Time Management from Islamic and Administrative Perspectives (5)

Time Management from Islamic and Administrative Perspectives

Chapter (5)

By: Dr. Wahid A. Al-Hindi, Professor of Public Administration, Chairperson of Public Administration Department, College of Administrative Sciences, King Saud University

Effective Management of Time

*     Introduction

As an activity, management aims at the achievement of specific objectives within a context of available resources and conditions. Achievement of objectives is tied to a time schedule and a defined plan. Success or failure cannot be completely measured or recognized except within the required or specified time. This gives rise to the problem of time at all management levels: How can they achieve defined objectives, or perform tasks within the specified period of time? Obviously, the problem is not one of lack of time; time is equally available for all. It is a problem of effectiveness of managing and utilizing time.

This chapter comprises three sections:

5.1 Equipment and Means of Time Management and Control

5.2 Effective Methods of Time Management

5.3 Toward a Better Approach to Effective Time Management

*     5.1 Means of Time Management and Control

Modern technology represents the most important source of means of effective time management and control. Due to rapid development of electronic devices and modern office services, information can be communicated very fast, saving time, therefore. Such devices are designed for the modern manager, in particular, to facilitate organization of information, data processing, file arrangement, preparation of necessary documents, upgrading of old information, fast communication by modern means, saving time and effort.

The means to manage and control work time can be divided into two groups: electronic and non-electronic.

5.1.1 Electronic Means

This group includes such devices and tools as computers, photocopiers, fax-machines, scanners, answer machine telephones, mobile phones, the internet, electronic mail and electronic calendars. Let us examine each of these devices.

       5.1.1.1 Computers

Computers perform a great deal of tasks in managers’ offices and all organizations today. They perform multiple tasks and provide the manager with accurate results much faster and at much lower cost than manual methods do. There is a lot of software today that can execute the simplest as well as the most complicated operations in all fields, particularly in projects. Computers are now available for all, and prices depend on memory capacity, information processing speed, tremendously effective in saving time.

Computers come in different sizes, mainly desktops and laptops. The manager can make use of the latter wherever he goes, for instance on the plane, in the hotel or in the car. Also, the modem can be used for communicating information by telephone. As a result of all these facilities, the manager’s time can be optimally invested, and his productivity increases. There are also computer programs for business organizations, such as those for financial analysis, purchases and inventory as well as for organizing task performance times.

       5.1.1.2 Photocopiers, Fax-Machines and Scanners

These technological devices are really time saving. For example, photocopiers can be used to prepare a lot of documents and copies, in varied sizes, in the required number and possibly coloured. Choice of the photocopier type depends on such factors as cost, speed and whether it is colour or black-and-white.

As for scanners, they are used for scanning pictures and documents, putting them into archives, storing copies of documents and transforming them into computer texts. By facilitating access to such documents, scanners naturally save a tremendous amount of time.

The fax-machine is now an essential device in today’s office. With respect to sending and receiving documents, it combines the functions of the telephone, photocopier and computer modem. Therefore, it helps a great deal in managing time more efficiently, due to speedy transfer of documents, and the possibility of benefiting from night-time cheap telephone rates.

Furthermore, modern technological advances have combined all those functions into one device, saving space, costs and time.

       5.1.1.3 Answer-Machines and Mobile Telephones

These devices enable the manager to screen in-coming telephone calls without having to answer the telephone. They also provide for recording calls from any part of the globe. They are particularly useful in the absence of secretaries, in the case of too small an office to accommodate both the manager and the secretary, and if the manager is not available. One advantage is that orders can be received at night, to be checked in the morning. In fact, more time becomes available for receiving orders, consequently saving time for important office tasks. The recording allows the manager to listen to in-coming calls, so no important ones will be missed. Besides, the price is paid once. 

The mobile telephone has the special feature of sending or receiving calls anywhere in the world. It can also function as a telephone directory and an answer-machine. It allows the manager to perform tasks anywhere, which saves his time.

       5.1.1.4 The Internet & Electronic Mail

The internet and electronic mail are among the most important modern vehicles for performing tasks over long distances and in a very short time. Not only does the internet provide for acquisition of information from anywhere at anytime, but it is also used for trading. Buying and selling transactions are performed on line. How saving of time can the internet be depends on the speed and competence with which the manager can handle it.

