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"I have no time" is Nothing More Than Just a Lie
"I have no time!" How many times have we heard this remark over and over again each day? Let me offer you a foolproof way to determine whether "no time" is really the truth, or merely a lie.
Put a one-million dollar price tag to your request and if the person still says "no time", then it cannot be untrue. But if the person suddenly finds the time, then it merely means that he's lying.
But, of course, a million dollar price tag is ridiculous. How about a figure that is high enough? What is astonishing is that the people who keep saying "I have no time" are not compulsive liars. In fact, many of these people are respectable people with high positions in society.
Fact is everyone has 24 hours a day, nothing more and nothing less. So how can we say that we have no time? And even if, let's say, you don't have time today, what about tomorrow when you will be replenish with another 24 hours? And another 24 hours, the day after tomorrow, ad infinitum, so to speak.
Truth is that the real reason is not "no time", but simply "low priority" or "no priority". Low priority or no priority can become high priority with money, but no amount of money can give a person 25 hours a day. What follows is a discussion of how all our activities can be grouped into 4 categories.
Darryl Cross - Time Management
Four Quadrants of Time Management
According to Stephen Covey, author of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", all our activities fall into one of 4 quadrants:
- Crisis: Urgent, and important;
- Distraction: Urgent, but not important;
- Productivity: Not urgent, but important; and
- Waste: Not urgent, and not important.
While crisis is unavoidable at times, the idea is to minimize it. The objective of time-management is to maximize our time spent in Quadrant II: "Not Urgent, but Important" tasks.
Prioritizing is the process of deciding, in what specific order, tasks should be handled first. This will avoid having worked all day long, only to find out that "I’ve gotten nothing done!" So when we say that we have no time, we are very likely placing an activity in our 4th Quadrant, i.e. Not Urgent and Not Important. Not that it is wrong to do so, but it's not "no time".
Yet, there may be instances when people actually do put your request in either Quadrant 1 or 2, and yet they could not find the time to do it for you, e.g. they already have 3 other tasks in Quadrant 1 that are consuming all of their waking hours.
Secrets of Effective Time Management
It's Not Just About Prioritizing, It's Also About Productivity
Supposing you earnestly want to help someone or entertain a request but you simply cannot fit it into your schedule because your current commitments have already exhausted all your waking hours. What then do you do? If it is seasonal busy-ness, perhaps it's okay, but then again, it may not be. To give you an example:
My ex-company had 2 plants, one in Singapore and one in Malaysia. I was in charge of the human resource department in Malaysia. The entire company was undergoing a retrenchment exercise and the Singapore plant had to retrenched 41 employees. The human resource manager worked until 11.00 pm that night, together with one executive and one clerk, to calculate the retrenchment benefits and prepare the retrenchment letters. As for myself, I had to retrench 243 employees. I didn't work overtime that night, neither did any of my staff.
I came to the office the next morning, downloaded the salary data from the Payroll software, calculated the retrenchment benefits, using Microsoft Excel, and printed out the retrenchment letters, using MailMerge. While printing, I had one of the staff to ensure that the printer did not jam itself. To me, it doesn't matter whether it was 243 employees or 2,430 employees. The amount of time I would take would still be the same, i.e. half an hour. For the Singapore plant, if the number of employees to be retrenched had been doubled, they would have required double the time because they were doing it manually. Isn't that why I'm always fascinated with computers?
The above example is just a trivial example. I had more successes in other tasks. Whenever I see a time-consuming routine task, I would always ask, "Can I half the time in doing this?" My sales officer used to spend 40 minutes typing 6 export documents for every lorry load to Singapore. I looked at the document and saw that all the 6 export documents were basically asking for the same information, i.e. number of cartons, what's the weight, what's the price, etc. When I commented that 40 minutes was too long to do such a routine task, the sales officer commented that 40 minutes was already very fast because she used to take one-and-a-half hours. I decided to computerize the procedure. With no knowledge of computers, I decided to learn Lotus Macro and in less than a week, I reduced the task to 20 seconds keying-in time and 10 minutes, setting the pre-printed forms in the dot-matrix printers... a whopping 400% increase in productivity.
Yes, you need to be good at computers to achieve such dramatic increase in productivity. Yet, even without the help of computers (certain tasks are not amenable to computerization), you can still achieve a great deal. All you need to do is to sit down and plan your job. I used to tell my subordinates: "If a job is routine, always ask the question: 'How would I handle this problem, if it crops up again'." Because of asking questions like this, I created some 50 standard letters and 50 standard forms for my department. After creating these documents, my job was minimal because all my assistants could handle the job without referring to me. Their working life were also made easier because all they needed to do most of the time was to fill in the name and address of the employee in the standard forms and letters, with a minimum of particulars. If I can cut one minute from filling a form, there will be a time-saving of 100 minutes for 100 forms.
In short, if productivity is low, prioritizing is not enough in time-management.
You Still Need to Say "No Time" at Times
Now, what if someone approach you for help for something that they could well be able to do it by themselves but are too lazy to do so? In other words, what do you do when people are just trying to take advantage of your kind disposition?
For me, you just tell them "no time". At least, it doesn't hurt the other party as much as when you say, "Sorry, your request is very low in my list of priorities"! We still need to embellish our rejection with social-interaction skills. Point is, when saying "no time", we must be aware of our true reasons for doing so: whether we are saying it because we are rejecting a request, or because we really cannot fit the request into our busy schedule.