Aaron's bumpy session with a time-management expert creates freakish twists & tensions.
Spencer – late 50s, time management consultant.
Aaron – mid 30s, a self-employed businessman with time-management issues.
Linda – a wealthy businesswoman in her early 50s, Aaron’s trusted and respected friend.
Morning. In Spencer’s consultation room. Refreshing green walls. Aaron is seated opposite Spencer, a table between them. He is listening to the consultant with rapt attention. Bright white light illuminates the room; however, it is slowly and subtly growing dimmer. Otherwise, the room’s ambience is conducive to intimate conversation. On the window facing Aaron is a white curtain, half-drawn. Two bouquets of exuberant yellow ixora flowers are on stands by the door to a room located to the left of the consultant.
SPENCER: You said friends… relatives… authors have not been able to help out?
AARON: Yes, all of them. They are always repeating the same thing; all they do is just criticise me about poor self control. No sympathy, no understanding.
SPENCER: That’s absolutely okay, there’s nothing terribly extraordinary about that. I have seen lots of such cases.
AARON: I’m happy about that, Doctor. Thank you.
SPENCER: You are welcome. Now, tell me, Aaron, what time do you normally get up?
AARON: It depends. Between 6 and 10.30 a.m. It depends on how my previous days goes. Sometimes I have orders to fulfil late into the night.
SPENCER: Fine. You said you usually drew up daily schedules which you hardly kept to?
AARON: Yes, time passes too fast as if saying, “You have too many plans, you are too ambitious, all of this within 24 hours?
Reduce your agenda by one-tenth.” I wonder why Nature hasn’t made it possible to expand time. There should be more than 24 hours in one day.
SPENCER: We all think so at one time or another, but it’s all up to us to make as many hours of those fixed 24 hours.
AARON: That’s what they all say.
AARON: People I ask for help.
SPENCER: That’s okay. What I’ve experienced is that with the right skill, 24 hours can become 36 or more... When do you draw up your daily schedules?
AARON: When my strength starts to reduce during my works, as a means of energising myself. I use it to tell myself that there is something to hope for tomorrow.
SPENCER: Good. It appears you sometimes include in your daily agendas things you merely fancy, including what might not be absolutely essential to your current work or things not all that necessary for achieving a healthy balance between work and play?
AARON: Maybe. But I think most of them are all important things, they make me happy.
SPENCER [Smilingly]: Not all that makes us happy is essential to our life goals [Aaron shifts a bit uncomfortably on his seat] But I see what you mean. However, it’s best to draw up daily agendas last thing in the day, or first thing in the morning. That way, you’ll be more clear-headed. It’s good, too, to prioritise items on your agenda according to short and long-term goals.
AARON: Yes, I know all that.
SPENCER: Good. Can you start doing all that tonight or tomorrow?
AARON: I think I need some time…
SPENCER: Some time?
AARON: Time to adjust. I know, I’ve read, I’ve heard all this priority stuff before, many times, but they never helped. Telling me to cut off to remove many important things and even to cut off my small plans for enjoying life.
SPENCER: I see. But you needn’t cut off so much enjoyment. Just moderate it, especially during working days.
AARON: Every day is my work day, Sunday to Monday.
SPENCER: That is absolutely fine, Aaron. We can still create an effective time-management plan around that. I can assist with prioritising items on your agenda if you need a hand there.
AARON: I’ve always wanted--- is there no formula that can enable one to think faster, something I can use everyday in my work, so that I will be able do everything on my schedules? I have tried to remove as many items as possible, what is left is usually very important. Work and play items. To still think about prioritising. Won’t that be – now I will be spending so much time to think about the first things, the second things, the third things, when 24 hours is not even enough.
SPENCER: It’s a habit you’ll get used to – a very essential one at that. Of course, accelerated thinking would be part of a good plan for enhancing efficiency, but effective time management should come first as it would lay the foundation for improved efficiency. As I’ve seen time and again, 1 minute in planning and prioritising often saves you about 10 minutes in execution. So, if you spent an entire day planning, you’d save about 10 days.
