By Megha Bajaj June 2006 Give this article five minutes. It will give you back ten, by helping you to master time. You get it and I get it. The millionaire gets it and the poor man gets it. The student who stood first gets it and the student who failed gets it. The sage gets it and the criminal gets it. The optimist gets it and the pessimist gets it. No matter who you are, where you live, what you do – you will get it. Get what? Twenty four hours a day at your disposal. Time, an intangible, often unfathomable concept, becomes more real in each one’s life when it expresses itself as a day, as hours, as minutes and seconds. Although each person gets the same 24 hours a day, there remains a great disparity in how much each achieves with it. Rightly said American education reformist, Horace Mann, ‘Lost, yesterday, somewhere between Sunrise and Sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever.’ ‘Suffocated, claustrophobic, like all the four walls are closing in on me,’ is how Natasha Kale, a newspaper journalist, describes her feelings when she is approaching a deadline. ‘I get so bogged down with the feeling that there is so much to do that I end up doing nothing at all,’ says Amisha Agarwal, an MBA. Hmm – so much to do, so little time? Wrong! So much to do, so much time, and absolutely no time management! A peep into the lives of any legendary men or women will tell you that the one art that they had all mastered was that of managing time and using it. Read about any history maker across the continents – from Leonardo Da Vinci to Lenin, from Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King, from Bill Gates to Browning – the common strands connecting all their lives would be that each used every minute of their lives well. When there is no time management, there is chaos. When there is time management and peak utility of hours in a day, there is achievement. It is this simple. James Manktelow, CEO of a popular website called Mindtools.com, advocates the use of the Pareto Principle or the ’80:20′ rule. This argues that typically 80 per cent of unfocused effort generates only 20 per cent of the results. The remaining 80 per cent of results are achieved with only 20 per cent of the efforts. By applying a three-point program given below, you can optimize your effort by concentrating as much of your time and energy as possible on the high pay-off tasks. o Costing Your Time: To begin with, check on how many hours a day you work and then how many days a year you put in those hours. For example, on an average a person works for seven hours for about 200 days. Multiplying the two you get about 1,400 hours a year. Now, by adding your annual income for a year and dividing it by the hours, you will know exactly how much each hour of yours pays to you. This simple exercise will not only show you how much each hour is worth but also make you realize that you may have been wasting a lot of time on low yielding jobs. o Activity Log: For a few days keep a detailed activity log which refers to a table of what you did in a day. This log will be a useful tool for auditing the way you use your time and create awareness as to where you are wasting time. o Action Plan: Now that you know where you are going wrong, set it right. Make a To Do list for the day. Prioritize it according to their importance and tick the tasks off as you accomplish them. Studies show that different people use To Do lists in different ways and achieve optimum results. For example, in a sales type job, people are known to keep short lists and complete it each day. In an operational role, if large tasks are dependent on too many other people, it’s better to keep a single list and ‘chip away’ at it. This is a simple and yet effective method of time management that works wonderfully for short-term goals in a professional setting. Prioritized To- Do lists help because you carry out all the necessary tasks, tackle the most important jobs first and do not get unnecessarily stressed by a large number of unimportant jobs. Indu Kohli, a corporate trainer from Mumbai, who has worked with several top companies in India including Air India, Taj group of Hotels and BPL, offers a striking imagery popularized by Stephen R. Covey of Seven Habits fame, to highlight the importance of prioritizing. If a day is a beaker and your chores are rocks, pebbles, sand and water – what you put in first will make all the difference. For example, if one puts the rocks first, pebbles and then sand, to fill in the gaps and end with water – all can be fitted with ease; whereas, if one puts the water or sand first, there will hardly be space for anything else. The moral is to put the big things in first, and the smaller ones later on. Once this decision is made, time management will automatically become easier. On a spiritual note, she reminds us that we work so we can live, and not vice versa, so professional goals apart, one needs to set aside time for individual goals and for self-awareness. Time within is essential for us to introspect on life goals and choices, and consequently to prioritize what is important. T.T. Rangarajan, founder of a Chennai-based organisation called Alma Mater that trains people on life skills, recommends managing time and consequently life, inside out. He says, ‘That on which you invest time, grows.’ If your business is doing well, it’s because you have been investing time on it; if your social circle is growing, it’s because you are investing time on it; if your worries about your health increase, it’s because you have been investing time on it, if your marriage is deteriorating, it’s because you have not been investing enough time on it. Look into your own life and you will see that this is not just a statement, but a law. On the basis of this, ask yourself a question: ‘Is this particular activity important to me; does it have the capacity to either help or hinder my future?’ You will find that most activities belong to the category of ‘the trivial many’ which have little or no consequence on the overall effectiveness of your life. Simultaneously, you will realize that there are only a ‘vital few’ activities which have a direct effect on the overall purpose of your life. He says, ‘Once this clarity set into me, I did contrary to what the conventional time management gurus tell us and compiled a ‘NOT- to do list’ and removed watching hours and hours of television, reading the newspaper from back to front, arguing hundreds of times with someone about the same thing, complaining at length about the weather, negative thinking, and other things from my day – and that made all the difference. I freed so much of my time by withdrawing from the ‘trivial many’ that now I have more than enough time for the ‘vital few’.’ What Rajan (as he is called) emphasizes is that time management is not just about clock management. It is the ability to say ‘yes’ to what is important, and more importantly, the discipline to say ‘no’ to what isn’t. One can get where one wants to be tomorrow only if one starts walking towards that direction today. Either one invests time on health today or wastes time on diseases later; either one invests time on spiritual growth today or spends time at a psychiatrist tomorrow; either one invests in worthwhile relationships today or abuses time by crying for hours over a lost love. The choice is yours. Benjamin Franklin beautifully sums, ‘Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.’ Indeed, there is so much to do, and so much time – so what are you waiting for?
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