What sort of relationship do you have with time? After several recent client discussions, I believe this may be one of the most important questions we have to address.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples to illustrate my point. In the first conversation, I worked with a client to develop a plan to achieve a very specific goal. We clearly defined the desired outcome and then identified what would have to happen to achieve the goal. Each step was clearly described by the client and they explained the required actions and how much time they needed to complete them. This left us with the simple exercise to lay out those activities on a timeline to arrive at a date the client could commit to achieve the outcome.
The plan made perfect sense to me, it was perhaps a best estimate because we had not included any buffer for unexpected events. That said, I assessed it was reasonable. I asked the client to describe their feelings about the process and the plan we had created. Their response surprised me. On the one hand they were very satisfied with the plan and yet on the other hand they were deeply troubled. How could this be, we had worked through the plan together, what could be so troubling?
“It is simply going to take too long”
Their response, “it was simply going to take too long”. It couldn’t possibly take this long. Could it? We stepped back through the plan to identify where the schedule could be reduced and the client said each step made sense. We left the plan as created. The baby was simply going to take 9 months to be born.
“We don’t have time for that”
The second example is more of a common conversation with clients about how to generate more reliable results. Many of my clients share a frustration because their teams do not consistently deliver on time with the expected level of quality. When I offer to work with them to create a high quality process that will improve their results, the first answer is usually, ‘I or we don’t have time for that’. So they want to improve their results by not changing what they are doing today. I can tell you from experience, that isn’t a recipe for success.
These examples have led me to see we have an unhealthy relationship with time. There isn’t enough of it. This leads us to become stressed and when we are stressed we don’t perform at our best. When we don’t perform well we get further behind, and so on. This becomes a reinforcing loop that doesn’t end well.
Is there an alternative?
Yes, we always have choices, whether we know it or not. Everyone has the same amount of time. Those people who manage it well, know what their capacity is and they manage with in it. Don’t get me wrong, this is not easy to do, but it starts with the mindset of ‘I have enough time’. Making this declaration breaks the cycle of scarcity and from there we can start to develop strategies and practices to better manage our time.