As part of the internet, the electronic mail tremendously speeds up communication of messages and documents in various languages. It is reinforced by the production of a great deal of modern software, which facilitates communication with a wide range of individuals at one time all over the globe. This boosts its use as a time saving device.

       5.1.1.5 Electronic Calendars

Electronic calendars, of the pocket type, and on computers, keep detailed records of appointments, scheduled activities and priority tasks as well as other information needed by the manager.

Some of the advantages of electronic calendars are:

1- Organizing appointments

2- Reminding of appointments by giving audio or visual signals

3- Keeping brief records in their memories

4- Functioning as a mobile telephone

Furthermore, an electronic calendar can be connected with a PC or laptop by telephone. In the case of an organization’s network, this gives the manager access to personnel calendars for meeting purposes.   

5.1.2 Non-Electronic Means

Non-electronic means include such things as: secretaries; manual diaries for appointments; daily, weekly and monthly scheduled lists of tasks to be performed; the manger’s memory. Let us have a quick look at each.

       5.1.2.1 Secretaries

A secretary’s job derives from that of the manager. Since the managerial function is to achieve objectives through others, the secretary or office director is to assist the manager to manage his time effectively towards those objectives. Therefore, secretary preparation has focused on competent training, particularly time management and organization of activities.

As mentioned by Al-’Edaily, these duties are basic for secretarial effectiveness: [1]

1- Receiving phone calls and visitors;

2- Setting a concise filing system;

3- Organizing appointments and meetings;

4- Preparing drafts for memoranda and letters;

5- Performing minor tasks delegated to him;

6- Assisting the manager in organizing his tasks and reminding him of appointments;

7- Maintaining, following up and updating files;

8- Exercising common sense and taking the initiative in office-related matters.

       5.1.2.2 Daily and Weekly Action Lists

Daily and weekly action lists include a number of commitments that the manager has to fulfil.  On the lists are recorded certain projects and activities to be performed by the manager in one day or week. They are recorded in the order of priority and time in such a way that allows for ticking the accomplished tasks. Regarding the lists, the manager has to: (a) Record the daily tasks to be performed;

(b) Making a realistic time estimate for each task;

(c) Take into account the meetings and appointments already fixed in relevant calendars.

       5.1.2.3 Manager’s Manual Diary and Memory

In the manual diary, the manager records appointments, remarks, tasks and activities he is to perform during official working hours within a day, a week or a month. Such a diary is usually small enough to be carried all the time in all places. It contains a concise phone guide and identification cards for the manager. Through its hand-written content, it helps the manager remember the things to be done.

In extreme cases, the manager may depend solely on his personal memory to keep track of the things he is to do, without help from manual or electronic aids in organizing and managing required tasks. This demands an extremely strong memory and physical well-being on the part of the manager. However, dependence on memory alone gives rise to problems of forgetfulness, particularly in the case of overlap of tasks and time.

*     5.2 Effective Methods of Time Management

Since the manager’s time is limited, how can he utilize it effectively?

“With regard to the cause of development, it is considered an issue of time and productivity. Time should be viewed as a resource to be invested for the purpose of our peoples’ welfare. This is the responsibility of each and every one of us.”[2]

What really matters is not mere spending of time, but the investment of time. Like capital, if time is just spent for the sake of spending, it is wasted. If it is invested, it will grow and come to fruition for us and for generations to come. Each manager should ask himself the following question first: Am I doing the right things? Only then, comes the question: Am I doing things the right way? In itself, sheer time is not the problem; the problem is how to invest time.

Crucially related to time investment are the two concepts of “efficiency’ and “effectiveness”.”Whereas efficiency means doing things right, effectiveness means doing the right things right.”[3] The driving analogy shows the difference between the two concepts: “However fast one is driving his car southward, performance is judged as ineffective if the required direction is north.”[4] This may explain why the American Society for the Evaluation of Engineers, attempting to distinguish between real work and being busy, and between efficiency and effectiveness, has adopted this motto: “Work smarter, not harder.”[5] In other words, there is a distinction between performing tasks efficiently and performing the tasks required for the achievement of objectives.

Thus, in time management, the manager had better “concentrate on expected outcomes, rather than worry about procedures”. [6] In other words, he should “direct his attention to the target first, then to the context; perception first, then method; effectiveness first, then efficiency.”[7] The manager who does that has taken the first step towards the successful management of his time. This leads to controlling and managing his time properly. In fact, optimal investment of time should result in: achievement of the organization’s objectives; more commitment to long-term and more important administrative issues; better development of managers’ skills and abilities; less worry, less pressure and less tension.

