Friday, April 25, 2008

To be or not to be

Time management has never been my forte. Now, shackled by the triple roles of working woman, wife and mother - not to mention the unfruitful attempts to meet the impossible standards set by the super women of the TV commercials - I learned one fact. That life is not exactly blissful if it is a trail of missed school buses, quick-fix meals and being late for work.

Time management appeared the panacea. And believe me, time management is big business; there is no dearth of books offering ways to manage our time efficiently. Most of the books detail techniques which promise to enable us gain control over our lives and time. Time not allocated is considered time wasted. One of the authors suggested that whenever I have a free minute, I must ask myself the question: "What is the best use of my time right now?" Close my eyes and relax, perhaps? Unfortunately, he wanted my spare minute to be put to use in a more "constructive" way like reviewing the tasks ahead and assessing the ones already done. That one minute is not the time for relaxation. There is another time allocated in my 24 hours for relaxing.

As I read more and more on the subject, another realisation dawned upon me. Time management must be a wonderful tool, but that will make one's life a lot less spontaneous. When you are encouraged to try and account for each minute, filling it with activities to make best use of the 24 hours you have in hand in a day, doesn't life become a bit straight-jacketed? Discretionary time - the time which we can spend at our discretion - becomes a luxury as we try out time-management techniques. One doesn't have much scope for flexibility when even the time one relaxes, even the time one spends with the loved ones is according to a time table.

As such I seem to be surrounded by people afflicted by the so-called hurry sickness. In the urge to pack in as many activities as possible in a day many hurry with everything - they hurry off to work, hurry back home, hurry through meals and finally hurry off to bed. We are a generation clamouring for fast foods, faster service, faster computers, faster modems, faster cars, faster trains and faster planes. Whatever happened to the wonderful Zen philosophy of "Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes and the grass grows by itself."

We haven't even spared our children. All of us are in a hurry to make super kids out of our children. Being good in one activity is no longer considered enough, only all-rounders would do. Children are shunted between school, tuition classes (for the brain), tennis and roller-skating classes (for the brawn), yoga (for the spirit) and painting and music classes (for the sake of creativity). The pressure to perform sits heavily on these youngsters now that we, as parents, are "providing them all the opportunities." Studies have shown that stress levels among young children are alarmingly high. This way, are we not raising a generation who would need head shrinks every now and then to set them right? Is that the future we envisage for our children?

Though many may not subscribe to my personal view on time management, I seem to be in august company. Thomas Moore, in his Care of the Soul rues that modern life has no time for something as simple as pausing for a thought or for letting impressions of the day sink in.

If our life is so hectic that we don't have time to pause and watch a beautiful sunset, what promise of gaining control over one's time can these time management gurus offer? If discretionary time is at a premium, if we don't have scope for changing our plans to be able to do something on the spur of the moment, what is the control over life they are talking about? W H Davies did have a point when he wrote, " What is this life, full of care, if we have no time to stand and stare."

No comments: