Archives for posts with tag: time

When I’m in the UK, one of my colleagues and I travel to the office from different ends of a major motorway. I go north, he goes south, and then we reverse our journeys to go home at the end of the day.

His journey is invariably more snarled up than mine. A daily commute that regularly turns sour is a major source of mental ill-being in my opinion.

The other day I was returning to the office from an event and using the length of motorway my colleague uses, which is unusual for me. There was a stretch of roadworks on the motorway. It was about 20 miles in length and had a restricted speed limit of 50 miles an hour, with narrowed driving lanes and more traffic cones than you get grains of sand on a mile-wide beach.

The total amount of ‘road work’ activity on this 20-mile stretch, in mid-afternoon on a mid-week day? None. Not a single vehicle or worker. Zero activity.

This is the lost productivity of negligible roadworks. It’s the cumulative time lost for thousands of travellers, not to mention the increase in annoyance and frustration – increased enough for me to pen this blog 2 weeks after the fact – coming from having to drive at reduced speed for the guts of half an hour.

Who suffers? As usual, the individual. The private citizen, who is a customer of the infrastructure by virtue of having paid their road tax, and a bunch of other taxes besides.


I came across a new word the other day, courtesy of a link from a friend of mine that I also am lucky to work with occasionally. It’s called deloading. It’s taking proper down-time to recharge the batteries and ensure that when you get back on the horse you’re still super-productive.

The link is here. It’s written by a chap called Tim Ferriss, who many of you will know as the author of the 4-Hour Work Week, and other books on a similar theme. I thought he was a good bit older than he is. Not that he looks older, but that he seems to have packed an annoyingly large amount of stuff into his CV already.

You might know from my own blog that I’ve been an advocate of deloading for a long time, although I can honestly say I’ve never referred to it by that term. I guess I’ve always been practising the exercise of taking regular breaks, but not time-wasting breaks, from more run-of-the-mill activities like writing, work or study.

I guess you could boil it down to the time-honoured phrase that a change is as good as a rest. There is so much to be said for the productivity benefits of taking regular time out. It seems counter-intuitive that you can get more done in less and with less. Perhaps that’s the reason why many employers and managers are keen to get as much work time from their people as possible. But’s never been about the hours you put into work, it’s about the work you put into the hours.

Are you an overseller or an underseller? Is your default position overselling or underselling? I’m talking about either in a sales or a non-sales environment.

I’m generalising now, but I find that business-to-consumer (B2C) interactions are generally overselling.

‘Your table will be ready in a few minutes.’

‘I’ll have that fixed for you in a couple of moments.’

‘She should be back to you in a day or 2.’

It’s vague, intimate, approximate, and unreliable. The stakes aren’t too high, that’s why.

Business-to-business (B2B), however, is different, or should be. You want to under-promise, and undersell, so that you can overdeliver, and delight, your much-higher-stakes customer.

You find people are oversellers and undersellers too. Me, I’m always trying to be underselling. I try not to overpromise. I try to deliver early. I try to deliver more. Other people are not undersellers:

‘I’ll be back to the car in a couple of minutes.’

‘I’ll meet you there at midday.’

I’ll have it for you tomorrow.’

If you sell the dream, and the dream doesn’t appear when it should, you create disappointment, a phantom version of what you promised. When you let someone down, even in a microscopically small way, you create a microscopically small phantom.

The question is: do you care?

We often get asked to do a quick job for someone. It won’t take us long. We can ether do it right away, or not do it, or put it off.

One question I always try to ask on a quick job: what are the timings on this?

It’s a small job, I know, I can see that. When do you need it by? You see, it might not be that urgent, and our lives are all about constantly judging a tray of priorities. The priority list is moving all the time, in work or play, with every new thing we do or are asked to do, no matter how small. Time is finite and we can’t do everything. If time was infinite we probably wouldn’t need to prioritise.

So does that person really need it doing right now? The good ones should be able to give you a fair response in terms of its urgency, even if they’re building in some buffer for themselves.

I’m not suggesting you ask about timings every time someone asks you to pass the salt – although makes for interesting dialogue if you refuse to pass it – but if it takes you out of the middle of something time-bound, you can’t re-prioritise without asking about timings. How often have you bust a gut to get something done quickly for someone, and they didn’t need it for ages?

Ask the question.

I had a birthday the other day. I try not to work on my birthday – at least not a full day and certainly not more than a couple of hours in the home office.

What a great day it was. My mother was over and we pottered around, did a bit of shopping, had a leisurely lunch and then visited a few families and friends to shake hands and kiss babies – literally.

What a great day it was. How quickly it was over, though, and how long to wait until the next one, or even ’til Christmas when, to me at least, it feels like it’s everyone’s birthday at the same time.

So I’ve fixed this. I’m having more birthdays. Yup, more frequent birthdays is the way to go. I think somewhere between one a quarter and one a month is reasonable. I know the Queen has two birthdays a year, her natural one and her official one, but even that feel like nowhere near enough.