Thus, time management should be viewed as doing the right things properly, i. e. managing them effectively. The manager should focus on what is to be done, then on how fast to be done. For example, he should start with spending his time on establishing effective communication, instead of spending it on solving problems resulting from bad communication, which shows him doing busy work. Thus, effectiveness of time management can be defined as the manager’s achievement of his right objectives by means of optimal utilization of available resources.

Such a concept of time management has appeared in various forms in time management approaches due to differences in assumptions. According to relevant literature, there are eight different approaches, each of which has its own assumptions, value and contribution. They are the following:

5.2.1 The Organize-Yourself Approach [8]

This approach assumes that most management problems arise from chaos or absence of organization, e.g., the manager does not find something when he needs it. The logical solution lies in establishing organization in three dimensions:

[A] Organizing things

All things have to be put in order, such as door keys, computers, file shelves and office areas.

[B] Organizing Tasks

This involves giving orders and defining implementation steps by means of planning lists or maps, or even sophisticated computer planning programmes for project management.

[C] Organizing Personnel

This involves defining what the administrator and those working with him are capable of doing. Then, tasks are assigned to them accordingly. A system for performance follow-up has to be established so that the administrator can be in control.

A strong point of this approach is that organization saves time, costs and effort. For example, no time is wasted on searching or writing reports. It also provides for peace of mind and a more disciplined life style. However, obsession with organization can turn into an obstacle, a point of weakness. Instead of being a means to a more important end, organization may become an aim in itself. Also, more time can be spent on organization than on production. In practical terms, there will not be sufficient time for work, as it is being used for organizing things.

5.2.2 The Fighter’s Approach (Survival and Independence) [9]

Underlying this approach is the notion of preventing time wasting in order to create a state of concentration and achieve production. It assumes that all are surrounded by pressing demands from a crowded environment. Therefore, the fighter’s approach maintains that unless the manager responds firmly to such an attack on his time, the whole system will collapse. It recommends the following techniques:

[A] Isolation

Isolation calls for the establishment of protection system by means of a secretariat, locked doors, telephone answer-machines, etc.

[B] Retreat

Retreat involves moving to a distant environment, which guarantees isolation and provides for work independently and without interruption.

[C] Delegation

It demands the delegation of tasks to others so that more time can be available for more important work.

The strong feature of this approach is that time becomes a personal responsibility, and the manager will produce and innovate once he is in a quiet and uninterrupted environment.

However, this approach presumes that others are one’s enemies, who must be removed so that one can perform his tasks by means of isolation, retreat and barriers. This assumption is far from reality, for it ignores the fact that what the manager intends to achieve depends others. How can he secure their cooperation while retreating from them! Besides, being negative and defensive, this approach leads to introvert behaviour, which requires entire dependence on self, and self-satisfaction. In such a context, others feel they are isolated, so they will seek attention either by creating problems, or by working individually. This may take more of the manager’s time if he is to solve those problems. Thus, this approach ignores interdependence among all parties involved and how it affects the quality of life; this makes matters more complicated.

5.2.3 The Objectives Achievement Approach [10]

The motto of this approach is: define what you want achieved, and then exert the effort to achieve it. The approach depends on techniques of planning and defining objectives, and self-motivation and dedication through a positive mental state.

Practical experience has shown that if organizations or individuals set for themselves clear objectives, they achieve better results. It has also shown that those capable of defining and achieving objectives realize their aspirations.

Evidently, there are people who adopt this approach in order to reach success, but they soon become disillusioned. For example, they set objectives and make the efforts to achieve them, only to discover that the outcomes are not what they have been dreaming of. Naturally, if objectives do not derive from basic principles and needs, neither the objectives nor their achievement can lead to a balanced type of life. Though those people may make a great deal of money, they may be leading a personal life of misery, void of humane relations and emotions.

5.2.4 The Step-by-Step Approach (Prioritisation and Defining Values) [11]

This approach is based on the objectives approach in addition to the principle of gradation and prioritization. This principle refers to focusing on the most important tasks. This involves the use of several techniques, such as defining the value of the task and establishing priorities. Advocates of this approach maintain that you can do what you want, but not all what you want. Basically, if you know what you want, but focus first on the important part, you can manage your time effectively.