AARON: Ratio one to ten. Again.
AARON: All that one upon ten stuff, I’ve heard it many times!
SPENCER [Rather firmly]: Is it not high time to start using it? Have you tried?
AARON: I can try. Sorry, but you are…I don’t know how to say it, you are understanding, but you are starting to sound…
SPENCER [ Dispassionately]: I’m starting to sound?
AARON: You are sounding like some of those very strict people, they always blame me for – they say I lack skill or lack will. They may be right, but they demand that I change my nature overnight, they almost suggest that I am hopeless, that I have no will to change my nature, as if I will always suffer from this problem for ever. Always blaming me. I may be lacking one or two important things, but can’t truth be told with some sympathy? Why ALWAYS take negative route?
SPENCER: But I haven’t blamed you for anything.
AARON: I know, but you sound like them. They are unsympathetic, they don’t know how it feels to be struggling with this issue for a long time. My future is seriously in danger if I don’t resolve this matter.[Mimicking the scolds of two females and then one male ] “ Aaron, the world does not revolve around you!”; Aaron, at your age, wanting to eat your cake and still have it!”; “A-A-RON! Still RUNNING for the hills just to get the RUNS for fear of properly running your life? "I’m not running away from anything. I know I might lack one or two important things, but…
SPENCER: You came here to listen to me, didn’t you?
AARON: Yes. A trusted friend told me to book an appointment with you. She said you helped her with a similar issue not so long ago. Linda. Haven’t you met Linda?
SPENCER: Not sure, I’ve helped many women. Maybe she didn’t identify herself to me as Linda. Anyway, I take it that you are here because you appreciated you might be lacking in will or skill.
AARON: Will or Skill! May be one of them, but can you please use other words? “ Will or skill”…those two words together are pinching, their sound affects my skin like a needle, they remind me of those painful friends and authors. It’s like, like “ill” or “kill”. Those people, they make me ill; they appear to say to me that I should either listen to them and get ill or go ahead and kill the evil critic in their bad heads… I might lack the, the capacity of time management.--
SPENCER: Maybe you lack the will, too.
AARON gives him a peevish look. Spencer’s landline rings and he answers the call instantly.
AARON: Is that Linda? I told her I will be here today.
Aaron rises and looks admiringly around. Appearing to need a change of scene, he goes out of the room, and re-enters after a few moments. He notices the white light has dimmed a little; his face falls, but it brightens up when he glimpses the ixora flowers. He draws nearer and stands before them for a while, a distant, childlike smile etching on his face. Then, he goes to the window, and, looking through the curtain opening, notices the weather has turned gloomy. His face falls. Meanwhile, Spencer is holding his telephone conversation unhurriedly.
SPENCER:… That’s alright, Matt. Do keep it up: carefully weigh up every expert advice beforehand!…Yes, evaluating and winnowing... Your case is definitely not past redemption!...Thank you… Bye!
Aaron returns to his seat.
AARON[ Troubled]: The weather is dull.
SPENCER: We can draw the curtains .
AARON: That won’t change the fact.
SPENCER: What fact?
AARON: Today is not my day. I should have checked the weather forecast before I booked this appointment.
SPENCER: Oh no! Do avoid such superstitions! They will kill your drive, and set you up for failure.
AARON: I spoke from life experience.
SPENCER: Life is what you make of it. I was born on a gloomy day, but my life hasn’t been gloomy.
AARON [Still looking disturbed] You were saying that I lack will?
SPENCER: Not really.
AARON: Before you started your phone conversation?
SPENCER: I said you might lack it.
AARON: I don’t lack will. After all, I came here because I had will despite all the negative judgments I get from people.
