How I Work: Devika Razdan

 3 years ago
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How I Work: Devika Razdan

A series on how people at Grofers excel at work.

At Grofers, we have some of the smartest people who collaborate to do great work. Over the years, these individuals have crafted their own systems and tools for productivity and in this series, we share how they excel using the systems, methods, and tools that work for them.

Over the course of the last 16 years, I have trained to make the best use of my work hours. Part of this comes from accidental learning; while another is by consciously surrounding myself with remarkable mentors.

In this article, I discuss the importance of charting your work hours, the system you need to stay creative at work, and how you can prioritize for a great day at work.

Hi, I am Devika Razdan — Head of Digital at Grofers — and this is how I work.

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That’s me at the Grace Hopper Conference — 2019.

#1 Charting my work hours

There are stories of crazy work hours where all you see is the dawn and moonlight; nothing in between. Sometimes, this even goes on for 6 days a week.

While it is partially justified when there’s mission-critical releases or times when the entire org is sprinting towards a specific goal in a set cycle, it isn’t simply the right thing to do a majority of the time.

In our part of the world, “hustle” culture often takes the center stage with people using it to justify unplanned work hours and 20-hour days.

In fact, Japan has a term for this — Karoshi — and it literally translates to “overwork death”. The reason for these work-related deaths is cited to be heart attacks and strokes due to…stress.

The way you structure your work hours plays a big role in your overall productivity and well-being.

So to start with, you should define them.

Work hours also set a routine and make you accountable for your actions. You develop a cycle of habit that keeps you motivated and on track.

I have always had a fairly strong sense of office and non-office. This leads to a need to walk out of the office after a certain point in time.

I think it indirectly helped me drive stronger outcomes at work and resolve things I knew I needed others’ time for. It trained me to be wise with my time and helped me understand where and how to spend it.

I am a working mom now, so these boundaries have gotten stricter. If anything, the early adoption of how to judiciously use my work hours was a wonderful thing I did for my personal life!

#2 Prioritizing Right With Eisenhower Matrix

I spent a good part of my career consulting customers. Now for most of those customers, everything is important, all requests are urgent, and all tasks are mandatory.

Never have I heard, let it burn a bit…no hurry, take your time, Devika.

What did this lead to? A pile of tasks that would often scare the living daylights out of me.

One thing after the other, and I would be flooded with responsibilities and everything seemed important. I would try my best to complete “as many things” as I could but it would just lead to “as many as half-done things.”

This is when I learned a very important lesson: always differentiate between important and urgent. I adopted a simple methodology called the Eisenhower Matrix. I don’t remember who introduced me to it but I use it to this day. I do let some things burn sometimes.

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Source: https://luxafor.com/the-eisenhower-matrix/

The Eisenhower Matrix, also referred to as Urgent-Important Matrix, helps you decide on and prioritize tasks by urgency and importance, sorting out less urgent and important tasks which you should either delegate or not do at all.

Essentially, you pick what’s urgent and differentiate it with what’s important. Got an urgent request in your mailbox? Run it through this matrix to check on the feasibility.

Opting for prioritization like this helps you reduce anxiety, focus on the task at hand, and negotiate your way around on-the-fly requests.

Best: you always know what you are working on.

Now, everything that comes my way subconsciously goes through this matrix — even after all these years. My mind is trained to identify and channel prioritization in this manner even though it took some time initially to master it.

#3 Having a Bite-Size Day

Context switching is an established way of productivity loss; at the same time, it is the reality of our times. According to a study, it takes on an average of 23 minutes to switch context to the task at hand if you are interrupted.

In an office — especially an open office — you are always within reach. That comes with easy conversations with your coworkers without having to wait for hours. However, it also comes with unplanned, interruptive meetings that break your rhythm.

Those conversations about the latest episode of Stranger Things while writing code can be interesting…but also intensely distracting.

Over a period of time, you don’t get sharper. People I have been most inspired by are calm and collected to a level where they would seem slow; their work? better and faster than anyone else.

Today, I use a personal system that helps me put together bite-size days, block some thinking time, and open up space for conversations and idea exchange.

Here’s how I do this:

At the end of every day, I go through the list of things I have noted during the day (physically), emails I have flagged for followup, and the mental notes that are still fresh and brewing.

Then I look through my next day and set up a meeting with myself where I work on the thing I have flagged and I respect that block. I also take into account the conversations that I need to have and block 15–30 minutes with people.

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a screenshot of a block on my calendar

So my day ends up divided into smaller chunks of focus areas. There are obviously general team meetings but I do keep a few days in a week where I keep those to a minimum.

I also prioritize what gets added to my Eisenhower matrix. Everything flows through that. I have found breaking my day into smaller chunks and having those as meetings with myself, helps me in structuring my day and thoughts.

It also helps people know that you are scheduled for some thinking time which is as important as anything else on your calendar.

#4 Reading

An important thing that elevates how I work is reading. It’s one of the most important things in a day. That said, I am not the usual reader. I don’t read 100s of books every day and I vehemently avoid articles that talk about how successful people read.

Over the years, I have developed my own pace, style, and interest in books. My reading isn’t structured. I read more like a scavenger and you’d find me reading about the latest technological innovation at one point and the importance of failure in success at another.

I am also medium agnostic. While I love reading a hardbound, I don’t mind knocking out a book digitally.

Reading has helped me get better at how I work and molded me into a better leader. For anyone starting out, I’d highly recommend making some time to read — whatever you wish to.

Next steps

While this was all about how I work, I can’t discount the contributions of people who help you do your best work, every single day.

So spend time with smart and nice people…senior, junior, doesn’t really matter. You won’t know who rubs off on you like fairy dust and transforms the way you work.

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Devika Razdan is the Digital Head at Grofers. Follow her on LinkedIn to see her latest insights about work, leadership, and women in tech.

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