I often use the old analogy of owls and larks when it comes to a discussion on how we manage ourselves- before we manage time. Some of us by inclination are larks- early morning people who are at our best and brightest early in the day but tend to fade away as the day becomes longer. Others are owls- night birds who are uncomfortable with too early a start in the mornings but can plug on until very late at night.
It’s part of our present day life that we are forced to “multitask”. Skip the technical definition because in today’s street talk, it simply means your ability to do several things at the same time. You see people read mails while grabbing a quick lunch. Dashing off messages while attending meetings and catching up with mails while someone else is talking to them in their places of work. I have even seen a young lady walk through heavy traffic while messaging text on her cell phone- entirely oblivious to the chaos around her.
You might argue that the sheer pace of life compels us to try to do several things at the same time. There’s some truth in what you say. However, when we do more than one thing at any time, something is bound to give. We lose focus.
They say time is relative. If you are enjoying an activity, time simply seems to fly. If the activity is not to your liking, time seems to drag on remorselessly.Time also seems heavy when you start something which must take its own course of time and there’s nothing you can do to reduce that time. An example that readily comes to mind is the frustrating wait while your PC or laptop boots up. When I have an important presentation to make, I keep the laptop on standby or walk in with the presentation ready for my client. But this doesn’t work always. Sometimes, they want to talk about other things to start with.
Distractions do to you what they do to others as well. Try this little test sometime. Look out for someone who is on the phone in your office. Make eye contact with that person, smile and wave or say “Hello”. That’s the first part of the test. The second is to observe the actions that follow. More often than not, people look puzzled or irritated as they try to get back to their conversation. Test over. You have just seen one effect of distractions at work.
I wonder if you noticed that evenings at an executive retreat tend to lend themselves to nostalgia. The day’s work is done and as you sit and yarn, sooner or later someone in the group speaks of old times. This happens with unfailing regularity. You hear happy stories and sad ones- from the past. They could cover virtually anything- a childhood memory, an opportunity gone by, the amazingly low costs of those days or simply about things that you wish you had done – but couldn’t , or more often than not, didn’t.
A constant theme I hear is that we wish we could have spent more time with the family. Spent more time with our children when they were growing up -and perhaps needed us the most. And in pursuing interests which we can’t do now- for reasons of health or affordability. Some comments that one hears quite frequently:-
Managing time is all about making choices and assigning priorities. As I often say, time does not need our help to go by. It just moves on. It’s up to us to manage ourselves in a manner that makes the best use of time. Frequently you hear people complain about their inability to complete a task, take up a hobby or start a new interest. ” I don’t have the time” they complain. No one has the time. Successful people make time for the tasks they consider important.
A muddled place shows a muddled mind. How often have we heard this adage which still holds true. Many do not realize the value of removing the clutter to become more effective in whatever they do- at work or at home. The clutter manifests itself in disorganized ways of doing things.
Here are 7 Reasons to Clean Up. Too much clutter results in:
How often have you put off a task you imagined was “difficult” ?
How often have you found excuses to avoid a task you found distasteful?
Most of us would answer truthfully that there have been many times when we have put off doing one thing or another- particularly if we found it difficult or distasteful. We would have been guilty of procrastination.
Here are 7 Ways to Lick Procrastination:
A quote that has stayed in my mind over many, many years is from the Scottish poet, Robert Burns. In his poem “To A Mouse” he wrote :-
” The best-laid plans o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain
For promised joy.”
You would have noticed in your own work life, that Burns’ words ring true, every now and then. Something will go wrong despite all your plans.
Most people associate a lack of knowledge and skill as being a time waster. They are quite right too. Where an individual lacks the knowledge and skills to carry out a task, he/she tends to take much longer than most others. This becomes a waste of time. If you were making a sales proposal for example and were good at it, you might take an hour or so. Someone who doesn’t have the skills may struggle with it for 3-4 hours.