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Dr. Tesfa G. Gebremedhin, West Virginia University

Time is moving on; the clock keeps on ticking without a break, and we have no control of it. As it is said, “Time and tide wait for nobody”   Time is uncontrollable; time cannot be managed; we can only manage ourselves and the use of time. Frequently, we take for granted that there is always plenty of time. It is evident that there is plenty of time for everything, if the value of time is properly understood and if the use of time is effectively managed. Managing the use of time is critical to the success and happiness of any person in our professional career and personal life. Managing the use of time is actually self-management. It is interesting that the skills we need to manage others are the same skills we need to manage ourselves and our own families. In our rapidly-changing, time-conscious world, we are encouraged to get more done in less time by effectively managing the use of time. We need to realize that we cannot make more time because the quantity of time has already been set by the Almighty God and it will never change at all. There will always be sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour, twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week, and fifty two weeks in a year that we have to use for various purposes in life. Time has more value than money. We can make more money, but we cannot make more time.  Time is the most valuable and precious resource given to us every day from God and we often fail to appreciate this divine gift.

To illustrate and emphasize the magnitude of the value of time, suppose a bank credits our account each morning with $86,400. The bank carries over no balance to the next day. Every evening we lose the balance we failed to use during the day. What would we do? Of course, we would withdraw out every cent and use it every day. Obviously, to maintain a zero account balance by the end of the day, it requires the skill of managing how to spend the money wisely. Parallel to this analogy is that each of us has such a bank and its name is ‘TIME.’ Every morning, the bank credits our account with 86,400 seconds to spend for the day. By the end of the day our account should indicate a zero balance. Every night it writes off what we have failed to invest or spend. If we fail to use the day's deposits, it means we lost the time and there is no way going back to recover the lost time. We need to realize that time is free, but it is priceless. We cannot own it, but we can use it. We cannot keep it, but we can spend it. Once we have lost it, we can never get it back.  It has been said that ‘three things we cannot recover in life: the WORD after it is said; the MOMENT after it is missed; and the TIME after it is gone.’ It is evident that time is what we all want most, but time is what we use worst. The following interesting short story narrates the value of managing the use of time.

Once upon a time, king Mahfuz and a lazy man named Mahbul were very good friends. One morning, the king said to Mahbul, "Why don't you do work to earn some money?” Mahbul replied, "No one gives me job. My enemies have told everyone that I never do any work in time.” The generous king said, "You can go into my treasury and collect as much wealth as you can, untill sunset.” Mahbul rushed home to tell this opportunity to his wife. She said, "Go and get the gold coins and gems now." He replied to her, “I cannot go now. Give me lunch first." After lunch, he took a nap for an hour. Then in the late afternoon, he picked some bags and went to the palace. On the way, he felt hot so he sat under a tree to rest. Then, two hours later, he got up to go to the palace but saw a man showing some magic tricks. He stopped there to watch for an hour again. After the show he remembered that he had to run to the palace. When he reached the palace it was already time for sunset. The palace gates had been shut. So, Mahbul had lost a golden opportunity to collect wealth from the king’s treasury. Every moment is precious to those honorable people who know the value of time. Mahbul did not know how to manage the use of time. Time flew silently over Mahbul, but later he noticed that time has left a painful memory behind. In other words, we need to appreciate the valuable time while it is still in our possession rather than to regret later once we have lost it forever. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Lost time never found again.” Mahbul lost the valuable treasure due to lack of realizing the value of time and lack of managing the use of time. We need to understand that the more we value our precious time, the more we value ourselves and the more valuable things time can bring to us. Another relevant story, which is told in many cultures, including our Tigrigna traditional folk tales, also narrates the value of managing the use of precious time.

Once upon a time there was a speedy Hare who bragged about how fast he could run. Tired of hearing him boast, the slow and steady going Tortoise challenged the Hare to a race. All the animals in the forest gathered to watch this interesting race. The gun was fired and the race got started promptly. The Hare ran down the road for a while and then paused to rest. He looked back at the Tortoise and cried out, "How do you expect to win this race when you are walking along at a very slow pace?" The Hare was so sure about winning the race. He said, "There is plenty of time to relax." He stretched himself out alongside the road and decided to take a little nap under the shade of a tree and then he fell fast asleep. While the Hare was dozing and dreaming the Tortoise continued walking slowly and steadily without despair and went ahead of the Hare. He never, ever stopped for any moment until he came to the finish line. The animals who were watching cheered loudly for the Tortoise. Their loud noise woke up the Hare. He stretched and yawned and began to run again, but it was too late. The Tortoise was past the finish line and had won the race. The moral lesson of the story is that the Tortoise, though very slow-going, won the race because he was determined and used his time wisely. The Hare, though fast-running, lost the race because he was overconfident and did not use his time wisely. Unfortunately, the Hare had taken his win for granted.

Managing the use of time is also reflected in the kind of relationship we establish with other people around us. We live with people and time is always an important factor involved in our interpersonal relationship. The typical example is the way we respect appointments in our social events like wedding ceremony, funeral service, festival, and others. It is commonly observed that we do not arrive at churches, community centers, and other meeting places for social events on time. Coming late to social events, or not respecting appointments, which is commonly referred as ‘Qozera Habesha’ (ቆጸራ ሓበሻ), has become an accepted norm particularly among Eritreans in Diasporas.  We come to church in the middle of the sermon and leave when the spiritual service is still in session. We come to a wedding event late when the food is too cold to eat, or when the food service is about to close. We come too late for various types of social functions.  Non-Eritrean guests who are not familiar with our habitual tardiness at times leave the premises before the event even begins. As William Shakespeare said, “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” Though it is better to be late than never, it is always better to be on time than to be late because punctuality signifies profound commitment and maturity which in return generates honor and respect among ourselves.

