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Time: Definition and Concept

Management does not exist in a vacuum, but within a specific context. In performing its functions, it relies on certain elements, one of which is time, which “is considered both a hard and flexible concept simultaneously, for within one society, individuals use different terms to express time relationships.” [1] How one views time determines how he deals with it, and explains the patterns of behaviour some people have with regard to time.
Optimum utilization of time usually determines the difference between success and failure. Out of the daily twenty-four hours, only a limited number is utilized for work purposes. Therefore, the problem becomes one of what to do within that limited amount of time. Making use of every minute is important for the achievement of work economically and at the right time. Since time always passes at a fixed and constant speed, one has to care for the time allocated to him. The amount of time is not as important as how to manage the time available to us. Effective time management can result in better utilization of time and in more achievements.
“Those who care for their time are the ones who make great achievements in their personal and professional lives, and they do realize that time is not enough for doing all what they want to do. In contrast, those who do not care much for making achievements are the ones who consider time to be of little value.” [2]
The issue of time is a permanent human problem. Its conceptualization varies according to motives, needs and the nature of the required functions and activities. Also, the wider cultural context directly and indirectly determines the relationship between man and time.
In what follows, we will try to delineate the characteristics of time in order to clarify the concept of such a precious resource in man’s life.
Characteristics of Time:
It seems difficult to give an accurate definition of time. However, by reflecting on the progress of life and historical events, certain characteristics can be identified. “For Long, scientists have observed that time passes at a fixed and constant speed. Every second, every minute and every hour resemble all other seconds, minutes and hours. Time passes in a successive forward movement in accordance with a uniquely controlled system, which cannot be stopped, changed, increased or re-constructed.”[3] “Thus, the constant forward movement of time is neither fast nor slow, and it cannot be stopped, accumulated, cancelled, altered or replaced.” [4]
Characteristic of time is that it is an identifiable resource equally available to all. Even though people are not born with equal capabilities or equal opportunities, they all have the same twenty-four hours daily and the same fifty-two weeks yearly. Thus, regardless of being rich or poor, high or low ranking, all people are equal with respect to the amount of time available. Therefore, the problem of time is not one of amount, but of how to manage and utilize that amount. In other words, the question is: Is time well and usefully used in accomplishing required tasks, or is it wasted or spent on trivial matters?
Since time is such a unique resource that cannot be accumulated, and since “it passes quickly, does not return, and cannot be replaced, it is considered the most precious and valuable human possession. Its preciousness is attributed to its being a vehicle for all types of activity or production. In fact, it is the real ‘capital’ available to man individually and collectively”. [5] Accordingly, time is considered life’s foundation, on which civilization stands. It is true that time cannot be bought, sold, rented, borrowed, doubled, saved or manufactured. Nevertheless, it can be invested and valued. For instance, those who have the time to accomplish their work and the time to enjoy other activities as well must have learned the difference between quantity and quality. They must be investing every minute of their time. Therefore, “time management does not aim at changing, modifying or developing time, but at how to invest it so effectively that time spent uselessly or unproductively is reduced to a minimum, while attempting to raise productivity within the allocated period of time.” [6]


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