SPENCER: The will for self-management, I mean. Self-management is time management. More on that later.---
AARON [ Defensively]: You think I lack the ability for self-management?--
SPENCER : Sorry, Aaron, but if you want this consultation to work, you will need to pay attention to what I say and exercise some self-restraint. You really should be prepared for all sorts of brutal truths even if you have heard them ten times before.
AARON: I can accept truth. But can you say brutal truth with some sympathy? I’m beginning to feel as if I am speaking with one of those harsh advisers. It’s as if someone is knocking and banging my head – again!
SPENCER: Excuse me?
AARON: Sorry, I’m not asking for soft treatment, I just want something to make me feel far from all those pains I get from people who are always criticising me.
SPENCER: I have no problem with sympathetic understanding.
SPENCER: Alright, but as I said, self-control and lion-heartedness are vital at this point.
SPENCER: Courage and bravery.
AARON: Ok. I can do courage and bravery.
SPENCER: Fine. You said you got up between 6 and 10:30 a.m, and hardly ever kept to your daily agenda?
SPENCER: You live alone, you are single—what’s your social life like?
AARON: Not so bad, I’ve friends and relatives who I meet at home or they meet me at home. We spend time together in my home or in their home, and I think we have nice relationship.
SPENCER: Inside your homes. Do you make plans in your schedules for socialising outside homes?
AARON: Not really, I socialise outside of homes when I’ve the opportunity – but wait, before you conclude, before you conclude—
SPENCER: Conclude what?
AARON: That my time issue is because I under-socialise—
SPENCER: How would you know what I would conclude? Suppose I said you over-socialised?
AARON: Then, you’d be sounding again like many of those authors, friends and relatives.
SPENCER: I have told you to leave those people out of it.
AARON: But I came here because I thought you are different. Linda told me you are different.
SPENCER: Look, you must set them aside, including all they have ever criticised you for, okay?
AARON: It’s not that easy.
SPENCER: I didn’t say it was.
AARON: But you sound as if it was.
SPENCER [Pointedly]: Aaron, you may have to go and come back. I think you need some time off.
AARON: Just to set the friends and relatives aside?
SPENCER: Much more.
AARON: Doctor, I’m sorry if I sound rude, I’m just, I--
SPENCER: See, I understand you are under huge pressure, but you could manage to control yourself .
AARON [Conciliatorily]: I am sorry.
A moment’s silence.
SPENCER: Alright. Now, I won’t insist that you go and come back, but I will ask you to take a short break. There is a private room [He points to the room to the left.] If you will go in and be by yourself for about 10 minutes. Take a few deep breaths and try clearing your mind of all preconceptions, everything you’ve ever heard about time management.
AARON: In just ten minutes?
SPENCER: How much time do you need?
AARON: But you should tell me how much time.
SPENCER: I’m not a mind reader for crying out loud!
AARON: For crying out loud?
AARON: Have you really been crying out loud, Doctor?
SPENCER: Yes, inwardly. You do not see your attitude would really make one shout out loud?
AARON: Sorry, I’m only very tense...
SPENCER: Anyway, one says “for crying out loud” just for emphasis.
AARON:: Okay. But sorry, Doctor, your instructions are sounding very familiar to me, but I really need something very different from what I’ve heard all these three years. I’ve become overly sensitive to them. I need to be able to get control of my life and my time, I achieve so little in one day. My sales are being badly affected, and my debts are rising. If I do not solve this matter, I will very soon become bankrupt; it is very urgent that I can be able to think faster. I just need a formula to enable me to think faster.
SPENCER: You’ve been criticised for three years?
AARON: Yes, nobody understands, including respected authors, qualified psychologists, I’ve read all their books.
SPENCER: Have any of the authors or psychologists told you that you should endeavour to get up at about the same time everyday?
AARON: Yes, but they don’t understand the demands of my work. What has that got to do with enabling me to manage my time better?
SPENCER: Everything. That’s where to begin getting hold of your life. That might not always be possible, but it should be your general rule.
