If you stand at the cross roads of any metropolis and watch the scenario for a few moments I am sure you’ll find it immensely entertaining or vexing depending on whether you are a clown like me or a modern philosopher. People rushing in and out of buildings, pedestrians literally jogging on the pavement, vehicles weaving through traffic, screeching of breaks, honking of horns, trading of glares, exchange of parliamentary language and lots more.
All this for saving three hundred seconds of a commodity which today is even more blue chip than Infosys shares and even more scarce than Saurav Ganguly’s smile. I am talking about a four letter word that is more used and misused than all other four letter words put together. Yes it is TIME – the most precious of modern resources and easily the most abused one. Each one of us is given 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds each day. And this figure has remained the same since time immemorial. Two minute noodles, instant coffee, instant knowledge and even instant nirvana are all being offered off the counter. Technology is working over time to present quick fix solutions to everything under the Sun. Yet humankind seem to be forever behind in the race against time.
Numerous opinion polls in the U.S. and Europe reveal that people complain more about a lack of time than a lack of money or freedom. The same I am sure is the case in urban India. Thus time which should be an ally of man is fast becoming, in the words of the famous spiritual Guru J. Krishnamurti, ‘the psychological enemy of man’.
According to Bloomfield and Cooper the writers of the best seller The Power Of 5 it is no accident that the word deadline contains the word dead. Research strongly suggests that people who suffer from “hurry sickness” – the chronic feeling that there’s never enough time – may be at increased risk for developing or aggravating health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and certain forms of cancer. A struggle with time is also linked to chronic anger and hostility, depression, bitterness, resentment and sudden cardiac death. On the other hand, researchers suggest that time competency – using your time effectively – is a must for improving your health, fitness and relationships.
How then should we use our time effectively? According to Robin S. Sharma, the author of the international best seller ‘The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari’ the most important step in the direction of effective time management is to develop a mission statement. This is basically a capsule statement of your life’s purpose and objectives. It should give both the direction as well as the destination.
A mission statement is really nothing more than a few paragraphs or pages setting out what your life is about. It should set in general terms the key roles of your life and what you will achieve at the end of your existence. It should also set out those values which mean most to you and the qualities that you aspire to have.
For example my mission statement would read something like this:
- Rise to my potential in my vocation, which is Public Relations.
- Rise to my potential in my avocation, which is creative writing.
- Become a role model for my kids.
- Be a responsible and responsive life partner.
- Never compromise on my principles and values.
- Take constant care of my physical, emotional and intellectual health.
A student studying Management can have the following mission statement:
- To pass out topping the university.
- Get placement in a reputed private sector firm.
- Gain valuable experience, switch jobs, grows in the hierarchy.
- By the age of 45 start one’s own management consultancy firm.
- Continue the hobby of singing and cut a private album of ghazals/pop songs by the age of 40.
- Take care of parents in old age.
Once your mission statement is ready then every endeavour of yours should be in the direction of meeting that mission statement. For example my presence here addressing you is in tune with my mission statement. Public Speaking is a very important aspect of Public relations and speech writing of creativity. By addressing you I am taking a positive step towards meeting the twin objectives of becoming more effective in my vocation as well as avocation.
You should prioritize your actions so that in the words of the German Philosopher Goethe, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
Or as the French philosopher Thoreau put it, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The real question is what are you busy about.”
Prioritising basically means following what is called the Ancient Law of Planned Neglect according to which, “The secret of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.”
I have been awarded by YHAI twice. I have gone to judge quite a few competitions organised by YHAI but in spite of repeated requests I have not become its member. Simply because I know its membership is not in any way going to help me achieve my goals.
Most of the time we are caught up doing activities, which can be avoided. Either because we are unable to say no, or that we don’t realize the activity will not add any value or simply because of a kind of inertia. My niece who stays in Nagpur decided to take Sanskrit as her third language because it is scoring. I asked her to take Marathi, the local language, since she would be learning a language that is in use today. She didn’t agree. She had to work twice as hard in Sanskrit, got the same marks and ended up learning nothing because of the way Sanskrit was taught.
We should remember Peter Drucker’s words; “There is nothing as useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
This brings to my mind another issue is which is a direct result of faulty priorities, warped judgment and regressive value.
Every year we read in the newspapers or see on TV news of numerous cases of youngsters seeking psychiatric help, resorting to drug abuse and even committing suicides. We are swamped with images of young impressionable souls fighting to regain their sanity and struggling to survive. In today’s world of increasing population, decreasing opportunities and cutthroat competition the law of the jungle reigns supreme. And in the concrete jungles this law reads: survival of the smartest. Aspirations have risen and so have the needs. Yesterday’s luxuries have become today’s necessities. In this scenario every one wants to do the best to get the best. In this process of aiming for the sky the ground realities are forgotten as a result we have fractured hopes, unrealised dreams and life itself becomes a nightmare.
What then is the solution? Obviously there are no quick fixes. I have a few pointers, which if kept in mind can help students achieve a semblance of balance in life.
Maintain a healthy synergy between work and play. Try to develop a well-rounded personality with interests in academics as well as hobbies and sports.
While deciding on career goals keep in mind your interests as well as your own aspirations. Remember an average student who is pursuing the career of her own interest will be far more successful than an above average one who is being forced to do something which she is not keen about.
