overs in Los Angeles and Dallas. There were some tight connections but I didn't miss any flights and my luggage made it!

One thing I'm constantly reminded of is that maintaining an optimistic attitude will often see you through challenges. For example, my flight arrived into LA an hour late, which put me on borderline of being at risk of missing my flight to Dallas. Therefore, my connection was 'flagged' as fast track which meant I was given an orange card which ensured I got the express lane for all queues through LAX to the gate for the Dallas flight. If we had landed say 20 minutes earlier I wouldn't have qualified and would probably have been at more risk of missing the flight with the regular queues!

Another situation arose when I checked into my hotel in Seoul. They didn't have my reservation even though I had a print out from my travel agent with CC guarantee. I maintained a calm attitude and was friendly to the staff. While they 'looked into it' I bought a coffee from the hotel lobby cafe. The check-in attendant came over and apologised and upgraded my room, included full breakfast and checked me in 2 hours early! SO, it reminded me that a solution is usually at hand and there's no need to panic or make a big deal over it.

Travel tip, at the immigration line, always take the foreigner line closest to the nationals line. Invariably the nationals zoom through and they then open up the checkpoint to foreigners which is where I was standing watching closely with a grin - straight through!

Another tip, collect suitcase from the carousel before exchanging cash, using the toilet etc. I had someone take my case in Australia and waited all day at home for them to realise and return it. The same thing happened to a colleague recently so it made me realise how often people don't check the suitcase they just picked up. My case it clearly labelled but it doesn't stop some people! So, stand right near the conveyor belt where the bags emerge and watch for your case closely!

Right, other notes from my visit to Boston. Jet lag is a curse and as always I'm in a daze for 2-3 days and wish I could be more on my game when I need it most. As usual I had travelled furthest (from Australia) so was the most jet-lagged. Nevertheless, the meetings were productive and I was able to contribute to a reasonable degree.

These days, in global, matrix work environments where people seem compelled to jump whenever an email arrives, no matter what level of importance the message may contain. I find that, particularly younger folks, are competing to be the most responsive and often, indirectly the most pedantic. If a team member doesn't weigh in on every single email or (non) issue, they may be perceived as a slacker.  Some are ready to learn new methods of becoming more productive and proactive rather than scrambling in a constantly reactive state. Others don't "get it" and feel compelled to please everyone and tow the company line. It's interesting that the most successful and wealthy people tend to be disruptors who do not conform to corporate culture.

I'll write more on productivity in future posts. I write this post from Seoul, where I'm sitting in my hotel room looking at on a street scape that is sub zero in temperature. I have a meeting with a supplier at 2PM and have yet again a backlog of emails to get through. However, I have an important project task due by Friday and wish to complete at least 80% of it today before getting sucked into the next round of emails. 10 years , or even 5 years ago I would have kept on responding to emails. The problem is , the cycle never ends. These days I set the Out of Office when I'm travelling and decline the meeting invitations. At the end of the day, the metrics speak louder than not being responsive to some minor emails. If it's urgent, people can always call but the funny thing is they hardly ever do, so it can't be that urgent.

Finally, I finally got in a workout at the hotel gym last night. I did some squats, bicep curls, plank, kettle bell swings, triceps press, chest press on machine (similar to bench press). I also did some interval training on the treadmill for about 8 minutes. Having not run for months , I didn't wish to overdo it like I often do when returning to an activity after a hiatus. Now that I'm on the wrong side of 35, I find I don't bounce back so quickly for the next 48 hours. The good news is that I still find I can improve my fitness dramatically if I keep at it in a systematic way. Although non-trainers think trainers work out for fun, it's often not the case. I don't always look forward to the workout but nearly always enjoy it once I get started or at least when I'm finished. When I'm lacking motivation, I'll project to how I'll feel when I complete the workout - the buzz of it - and it motivates me to keep going.

Well, a lengthy post today and I have work to do. But, to maintain my productivity, I'll go outside and grab a coffee and will try to take a photo from the rooftop bar as it's quite a nice day outside, despite the cold!

PS: the rooftop bar had restricted access until 5PM so, no photo opportunity!

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