Monday January 17, 2000
Taken from the Guardian Unlimited
Remember when the usual answer to
'How are you?' was 'Fine?' Now, the reply most often given,
by everybody, is 'Frantic'. If there is one experience we
all share at the beginning of the 21st century, it's the desperate
feeling that there's never enough time.
Dr Donald Wetmore is a time-management
guru at Connecticut's Productivity Institute. It's a single
decade, he says, that has taken us from 'fine' to 'frantic'.
'Between 1982 and 1989 I taught 600 people time-management
courses at the Institute. From 1989 to now, that number rose
to 30,000.' And it's no good hoping the next 10 years will
be easier as technology finally frees us all from our frenzied
How much more can we take? Is it
possible to keep up in a speeded-up world without giving up
our private lives and personal passions? In his book Faster:
The Acceleration of Just About Everything, James Gleick coins
the term 'hurry sickness' to describe this modern malaise.
He points out that although we may be desperate to step off
the treadmill, it's also true that we thrive on the speed
and adrenaline of modern life.
' If you're really ready to begin
taking your time back, the strategies below can help. Many
of the principles are common-sense. Yet how many of these
simple axioms do you currently apply to your own time?
Dr Wetmore recommends that you start
by taking a few minutes to plan your day in advance. Making
long lists of all the things they want to get done, is not
the same as a realistic plan of what you will do, and how
and when you will do it. ' One of the best and most powerful
ways to take back time and reduce your stress levels, according
to Dr Wetmore, is to maintain good relationships with others:
'an often overlooked but uniquely effective method of minimising
stress, staying happy and reducing the amount of time wasted
According to Dr Wetmore, 'Five years ago
it was assumed that e-mail would make postal communication redundant.
Last year, the highest number of e-mails ever were sent, and the
highest number of letters too.'Learning to balance the pros and
cons of the digital age is vital for achieving control over our
Don't dismiss technology - or take it for
Technology, is in no way neutral. You have
to appreciate and address the fact that you have a relationship
with it. Examine that relationship thoroughly and ask yourself what
you really need from technology and what you can do without. Very
few people do this.
Identify the psychological consequences of
Technology shapes our sense of time. The
speed of response it now requires from us has contributed to the
desire for instant gratification.
We need to lose both our awe and our fear
of technology, and see it with clear eyes
With a conscious approach, its true benefits
and deficits become apparent.
Time at Work
Time Management and energy management are
essentially the same thing. If you are tired and stressed, stop.
Be realistic about how much you can do. You may have to ask yourself,
do I want this job, or my health and family?'
Be realistic in defining yourself
Atkinson likes to tell what she calls 'a
true, cautionary tale:A small business owner's marriage and health
were dissolving. His bank manager suggested he pay himself less
and hire an employee. He refused, because he defined himself by
what he earned. If you realise work is most important to you, acknowledge
it, at least to yourself, if not necessarily to your family or partner.''
Appreciate working processes, not just results
Don't ask yourself relentlessly "what
have I achieved?", but "did I enjoy the process of doing
it? Did I learn from it?" This alleviates guilt and anxiety
Tailor the quality of your work to the time
Excellence is not a prerequisite for all
tasks. Realise that good enough is still good.
Time at home
Slumping in front of the TV creates lots
of 'dead time' and usually ends up making you feel more tired. Atkinson
recommends that you simply use a VCR and set aside specific time
to watch what you really want in a block.
Satisfy your inner needs
Atkinson says that it's extremely
unlikely that work gives you what you need to satisfy your innermost
requirements, so having an occupation or a hobby that does, is a
prerequisite for achieving that balance.
Sorry, you still have to vacuum the carpet
If you've accepted that pre-planning is
essential, it's easier for you to recognise the optimum time for
attending to the nuts and bolts of home life. Be self-disciplined,
do the work at a pre- governed time.
For so many of us, time alone is either
a luxury we can't afford or something we fear and try to avoid at
all costs. And yet it can be an enormously powerful way to get back
a feeling of owning your own time, destressing and balancing the
pace of your life. 'There's no set requirement or method for spending
rewarding time alone,' Atkinson says. 'A person's basic need for
time alone is based on the individual's need for stimulation. The
trick is to relax properly, not necessarily just do nothing.' You
can do so at any time with meditative and relaxation techniques
that can be put to good use in just a few moments either at home
or at your desk. For instance you can do yogic nostril breathing
exercises, assume erect and good body postures, and so on.
Feel the fear and do it anyway
What if you recognise the need for personal
space and to relax but are uncomfortable with the idea of being
alone?Start by making friends with yourself. Stop criticising and
belittling yourself. Treat yourself kindly and politely as you would
another, and recognise that flaws of character and making mistakes