Monday, November 9, 2009

Looking at TIME, a little differently, this time round

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 clich├ęd! 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!

* etc…etc

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.


Unknown said...

Thanks Abhay. Excellent perspective about the intrinsic will as opposed to conviniently passing on the buck.

Also a very timely reminder from my personal perspective.


Swapnil Bhoskar said...

Thanks for this perspective Abhay.

I think, it goes back to "Where there's is a will, there's is a way".

I can see you too had strong will to write this blog that you found time at midnight.


Sudhanshu Pandit said...

I agree... particularly when it comes to the fitness regime, I don't seem to find the time... :-).
On a serious note, it drives home the point that one will do it if one wants to...

Bhaskar said...

Thanks a lot, Abhay. As usual, your thoughts are well structured and inspiring. Enjoyable, as well as profound. No wonder, I "make" time to read them

Anonymous said...

Dear Swapnil,Sudhanshu,Karma and Shafali...received your immediate comments and feed-back.Thanks a ton.You folks have always been sending inspiring responses..I appreciate it...cheers..Abhay

ashutosh said...

Dear Abhay,

Thought provoking post. Thanks. For some weeks now, we have been discussing a very related topic on my BITS classmates yahoo group. Time affluence vs. Time poverty.

Very interesting. A lot of work has been done at Harvard and other places.

Tal Ben-Shahar, the instructor of a popular positive psychology course at Harvard, writes in his book Happier:

"Time affluence is the feeling that one has sufficient time to pursue activities that are personally meaningful, to reflect, to engage in leisure. Time poverty is the feeling that one is constantly stressed, rushed, overworked, and behind.

All we have to do is look around us – and often within ourselves – to realize the pervasiveness of time poverty in our culture."

I will send you some links separately. If you like them you can share it with the readers of your Blog.


Unknown said...

One of the things I have learnt is that those of us who are extremely "busy"all the time, multitasking etc etc seem to be the very people having a lopsided work life balance, problems on time mgt, getting late etc. I think I am one of them. But I have recently realised that if you look at people who are calm, no hurry-curry culture, seem to be speaking slowly and not darting in and out --actually accomplish more --and balance things out. I recollect my boss in Delhi some years back--the Chairman of a MNC -- having all the time to read newspapers , having a clean desk etc. Well its struck me that something drastic needs to be changed in my operating style --and I am going to find the time to do that. Cheers

Anonymous said...

You are right.Busy person finds time for anything he/she want to do,if he/she WISH.

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Friends..I'm taking liberty to reproduce inspiring response from Buck Kulkarni, one of my long time buddies.I would like to take a leaf out of his book,and am sure you too will find his experience very interesting.Cheers...Abhay


As usual, your insights are valuable and make one take stock of where one is going in life. Also, you have maintained a very simple writing style that is a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig relief. A lot of folks just put in so much important-sounding jargon and big words that the point is often lost.

After complaining for the first 50 years of my life that I had no time, I finally took the plunge to pursue to my three passions and started my consulting business, learning Hindustani classical vocal and started practicing Yog. And have found time to do all for the past year and aiming to improve as time goes by!

Can you think of a way to teach people 'will management'? Sounds either frivolous or highfalutin' but may be you can find a way to do it.


Buck Kulkarni, CISA, PgMP, CGEIT
President - grcbus, Inc.
cell: 914.512.7923

Abhay A Joshi said...

Great Piece Abhay, I believe it is The Best one from you yet.
Thanks..I think you are already helping us in Time Mgt thro your read,observe,interact,think to bring out cheese item like this one. This saves us from reading....etc..!!1
Sounds Kidding..but its true..isn't it..
Buck Kulkarni has hit the nail,I guess. Its Will Management. We wait for you to give us the Key-Khul Ja Sim sim type!!
Thanks and Have a Wonderful Time Boss!

Ninad said...

Following on from Ashutosh's comments, a stray thought came to mind!

Time utilised in doing what appeals to oneself, mentally or physically, is what would construe as "time well spent". Hence, only by "spending time well", would one be "Time Affluent"!

Your reflections are thought provoking as usual.

