“Time is money”, said Benjamin Franklin in an essay ‘Advice to a young tradesman. This oft-quoted aphorism by none other than one of the Founding fathers of the United States, holds eternal value as it forcefully underlines a sure recipe for success.
The aphorism actually means that time is a valuable resource. Therefore, it’s better to do things as quickly as possible. Losing time means losing money. And anybody in a job or enterprise must remember that lost time is as expensive as lost money. Successful entrepreneurs will tell you that they are as careful with their time as with their money.
Franklin who lived till the age of 84, created time blocks to manage his time effectively and protect his day from unexpected interruptions. He created a plan of action each morning and dedicated time for a subject separate from work. His daily schedule was aimed at doubling productivity and his life accomplishments speak volumes of the success of his schedule. Franklin invented the lightning rod, made significant discoveries in Physics, composed music and founded many civic organisations.
Time Management: An early lesson in life
Time discipline begins at home from kindergarten days and children get used to stepping out of homes at a certain time to go to school and know that they get a tiffin break and finally a break to pick up their bags and go home. Once children move from elementary level to junior school, they follow a daily schedule in school where a seven hour school day is divided into classes of 45 minutes each. It is in these classes that children are introduced to different subjects- English, Hindi, Mathematics, History, Geography and Science.
So, it is rather early in our lives that we learn to process information on a variety of subjects. The annual academic calendar in school, college or university which is interrupted by summer and winter vacations teaches us how to manage time well and use these breaks to find time for study and leisure. The examination system is also governed by a date sheet that spells out the time, date and venue for examination.
An individual who embarks upon his own enterprise must master multi-tasking and learn how to manage his/her time well.
Time Management Tactics from British and Japanese
The British and the Japanese are known the world over for their punctuality. Not many people know that in Japan, a train conductor will usually apologise to the passengers even if there is a one minute delay in service. The trains depart at the exact departure time printed on the train time table for all railway and metro services and halt normally for less than a minute at the designated stations. This reflects the huge significance that the Japanese give to time and efficiency. For the Japanese, it is important to stick to schedules as per the appointed time. In Japan, anybody who fails to turn up at the appointed time is not considered dependable and cannot be trusted.
Likewise, the British too are known to keep the time.
In the Japanese work system, being late at work is completely unacceptable and they are known to abide by their time schedule with clockwork precision. It is often said that in the Japanese work culture, there is 90 per cent planning and ten per cent execution. A Japanese company employee said that the Japanese try to do their best to meet the deadline. He explained that the importance of time is taught to children at a very young age in Japanese families. Since most parents are working and have very demanding work schedules, their children cannot afford to miss the school bus and therefore, the parents teach the children to prepare their school bags the previous night to be well in time to reach the bus stop.
How to manage time in the Work-From-Home Model?
Every job around the world has fixed hours for reporting at work. Although work from home has become the new normal in Corona times, that too calls for work discipline from home which is not easy with distractions in a home setting.
An individual who embarks upon his own enterprise must therefore master multi-tasking and learn how to manage his/her time well. He must have clarity about his goals and learn to be efficient and quick and know how to make the best out of a workday. I know a journalist in Greater Noida who helps his wife in her export business. Apart from monitoring news, he finds time to talk to prospective buyers overseas and plan the proper packing of goods. If anybody happens to call him when he is busy, he does not hesitate to remind the caller that the 15-minute conversation has cost him a loss of money. His logic is that he could have spent his precious time responding to business queries from prospective clients. It may sound offensive but the fact of the matter is that a businessman knows how to calculate the worth of an hour. Saving those 15 minutes helps him earn extra income.
Women Entrepreneurs: Masters of Time Management
A peep into the lives of three women entrepreneurs convinced me that all of them have common qualities that keep them going. Apart from being clear-sighted, they have a passion for work and have mastered the art of efficient time management. Take the case of Puja Sahu, a 44-year-old businesswoman who runs a Potbelly chain of restaurants in Bengaluru, Delhi, Gurugram and Patna.
Born in Muzaffarpur in Bihar and educated in Nainital in Uttarakhand and Delhi, Puja decided to start her own restaurant from Shahpur Jat in Delhi. It has been ten years now from the time she set up her first restaurant. Encouraged by the overwhelming response to Bihari cuisine, Puja started Potbelly restaurant in Bihar Niwas near Delhi’s Diplomatic enclave in Chanakyapuri relying on her mother’s recipes. She then moved on to setting up another restaurant in 32nd Milestone in NH 8 in Gurugram. The fourth restaurant came up in Bihar Museum in Patna and the fifth one in Bengaluru. While Puja agrees that running a restaurant is a hell of a task alongside raising her five and a half year old daughter, she has learnt to manage things with her core team. “ You have to set Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) at regular intervals and ensure that they are being followed. When you are running a large enterprise, you have to learn to delegate work. You cannot micro manage everything. In business, a like-minded core team is very important.’’
