Monday, December 14, 2009

3 Questions to Define What is Productive and What is Not

Time management is about knowing what is productive and what isn't as much as Bhagavad Gita is about self improvement. When you are able to conceive the difference between productive and unproductive work, time management is just a matter of avoiding the unproductive one and doing the productive one. But how do we distinguish between the two?

Any work doing which we are bound to benefit in the future can be termed as productive. (But only when you are doing it as efficiently as possible and have nothing more important to do, as I will explain below)
Learning anything new, exercising, helping someone else, ...

And any work doing which we may get benefit in the future are unproductive.
Watching a film (about which a question may be asked in the Who wants to be a millionaire? program which I'm planning to participate in 20 years from now), playing farmville in facebook (thus showing my friends my skill in farming?), chatting endlessly with friends (do you think that the amount of time you spend with your friend strengthens the bond of friendship between you?) ...

Your mind may sometimes trick you into believing that you're being productive when you're actually less than 10% of what you can be, as is clearly demonstrated when someone gets addicted to anything I said above (social networks, tv shows, etc)

Let us analyze them one by one

Social networks:
Facebook, orkut, and all others of the genre are truly great sites when it comes to keeping in touch with friends, sharing photos, videos, clearing doubts in an online forum and so on, and I personally have a profile in each one of them. But they become evil when we start forgetting why they are there. They are meant for strengthening interpersonal relationships. But you could spend a whole day in any one of them, and still end the day gaining nothing more than what you could achieve in 10 minutes. Think of how you could post updates every 15 minutes throughout a day and 2 of your greatest friends who log in at the night sees just the last 2 of your updates and comment on them. Think of how you could post a very clever, very attractive single update a day and still have almost half a dozen people liking and commenting on your update.
Think of how you can get back your time from these sites. Think how you can compress your activities to bare minimum.

The #1 time killer in most house holds even after the advent of the internet is television. Because while internet soon becomes boring especially when you don't know more than 3 sites by their URL, TV + remote ensures that you find something or the other every time you switch the thing on. And unlike internet you needn't even know what you want to waste time on TV.

Time for some entertainment... Aha I've my favourite program in Nat Geo (well Nat Geo is after all educational)... Oh it's commercials time, let's see what HBO is showing. Is it Rush-Hour 3? My Goodness! Never got a chance to watch it. And it has just begun... [2 hours later]... my gosh, my eyes are paining. I think I need some rest. [Power off]
Tell me how many of us haven't gone through these exact routine. You get a chance holiday and think that you would finish all your pending works on that day. But at the end of the day you would find yourself just a bit further than where you started.

Because you forget what you should have been doing. You think you are being productive when you aren't actually.

So the next time you are in a doubt whether or not you're doing the right thing, just ask yourself these questions.
#1, Is what I'm trying to do my absolute priority?
This is another way of asking yourself whether you have a task to be completed with its deadline tomorrow, or whether you have a critical examination tomorrow. (Most people think of doing some exercise, or learning javascript at such critical eleventh hours) Just ask yourself whether there's anything very important. Even if you are trying to exercise or learn a new language, right now it is unproductive, if you have a deadline tomorrow.

If I don't have anything absolutely necessary to do
#2, Is what I'm trying to do going to be of any help for me in the future?
Am I learning? Am I building my muscles? Am I doing something new? Am I building up on my relationships? Am I really having fun? Am I being adventurous? Am I doing something, the fruit of which I can proudly display in front of others?

And if I'm doing something useful
#3, Can I do what I'm doing more efficiently?
Am I utilizing what I'm doing to the maximum? This last question can have great effects. You will soon find yourself chatting with friends just enough, such that you don't find both of you talking about how bad your favourite actress performed in her last movie (unless you are a movie critic).
And don't think you will be termed as a kill-joy, or a silent person. Talk to your friends enough. But just enough. Don't let gossips be your topic of discussion. And don't fear that you will turn out to be an uninteresting person. How about talking about a picnic or a group work. Find topics that are productive, interesting and relationship strengthening, all at the same time.

Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.
- Charles Richards

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1 comment :

The Literary Jewels said...

A nice post with meaningful content. The post was well-ended with the quotation of Charles Richards.
I was reminded of another quote by Abraham Lincoln, "And in the end it is not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."
So as you said it really depends what we make out of our lives. Thanks for sharing such wonderful views.

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