We each have 24 hours in a day. Most people generally work for 8 hours and rest for another 8 hours (except on public holidays). That’s the general principle, unless of course your name is Jack Bauer, or you work in a Chinese run-mine, live in an I.S.I.S slave camp, work in a Nigerian bank or you’re a Boko Haram fighter, then obviously this rule doesn’t apply to you.
But if you are like the rest of us regular people and entrepreneurs, then all you have left is 8 hours. It is this remaining 8 hours that gradually defines and shapes the rest of your life.
How you spend your 8 hours, what you spend it on and who you spend them with matters a lot! That’s the corner-stone of Time Management for the 21st Century professional. Understand first that you cannot manage time, you can only manage yourself. Time on its own will keep on progressing whether or not you approve or disapprove, it just keeps ticking away.
Personally, I believe life is about the choices we make within these precious 8 hours, and understanding what to say “Yes” or “No” to. Perhaps a huge part of managing your time is knowing when and how to say “No” to the hundred other conflicting agenda that competes to be given a listing and prioritized on your to-do-list on an almost daily basis even on public holidays and Sundays.
As a highly sought after expert juggling several responsibilities, I get calls from quite a number of people daily asking for various favours, unscheduled appointments, time commitments etc. I generally say “No” to most of them, though not in that harsh two letter word. Truth is, sadly, there is simply not enough hours in a single to meet all these commitments and still remain sane and productive. So you have to know how and when to say a firm “No” but in a polite manner so the person doesn’t feel let down or takes it too personal.
I know a lady, Grace, who is insanely productive yet in a completely relaxed manner. Now Aunt Grace’s way of getting her way out of most conflicting requests was to go personal. She would patiently listen and commiserate with you, then she would empathize and ask you questions in order to really get to the heart of the matter and ensure that she opens up new possibilities and alternative connections in your mind before letting you know that her definitive answer to your request was a “no”.
So let’s say you asked her for a soft loan to pay your house rent. She would ask you why you hadn’t planned earlier than now, why you couldn’t negotiate a structured payment with the agent, have you tried giving them a post-dated cheque, a promissory note, splitting the rent with someone else, trade by barter etc. Then after empowering you with several alternatives, she would gently decline with good reason on why she couldn’t be of assistance at the moment. But you would leave her presence not feeling downcast but with a mind brimming with new possibilities.
If you asked her for an appointment or invited her to an event that she wasn’t particularly keen on attending like another long boring Rotary meeting, a network marketing presentation, or your second cousin’s traditional marriage ceremony in a completely different state.
She would ask questions about the event, listen attentively and weigh the possibilities, pros and cons. If she decided it wasn’t worth her time and effort, she could pick an aspect of the program and volunteer to pay for it. It could be the wedding photography, the limousine rental, a portion of the refreshment cost or the foot the bill for the hotel room on the honeymoon night. That way she would honour your invite without necessary attending the event.
She understands that time is all we have. And she protects her 8 hours as jealously as a chicken protects it’s chicks from hovering hawks.
And so should you too. Being productive isn’t about just what you do on the job, it’s also about what you do when you’re not on the job. A good portion of the world’s most successful people spend their 8 hours sharpening their saws when they aren’t cutting down trees.
And everyone has a different way of sharpening their saw, it could be through reading a great self-help book, listening to educational or motivational audio tapes when trapped in Lagos traffic, taking an online course, sitting down with a mentor or coach, discussing with friends who share the same vision and passions as you do, or sharing moments with your family.
Einstein said there are 5 ascending levels of intelligence: Smart, Intelligent, Brilliant, Genius, Simple. Whatever you choose to do with your 8 hours daily will eventually compound in its effect over time and shape your destiny. That’s the simple gist of this post. Guard your 8 hours jealously.
Happy Independence Celebrations.