Time Management - A Paradigm Shift

June 26, 2010
Ramendra Kumar

If you stand at the cross roads of any metropolis and watch the scenario for a few moments I am sure you’ll find it immensely entertaining or vexing depending on whether you are a clown like me or a modern philosopher. People rushing in and out of buildings, pedestrians literally jogging on the pavement, vehicles weaving through traffic, screeching of breaks, honking of horns, trading of glares, exchange of parliamentary language and lots more.

All this for saving three hundred seconds of a commodity which today is even more blue chip than Infosys shares and even more scarce than Saurav Ganguly’s smile.

Yes it is TIME – the most precious of modern resources and easily the most misused one. In today’s world, instant coffee, instant knowledge, instant youth and even instant nirvana are all being offered off the counter. Technology is working over time to present quick fix solutions to everything under the sun. Yet humankind seems to be forever behind in the race against time.

Numerous opinion polls in the U.S. and Europe reveal that people complain more about a lack of time than a lack of money or freedom. The same I am sure is the case in urban India. Thus time which should be a friend of man is fast becoming, in the words of the famous spiritual Guru J. Krishnamurti, ‘the psychological enemy of man’.

According to Bloomfield and Cooper, the writers of the best seller The Power Of 5, it is no accident that the word deadline contains the word dead. Research strongly suggests that people who suffer from “hurry sickness” – the chronic feeling that there’s never enough time – may be at increased risk for developing or aggravating health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and certain forms of cancer. A struggle with time is also linked to chronic anger and hostility, depression, bitterness, resentment and sudden cardiac death. On the other hand, researchers suggest that time competency – using your time effectively – is a must for improving your health, fitness and relationships.

How then should we use our time effectively? According to Robin S. Sharma, the author of the international best seller The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari the most important step in the direction of effective time management is to develop a mission statement. This is basically a capsule statement of your life’s purpose and objectives. It should give both the direction as well as the destination.
A mission statement is really nothing more than a few paragraphs or pages setting out what your life is about. It should set in general terms the key roles of your life and what you will achieve at the end of your existence. It should also set out those values which mean most to you and the qualities that you aspire to have.

For example my mission statement would read something like this:
• Rise to my potential in my vocation, which is Public Relations.
• Rise to my potential in my avocation, which is creative writing.
• Be a role model for my kids.
• Be a responsible and responsive life partner.
• Take constant care of my physical, emotional and intellectual health.
• Never compromise on my principles and values.
• Make a difference to the society in the best way I can.

Once your mission statement is ready it can be broken down into goals: Long term, medium term and short term. Thereafter, every endeavour should be directed at meeting these goals. These should be continually reviewed so that your direction and speed are in tune with your destination.

While setting your goals you must prioritise so that, in the words of the German philosopher, Goethe, “Things which matter most are not at the mercy of things which matter least.” Prioritising basically means following what Robin Sharma calls the Ancient Law of Planned Neglect, according to which, “The secret of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.”

Most of the time we are caught up doing activities, which can be avoided. Either because we are unable to say no, or that we don’t realize the activity will not add any value or simply because of a kind of inertia. We should remember Peter Drucker’s words; “There is nothing as useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

I have been talking about time management, goal setting, prioritising, achieving balance et al. Now I’ll talk about Time Enjoyment.

Sometimes I feel all the fun and enjoyment seems to be fast disappearing from our lives. Even before our infants are able to talk without lisping, and walk without tumbling they are being ‘prepared’ to take on the world. The other day I was seeing a news item on TV, which focussed on coaching classes for tiny tots seeking admission to pre-nursery. I was horror struck. Kids who are not even three being forced to attend coaching classes! What is this world coming to?
The back cover of a Delhi Public School notebook reads: DPS is imparting quality education to enable the students to compete with the world. The children are provided with an environment, which fosters a spirit of enquiry and keen competition.

