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Chasing time

Have you noticed how your birthday/anniversary/Christmas seems to come around faster every year? Or how much longer the summer holidays seemed to be when you were a child?

A recent article in the New Zealand Herald suggests an explanation based on a theory described in 1897 by the French philosopher, Paul Janet. The theory is based on the way we perceive time by comparing it with our life span. We perceive our first few years to be much longer in duration than the years that come later  -  a year is 100% of the life of a one-year old but only 2.86% of a 35 year-old – so time appears to speed up as we get older.

Time isn’t the issue

At Altris, we spend a lot of time with busy people, whether as coachees or as part of our ‘coaching culture’ or ‘high performing teams’ leadership development programmes. One of the most frequent barriers that we face to implementation of the new ideas that these programmes bring is ‘lack of time’. Yet if I had a dollar for every time that time was not the real issue then I would be a very rich man.

Time is never the issue. How we choose to use our time is the issue. Our choices are based on what we think is important. How we value. How we see ourselves. They become habit and not all those habits are time efficient (they just become how we do things).

Take twitter as an example. I often am asked ‘where do you find the time to use twitter?’ I’m always surprised why people think that anything that takes just a few seconds should be difficult to fit into a day, but maybe I shouldn’t be. I often used to go to work on the bus. It cut down my fuel bills, hit my sustainability buttons and gave me time to do things that I wouldn’t do if I was driving, like checking my twitter feed and doing the odd tweet. While other people sit and look out of the window, listen to their iPod or read a book, I tweet. When I say that to people, many say ‘I don’t travel by bus, so I wouldn’t have that time available to use twitter’. So I tell them that I also have time waiting to go into meetings or between other activities where I also tweet or blog or check LinkedIn or do one of the many things that people say they don’t have time for.

It’s about choices

I choose to tweet on the bus, and the key word here is  ‘choose’. In the organisations that I visit, where people tell me that they don’t have any time to coach their team, or ‘do that leadership stuff’ or ‘read their pre-work’ I see them doing lots of other things. Things that they choose to do, many of which waste time: some people choose to do their own thing instead of using a standard template that is available; some spend hours preparing material for meetings that won’t get used; some have time to chat to colleagues; some re-write material three times out of habit before they are happy with it; some ignore problems that will waste many hours in the future rather than give their staff feedback; some would rather tell staff what to do, time and again, rather than coach them once.

So how about slowing down and taking two minutes to think about how to make the most of your time ?


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