How are you approaching the innovation challenge?


We live today in ever faster changing times. The industrial, technical and   telecommunication revolution of the end of the last century are quickly being followed by the information and social connectivity revolutions. It has never been easier to learn, create and share.  Whilst a lot has been written about deconstructing businesses and their business models. We have witnessed giants like Eastman Kodak, or Encyclopedia Britannica, who have failed to develop and market innovative products and services as their traditional business models were doomed were being destroyed. There are countless other examples of all sizes and national backgrounds; and they all share something in common: a failure to adapt to changing times, a failure to innovate.  But you better get ready because the next revolution will be the innovation revolution.

But wait innovation “today “is not was it was 20 years ago, it has evolved. Perhaps the best example of a modern innovative company is Apple.  Under Steve Job’s leadership, they explored and exploited other innovation dimensions such as customer experience through: design, quality, ease of use, shops and distribution.  Innovation today is not only about  new and improved products, it’s about the way we see our customers and how well we understand their needs and how we can serve them. Even if the foundation for any successful business is a quality product, there are many other aspects of our offering where a little innovation can gain us a competitive advantage.  It would be foolish to ignore it.

So how to approach the innovation challenge?

Start by understanding “who” your customers are?  It’s ok to serve everyone who wants your product, but its better if you know understand your customer’s buying patterns. Because when you understand, you can better target them with specials and offers that can boost your bottom line.

Once you know whom you are targeting, reflect on their needs. A good tool to help you put things into perspective is the KANO Model. By reflecting, categorizing and weighing and comparing your product/service attributes vs your competitors you can create a clear picture of where you stand. Because over time product attributes have a tendency to move down from delighters to performance and then basics, you can also use the tool to map your innovation strategy for each product over multiple product generation.


You a can also use the KANO tool for the next phase: mapping the results of your customer’s experience and that of your competitors.

The next phase is to reflect on your customer’s experience.  Ask them for feedback and engage and prompt them to give you ideas; “put your self in their shoes”.   This is can often be a problem as the contacts you have at your customers are rarely the ones using your products.  You will have to put some effort into your initiative if you want real feedback for the users of your product. Sophisticated companies strive to understand the internal dynamics of their customers as to identify the influencers, stakeholders and decision makers with regards to their products. Not getting any complaints from the shop floor maybe the kind of minimal criteria needed to stay in the game, other times it requires a lot more than that.  Whichever approach you pick, to learn about your customers and their organisations, it is important to remember that the rule here is not  “More is better” but rather the opposite “less is more”. For it is important that your customers see actions out of your questions and survey; otherwise they will lose interest and won’t give feedback anymore; you are wasting their time. Just remember that when you ask for feedback you should give feedback in return.

The real news is that individuals and small business entrepreneurs can also use these tools to discover opportunities around them, services that are not being fulfilled or other innovative offerings. By playing to their strengths and turning their weaknesses into advantages they can carve niches out of otherwise saturated markets and distinguish themselves from their competitors just by thinking through their approach to innovation.

When did you last stop to smell the flowers?

Much has been said about the power of the moment. Books have been written telling us to focus on the most important time in our lives: not the past nor the future, but the present – the now. And, indeed, the present is where it’s at!
The present is where we make decisions and take action, and it is these actions that determine our future and create the memories that will, tomorrow, be our past. We process many of these decisions and corresponding actions almost unconsciously, but it is precisely this capability that is also our weakness, as it allows us to get distracted. In today’s world everyone demands our attention. Where the industrial revolution gave us more time by simplifying manual tasks (and in some circumstances removing them altogether), the information revolution is consuming more and more of our time. The difference is that now we have a choice: our devices have an off switch – and we should use these more often.

As I look back over the decades at the growth of consumerism, I can see that, as more and more things became available, companies vied for my money by promising me products with “effortlessness operation” and “lasting quality”. During the occasional visit to my aunt’s, I can remember marveling at her electric can-opener, thinking it was really cool. Fortunately, I never did buy one, as it would now be collecting dust up in the attic – along with the other marvels of health and productivity, like a juicer and an old vacuum cleaner. The industrial revolution brought about consumerism, the excesses of which are, unfortunately, visible not only in my attic, but also in the island of rubbish floating around the Pacific Ocean. But I guess this is the price we pay for what we have today.

