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On Time Management

“Time is really the only capital that any human has,
and the only thing he can’t afford to lose.”
– Thomas Edison

In one of his speeches, Jim Rohn told his audience the story of a man who one day told him the following – “You know if I have some extra time, I can make some extra money.” He told the man to forget about it because there is no such thing as extra time.

Indeed, there is no extra time. Whatever are the things we intend to do in a day, we have a 24-hour window to accomplish them. Definitely, that man did not mean extra as in time over 24 hours but how he could squeeze in in his daily schedule activities that will allow him to have an additional income.

What the man told Jim Rohn is the usual excuse of people for being unable to do what they should do to improve themselves in areas of their lives where they need improvement. How many times have you heard people say  that they have no time to – exercise – read – learn a new skill –  or do any self-improvement activities? How many times have you heard somebody drop the following lines – “I am too busy earning a living and I could no longer find time to do other things? What about you? Have you ever dropped those excuses also?

Are 24 hours really not enough to finish everything we need to do in a day? That’s the question we’ve been trying hard to answer since time immemorial. People keep saying that they don’t have enough time to do this and to do that. But I think the real problem is not the lack of time. The failure to manage it is.

 The real issue is time management – how are we using our hours and minutes in a day. Oxford defines time management as the ability to use one’s time effectively or productively, especially at work. Take note of the italicized words. That’s how we are supposed to use our hours and minutes – effectively and productively.

 Jonathan Estrin opined,  “The way we spend our time defines who we are.” I agree 100% and let me add that the way we use our time will also determine whether or not we will be listed in the directory of winners and achievers.

Time management is a very important skill in the pursuit of success. According to Brian Tracy, many people think that time management is only a business tool, like a calculator or a cell phone, something that you use to increase productivity. He argued that it is not just a peripheral skill but the core skill on which everything else in life depends.  He added that time is your most precious resource, the most valuable thing you have. It is both perishable and irreplaceable. It cannot be saved.

The non-renewability of our time is also one of the things Seneca, a Roman philosopher, reminded us in his essay entitled “On Shortness of Life.” Being non-renewable, the philosopher suggested the need to treat it as a commodity, something valuable that we cannot afford to waste or throw away. Thus, we need to manage (the use of) it well.

Aside from giving us the best chance to achieve our goals and succeed, there are other benefits we can get from effective time management. According to Misra & McKean (2000),  “good time management skills have been identified as having a buffering effect on stress.” When you  fail to allocate time properly to your responsibilities and activities expect to  feel overwhelmed. You know what to expect when for example you realize that you only have an hour to finish the equivalent of a 2-hour workload – an increased level of stress

Time management also offers individuals the means to structure and control their activities (Claessens, et al., 2004). This leads to avoidance of cramming and a better quality of output. When people are hard pressed to finish an assigned task or a commitment to beat a deadline the result may not be as desired.

Let’s go back to the question I asked earlier – Are 24 hours really not enough to finish everything we need to do in a day?

In her book “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think,” Laura Vanderkam deplored the time-poverty  narratives that have been persisting for a long time. She said that we all have 24 hours in our day, and 7 days in our week giving us a total of 168 hours (7 x 24) each week to create the lives we want, and if I may add – to do the things we ought to do.

Let’s do some math and instead of using the  24-hour model let’s use Vanderkam’s 168-hour paradigm.  

On the average,  how many hours in a day do you spend for some specific daily activities? If you work for 8 hours and sleep for 7, how many more do you  have left for other things? You still have 9 hours. Right? Let’s say that you spend 2 of those for meals and snacks, what remains is 7 hours.

In one week you have an extra 49 hours (7 x 7). But if you work only for 5 days then add 16 to the 49. That’s 66 hours.  What do you want to do with those remaining hours in one week?

Yes, you are entitled to have leisure time or do Netflix binge-viewing. But are you going to spend all 66 hours for fun and recreation? If you do, then say goodbye to success and say hello to failure and poverty.

Okay, spend 2 hours a day for play or “me time.” I think that is still normal. That’s 14  hours. You still have 52. Should you decide to add 1 more hour to your daily leisurely activities (or to your sleeping time), you would end up still having 43 extra hours in a week.

