Why are we always in a hurry and why are we always late?
We move through are formulaic lives day after day devoting time to specific activities but we never consider external factors such as delays, emergencies and at times fundamental things such as time taken to travel. Another thing we never consider is how our actions affect the lives of all the people around us.
Commencing a meeting 5 minutes too late can lead to a couple of outcomes:
1. The meeting extends five minutes past its scheduled time.
2. The meeting loses out on five minutes of useful conversation.
Now, these outcomes have their own consequences which are:
1. Everyone in the meeting delays their next task by 5 minutes.
2. Productivity is lost.
It isn’t very hard to notice that the first outcome of my delaying a meeting can lead to delays and losses in productivity for all activities for everyone present in the meeting. This is what I like to call the “Spillover” effect. A situation in which delays in one activity of spill into future activities undertaken by us and the people present around us.
One important assumption I make is that simply doing nothing is also an activity and why shouldn’t it be? We spend hours a day performing the act of doing nothing and more importantly it helps us recharge both mind and body for the rest of our activities. It’s an enabler. For example, a 30-minute break after 2 hours of mind-boggling lectures helps prepare us for 2 more hours of mind-boggling lectures.
I’ve argued about punctuality and the effective utilization of time with my friends, family, and colleagues (basically anyone willing to listen to me). What I have found out is that in most Indian societies, we have bred a culture of tardiness. People mock me for being on time and their argument is valid: “If everyone is late then it’s only you who loses time by being punctual.” This culture of tardiness while defensible has led to mass dissatisfaction in everyone’s lives. People often complain about having no time to spend with their families, friends and even themselves. This dissatisfaction has far-reaching effects on both the people and the society.
To take an example, European societies which emphasize heavily upon punctuality and effective utilization of time continuously top both economic and happiness indices every year. There is a very strong correlation between effective utilization of time and happiness. Now I must acknowledge that correlation does not mean causation and that there are various other factors affecting the indices as well but it’s fair to say that time does play a part.
“How to improve my time management?” is a question I end up asking myself every day and frankly I haven’t figured it out yet. One thing that certainly helps though is taking a step back and evaluating the schedule that we consciously or subconsciously set for ourselves and ask questions such as, ‘Does the schedule give us enough time for ourselves?’, ‘Does it give us time for our family?’, ‘Does it allow us to achieve our objectives to our standards of satisfaction?’ And many more. Even if one of the answers is “no” then our schedule warrants a change.
Time is a resource and if utilized effectively can lead to both short-term and long-term benefits beyond our imagination.