This happened in the year 1991.  The time was around 8 pm.  The place, the Pettah Main Bus Terminal.  Two young men, both 26 years of age, wanted to go to Kurunegala.  They had with them a parcel of newspapers.  It was a political newspaper that carried their ideas about the state of the nation and the world, what was wrong and what should be done to make things right.  They were planning to sell the newspaper in Kurunegala the following day.  They had a problem. There were no buses.

Now there are two main bus routes to Kurunegala, No 5 and No 6.  The No 6 route was what was usually taken by those who were going straight to Kurunegala since the No 5 route was a bit longer.  They waited for a long time and finally decided to take a No 5 bus.

They were confronted by a different problem. There was a bus but it was a small one, a mini-coach of sorts.  They didn’t mind standing all the way in what would be a three-hour journey, but their problem was that they were both of above average height.  Even the shorter of the two had to bend his head.  Strangely, the taller one didn’t seem to mind.  He had with him one of the mainstream newspapers.  He simply held it against the roof of the bus, tossed back his head and read all the way to Kurunegala.

It was very late when they reached their destination.  As they chatted before turning in for the night, the taller man told his friend, ‘twenty four hours is more than enough time to do whatever you have to do’.

It is all about using your time well.  We often hear people say ‘I wish I had more time!’  We hear them say ‘I am so busy, I don’t have time to breathe!”  The truth is, we all say things like that all the time.  And it is not that we are all lying.  We truly feel that we are always doing something that has to be done and cannot be postponed.  But if we think carefully, we might find that we have got some priorities wrong or that we have actually wasted a few hours doing nothing.

Here’s an exercise.  It will take 10 minutes.  Now don’t say you can’t spare 10 minutes ok?

Take a pen and a paper.  Now think about all that you did yesterday, from the time you got up until the time you went to bed and write it all down.  Make sure you don’t block of several hours under categories such as ‘school’.  Don’t write ‘was in school from 7.30 to 1.30’.  The point is to write down the details.

There’s a lot happening in school and you know this.  There are times you listen to the teacher and times when you pass notes to your friends.  There are times in after-school activities, for example drama practices, when you have lots of time to yourself.  You can’t write down ‘drama practices from 2.00 to 5.00’.  Get the details down.

All the better if you pick a holiday of course because then you can’t fudge with those large time blocks such as ‘school’ and ‘choir practices’.

But try it.  You are likely to find that you’ve blown off several hours doing stuff you really didn’t have to do, time which could have been spent doing something more useful to yourself and your family or even something far more enjoyable (and I am sure you can think of ‘fun stuff’!).

The tall young man is correct.  He is well read and knows a lot about a lot of things.  That’s not because he’s super smart, but he’s very practical.  He not only does a lot of work but has loads of time to do things he really enjoys, like watching movies, reading novels and traveling around the country taking photographs.  He also writes books on all kinds of subjects.

I know what you are thinking now:  ‘this might be an interesting thing to do’.  But you might postpone doing it (until after you read the rest of the newspaper, perhaps).  Don’t.  Get that pencil and paper out.  It might turn out to be a fun exercise.