I thought the values a school should foster are creativity and camaraderie, trust and togetherness. Instead of teaching the kids how to learn in an ambience of fun, joy and ingenuity the school is teaching them to compete with the world and is proud of it. What a brave and noble intention indeed! As if we were living in the stone age where the only way to ensure the next meal was by hitting some one or something on the head.

But can you only blame the school? No. Competition today is the buzzword. The latest virus that has been imported from US of A, the modern heaven and haven is the virus of competetivitis. We seem to be competing with each other for anything and everything and in the process running around like headless chicken.

What then is the solution? Obviously there are no quick fixes. I have a few pointers, which if kept in mind can help you achieve a semblance of balance in life:

“Most people I know try to become more clever every day, whereas I try to become more simple and uncomplicated each day,” wrote a Zen philosopher.
We should all try to cultivate this mind set. By increasing our needs and then running around in circles trying to fulfil them we are only creating a no-win situation. In olden days a man’s greatness used to measure by how much he was giving up. Our sages were revered because they relinquished worldly goods and led a life of simplicity. Today the scenario is exactly the opposite. The person who can grab the maximum wealth by any means is the most respected. You must have seen the Hyundai Accent ad. Here the owner is a bada aadmi deserving respect only because he owns a Hyundai Accent. That means that a person’s worth should be measured by what he has rather than what he is – possessions, which are extrinsic rather than values, which are intrinsic.

I came across an interesting concept in the book the Power of 5 which I would like to share with you. It is called Liming.

Liming is the Caribbean art of “doing nothing guilt free.” That is doing something for enjoyment not achievement. If for example you are playing a game of TT, play for the joy of playing not for winning or even improving. The basic idea with liming is to shift yourself – as completely and deeply as you can – out of the rat race for at least 5 minutes, allowing your body to release tension and your mind to relax. In a recent study it was found that men and women in New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo spent on an average three hours a day watching TV. The same statistic I think holds good for India too. Imagine many of us are devoting 21 hours a week to one habit that requires little energy and virtually no imagination. Studies reveal that we may burn about 10-15 per cent less calories watching TV than we do when sitting still with the television off! Our focus should be to reduce the time we spend with the idiot box and spend more time on enjoyable activities that offer relaxation as well rejuvenation. I am listing some of the activities at random. You may select the ones you like:
• Listening to music
• Singing, even if it is tuneless and off key.
• Reading a book/story
• Playing an instrument
• Spending time with a small child
• Spending time with elderly people in the house or neighborhood.
• Gardening
• Walking
• Dancing

Sri Sri Ravishankar, founder of Art of Living says there are two reasons why we are unable to live a life of joy - regret over the past and the apprehension about the future. Our mind is always vacillating between the past and the future. We are either crying over spilt milk or trying to cross the bridge before we come to it.

One of the best ways of time enjoyment is to accept that the present is inevitable. We have to live in the present moment to the fullest and give our hundred percent to whatever we are doing. This might appear extremely difficult but it isn’t really so. Little kids do it all the time - they are forever living in the moment. We too as children did the same. However, over the years, in the process of maturing, we stifled the child in us. What we have to do now is to reawaken the little one in each of us and allow it to blossom in all its innocence and purity. The rest will follow.

I somehow can’t resist sharing with you these simple, yet powerful, words of Bill Keane, ‘Yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future, but today is a GIFT. That is why it is called the present.

Let me now conclude with these memorable quote whose source unfortunately is unknown:

“We are each given a block of marble when we begin a lifetime and the tools to shape it into sculpture. We can drag it behind us untouched, we can pound it to gravel or we can shape it into glory.”

The choice then is clearly ours - we can abuse and misuse time to fritter away our lives or use it effectively to achieve joy, contentment and glory.

Ramendra Kumar is an award winning writer for children with 15 books to his name. He also dabbles in satire, poetry and fiction. His work has been published and reviewed in major newspapers and magazines and translated into several Indian languages as well as Japanese, Spanish, Basque, Sinhala and Mongolian. He is also an inspirational and motivational speaker for children.
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