'Women are great at time management but terrible at guilt management'
Between leading a pharmaceutical business, raising two boys and mentoring the next gen of CEOs, Namita Thapar has learnt how to take time for herself
Namita Thapar walks in her own whirlwind. On any given day, the executive director of Emcure Pharmaceuticals presides over 300 brands, hangs out with her family, fires up the entrepreneurial spirit in kids via her Young Entrepreneurs Academy, hosts a Youtube show and — we report, with jealousy — manages to read for half an hour.
She doesn’t do it alone — having a team of experts in the office and staff at home is a huge advantage — but Thapar’s exhaustive to-do list would be intimidating to most overachievers. Which is why she features in our CEO Moms series.
Here, we ask women who seem to be able to juggle professional achievements, personal goals and self-care, just how they get it done. We know that what you see on Instagram is never the full story, so we’re asking these inspirational women to give us their cheat sheets, dirty diapers and all.
CEO Mom Namita Thapar doesn’t make time for useless guilt
How do you get through a busy day with your sanity intact?
I am an early riser; I like to start my day around 6.30 am. A cup of tea made exactly the way I like, along with the morning newspaper, ensures my day starts on a positive note. I follow it up with a workout. Before I hit the workplace, I make my ‘to-do’ list in order of priority. This ensures that I am organised, systematically crossing off important items while also making sure I have squeezed in much-needed ‘me time’.
On a regular working day, I reach office by 9 am and go on till 4 pm. Once home, I spend time with my two boys and catch up on what’s happening with them. Post this family catch up, I spend time on my passion projects.
Later in the evening, I log into work once more to catch up on emails and to make phone calls before hitting the unwind button. At the end of a long working day, reading and watching Netflix helps me unwind. But I don’t over stimulate my mind right before sleeping. Reading half an hour before falling asleep is the best way to calm down and get a good night’s sleep.
How would you describe your approach to efficiency: multitasking, one task at a time, delegation?
The best strategy is to hire people smarter than you and empower them. Delegation is definitely my mantra to get things done quickly and efficiently. I delegate as much as possible so my mind is free for more strategic thinking and work.
What’s the one area you’ve seriously improved on, from when you first became a CEO mom?
Over the years, I have learned to take a lot of quiet time so I can self-talk and be in touch with my inner voice. It makes me calm and positive. This has especially helped during the pandemic when our lives have been most unpredictable and stressful.
Incorporating quality me-time on a regular basis has helped me get tremendous clarity and brings much-needed balance to my life.
What’s the one area that you still struggle with?
Women are great at time management but terrible at guilt management. I am a living example of that. I still struggle, especially when it comes to my role as a mother to two young boys.
Very often I have had to miss my kids’ school events or a family function due to a work priority. I ensure that I make up for this ‘missed event’ by doing something extra special for my kids and family/ friends when I do have that additional time.
How important is the role of the spouse in being able to do what you do? How did you arrive at the dynamic that you currently share?
Years ago, I came across an article that said the most important career choice a woman makes is selecting a life partner. I was flabbergasted and found it extremely sexist but when I thought it through and reflected on my own life – it resonated with me.
My husband has been a big supporter and celebrates my triumphs. You need a secure man who believes in equality and is happy to share in the home and parenting workload. Candour and communication are the best way to achieve this dynamic.
How do you balance your ambitions with working parent guilt?
You have to schedule activities and time with your kids on your to-do list every morning – it needs the same structure, attention and time that you give your work.
Very often, women add time and energy guzzlers that are not a priority to their ‘to-do’ list because they feel guilty. I will not take on irrelevant and unproductive work out of guilt.
Do you carve out time for yourself as an individual? How do you spend that time?
I relax in three ways — massages, movies and spending time with family and friends. Taking time out for reading, watching great shows, and catching up with girlfriends is extremely important for one to rejuvenate and stay positive.
What are the advantages and disadvantages, in your experience, of being a CEO Mom in India?
No doubt, in India, we have great help and support in the form of families and house help. But there is also a lot of guilt and societal biases imposed on women. ‘Will you come back after your pregnancy’, ‘can you put in late hours’ are questions that are still being asked to working women.
After my pregnancies, it was assumed I wouldn’t return to the office, but I was back at work within 15 days to prove my commitment and focus. This societal bias is more prevalent in India than other countries. To address this, we launched an initiative at Emcure – Prerna to encourage more women to return to workforce post marriage and motherhood.
How do you want your kids to view you, and what are the ways in which you’re establishing positive gender roles in the home?
I would like my kids to think of me as a person who believes in integrity and hard work. Growing up as children, my brother and I were treated as equals and there was never any discrimination that I felt. I want my kids to grow up in a similar manner.
I point out gender bias to them – in pop culture and even when we witness it among family and friends. I hope these stories stay with them and teach them the right lessons.
What’s the one piece of advice Namita Thapar was taught taught or learned the hard way, that could seriously sort out fellow professionals?
‘Be you, the world will adjust’ – I live by this. We often try to be what everyone wants or expects of us rather than have pride in who we are, be at peace with it and enjoy it.