In addition, some of us even do not go to church, or we prefer to go to a different church because the spiritual service, especially in the Eritrean Orthodox Christian church, is too long. If the church desires to increase the size of its congregation and seek the support and active participation of the Eritrean scholars and professionals, the spiritual service has to be customized to an appropriate time limit so that the time period will suit and meet the needs of the church followers. Members of the clergy need to be time-conscious and make the necessary adjustment to accommodate the demands and needs of their congregations because many of us living in big cities constantly juggle our time to meet other social obligations that occur on Sunday. Thus, if we do not understand properly the value of time and manage effectively the use of our precious time, we are not much different from our friend, Mahbul, who abused his time and could not even indulge himself with the valuable wealth from the king’s treasury when he had all the chance. Likewise, it is quite clear that we also do not seriously respect and honor the value of time. Our use of time in church and in other social events could be very productive, if we change our attitude and have a better perspective about the value and use of our precious time.   

Time is really an effective teacher. It has a wonderful way of showing us what really matters in life. As Nelson Mandela said, “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.” It is true that we do have time to do the things right, if we effectively manage the use of time. We have parental obligation to allocate and spend adequate time with our children when they are growing up. Asgele and his friends spend plenty of time gossiping and talking politics by going to Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts in the evening after work. Naturally, it means that they spend little or no time with their respective families. Asser, Asgele’s ten years old son, always thought that his father comes directly home from work every evening. One evening, Asser asked his father how much he earns per hour at work. Asgele got angry at his son and shouted, “It is none of your concern.” After a while he wondered why Asser asked him such a question. So, he called his son and said, “If you really want to know, I earn $20 an hour.” Immediately Asser asked his father, if he could borrow $10 from him.  At this time Asgele really got angry at his son and shouted again, “You want the money to play video games instead of doing your school work. Now, go to your room.” After he cooled down Asgele thought that Asser might need the money for some necessary things like school supplies. Asgele went to Asser’s room and gave him the $10. Immediately again, Asser counted $10 from his piggy bank and the $10 from his father, he collected a total of $20. He gave the $20 to his father and said, “I am paying you $20 for one hour of your time to spend time with the family.” Asgele was devastated, embarrassed, and felt ashamed. He was speechless and wept like a little boy. He hugged his son and kissed him on his two cheeks. He was very proud of his son for making him aware that family always comes first. The father was supposed to be the role model of his son, instead the son became the role model of his father. Since the above mentioned incidence with his son, Asgele has abandoned his old and reckless behavior and became an improved family person. He has developed a time-conscious attitude and became responsible and very much concerned about the value of family time.

If we want our children to turn out well and appreciate the value of time, we need to spend plenty of time with them before they even start to put their little feet on the ground. No matter how busy we are or might be, we must spend time with our children because family is the only effective institution that makes a positive difference in the lives of our children and creates unconditional love among family members.  We need to realize that the most important time is the amount of time that is spent together with our own children because time spent with own family is the greatest gift of life. It is evident that family time is more important than material treasure or socio-political recognition.  No amount of financial wealth or professional success can take the place of time spent with family. Family time is the bond that links our true family and strengthen our family relationship and love.  Family time is sacred time that should be protected and respected by parents all the time. We can value our precious time only when we value our family. At the end of our life, we will regret the time not spent with our family because time is the only resource of our life we have to determine how to spend it wisely.

To put the value of time into proper  perspective and to have a clear insight of the real concept of time, it is essential to read and understand seriously the following  statements: To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a course and has to repeat one more year; To realize the value of ONE MONTH; ask a mother who finally gave birth to a beautiful baby; To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the nervous editor who has not yet collected enough materials for his  weekly newspaper; To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are eagerly waiting to meet; To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the train and would be late for a job interview; To realize the value of ONE SECOND, ask a person who just avoided a deadly accident. As Charles Darwin said, “A person who dares to waste one hour of TIME has not discovered the value of LIFE.” This is because, “Life teaches us to make good use of TIME; while time teaches us the Value of LIFE.” In relation to the value of time it is also said in Arabic, “alAb min kulu lakin mateAb bilwoKt Zemin.’ Literally it means, we can play with anything, but we cannot play with time because time is in many cultures is the most precious and priceless gift of God – ‘woKt Kal…giziye worki…time is gold’.. Thus, it is crucial to treasure every moment that we have every day because yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, but today is a gift. That is the reason why it is called the Present!

In general, there is nothing magical about getting the most from the God-given time; it just takes planning and commitment. There is no mystery about managing the use of time. What needs to change is our perception about the concept of time, and how we manage the use of time. But managing the use of time requires self-discipline and self-control until our attitudes and behavioral changes are internalized and institutionalized in our own way of thinking and doing things. Then, managing the use of time becomes an everyday work habit. Plans and schedules for managing the use of time are useless, if one does not follow them. In managing the use of time we should be able to develop a formidable structure to our life and an appropriate program to our actions and determine that each remaining day in our life will be invested in those activities which will return the personal, professional and spiritual rewards that we desire. This process can help us overcome procrastination and manage stress, help us get organized, prioritize and set goals effectively, and help us invest our precious and priceless time properly and wisely.

Tick, tick, tick …The Clock Keeps on Ticking without a Break.

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