Amit Mardikar said...

Well said - I definitely subscribe to this way of thinking.

Awareness is the first step, where do you go from here?

I cannot wait for you to extend this further.

- Amit

Keta said...

Thank you Abhay Uncle for this thought provoking post!
Recently, I had posted on facebook that..."wish I had 1 more hour each day" and then London got one more hour of daylight saving!! Whilst I did nothing significant! :-(
So true that it is more about 'will' and knowing what one wants to do and prioritising!
A lesson learnt! Thank you... :-)

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Dear Keta,Ninad,Appamama,Jagdish,Abhay Joshi,Ash,Milind Ranganekar,Amit,Kishorji,Ranjit....

I sincerely thank you for your insightful comments and help in keeping the dialogue going..I really appreciate it...Cheers...Abhay

Anonymous said...

Dear Abhay
After a long TIME I visited yr den. Interesting thought provoking as well.
I took some sessions on Time mgmt for 10th/12th students post SSC/HSC exams.Rather than talikng bookish jargon I emphasised on believing that every time element has it's Opportunity value and cost of convenience as well.
I used to narrate success stories of Dhirubhai and growth of Reliance and flops on typical govt projects (infrastructure type) (relavant to time)

Students did appreciate the dift angle/dimension to it and made the sessions interactive

Do look forward to more such munching from yr end

Unknown said...

Dear Abhay,

Many thanks for this wonderful insight on time-- habit link.

I really need to work a lot in getting this into my DNA.

Today is the date I start.


Abhay Valsangkar said...

Dear Vijay and Amar...Thanks for your comments.I appreciate it. Amar, can you send me across your presentation on Time Mgt pls...Cheers...Abhay

Anonymous said...

Abhay, It is always pleasing to read your blogg. This has definitly shaken few gray cells.


Abhay Valsangkar said...

Thanks a lot for your comment Mahendra..appreciate it..

Anonymous said...

While reading this piece about managing time I was looking for practical solutions but it seems more inspirational.

I agree with AMIT..where do we go from here..can you take this to a more doable level?


Anonymous said...

Dear Amit and will be my pleasure to discuss with you practicle ways of taking this further..pls write to me on and we can fix the time for a detailed discussion..cheers...abhay

Ashwani D said...

Hi Abhay,

I think many of the reactions to this blog seem to suggest that not having time is an issue of will or motivation and that we are inherently not motivated enough or are lazy :-)
I think time management has to do with choice making and not indolence. When you choose to delegate, you have more time to innovate, when you choose to come home early, you have more time for children and so on.

The process of choice making is not easy and is an outcome of deep reflection otherwise you are simply victims of habit or conditioning. For e.g someone who is financially insecure will not spend have time to spend money however rich he may become and to get out of this loop needs challenging yourself or visiting a therepist :-)
My two cents, mate.

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Hi Ashwani...Thanks for posting your comment.If I were to only choose between indolence and choice,as you have suggested,even I would say that time management has much more to do with the 'choice'aspect.I, in fact,would like to go a step further and say that what seems to be just a habit is also an outcome of a 'choice'...howsoever involuntarily such a choice may have been exercised.Smoking is a habit,but a smoker makes a 'choice'every time he/she opens a pack to take out a cigartte for a smoke at that moment.Cheers...Abhay

Roopali Sundar said...

Hi Abhay,

How very true !!! Imagine I read this article after 5 months of being posted on the blog. I kept telling myself that I don’t have time to even read.

Most of us keep blaming the corporate pressures when we "do not want to give time to our family" and then end up with an emotional speech on the day of retirement saying "I wish I had the time for my ailing parents or wish I had seen my children grow". I am reminded of a film, ‘In pursuit of happiness’ which is a masterpiece of how a father gathers time pieces for his little son.

I wonder why most of us don’t seem to pursue passions such as painting, music when we have the right energy. Simply put, we don’t want to park that extra time for ourself and postpone it for the twilight days. So….It’s time to start early.

Abhay- You are a rightful owner of this thought – someone who religiously practices a perfect work-life balance and a true ‘role model’ of the concept.