Don’t become obsessed with success and achievement. Enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
“Most people I know try to become more clever every day, whereas I try to become more simple and uncomplicated each day,” wrote a Zen philosopher.
We should all try to cultivate this mind set. By increasing our needs and then running around in circles trying to fulfil them we are only creating a no-win situation. In olden days a man’s greatness used to measure by how much he was giving up. Our sages were revered because they relinquished worldly goods and led a life of simplicity. Today the scenario is exactly the opposite. Here the person who can grab the maximum wealth by any means is the most respected. You must have seen the Hyundai Accent ad. Possibly one of the most offensive ads. Here the owner is a bada aadmi deserving respect only because he owns a Hyundai accent. That means today a person’s worth is measured by what he has rather than what he is – possessions, which are extrinsic rather than values, which are intrinsic.
I now come to the final and the most vital part of my address. I have been talking about time management, goal setting, prioritising, achieving balance et al. Now I’ll talk about Time Enjoyment.
Sometimes I feel all the fun and enjoyment seems to be fast disappearing from our lives. Even before our infants are able to talk without lisping, and walk without tumbling they are being ‘prepared’ to take on the world. The other day I was seeing a news item on TV, which focussed on coaching classes for tiny tots seeking admission to pre-nursery. I was horror struck. Kids who are barely three being forced to attend coaching classes! What is this world coming to?
The back cover of a DPS notebook reads: DPS is imparting quality education to enable the students to compete with the world. The children are provided with an environment, which fosters a spirit of enquiry and keen competition.
I thought the values a school should foster is co-operation and synergy. Instead of teaching the kids how to learn in an ambience of fun, joy, creativity and cooperation the school is teaching them to compete with the world and is proud of it. What a brave and noble intentions indeed! As if we were living in the stone age where the only way to ensure the next meal was by hitting some one or something on the head.
But can you only blame the school? No. Competition today is the buzzword. The latest virus that has been imported from US of A, the modern heaven and haven is the virus of competetivitis. We seem to be competing with each other for anything and everything. We are not happy with what we have, we are happy only if we have something bigger, costlier, rarer than what our neighbours have. In this mad race for becoming better we seem to be running up an escalator which is coming down. We don’t even have time to pause and reflect whether all this is really worth it. Our life is not ours anymore. The neighbours, the office colleagues, the peer group and the so-called friends dictate it.
But all this acquisition of material goods, is it making us happy? Take the case of today’s Utopia – America. Someone once quipped that the Americans are getting so well off that when they get a puncture they change cars instead of tyres!!
A study revealed that in the last four decades the income level of the average American has increased four times but his happiness level has remained the same. Apparently the time invested in running after money and materials is not giving the desired returns. So is it really worth running after money?
I came across an interesting concept in the book the Power of 5 which I would like to share with you. It is called Liming.
Liming is the Caribbean art of “doing nothing guilt free.” That is doing something for enjoyment not achievement. If for example you are playing a game of TT, play for the joy of playing not for winning or even improving. The basic idea with liming is to shift yourself – as completely and deeply as you can – out of the rat race for at least 5 minutes, allowing your body to release tension and your mind to relax. In a recent study it was found that men and women in New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo spent on an average three hours a day watching TV. The same statistic I think hold good for India too. Imagine many of us are devoting 21 hours a week to one habit that requires little energy and virtually no imagination. Studies reveal that we may burn about 10-15 per cent less calories watching TV than we do when sitting still with the television off. Our focus should be to reduce the time we spend with the idiot box and spend more time on enjoyable activities that offer relaxation as well rejuvenation. I am listing some of the activities at random. You may select the ones you like:
- Listening to music
- Singing, even if is tuneless and off key.
- Reading a book/story
- Playing an instrument
- Spending time with a small child
- Spending time with elderly people in the house or neighborhood.
Sri Sri Ravishankar, founder of Art of Living says there are two reasons why we are unable to live a life of joy - regret over the past and the apprehension about the future. Our mind is always vacillating between the past and the future. We are either crying over spilt milk or trying to cross the bridge before we come to it. By unnecessarily breaking our heads over what has already happened and fretting over what is likely to happen we spoil the present. Today’s moment is sacrificed at the altar of yesterday’s regret and tomorrow’s anxiety.
One of the best ways of time enjoyment is to accept that the present is inevitable. We have to live in the present moment to the fullest and give our hundred percent to whatever we are doing.
This might appear impossible but it isn’t really all that difficult. If we carefully look at a four-year-old child we can learn a lot about living in the present. Whether the little one is drawing on a sheet of paper, or sailing a paper boat in a puddle or simply watching a bird in flight - he is giving his hundred percent to the present moment. He is not bothered about whether someone is watching him or laughing at him, he is not concerned about what he has done a few minutes earlier or what he is going to do moments later. He is existing only in the Here and Now. We should all strive to adopt the natural, unselfconscious behavior of the child and live life in the present moment. We should keep forever in mind these simple, yet powerful, words of Bill Keane, ‘Yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future, but today is a GIFT. That is why it is called the present.”
Let me conclude with these immortal words of Abraham Lincoln:
“We are each given a block of marble when we begin a lifetime and the tools to shape it into sculpture. We can drag it behind us untouched, we can pound it to gravel or we can shape it into glory.”
Friends, the choice is clearly ours - we can abuse and misuse time to fritter away our lives or use it effectively to achieve joy, happiness and glory.