In human life, time is the most important resource that is non-controllable, non-renewable, non-substitutable and non-recoverable. It is also one resource whose march in terms of units of time (say, seconds to days) is pre-determined (and, to that extent predictable) and whose total availability in one’s life (in terms of one’s lifespan) is unknown (except as a trend, expectation or hope). This is probably the reason for the emergence of disparate philosophies as to how one should live one’s life, from completely materialistic and opportunistic to completely philosophical and religious. Most, however, are subject to multiple combinations of approaches that vary with the age and phase of life. Some want to learn more and some others want to earn more, each in the shortest period of time. Most want to save more and a few want to share more, each in the shortest period of time. The underlying principle in any approach to utilizing time should be to make an optimal and effective use of time one is blessed with. Effective management of time is, verily, the only way to a fulfilled life.
Human ingenuity in technology has enabled the human race dramatically shrink the times taken to perform any task, be it travel, communication or any development activity. Be that may, the paradox of spending each unit of time effectively at an individual or team level continues unresolved. Hours and hours, for example, are spent (wasted, according to elders) by the young generation on the digital social media which connects the world of known and unknown in nanoseconds! Despite real time telecommunication connectivity cross-border agreements take far longer nowadays than they took in the telegram and telefax days, decades ago. Computerized designing and computer simulation of prototypes has not dramatically impacted the way automobiles are refreshed each year. In summary, more iterations are performed and more choices are evaluated in lesser units of time per iteration or evaluation, eventually resulting in the same, if not higher, amount of overall transaction time.
Perceptions on time
Individuals and corporations are faced with the timeless problem of effectively utilizing time. Competing and conflicting social and organizational pressures on time cause individuals to respond reactively rather than be in command of any particular facet. Competitive and volatile economic and business conditions cause companies to race desperately rather than be deliberative before being decisive. Individuals and corporations, however, are less than aligned how they could together utilize time as their synergistic competitive advantage, on an end to end basis. Some corporations and a few individuals understand that personal individual productivity could translate into corporate productivity. Yet, most corporations and most individuals tend to avoid any interlink between time management at work and time utilization outside. The fact, however, is that like safety and quality time management is a fundamental attitude and behavioral predisposition of an individual that could collectively impact a corporation’s own ability to be time-effective.
Like a healthy employee is a productive employee, a time-conscious individual would be a productive employee. In today’s world, in fact, an individual who manages his off-work time effectively would not only be developing varied capabilities and fulfilling multiple responsibilities but also achieving better professional and personal life balance. Typically, the same unit of time could be put by different individuals to different uses, from sports and hobbies to learning and development, and from family responsibilities to social service depending upon each individual’s professional and family ethos and value system. For a passionate sports lover, watching a cricket match over five days would be a fulfillment rather than a waste. For a workaholic, however, any time spent on activities not related either directly or indirectly to work would be a complete waste. Individuals perceive time in terms of their likes and dislikes rather than in terms of how effective or ineffective they are in terms of effectively utilizing it.
Experiencing versus traversing
There are many books on effective time management, each with different tools and techniques of time management. The really effective management of time is really one of experiencing time in its entirety and not merely travelling through it. Reverting to the example of the passionate sports lover watching the five day cricket test match, he can spend all the five days only clapping and enjoying (thus adding no value to himself) or spend the time in addition analyzing the batting, bowling and fielding nuances (thus honing his cricketing skills). Better still, if he is an amateur cricketer model himself after his favorite cricketing hero (and become a cricketing sensation himself!). A foodie may merely eat and enjoy an elaborate time consuming multi-course dinner or also observe the culinary art and science on the table, and add to his or her own culinary repository. The principle of experiencing through time is focusing all of one’s sensory faculties in living through an activity.
The core of experiencing an activity is concentration on the activity. To be able to concentrate on an activity one must primarily be able to enjoy the activity. But enjoyment by itself does not lead to concentration. Concentration is a faculty that needs to be developed with dedicated effort. Rapid learners learn fast by concentrating on the subject matter as they read through the matter. Negotiators sharpen their skills by not merely exchanging viewpoints but observing the body language of individual team members and their silent and vocal interactions. Effective speakers make impactful use of their time not merely by delivering a speech or relying on a powerpoint presentation but more by connecting with the audience and creating a communication experience with requisite pauses and triggers and selective amplitude. It is probably not as much important as to what has been the amount of time spent on any activity but how intensively one lives through it.
PIE as a mind option
Management of time is a matter of mind; that too, a trained mind. In times one is not into specific activities of life, should one relax without any activities or invite new activities that add joy into one’s life? Whatever be the options available in today’s event and activity hyped world, emptiness is not an option. At one level, one could implement several options to be efficient and effective in whatever one is engaged in, including establishing an optimal work life-personal life balance. Effective time management would be a matter of competencies that ensure productivity and attitudes that abhor waste of time. A more practical approach would be to partition time on a daily, recurrent basis. One may consider the 24 hour day having non-exclusive and exclusive zones. The non-exclusive time zone is the larger part of the 24 hour daily life, say 22 or 23 hours per day, which is devoted to all the socially, economically and naturally required daily activities. The exclusive time zone comprises the balance 1 or 2 hours which one may use exclusively for avocations that are strictly personal and fulfilling. These could be exercising, painting, gardening, meditating, networking, social service or whatever. The idea of partitioning the day into two parts; the larger non-exclusive part known and dedicated for others, and the smaller exclusive part known and dedicated only for self-development and self-fulfillment is an approach that could lead to a significant uplift to one’s life.
There can, indeed, be no time in one’s life when one can simply do nothing valuable. From ideating to meditating, it is possible and necessary to engage a wandering mind into creating value. Apart from partitioning, and in the partitioned parts of the day, one can do two important activities of the mind that can be productive; one is ideating, and the other is engaging. Converting myriad thoughts into ideas, preferably focused ideas, would be the greatest help one can render to oneself for having been blessed with a thinking brain. A brain that is wired to be creative and innovative could be a genetic predisposition of really a blessed few but a brain that is disciplined to be thoughtful and ideating is within everyone’s capability. However, just being thoughtful, reflective and ideating is not enough. One needs to be engaged with oneself and one’s ideas. Being engaged means developing and sustaining interest in matters that are of relevance, and taking them to fruition over time, creating value for oneself, one’s family, one’s organization and the broader society.
XPIE, an integrated approach
The author’s XPIE model of Experiencing, Partitioning, Ideating and Engaging provides individuals with a superior ability to effectively manage time. Experiencing time, not merely wading through it, is the first requirement of any effective time management. Genuine and authentic experiencing creates value by itself from the each unit of time one spends. Partitioning of time into excusive and non-exclusive zones, being particularly thoughtful, reflective and ideating, and finally staying engaged would serve as an effective time management paradigm. The ability to absorb each activity as a value-added experience and stay thoughtful and engaged on ideas that appeal to one’s life system is crucial to achieving the ultimate effectiveness of time in one’s life.
Posted by Dr CB Rao on February 24, 2013