Project Geronimo, carried out by US Navy Seals, lasted all of 40 minutes. That’s the time it took for these commandos to arrive by helicopter in the dead of night, confront and kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in his lair at Abbottabad, Pakistan, and take his body away for burial at sea.
I readily admit that office-goers like me are far from being navy seals or marines (just a glance in the mirror will clear any illusions). But there are many Project Geronimos we can implement in our workplaces—each project has the potential to make our workplaces cleaner and a lot more fun. Remember, it took the US 10 long years to plan and execute Geronimo, but these tips that we are giving you will take less than an hour and no real planning.
Clean out that cubicle
This is a top-priority Geronimo project. Empirical research, and my own shoddy experience in the matter, show that you don’t need more than 20% of the stuff that clutters your cubicle and desk. Books, dusty files, assorted notes and post-its, historical photographs, magazines, dog-eared certificates, salary slips, pens that don’t work, old mobile phones, airline tickets and boarding passes, very old mouse pads…the random material that piles up and up on every horizontal surface in our cubicles is truly amazing in its scope and breadth of coverage. So take 40 minutes off your work today, and clean up your cubicle. Be ruthless in identifying and throwing out the junk, you can give it a burial either at land or sea, based on where you are. You don’t need helicopters for this, and you will of course return every morning to a much cleaner cubicle.
REFRESH YOUR MIND
An axiom of the modern workplace is that, as the day progresses, it keeps adding clutter and confusion to your mind. You can’t do much about this. There are opinions and emails thrown at you, multiple things to be fixed, decisions to be made, numerous deadlines to be met, bosses to be met, and lots more. My hunch is that the human mind is not designed to withstand such constant pressure for 8 hours; it craves happiness, order and peace. So a useful Geronimo project each day is to clean out your mind, in just 40 minutes. You can achieve this by taking a 40-minute walk with friends after lunch, and talking about cabbages and kings. You can also achieve this by strapping on your iPod; I find that 40 minutes of Pink Floyd purges my mind completely. As the wise men say, there are many such routes to nirvana, you have to choose your own. But you will come back to your workplace calmer, composed and more prepared to take on the rest of the mad long day.
COMPLETE THAT LONG-PENDING CONVERSATION
Most of us have at least one long overdue chat in office which we have never got around to doing, but which hangs around like a tramp in the recesses of our mind. It could be clearing the air with a colleague on some recent incident, or meeting a friend who has been waiting many days just to catch up with you. It could be a difficult conversation with your boss, telling him about things you absolutely don’t like about your job, or what you really want to do in the future. All you need to do is take a Geronimo break from your work, to complete this conversation today. The cappuccino is a good blend to bond over. If it’s late evening, a glass of beer or wine will help the conversation flow.
JOIN THE SLOW FOOD MOVEMENT
One Project Geronimo we owe ourselves every day is a nice, 40-minute lunch break away from our desks. For many of us, the lunch break has deteriorated into quickly gulping down whatever is on offer in the canteen, or a sandwich (or ‘masala dosa’, or our tiffin lunch) on our work desks. This is because we needlessly prioritize work over food, a very undesirable habit born in productivity-obsessed countries. Learn from the French. Whatever be the pressing engagements at work, they take time off for a leisurely lunch, and return refreshed and energized. So, starting today, contemplate your food, chew it slowly, enjoy the varied flavours at your canteen, ask for a second helping if you wish. Steadfastly refuse to answer calls on your mobile during lunchtime, and don’t even think of responding to text messages with your non-eating hand. Indulge in an occasional dessert or ice cream which can re-energize your epicurean soul.
FIX YOUR EMAIL
Unanswered mails in our inboxes are the bane of all our work lives. They cause a nagging anxiety, and ever so often the accumulation reaches a point of no return, upon which we promptly and helplessly give up the chase. Mails from our bosses take precedence over those from our friends, and a mindboggling number of mails are copied to us for reasons we will never know. Do a quick Project Geronimo on this. To begin with, take 40 minutes and clean out your inbox of all past emails. A good thumb rule is that any email message more than a month old is terribly outdated, and unlikely to be of any use to anyone. Thereafter, have a different Project Geronimo once a week. Keep aside 40 minutes once a week (Friday evening is a good choice) to respond even briefly to emails from people who are important to you. Watch how good dialogues and friendships blossom once again.
Harish Bhat is chief operating officer—watches, Titan Industries Ltd. He recently moved into a new cabin in his office block, and the 40-minute Project Geronimo he launched to clear out all the junk is still incomplete. Help from US Navy Seals and anyone else is welcome.
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