Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thoughts on Time Management



I post this for two reasons:

1)      To make the point that how one treats time is not an absolute.  Yes, tardiness is inefficient, can be frustrating, and usually wastes resources. Yes, most things are accomplished more quickly when people show up on time. And yes, some people’s lateness is just because they’re self-centered, and presume their time is more valuable than yours.
But at base, this is not a moral/ethical issue. This is not as important as a few dozen other things you could be worrying about. This is a lifestyle choice.  When you say “People are rude/wrong to be late”, what you’re really saying is “I don’t like it when people treat time differently than I do.”  To assume that your slavery to the clock is how everyone else must run their lives is a fairly narrow worldview, and is actually a bit arrogant.
There are many cultures who have a different, more relaxed view of time. I happen to live in one of them; in Hawaii we sometimes say that if you’re 15 minutes late for a meeting, you’re still 10 minutes early.  In fact, most cultures on the earth still view time more in this way.  There are only a few other places where the clock is worshipped like it is in North America (eg, Germany/Switzerland/Scandinavia, the UK.) Virtually everywhere else on earth, people treat time in a more relaxed way. No, they don’t tend to build space shuttles and skyscrapers, but neither do they have as many heart attacks and strokes.  And they produce some amazing art, and music.
The clock is a human invention, a tool we’ve created and adopted to more efficiently live in an industrialized world.  And being strict about time is a legitimate choice, which has several specific benefits.
But if people around you choose to run their lives differently, and your way of being doesn’t permit you to respect their choice and adjust to it, then don’t do business with them, or hang out with them. But quit acting like they are morally inferior to you, or are specifically insulting you – they’re not. It’s quite simply not about you, and your slavish adherence to the specific minute on the clock.  When you say you want a meeting at 9am, some people hear “We’re going to meet in the morning, around 9…”
And if you have someone in your life who is in all other ways a good friend – kind, supportive, loyal, interesting, fun, whatever – are you really going to jettison that friendship because that person chooses not to be a time-Nazi like you? Why not simply build in a 30-minute delay in your interactions with that person? If you want to meet for lunch at 12pm, make your arrangement with them at 11:30; and if one day they should actually show up at 11:30 (they probably won’t, but if they did), and you show up at noon, don’t sweat it -- they are a time-casual person, so they won’t hate on you like you would on them.
So if you want to run your business or your social life on a clock where minutes count, then by all means, do so. Hire, promote, and retain people who think like you do.  But for heaven’s sake save your moralizing and your whining for your fellow time-slaves – nobody else cares, because they’re spending their short time on earth being happy instead of compulsively punctual.

2)      As a recovering “habitually late” person, I want to clear up a couple of misconceptions: the vast majority of us are not being narcissistic, or passive-aggressive, or controlling.  We hate the idea of others waiting on us. Most of us are simply very busy, are overly optimistic about how long things take, and we don’t get any emotional reward out of arriving early – in fact, arriving early feels like a waste of precious time.  We are shooting for right-on-time, which means if anything goes wrong, we end up being late.  To be consistently on time requires leaving/prepping early – in other words, building wasted time into everything you do; since my business requires me to be on time as much as possible – and punctuality is valued by my work team – this is what I now have to do.
But consider this: 5 people have a meeting at 9am. What would you rather have:

A. three arrive at 8:55, and one arrives at 9am, and one at 9:05

B. four arrive at 8:55 and one at 9am

C. three of them arrive at 9:00, two arrive at 9:05,

Option A wastes 35 minutes of person-time; option B wastes 20 minutes; option C wastes 15.

Obviously, the optimum solution is to have everyone arrive at exactly 9am. But since life has unavoidable glitches, and we will all occasionally be late no matter how well we prepare, there will often be a person there at 9:05. If we accept this as true, it might more efficient to have everyone else shoot for 9, and accept that this will commonly result in C (still the least time wasted), rather than having everyone always shoot for 8:55, which will often result in A or – at best, B.

2 Comments:

At Tue Nov 12, 08:46:00 AM PST, Blogger RETA said...

WOW. Thanks for writing.

RETA@ http://evenhaazer.blogspot.com

 
At Wed Feb 12, 09:22:00 AM PST, Blogger Shaan said...

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