Feature Article of Sunday, 8 July 2012
Columnist: Appiah-Adjei, Daniel
ORAL VILLAGE IDEAS
Never On Time: The Ghanaian Slogan?
For some people, being on time seems nearly impossible -- no matter how important the event. They're always running out the door in frenzy, arriving everywhere at least 10 minutes late. If this sounds like you, have you ever wished you could break the pattern? According to Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management from the Inside Out, the first step is to make promptness a conscious priority.
"Look at the costs of being late and the payoffs of being on time," Morgenstern advises. She says it's important to recognize that being late is upsetting to others and stressful for the one who is late. "I think people's stress level is very high when they're late. They're racing, worried, and anxious. They spend the first few minutes apologizing. One of the payoffs of being on time is that you eliminate the stress of the travel time and you eliminate the time spent apologizing."
The Consequences of Being Late
The consequences of being chronically late run deeper than many people realize, according to psychologist Linda Sapadin, PhD, author of Master Your Fears. "You're creating a reputation for yourself, and it's not the best reputation to be establishing. People feel they can't trust you or rely on you, so it impacts relationships. It also impacts self-esteem."
Once you feel motivated to make a change, Morgenstern says the next step is to figure out why you're always late. The reason can usually be classified as either technical or psychological.
The culture of "African Time" has been identified by some people as a major obstacle to development in black Sub-Saharan African countries. Indeed, "African time" syndrome is arguably the worst single enemy of the continent. It is perhaps worse than HIV/AIDS or Malaria. Africa loses thousands of lives and billions of dollars every year and lags behind other continents in development as a result of its peoples' poor time consciousness. Poor sense of maintenance culture in the society as a result of this social malaise accounts for huge wastages and colossal losses in human lives, infrastructure, productivity, revenue generation and business profits. It also largely accounts for series of land transport, maritime and aviation disasters that afflict our nation.
Based on this, it is the conviction of this writer that no African country can satisfactorily achieve the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the United Nations without first inculcating time consciousness in her citizens. We cannot fight diseases effectively or develop an efficient health service system if we are not strictly time conscious; likewise education, transport, power and energy, security, science and technology, infrastructure, agriculture, aviation, industry, commerce, budget implementation systems and meeting contractual obligations. Indeed, to set a nation on the right path of rapid and sustainable development, its civil service and the entire public sector must imbibe time consciousness and discipline in policy formulation/ execution, Legislature/ Judicial functions and in rendering service to the people.
Oral Village Ideas has also observed that there is a correlation between time consciousness and transparent societies. In other words, we cannot effectively fight corruption or entrench due process and rule of law in a society without improving the people's level of time consciousness and discipline. This is because punctually, honouring one’s obligations promptly and display of honesty are virtues of time consciousness which give dignity to a man, a corporate body or a nation. In short, time consciousness is a key catalyst for good governance.
African time syndrome is prevalent in virtually all Sub-Saharan countries. In October, 2007, there was a national campaign against this social malaise in Ivory Coast (Cote d'voir). The campaign was backed by the Ivorian President, Laurent Gbagbo and it received international media attention. The slogan of the campaign was "'African time' is killing Africa - Lets Fight it". An award winning film, "Binta" depicted African time in Senegal. Also, in October, 2003, BBC World news aired an embarrassing report entitled, "Can Africa keep time?"
Can we really manage time? Can we stop it, start it, change it or modify it in any way? The answer is NO. Time moves at its own pace as it has always done. I believe the pace of time can change, be modified, started, stopped, etc., but not by any humans with current technology today. So, if we don't manage time, what do we manage?
Is it possible to manage time? Can we make the clock run faster? Can we make it run slower? We have no control over time. Each of us begins the day with 1440 minutes and 86,400 seconds. It's your personal inventory. You use the time or you lose the time.
There are simply no alternatives. Each week has 168 hours, no more and no less. While managing time is out, managing yourself is in. Remember, as Henry Ford once said, "Don't complain, don't explain."
Jim Meisenheimer's reference to Henry Ford's statement points to things we often do to waste time. Most of the time they are not necessary, but people do it and others listen intently because it fills in (wastes) the time. The objective is to use time to get things done and not to lose time on unimportant things.
We manage ourselves and what we do within the framework of time. Any of the great authors that have published books, articles, tapes, cds, dvds, etc. refer to what you are to do to manage yourself, they do not tell you or show you how to manage time. They know time is as constant (within our reality on earth) and that we have to control what we do on a minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, day-to-day, etc. basis.
Take a few minutes and focus on a moving time graph. The central area around the NOW is about the limit of your time consciousness. A few seconds and then they're in the PAST and the ones to come are in the FUTURE; the NOW is quite focused. People who don't plan for themselves have others planning for them or they do nothing (in most cases a terrible waste).
