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By Kwesi Atta Sakyi 24th January 2015
It is said that time and tide wait for no man as the moments turn into seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, and millennia. Time creeps imperceptibly, and if it is not utilised properly, it is wasted ruefully. Time is a concept which is difficult to measure or conceptualise or define. Someone said that the best way to use time is to cram it like packing clothes hurriedly into a bag, to go on a vacation, filling up all the spaces and chinks with all your junk materials. Time management is very important in business. I want to share a few thoughts with budding Ghanaian youth entrepreneurs some ideas on time management. I am not a practising entrepreneur but a theoretician and a teacher.
To manage your day productively, you need a to-do-list, an electronic organiser or diary, a calendar, a timetable, among others. Jot down all the things you want to do, including appointment schedules in your diary or electronic organiser, unscheduled activities, and learn to prioritise, but be flexible to change your plan at short notice, if a superior or urgent issue or emergency arises. However, before you reschedule or cancel any engagement, give those you have appointments with some prior notice, explaining the reasons and extenuating circumstances. It is courteous to do so, so that you do not keep them waiting, and also you do not dent your image as an unreliable person in their minds.
Do urgent things first, and look at activity dependencies, using principles such as FIFO, LIFO, and most demanding activity first, most valuable activities first, among other criteria. Plan to have all your resources handy. Always plan to meet appointments some minutes before the appointed time. Do one thing at a time. However, some talented people can multi-task. Learn to delegate some of your activities to some of your capable assistants, with clear instructions on standards to be met, and provide them with adequate resources and information for them to undertake the assigned tasks.
Do not delegate too much or too little, and know which activities to delegate; to whom, when, how, and where. Ask yourself whether the activities are of high strategic importance or high strategic complexity. Know which activities to sequence one after another, using network analysis or flowcharts. Planning ahead requires you to construct flowcharts, Gantt charts, and cash-flow projections, work-schedules, among others, which will clearly signpost to you when difficulties are bound to arise at peak demand time, and then you can be proactive and arrange for extra help. Always have a plan B so that you do not panic in the face of emergencies such as machine breakdown, accidents, non-delivery of essential supplies. These days, we have a lot of software which you can acquire to manage your time profitably. Set clock alarms, alerts on the computer for meetings, or hang important notices on walls to remind you of upcoming events. Organise your work station in a neat and orderly way so that you can locate things easily at short notice. Don’t become an office squirrel with junk lying about haphazardly. Create chinks in your tight and hectic busy schedules to chill, so that you do not have executive burnout, or planning paralysis, or stress. Time moves like an accretion of incessant and infinite deposition of fine dust particles, whose deposition is imperceptible at first, but after some period, it becomes substantial and noticeable.
Have you ever thought of the definition of time? It is very difficult to define. Well, we may define it as moments which accumulate into seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, millennia etc. The universe being infinite, it is much more difficult to define time because according to Albert Einstein, everything is relative. Time is the period within which activities are planned and they are executed, with definite start and finish times.
The building of a house takes time, as some events cannot be accelerated, for example, setting the slab of concrete base, and constructing the walls or partitions. Thus, we must not rush in some instances if we want good results. On other occasions, if we are too slow, we shall miss opportunities. For example, a house is costed to be finished in a year at 50,000 dollars. If it is delayed and finished in three instead of one year, it may cost 90,000 dollars due to inflation, rising interest rate, among other factors. This is known as project creep or budget overrun.
Time consists of the moments within which we have our being, and within which events occur. Time has meaning only with regard to space. When bodies transit space, the two dimensions combined create a relationship which results in the displaced vector of time, hence the trilogy of time, space/distance, and masses. Time is measured by distance travelled by a body divided by its speed. The speed of a body is directly proportional to its mass, its resistance to gravity or inertia, and gravity being in relationship to the mass of the earth. The speed of the earth on its orbit, the effects of other bodies on our system, and relative distance from the sun, as Newton explained, are factors to consider in matters of the time-distance-speed trilogy.
Time lost is gone forever because we can never regain it. Time reflects the ageing process, the life cycle of living things, half-life decay model in carbon dating and radioactivity, our relationship to one another in time and space, and our position in the cosmic world relative to the Big bang. Time is like an infinite elastic band which stretches in opposite directions from time zero at the Big Bang , with the present and future on the positive X-axis, and the immediate past and the remote past going in the opposite direction. Time is a continuum.
