Time or Attention?

“Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have” – John C. Maxwell

I honestly have no idea who John C. Maxwell is but the quote is highly relatable to all of us. Time hasn’t always been the entity which held as much significance as it does now; before the Industrial revolution, clocks were largely irrelevant. Instead of keeping a time limit, there was a task limit so people did their jobs in their own order, at their own natural time. However, the factories of the Industrial Revolution needed to coordinate hundreds of people to get them working at the same time, in synchronicity—and that required clocks. So business leaders imposed clock time on their workforce, and leaders, such as Benjamin Franklin, reinforced the value of this with statements like “time is money.”

The current scenario is overwhelmingly surprising. People are obsessed with time, treating it like a constant in their life. Well, this particular piece is to show that we are going about it all wrong and that time management is only making our busy lives worse. It is understandable that some of us feel more in control and more accomplished once we have segregated time to do certain tasks and complete them and move forward to other tasks. However, the fact that most of us miss is that the world is an infinite one. Being more organized and looking forward to that temporary sense of completion is meaningless since work keeps on piling up. Sending more emails means more replies to sift through; if we do more as a result of better managing our time, we don’t get it all done—we just become busier.

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The late 1980s saw the advent of a particular technique called Pomodoro Technique. It used a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. It is based on the concept that frequent breaks between working intervals helps to increase mental agility, thereby efficiency. Again, the flaw being: maximizing your time means fracturing your attention. Micromanagement of our own workload leads to nothing but insufficient attention provided to the tasks we are given to complete and this causes a state of chaotic mental activity that is called psychic entropy. We are unable to combine our thoughts, actions and goals into one single stream and struggle a lot.

Essentially, this sort of an obsession with time hurts our effectiveness. The solution is: Prioritization and Achievement. Choosing the right thing to do and not the obvious thing makes up wise prioritization but time awareness narrows our thought flow. Ignorant of the bigger picture, we make rash decisions and later face the dire consequences breaking our head over what went wrong. Based on a research by Microsoft, 77% of UK workers felt they had a productive day if they had emptied their inbox. This is just outrageous for the reason that getting to an empty inbox or ending the day with zero tasks is not even a remotely worthwhile achievement to brag about.

It is not the clock that we need to give such importance to but our own thinking, creativity and imagination. In such a drastic and dynamic world, the greatest shortage is not time, but attention.

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– Adityan Suresh

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