What time is it?

I’m sure you heard this question before, and if you happened to know the time you shared this information willingly. Time is time. Unless you are trying to hide something or get an upper hand on an adversary you really have no reason not to willingly share this information. The clock ticks the same for everyone; time is just another dimension in our lives. Sure we could argue whether you have a preset amount of time until the alarm goes off and you wake up dead in heaven or hell, but even that would be a waste of time.  However long or short our lives are the only time that really counts is the time we have.  Time management is a regular topic in Leadership programs and, when well implemented, can release an incredible amount of energy and value for organizations. If you can get your organization to produce more with less and feel better doing it than you can imagine the kind of “incredible” that I’m talking about.  The idea is simple; you need to align your organization to the same time, reset the clocks in all the departments. The implementation is the hard part. I know, that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 20 years.  The point is that time is what guides the world, just as our ancestors awaited the right “time” to plant their crops, the ceo’s today wait for the right “time” to release their earnings. Timing is everything!  It’s interesting how we experience time differently as we live our lives , always relative to the amount of time we have already had. As a child, time goes slow, we can’t wait to blow one more candle on the birthday cake, as teenager you already are so distracted that the only thing that seems far away is your driver’s license.  As a parent you watch you children grow, their first word, their first step, first day in school and the next thing you know they are driving your car!  As my grand father used to say “when I was young the weeks used to go by really quickly now it’s the seasons!”

It is then normal that we learn to value time, as we get older. However we don’t all use our time in the same way. My mom read me the fable from Lafontaine, one of which was “La cigale et la fourmi” where the cigale spends the whole summer having fun while the fourmi (ant) spends it’s summer preparing to survive winter. When fall comes the cigale looks for help but the the fourmi tells him : You sang all summer long, now you should dance”. Unknowingly at the time, that was my first lesson in time management.  Time has value, and it is ultimately our decision what we do with it. You can spend your time studying, learning & growing or you can spend it playing & socializing. There are obviously millions of different combinations and socializing should not be seen as wasting your time.   It all depends on your own wiring. There is one thing we have in common, As man has evolved, we have more and more time on our hands. Cave people didn’t have more time as keeping the fire going through the winter months, alone was a full time job your life depended on. For millennia most people worked 6 days a week, from dawn to dusk, as stated in the bible. It’s not that they had more time; they had exactly the same amount as we do. Everything just took longer and tasks we now take for granted consumed hours out of our daily lives. Can you imagine doing your wash down by the river with a washboard and a bar of soap?  That and thousands of other things have made life easier. Although not always so effective many things are more efficient today, giving us more choice about what to do with our time. A choice our parents and grand parents did not have.

If your are interested in finding out what time it is in your life than you might like the following exercise. The first step is to get conscious about how you spending your time.  One of our favorite tool in management consulting is the DILO (a Day In the Life Of). Basically it is a log of the events that happen during a normal day. It is useful because it is an impartial record of a normal day, all you are doing is recording the events. This record of event almost always provides a different perspective for the employee. Think of it like a video recording of your golf or tennis swing, with the right coach you can analyze and optimize your moves. The dilo does the same just in a different context. So we recommend that you take a piece of paper, fold it to a size that will fit in your pocket and register all your activities during the course of the day.  For the more sophisticated ones, most mobile phones have a voice recorder, which also provide an excellent way to log your day. Whichever way you decide on you will also need to think about the analysis part, the paper version already provides the overview.   Now for the analysis bit, an easy way to look at how you can categorize your time is to split it into a 4 box matrix where you weigh your activities according to two criteria, for example: Urgency vs Importance.

Less important More important
More Urgent
Less Urgent

Of course you can pick whatever category you want to analyze for example a teenager may want to weigh physical vs mental activity or type of activity: active- passive vs like dislike. Whatever your case it will provide you with a fresh perspective from where you will be able to start answering what time it is in your life.

OK! Now that you have that in your hands, are you happy with the way it looks? Does it need a bit of tweaking or a complete overhaul?  That will depends on your situation and your ambitions. However your situation is, just remember it can better from here, because at least now you are aware and can do something to improve it.

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