Meditation, sleeping, quiet contemplation, etc. are good for you and although they appear as doing nothing they are really planned activities that are beneficial. The ones that hurt are watching television, lying in bed semi-conscious, sitting around bored, just hanging out, etc. This kind of inactivity hurts you physically, mentally, spiritually and is a complete waste of precious time. Time that is lost forever.
Let us consider examples of bad habits to be eliminated in the society
• Lateness and inconsistent date in passing / announcing budgets.
• Lateness to work
• Lateness to business and social engagements
• Meetings start late
• Conferences, workshops, seminars, etc start late
• Guests of honour and distinguished personalities(chiefs) arrive late to ceremonies / occasions
• Lateness in procurement and distributions of fertilizers, herbicides, medical equipment and drugs.
• Lateness in maintenance of infrastructure - roads, housing estates, power, energy, school, polytechnics and universities, telecommunications, airports, plants, motor vehicles, hospitals, sports, stadia, museums, beaches, furniture, office equipment etc.
• Late arrivals and departure of aircrafts.
• Delay in salary payment to workers.
• Delay in payment of pensioners - military and civil.
• Delay in payment to contractors
• Lateness in service delivery
• Delay in payment for professions services.
• Delay in payment for taxes, electricity & water bills etc.
Need For Attitudinal Change with Regard to Time
In this heat of the current global financial melt down, African countries such as Ghana should devise a new strategy to bail out the country rather than rely on the dwindling foreign aid. The time has come for Ghanaians to look inwards and the starting point is to galvanize the collective will of political and corporate leaders and opinion moulders across the country towards Time Consciousness in all aspects of human endeavour. It is when we are time conscious that we can effectively fight diseases or even prevent them. That is also when you can conquer poverty and minimize social and political crisis that often culminate in ethnic or communal wars. It is when time consciousness becomes the norm that we achieve discipline in schools which can lead to qualitative education. That is when we can increase productivity in agriculture, industry and mining. Similarly, it is when we are time conscious that we can effectively maintain our infrastructure. In short, it is when we are time conscious that we can achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Here are some techniques for achieving more in less time:
• Get up 30 minutes earlier every day. Do the math to see the extra time it gives you in one year.
• Take a course in self-management or priority management.
• Keep a time log for a week. Record activities and time. Time busters will become apparent.
• Throughout the day quietly ask yourself, "Am I making the very best use of my time right now?"
• Never do one task if there is a more important one to be done. Never! Look up the word "priority".
• Build flex time into daily schedule - allow for the unexpected. To do this is wise, not to is foolhardy.
• Buy a timer. Time phone calls, meetings, and projects. Your time is precious. Don't let others steal it.
• Use 1 hour weekly getting rid of personal and professional stuff you can live without.
• Write your own epitaph. Really do it and ask yourself, "Is this the life I'm leading?" It's never too late.
• Learn to say NO! Try saying it firmly and softly at least once a day to any unreasonable requests.
• There is a reason why you need more time. It's because you're attempting too much. Plan your life and plan your days. If you want more balance in your life . . . schedule it. Here's a big tip if you want to take control of your time: keep a log of everything you do for a week. Just use a yellow legal pad and pencil. This isn't high tech stuff. At the end of the week review your log. The changes you need to make will leap off the pages. It's truly a no-brainer.
SUGGESTED TALKING POINTS:
1. Why do so many people have difficulty getting to where they’re going on time?
2. Isn’t lateness just inconsideration for others’ time?
3. If you are to head a study on lateness at the University of Ghana. What will you find?
4. Who’s late more often—men or women?
5. Are there any reason for lateness by men or women? What are they?
6. How does lateness affect marriages, friendships, and other relationships?
7. How does it affect businesses and careers?
8. Can lateness contribute to traffic fatalities and injuries—how so?
9. What advice would you give people who want to manage their time more effectively?
10. How can timely people deal with the late people in their lives?
11. Can timely people send free, anonymous lateness citations to their friends, associates, and family members? How can a citation be ordered?
12. Who are some prominent or famous late people you know?
13. What are some of the best stories you’ve heard?
14. What are some of the best excuses?
15. How can managers deal with late employees? What if it’s the manager who’s always late?
16. How about all those parents out there? How can they get their kids to be on time?
17. If you are chronically late. What do you do to change? Are you sure you can change now?
18. Aren’t we’re all just too uptight about time? Is punctuality really so important?
If you're always late by a different amount of time -- five minutes sometimes, fifteen, or even forty minutes other times -- it is likely that the cause is technical, "That means you are not good at estimating how long things take," whether it's drive times or routine activities like taking a shower.
Honourable Ambrosse Dery, a past Regional Minister of the Upper West Region of Ghana couched a success for himself by developing a slogan in the region “Ambross Time” which moved The National Festival of Arts and Culture, (NAFAC) to an enviable end. He was really conscious of his time and that affected the community. Can we learn from him? Time is very precious, let us use it profitably
By His Grace, I shall be back.