AARON: Even with all the pressure of my sadness and my work?—
AARON: How on earth.—
SPENCER: Have any of the authors or friends or relatives told you that you under-socialise and are practically out of touch with the realities of the modern society?
AARON: I don’t understand.—
SPENCER: Have any of them told you that you are too opinionated to listen and to learn?
SPENCER: Have they told you that your matter is past redemption if you remain this unthinking and self-absorbed?
AARON: No, no, no! Now you’ve really, really become like those terrible people—you are sounding like Brutal Truth written by Dr.Littlewood! Why ALWAYS take negative route? I read and burnt his book on time management!
SPENCER: You did what?
AARON: I burnt the book – it is titled Time Management Secrets: Brutal Truth —I read it and burnt it!
SPENCER: Fine, I am Dr.Littlewood, I ask you to get out of my office this minute!
Startled, Aaron remains seated, and stares at Spencer in utter disbelief.
AARON: Littlewood or Spencer? I booked an appointment with Dr. Spencer…
SPENCER: Very well, I am Spencer and Littlewood. Littlewood is my penname. Will you get out --!
An urgent knock on the door is accompanied by a familiar female voice. Spencer had to answer the door.
FEMALE VOICE : Dr. Spencer!
SPENCER: Mrs. Nightingale?
He opens the door and admits her.
LINDA: What’s going on, Doctor?
SPENCER : Mrs. Nightingale, you are Linda?
LINDA: Yes, Linda Nightingale. You ordered him to leave?
SPENCER: Absolutely! Not my type of client. Totally unreceptive!
AARON: Linda, he wrote Brutal Truth!
LINDA: Brutal truth?
AARON: The book I told you I burnt.
LINDA: Really? So it was Dr. Spencer’s Brutal Truth that you set on fire, Aaron!
AARON: Too strict, Linda! It was not possible for me with cope with that book. The words and the stories in the book, they were biting my face like, like, like bold and terrible house rats that are so angry and go ahead to bite the feet and noses of human beings in their house at night when the people are deeply sleeping, after the human beings have hidden their foodstuff from the rats. The words were too strong and harsh; it was like a mad bailiff with red eyes, as if a very bad and brutal giant opened my bathroom when I was showering, seeing me naked, and still going ahead to pull and twist my ears so forcefully as if I was really a too stubborn brat that does want to change! The book was looking inside me and criticising me for all my secret thoughts and feelings, all my secret actions, as if the giant has been watching all I was thinking and doing for years. Asking me to become PERFECT immediately, pulling my ears, and knocking and banging my head because I did not become perfect immediately!
SPENCER: Flaming freak! The one and only chimerical comment I‘ve ever received about the book! I’ve received hundreds of critical acclaims including loads of testimonials --with just 2 or 3 exceptions. But none this phantasmagorical! I will show you the reviews when this is over. Mrs. Nightingale. I am tolerating his presence only out of regard for you. You were one of my most self-respecting clients. And my most influential ex-client. I have just realised I got many more referrals through you than I thought.
LINDA: Thank you, Dr. Spencer. I most appreciate that. Please, may I just intercede on his behalf? Aaron is not a bad person; he is just full of tensions, frustrations, impatient expectations. Please, is it at all possible that you give him just one more chance, just one more?
SPENCER: That would be an impossibly uphill one, Mrs. Nightingale. For there to be any prospects at all , he would definitely have to go and come back, purge himself and re-orient himself. He has preconceptions about time he is unwilling to give up. And his expectations seem unbending. All he came here to do is demand that I tell him how to think faster. Not how to manage his time. As he stands, I could not possibly get through to him, do I all could.
LINDA: I would put in all I possibly could Doctor, all, physically and emotionally, to try to make it a success this time.
SPENCER: I don’t know… Maybe… Maybe one could look into devising a stop-gap limbo or something…
LINDA : Aaron, you really were complaining and arguing again, weren’t you?...
