Voices

Friends & Friction: You will rise or fall on how you see time

2019-05-17 12:01

Wait. Wag. Wo. How is your time management skill? If you are like many South Africans I know, that is, habitual latecomers, then you need help urgently, because time management has become an important survival skill.

The future of work has become as unpredictable as the effects of global warming. As an individual you may not have control over the power plants that sneeze poison into Beijing skies, or the factories that urinate toxins into the waters of the Ganges, but you have control over what goes into your diary.

Your survival in the corporate world now depends entirely on how you choose to spend your time.

Human beings now compete against machines for work, and, in the battle between person and machine, the machine always wins.

The machine never gets tired and needs no lunch, no sleep, no compassionate leave. What makes things worse is that these machines can learn, which is something they could not do before. Now imagine a scenario in which machines learn and human beings remain stagnant ... what good would humans be?

Technological advancements always lead to slave wages. For instance, before Uber the metered-taxi industry was quite robust. Prices were relatively high, and the drivers made a pretty decent living in their Florsheim shoes, Brentwood trousers, Daks shirts and Dobbs hats.

Uber, with its algorithms that can learn the habits of the individual customer and can charge different fares throughout the day, has virtually decimated the metered-taxi industry. The net effect has been that drivers have to make a lot more trips for far less money.

It is not only the old tech taxi drivers who are struggling. Recently, Uber drivers went on strike in the US and the UK. Brendan Sexton of the Independent Drivers Guild was quoted in inc.com as saying, “Drivers built these billion dollar companies and it is just plain wrong that so many continue to be paid poverty wages while Silicon Valley investors get rich off their labour.”

You will thrive in the fourth industrial revolution only if you bring more value to the company than the machines. People say time is money, but that is not true. You cannot go into a supermarket and exchange your idle time for a loaf of bread.

Time is only a resource, and not a renewable one at that. Once it is gone, it is gone. People who rush from meeting to meeting without preparing are in danger of facing the chop in the new economy. Showing up for the sake of showing up is showing yourself up.

So, if you want to be effective, make the time to think deeply about the projects at hand, and what is required of you to make them successful. Think about who the stakeholders are, what their interests in the projects are, and then develop a strategy to communicate with them.

Three is the magic number. More than that and you are doing too much for anything to succeed, and less than that, you are underemployed. In either case you will come out the loser.

In your daily contemplation, spend time thinking about the future of your job. If what you do is repetitive, then understand that your job is at risk of automation. Unless what you do cannot be reduced to zeros and ones (which is the language computers understand), like waiting tables or horticulture, then you are safe.

Invest in yourself, spend time and money learning about the future of your industry. Anyway, you are not likely to contribute anything to the meetings you attend if you do not know anything about the business. Remember, it is not the responsibility of the company to make sure that you remain relevant. It is your own responsibility, much as it was never their responsibility to send you to school in the first place. Be generous with your time, but never waste it.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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September 15 2019