We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Greek Philosopher, Aristotle
Habits can make you or break you. Take it, train it, be firm with it and the habit will put the world at your feet. Be casual with it, and it can destroy you. Thus, habits of action and thinking play an important role in shaping your personality and, consequently, have heavy influence on your time management.
A habit is like a rope made, often unconsciously, strand by strand, on a daily basis. Once formed, our habits make us effective or ineffective, successful or unsuccessful. It is not as easy to break a habit as is to make it. Write the word HABIT and take away H from it. “A bit” remains. Take away A and “Bit” remains. Take away “B” and “it” remains. Similarly, in actual practice, it is difficult to break free from a habit.
Approximately as much as ninety-five per cent of what we think and do each day is by habits. Although most of our habits like eating, talking, walking and reading are useful to deal with routines of life, some habits may act as obstacles in our efforts to manage our time. Since habits are a powerful factor for success, or failure, in life, you have to examine consciously what you are thinking and doing unconsciously.
We are not born with habits. Since birth, we are forming and breaking habits. When we deal with a new situation, we respond by making a conscious choice. If the consequence of the choice is satisfactory, the response is stored in our mind at the subconscious level. This response is reproduced on facing a similar situation again that saves time and mental energy. On the other hand, for whatever reason, if the consequence of the choice of the first time is not found satisfactory, the response is not stored. Thus, we can In 1914, Thomas Edison, at the age of 67, lost his factory in fire. No longer did a young man, Edison, watched his lifetime effort go up in smoke and said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burnt up. Thank God! We can start anew.” In spite of disaster, three weeks later, he invented the phonograph. What an attitude!
The secret of success in changing a habit is in emotionally recognizing the benefits of the change and will to persist. Changing the habits needs three things:
Knowledge (what to change), Skill (how to change), Desire (why to change).
An explanation relevant to time management is to plan and prioritize. Knowledge part is to be aware that planning is a time saving tool and prioritization of goals makes us do “right thing at right time”. Skill part is in use of tools that can help plan and prioritize. The desire part comes from your recognition of the benefits you will get by managing your time better. Knowing that you need to manage your time will motivate you to develop the skill to use the tools only when you develop a deep desire and find your “why” to manage your time. Momentum is generated for the habit change as soon as these three components get together. Remember, changing a habit is like sending a rocket in space. More energy is required at the time of take off than to travel the entire journey in space.
For sustaining a new habit, you have to follow the same process through which the original habit was formed—the process of repetition. Your persistence will depend primarily on the extent to which you gain insight about the loss you will avoid or the benefit you will reap by such a change. Be aware that attitude change is relatively harder than changing habits of action.
conclude that human design is to standardize its thoughts and actions.
Habits include both—that of thinking and of action. Action is at the level of the gross body. Attitude is at the mental state or subtle body. Attitudes are habits of thinking and formed in the same way as habits of action. We find a thought pattern that gives us satisfaction and we store it for our future use. However, there is a little difference in the formation of these two types of habits. Habit of action is formed on testing and finding a satisfactory alternative; habit of thinking is little subtle. Thoughts, based on our perceptions, have the indefinable power to trigger emotional responses without any testing whatsoever. A thought can give you pleasure or pain, depending entirely on the association you choose to give based on your perception. Thus, saying “I Can” gives power to a successful person while saying “I Can’t” takes away the same from a failure.
Compared with an iceberg, the attitude is the portion submerged to habit of action that is visible. All the difference in the results that come from our physical actions is rooted in the vast hidden power of the mental attitudes.
CHANGING HABITS AND ATTITUDES
We can change the way we act and think. Humans are gifted with a unique ability—that of thinking about the thought process. This is why humans also have a unique power to make or change habits. Changing habits and attitudes is a process that demands objective introspection, observation, consistent efforts and persistence.
Change begins only with your realization that some of your habits and attitudes are hurdles. You must first recognize that you have formed a habit that is giving you some sort of satisfaction, either at conscious or sub-conscious level. When you realize that the same habit is a cause of concern and dissatisfaction, your consciousness expands about the habit or attitude and its consequences. The change process sets in motion the moment the dissatisfaction overweighs the satisfaction.
Changing a habit may be hard, but leaving it where it is and creating a wholly new habit, is one possible way. The pathways created in your mind by old habits, if not used, slowly become less connected. By this way, you give less energy to the habit you want to change. The old wiring of the brain remains untouched, and focus is completely on the creation of new wiring. Replacement of a habit by another one is sometimes necessary as a vacuum or void is very difficult to sustain. In the absence of an alternative habit, your motor responses may return automatically to the old habit.