Now, are you going to use all those 43 hours to aimlessly browse  the Internet? Don’t! Unless you are not really serious in the pursuit of  your goals.

What if you spend only 2 hours a day to check your emails and visit your social media accounts? That will eat 14 hours out of the 43 extra that you still have leaving you with  29 more.

What if you exercise or workout for 1 hour 5 times a week? You still have 24 hours extra. What if you read a book for 1 hour 5 times a week only (if doing it daily is too much)? Look. You still have 19 hours left. Go back to the math we did for leisure time. If 2 hours a day  is sufficient then you can put 7 back  to the 19 hours. That’s a total of 26 hours. How do you want to use it? Decide.  Would you like to spend some of those hours nurture your existing relationships? What about using a few hours to pursue some personal growth and development goals?

You can do the math for your particular situation and determine whether or not you really don’t have enough time to do what you need to do. Find out how many out of the 168 hours a week (or 24 hours a day) are you using productively and how many are you wasting doing things that don’t matter.

When you decide what to do with those remaining hours, you might want to consider what Brian Tracy said, “Perhaps the greatest single problem that people have today is time poverty. Working people have too much to do and too little for their personal lives.”

As you try to manage the hours and minutes in your day, you need to make a conscious effort to maintain a work-life balance. Allocate time for yourself. I don’t mean just taking a time-off from work and have fun. What I mean with  allocating time for yourself is dedicating your free time to activities that promote self-improvement and wellbeing.  Consider this – “The capacity to manage free time  is found to significantly increase an individual’s quality of life (Wang et al., 2011).” So think of how you spend your free time.

What I may consider as the best advise for time management came also from Laura Vanderkam – “Be intentional with the use of your time.”

Now, go back to the 168 hours paradigm. Consider it as a blank slate, how would you fill it? Again, the problem is not the lack of time. How you manage it is.

As Harvey MacKay said, “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you’ll never get it back.”

References:

Claessens, C., et al. (2005). A review of the time management literature. Personnel Review, 36(2), 255-276. DOI 10.1108/00483480710726136

Misra, R., McKean, M. (2000). College students’ academic stress and its relation to their anxiety, time management, and leisure satisfaction. American Journal of Health Studies, 16(1), 41-51.

Time Management. (n.d.). In lecixo.com. Retrieved from https://www.lexico.com/definition/ time_management

Wang et al. (2011). Free time management contributes to better quality of life: A study of undergraduate students in Taiwan. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12, 561-573. doi:10.1007/s1142-013-9256-4

Vanderkam, L. (2010).  168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. London: Penguin Books Ltd.

The Tree and Its Fruits

“Water the fruit trees and don’t water the thorns.”
– Rumi

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.”

That one was from St. Luke and it’s only one of the many quotes where tree and fruits are used figuratively to bring not only beauty to an idea that a writer or a speaker wishes to convey but also emphasis and clarity.

Obviously, the “tree” in that bible verse refers to you and me. And what about the fruits? Well, they are our thoughts, words, and actions and their outcomes. Could there be other fruits? I believe there’s none. The things we think, say, and do and their eventual consequences or results are the fruits of the tree that we are. There’s nothing else that would come from us through which we can be judged or valued as a person.

We think (consciously or subconsciously) first before we say or do something. I refer to it as the “think-say-do” process. After processing in our minds an idea or a situation (or any other kind of stimulus) then we decide what actions to take or words to say thereafter. That’s our response. You may call it decision.

“Each tree is recognized by its own fruits.” Thus, you should be careful of what you think and the decision you make afterward. They are manifestations of the kind of person that you are… and they do have consequences or results. I don’t know if there can be an argument against that assertion.

You have a first hand knowledge of how you think and decide. You are aware of the kind of fruits you produce. What about their outcomes? The fruits you bear results to the reputation you built for yourself in the community where you belong and among your colleagues, peers, friends and loved ones. Imagine reputation as the basket where your fruits – the decisions you made in the past – are stored. What people say (and think) about you is your reputation. Your reputation is the consequence of your speech and actions.

