Enterprise requires the tracking of money. Most business leaders know their balance sheet, P&L statement, share price, and the status of their annual/quarterly and monthly budgets - but they are not required to keep track of time in the same way.
Time is not regulated by the federal government. Financial analysts primarily track dollars, not time usage. Questions about time management are not usually asked at shareholder meetings. A corporate board rarely asks for a time study of the CEO’s calendar. Yet, time is a fixed currency that we spend and that impacts everything about everything. Even more, choices of how to spend time can build or destroy the sustainability and production of one’s life and the enterprises one leads.
Many business leaders organize their days into segments that keep them rested, healthy, and as productive as possible. Doing so helps them say no to many good possibilities in order to say yes to the most important aspects of life and business.
This form of time management, though, can feel like a prison: no flexibility, with a growing sense that some of the items being eliminated may be of great importance.
Understanding time as an essential and non-renewable commodity in our lives can make business leaders more effective time travelers.
Listen. You will hear yourself saying, “It’s not worth my time.” Try switching to, “My time is not worth it.” Instead of saying something costs (or pays) $35 an hour, try tracking it as one hour that costs (or pays) $35.
This fights against our instincts, which assign money value to time. If we place chronological value to money, however, we start asking about the ROI for time invested. Time is the resource that can never be recovered, once spent.
Because time is more limited than money, we can apply this approach to relationship investments, the benefits of leisure time, the impacts of our volunteering, and our tasks at work.
It makes little difference whether you track hours in the office or days delivering services; only about a third of your time produces money. The rest is spent setting up earning it and then administrating (distributing) what you earn.
Of course there are specific jobs within your enterprise that produce more than others, just as there are jobs that don’t produce at all. Sure, there are periods of hyper-production just as there are slow periods. Over the long run it evens out; time setting up business, time performing what the business produces, and time cleaning up, filing, reporting, evaluating, and administrating are going to balance at about 1/3 each.
Rather than trying to prove this principle wrong, organizational leaders are better off ensuring the quality of the three hours each day (120 days per year) in which the money is earned.
Essentially, people have a past, present, or future orientation to time.
- A past orientation values what was and seeks to preserve it.
- A present orientation emphasizes response to what is happening in the moment.
- A future orientation values what can be.
Each orientation offers a strength, and each orientation carries significant blind spots that limit insight and capacity to work within a team.
Growth beyond one’s instinctive time orientation means learning to value and draw upon the strengths the others bring to the conversation. In this way, one does spend some (but not too much) time reflecting, some (but not too much) time looking at what is current and real, and more (but not overwhelming) time casting vision and working toward it.
You want a time machine that can actually travel but mostly remains in the moment, keeping you aware of how precious and costly that moment is.