The long summer days in the Sultanate of Oman can be deceptive – they seem to offer many hours of productive work, leading to relaxed evenings with family and friends. But the reality is not as idyllic. For many, a typical day consists of last minute drives in a traffic jam, midnight submission of assignments and take away meals as there just hasn’t been enough time to cook.
Does it have to be this way? Of course not, but how can we ensure that we can make productive use of the time that we have and not feel stressed at the end of the day, with the ‘to do’ list longer than the ‘done’ one?
Interestingly, the most equitable element in the world is time. We all have 24 hours in the day, to accomplish whatever our long and short term tasks may be. Ideally, the goal should be to make the most of this time in ways that are satisfying, productive and enjoyable. This is only possible if we think of time management, not only as a skill to be mastered, but an art to be enjoyed.
Managing time is an art because it asks us to imagine what we want our life to be: an endless loop of looming deadlines or a thoughtfully articulated snapshot of our ambitions and plans. It requires that we accept that dreary, everyday deadlines are important, but only because at the end, they help to build the ultimate goal to which we aim.
Teaching time management is a billion-dollar industry spearheaded by business and management gurus.
They teach us how to prioritise, reduce tasks to bite sized morsels, even use digital applications to keep track of upcoming tasks. These skills should be taught in schools so that they remain a lifelong habit, applicable in any sphere of life.
But at the core of all this is self-respect. Managing our time is important because it is a statement of who and what we are. A hassled, confused person somehow stumbling into a deadline may be able to tick off the box of the task achieved, but they do little else. There is no clarity, confidence, self- assurance or efficiency in last minute work. Nor does it do anything to boost self-worth. If anything, it only builds a sense of guilt and regret, and an empty promise to be better next time.
Managing time is more than just managing the clock. It is about knowing what is important at any phase in life, identifying ways of achieving those goals and setting realistic timelines, all the while being aware of work-life balance. With multiple distractions now, this is easier said than done, but knowing that the hard work of today will enable a stress free tomorrow is often incentive enough to keep to self-imposed deadlines.
So the next time we think of saying “I don’t have time”, we could remember that we all have exactly the same amount of time, but for most, “time is what we want most, but what we use worst”.
Dr Sandhya Rao Mehta
The writer is an associate professor, Dept of English Language and Literature, SQU