I don’t need you to send me a present for every one of my new birthdays, or even any of them. Simply send me happy birthday vibes, and that will suffice. I want that birthday buzz more often, and more birthdays is the way to get it.

I took a day off the other day. What I would describe as a proper day off. It wasn’t a holiday, and I wasn’t going on holiday. It wasn’t a weekend. I simply didn’t work that day.

I had a bunch of fiddly things to get done, and some errands to run. The kinds of things that I would normally try to wedge into the cracks of a normal working day. Stolen minutes at lunchtime or on a break, going a at breakneck speed to check a couple of pesky items off the list.

What a joyful day it was. I had forgotten what it was like to enjoy your spare time. Ambling around like I had all the time in the world to get my stuff done. No more cursing my bad luck at the traffic or at other people conspiring to to delay me in my rush to get from A to B.

I’ve always been a bit precious about taking the odd day off. This is probably a throw-back to my time as an employee when I had a finite amount of holidays to take and I didn’t want to waste any on needless frippery.

But there’s something to be said for simply taking a day off to slip into the slower part of the stream for a while, to enjoy the journey, rather than the destination.

There is a phrase used colloquially in business: ‘trying to fit 10 pounds of manure into a 5-pound bag.’ OK, so the word manure isn’t usually used, but here it deputises nicely for its much more graphic and vulgar counterpart. You get the message; it conjures up a vivid image of what happens when we don’t prioritise well.

It’s a topic I’ve dwelt on before and it goes back to how well we manage our own time.

You can’t get everything done that you want to during the day, so list the things you have to get done and estimate the time it will take you to do each of them. Then rank them by importance, rather than urgency. Then work down the list and figure out how many you can do in the day. You’ll not get to the others. If item 1 is going to take you more than the full day, then you need to break it up into manageable chunks, which you can then re-rank.

Sometimes I pick off the smaller, less important jobs first, but this is high risk because then you might be looking at a very long working day since you have to get the most important job finished before you clock out.

If you don’t take a prioritising approach to your work, you’ll see your key projects drag on far longer than they should.

So should you be spending your precious time on the advice dispensed in this blog? If it helps you be more productive and successful, then of course.

That said, and from my own personal perspective, I don’t know how this blog gets done 3 times a week. Probably because I don’t view it as work. It’s more like living in another country. The longer you stay, the more used to it you become, and the harder it is to move.

This post is kind of a Time Part 3, since I already wrestled with the concepts of time here and here.

I’m not a big fan of hindsight. Looking back in time serves no real purpose for me, except if it helps to guide us as to what might happen in the future.

As the financial service companies are forever telling us – while they forever cover themselves – past performance is no guarantee of future performance. It’s no indicator either. It’s a pattern that may or may not repeat itself.

Of course, what we really want is foresight, the ability to look ahead. We often use the word in a phrase beginning something like ‘she had the foresight too…’ when we really mean ‘she had the good sense to’. Anticipating something and playing the probabilities is wise but is still not the same as looking ahead, because we can’t do that. That’s messing with time.

The really powerful form of sight that is definitely within our grasp is insight. Insight comes from high quality and time-sensitive information, and gives us an idea why the concepts of big data, artificial intelligence and augmented intelligence hold so much promise and are maddeningly close to our grasp.

Insight is what we should strive for, because it’s more useful than hindsight and more real than foresight. It’s important not to forget that, because to do so would be an oversight…

Ah, time, the fourth dimension, besides width, depth and length. By far the most interesting dimension I think. The one dimension we can’t do anything about. We can’t control it, slow it down or speed it up. It simply marches on.

Wouldn’t it change a few things if you could see into the future, if you knew what would happen? Or, if you woke up one day and it was 6 months ago, and you could relive the next 6 months knowing exactly how things would play out? We’d make millions within a few days.

But if we all could do it, then it would destroy the 4th dimension. It would destroy the gambling industry, but that’s the merest tip of the iceberg. It would destroy risk, probability, choice, and it would destroy freedom. Our paths would be utterly determined.

So, if we solved the riddle of the 4th dimension, we would change everything, immediately and for ever. In fact, immediacy and foreverness would cease to be concepts.

This post is quite deep I suppose. Which, as we just discussed, is another dimension entirely :-).

I’ll keep this post uncharacteristically short. I’m going to put it out there. It applies for work and play.

No meeting, session, presentation and so on should be longer than an hour. Anything more is too much, unfair to the audience, not a good use of anyone’s time. It’s a productivity and attention thing.

Do we really need longer than an hour? If we do, we should split it up into sessions, with breaks. Look at the educational system, which should be focused on learning, absorbing, retaining and using information. Classes are less than an hour, and double classes should have a complete break.

The exception to this is if you, the customer, the audience member, have paid for the privilege. A film, a show, or an evening with someone. Other than that, it should be an hour, max. It’s all you should need.