When Benjamin Franklin, one of the American founding fathers said the famous words, ‘time is money’ he obviously wasn’t thinking of Kenya. Yet those words ring true in our country. Two years ago, the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority ranked Nairobi as the fourth most congested city in the world. The time wasted in these traffic jams bleeds the city a whopping Sh100 billion every year. Indeed, lost time equals lost money.
A time has come for us to realise that our greatest resource as a nation is not our tourism or our world-famous tea. Rather, our greatest resource is time. When we waste it, we literally lose money. Time management starts at the individual level and extends to the national level. Individually, we need to remember that time is life’s great equaliser.
We are all granted 24 hours in a day irrespective of our social or economic status. Whether you stay in the upmarket Runda estate or Kondele slums in Kisumu, we all have twenty-four hours a day. What you do with those twenty-four hours is your individual responsibility. When you waste your time, you are wasting your life.
A study by Statistic Brain Research Institute revealed that 92 per cent of people fail to achieve their long-term goals. Time management is a major factor behind this resounding failure to achieve long-term goals. Unless you learn to manage your time wisely and effectively, you too, will become part of this unfortunate statistic.
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What is true at the individual level is true at the county level, national level and regional level. The national government and county governments must begin to audit the issues and factors that hamstring effective time management in their respective jurisdictions. For instance, Nairobi County must, as a matter of urgency, address traffic jams because they continue to lose the city millions daily. It is not wise to seemingly wait for completion of ongoing infrastructure projects. For sure we do not live in the future neither do we live in the past, what matters most is today!
In the same vein, bad roads especially in rural areas across Africa considerably slow down the time taken to transport goods and services. That’s why Africa must work during day and night to raise the Sh18.7 trillion that the Africa Development Bank says is needed yearly in infrastructure investment. Every extra hour wasted on a bad road is lost revenue. If we value time as an invaluable resource, we will fix those roads as a matter of urgency. In our quest to be better time mangers, we can borrow a leaf from Japan.
About twenty-nine years ago, I received a rude awakening about the Japanese commitment to time. I was in Osaka chasing a major business deal. On the material day, I arrived eight minutes late for a meeting with my prospective business partner who owns a foremost chain of retail stores. To my great shock, that lateness cost me the business deal.
My prospective partner informed me in no uncertain terms that if he couldn’t trust me to keep time, then he couldn’t trust me to do business with him. The only silver lining in this lost business opportunity was a life lesson that I will never forget – every minute counts, so don’t waste it.
Shinrai is a Japanese concept that underpins the Japanese society’s commitment to success. Shinrai refers to trust. It entails building reliability in business dealings and relationships. Shinrai is the antithesis of corruption. When I was late for that meeting with my prospective Japanese business partner, I had essentially betrayed his trust in me. If we adopt such a deep commitment to time, we will do whatever it takes to stop wasting it. This includes showing up late for meetings or extending meetings more than is necessary.
In February 2019, Japan’s Olympic Minister Yoshitaka Sakurada arrived three minutes late for a parliamentary meeting. This lateness enraged some parliamentarians so much that they boycotted the meeting. They subscribed to a Japanese phrase – juppun mae koudou. Literally translated, it means ‘act ten minutes earlier.’ It duly captures Japan’s punctuality mentality.
Such is the strict and effective time management that should characterise both the public and private sector. Indeed, this year, let us commit to stop wasting time because that is similar to wasting money, wasting opportunities and wasting lives. This is what it means to Think green and act green!
-The writer is founder Green Africa Foundation.