HABITS AND ATTITUDES THAT MATTER
LIVE CONSCIOUSLY; LIVE IN THE “PRESENT”
Most people live their life like a machine driven by their subconscious mind, habits and attitudes. This even happens in places like while driving, where the conscious attention can help them save time and errors.
The mind gets conditioned for most people to either live in the past or in the future. Regret of the past and worry of the future are two big time wasters. You can do nothing of what is past except learn lessons from it. Similarly, for any worry you have, make a choice of either doing something about or forgetting it. Spending your time in regretting or worrying is wasting it. Each moment of life is to be enjoyed. This is possible when one lives life consciously in the present.
MINUTES SPENT IN SEARCH ARE A WASTE
You may witness people searching things like files, folders, pen, keys and mobile. Locating what is not being found for some is hard work and they take pride in it. The attitude needs change, for it is wasted time, nothing else. Ask yourself whenever you search, “how to avoid such waste of time?” Reduce your search time. Do you know that the main reason for search is not memory but unconscious behaviour and absence of system? A simple way to get free from this challenge is “place for everything and everything in its place”.
If time management is new to you, it is advisable to make a daily list of activities you want to do. Once you get accustomed, move to the next stage by classifying such activities in order of their importance. In the third stage, prioritize the tasks in order of their importance and attempt high priority activities first. When you finish your day this way, you will have tremendous satisfaction of good Performance.
MAKE COMMITMENTS THAT YOU CAN KEEP AND KEEP COMMITMENTS THAT YOU MAKE
Build an attitude of keeping your commitment. Consider your planner or diary as your book of commitments. Make a habit writing what you commit to yourself or to others. Memory is tricky; systems will help you take off the unnecessary stress of remembering names, numbers, dates and other important things. Forgetting names, dates, places and events may prove to be lost opportunities. Keep a pen and paper near strategic locations like near the bed, at office table and in car. Opportunities knock softly; be alert.
INTERRUPTION IS ENEMY OF PRODUCTIVITY
Beware of your interruptions. These, like small leaks empty the pot, erode your productivity. We don’t even realize it. Protect your time against your interruptions to improve your productivity. Find the pattern of your interruption.
One reason may be that your people are not suitably trained or, may be, they are not clear of their roles or, may be, they have not been delegated the tasks effectively. Do whatever it takes to reduce your interruptions. Your productivity and effectiveness will go up. Our culture conditions us to treat our guests as God. However, for better time management, it is advisable to communicate politely about your inability to meet people who pose a threat to your productivity by walking in unannounced.
Another thing that needs special attention in our culture is about the mobile phone. I do’’t know why people give so much importance to a tiny instrument. People who can handle great crises can be seen getting controlled by a ring of a phone. Remember tools are
In the Tokyo International Marathon of 1984, one Japanese athlete, Yamada, unexpectedly won the world championship. When the reporters asked what make him such a startling success, he said, “Use wisdom to defeat opponent.” Many people didn’t believe him. Marathon is the sport that requires both physical strength and endurance. He said that wisdom that led to his success seems reluctantly. Two years later, in the Italian International Marathon, Yamada won the championship again. A reporter asked him: “You have won the championship again. Can you talk about your experience?” Yamada answered the reporter the same as last time: “I use wisdom to defeat opponent.” Everyone was puzzled by his so-called wisdom. Ten years later, the mystery is finally discovered.
Yamada wrote his autobiography reading, “Before each game, I will travel the whole route and check it carefully. I will mark some important signs along the road, such as the first mark is a bank, the second mark is a tree, and the third mark is a red house, etc., etc. When the race begins, I run as fast as I can towards the first goal, the bank. When I arrive at the bank, I will strive for the second goal, the tree. I break the whole marathon route into many small goals and finish them one by one easily. Before I knew this trick, I usually got exhausted in the first 10 kilometers because I was frightened by the remote distance.”
supposed to serve you and not the otherwise. Telephone call is a great time waster in the form of interruption and the irony is that we don’t even realize that it has taken many minutes.
USE DOWNTIME PRODUCTIVELY
While travelling, I observe most people just sitting. Make a habit of using your downtime. We do get into such a situation over which we have little or no control many times a day. It may be waiting for someone or travelling or in a traffic jam. Using this downtime for productive usage is a matter of habit and attitude. You can finish your reading while you have a downtime at your hand. Some make use of this time by making calls and SMS messages. Thus, CD player in your car can become a great source of learning; the car becomes a moving library; driving becomes a learning time.
