Idea of a Self letter : Keep it or Chuck it?

Who is the one person most unlikely to receive a letter from you? Yourself?

Ever wondered, why people write letters to themselves? Or what could possibly be written in a self letter? Or why somebody would engage in a seemingly “waste of time” activity? If the answer is yes, then this article is definitely for you.

Now for people who know what it is, have you written one? Yes? Congratulations, you have one more technique in your kitty to be Zen like!! No? Then maybe you should try it. It works for many!

Now, what is it anyway?

Self-letter is writing a letter to yourself.

(Am sure that was not very helpful !!).  Basically it’s a time bound letter you write about yourself for yourself.

Sounds fatuous isn’t it? As fatuous as watching the sunrise, enjoying a good view or laughing your heart out, but totally worth it. If you have nobody but yourself to motivate yourself, then this definitely is worth a try.15653748_923745accf_m

Why do it?

  • For clarity: All of us have been/are victims of confusion. These are times of, a galore of choices and the more choices you have the more confused you get. Writing a self-letter can clarify some things up for you. If nothing else you’ll get to see things from a different perspective.
  • For help in Decision Making: From time to time, we all undergo something called as the Decision paralysis. We block our own decisions. Most of us normal folks unintentionally depend on others for our decisions. We rarely consult ourselves on the best course of action. We ask the opinions of everybody who is anybody to us and finally take decisions based on whichever opinion is convenient to us. When things go wrong we go to great lengths convincing ourselves that it was not our fault.  Self-letters can help you avoid skirting the important process of deciding things for and by yourself.

Self-letter is not an end in itself. It is just another time-tested tool like journals, notes, diaries and so on.

How to do it?

Read More »Idea of a Self letter : Keep it or Chuck it?

Pettiness: A veritable roadblock on your company’s way to a great work culture

The first sign of a bad culture in a company is: pettiness.

Yes Pettiness. Big problem because it is mostly left undiagnosed until it’s too late.

Petty gossip, petty opinions, petty cribbing all these are signs of the beginning of a bad culture. Companies must focus on nipping pettiness at the bud rather than focusing on just incorporating rules to blanket the pettiness.

Rules are good. I for one am a great fan of rules. It gives stability and to an extent predictability. But rule without a conscience is as good as having no rules. The strong good intention behind every rule must be solidly backed up by the way it is implemented. Then we won’t have to worry about the loopholes in the rule or fear it being misused.

Coming back to the point of pettiness, I strongly believe that the little things that we tend to ignore or tolerate are the things that come back some day to bite us. Pettiness is one such thing, it has a butterfly effect. One cribber is enough to spoil the morale of an entire team. One petty gossip is enough to demotivate a whole bunch of people. One petty judgment about a person lightly thrown may hurt his ego so bad that it might have a cascading effect on his attitude towards people around him and his work. It’s not the responsibility of a company to mother its employees. But when a company is laying its first blocks of culture, it must remember to handle the pettiness within the blocks of the company i.e. the employees sensitively and promptly. Ignoring or tolerating it is not an option. Judging it is even worse.

In a time when everybody is driven to reach new heights, when everybody is eager to achieve greater things, it is hard to even stop and think about how we really are growing.

  • Are we stepping on somebody else in our hurry to grow?
  • Are we burning bridges with prospective friends and allies?
  • Are we being insensitive to the point of being cruel?
  • And due to our occasional pettiness are we blocking somebody else’s path because we are unable to grow?

These must be some of the things each employee must have in his checklist for the day. Bring some perspective into work. Encourage conscious working. Appreciate good work and most important conscious work. The more good behavior and attitude is encouraged and appreciated the more it is cultivated. With more practice it becomes a habit. That way good culture is automated.

My Top tips for a good culture

Read More »Pettiness: A veritable roadblock on your company’s way to a great work culture

Why I think Appraisal is a necessity?

I am surprised to find that I miss appraisals.I had a checklist when I was job searching and guess which point did not make my list? Yes, having an appraisal. Who would have thought appraisal as a tool beneficial not only for the employer but also for the employee? I have not been a part of my company’s appraisal yet and I find that after my self-imposed break of 1.5 years from the corporate world, subsequent change in career choice and a new job, I am desperate to know about my performance.

According to Merriam-Webster, appraisal is: The act of judging the value, condition or importance of something. Something that states an opinion about the value, condition, or importance of something.

All these years as a software engineer I assumed that appraisal was a process for the companies to analyze the performance of their workforce. How wrong I was! Little did I realize that the employee himself could benefit so vastly from the appraisal process?

I miss the pit stops we take in the name of appraisals and the goal setting we do to keep ourselves motivated and realistic about the goals we set.

Here’s why I think everybody needs an appraisal. Self or otherwise.

