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Why Is It so Important to Manage Your Time?

Updated on June 8, 2020

It was August 2008 and when I had a chance to meet a CEO of a leading general insurance company in Asia. He is popular for his famous principles of managing time. He has set numerous systems in place for his own organization for excellent ways of time management. When I asked him the best way to manage time he smiled at me and said, ‘It is difficult for me to pass on my whole life’s experience in a few minutes to you but let me ask you a question.’ He went on to say, ‘Suppose you have 15 minutes to reach a particular venue fixed for a weekend party. You receive a call from a friend requesting you to help him with a small piece of work which would take three minutes in all. The work is not very important and is certainly not on your priority list. Some other friend can fill in your place too and do the job. Because of your inability to say ‘no’ you agree to do the job, thinking that three minutes late to a small party would not make much of a difference.’

After observing me nod at this he finally shot a question at me, ‘My question to you is, does being three minutes late to a small party count as mismanagement of time?’ I was confused and took several seconds to find the best answer. Sensing my dilemma he declared, ‘Looking at your confusion it seems that you are not very sure of your answer, if your answer had been yes you would have announced it right away.’

He was actually right. I wasn’t sure if my answer to this question was a ‘Yes’. This is when he showed me where I and so many others were mistaken. He said, ‘It does matter to be three minutes late to even a small party because being late is habit forming. Once you start getting late, the habit starts to weave a web around you. Today you might get late for a party but tomorrow it can be an appointment or a meeting. Before you know it you start falling into the downward spiral of non-punctuality.

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Before he left he asked me one question that changed my life forever. He inquired, ‘You wasted 3 minutes out of the total 15 minutes you had. That’s 20% of the total time you had. As you know non-punctuality is habit forming you might start wasting 20% of your time here and there, which is exactly what everyone does. Suppose you are going to live for 75 years, 20% of that amounts to 15 years. With that kind of thinking, that getting three minutes late to a party is irrelevant, you just wasted 15 years of your life. Think what all you might have accomplished if you had utilized those 15 years to your career, financial matters, health or family.’ This remark sent a chill down my spine. He actually might be right. If we calculate the daily second and minutes or hours that we waste, they might add up to even more than 15 years.

Carl August who was an American poet, writer, and editor who won three Pulitzer Prizes, two for his poetry and one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln, has noted, ‘Time is the most valuable coin in your life. You and you alone will determine how that coin will be spent. Be careful that you do not let other people spend it for you.’ Tony Morgan, the author of Killing Cockroaches: And Other Scattered Musings on Leadership, takes a little different view on the management of time by sharing, ‘You get to decide where your time goes. You can either spend it moving forward, or you can spend it putting out fires. You decide. And if you don't decide, others will decide for you.’

The biggest enemy of your time is the inability to say ‘no.'

Sometimes saying ‘yes’ becomes one of the greatest reasons of wastage of today’s time and the reason of tomorrow’s greatest pains. You yourself are the gatekeeper of your mind’s yard. You cannot let the negative come in, by saying yes to petty temptations or useless work being delegated to you so that the person who is delegating, can escape from his/her responsibilities. Being the eternal protector of your own self you have to learn to say no to everything that might give you deep sorrow tomorrow. Taking on too many commitments at a time can never make a person productive. Productivity declines rapidly as the number of tasks taken up at the same time increase. It also becomes difficult to accomplish the tasks in order, on time. We are afraid to say no because we think that it might disappoint or anger others, but in the end we are the ones to suffer.

We all attach a lot of due importance to personal development and one of the most important aspects of personal development is the ability to say ‘no.’ There is a multi-facet benefit of saying no.

1. Saying no to temptations helps in growth of personal character and integrity.
2. It keeps you focused as you commit yourself to lesser number of things.
3. It protects you from saying yes to unimportant things.
4. It saves a lot of time for you.
5. By saying no to everything else you can give time to your priorities.
6. It allows you to open your mind to other opportunities.
7. Saying no to temptations or unimportant things helps you to pursue your goal with relative ease.
8. It simplifies your life at many levels.
9. It helps you conserve your energy.
10. It helps you set boundaries.
11. You won’t have to wait until you are fed up doing the wrong or unimportant thing.
12. You won’t have to go through the suffering of climbing the wrong mountain.
13. Saying no in time might save you from a lot of guilt later.

Fear of having to explain for saying no is another reason why people sometimes say yes to unimportant things. The best way to say no is to decline gently without making excuses or lying. Simple words like, ‘I’m sorry I am a little preoccupied right now,’ or like, ‘I’m sorry but I have to take care of a little something else right now’ would suffice.

By saying yes to other people’s needs and wants which might prove to be irrelevant to you, you deprive yourself of that precious time that is raw material for your every effort. Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian lyricist and novelist and the author of the famous book, ‘The Alchemist’ and the recipient of numerous international awards, the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum, has advised, ‘When you are saying yes to others make sure you are not saying no to yourself.’


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