Editorial: 2007 Eliminate time-wasting

2007 – Eliminate time-wasting and give more time for real priorities – NBC, 20th anniversary and politically decisive conferences

It is often said that it is not enough to be busy in the trade union movement or even in the corporate environment nowadays.

The big question is: what is it you are busy with? What to do about countless scheduled or impromptu meetings, political sessions, mass campaigns, workshops, relationship and capacity building consultations in the regions and nationally, has become another matter of daily debates in our structures.

Everyone in the labour movement has a view on why this and that meeting or the other campaign has to be taken up with urgency. Many of us are regarded as experts on labour activities.

And this results in time pressures and internal hurly-burly. It is because the organization must achieve its ultimate goals in the end. Ultimate goals inform our major organisational objectives ranked by their highest priority.

These include progress on the motor recruitment campaign, the white-collar workers recruitment drive, monitoring major bargaining, food prices, fuel price increases and the latest CPI-X and regional policy workshops, culminating in the National Bargaining Conference in April 2007.

Charles Schwab, the world’s greatest industrialist, with great ability and perspicacity, is known as a most efficient, fabulously rich steel worker who led and transformed the Bethlehem Steel plant into the largest independent global steel producer.

But, that did not immunise him from pressures and time-wasting interruptions. He once issued a challenge to a management consultant to show him the way to get more things done with his time and promised to “pay any fee within reason".

The consultant, without hesitation gave him a pad of blank paper and wrote on it: “Each night write down the things you have to do tomorrow, number them in the order of their importance.

Start working on priority item number one and continue until finished. Then start item number two, then three, and do not worry if you have not managed to finish them.”

The consultant was paid handsomely within seconds of dispensing this discreet advice. She was probably paid a million dollars or more.

Some extremely important considerations arise in relation to this big question, as we intensify our 2007 programme of confronting the class logic of capital through collective bargaining. We have to look at them carefully, if we are to realise the objectives we have set for the giant metalworkers’ union this year.

In the words of Antonio Gramsci, “The Allianza del Lavoro, which has today made it possible to assemble vast masses, must become able to organise these and give them a unitary discipline.

This demonstration succeeded as an intervention by the masses and an extension of the working class solidarity as it has been set up to allow communists to press for it to become tighter and tighter organisationally, until it achieves the proletarian trade union unity which we have always invoked and which the programme of the communist party alone can and must fill with revolutionary content.”

'' We need to review each day, identifying the successes, analyzing the reasons for the failures and avoiding making excuses for ourselves to ourselves.''

Successful leaders have used this time metaphor more frequently than anything else, as an aid to effective time management. If postponed until the morning, list preparation is often done in a hurried or perfunctory way, as other activities begin to press on your time.

The urgent item tends to dominate completely, eclipsing the important items that should be in first, second or third place. Although we are satisfied that our regional policy workshops (RPWs) are effective, we need to constantly guard against conducting them just as a matter of routine.

If we find our planning is not working very well in this regard we need to ask ourselves this question:

“Are we achieving our highest priority, or is this what we are failing to do on a daily basis?" Other questions include:

Are we trying to accomplish too much in a day? Did some tasks not get done because we were not ready to do them? Were the items clearly formulated, or was it difficult to make a decision? Did we have all the available information on time, or did we neglect to plan sufficiently for the day because we were feeling under pressure?

A review of these kinds of questions can help establish whether our time budget was realistic in the first place. If it was realistic, then the problem lies with execution of the plans.

These are some of the things that we must consider. Interruptions are the most common problem among all shop stewards and local and regional organisers’ activities, and other senior officials of the union. They are like contrary winds pushing us off course.

To counter most of these we have to be a little bit selfish, and at times use the most timesaving word in English: “No”. But use it promptly if possible, to avoid raising false hopes which are only to be dashed later. Our own time is the material which we have to work with.

The world turns on its axis before we begin to budget our time and will continue to roll on regardless of what we do with our day. That is why it should never become an obsession in itself. It should always be our ideal; if our values are right it will never be an obsession anyway.

From now on we need to review each day, identify the successes, analyse the reasons for the failures and avoid making excuses for ourselves to ourselves. We must learn to say “no” before we become merely servants to the priorities of others.

Taking lessons from the world’s fabulously wealthy former steel worker, one major point is time is money. One could say the same about energy, although there is an important difference. Nature is capricious.

Everyone is born potentially with the same amount of time, but energy comes in variable quantities. You have a quota of it. Use it wisely and it can last all of us a lifetime.

Viva Numsa, aluta continua!Silumko Nondwangu