Time management and how to do it has become a cottage industry. Yet, is time management really the issue?
Healthcare professional and lecturer Yinka Vidal says the concept of time management is wrong and should be redefined.
“We just need to remember above all, ‘We can’t manage time,’ but we can manage projects by choice,” he said. “We all need time to rest the human body machine so it can heal itself as God designed it. Rest is critical for healing.”
To get to rest, Vidal and a group of healthcare providers reached a similar conclusion: Time management starts with the will to say no. The alternative is not a time-management irritant but full clinical burnout.
Obstetrics-gynecology infectious disease specialist Dr. Helen Madamba wears a host of other hats, including teacher, training officer, executive director for a non-government organization and HIV and AIDS treatment advocate. In her words, this is how she manages:
- I compartmentalize.
- I use a planner.
- I set my priorities.
- I delegate tasks to others.
- I learn to say no.
- I pray that my work glorifies God.
“When I took the test on risks for burnout, I scored 6 when the diagnosis needed only 3,” she said, seemingly to console herself. “Considering I am still functioning well, I suppose coping mechanisms are well in place.
“I have to learn to say no,” Madamba said. “Little by little, I am a work in progress.”
Time-management fails are longstanding and legendary.
“As a graduate student, I went to a pharmacology class and slept through the one-hour session because I hadn’t had a sleep in three days — work-school-work– it was crazy,” Vidal said.
“A person can only run on an empty tank — or burn a candle on both ends — for a short time before the person crashes,” he said. “The human body is an automation machine that needs ATP – an energy booster — to run well. Rest and sleep are essential for energy replenishment.”
He recalled when words of wisdom came from an unexpected place.
“A co-worker told me one time while I was a manager at a hospital, ‘This place can still run without you. Do you know that?’” Vidal said. “It was a smart comment, but it made me start to think about my options.”
Since then, he has made a point to take power over his hats.
“I don’t wear different hats, but different hats wear me,” Vidal said. “I have the right to take them off, by rejecting projects, or learning to say ‘No!’ Each person has that control.
“Unfortunately, our human ego and the need to be recognized and receive awards push us to dangerous extremes,” he said. “Many hats with one head. It’s not the many things we have to do as which ones are productive and which ones are not.”
Without saying it, Vidal made case for delegating to manage time.
“I can’t do everything,” he said. “I have to spend time managing others and motivating them to serve. At times, I pull back and let other people have the ‘spotlight.’ I stand by and join the cheerleaders.
“I learned over the years, it’s not how many things we do, but how productive are we and in whose interest,” Vidal said. “At times, I will stop and ask myself about the force driving me, the purpose and the outcome. Is it worth it?”
Dr. Stephanie Eloisa D. Miaco, a psychiatrist who advocates in mental health and how to improve delivery of mental health services, makes an added effort to keep her head straight.
“I’m juggling earning a living with my practice, teaching, lecturing and advocating, trying to be healthy, getting to write, and finding time for my dreams and interests,” she said. “It’s very vague, but that is that, in a nutshell.”
Through his long experience, Vidal has become philosophical about waving off unnecessary pressure.
“Have you ever noticed that the best time to see yourself and the work you do is when you’re on the sick bed and disabled for a period of time?” he said. “Life goes on around you.
“No is not a bad word,” Vidal said. “It’s a matter of self-preservation. A paycheck is important, though.”
Madamba is fortunate to pick and choose tasks she takes on.
“I really just work for the things I really care about,” she said. “I make sure I deal kindly with other people. You never know who will be an ally or champion someday.
“I admit it’s so difficult to say no when we’ve been trained to remove that word from our vocabulary since residency training,” Madamba said.
There is nothing wrong with being selfish and tending to yourself first. If you’re not in good shape, you won’t be in condition to take care of yourself so you can look after others.
“I set limits regarding what I do,” Vidal said. “There are a couple of days during the week when I do nothing but only what I enjoy and spend them with my wife and family. Remove guilt and be at peace with yourself.
“Time for myself means, not answering phone calls except in case of emergency,” he said. “Learn to enjoy your time off. Life will go on without you someday.”
Part of Vidal’s personal time is spent with a higher power.
“I have a time of solitude where I spend time with the Lord in spiritual meditation in Holy Spirit, prayer and studying the Word — enjoying the serenity of God,” he said. “Each person needs a download time for inner spiritual reflection away from work, family and friends. Make time to enjoy yourself alone without distractions. Nurture yourself.
“Self-care, self-nurturing and loving yourself are critical aspects of good mental health,” Vidal said. “Take yourself on a date. Spend some money on yourself.”
He concluded with a word of caution.
“If we are not careful, human ego and self-adulation will drive us to dangerous pinnacles of life where isolation, loneliness and depression become our companion,” Vidal said. “Spend social time with family and friends.”