Building Your ‘Time Machine’ Through ‘Time Efficiency’

Building Your ‘Time Machine’ Through ‘Time Efficiency’

Being rich is having money; being wealthy is having time. – Margaret Bonanno

Time is a finite resource and how we manage this resource sets the trajectory for our life. From my perspective, prioritization is a key technique for time management.

One of my favorite movies of all time is ‘Back To The Future‘. Toward the end of the first movie (there are two sequels) there is a scene where the protagonist, ‘Marty McFly’ finds himself preparing to get back to the future. As he sits in the time-machine car pondering over the eventual death of his scientist friend and how he could save him, he realizes that he doesn’t need to worry about not making it in time. After all, he was sitting in a time machine and had virtually all the time he needed! His car, being a time-travelling vehicle, could also work great as a time-management instrument. All he had to do was set the clock back an extra five minutes so he could get back sooner and avert the impending tragedy.

How many of us have wished, at least once in our lives, that we could turn back time? For some of us that may be a few years – to undo some crucial life decisions, for others a few months or weeks – to restore a broken relationship and for some a few minutes – to just make it to work on time and avoid the wrath of our boss! Thankfully, unlike Marty McFly, we won’t need a Flux-Capacitor or a flying DeLorean to recover lost time: Because it ultimately boils down to efficient time management. If we do that, we will never have any lost time to have to recover in the first place! Time management training gurus tell us that adding a few disciplines to our life and pacing our day and activities well, is sufficient to cultivate good habits for managing our time instead of feeling like our time manages us. Listen to Stephen Covey say it best – “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but instead schedule your priorities”.[1] Far too often we allow the average day to sort of ‘happen’ to us all the while hoping that we can somehow squeeze in a, b, c and d before we run out of time in the day. Instead, like Covey recommends, we must decide at the outset what requires our utmost attention and schedule it in descending priority. For most people, especially those who are not planners, this can seem like a daunting task. But a few simple time management tips can help us to stay on top of our schedules. Here are some steps to begin with:-

1. Priority based categorization – Instead of randomly scheduling differing projects through the day, we must instead set those tasks that require our immediate attention at the top of the list and work our way down. It is recommended that the tasks that are high on our list be the ones that have the highest impact/consequences.

2. Activity based scheduling – It doesn’t help to try to work on the most urgent matters during the busiest times of the day when you have to multitask on various priorities. Urgent matters require not only the most of our attention but also the most focus. We must set exclusive time aside for such projects.

3. Realistic expectation and execution – Often we try to multitask and end up biting off more than we can chew, resulting in below par efficiency. Setting impossible goals only sets us up for failure, which in turn can affect our morale in the future. Its better to aim for a reasonable goal, which can be achieved within a realistic time span.

As creatures of habit that live in space and time, we find ourselves unable to escape the ever-depleting asset of time. And especially in a culture that exemplifies the ‘time is money’ ideology, we find ourselves the unwilling participants of a nation-wide rat race, always striving toward but never quite achieving that elusive finish line, that only seems to keep moving further away from us as the corporate ‘bar’ keeps being raised and one’s competency is based on a ‘Time: Efficiency’ scale. The significance of Time Management Training could not be more crucial given the current corporate climate we live in today.

[1] Stephen Covey, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, (Firestone: Simon & Schuster, 1989)