Now we have the information revolution, with many companies vying for our time and attention: the new currency. Everything is compressed; the mobile device makes us more productive, yes, but it also makes us a slave to others without even realizing it. Being able to read our emails & finalise a presentation on our iPad, whilst on the beach, may enable us to rethink where we can live; however, it also means we don’t really switch off during our holiday. Let’s face it, some of the stuff we can do with our mobile device can be addictive. Have you ever seen a couple having dinner in a restaurant, each of them with a smart phone in their hands, and, rather than looking each other in the eyes, they are both checking their emails! A perfect example of this new trend is a company called Zinga, which makes some of the most popular social games on Facebook. Last year it generated over 1 billion dollars of revenue from its 250 million users. Many of these users are addicted to the games and spend hours playing them on their computer everyday.

As we continue down the “on demand” path, we have more and more choices available to us at the touch of a button. Our propensity to get distracted grows exponentially, obscuring our ability to enjoy the moment without some kind of electronic stimulation. Of course, it’s a choice and we are the ones that make the choice. But choices are often made subconsciously, like the reflex to check your email when you hear the ping of your portable device. I suggest you consciously turn off your devices for a certain amount of time each day – dinner being one of those times, when you can engage in real dialogue and maybe even practice your storytelling skills. Go for a walk and fill your senses with the beauty of nature: the grandeur of the oak tree, the rustling sound of a river or creek, the sweet smell of blossom in the spring or the relaxing feeling of walking barefoot on a beach. Whichever experience is available to you, spending time reconnecting with nature and people is sure to be time well spent.

Francis Lambert – Zabok, 1 September 2013

The duality of individuality

Is the glass half full or half empty?

The answer to that question is limited only by our imagination, and each one of us will have a different way of answering it. Some of us will respond instinctively, others will analyse the glass, trying try to calculate where the 50% mark lies, so that they can give an accurate answer. There will be others who will try to figure out why you are asking that question in the first place, in order to come up with the answer they think you want to hear.

Each one of us will process the question in a different way. This happens because the sum of our life experiences is what drives the response process. We all have different frames of reference. That, amongst other things, is what makes us individuals. Although we all share similar emotions, such as motherly love, anger, rejection, success, pride, etc., the environment, timing and context in which we experience these emotions is different for all of us. This makes the mental imprint we have of that experience unique. It is precisely these experiences that we then use as filters to process situations and information during our lifetimes. A child has a relatively clean mental slate, and it is easy to understand the weight and importance that these mental imprints can have on a child’s future.  When and how this happens early in life makes a huge difference to a child’s potential. In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the story of Lewis Terman and his still-running longitudinal study called the Genetic Studies of Genius (known today as Terman Study of the Gifted). Terman was convinced that geniuses (people with an IQ higher than 140) would achieve great things in their lifetimes. As it turned out, all he was able to prove was that, when it comes to their achievements in life, geniuses are also normally distributed. However, when the data is segmented in a different way, it shows a clear correlation between social class and academic performance. This is related to upbringing and the tendency for well-to-do families to encourage and support academic education, whilst the socially disadvantaged parents generally have little time to encourage and support their child through education, and in some cases may even be ashamed that they themselves do not have an academic ability.  We all see the world through different eyes, and no two eyes are the same. When we answer the question about the glass of liquid filled to 50% capacity, not only is the process of answering different for each individual but also it all happens in the blink of an eye.

So what gives us the ability to do that? Well, it’s our brain, of course, but more interesting it’s the duality of our brain. On the left side of this organ there is the rational part that thinks through problems and structures thoughts – this part will filter the challenge itself, in terms of physical and factual data. On the right side is the emotional part that filters a different type of data: body language, context, company, etc. Each part plays its role in transforming this data into information on which we make a choice of responses. Whilst we have the ability to think rationally, we are driven by emotions. This is why in the US supermarkets when you get your receipt you see in big letters how much you’ve saved, while the total of what you’ve spent is in normal text – they want to make you feel good about how much money you have saved at their store, never mind that you’ve maxed out on your credit card!