There are times that even if you say and do good, even when we try our best to make the right decisions all the time,  some people will treat you negatively. Don’t mind them. Their reactions are boomerangs that would harm them not you.

Whatever you have accomplished at this stage in your life are also consequences of your past decisions.  Your resume is also a basket of the fruits you produced. If people would scrutinize your resume, what would they see? What they see are your fruits.  Success is one big and ripe apple in the apple tree. It is the end goal of all our personal and professional pursuits.

But there’s a fruit sweeter than success – happiness. That’s what  simple people with simple dreams who don’t have a curriculum vitae to show try to grow in their tree. You would even hear people with grand dreams say that they aim for success because they want to be happy. Their success is the source of their happiness while for the simple folks I mentioned earlier, it’s the simplicity of their life and desires that makes them happy.

Reputation, success, and happiness – the products of the decisions you made – are the fruits of  the tree you become.

The kind of fruits you would bear depends on the kind of tree you grow into. If you are a good tree then definitely good fruits will spring out of your branches and twigs.

You should  know that you have control of the process of becoming who you are. Yes, no one else is in control of it.  We call that process self-improvement. The tree that would sprout from that transformation is your “best self.”

Only when you become your “best self” that you will start bearing the good fruits.

The journey into becoming your “best self” begins with one simple step –  the rejection of any excuse to not become the tree you wish to be and bear the fruit that you desire.

Education comes next. We nourish the tree called “self” through education. And it’s going to be long and tedious. It’s actually lifelong. Remember what Aristotle said, “The roots of education is bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”  But with education, I don’t mean just formal schooling. Schools are not the only place where learning can be had. Learning comes in many shapes and forms.

Learning makes your better than you were yesterday.

Sometimes we feel discouraged when all the efforts we are putting into self-improvement is seemingly not bearing fruits. We need to be patient.  Rousseau tell us that patience is bitter, but the fruit is sweet. To that Moliere added, “The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.”

There’s one more fruit that your tree would eventually bear –  wisdom. You know it’s there when you come to a realization that the growing of the tree is more exciting than harvesting its fruits. What you will become – your best self – is beyond your reputation, more glittery than success, and more overwhelming than happiness.

Becoming Purpose-driven

“Find your why and you’ll find your way.”
– John C. Maxwell

Purpose-driven is referred to in this article as the desire to find your WHYs and knowing what to do afterward.          

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“What is your why? Why did you even get out of the bed this morning? Why did you eat what you ate? Why did you wear what you wore? Why did you come here?” These are the questions  Howard Inlet, the character played by Will Smith, asks his employees at the beginning of the movie “Collateral Beauty.”

Should you be asked the same questions, would you be able to answer unequivocally?  Do you have definite answers, at least, to the first two questions? If your  answer is yes, good for you. Way to go! I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually you’ll succeed in your personal and professional pursuits, or you might have already done it. But if your answer  is no, I would suggest you do some soul searching because seemingly you have been cruising through life aimlessly. It is very likely that you don’t know your purpose. You may not be living your life knowingly.

Purpose is a powerful driving force in our quest for a better self and a better life. It is  the reason why we do what we do and why we exist. They help us have a meaningful existence. Thus, we should strive hard to know (or establish) our purpose and be driven by it. We need to live life with definite intentions.

The question is how. How to live life purposely?

Simon Sinek gave the following suggestion – “Start with  why” (which is also the title of probably the most popular among the books he has written). Although the said book focuses on organization and leadership and how having a WHY helps the leader succeed in bringing success to the organization, the WHY principles that Sinek articulated apply to individuals as well. He (Sinek) said that your WHY is your purpose, cause, or belief.

It’s not only organizations and leaders who should have (and be very clear with their)   WHYs. Every person should have them, whether or not they belong to an organization, whether or not they are leaders. Each individual needs to determine and establish their purpose, cause, and belief. It’s not only organizations and leaders who should know why they do what they do and why they exist. Each of us should also have a clear understanding of these things.

