On time management

Some of the good people I meet now and again express surprise that I am able to write three articles a week for The Nation. Some ask where do you find the time, others just say: “You do have the time.”

Occasionally, I tell these good people that writing the three articles constitutes 30 percent of what I do weekly. Apart from these articles, I write lectures (study notes) for Aggrey Memorial School students and pages of a book. Whenever I have finished work on one book, I start on another.

“Dost thou love life?” asked the eternal American sage Benjamin Franklin, “then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”

There are 24 hours in a day for everyone. The Lord does not give more hours a day to anyone though He has accorded distinct lifespans to each person. We do or do not have time to do something because of our priorities.

About two millennia before Benjamin  Franklin, a Roman philosopher called Seneca said: “We all complain about the shortness of time and yet have more than we know what to do with. Our lives are spent either in doing nothing at all or in doing nothing that we ought to do. We are always complaining that our days are few and acting as though there would be no end of them.”

One of the secrets of success in life is the management of time. Great achievers guard their time zealously. They say time is money, and that money is sweeter than honey.

How do they find time for doing something? They begin by determining their priorities in life. They know there are many good things to do in a day or in life, but they cannot do them at once. Time and energy cannot allow that.

Having assigned a priority to a certain task, they concentrate on it, they do not let anybody suddenly to pitch up and ask them to be doing something else. One thing at a time until it is finished.

If you want to get things done, therefore, control your time. Decide what tasks you want to perform tomorrow before you go to bed. Write down a ‘To Do’ list of tasks in accordance with their importance as well as urgency. Finish the first task before you came to the next. By the end of the day, you may not accomplish all the tasks, but you will feel a lot of satisfaction from finishing those to which you attached priority.

The secret of accomplishing major tasks or projects is to assign to them ample time. Alexandre Dumas, the Afro-French author of the novel The Three Musketeers, would lock himself in a room writing for 14 hours a day. He is said to have written more books than you find in the Old and New Testament combined. While he was writing, if a friend turned up, he would just raise his hand to greet him but not to let him in.

A busy man has few idle visitors. He knows that lost time is never found again. Whatever can be done today must be done today not tomorrow because tomorrow never comes. One of the most popular English authors of the 20th century, W. Somerset Maugham tells a story in his book The Summing Up of a would-be writer who for 20 years was saying: “When I find time, I will write a best seller.” Twenty years later, when he was past middle age, he was saying “If only I had time, I could have written a best-seller.”

Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, napoleon Bonaparte and Leo Tolstoy were spending only four hours in their bedrooms because they hearkened to Benjamin Franklin’s “Up, sluggard, and waste no time, in the grave will be sleeping enough.” They accomplished so much because they assigned so much time doing things that had to be done, useful things.

We cannot have time for everything. If you cannot find time writing novels but devote days and nights doing scientific research, why bother that you are not a novelist?

“What is your hobby?” is a question I have often been asked, John H. Johnson the millionaire proprietor of Ebony magazine, says in his autobiography that work is and has always been his hobby. Leisure should not mean idleness, but doing something different.

Suppose you are a school teacher, you could study for a higher qualification or else do some writing. For their hobbies, some people have done painting or learned a foreign language. Be always ashamed of yourself when you have spent a day in idle gossip or hitting the bottle for these habits are inimical to self-improvement.

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