By: Dr. Merrill Douglas and Dr. Larry Baker
VOLTAIRE, THE GREAT French writer and philosopher, posed an interesting question in his book Zadig: A Mystery of Fate.
The Grand Magi asked Zadig, “What, of all things in the world, is the longest and the shortest, the swiftest, and the slowest, the most divisible and the most extended, the most neglected and the most regretted, without which nothing can be done, which devours all that is little and enlivens all that is great?”
Without hesitation, Zadig answered, “Time.” He added:
* Nothing is longer, since it is the measure of eternity.
* Nothing is shorter, since it is insufficient for the accomplishment of our projects.
* Nothing is more slow to him that expects; nothing more rapid to him that enjoys.
* In greatness, it extends to infinity; in smallness, it is infinitely divisible.
* All men neglect it; all regret the loss of it; nothing can be done without it.
* It consigns to oblivion whatever is unworthy of being transmitted to posterity, and it immortalizes such actions as are truly great.
Time is an elusive sunbeam, an evaporating raindrop, a wilted dandelion on a windy day. We cannot, physically, catch it; nor can we harness it and make it our own. Time management is an illusion, because no one can really manage time. Time, simply, is a constant. Time is a measurement of intervals. It moves at the same rate regardless of who we are or what we are trying to accomplish. Time respects no one. No one can convert, change or otherwise mitigate time. Despite this, we continue to use the phrase “managing time” to identify our efforts to use our allotted moments meaningfully. It means conducting our affairs within the time available so that we achieve gratifying results.
Time is a Paradox
Everyone wants more time. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible. Time is a paradox. We never seem to have enough time, yet we have all the time there is. Time, not activities, is the limiting factor, Tough choices must be made, and something will always be left out. It must be so. The problem, then, is not a shortage of time, but how we choose to use the time available.
Because we never have enough time to satisfy us, we soon begin to think about using it differently, hopefully better. An old Chinese proverb provides excellent insight.
“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”
Solving the Paradox
Here’s the solution to the paradox. Focus time on the important things, and ignore the trivial things. There’s always enough time for the truly important things if we only wouldn’t spend so much time on the unimportant.
Many people operate under the mistaken belief that they really do have enough time for everything, if only they could organize their hours more efficiently. The result is often an attempt to “hurry up.” They reason that if they can just go fast enough, they can get ahead of all their activities and actually have time left over.
Of course, this never works. As a strategy for using time, it offers very little. Under “hurry up” conditions, people make more mistakes. They have even less time to think, plan, and reflect before taking action on problems. The days begin to appear frenzied. They fail to realize that, no matter how much they do, there is always more to be done. They doom themselves to a life of frustration, disillusionment, and disappointment. They simply cannot do everything. They must make choices. They must make those though priority decisions and have the courage to follow the decisions with action. They must learn to ignore the low priorities.
Time is a Resource
Many people refer to time as a resource. A resource is something that lies ready for use, or something that can be drawn upon for aid. Time fits this definition. Begin to accept time as your most important resource. Time is a tool that can be drawn upon to help you accomplish results, an aid that can take care of a need, an assistant in solving problems, However, time is not
like other resources, because you can’t buy it, sell it, rent it, steal it, borrow it, lend it, store it, multiply it, manufacturer it, or change it. All you can do is spend it.
As a resource, time poses another paradox: If you don’t use it, it disappears anyway. Thus the quality of your resource depends on how well you use it, The knowledge that you are wasting this very personal resource when you do not spend it properly should be enough to keep you on track, resolving to spend your time better.
Your Time is Your Time
Since you cannot increase the quantity of time you receive, the quality of time is the only variable. Your time is your time. It belongs to no one else. No one else can spend it for you. Other people may make demands on how you spend your time, but it is still you who must do the spending. Only you can improve the quality of your time. Ultimately, you spend your time as you will.
No one can force you to spend your time effectively; no one can prevent you from wasting your time. Many people maintain that others control their time, but this is not totally true. In the last analysis, no one has any more control over your time than you are willing to allow. Most people have far more potential for managing their own time than they realize. Much of the control they impute to others is really lack of self-control. They are intimidated by the demands of others and thus allow themselves to be controlled.