Modern psychology has made a lot of progress trying to understand how the two sides of the brain function and complement one another. There have been many analogies used to describe the tension between the two halves, but perhaps the most vivid is the one used by the psychologist Jonathan Haidt (Professor at New York University Stern School of Business) in his book The Happiness Hypothesis. Haidt sees our emotional side as an elephant and our rational side as its rider. Sitting on top of the elephant holding the reins, the rider may give the appearance that he is in charge, but, in fact, if the elephant were to see a mouse or be in any other way scared, it is quite clear that the rider would not be able to hold the elephant back, no matter how hard he pulled on the reins. It is precisely this tension between the rational and emotional sides of our brains that makes it so difficult for us to change. The elephant side is instinctive, and always on the look out for instant gratification. The weakness of the elephant is the rider’s strength: the ability to plan long term – the knowledge that calories saved today will enable me to lose weight. Put another way, everyone knows that smoking is bad for you (rider), but getting the elephant to stop procrastinating and coming up with excuses is difficult indeed. The challenge is for our riders to keep the elephant on the path long enough so that we can reach our destination. To achieve this the rider needs to resort to tricks, such as avoiding people who smoke when you are trying to stop smoking, or strategically placing a device that makes pig noises every time you open the refrigerator door.

There is no strict recipe for this: everyone is wired differently, every situation will require different measures and certain things will work for some people but not for others. It is important to recognize that the rider needs to and can manage the elephant – even if this occasionally requires putting a blindfold on the elephant’s head. Learning to manage our elephant is not that difficult: the rider needs to observe how the elephant behaves, orchestrate life with fewer temptations and reward the elephant for every step it takes in the right direction. After all, gratification is what it is craving!

Francis Lambert – Zabok, 17 December 2012 (originally written 29/05/12)

The working class vs. the investment class

The recent divulging of Mitt Romney’s tax returns has put the 99% vs. 1% discussion into perspective. Although it is astonishing to see a guy talk about people who “don’t work” when he himself does not really work, I have come to expect anything coming from the republicans. If we set aside the elderlies and the veterans, whom everyone can agree have already done their fair share of work, we are left with the people that taxes through their payroll (people holding jobs) and the people the people that pay taxes on the revenues from their wealth (investments class) and by definition the don’t hold jobs and don’t work, at least not 9:00 to 5:00. Well I guess to say that they don’t work is not really fair, they work at maximizing the returns on their investments as to accumulate more wealth and, theoretically at least, create new jobs. The only difference here is that this kind of work is taxed at a lower rate.

This reminded me of something, in his book “Rich dad, poor dad’ Robert T.Kiyosaki talks about his experience as a young boy who grew up with two father figures. When discussing as a boy what to do with one’s life, each one had a different message for him. His highly educated, but poor, dad would say: “go to school get good grades, and then find a safe secure job”; whilst his rich, but uneducated, dad would say ”go to school, graduate, build businesses and become a successful investor”.  Two different mind sets that lead to two different results; one where you work for your money and the other where your money works for you.

At the heart of this dilemma lies risk & responsibilities, how they are perceived, how they are weighed and managed. Never mind the fact that job security is a thing of the past, risk averse people will then to look for a jobs a it will provide a sense of security, they do their work within an agreed timeframe and they get a paycheck, they don’t have to worry about anything else. The business owner or self-employed person needs to constantly be thinking about, at least maintaining if not growing their business or practice and revenues. Along with that comes all the administration work and looking after employees. So as you can see the rewards are potentially higher but there are a lot of other things to manage and be responsible for, in other words, a lot of work. Obviously if you have enough money working for you, then you hire people to take care of all that work for you.  Which brings us back to the original point that the investment class does not work for a living. Would they work then they would have pay taxes like the rest of us.

Then there is this “taxofobia”.  As is paying taxes should be a thing to avoid most. Ok, I agree no one wants to give their hard earned money, whether it is through years of patience and careful investments or a 40-hour week of brute force and sweat.  On the other hand we enjoy living in a society and communities where: we feel safe;  if we should fall ill, we can be certain someone will take care of us; we don’t have to miles to the nearest well to get glass of water; etc. So you can see there are lots of benefits to organizing ourselves and creating structures and organizations that can provide theses services to the community and population. That is what government does.

