Inner Circle

Happy New Year!

Yeoh Siew Hoon believes time is of the essence in 2013

Happy New Year!
Does time really fly when you’re having fun or because we live in a world that demands we live faster?

Time is a funny thing. I was in Jakarta for a conference recently and everything ran late. People showed up late. Speakers went over their time. Coffee breaks went over time. And still the organiser was smiling.

As an event organiser myself, this freaked me out. When I run events, I obsess about time, ever mindful that it’s such a precious commodity these days. So I asked him wasn’t he worried about the whole event running over time? He looked at me with pitying eyes and smiled, “It’s okay. In Indonesia, we own the time. This is why we are so relaxed.” From that moment on, I ceased fretting. It was a nice feeling to surrender to time. 

The week after, I landed in Hong Kong and strangely, my watch stopped as soon as the aircraft touched down. This freaked me out. Although I have a mobile displaying the time, going without a watch in Hong Kong is like walking around naked. This place works like clockwork, people are punctual and efficient and meetings usually start and end on time. No dilly-dallying over niceties – time is money.

Of course, walk into the lobby at Kowloon Shangri-La, Hong Kong and you feel like time has stopped. I love the elegance and timelessness of its space and the staff have all the patience in the world, despite the hotel being at full capacity. As I hurried to a lunch appointment on the island side, the staff smiled and assured me I wouldn’t be late if I took the train.

The efficient Hong Kong subway will get you anywhere on time. In the train station, I observe how people behave. You can differentiate the locals from tourists by their brisk pace and how they respect the right of way of others. It’s like autopilot – you don’t get in the way of others whose time is as pressing as yours.

At Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong, my lunch companion showed off his new device, the Samsung Galaxy Note II. He was thrilled with its features, especially the WeChat app, which allowed him to voice message his friends while talking to me. It’s hyper-tasking in a compressed time capsule.

Time is on my mind because I wonder what happened to 2012. Has it really come and gone? Did it go sooner than 2011? And did 2011 go sooner than 2010? Does time really fly when you’re having fun or because we live in a world that demands we live faster?

One survey indicated that 29 per cent of us are addicted to our mobile phones. I suspect the percentage is higher. The rest are not confessing. We live in a world where information is fed to our devices, and we give out as much information as we absorb.

Humans are believed to spend 3 billion hours a week on video games. That’s a lot of time. I spoke to a young man who gave up gadgets for two days. He told me, “I found I had more time on my hands. And now I am torn between living without the Internet and having more time.”

As we enter 2013, there’s only one resolution I want to make – to be more mindful of time. That I can own it if I wish, that I can stop it if I want and that I should spend it wisely on great places and good people. Happy New Year!

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