The way you spend your time defines who you are, More than what you say, what you wear, what friends you choose, or what you think, the way you spend your time describes you. Many people say one thing, but their actions relay another message. It is what a person does-not what a person says-that is important.
Time is not adaptable, but people are. Managing time means adapting ourselves to its passage in some appropriate, satisfying manner. It means managing ourselves. If time seems to be out of control, it means that we are out of control. To bring ourselves back under control, we must learn new, more appropriate behaviors. We have to change, if we wish to improve.
Objectives for Profile
This Time Management Profile has two primary objectives. The first objective is to help you assess your time management behaviors. This profile was based on many years of study and research covering thousands of people. It will help you discover your own time management strengths and weaknesses. The second objective for this Time Management Profile is to help you be more successful. As you learn to differentiate between good and bad time behavior, you’ll see how to improve your own performance. This will enable you to achieve even greater results than you have in the past.
Best wishes as you take charge of your own time , . . and your life.
1. You will see two sets of statement. The first set of 48 statements is labeled BASIC PROFILE. The second set has 12 statements and is labeled MANAGERIAL PROFILE. The BASIC PROFILE contains statements about managing time that apply to any job. Please respond to all these statements first. Respond to the MANAGERIAL PROFILE statements only if you are responsible
for supervising or managing other people.
2. Read each statement and consider how it applies to you.
3. Following each statement are four response choices: Strongly Agree-Mildly Agree-Mildly Disagree-Strongly Disagree. Select the response that indicates how much you agree or disagree with each statement as it applies to you and your situation.
4. Please read each statement carefully and think about your response. Some statements are worded positively and some are worded negatively. Please be sure your response is the one that best represents your normal behavior and your particular situation.
5. Here we go. Your first response is usually your best response.
Statements 1-48 below pertain to time management concepts that are applicable to any job. Please read each statement carefully and consider how much you agree or disagree. Check the space that best represents your normal behavior and your particular situation.
Strongly Mildly Mildly Strongly
Agree Agree Disagree Disagree
1. Constantly switching priorities keep me from getting as much done as I should. ______ ______ ______ _______
2. Interruptions are one of my major time-wasters. ______ ______ ______ _______
3. I prepare a daily list of things to do. ______ ______ ______ _______
4. I put priority codes by all the items on my daily activities list. ______ ______ ______ _______
5. Recurring crises seem to be happening in my job all the time. ______ ______ ______ _______
6. During the past year I’ve analyzed the different kinds of paperwork and forms generated in my job to see if any can be eliminated, simplified or improved. ______ ______ _______ _______
7. I’ve discussed how to solve time problems with my superiors, peers or subordinates within the past month. ______ ______ _______ _______
8. I tend to do the quick, easy, enjoyable things first. ______ ______ _______ _______
9. Most people would say I’m a fast starter. ______ ______ _______ _______
10. I have a list of long range personal objectives. ______ ______ _______ _______
11. I recorded a time log of exactly how I spent my time for at least one week during the past year. ______ ______ _______ _______
12. Meetings are one of my major time-wasters. ______ ______ _______ _______
13. It’s hard to stay current with all my reading. ______ ______ _______ _______
14. People often have to wait for me, or for work I’m supposed to deliver. ______ ______ _______ _______
15. I have to wait for the right mood to do creative work. ______ ______ _______ _______
16. It’s usually easy for me to say “no” to other people. ______ ______ _______ _______
17. I have a list of work or professional performance objectives that are specific, measurable, and have definite target dates. ______ ______ _______ _______
18. I seem to jump around from task to task and often leave things unfinished. ______ ______ _______ _______
19. I use a tickler file or follow-up system to help keep track of things. ______ ______ _______ _______
20. Unnecessary socializing takes up too much of my day. ______ ______ _______ _______
21. I am able to act on paperwork the first time I pick it up so I only have to handle it once. ______ ______ _______ _______
