There is something bugging me for sometime now!
After delivering many talks, conducting several workshops and strongly believing that I have been very successfully practicing time management myself; I’m still not convinced that time management is simply about acquiring and executing a technique or imbibing a unique skill or even a function of strict mental discipline.
Of course, I won’t discard some profound thoughts (and quotes) on the subject-- condemning them as clichéd! But equally—or even more intensely, I feel that the phenomenon of time management has not been tackled at the fundamental level.
Frankly, I did a quick scan around what some of the great people have thought about time—in particular time management and most of these thoughts are in the nature of:
* Time is money
* Wasted minutes lead to wasted hours to wasted days that can’t ever be recovered
* Time waste is the only waste that can’t be recycled
* Past is past, but what is important is present continuous!
As you will note, any logical thinking individual can’t have any major differences with the kinds of thoughts stated above.
But, my problem is different. In the core, I think, everyone knows the value of time management. As such, time management is anyway not a rocket science, either to understand or to practice—and yet, we have innumerable folk who complain about paucity of time, when it comes to their inability to pursue certain tasks/ priorities in life. Then they look to experts/ management gurus for guidance and what they get in return are a bunch of techniques like urgent v/s important grid, activity charts etc.! They also get pearls of wisdom like 'Time is what we want most, but what we use worst' or, 'Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late'—in reality, words to that effect! These are either profound statements or some are prescriptive statements like 'Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely'.
What is sorely missing in all this is a deep seated insight around why can’t people find ways to manage their time optimally?
More than a decade ago, in one of my flights from Singapore to Mumbai, I was accompanied by a psychology professional. As usual, I struck a casual conversation with him that spanned across many subjects in the world. Finally we got into a discussion around ‘habits’. My opening line was a standard one: ‘habits die hard’ and his spontaneous response was: ‘not really true’— that suddenly heightened my interest in his perspective, which seemed to be more serious and original than mine! He said, ‘including the biologically habit forming chemicals—the kinds that are present in cigarettes, every habit can be changed by the person who ‘wants’ to change it.’ His simple statement was: ‘habituated smokers can’t quit smoking because they don’t want to quit it!’ Isn’t that really true? I’m sure, we all have seen many smokers quitting the long drawn habit overnight—because they wanted to quit!
And then I bumped into this statement by Sir John Lubbock ‘In truth, people can generally make time for what they choose to do; it is not really the time but the will that is lacking.’
That is precisely my take on time management as well.
Now time for some very short stories:
* A highly successful executive complains of lack of availability of time when it comes to giving required time to his family. When queried, he keeps blaming the professional situation around him—sales targets, quarter pressure et al.
* A college principal keeps feeling he has lost touch with academics, in the face of administrative tasks his role requires him to undertake. He then blames it on lack of availability of time when it comes to doing something meaningful in academics.
* A busy politician has not met his mother for many months. He always wishes to meet her much more regularly than what he has been able to do so far. He says time pressures of his job don’t allow him such frequent visits to her.
* I say I have very little time in my daily schedule to commit for a daily fitness regimen!
Are these problems addressable by using time management techniques or do they need an intrinsic change in the way these people look at their available time?
Isn’t the answer obvious?
And therefore, we have seen:
* A top class missile scientist who heads the nation and finds time to be with children and also write poetry—because he wants to do it!
* A busy premier who was also a prolific writer.
* A superhero and a busy film star writing a detailed communication to his fans, daily through his blog.
* A nuclear scientist and one of the most prominent personalities of the last century found enough time to master violin playing.
* A highly successful business tycoon running charity marathon for 5+ hours at a stretch.
Agreed, all these examples are of eminent personalities, but haven’t we also seen:
* A poor auto driver, working for nearly 12 hours a day and yet finding time to complete his graduation by joining the night school.
* A practicing medical professional experimenting new ways of farming.
* Young college students spending many hours helping noble/charitable causes.
We have many such inspirational examples happening around us. It’s up to us to take a leaf from their book. Else, we have ‘no time’ as an alibi that has withstood for ages anyway.