It is interesting to observe the evolution of the role of government in the Republican speech over the last 50 years. They appear to have swung completely off the chart. Under Nixon, government still had a role, some may even argue that his vision of government is what help bring him down, today the rhetoric has moved the masses to believe that government equals socialism. Any redistribution of income is bad. During the past Busch presidency, what was once considered a “holy cow” of government functions, the military has begun to get outsourced, with companies like Blackwater and Haliburton, to name a few, raking in huge profits in the process. Here is another example; this week kids in Kansas grab the media attention with a YouTube video parody of the song -we are young- titled “we are hungry”. The action was a protest against the new school lunch initiative that promotes a healthier diet, fruits and vegetables. This was picked up by the “rightist” media and blown into a debate about how the government is trying to tell kids what to eat! Considering that the USA has the highest child obesity rate in the world, that is actually a good idea.  Sadly this the number news channel in the US.  By exploiting sound bits, twisting or hiding facts or just plain lying, they constantly generate a kind of fog around the real issues and brainwash their viewers with their message, keeping everyone ignorant in the process. Ironically, I must say, it was refreshing to see Bill Clinton, at 66 years old, try to make a case with facts and numbers in his speech at the Democratic conventions a few weeks ago. Unfortunately he only represents one side of the divide.

When the pie is growing the 1% vs. 99% discussion is not so sensitive. The 99% get the 99% of the growth, each a tiny bit, and are satisfied with having the opportunity to dream about making the 1% on day. When the pie is shrinking the 99% have a lot more to lose and suffer a lot more. If growth is not restored to keep it in equilibrium, the pain builds up like pressure and can lead to explosions and revolutions.

Instead of hiding his income, Mitt Romney would have been better off showing his tax returns early on and explaining this difference in tax rate and tax class, creating a reason to celebrate his success. Encouraging more people to aspiring to belong to the investment class is not a bad thing; it’s the American dream!

Zabok, HR – 3rd October 2012

How much baggage do you carry around?

As I continue to think through the time question I have realized that there just is so much to cover. So the upcoming posts will be related to optimizing and helping you make the most of the time you have.  The beauty of this is that you decide how you use the tools and what you do with your time. Whichever way you decide, the whole point is to make you aware. If you followed the last post and did the exercises you will now be more aware of how you spend your time. And like every thing in life, some things are relatively easy to fix others require fundamental change. Today’s segment is of the fundamental type, as I believe that building on a solid foundation, ultimately provides longevity and sustainability.

Rule number 1 – the more stuff you have the less free you are. Every material thing, not only takes up storage capacity and effort (cleaning moving around etc.),  it takes up brain capacity and processing power as well. Think about it for just about every thing you posses have it’s own story: where it came from gift bought when where with whom etc. So all that stuff in the attic, although out of sight is not out of mind. It weighs on you without you realizing it. Sometimes letting go of stuff can be emotionally wrenching, I know, I still got stuff from the seventies and I’m a pack rat by nature. Nevertheless sorting through your stuff it’s easy to keep the emotional stuff and get rid of the other stuff. To do the sorting, I have developed the 4 G approach: Good to keep, Give to someone else, Garage sale, Garbage. You should run through the cycle at least once per year and your “Good to keep” pile should not be getting bigger (and unless your income is expanding at the same rate, chances are you are over-consuming). I have shrunk my to good to keep stuff to a large oversea trunk. When I pass away I know that my kids will have a laugh at all this junk that has sentimental value to me and no one else. But one trunk over almost fifty years that’s not bad, I guess?