Two of Howard Inlet’s questions – “Why did you eat what you ate?” and “Why did you wear what you wore?” – may, at first glance, be considered inconsequential. But as one of the owners of that advertising company in that story, Inlet wants to drive home  a very important point – that every member of that organization should be aware of the reasons why they do what they do.

This is one thing we ought to be doing even in a personal level also. We ought to be asking ourselves why we do what we do.

I presume (and I hope my presumption is right) that you have set goals in the different areas of life – family and relationships, career and business, personal growth and development, and fun and recreation. The foregoing are the areas with which I  subdivided my life into. It is possible that you may have subdivided your life differently from the way I did. But one thing for sure, just like me, you have goals in the different aspects of your life no matter how you may have structured it. Those goals are the manifestations of your purpose or purposes in life, causes you  advocate, and the beliefs you uphold.

The answer to the question “Why did you even get out of the bed this morning?” should be as  simple as – to pursue the goals you set in the different areas of your life. Right?

But how many out of 10 people set goals (and are you one of them)? How many do live a life driven by a definite purpose? That is difficult to answer with absolute certainty. The one thing I noticed though about estimates on how many percent of people in a particular country succeeded in their chosen endeavors and fields of expertise is that none of the statistics went above 10%. Actually, majority of the articles I read on the topic claimed it’s only 2% to 5%. So, if goals correlate to success, given all the aforementioned numbers, is it safe to assume that approximately only 1 out of 10 set goals?

Granting that my estimation is accurate, only 1 out 10 people know their purpose, cause, and belief. The great majority of human beings  wake up in the morning not knowing what are they going to do and where are they headed to. I hope that you’re not one of them.  

And those questions that I said earlier are seemingly inconsequential are necessary questions to ask to remind you that even the simplest things you do everyday should contribute to the attainment of your big goals.

What sets apart purpose-driven people from those who are not is that the former  constantly ask themselves this question – what consequences do my words, actions, and thoughts bear on the goals that I set.

Your  WHY is your north star. It gives you a sense of direction. Not having it is like walking aimlessly not knowing where to go. Not knowing it  is like looking for something that you don’t know. You’ll never find it. It’s like living life randomly, not purposely.  

Knowing your WHY allows you to clearly identify your goals… goals that as previously mentioned, are the manifestations of your purpose or purposes in life, causes you advocate, and the beliefs you uphold.

But knowing your WHY is only the beginning. It’s like you getting ready at the starting line of a marathon you decided to join. Eventually, you will start running and you know what it takes to succeed in this kind of competition – physical and mental toughness.   

There are character traits too required for one to become truly purpose-driven. These are passion and perseverance.

What do you do after setting your goals? Answer: Pursue them with passion and perseverance. After establishing your goals and setting the plans for their pursuit, obstacles and challenges will lie in the path to their accomplishment. It’s not easy climbing Mt. Everest. The things you want to possess, to become, and to accomplish will not be delivered to you in a silver platter. You have to work hard to get them.  Whatever you want – wealth, power, fame, success, health, and happiness – will not come knocking at you door. You’ll have to go out and seek for them. And in the process of seeking them out, you need passion and perseverance.

Cambridge defines passion as “an extreme interest in or wish for doing something, such as hobby, activity, etc.” and perseverance as “continued effort and determination.” Both traits, obviously, are needed by those who want to have their hands raised in the podium of winners. You cannot afford to be half-hearted in your undertakings. Be consumed by a burning desire to achieve your goals and realize your dreams. And even when the going gets rough,  you’re  not supposed to give up so easily.  You have to persevere. What’s the use of knowing your why and set goals after if you don’t pursue them vigorously. When you run a race, make sure you finish it.

Duckworth (2016) packaged these two constructs, passion and perseverance, into one concept – GRIT. Duckworth, as cited by Fessler (2018), defines the term “as passion and sustained persistence applied toward long-term achievement, with no particular concern for rewards or recognition along the way. It combines reliance, ambition, and self-control in the pursuit of goals that take months, years, or even decades.”

Studies on grit time and again have proven that people holding steadfast to their goals which they  set through time succeed. So, learn to stick with your goals notwithstanding the difficulties and challenges you face.

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