TL;DR – It’s not as tough as you think.
I’m sure we all know who Chan Chun Sing is, Minister and Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress or NTUC.
At the Future-Ready Careers Amid Global Transformation Seminar, someone asked Minister Chan this question:
“I am taking classes to upgrade myself. I find it difficult to go for classes after work. And I am not married. If I get married and have kids, it will be even harder to balance everything. What tips do you have that can help people like me manage my time better?”
Minister Chan identified the problem that the person who asked the question have. It’s a problem that we all have. It’s called the “I only have 24 hours a day” problem. We all only have 24 hours a day. How do we fit in all the things that need to be done in that 24 hours?
Minister Chan gave the following three tips:
1. Don’t let work expand to fill up all available time
Minister Chan revealed that his staff sometimes get irritated with him. They would book an hour of his time for a meeting. But they are able to finish discussing the items in the agenda within 10 minutes. Then the staff would look at him and wonder what to do with the remaining time. Minister Chan would tell them that they can go and do whatever they want. And he will go off to do whatever he needs to do.
His point is that if you can do something in 10 minutes, then do it in 10 minutes even if you have one hour to do it. Don’t let that work expand to fill up all of the available time. Even if your deadline is one week away, if you can finish your work in two days, finish your work in two days. Then move on to the next task. Don’t let work expand to fill up all the available time.
2. Know the difference between a hobby and your passion
Minister Chan emphasised that there is a critical difference between things that you do only when you have time and things that you will make time to do. Things that aren’t really important are things that you do only when you have time. Things that are really important are things that you make time to do.
He used his three children as an example. He doesn’t just spend time with his children when he has time. They are very important to him. So he makes time to spend time with his children. His point is that we need to identify what are the things that are truly important to us, what are our passion and not just hobbies. Those are the things that we need to make time to do. The rest are things that we do only if we have time.
3. Do things you are supposed to do. Don’t do things other people are supposed to do
Minister Chan identified a common mistake that a lot of managers make. You rise to be a manager because you were good at what you were doing. A new person would then have to fill the position that is made vacant because you have been promoted. That person is new. Invariably, at the start, he wouldn’t be as good as you are at that piece of work. You might feel tempted to do his work so that it can be done faster and to a better quality.
Don’t do that. That new guy is supposed to do that piece of work. You are supposed to guide him and manage him and do other things a manager should. Don’t do what that new guy is supposed to do. Do what you are supposed to do. Teach, guide, and manage the new guy.