Let me tell you the story of a client I had and for the sake of anonymity we will call him Fred. He was an engineer in his fifties and having being part of the original new hires during the construction of the site he was now the operations manager in a chemical plant. The man was brilliant and he had a fantastic memory, we could be talking about a subject and he would say A yes, I attended a conference 4 years ago, hold on a minute I’ll be right back. He would then stand up and leave the meeting we were having, only to return 3-7 minutes later (his office was down the hall). Upon his return he would show you the documentation from the conference and get completely off topic. As you reeled him back and got back on the subject, something else would pop up and he would be off again! This guy was a walking encyclopedia but you could not get him to focus on anything. Although he was a hard worker, came in at 6:00 and was usually the last to leave after 20:00. His spent the entire day on the shop floor, something rare for someone in his position. As our project evolved we quickly realized that something was wrong with Fred. His un-ability to concentrate was affecting his work performance, besides something else was weird about Fred. No one had ever been into his office. None of my colleagues, or even clients we asked, could ever remember having been in his office. Ok I know what you are thinking, what about his boss, the plant manager. Well that’s another story, his had an alcohol problem and was fired 2 weeks after we started our project. Anyway I doubt whether he had been in Fred’s office either!  I made it my mission to discover the mystery that was his office. Since he loved to recount memories and look up stuff, I engaged him in this way and slowly broke down his barriers through my curiosity and interest. One night, in early December as we were working late, I noticed the light on in his office and I decided to pay him a visit. As I knocked on his door I heard the shuffling of papers and his voice telling me to wait a minute. He opened the door slowly to see who it was and seemed surprised to see me. I told him I had seen the light in his office and wanted to stop by to show him the new management report I had been working on. With nowhere to go he quickly open the door and closed it quickly behind him before leading me to the conference room down the hall. However he quickly realized by the look in my eyes that I had seen enough off his office to give him away. Even though he pretended to not to notice, I could see I had unsettled him. As we went through the report, he suddenly burst into tears, and when I say burst I mean literally did burst with tears sprinkling all over my report.  I stood up and walk out to go to the washroom for some tissues. When I came back with toilet paper he was gone. That was the last time we saw Fred. He did not come back to work and ended up in a mental hospital. Later we learned that he had suffered from, amongst other things, what was referred to as information overload.  I spend a good deal of time on the Internet looking for a picture that would represent his office.  The one I found does not really do it justice, his office looked worst simply because his office was bigger and the path through the piles of documents was longer and interspersed with the odd plant.

Courtesy of .Electronic document solutions so your office doesn’t look like this!

Most people’s office does not have the chance of getting like Fred’s. His was a particular situation, and living alone he must have subconsciously known this was not normal hence his reluctance to let anyone in his office. In any case, it was a hard lesson on me as I was the one who delivered the wake up call.

Zabok, HR – 5th September 2012

What time is it ? 2.0

As we have discussed, time is valuable. It’s up to us to make the best use of it. We decide what we do with our time. Now this sounds good on paper and most of you will agree that this statement is true, but why is it so hard then, to put this into practice? If you can remember in one of my earlier post the “duality of individuality” I discussed how our brains functions with a constant struggle between the rider, as the rational side, and the elephant, as the emotional counterpart. You see, when you are faced with a choice, each side will see different benefits and reasons why their arguments are better. This is because the elephant and the rider often have divergent objectives. The elephant is looking for things that feel good; the rider is trying to reach an objective. Each side has different ways to achieve their goal. The emotional side controls the hormones that control our bodies. Just think about all the marital affaires that go on every day, although there may be a thousand reasons and every case will be different in it’s own way, one thing though that they do have in common, they are all driven by their hormones. The rider on the other hand has the ability to plan and think ahead, giving this side the ability to weigh short term pleasure against long term pain; marital affair vs. divorce and lost of family. As this internal struggle goes on, we continue to be bombarded by information from the outside.  Social pressure, religious norms, work pressures, family needs, neighbors, etc.  It’s a tough world! I don’t think there has ever been an era in the history of man when we have been confronted with so much choice and possibilities. Don’t get me wrong I think it’s a good thing; in the end is this not what evolution is all about? As you know, with evolution also comes extinction, we just have to make sure we don’t fall in the latter category. The problem is that with all this choice and opportunities it’s easy to get distracted. It’s a bit like politics and communication today. It doesn’t matter if what you are saying is wrong or a lie, what is important is to brainwash the voter’s into thinking what you want them to think. Sadly that is the reality we live in today, Americans don’t have an obesity problem because they choose to be fat, they have a problem because they are not able to resist the constant appeal of  “getting your money’s worth or a great deal” and the fact that now a days there are not so many alternatives anyway. Everyone knows that eating fast food every day will make you fat. Within the context of the constant internal struggle, the rider loses out to the elephant on nutrition or perhaps the rider is trying to concentrate it’s forces to win the war against the elephant and is willing to lose the nutrition battle, staying focused on the bigger objective. The fact that Americans have gained weight over the last 50 years, evolutionary scale, is what is troubling and give me grounds for concern about becoming extinct in the long term. Could we, as a species, eat ourselves to death?