Every moment is part of the present, which instantly turns into the past, and then moments in the near future soon become the present, and in no time, they are part of the past. Man therefore has illusion of time, thinking that the future is too far away to bother us now, but it soon arrives to our chagrin and consternation. The time illusion of man is caused by the smallness of our bodies relative to the universe and the heavenly bodies.
The younger we are, the more the time illusion, and the more reckless gambling and risk-taking activities we undertake, only to be jolted around at the forties or middle ages, and we suddenly realise that time is catching up with us, and we are moving on. It seems that generally, men are reckless at gauging this speed at which time travels, while women, because of their menstrual cycle and body atomic clock, become more aware of time and its essence in the ageing process.
The time interval between youthful exuberance and impetuosity on the one hand, and the moment time catches up with us suddenly at old age, is like the bad dream of Rip van Winkle, who after drinking the wine from the red-coat shirted waifs, he went to sleep for twenty years, and woke up to think he had woken up from a night’s sleep. His head was bald, his eyes were fuzzy and misty, and his clothes were torn and tattered.
On approaching town, he saw some unbelievable changes in buildings, artefacts, among others. This is why we need to have vistas of the future now, and we should envision our future because with prevoyance or clairvoyance or foresight, we can extrapolate into the future by reading current trends. We can lay the foundations to the future now and build bridges into our future prosperity, by realising the time value of money, and planning well now through time management. ..
Within periods of time, human events happen such as learning several subjects on the timetable. It is said that time and tide wait for no man. Whilst young, you should acquire a wealth of knowledge for the future, by utilising your time to have proper mastery of the subjects necessary for your future success in business. We need to plan or make strategies to seize opportune moments at which to execute our activities. If a farmer plants too early or too late, he has a bad harvest. The bible in Ecclesiastics says there is a time for everything. A time to be born and a time to die, a time to be joyful and a time to be sad, a time to work and a time to have leisure or fun, a time to be young and time to be mature, a time to learn and a time play.
It is important to have calendars, diaries and electronic planners on our cell phones to help us plan ahead. We set the alarms on our clocks to wake us up to study or to alert us when we have a date to make. It is very cardinal to keep time and to be prompt. If you are required to appear for an interview, plan your activities so that you arrive at the venue say an hour before 9 o’clock. In that way, you will not panic. Be proactive and plan ahead. Do not engage in day dreaming or procrastination. Don’t postpone what you ought to do now, for as they say, procrastination is the thief of time.
It is said, ‘Tick, tock, says the clock. What you have to do, do quick (now). Have a to-do-list of all the things you plan to do in a day. As you achieve them, cross them out. Be able to decide which activities are urgent or important, and prioritise or rank them in order of importance. Do not take on too much at a time. Use your time profitably and form good habits such as waking up early to start your day on a good note. Time is the most previous asset God gave man. Utilise your time profitably to enrich and empower yourself and to serve humanity. If you utilise your time properly, you will be rich. This is why people are paid by the hour or per period of time. No wonder the saying, ‘time is money’. If time is money, then use it wisely and productively to increase your wealth.
We in Ghana should wean ourselves of what has been dubbed ‘African punctuality’ because it is unproductive and retrogressive to abuse other people’s time. Let us be punctual at work, and let us not soldier or loiter on the job. We should earn a fair wage for a fair day’s job. Let us not feign sickness and absent ourselves unnecessarily from work, because if we let down other workers, we let down the whole system, and we are the poorer. We should introduce clock-in or log-in system in Ghana to check lateness and to monitor absenteeism.
To the youth, I will advise them to work diligently to increase productivity so that our national wealth is increased for the good of us all. The Indian entrepreneurs open their shops early and close late, putting in many hours of commitment. The Japanese at one time became workaholics so much so that they coined the term, Karioshi, meaning, ‘work until you drop dead’. Chinese, Japanese, South Koreans, and our friends in the West respect time, and that is why they are wealthy and prosperous.
In our next discourse, we shall discuss money management for entrepreneurs.
By Kwesi Atta Sakyi
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