Hurricanes and Time Management in Jamaica

gustav.jpgI am sitting here in Kingston where Tropical Storm Gustav has wreaked havoc on our island, disrupting life as we know it with a day and a half of torrential rainfall.

What’s remarkable is that  when we went to bed on Wednesday night, the storm seemed to be heading away from the island, crossing the eastern section of Haiti on its way to Cuba.  The projections had it merely brushing the north coast of Jamaica with its outer bands giving us some rainfall, but not much… so they said.

When we woke up on Thursday morning the map showed that Gustav had made a U-turn, and come back South, before heading WestNorthWest once again, putting Jamaica squarely in its tracks.  Overnight, the prediction had changed from 4 inches of rain to 30 inches.

Thursday morning was a bright and sunny day,  and we experienced the proverbial calm before the storm.  Now it’s Friday night, and Gustav has left the island, but not before killing, harming, robbing, scaring, wetting, destroying and flooding.

It’s not how I thought  the last two days would go.  It’s not what I had planned in my calendar.  During the storm, lights came and went, as did television service and internet access.  Businesses closed early, and the island came to a halt.

I have remarked in this blog that my return to live in Jamaica led me to decide that the time management methods I had learned from living for 20 years in New York, New Jersey and Florida simply didn’t work when I came back.  The hectic nature of life here, and the exposure to powerful elements — sun, wind and rain –introduce a kind of chaos and unpredictability that  my system (and my head) could not handle.

I remember  leading a time management course many years ago in which it was important to have the discipline to follow one’s schedule for the day, regardless of the circumstances. Now, I laugh, epecially at times like this.  Life here in the Caribbean just doesn’t work like that.

Instead, I have learned to make schedules that are more a matter of an intention, and an indication of what I would like to get done each day.   It’s a way to give myself peace of mind, knowing that I have put down on paper a working model of the day that may or may not be executed according to plan.

Obviously, the schedules I had set for Thursday and Friday became moot… a bit of a joke really, as the 85 mph winds brought water leaking from the roof the windows and the sliding doors into the hallway and bathrooms.

The gift in all this chaos is this blog, and the 2Time Mgt system.   Twop years ago when I realized that the methods I was using were simply too rigid, I went looking for new ones, but quickly noticed that there was almost no assistance I could find in building “a time management system for the tropics.”

Instead, all I found were books and seminars with the same message:  “Here is what I do… follow me!”  I noticed that none of the creators came from these parts… and wrote their systems with an implict assumption that their readers led lives that were much like theirs.

But the more I looked, the more I realized that there was no help for anyone who wanted to create a customtime management system that would fit the unique circumstances at home or on the job that we all face.  It was time consuming and risky to do what we were all doing — cherry-picking from different approaches to create something that would work better than the “follow me” systems.  What we ALL need is a way to guide us in creating and managing the systems that we end up creating.  Something like a “How to Manual” for designing time management systems.

After all, I reasoned, the guys who put together hot rods have manuals to make sure that their creations don’t fall apart at 60mph… working professionals need the very same kind of assistance.

I stumbled around and re-discovered some old engineering techniques I had  learned in college and “discovered” 2Time — a way for me to create a time management system for myself here in Jamaica that covered all the basic components — the fundamentals.

I reasoned that a good all-around gymnast must be good at the fundamentals on each apparatus in order to win a medal.  Those professionals who are better at time management might also be more skilled at the fundamentals than those who aren’t.  It isn’t that they are using the right “follow me” system, although that might help.  Instead, by luck, or by hook or by crook, they end up practicing the fundamentals until they became habits.

Good habits yield skillful time management, whether the user is in Ithaca or Kingston, and whether or not there are snow-storms or tropical storms that are disrupting the day’s best laid plans.

Time Management and Jamaica’s Olympic Success

Here in Jamaica, as you can imagine, we are glued to our television sets watching our countrymen win an unprecedented number of medals.

We are a famously proud people, and right about now we are ready to burst with pride!

Traffic halts, television sets appear in offices and phones buzz across the world as productivity in Jamaica drops a notch or two (or ten) — first things first, after all.

As a recreational runner in Jamaica, and as a triathlete I am reminded of a lesson I learned when  I completed an  Iron-distance triathlon a few years ago (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile run.)

Looking back at the  months that it took to lose 20 pounds, work on several disciplines at once and research the demands of the race and its effects on the body, I think that the most critical factor that separates those who are successful from those who are not  is simply one thing.

Time management.

Or to put it more accurately, habit management that results in good time management.

Becoming an ironman has more to do with the months that precede the event than anything else, and there are only a handful of athletes who can devote unlimited time to the pursuit.  Most people who attempt the race have a spouse, children, jobs, friends and other real obligations that must be maintained while the madness of completing a race of this distance is entertained.

Somehow, 15-20 hours per week of training need to be carved out, at minimum,  in order to be able to finish the race.  That’s no small feat — you might be thinking that it would be “impossible” to find that kind of time in your own life, so no ironman for you.

Someone training for the race must create a 10-12 week schedule that describes which training is done on each day.   A tremendous amount of organizing must take take place in order to practice the three sports (plus do the necessary weight-lifting) in addition to changing one’s diet, which is often necessary.  The training typically follows a 3+1 rhythm, based on 3 hard weeks followed by 1 easy week, which is necessary for the body to recover from the stress it’s being put under.

A bicycle must be maintained and transported, at times.  A pool must be visited during the right hours.  The stores that sell the nutritional aids need to be open at the right time.

Many find that their sleep patterns must change in order to accommodate  an early morning workout.  I used an alarm on my watch to remind me each night that it was time to get to bed (this helped me become a firm believer in the fundamental component – “Interrupting” – described elsewhere in this blog.)

In short, an entirely new set of habits must be adapted in order to become better at time management.  Also, a new set of habits must be learned in order to accomplish improved weight management, work management, money management, race management, etc.

The irony is that almost no time is spent in any of the training books I have read on the topic of time management.  Yet, it’s exactly what stops most people from even attempting this particular goal that happens to demand so many new time demands.

My recommendation for users who are interested in improving their skills in time management is to create the need to practice better skills in a way that doesn’t threaten their jobs or their marriages.  The trick is an easy one — pick something like a marathon or triathlon that would ordinarily be impossible using the old skills, and learn the new skills while undertaking the new challenge.

Whether the goal is accomplished or not, it’s possible to produce an improvement in time management skills, in addition to those of swimming, cycling and running.

To become top-class in their sport, our Jamaican Olympians had to learn these skills, particularly as  I heard that the most successful coach in Jamaica (an ex-accountant with an MBA who is a school-mate of mine) insists that all team-members must be on time – no matter what.  In the Jamaican culture, that runs very much against the norm and I imagine that there have been thousands of young athletes over the years that failed to make to grade.

They simply failed to develop the time management skills necessary to accomplish the bigger goals of winning a medal in the Olympics, or completing an ironman triathlon.