“When I run after what I think I want,
my days are a furnace of distress and anxiety;
If I sit in my own place of patience,
what I need flows to me, and without any pain.
From this, I understand that what I want also wants me,
is looking for me, and attracting me.
There is a great secret in this for anyone who can grasp it.”

– Rumi.

Rumi’s poem has a profound meaning. My favorite author of The Alchemist fame, Paulo Coelho, has a quote in that same book, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Our goals with a higher purpose have a magnetic power to attract them towards us effortlessly!

My sincerest gratitude goes to all friends who have written me words of appreciation for my earlier blogs. Many asked me to teach time management techniques. As Sadhguru aptly observed, “Guru” is one of the most abused four-letter words. I really don’t want to be a Guru. Let me share how I manage my time with my own life’s experiments.

Success is directly proportional to efficient time management. When we master our minutes, we enhance our productivity. Time management and success go hand in hand. I personally experienced this phenomenon when I wanted to learn about Endoscopic Skull Base Surgery (ESBS).

Around circa 2008, I was looking for new avenues. The ESBS was the new thing. Unfortunately, neither we had a neurosurgeon nor an ICU with an intensivist in my city. Nevertheless, learning ESBS became my new goal. As if by magic, I received an email about an ESBS cadaver dissection course in Nice, France. I immediately registered for it, where I had an opportunity to be guided by Prof. Ricardo Carrau, a great human being and a versatile surgeon. As if by coincidence, I met my Neuro Chief at a clinical meeting, who invited me to join his team. His corporate hospital offered me a Senior consultancy position, and soon I was in the group of some of the best Neurosurgeons. My CA told me that my new goalpost would be financially suicidal. I still took that bite. The experience I gained from working in a corporate hospital for nearly four years was worth more than I lost.

Later, I traveled to Bangalore twice a week for another four years to be part of the ESBS team. That was the peak time of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s dream project, the Diamond and Golden Quadrangle roads. Sometimes it used to take 5-6 hours to commute 200 km as construction was going on throughout the entire stretch of the project simultaneously. Many times it was frustrating to wait in the long traffic jams. However, I applied the E + R = O equation and changed my response. I appointed a good driver. I made my car a mobile library. As soon as I got into the car, I would put on my seat belt, stabilize my head with a neck pillow, and immerse myself in my iPad.

I read hundreds of books on diverse subjects. Besides Otorhinolaryngology, I read books on non-fiction, personal management, biographies, and engineering. I reviewed thousands of scientific articles. When it became too straining on my eyes, I would listen to audiobooks or soothing music. But I never complained. And I never gave up. I devoured knowledge of anything and everything that attracted my attention. To avoid delays, I always started 2 hours early. I was on time for surgeries during the entire four years, and there is not even a single instance of my delay. Now, when we were under lockdown for nearly six months due to Covid-19, this non-medical knowledge earned a livelihood for myself and my 32 staff members of the hospital and their families. We also contributed a substantial amount of GST to support our government when the GDP was nose-diving.

My morning wake-up time for a very long time has been 4 am, and the first 2-3 hours of the day are dedicated to non-negotiable objectives such as exercise, meditation, and personal growth. I don’t have to emphasize family time. Family time was a huge issue for me with my crazy traveling and operating schedule. One of my senior friends had a dedicated family day, and on that day, he would spend his entire day with his family. I couldn’t do even that! One of the ways I solved this issue was by making my family members part of my vision, mission, and values. Since then, it appears to me that I am always with them, and I am also working on my pet projects. When you have shared dreams, you create more synapses, synchrony, and synergy! Soon you will find your family life to be a symphony! In management lingo, this is the 4-S phenomenon!

For more than 20 years, I slept only 4-5 hours a day on the misconstrued premise that sleep quality is more important than quantity. And I have paid a heavy price for that. According to Tom Rath, the author of the popular book Eat, Love, Sleep, “Ninety minutes less sleep than you need equates to a one-third drop in cognition. Hence, for personal mastery, adequate sleep is a must.

The direct and indirect positive impacts of exercise and learning have been established by a study done at the University of British Columbia. The researchers found that regular exercise, irrespective of the type, enhances the hippocampus’s size, handling verbal memory and learning. Most Indian doctors known to me have a healthy exercise habit. I use my exercise time to listen to my favorite non-fiction audiobooks. Exercise and education go hand in hand. I have failed multiple times with my weight-reducing or waist-trimming goals. Hence, I have rephrased it to “Gain enough strength to operate for a long period of life!” And that has helped me!

I believe in the adage, “Eyes cannot see what the mind doesn’t know.” Vast theoretical knowledge is a must to master the nuances of any surgical field. I have a dedicated daily non-negotiable growth time that has helped me regularly update my knowledge and learn new things. The regular reading habit has also helped me acquire a speed reading capability, which helps us gather a large amount of knowledge quickly.

I believe in rituals. Rituals create a purpose. The purpose automatically enhances our performance. However, earlier I didn’t want to sound like an orthodox person. I used to call it a success ritual. It was my surefire formula to bust my stress, keep me healthy, learn anything new easily, master any surgery quickly, and get whatever I aspired to. This success ritual has eight components to address eight different aspects of our lives. As it contains eight elements to activate eight different aspects of our lives, I call it Octa-vation. But now, I have come to terms with the ancient tradition and accepted it as a form of fusion meditation! I firmly say meditation is a vaccine against failures in all aspects of your lives, hence I also call it succination! Now, there are more than 16,000 scientific research studies on the benefits of meditation. Meditation is more being spiritual than religious. And it should be part of your daily life, especially if you are in the healthcare industry.

Contribution: One of my Gurus says, “The more you give, the more you get.” He preaches, “If you give 100 rupees, you will get 1,000 in return.” I don’t know about this. But I believe that when you give genuinely, you become more trustworthy and attractive. People want to be associated with you, and that opens many doors. However, it is the quality and consistency that matter. If you make a small contribution for a long period, it makes a tremendous difference. For example, if you can spare 500 rupees a month and if 1 million people follow your example, we can make a corpus of 500 million rupees, which can support a lot of needy people. When we support those in need, we can elevate our inner happiness, and that is the best medication for our stress.

I have lived my life with one motto: Never Give Up. If you can dream, you can achieve it. You just need to plan for it, do the regular hustle, and you will get there. At least, this has been my experience. I don’t claim to be the master of time management, but I am a firm believer in its power. As Sadhguru says, “Time is not money. Time is life.” Let’s make the most of it!

Prof. Dr. Prahlada N.B
17 October 2020

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