AARON: No. I just asked for some sympathy—
LINDA: But I told you not to ask Dr. Spencer for “some sympathy”? I referred you here because he was my last hope for you. He has helped out people with worse time-management issues than yours, when all else failed. Now, Aaron, if you are going to get the loan from me, you must sit through all Spencer’s 7 sessions --
AARON: Linda, you will give me a loan?
LINDA: Didn’t you ask me for a loan?
AARON: Not by so many words. I wanted to ask, so you guessed I…
LINDA: Yes, £5,000.
LINDA: After you told me your fantasy of how you would disburse £15,000 on your business if someone lent you that much.
AARON: So, you really are going to lend me the £5,000?
LINDA: Listen, you may have had bad credit score that is only slowly improving over years; you may have been rejected by too many lenders, but I see your financial IQ has improved a lot. Your business proposal is sound. And your fantasy, your plans for disbursement look very good to me. But you need to learn to manage your time well. That is why I referred you here. Dr. Spencer is the only one I trust to help you out.
AARON: Linda, so, you will lend me---
LINDA: Of course, I will. £15,000---
LINDA: Yes. Wasn’t it £15,000 you were fantasising about?
AARON: You are, you are RI-DI-CU-LOUS! Are you AB-SO-LU-T-LY kidding with me?
LINDA: Just become a better time manager through Dr. Spencer; otherwise, you will not be able to realise your fantasy. Listen to him. Reflect. Reflect on what he tells you, and obey him! No complaints, no arguments!
AARON : ABSOLUTELY completely! I will sit through all the seven, all seventy-seven sessions! [Compressing his lips with his thumb and index finger for some moments, then speaking] I will listen, OBEY and reflect!
LINDA: No. Listen, reflect and obey. Dr. Spencer does not like unthinking obedience. Ask questions, but only after calm reflection.
The illumination in the room has become noticeably dim. SPENCER rises and switches on a better bulb, endowing the room with a steady illumination of cheerful white light. He switches off the defective one, and draws the curtains to shut out the gloominess from outside.
AARON [Regarding Spencer with respectful penitence]: Sir…I will listen, reflect and OBEY!
SPENCER: Well, not you and me again, I’m afraid. Mrs. Nightingale, I would again tolerate him only if you would be present with him during at least 5 of the sessions.
LINDA: That would be my absolute pleasure, Doctor!
SPENCER: You might have to serve as mediator now and then.
LINDA: I would be most grateful to, Doctor.
SPENCER: What he finds too hard to accept and digest from me, you would help pre-digest for him. And what he hesitates to say or ask, maybe for fear of you denying him the loan, you would encourage him to say, maybe in whispers to your ears, so you could pass it on to me in a way I could more easily understand and tolerate.
LINDA: I would be most delighted, Doctor!
SPENCER: Good. . I would gladly leave the room now and then if you would not like me hear your whispers. Now, this is unprecedented: on my part, before the next session, I would still look into his quirks to see how best I could adapt to them. Meanwhile, we can begin with the prioritising I suggested to him earlier. Before the next session, he would have to come with as many of his agendas as he could find, from the past two - three weeks.
AARON: I could come with those for the past three months, sir!
SPENCER: Three weeks would suffice.
AARON: Yes, sir.
SPENCER: Fine. At any rate, he would still have to exercise his mind here in my office , in solitude, before the first session.
AARON: At whatever rate, sir! I would use my mind and I would think as fast or slowly as you order me to do!
SPENCER: I would again ask him to be by himself for some time in that room [indicating the room to the left]. Just to relieve himself of any tensions he might have and see how far he could contain his preconceptions about time. He has many prejudices, many expectations that intrude themselves when least appropriate. The impediments need to be put on leash prior to each session. I would seek guidance on that, too.
LINDA: Definitely, worthwhile, Doctor Spencer! Very many thanks!
SPENCER: That would hopefully make things approximate to normality to a good enough extent.
AARON: I would listen, I would reflect, I would OBEY! Thank you so, so much, Doctor!...