22. I tend to get overly involved in other people’s work and I do things for them that they could and should do themselves. ______ ______ _______ _______
23. I postpone things which aren’t very urgent, even though they may be important. ______ ______ _______ _______
24. I can develop a high energy level quickly and maintain it a long time. ______ ______ _______ _______
25. I have a list of all the smaller tasks, jobs and assignments that need to be handled over the next few weeks. ______ ______ _______ _______
26. I don’t have to take important work home in the evenings or on weekends to get it done. ______ ______ _______ _______
27. Things seem to take longer than I thought they would and I usually end up trying to tackle too much at once. ______ ______ _______ _______
28. I can find quiet, non-interrupted time whenever I need it. ______ ______ _______ _______
29. I’ve been able to reduce the time it takes to handle my paperwork. ______ ______ _______ ______
30. I regularly ask others to tell me how I waste their time so I can improve conditions. ______ ______ _______ ______
31. I often feel guilty about all the things that I’m not getting done. ______ ______ _______ ______
32. I like to change and create new habits. ______ ______ _______ ______
33. I review my long range performance objectives at least once every week. _______ ______ _______ ______
34. I have to come in early or work late to get my job done. _______ ______ _______ ______
35. I prepare a weekly plan with specific objectives and how to accomplish them. _______ ______ _______ ______
36. I usually answer my telephone, even if it rings in the midst of an important conversation. _______ ______ _______ ______
37. My desk or work area is rather cluttered and could be neater. _______ ______ _______ ______
38. I save things up and handle several things in one visit so I won’t interrupt others so much during the day. _______ _______ ______ ______
39. I tend to put off things that are unpleasant. _______ _______ ______ ______
40. I have a problem handling stress, tension or anxiety. _______ _______ ______ ______
41. I clearly understand the purpose or intended results of all my activities. _______ _______ ______ ______
42. I usually start my work day with coffee, conversation or reading newspapers. _______ _______ ______ ______
43. I often fail to tackle first things first, or to work on the basis of what’s most important. _______ _______ ______ ______
44. Ineffective communication is one of my major time-wasters. _______ _______ ______ ______
45. I regularly use a dictating machine to generate letters, memos, reports and other paperwork that I must prepare, or I type (or keyboard) them myself. _______ _______ ______ ______
46. On a daily or weekly basis, I meet with my superior, peers or other key people to coordinate plans, priorities or daily activities. _______ _______ ______ ______
47. It takes pressure or an approaching deadline to get me started on a difficult or complex project. _______ _______ ______ ______
48. I don’t have enough time for family, friends of other important parts of my life. _______ _______ ______ ______
Statements 49-60 below pertain to additional time management concepts that are applicable to supervisory or management jobs Please read each statement carefully and consider how much you agree or disagree. Check the space that best represents your normal behavior.
49. I’m involved in too many details, and tend to create bottlenecks or slow down the work of my staff. _______ _______ ______ ______
50. After meetings, I follow-up to make sure assigned actions are completed on time. _______ _______ ______ ______
51. I have a definite plan for developing my subordinates so I can delegate more things to them. _______ _______ ______ ______
52. When I call a meeting I usually do not write out the specific purpose or prepare an agenda. _______ _______ ______ ______
53. I meet with my key staff people every week to coordinate weekly objectives, plans and priorities. _______ _______ ______ ______
54. It’s faster and easier to do many things myself rather than delegating them out. _______ _______ ______ ______
55. I review daily objectives and priorities each morning with my secretary or other key people. _______ _______ ______ ______
56. I often forget to follow up or check on things I’ve delegated. _______ _______ ______ ______
57. Meetings I call start on time, stay on time and stop on time. _______ _______ ______ ______
58. I don’t analyze and plan things very well before I assign jobs to others. _______ _______ ______ ______
59. My meetings aren’t very well organized and we don’t accomplish as much as we should. _______ _______ ______ ______
60. Each of my subordinates knows the specific objectives for our unit and his or her role in achieving them. ______ _______ ______ ______
(The above material was published by Performax Systems International, Inc.)
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