However, several of those top successful people say that they set targets, focus on them and set priorities, but, in the end, they do not get the expected outcomes. Thus, if objectives are not derived from realistic principles, one cannot reach the genuine outcomes conducive to quality life.

5.2.5 The Technological Equipment Approach [12]

This approach assumes that appropriate equipment (e.g. timetables, diaries and computer programmes) provides for best management. Such equipment ensures identification of priorities, organization of tasks and easy access to information. Systems and frameworks are basically considered factors contributing to equipment effectiveness. Apparently, effective use of equipment is greatly advantageous in achieving the following: establishing priorities, defining objectives, organizing tasks and fast systematic use of information.

The question arises: How many people use such equipment for time management properly? Calendars, for example, are bought only to become ornaments. Also, daily calendars and defined tasks are seen by some as restrictive and rigid. The fact is that unless technology is linked to full awareness of the importance of the task to be performed, it will deliver only some degree of improvement, but not full potential quality. For instance, an advanced camera can never make a successful photographer.

5.2.6 The Skills Approach [13]

Basic to this approach is the assumption that time management is a personal skill that requires mastery of the following skills: using calendars and appointment diaries; preparing task lists; defining objectives; delegation; organization; prioritization.

This systematic approach is common, and it assumes that lack of the skills of planning, defining objectives and delegation has a negative impact on the organizing function. Therefore, a lot of organizations make use of educational aids for teaching their personnel those basics.

However, this approach has some weaknesses, the most important of which are reflected by the following questions:

[A] What are the basic patterns being taught?

[B] Is it based on sound principles?

[C] Does it hold unsound assumptions about effectiveness?

What matters more than equipment and systematization is relating efficiency to genuine principles of time management. Without being linked with clearly defined outcomes, skills cannot satisfy the requirements of effective time management.

5.2.7 The Natural Flow Approach (Harmony and Natural Tuning) [14]

This approach has certain life and time assumptions that differ from those of the other approaches. Its philosophy derives from eastern cultures advocating internal self-concordance and harmony with nature, irrespective of pressures from our conditions. Thus, this approach represents a counter movement to traditional styles of time management. It can also be seen as some kind of withdrawal due to failure to use the other approaches.

The advocates of this approach seem to ignore that swimming against the tide instead of with it represents practice of management. Their approach lacks vision, outcomes, targets and balance, which are all important factors.

5.2.8 The Cure Approach (Self-Realization) [15]

This approach is concerned with the principles underlying behaviour. It aims at self-realization and, subsequently, self-improvement. It assumes that there are social and inherited factors that cause defeatist behaviour and lack of performance in time management.

However, this approach deals only with one aspect of time management problems. The administrator’s understanding of himself is only one aspect of effective change in time management.

In spite of the contributions of the previously mentioned approaches, they reflect a traditional concept of time. They do not view time as one of the factors of production. This explains why each of those approaches focuses on a particular aspect, rather than time management as a whole. In general, time management is concerned with application to the whole management process. This consists of all managerial functions within the organizational structure, such as the functions of planning, organizing, directing and control as well as decision-making.

*     5.3 Towards a Better Approach to Effective Time Management

In the light of what has been said so far about approaches to time management and the status of time as an element of the management process, the present study’s concept of effective management will be investigated through integration of two things:

(a) The manager’s ability to perform the functions of the management process effectively;

(b) The manager’s ability to take positive measures to control time-wasters.

Since the term “management” has been frequently repeated, let us elaborate it further. Even though it includes several individuals in the organization, they are not equal in terms of duties and responsibilities on the one hand, or in terms of authority or decision-making on the other. In fact, management has commonly agreed upon levels: top management, middle management and lower management.

The common denominator of those levels is that their practice of management involves the functions of planning, organizing, directing and control as well as decision-making. However, the functions vary in terms of allocated time in accordance with the relevant level of management, as shown in Table 4:

                                                                Table 4

                                      Proportionate Allocation of Time Allocated to

                            Management Functions at each level of Management [16]

??????????? Take care!

