Clock life in the lay-by rather than the fast lane;Media watch;FE Focus

15th January 1999 at 00:00
IN RECENT years, few areas of public life have offered as much proof as further education that language is the handmaiden to circumstance. The buzzwords ("downsizing", "pro-active") and bogus assurances ("mission statements", "performance indicators") that have proliferated over the past decade signify a sector desperate to transform itself as much through words as deeds.

If the words sometimes mystify (no accident), the deeds have been only too plain. Post-incorporation policy has brought longer teaching hours, shorter holidays, bigger classes, less pay. No wonder there have been protests. No wonder, too, at the characteristic response: "Have you thought of looking at your time management?"

However pleasingly sceptical its review of the idea of time management, How to Beat the Clock (BBC2) still didn't quite show how cute a doctrine TM is for any management looking to convince underlings that only wimps can't handle extra work. We in FE know all about this. Trouble with three more teaching hours per week? C'mon. Read this booklet. Organise your life.

Plan! Action! Review! Those last three injunctions made up the mantra muttered by Paul Eeles, owner of a national vocational qualification training company and, following a short training course, a fervent advocate of time management.

The programme's two other guinea pigs were divided, with solicitor Sue Dearden wildly for and chief executive Michael Lyons firmly against. David Stafford, the presenter, had the casting vote: and the further away he could cast the whole ghastly business, the better.

Quite right, too. Stafford's brief history of time reviewed the ways in which time used profitably had come to be seen as time used properly. This took in the birth of the industrial day, the development of time and motion studies, the Japanese work ethic (key maxim: "To eat fast and shit fast is an art") and Hyrum Smith, the head of a company that earns 650 million dollars per annum flogging temporal truisms. Mr Smith looked very happy, as befits a man who has spent his time making a fortune by telling others what to do with theirs. Which was, essentially, to work better, faster, harder.

Stafford wondered why.

Workers in Silicon Valley, California - the "hurry-sickness" centre of the world - spend their lives earning money and pay others to do their living (shopping, bringing up the kids) for them. Time saved seldom goes on leisure, but makes space for more work. And planning how to save time sometimes takes more time than might have been expended in the first place.

All of which, one hopes, some people twig from the start.

Having preached the time management gospel round the office, Sue Dearden was asked for her subordinates' thoughts. "Some of them are reacting kindly," she laughed. No laughter, let alone comment, came from those she was trying to convert. It would be nice to think that they were more content with life in the lay-by than the fast lane. After all, you can see the flowers from there.

How to Beat the Clock, January 9, BBC2, 9pm-10pm

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