Tuesday, March 12, 2013

If you consider an activity important, you will make time for it

The first thing I wear after my morning shower is not an item of clothing nor a perfume, it is my watch because I think it is extremely important to be on time in everything you do. If in the unlikely event where it is not possible, you must at least have the courtesy to inform the concerned parties. However, that is no excuse for being late every time.

I am often told I create an unnecessary fuss about being on time. Why shouldn't I? Why should "I will see you at 7PM" mean "I will see you anytime between 7.10PM to 8.00PM"? Why should "I will be there in 5 minutes" mean "I will see you in 20 minutes", unless of course, you are an extraterrestrial from a planet that spins faster or slower than Earth?  The idea of time emerged from the need of having a  standard universal scale to synchronize different activities. Our poly-chromatic perception of time leads to losses of varying nature.

The first loss is that of time that could be well utilized in a productive or leisure activity of your choice, as and when you fell like. This could further translate into different losses -  loss of health due to the undue stress these delays cause, loss of wealth due to the money that could be earned in the process, loss of respect, for the person who should have been on time and loss of interest in the purpose of the meeting or activity in the first place. Personally, I do take a person's timeliness as a statement of his professionalism and commitment to the objective of the meeting.

Moreover, I do not buy the argument that we Indians should be okay operating on a 'stretchable' timeline than a 'standard' timeline. We claim we work harder because we spend 16 hours a day working. If you are an Indian, think about honest answers to the following questions. What percentage of the office hours do you spend doing productive work? How long are your lunch breaks? How frequent are your tea breaks? How much time do you spend attending to personal commitments at work? How many deadlines do you miss? How much time do you spend deliberating a decision and shifting blame? Whatever be the reasons, these answers offer glaring insights into our delusional perception of our work commitment in the veil of the number of hours spent at work. While we were once a great civilization, by modern world standards, we are highly inefficient and cannot expect ourselves to become an economic giant in the future.

Let me try and quantify this loss for you. We are a country of one billion people. Nearly 60% of population falls in the productive work force age. Taking a conservative estimate, assuming each person wastes 10 minutes of his time, you have 600 million people wasting 6 billion minutes or 100 million hours every day of work time. While it is a crude estimate, our lack of productivity or our inefficiency  is a strong reason why we have not been able to bring about equitable growth in the country.

I am afraid I will have to stop my rant here. I have exhausted the time I had assigned to writing this post. In the meanwhile, I hope you do take out some time to ponder over what I have just said. And God save you if you are late for a meeting with me. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Cage

I am moving on from a well paying managerial job in an MNC to a fellowship in a non-profit organization that pays a meagre stipend. As the news spreads through my company, I am greeted by more and more reactions stating how I have got my priorities right early in my life and how it is a noble course to take. It was humbling when a colleague and friend  (who was high) confessed to others at a party that I was the only man there who had the courage to listen to the voice of his heart and follow it.

I appreciate all the encouragement and am glad many have been supportive of my decision.  As I talk to more people with a background similar to mine, each of them mention the choice they had in their past when they could have taken a path that led to the destination of their calling, but didn't. However, they never delve into the reasons.

Standing at the same cross road as they did then and putting myself in their shoes, I look at the alternate path that lies ahead of me, the accepted and preferred path. I continue working with my current organization. I earn a comfortable livelihood, which keeps growing year on year. I keep climbing up the corporate ladder. I hopefully gain respect of people for what I have achieved. I earn more so to save taxes, I invest more.I buy a house. I buy a car and few years later, replace it with a fancier one. I invest in the markets. I secure my future through more and more insurance to keep up with my lifestyle. I have enough to buy another house.

Simultaneously, on the personal front, I get married. I have kids. I send them to good schools. My parents retire. I grow older.  I begin to feel I have achieved what I set out for in my professional career. I want to do something new, but I haven't planned for an early exit. For starters, the home loan installments are pending for another 7 years. I want to travel the world, but my parents are old and unwell. While I have insurance to manage their medical expenses, it does not replace their need for personal attention. I want to give back to the society and all I have time for is making donations and raising funds for the causes I believe in.

While what I am doing is acceptable, it is  not what I truly wish for. However, my hands are tied. I am scared. The opportunity costs are high. The risk is not worth taking. I do not have time to recover, if I fail. I am caged in my own success, materialism and commitments.

 I think of the cross road I stood on 25 years ago. I think of the life that could have been.

Song on my mind: