Do you have a milestone?

People in India who have flown Indigo Airlines would relate to this – The popularity of the airline is such that the number of passengers have increased exponentially over time. The queues have become longer; and even to just drop a bag after an online check-in, you could possibly see some 50-70 people ahead of you anytime through the day. The first thought that hits you when you join the queue after exhausting all options of having an easy entry is that this could be inordinately long. This is precisely the thought that the airline has worked hard to counter. They have placed placards at regular intervals that give you a sense of how long your wait is going to be. When you enter the queue, you see a message saying it won’t be a long wait… move a few paces ahead there is another message saying you have just three minutes to go, a few paces more and yet another message sensitises you to check your belongings to see if there is anything on the prohibited list that you may be accidentally carrying…..then you come across yet another message that says “just a few steps more” and the last leg tells you that you can join any queue that has just one person waiting in line.

The entire waiting time in the queue took just around five minutes and they were quite precise in calculating your time to the counter when the message indicated so. Yes, the airline would have carried out the drill and spruced up its service mechanism to match up to these standards but the messages allay your fears especially when you continue crossing each placard – or call it a milestone for brevity.

I remember as a kid when we as a family used to undertake long journeys by train – some lasting close to 36 hours. My father used to give us a picture of how exciting the journey was going to be. He did this intentionally so that we don’t lose our patience and get cranky once the journey started. My mother prepared a number of things to eat and they were meticulously packed and placed in a squarish bag….each one to be consumed at a different leg along the way.

Being in the railways and in the main operating section at that, my father had substantial information to share – starting from the number of coaches on different trains and the reasons for that number, the type of locomotives that would drive the coaches, the number of locomotive changes that would happen and the station or junction that it was likely to take place in. He had the sequence of stations and their names etched in mind and strangely enough the kilometre mark and the precise hour they would come by.

So, when the journey started, he would tell us about the next stop at a particular hour and a distance mark (these were etched on the electric poles along the railway lines) and what we could expect either in terms of something to eat or a historical significance of that place – Most of our journeys happened to be from Kolkata to Chennai. The moment the train pulled out of the station at Kolkata (Howrah) he would ask me to look out for Santragachi (pretty close to Kolkata) at the thirteenth minute where rakes are cleaned before their next journey, Kharagpur with the longest platform in Asia an hour and forty minutes later, Bhubaneswar (the famous Konark temple) at the 441 km mark, Vishakhpatnam from where the train would run in the reverse direction (perceptibly so), Rajamundry which was at the the edge of the Godavari river and a long bridge that would take ten minutes to traverse (we were asked to throw a coin into the river to make our wish come true….yeah, superstition but as a kid I loved doing that). The expectation of reaching each milestone that my dad would set used to keep our expectation high and kind of get rid of the boredom. The nuances or rather technical details (in ways that I could understand at that age) pertaining to the running of a locomotive or change of signal or change of track kept the mind buzzing.

Milestones keep you moving both professionally or personally. Yes, they need to be set realistically (with a bit of ambition) and broken down into several stages to signal a certain level of completion.

To sum up,

  • Work backwards from your stated deadline: And once you have stated your deadline (after taking into account all possible factors) do not change it for any reason whatsoever.
  • Break it into several small stages: It helps you realise that you are moving forward
  • Build contingencies: You never know what hurdles you may face or certain other exigency that you may have to cater to.
  • You may need help: Sound the relevant people in advance and make them part of your plan
  • Each stage should have something of significance: If it cannot be measured in some way, there is no way of knowing how fast or how slow you have been.
  • Sometimes, do burn the midnight oil: do not procrastinate for any reason, work overnight if you have to, to get things done and be on time.


So have you set your milestone yet?

About Suresh Ramakrishnan

Suresh has two decades of experience in structuring / creating new business and products / solutions in the media and content space. Among his various passions – writing, singing, reading, analyzing music and directing short plays occupy prime spots. He is a fitness freak to the core and a complete family man; prefers to spend his weekends in their company. He has an engineering degree from IIT – Kharagpur and a PGDM from IIM – Ahmedabad.

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