So, how does Puja handle her roles as a daughter, mother and wife alongside her business. “Days are really short. No matter how hard I try or plan ahead, my day is dictated by my daughter’s schedule. Of course, I set goals for the day. Short term goals help me achieve long term goals. At the end of the day before I go to bed, that is the only time I get to reflect on what I have achieved that day and to set goals for the next day. I was a backbencher in school but I learnt the hard way that lax attitude and no goals can get you nowhere. One has to strip yourself of all the wealth one has and see what you have accomplished on your own,” says Puja who holds a degree in Commerce from Bhagat Singh College of Delhi University.”
Learning Human resource management and surprise visits are very important to ensure quality control, says Puja. “ One has to work closely with the staff, listen to them, address their problems and work at every level. This entails tasting food in the kitchen, ensuring that the tables are clean and reminding them to wear masks in Corona times. It is important to have a penetrating eye to identify deficiencies. One thing you should never do is ask your employees to cut corners. And what is most important is that your seeking spirit should never die.”
Aspiring entrepreneurs must remember that passion, discipline, proper planning and customer satisfaction, are crucial for success.
Another Delhi based entrepreneur Rumana Vachha Menon, is doing well baking cakes. A jovial Parsi, 38 year old Rumana began her baking business from home four years back.
Rumana pulled out her grandmother Khorshad Vachha’s cake recipes and began studying more about baking. “ Baking runs in my blood. My grand-mother was an amazing baker. I started baking and it soon developed into my passion. I did a Diploma course from Truffle Nation in Delhi and began taking orders from people in the neighbourhood in Anand Niketan. Today, Rumana’s cakes are really sought after and she manages time effectively by taking orders only on prior notice. “ I worked in Hyderabad for six years in the sales department of a leading hotel. When my daughter was born, my priorities changed. I had to give up my job because I had to give her more time but I did not want to sit idle. I am able to manage things well at home with prior orders. It is a blessing that I am able to use some of my grandmother’s recipes. Baking gives me a lot of pleasure.’’
Like Puja and Rumana, Mumbai based entrepreneur Ruchi Srivastava has also been inspired by her Lucknow based maternal grand-mother, Rajkumari to start a cosmetic range of skin and hair care cosmetics which sell under the brand name ‘Veditatva Ayurveda’. Ruchi says she is 42 years but has a wrinkle free skin as she has always used home care skin and home care products made by her grandmother. Ruchi began making her own products four years ago from her flat and has about 4000 clients in India and overseas. She accepts orders online and delivers products, on an average 10 to 12 everyday by courier. “I was lucky that my grandmother passed on the traditional knowledge that she acquired from her father, an Ayurveda Acharya. Anything is possible if you have the passion. Getting up early helps me map and manage my day better. I have domestic helps who assist me with household chores. That helps me devote about five hours to my own business. Soap-making is very relaxing. My husband and my two sons who are 14 and 21 year old respectively, use my products.”
Ruchi says that aspiring entrepreneurs must remember that passion, discipline, proper planning and customer satisfaction, are crucial for success. “ Anybody who wants to succeed in business cannot afford to be directionless. You must work consistently and plan your day in advance and be clear about what you want to accomplish.
A look at the lives of these three women entrepreneurs tells us that sky is the limit for home businesses with social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp.
Where your time goes: Keep a check
Aspiring entrepreneurs must remember that most of us often try to control our expenditure by logging it. What is equally important is to cultivate a habit to log time. Logging time can give us amazing results. It helps you know where your time goes. Once we have done this exercise, we must categorise our activities as essential, important, unimportant, and wasted. This way, we will stop wasting time in needless activities.
Those forever complaining of shortage of time can try to execute the ancient Indian philosopher and economist Chanakya’s prescription of maximising time by dividing the day into slots of 90 minutes each and setting targets for these slots.
While punctuality is a sought after value in work cultures globally, there are professions that place a premium on it. For instance, the aviation business would not be able to do well if pilots would not arrive in time and take off on time. The Army would not be able to defend borders well if those deployed at the border would not keep the time. Restaurants would close down if the Chef is not able to produce the ordered dish well in time for the steward to present it at the table. 24/7 news channels hinged on the world of breaking news would close down if reporters on the spot fail to relay news on time. Alongside time management, an entrepreneur should also cultivate the concept of reaction time which is the speed at which an individual reacts to situations. This can give an entrepreneur an edge over his rival.
Military academies the world instil in young cadets the importance of punctuality by rigorous punishment.
A newspaper editor I know, says that he does not like putting off tasks for the next day. He says he goes about accomplishing tasks as he lives everyday as his last day.
As Nobel laureate Guru Rabindra Nath Tagore said, “The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.’
No talent is good enough if it is not synchronised with good time management.