Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Time Won't Give Me Time

Let's talk about busy, shall we. Or rather, don't talk to me about busy, with the stress on the "me". I know all about busy. A one-time sort of mentor, himself a one-time youngest professor of marketing in Britain and an astute businessman and management theorist and practitioner, had a maxim: "busy people make time". Resistance was useless in front of his maxim. But I had already been schooled in the art of busy. Want busy? Try a dozen or so titles all with the same monthly deadlines. That's busy. And so it is here.

When people tell me they're busy, I often think of this maxim. "Make time". I've spoken before about Spanish time. It is not so much the mañana syndrome. That's too easy and clichéd an explanation, though it is not without truth. It is the non-specific nature of Spanish time, one that creates a "midday" that can have a meaning of anything up to a variance of a couple of hours or more. This is the real nature of Spanish time. And because there is so high a degree of flexibility about Spanish time, it is imprecise and far removed from the Anglo-Saxon rigidity of time. A couple of weeks back, I had an appointment at 9 in the evening. I arrived bang on 9. The Mallorcan chap I was seeing said, with a degree of surprise: "muy puntual". I replied: "soy inglés".

I don't for one moment doubt that people are busy or indeed very busy. But busy people have to make time. And here busy people do not make time. They lose time. And they lose it because time is fluid. And everyone seems to get afflicted. Brits, Germans; they eventually go native. There is another factor. The social nature of busy. This dawned on me today. I was at the design and print place in Alcúdia. Copy Art I think it's called. Jordi. A lot of people know Jordi. I was in the back office with him as he was attempting to retrieve some photos for me. Someone came in and he was called to the front office. Ten minutes or so went by. I could hear clearly how this busy was going. It was basically a what we did on our holidays conversation. I mention this as what hit me was that, in small towns like Alcúdia, everyone knows each other. So even business transactions are social events. Combine this with the time mentality, and you begin to appreciate just why nothing gets done, or rather it does get done - eventually. This is just one little anecdote. But you can see busy happening all over the place. A thirty-minute coffee with a couple of mates. This qualifies as busy.

What really makes me believe that people lose time and do not make time here is the fairly simple process of phoning or sending an email. I have a kind of rule of thumb that when someone says they will phone or send an email, there is a 25% chance of it actually happening. Of course, there is always forget. And I wouldn't claim to never forget myself, but forget is a symptom of busy and a failure to make time, a very short spell of time, short enough perhaps to write down what you then hopefully do not forget. When someone is busy and I say; "so you'll phone me". The response is often a hand wave and gesture that says "of course" allied to a "si, si" in a tone of voice that conveys the same meaning. And I walk away and file that reply under the 75%.

Hesse wrote "Madonna". And while on authors who have inspired group names, as we were, William Burroughs lent which 70s rock-bit-jazzy American group its name. And Haircut 100 was "Love Plus One". Where does today's title come from?


No comments: