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Time and tide...

R. V. Gopalakrishnan
R. Sundaram

So goes the riddle: "Why does time fly ?"; and pat comes the reply: "Because so many are trying to kill it!". Some do regret losing two or more `golden hours', each set with 60 `diamond' minutes. They can make the most of the regrets. As Thoreau said: ``To regret deeply is to live afresh''. Such an intention is basic to spur them on to attention and commitment to their time better!

In his famous poem If, Rudyard Kipling exhorted:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds of distance run,
Yours is the earth and everything that's in it...

MANY fail short of this `60 standard minutes per hour' by 50 per cent or more on an average, as we cling on to the two passive words: `If only'. Should we consciously replace them with the two proactive words, `Next Time', we will manage ourselves better with respect to time!

Frank Gilbert, known as the father of Motion Study, was once asked ``What do you want to save time for?'' He replied: ``For work, if you love that best. For education, for beauty, for art, for pleasure, if that is where your heart lies!''. That takes one to goal-planning, based on what one wants out of life. At least, a short-term version of the next 1-3 year scan spells out a few worthwhile goals to strive for _ in terms of professional, personal, family and social accomplishments. Such an honest introspection will `create the purpose'.

In his book, How to Live 24 hours a Day, Arnold Bennett wrote about budgeting his time, so that every hour served some useful purpose. He found that through such self-discipline, he had time for many interests and hobbies, that is painting, music, theatre, reading and cultivating friends. He realised: that ``You have to live on this 24 hours of daily time. Out of it, you have to spin health, pleasure, money, content, respect and the evolution of your immortal soul...''

The call to look well to this day was given centuries ago by our poet, Kalidasa, in his Salutation to the dawn:

``...Today well lived makes
Every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope...''

The bank manager would say: ``Today is ready cash; use it wisely. Yesterday is a cancelled cheque; tomorrow is a promissory note!''

Going by daily To-Do-Lists and appointment diaries has enabled many to focus better on their activities and time. Set out below in staccato style, are a few of the concepts and techniques found useful in becoming more effective. For example, in accomplishing what we want most:

Know yourself and others with whom you interact most. Understand what type of person you are.

Type A, the buzzing bee or
Type B, the quiet performer;

Prime time in the morning or in the evening;Good at `one thing-at-a-time' or at `several things at a time';

More task- or relationship-oriented. For example: If one belongs to Type B, be more assertive and communicative at times.

Develop a sense of purpose.

Reflect urgency and timing in your commitment to a `balanced few'' SMART goals for 1-3 years.

On your different roles of a student, parent, friend, boss or social worker. Introspect on what accomplishments will give the best self-esteem. Identify the few most worthwhile goals to strive for.

Plan for next week of 168 hours, by end of every week, around your priorities.

Segment next day of 24 hours daily, on a few high leverage activities jiving with your weekly plan.

Avoid becoming fire troopers attending only to crises. As Bliss exhorted in his ABC of Time Management, gain more focus on opportunities than on problems, Invest quality time on crisis prevention, better preparation and building relationship.

Think through before starting an activity.

Reflect at regular intervals every day; revise/reorganise to revert back to priority work.

Withdraw from the habit of spending time on trivial non-value adding activities. Introspect on: Is what I am doing the best use of time now? Shift gears from spraying to act on priorities. Choose the appropriate `D' among: Drop, Delay, Delegate or Do.

Simplify routine work to liberate time for non-routine high-leverage activities;

Say no to procrastination and YES and NOW to complex, but very important priority work.

Gain an hour or more per day by combining, resequencing and/or bunching of routine activities. For example, `Fold-in'/Stand up meetings, teleconferencing and bunching out-going calls. ``Chunk it and have small wins'' to avoid procrastination! Set deadlines. If unpleasant, start the day with it.'' Internalise an emphatic yes to priority work to make saying no to others more natural and easily acceptable.

Make the `pursued' people the `pursuers'; excite them to take initiative and outperform.

A pursuer is one who wants more from the pursued! Empower and support your people. Delegate all you can; trust them to beget trust. Our favourite question to them is ``Why can't you approve it yourself ?'' The chairman of a number of companies habitually asks his top executives: ``You have projected a 50 per cent increase in production from next year. What prevents us from realising it in this year itself?'' and supports them to the hilt!

Learn from interruptions; cope with them and build acceptable barriers against them.

Make a list of interrupters over a week to get a quick feedback on the need for better disclosure, more effective delegation and building relationships. `Screening' mechanisms such as personal assistant providing the needed insulation and `Quiet Hour' periods can be of help. A former General Manager of Ammunition Factory, Khadki, declared while inaugurating a `Time Management' workshop: ``Our managers should treat their first hour every day as a Quiet Hour for planning to organise their priority work for the day/week.''

Value other people's time as much as you value yours; you will find others `contagiously' respecting your time more.

Seniors can disturb juniors more; those who respect other's time, start with: ``Can I take X minutes of your time?'' The president of a two-wheeler giant told his men: ``Even if I call you to an unscheduled meeting, you can excuse yourself, should you be on your priority work.''

`Feel' the passage of time; enhance your ability to bring things to a closure, conclusion or termination.

Meetings galore waste time; slash them by 50 per cent or more, in terms of both their number and durations. Those who initiate meetings will gain by announcing the ending time and staying close to a planned agenda of items in decreasing importance.

Assemble small gains of minutes to conserve an hour a day. Take breaks; relax and do nothing; Meditate and improve concentration; Work, when others don't; Spend no time on impossibles; Learn from your unrealistic time estimates; and Do not be a fanatic, that is, one, who re-doubles his efforts when he has forgotten his aim!

To conclude, managing time is very personal, but it cannot be done in isolation. Accomplishments will be more, when we focus on high leverage activities and build better relationships with concerned people. We all have the same amount of time each day of our lifetime. It is up to each of us to make the most of it!

(Hindu Business Line - 10th April 2000)