Now, being the true Ugandans we have been and shall forever want to be, we longed to return home from our sojourn lifestyle of the recent past. For several weeks now, actually months, we have been back in Uganda, a place we call home, love and shall forever love and cherish. The latter is indeed the best 2020 present for ourselves
But we have been put through our fair share of ‘learnings’ – some of the stuff extremely rewarding and others not always pleasing. After all, who says that others should do for us, what is pleasing to us and not thyself.
Amongst the many lessons, especially for one of us, is time management. It has been the thorniest subject. And it has been hard at times – much as we are Ugandan!
Time management is a black or white phenomenon, and there is usually not many in-betweens.
Time in physics is unambiguously operationally defined as “what a clock reads”
You either manage your time right or not. Going by the doctrine of time purists, time was invented to manage the continued progress of existence and events occurring in irreversible succession from the past to the present and finally to the future. Time is used to sequence events, to compare the duration of events or the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change of quantities in material reality or in the conscious experience.
It’s therefore delusional to assume that you are respecting, benefiting and enabling others to accrue the same from the value of time, when you arrive for a meeting slated for 9:00 am at 9:05 am or even worse, fifteen minutes or an hour later. Painful and annoying as it may be, we think that we should let time be what the clock reads and avoid redefining what being in/on time is. Time is and shall always be what the clock reads and what was pre-agreed – outside that, and you are late
But the reality is that we are dealing with human beings in different culture settings and, therefore, outside academics – there are different approaches to time management. There are the minimums, averages and maximums of what we have come to call and accept as ideal time management.
In certain places, being a minute late is unacceptable, while in other contexts, a plus ten-minutes margin to the agreed time is okay and in others, you make it when you want, and it’s okay.
In our village Nakabugu, it’s okay arriving at a meeting slated for 10:00 am, three hours later, at 1:00 pm and without any apology. Nakabugunians know that a mother without the luxury of a tractor, gas cooker at home, and other home conveniences, that has to go till the land in the morning, then cook for her children and demanding husband, before attending a 1:00 pm village meeting – is supposed to be late, simple!
It appears to us like we have been tempted, at times forced by circumstances, to shift the boundaries of what is acceptable time management and succeeded at that. Moreover, this is the case in both situations: where the shift may be more acceptable like in the case of my deprived Nakabugu kindred, but also with the more privileged and well facilitated professional setting
It’s true that when it comes to how we perceive and manage time, there are several influencing factors: culture, the education we have been given, environmental matters that are both in and out of our control like traffic jam and its effect on how fast you can get from one place to another, what people around us do in regards to time management (call it time management norms), the accountability and ensuing reprimand or not regarding managing time, i.e. are we punished when we don’t manage time right?
Since there are too many factors affecting how time is managed by different people/societies, trying to impose a single view of time management is near impossible. Even when we exclude the usually broad national culture context, within the more controllable and governable organisation setting, small or big, there are different perspectives on time management. Some individuals stick to agreed time commitments, others are marginally out of commitment, while others go for the stretch and make time an elastic phenomenon.
The tensions between culture, education background and the so-called time-management-givens in the world are apparent. In the Pearl of Africa, there is a quiet, mostly invisible debate about the elasticity or inelasticity of time. A debate that the protagonists of the latter position seem to have lost
There certainly is a stretchiness about this thing called time that perhaps some of us knew about years ago but have forgotten, or has manifested over the years we have been sojourning, and to the extent that it has been institutionalised.
Suffice to say that as far as the management of time is concerned, scarcity doesn’t seem to be a factor that many citizens of the Pearl of Africa consider a matter of concern.
Time is assumed to be abundant and deployed as such. Time is not treated by the citizens like they do money, and there is mostly disdain for any discourse on time scarcity
But why is this the case?
See you next week