Planning                   Planning                   Planning

Control & Guidance     Control & Guidance     Control & Guidance

Organizing                Organizing                Organizing

Lower management    Middle management    Top management

Since the two functions of planning and organizing occupy most of the managers’ time at the top and middle levels, the present study investigates the managers of those two levels. In his article “Time Is the Manager’s Dilemma”, Charles Ferderber emphasizes the functions of planning and organizing by saying: “Bad planning and bad organizing give the wrong impression that time is short and insufficient.”[17]

Thus, the study of time, as one of the sources available to organizations, requires good planning and organizing. It has to be conducted on manifest scientific principles so that time can be effectively and properly invested. Besides, “Theoretical and field studies have shown how varied managers are in the allocation of time to their activities due to varied management levels. The studies have identified certain major activities that occupy a long period of the manager’s time, for he has to mange them effectively in order to achieve effective management of his time. Those activities involve the management of personal and telephone interruptions, meetings, correspondence, and the work place.”[18]

In view of the previous discussion, the approach recommended by the present study for effective time management embodies the following:

[1] Planning:

(a) Defining objectives, and establishing priorities;

(b) Allocating time according to priorities;

(c) Analyzing time.

[2] Organizing:

(a) Delegation of authority and duties;

(b) Organizing and arranging tasks.

[3] Decision-Making, as the function typical of the top and middle management levels.

[4] Managing telephone and personal interruptions.

[5] Managing meetings.

[6] Managing the work place.


[1] Al-Edaili, Nasser Mohamed:   Time Management, Riyadh, 1994, p. 101.

العديلي، ناصر محمد، إدارة الوقت، دن، الرياض، ط1، 1415هـ -1994م، ص 101.

[2] Abu-Sheikha, N. Ahmad:   Time Management, in Arabic, Dar Majdalaawi, Amman, 1991, p.

أبو شيخة، نادر أحمد، إدارة الوقت، دار مجدلاوي، عمان، 1991م، ص 13.

[3] Temp, Dale:   Time Management, an Arabic Translation by Waleed Huana, 1991, p. 123.

تيمب، دايل، إدارة الوقت. ترجمة وليد هوانه، معهد الإدارة العامة، الرياض، 1991م، ص 123.

[4] Covey, Stephen:   Managing Priorities:   First Things First, Translated by Sayyid Metwally Hassan, Riyadh, Jareer Bookstore, 1998, p. 28.

كوفي، ستيفن، إدارة الأولويات:   الأهم أولاً، ترجمة سيّد متولي حسن، مكتبة جرير، الرياض، 1998م، ص 28 بتصرّف.

[5] Abu-Sheikha, N. Ahmad: Time Management, op. cit., p. 26.

أبو شيخة، نادر أحمد، إدارة الوقت، مرجع سابق، ص 26.

[6] Temp, Dale: Time Management, op. cit., p. 560                    تيمب، دايل، إدارة الوقت، مرجع سابق، ص560

[7] Covey, Stephen: Managing Priorities: First Things First, op. cit., p. 305.

كوفي، ستيفن، إدارة الأولويات: الأهم أولاً، مرجع سابق، ص 305.

[8] Ibid., p. 479                                             المرجع نفسه، ص479

[9] Ibid., p. 480                                             المرجع نفسه، ص480

[10] Ibid., p. 483                                           المرجع نفسه، ص483

[11] Ibid., p. 484                                           المرجع نفسه، ص484

[12] Ibid., p. 486                                           المرجع نفسه، ص486

[13] Ibid., p. 488                                           المرجع نفسه، ص488

[14] Ibid., p. 490                                           المرجع نفسه، ص490

[15] Ibid., p. 491                                           المرجع نفسه، ص491

[16] Mursi, Nabeel Mohamed, Business Management, Alexandria, Alexandria Book Centre, 1998, p. 44.

مرسي، نبيل محمد، إدارة الأعمال، مركز الإسكندرية للكتاب، الإسكندرية، 1998م، ص  44.

[17] Temp, Dale:   Time Management, an Arabic Translation by Waleed Huana, 1991, p. 75.

تيمب، دايل، إدارة الوقت، مرجع سابق، ص 75.

[18] Salama, S. Ben-Fahd:   Time Management, A Developing Approach to Success, in Arabic, Amman, Arab Organization for Administrative Sciences, Administration of Research and Studies1988, p. 99.

سلامة، سهيل فهد، إدارة الوقت: منهج متطور للنجاح، المنظمة العربية للعلوم الإدارية، إدارة البحوث والدراسات، عمان، 1988م، ص 99.       

 

 

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