  • Feedback motivates: Feedback is always a major motivator. Try to get feedback from your mentor, supervisor and anybody who is in a better position to analyze your work. Any feedback is good feedback because it always helps you grow in your area and you grow in the direction which is beneficial to you and the organization.
  • Helps you set goals and stick to them: Though I am a rookie technical writer. I prefer working with deadlines and set goals. Goals help you focus. It gives you a perspective and always indicates what is achievable and what is not. It helps you realize the worth of your work.
  • Aspiration check: Majority of us enter into a field with a set of aspirations. Appraisals are checklists that help us achieve and keep track of our aspirations.
  • Strengths and Weaknesses check: Helps you to know your own strengths and weaknesses in your area of expertise. You can enroll in courses or upgrade your knowledge based on this analysis.

Self-Appraisal

Read More »Why I think Appraisal is a necessity?

How emotional detachment can help your workplace attitude?

I took a long break from writing. Let me clarify, it was not intentional. First it was due to me taking a break from work (intentional but definitely not one of my best decisions), then it was me having a nervous breakdown as a result of a rare and strange sounding auto-immune disease named GB Syndrome. After a series of breaking (yes, there was a day when I even broke my bones, duh!  obviously I had a fracture), recuperating and soul searching, here I am back with more health, more happiness and much more life in me than ever before… Read More »How emotional detachment can help your workplace attitude?

My Top Tips to curb your Post Interview Anxiety

When I held Nisha’s hand with a vice like grip it was to stop her from biting her hands off.  No, not in the literal sense of course, but she was stressed enough to bite her non-existent finger nails to extinction. Reason? STRESS; yes the six letter horrible word that every employee these days is so well acquainted with.

The reasons and effects of STRESS have been spoken about ad-nauseum, that, I assure you this blog will not at all STRESS upon the word STRESS. So,“What exactly was Nisha so stressed about?” It turns out she attended an interview and she was waiting for the results. I groaned inwardly, shuddering at that memory. Who has not experienced the heart wrenching, stomach curdling, excruciatingly long, waiting period after you give an interview? (Yes, I am breaking every rule in the Technical writing book, writing wordy sentences, but this occasion demands these adjectives, believe me)

I abruptly left her, knowing this is going to be a very long discussion. Got a hot cuppa,came back to find her still fiddling with her ridiculously small hands. In a last bid to save her hands hastily I placed the cup in her palms.Enlivened she burst out saying “I have still not heard from them, what do I do?”  I automatically answered “You wait” , realized I am not really helping her, all the while thinking to myself: “How can we fast forward time?”, “How can we assuredly get things that we so desperately want?”  Most important, “How to teach ourselves to be patient and calm during such stressful situations?”

I have been through this before, why even Nisha has been through this before but the feeling never gets stale, it hits us in a wave and leaves us breathless. This waiting period is always hard, much harder than rejection. I personally feel getting rejected on the spot is far better than getting rejected after a week. At least you get to move on after the rejection, the hurt will be the same but it will heal faster, right?

On that note, my top tips for helping you through this hard period of waiting are:Read More »My Top Tips to curb your Post Interview Anxiety

Why hiring a Software Engineer as a Technical Writer is a good idea?

Before you jump the gun let me clarify, I am not talking about all Software Engineers. I am talking about those Software Engineers who have a flair for writing and who want to shift base to technical writing. I am neither in any way implying that Technical Writers from other fields are not competent enough to be recruited. My case in point is: when a Software Engineer is rejected for a Technical Writer position for lack of experience. Now that I am done with the clarification part, let me get back to: Why I think a Software engineer’s experience must… Read More »Why hiring a Software Engineer as a Technical Writer is a good idea?

How to Edit a Document: Tips for Beginners

You have a new job and an exciting career ahead. You have dreams of being one of the most accomplished Technical Writers around.  You wait for your first task and here your manager gives you a huge word document to edit. What do you do? Edit, of course you say, but a teeny voice in you is nagging you with: “How do I begin?” “What if I miss something?” “Why am I given a document to edit when all I want to do is write?” type of questions.Do you hit the panic button or do you just jump in to do the task? My suggestion: “Have a Plan”. You can refer my earlier blog on the “The Beginners guide to Reviewing and Editing” to know more about planning your task and making a good job of it.

For now let us focus on the key points to consider when you edit. Being a good editor is like passing the litmus test to become a good writer.  You need to be a good critic to write good articles and editing teaches you to be that critic. It is less likely that you will be trained to edit, you will definitely be expected to show your ‘On the job’ competency and ‘Learning curve’.

The following general guidelines can be followed to edit any Word document:

  1. Enable ‘Track Changes’: Never forget to do that. You would not want your feedback to be misunderstood or worse ignored because it was not tracked properly. Any changes you do must be recorded and must be available as feedback for the author.
    • Ensure the Word document settings are set to reflect your name as the Reviewer. It is especially useful when you are adding comments for the author(more about adding comments in further steps). Click on File tab -> Options. Ensure your name is reflected under the ‘User Name’ Text box. Input relevant initials.
  2. Note: There are many kinds of editing; this post focuses on editing a word document containing Technical information related to the Software field. Treat it as a general thumb rule that can be modified to suit your editing needs.

  3. Add comments: in relevant places to elaborate on the mistakes you have found. Sometimes authors might find it difficult to understand their own mistakes. They might need more clarity and explanation. Adding comments is a good way to ensure that. Click on ‘New Comment’ in the Review section of Word to add comments.
  4. Review in Passes: Always do the Review in more than one pass. Do not attempt to finish your editing in a single pass. Its hardly ever efficient. The more numbers of times you read through the document the more mistakes you will find. Do a formatting check in the first pass. Technical Review in the second pass and so on.

Note: Remember to stick to your timelines , more than 5 passes is not only impractical but also unnecessary.

My Edit Sample

Checklist for Editing

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The Beginners Guide to Reviewing and Editing

Reviewing and Editing is an important part of the Technical writing process. No writing is complete without it being reviewed and/or edited.

As a novice Technical Writer, my first few tasks were to edit and review documents.My biggest challenge then, was to know the difference between editing and reviewing. You may ask, “is it not self-explanatory?” My thought exactly; that is, before I started off reviewing a document, over shot time by editing it, ended up missing my deadline and finally learnt two important lessons.

Lesson number 1: Know the scope of your work


Never start your work without knowing the exact limits of your work. By limits I mean:

  • What you can do
  • What you need not do but can do if time permits
  • What you should not do

People crave for limits. limits are something that gives a logical conclusion to any task. Without limits and restriction no work will ever truly get done.

“What you need not do but can do if time permits?”, is the grey area in the editing and reviewing world. It shows your dedication and the extra bit you want to put in your work. But how far is too far? Trying to find that out is when I learnt my

Lesson number 2: Estimate your work

Define timelines for your work.It gets easier when you know the scope of your work. You will learn more about defining your scope of the work in the following section. When you define timelines it is easier for you to decide on the ‘must do’ factors and ‘can do’ factors.  Your work will reflect consistency and quality when you follow the timelines based on your scope of work.

What is Reviewing and Editing?

Read More »The Beginners Guide to Reviewing and Editing

2 Workplace behavior tips I picked up from my maid

The other day my current maid who is a hard and efficient worker did a real great job of cleaning up my house. I was particularly impressed by the hassle free attitude she has towards her work. After cleaning up my house she came to me and politely asked for a raise. Being super impressed with her work I felt she deserved the raise and happily obliged her.

Now let me rewind to a similar incident that took place a few months earlier when my ex-maid was working. A major cribber, she found fault with everything in my house. “Your kids are too rowdy, they are always throwing away their toys”, “My earlier employer had a neat house, I hardly had to do anything” and so on. Not being used to being reprimanded by my maid, I was shocked by her attitude. It was her job, and I had clearly stated her job description before employing her, why then was she creating such a fuss over the work she willingly took up? Strangely enough she was not willing to quit the job either.  After few months of a very uncomfortable employer employee relationship, she suddenly demanded a salary hike hinting at the fact that her lack luster performance was due to her dis-satisfaction with the salary. I politely declined her offer and showed her the door. Asking for a salary hike is OK but there is a way to do that. You cannot justify your below average performance by accusing your employer of not paying you enough, especially when you have discussed and agreed upon the salary beforehand.

I believe that no work on earth is beneath us, we all do what we can do. Just because I aspired to be a CEO of a company, I cannot be disinterested in my humble work as a Software engineer or a Technical Writer. I need to give the respect due to my profession and I have to do that work with utmost dedication almost bordering on devotion.  Being a citizen of Gandhi’s nation I wholeheartedly believe in his opinion that “Nearly everything you do is of no importance, but it is important that you do it.”

That said, let’s compare the two scenarios:

  1. First one proves herself worthy of a raise. Asserts herself without fearing the consequences or doubting her employer. Asks for her rights, politely and respectfully.
  2. Second one neither shows interest in her work, nor proves her worth. Cribs and insults the employer. Demands a raise assuming that the employer has no other option but to give in to her demands.

What are your top take-away points from these two stories? I would like you to pitch in and state your take away. Meanwhile I’ll state mine:Read More »2 Workplace behavior tips I picked up from my maid

3 must do’s before you decide to quit your job or your career!

The major source of discontentment in today’s job scenario is:

  • Not knowing what you want
  • Not prioritizing the things you want
  • Being complacent towards achieving what you want

I get inspired when I meet the rare person who is happy with the job he is in. He does his job with total dedication, he gets the pay he thinks he deserves and he is in a position he thinks he should be in. The one thing I ask such a person is: “What’s your secret?“, almost always the answer is: ‘Passion and Contentment‘.

Contentment is a virtue.  It is very hard to be content in today’s world. Contentment is not a natural state. Like meditation you need to practice it. Does contentment mean you have to stop having ambitions? Does it mean you stop trying to achieve? No, it just means you need to give a logical pause between each achievement to retrospect. How else will you realize how much you have achieved and how much more you can achieve?

Note: Failure is also a pause albeit a literal one.Very hard to ignore, unlike contentment, but equally necessary for growth.

Contentment is like the period in a sentence. It makes the statements of your life precise and meaningful. It lets you know when to stop something and when to begin something. It lets you know when something has reached its logical conclusion. A person who is content always tries to see the positives of any situation and tries to get the best out of it.

On that note, lets proceed to the : ” 3 Must-dos before you even think of  quitting your job or your career”

Read More »3 must do’s before you decide to quit your job or your career!