Although my karate trainer tells me that eight hours’ sleep is a must, I always end up at a cycle of six hours; this has been my time management at its best. Though I have tried my best to correct this, it has never worked.
The day cannot stretch beyond 24 hours, or the year beyond 365 days, but what we can master is how to manage a piece of work in a given time, so that we can get through what we want to get through during a typical day. Hence, time management is apparently about work management, which many of us fail to understand.
Recently I was on an executive leadership programme at Harvard University and we had a session on time management. A high-flying CEO of a five million dollar company commented: “I have no time, my family complains I come home late every evening,” whilst another, with a 50 million turnover, was equally agitated, bitterly complaining that he also had no time and reached home late.
Those at a 500 million or five billon all mentioned the same problem. The professor who took our session did a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation and proved to us that if time taken was dependent upon one’s work, then the person with five million would come home at 7 p.m., 50 million at 8 p.m., 500 million at 9 p.m. and the ones at five billion would never reach home, but that is not true practically.
If this was such a burning issue, how come these best brains in the world could not crack a solution? What has gone wrong with time management? What we realised was that a cloud of ignorance hung around us over the entire management issue. In fact it was proved by way of a class exercise. But we learned that when you sell your time, you have sold yourself. Time management therefore is work management and work management directly relates to self management.
Self management is determined by our inner constitution apparently. One’s physical body is merely a vehicle carrying our inner personality, which is constituted of the mind and the intellect, which thinks, reasons, judges, analyses and decides. This means that there are two parts within us: ‘feeling equipped’ and ‘thinking equipment’.
A simple illustration was shared among us to explain this. A diabetic person may be fond of sweets. His mind wants it. His intellect reasons and rejects it. Such conflicts arise in different facets of life, which makes time management a tough task.
Thinking is an art, skill or technique, like playing golf, sparring at a karate class or playing cricket. Apparently the world lacks this fundamental concept of thinking. Deprived of intellectual development, people all over have developed a herd instinct. Hardly anyone questions one’s own course of life.
You all did go through school and universities... Have you ever thought of why you did this? The professor challenged us and our standard answer was everybody does so. Then he asked why we joined a business organisation. And the answer was everybody needs money. Then you enter into marriage. Why? Does anyone step back and think of these questions? You got married because you followed others. There are apparently six other reasons as to why one gets married. If you can find out some of them, then you are a thinking person. Thus it was proved to us that few really think. Some of us fall into the category of trails and the herd mentality.
Apparently actions are executed by the body. But the body by itself cannot act. It is the mind or intellect that propels the body to act. When the mind impels actions, they are deemed impulsive. When intellect directs actions, they are considered discriminative.
Human sanity is determined by the full application of the intellect. When intellectual discrimination yields to the mind’s demands, one at first becomes emotional and then deteriorates further to eccentric, hysterical and even insane behaviour. This means that time management is all about self management.
Self management is intellect directing, policing and controlling the mind’s activities. No educational institution in the world is designed to develop the intellect. Schools and universities provide mere knowledge/intelligence. We use that knowledge to make a living.
We were taught that we go to medical school or engineering faculties to learn the art of business to trade on people who do not know it. Hence these schools do not provide anything more than living, but the issue is that a human being is not designed to feel content with just making a living.
Consequently, upon the lack of development of the intellect, we are unable to steer our life properly. Even to getting on with our partner at business or home, this holds true apparently.
The divorce rate has shot up in the United States to an alarming 70% and the only solution is a strong intellect to programme life’s course. The knowledge acquired from external sources requires an intellect to use it in life. Not every surgeon can come upon the technique of kidney transplant; nor can every marketer build a brand like Dettol.
We learned that to build an intellect, we must learn to develop our self as opposed to intelligence acquired from teachers and textbooks. No time management is possible unless we have focused and developed our intellect apparently.
The lack of intellect leads to long working hours of hard work and hence we complain about poor time management. We learned the hard truth that the solution for poor time management was not outside but within our span of control. It’s just that we need to act on it.
Time management is the proper programming of our work using a sharp intellect. The important aspect of time management is backward planning. Backward planning is fixing the goal you wish to achieve in life and programming your efforts backwards.
You may want to become a billionaire, a top policy maker or a brilliant batsman. Determine that first. Then determine what time is required to achieve that end. Next assess your capacity to reach the target. You may stretch a little, but the goal must be realistic. You will have to analyse the contributory factors necessary to achieve that – material and human resources, labour, climate, force majeure and the like. Take all those into account before you fix the timeframe and plan your work backwards.
For a target set for 35 years, you need to plan your work for the first 20 years, 10 years, five, this year, this month, this week and today. Take into consideration all possible exigencies, emergencies, impediments, both external and internal. Having managed your time and work thus, you would never be caught unawares.
Time management is not looking at what I have to do today, next month, year, etc. In essence, time management is self management. Self management involves the building of strong intellect to balance the equation.
(The author is an award winning marketer and business personality who has a double degree in marketing, MBA and a doctoral student in business management. He is an alumnus of Harvard University, USA.)