Ok, I know what you are thinking, this is all nice and good but what can I do about this? This is where we tie this back to time. Eckhardt Tolle talks about time in a different matter. He gives us a different perspective on time, by saying that the only real time is now, the moment. You see most of us will live our lives on auto pilot, what I mean by this is we get caught up in the daily routine and miss don’t live each moment as if it were it’s last. One of his techniques is to observe yourself from a distance. In other word, it would be as if you could detach yourself and observe yourself from a few feet away. This may seem strange but it is like in the movies when you die and the camera rises from your body and you have the impression you are watching yourself, except that in the movies you are usually dying and in our case your rider is arguing with the elephant. This type of visualization exercises are also used in sports, where you can concentrate and run through a perfect jump, run or shot before taking it. What this does is make you aware of what the situation really is; and very often you quickly realize it is stupid to be arguing about such an insignificant thing. When you are aware you are living the moment and that is when you are truly living.  Some people need to sky dive, bungee jump to get their adrenaline kick, others prefer fast driving, whatever your preference the adrenaline kick is just a consequence of your body being aware, it gets released after you have assess danger. Now I’ll grant you that in comparison to sky diving you won’t get much of an adrenaline kick from tee up on the 9th hole on Saturday morning, nevertheless you cannot play golf without being aware of what you are doing and are able to concentrate.  We often find ourselves however just kind of mechanically going through choirs, thinking or wishing we were somewhere else, or reflecting on the past and all the things we could have done differently. During these moments we are not 100% aware of what is happening. These are the moments where, depending on your job or what you are doing, bad thing can happen; like losing a finger on the saw bench or metal press, or simply missing the exit on the highway. A lot of progress has been made in industry to increase safety at the workplace, but nothing can replace awareness and concentration on the task at hand.  The interesting point here is that: when, you are aware and concentrated you are living the moment as Eckhardt Tolle proposes. Awareness is the state in which both the rider and the elephant (to continue on the theme from previous posts) not arguing but are focused on the situation.  It is a kind of inner peace that can also be achieved through mediation and prayers.

So in keeping with our theme of finding out what time it is in your life here is the next level of diagnostics you can perform. In the “What time is it?”  (27/08/2012) there is an exercise at the end called a DILO.  If have taken the time to do it you will know how you spend your day, and will be more aware of your personal efficiency and effectiveness.  The next level of analysis involves assessing how much time in your day are you truly “aware” and concentrated, how much time is spent living the moment. So take your DILO notes and mark each activity with a “0” when you are aware and a “-“ when you are not.  Then you tally up the score. Here are some examples to help you score:

A)   during the meeting this morning, where you aware, concentrated on the conversation, or thinking about your wife’s birthday and the present you haven’t yet bought.

B)   While you made breakfast this morning, were you thinking about your day or were you concentrated on making this the best breakfast you have ever made

Increasing awareness in people generates results. People who have been halfheartedly working along realize that they are not happy and find different work where they enjoy being aware, making them better employees or workers. This is essentially what is at the core or “Kaizen” and operational excellence programs that can release tremendous benefits for all involved.  By discussing and sharing with their co-worker, employees increase their awareness and through their engagement (living the moment) they develop a bigger stake in their work.  How can it be that a machine that run 24 hours a day, on 3 shifts, runs at different performance? The most frequent cause is different machine settings   set by different shift operators, whom each thinks, he has the best way to run the machine. It’s a classic!

So if you are interested go ahead and do the DILO exercise, you may find it?s later than you think.

Zabok,HR – 27th August 2012

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.