The Fast Track…>>>

The world has changed a lot in the past thirty odd years. I can’t but smile when I think of some of the suggestions I used to make in my weekly review meetings on the projects under execution. In one such meeting, I remember having asked for a dictating machine (which I heard about somewhere those days; not seen) as the minute of meetings to be typed on so many copies and sent takes lot of time from our busy project schedule. And my boss gave a wicked look at me followed by a warning “don’t act as a superman”. He was staring at me as a specie from another planet. Most of the MANAGERS those days had separate offices, dedicated secretaries, and a few assistants to whom you can delegate work. The Manager can have some Quiet time in between if desired. Even phone calls used to be screened before secretary saying boss is “IN” or “OUT” thus manager concentrating on the work in hand.

Most of us carry a pocket diary that will have lot of “To Do” lists of the day. Points just jotted down in short syllables if we are to attend a meeting on the given subject and day. No Internet, laptops, PDAs, smartphones, email or voice activated software. After 5 or 6 pm the offices or for that matter work places will be dotted by a few heads only and not buzzing 24×7 like today. Receiving a call at ‘HOME” means there is something wrong, a conclusion generally mind will jump into. Workload, stress, mental tensions were once in a while on specific conditions and reasons.

But the environment – and in most cases – the jobs themselves, have evolved. A more mobile society, equipped with laptops, handhelds, multiple cell phones carrying out their administrative work onsite at their client’s place, in their cars or at home is in place. Handheld electronic devices such as iPhones, BlackBerrys and iPads seem to be outselling everything because everyone wants to be ‘ahead’.

The pace of life has increased and it has become too fast. Stress too has increased. We now see a very higher percentage of persons with depression, obesity, diabetes etc. as compared to earlier days. Memory problems are rampant as everyone depends for everything on devices. Inborn capabilities are left to rust. Managing stress and life balance were justifiably added as the speed and complexity of life increased.

Idle time and free or discretionary time started disappearing since more than a decade and the process seems to be complete. Skills essential to individual productivity and the executive skills are slowly vanishing. Working hours may be increasing, but individual productivity going down. We might have hit success in making computers to replace as many persons as possible; but in reality reflection time, creative ideas all continue to decrease. Every other person including housewives is connected to electronic media such as email and various social media.

In my opinion, personal productivity has changed very little in the past two or three decades in spite of advancement in various facets of technology. There is no dispute that technology evolved for good things and also it helped speeding up the pace of life. But the extra speed did not convert every other factor correspondingly. We may be working faster, driving faster, communicating faster and eating faster – in short living faster. My observation is “although life might have become faster; but the same has not contributed exponential improvements in quality or net results”.

I feel we are accomplishing only little bit more than what we have been  accomplishing. We’re just doing it at a higher speed. Interruptions, low priority activities and managing conflicts and trivial issues are filling the time saved.

Effectively, it is high time one has to sit and think how fast should be considered fast enough and how far is the safe landing. If the destination is marked, available duration is defined, mind is conditioned I think life could well be driven within the permissible speed limits with lesser conflicts to manage.

In reality we are overlooking or ignoring the possible hazards of this speed that has become part and parcel of a person or a group of persons or a corporate. Nothing happens overnight and if something does be ready to face those consequences, which comes back in lightening speeds. Technology might have helped; but it also invaded into our private times or discretionary times as this phenomenon cannot be overlooked. It may help us in multitasking; but multitasking has so far proved counterproductive only.

The speedsters already have sacrificed their individuality, individual opinion and even their capacity to assess or convey matters in a strong way. I always wonder, if we are walking, talking, driving, planning and working faster where is that saved hours going? Production has not changed much; sleeping hours has rather reduced significantly. The division between professional and personal or private life has got seriously blurred and a significant percentage of the people have to deal with depression. Someone tell me where are those times – ‘work’, ‘home’, and ‘leisure’ gone? It all got mixed up irretrievably in the mad race to achieve those that are necessarily required to achieve. OR one will have to derive a method – sooner than later – to develop a skill to manage the time in a fashion where these essential times will have to be worked out without one overlapping the other in this changing world.

Madhu K. Nair [finished on 29th April 2004]

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