Time is the most important resource; whoever does not know how to administer it, does not know how to manage anything.

(Peter Drucker)

One of the objectives which are pursued when talking about time management is to make people aware of the importance of its value as a vital, scarce, and non-renewable resource. Time is the size of the environment, it is a physical magnitude with which we measure the duration and separation of events. If nothing changed, we would have no need to measure minutes, hours, or years. In this condition, it is logical that another of the main objectives to pursue is to make it profitable and get the most each second, but it is also necessary to respect it.

All over the world, people are being subjected to greater time discipline. Companies are measuring office workers' keystrokes, implementing "just-in-time" methods, and monitoring every employees' movement. It happens in a cafeteria, in a warehouse, in a customer service center, with the tellers of a bank and in all kinds of businesses. This is just one reflection of a trend that has been intensifying for more than a century. Historian Takehiko Hashimoto refers to this issue, especially after the adoption of Frederick Winslow Taylor's postulates and his scientific management in Japan in the 1920s.

In the early twentieth century, Japanese factory workers, largely women, faced remarkably long and unproductive working hours. Something completely different from the image we have in our days. A 1903 report from Japan's Ministry of Agriculture and Trade found that factory owners justified long working hours by arguing that the Japanese were much less efficient than their European counterparts.

In that report, quoted by Takehiko, it reads that: “For certain workers, being late is fundamentally a kind of disease. Labor discipline in our country is so low that workers do not distinguish between working and rest time. We should not worry about a heavy burden being placed on Japanese workers, even if we prolong working hours." Of course, long working hours resulted in a drop on productivity, led to lax discipline, a lot of wasted time, unpunctuality and widespread fatigue. In subsequent years, public and private leaders sought to change what they saw as a problem with the Japanese approach to time management. It was clear that those forms were not working for them.

Writer Ikeda Toshiro had an ingenious idea that helped change the way Japanese companies worked. To make Taylor's administrative theory known, he reintroduced a fictional character, Tarō, who went from factory apprentice to efficiency expert. Tarō helped introduce concepts of management and efficiency. Hashimoto writes that a key moment in the promotion of punctuality in Japan was the establishment of "Time Day" in 1920. In the 1930s, an efficiency expert, Ueno Yoichi, wrote essays that attempted to reconcile the efficiency of management with Buddhist principles and ideals of human well-being. He argued that three hours of efficient labor per person each day should be enough to produce everything the nation needed. Thus time management was revolutionized in Japan, its productivity rose. While the Japanese have a reputation as tireless workers, the amount of time they work has decreased since the '90s. While in 1995 the country registered an average of one thousand 910 hours worked annually, for 2012, this figure was reduced to one thousand 765, today the record is one thousand 598.

The lesson of time management in Japan is to understand that like any resource, it has its limits. The temporal dimension works like a league: if you do not stretch it, it becomes loose and cannot take advantage of all its capabilities, but if it is stretched too much it can burst. In fact, the Japanese have a word for over work-related deaths, karoshi. Heart attacks, strokes or even suicides fit into this category. There are about one thousand 400 deaths per year in the land of the rising Sun.

One of the worst ways to manage time is with the accumulation of working hours and the complement of working days during the weekends. These forms translate into low productivity. Be careful, productivity counts the attitude of the worker, but also the quality of the organization in which he works, his efficiency and the type of team with which he works. The relevance of the value of time has to do directly with the way we manage it and respect the moments of hard work, concentration, recreation and rest. We must not transgress these borders if we are not to achieve adverse results.

It is increasingly frequent, to perceive the nervousness of the workers of the client services when time passes and they do not manage to solve the problem, they prefer to hang up than to continue attending. That happens because their efficiency measures are calculated around minutes of attention and not as a quality of care. Of course, the results are angry customers, unresolved problems, and a huge waste of resources.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the relevance of the value of time must be crucial for leaders, executives and entrepreneurs. You have to manage it wisely: understand that there is a time for everything: one to work and another to rest; one to produce and one to repair. We must do it for our collaborators and for ourselves. Leaving the garter too loose or too stretched does not bring good results. Without haggling, you must assign what is fair and you have to do it with respect.

Peter Drucker, the great philosopher of administrative theory, was always attracted by the competitive forms that Japan adopted after World War II, he went to live in Tokyo to learn from them. He was right to say that whoever does not know how to manage time, does not know how to manage anything.