boy with thought bubbles

In office, we see – and we act.

The pace of work, the number of issues we face every hour – all this has reduced our span of view. We increasingly live in a narrow time- frame – yesterday-today-tomorrow.

To achieve more, we need to broaden this view.

And the first step in that direction would be to organise ourselves, i.e. organise our thoughts.


Our thoughts – what we think, what we observe – have value.

These thoughts, however, don’t come to us in one symmetrical, sequential order – and certainly not all in one day. So it requires collation.

One-off, these thoughts aren’t worth much, but collated task-wise, over time, they can be the difference between an average job – and one done, par excellence, with everything accounted for.

A couple of examples to explain the concept.

Example 1

One day, Ashwin, a team leader, came and asked me –

“Sir, what should I mention in the agenda for the LAS meeting?”

I was handling loan operations at that time – personal loan, car loan, housing loan, and loan against shares (LAS). Once a month, we used to have a meeting with the Solution Team (ST) to discuss process related issues.

I asked Ashwin to put forth something like the following five items for the LAS meeting:

1. System-generated report required to find cases where loan availed by client exceeds 60% of shares value. At present, the same is done manually (on Excel) and takes an inordinate amount of time – two hours daily.

2. Course of action to be decided for clients who had not reverted on letter sent, for adding more scrips to their single-scrip loan ac- counts.

3. Discuss the suggestion received from Credit team – In loan delinquency cases, to save time – shares to be sold first, and then the back-office processing to be done.

4. ….. and so on

Ashwin went back content. The routine monthly meeting now had quality items and was going to be productive.

This was the case with any meeting. At any time, I would have 5-7 items – seemingly recalled from across the past one month – ready for discussion.

Before I share how I recall issues – all the issues – when it matters, take another example.

Example 2

What were the achievements and lapses of you and your team in the last three months?

What will you reply to the above – seriously? If you ask me, it could be as under:

Self (Branch Manager)
1. Coordinated Branch Managers Offsite – Goa (Jan 25 – 27)
2. Implemented ‘Loan Desk’ for the region (covering 15 branches) in self branch – Feb
3. Branch was second in region – Fixed Deposit (FD) mobilisation – Feb
4. Nil resignations in branch in Jan-March quarter
5. Team building – took branch team to see movie “Barfi” (March 17)
6.Branch first in region – Mystery Customer Survey (March)

Nirupama (Asst. Manager – Current & Savings A/c)
1. Implemented ‘Account Opening Kit within 30 minutes’ – Jan
2. Gave presentation on Current & Savings Accounts in 8 Housing Societies – Jan
3. Came forward to seek more responsibility (Jan 20)
4. Helped test new TDS software (on FD interest) and its subsequent implementation – Feb
5. Coordinated letter dispatch for revised locker fees and tracked re- turns therein – 2400 clients – March
6. Lapse Godrej Ltd. complaint – Requisition given for 10 cheque books was misplaced –Complaint from client – March 14

….. and so on.

Yes. It is exhaustive – could be 20-odd noting for self and each team leader, complete with their lapses!

And with the above, diligently noted over a 12-month period, a manager can do an almost transparent appraisal at year-end.

The above are examples of collation of thoughts, and they help us to do a job better.

Where should you collate your thoughts?

Till date, we have been using the diary to note, track, and follow up on things.

A diary, while good for day-to-day work, cannot encompass thoughts on an issue, task, or situation that stretches across days, weeks, and months. After all, you cannot go back 10 pages every time.

A diary by itself is not useful even to you. Will you bother to refer to your diary to know what you achieved in Jan, Feb, March … December – at time of year-end appraisal?

I wouldn’t. It is all there in the diary, and yet it isn’t filtered enough.

The solution then?

What is the one thing you cannot do without in office?
What is the thing you are constantly working on?

Yes. It is your email or, to be precise draft emails.

I recall having 10-odd emails perennially in draft mode, like:

1. Issues to be raised in the next call with Branches
2. Items to raise in the next meeting with Sales / Process team
3. Items to iterate to (self) team in the next monthly meeting
4. Items to be ensured before next audit (still a month away)
5. Achievements and lapses of team leaders, and self
6. System issues to be highlighted in weekly call with IT Support
7. Items to include in the next monthly update to Boss

As the day, weeks, and months pass – and emails on hundreds of issues are initiated and exchanged – anything I felt was not urgent enough (but was nevertheless important, wasn’t progressing well, or would re- quire some discussion) I would note it in above, to be taken up when the right time came.

It takes just 30 seconds to note something, but collated issue-wise over a period of time, they help to reach a completeness that borders on excellence.

Collation of Thoughts, I think, is fundamental to being better organised at work, and consequently increasing our productivity.

Three ways it helps are –

1. Do a thorough job – It broadens our vision. At one glance, we can see tens of points of a situation.

Example: Noting of achievement and lapse of a team leader over 12 months, for a fair and transparent appraisal.

2. Manage our time better – Rather than running after individual items, we can afford to slow down, collate, and address multiple items at one go.

Example: A comprehensive agenda for the LAS monthly meeting.

3. Reduce the load on our minds – Unlike a PC, we cannot increase the RAM of our memory.

Some studies suggest we can carry only seven tasks in our head at a time. Once memory gets used up, we start forgetting things and feeling overwhelmed.

Noting, at the right place, then helps to release the memory. Assured as we are that we will pick it up when the time comes, we can afford to let it go and are ready to take in new information.

The concept of Collation of Thoughts can be applied to varied situations. You just have to look a little up the curve – and start building accordingly.

An Example

I was once working on a project: Applying for a regulatory license.

I realised, at the relevant time, a formal Go-live letter would have to be sent to the regulator.

So in the preceding three months – over numerous calls, conference calls, testing, email exchanges with internal departments and the regulator – I continued to note aside in a draft email, items that had to be mentioned in that letter.

These were items that had to be actioned – some by the regulator, some by us – in the week immediately after go-live.

When the time came, we handed over the Go-live letter with 10-odd points to the regulator.

I still recall the look of admiration in the face of the regulator’s official as he went through the points.

Nothing was left to chance. It was pure 24-karat gold.


Anil Karamchandani is a Mumbai-based former manager.

He is author of 21 Office Situations & How to Deal with Them available on