Do more than one thing at a time. Examples are walking and listening, eating and reading, eating and listening, driving and listening, travelling and reading. The concept is let each minute be used for what we want to do, have, or achieve in life.
LEARN TO SAY “NO”
Your clarity of your goals and commitment to achieve these will give power to say “yes” to yourself. One of the simplest yet more powerful words in English dictionary is NO. This is of great help in managing time too. Saying no to others frees you to say yes to yourself or things important to you. Of course, you need tremendous clarity of your goals before you can pick up courage to say NO demand on your time by others. After all, it is your life and you have to take a decision to prioritize your goals over what others say, think or do.
GET GOING AND PERSIST
Beware of procrastination; it is an enemy of opportunity. Many people make elaborate plan of a project and then keep postponing the actual start. The postponement is first for days, then weeks, until it is finally lost in some indefinite tomorrow. The remedy of procrastination is: Get Going, NOW.
The reasons for putting off until tomorrow what should be done today are many and varied. When you procrastinate, it is sure that you don’t anticipate instant hope of gain or fear of loss. “I don’t feel like working” or “I don’t know where and how to start” thoughts are demotivating and need to be replaced by “get started may be a bit only”.
Events will not unfold your way, mostly or a bit; Success is finding alternatives and reasons to persist. Path of your success is uncertain and not amply lit; Success is taking risk and having courage to persist. Your conditioning may make you blame others or be casual a bit; Success is taking an initiative and making a commitment to persist.
Your heart will say ‘go-on’ and mind will say ‘quit’; Success is following your heart and passion to persist. People around will not always admit your grit; Success is exploring potential and dreams to persist.
Another reason people procrastinate is that they don’t like the type of work and don’t enjoy doing it. Change, find alternatives, delegate or delete such activities. Success is a function of performance that demands doing what you love and loving what you do. Think about it.
Secret of completing a tough task is getting started and staying focused till the allotted time comes to an end. Henry Ford said: “Nothing is particularly hard, if you divide it into small jobs.” So, break down the hard task into some easy tasks and get going. Managing time for success needs shift in perceptions and transformation of attitudes. It is important for you to realize that you have acquired your perception, attitude and habits over the years. Though you had very little control over the environment that supported creation of these perceptions, attitudes and habits, now you can make a choice to change. Of course, dealing with deepseated perceptions, attitudes and habits formed over a number of years, is sure to take some time. You need extra power of persistence as captured in the lines given on page 106. “Genius is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration”, said Thomas Alva Edison, who invented the incandescent lamp. He experimented for more than few thousand times before succeeding. Each time he did not succeed, he said, “Aha, I know one or more methods which do not work!” What an attitude! Persistence is a necessary ingredient of success.
ATTEMPT EXCELLENCE, NOT PERFECTION
Pursue excellence and not perfection. Especially for low-value activities, look at the results and not perfection. Emphasis on perfection, when tasks are delegated, kills enthusiasm and inhibits
creativity. Wasted time in perfection is exhausting. Also it hinders in the development of people around. Process is essential to be followed but focus on result is important for moving forward. Judge result not methods, especially for low-value and less important activities. Working procedures are very important but overemphasis on them can block creativity of the people involved.
LEVERAGE MONEY, PEOPLE AND TECHNOLOGY
An Olympian high jumper crosses a mark just about two meters. An Olympian pole vault champion, with the help of a pole, crosses a mark more than double of a high jumper. This is leveraging. At a railway crossing, the gate-man lifts a huge gate by small effort. That’s leveraging.
Famous scientist, Archimedes said, “Give me a rod long enough and a place to stand and I shall move the earth”. He was talking about the power of leveraging.
Leveraging the strengths of people, money and technology is a wonderful time management skill. Study any successful person and you will find that leveraging is the foundation of success. You can leverage money. While making investments, special attention can be made to the factor of saving time by leveraging money. Hire people with low pay rates to get your work done and save your time for your HV activities. Fortunately, in India, we have large possibility for this keeping our population in mind. It certainly can also help the society by way of employment generation. Leverage the strengths of people around you. Delegate LV activities to them. It creates a win-win relationship. People improve people and manage your time better too. “It is quicker and better to do it
myself” is an attitude that blocks delegation and keeps you busy in activities that can be done by others.
Use technology to do things with precision and high speed. By this, you can reduce waste, minimize search time and improve productivity. Do not burden your memory with data, use available modern gadgets. Video conferencing and using telephone rather than travelling for a meeting saves time. Similarly, meetings can be conducted through Internet and computers, where people can interact face to face. Travelling time is saved in such a way.