Trucks at Work

Time consciousness

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake . . . by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.” -Henry David Thoreau, from “Walden: Where I Lived, and What I Lived For.”

If there‘s one four-letter word that rules the trucking industry with a hammer, most would think it would be “fuel.” I mean, with diesel prices up over $4.21 per gallon across much of the country, trucking companies are on track to spend $135 billion on fuel this year, up from $113 billion in 2007.

Yet fuel costs can be managed to a degree, if carriers spec their equipment to get the best fuel economy and their drivers operate in the most fuel-efficient manner. And don‘t forget fuel surcharges - the industry collected $65 billion worth of fuel surcharges last year, which knocked its out-of-pocket fuel bill down to $48 billion - significantly less than the $53 billion this industry paid for fuel back in 2003, when diesel cost half as much as it did today.

No, the four-letter word that really dominates this industry is “time.” Because that‘s what shippers of all shapes and sizes are focused on: how long does it take to get my goods from here to there. Some may be willing to wait longer than others, but not too many. That‘s the reason “just-in-time” and its ubiquitous acronym JIT permeate this industry top to bottom.

Yet “time” doesn‘t just relate to freight pickup and delivery - it‘s also a key component in the back office functions (witness the rapid rise of real-time electronic billing and the use of telematics to enhance this capability for truckers) and in the individual manager‘s workday. One reason so many paper-driven processes in trucking are going electronic is to free up the manager‘s work schedule so he or she can have more time on more pressing issues.

Professor Jerry Osteryoung of the college of business at Florida State University has some thoughts on this subject, based on his long experience working with entrepreneurs from across the business spectrum, so I am going to let him share those with you today. Professor Osteryoung, the floor is yours:

“The most limited resource all of us have is time. Time is something that is so precious in our lives, yet we just do not appreciate it enough. In my case, what surprises me the most is how fast I have come to be 66. I feel as if I have missed so much in my life - both in terms of business and personal - just because of poor time management.

I could go on and on about various techniques for improving time management, such as dealing with interruptions, setting priorities, etc; however, I think time management is a much deeper subject. After having given a myriad of seminars on the topic, I have learned that people can improve their time management techniques for a short period of time, but very rarely have I seen long-term changes.

If you are going to change how you manage your time, it will take much more than just trying a new technique. Rather, you are going to need to take a conscious approach to time management.

All of us use habits to cope with life. In this complex world, we form them to allow us to deal with the many things that need our attention. Some of these habits are good (exercising), but others are not (overeating). Having habits is not a bad thing, but not being aware of when you are operating in habitual mode is not good.

Unless we are consciously aware of our time management, we tend to go after the urgent items rather than the most important. Which would you look at first: a new email or some old-fashioned snail mail? Most folks would look at the new email even though the regularly mailed letter might be much more important. I think this is because we are just not conscious of how we are responding to both important and urgent items.

While it is glib to say that we should pay more attention to the important items rather than the urgent, it is really not as simple as it sounds. We are frequently totally unaware of our decisions and behaviors. Our habits drive us towards those urgent items every time.

So many spiritual leaders, such as Buddha and Gandhi, have talked about the importance of consciousness in our lives and how to go about achieving it. However, very little has been written about conscious decision-making in business. I believe that consciousness applied to time management is the secret to making real changes in how we manage our time and our lives.

In 1973, Alan Lakein wrote a book detailing a process he invented for bringing consciousness into our time management. This process consists of two main elements that you repeat many times (at least 10 times) throughout the day. First, take a deep breath, and second, ask yourself, ‘Is this what I want or need to be doing right now?‘ This process takes you out of the habitual mode and gives you a much more holistic approach to time management. I have been using this process for a while, and I can personally attest to how effectively it works to make sure that I am focusing less and less on the urgent items in my life.

So take a breath, then ask yourself, ‘Is this what I want or need to be doing right now?‘ Your life and so many others are going to be improved by using this simple technique to bring consciousness into your time management.”

As always, Professor Osteryoung can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 850-644-3372.