Archives for posts with tag: time

It’s impossible to resist the slow, glacial and inexorable movement of father time. Father time, but mother nature: what’s going on there?

Once you’ve reached the peak of fitness, be it physical, sporting, cerebral, intellectual and so on, or if you’re lucky, a long, luxurious plateau of a peak, you’re on the decline, fact. You have to work increasingly harder with each passing year to keep your skills at the level they were.

I have noticed this with the sport I have played most of over the last 4 decades, table tennis. It’s hard to judge how you compare with your much younger self, even though I still think I’m as good as I was in my peak, but I have a general sense that my abilities are in decline, that my skills are dwindling. Table tennis is one of those sports where you can have a long career of being at or close to your best. It’s not like some of the other speed and power sports where the window is much narrower.

That said, when I’m playing against people half my age, or less, I see that the sport has moved on, it’s played differently, and my approach to the game is outdated. I’m pushing against the tide of better ways of playing the game, and younger, faster and better players.

The enjoyment is still there, but the proficiency is such that you’re competitive against the standard of player on your way down that you were on your way up. The only way you can reconcile yourself with the march of time is to confine yourself to playing against your age group or to be in competition with yourself, and not others, on a daily basis.

I’m sure it applies to work as well…

 

 

Advertisements

Despite the advent of all things digital and web, a lot of us still do a lot of travelling, to physical meetings or events. We still spend a lot of time out of the office. That makes it hard for people to get hold of us but also hard for us to get stuff done while we’re travelling.

If we’re driving to meetings, much more so than if we’re travelling by rail or air, then this can be dead time, because the act of driving occupies so many of our faculties on a constant basis. After all, we might be guiding a one-and-a-half ton killing machine through fast motorways, narrow, winding roads roads and populated areas.

This is road time. In the car is the best time for people to reach us and for us to hold calls and get them out. The one thing we can do when we’re driving is talk. And think, it least to some degree.

If I want to do a long call or an interview with someone, I’ll ask them when they’re travelling. They’re a captive audience during their road time, they’re happy to get the call out of the way – it’s a good use of their time – and they generally have privacy, which you can’t say for train journeys.

Road time can be productive, for both the driver and the person trying to reach them.

Biannual, biennial, it’s tough to remember which one means which, what timespan we’re talking about, isn’t it?

The prefix bi generally means 2, as in biped or bipolar, so one means 2 times a year and the other means every 2 years, so not much help there.

Taking a look at the suffix, annual means yearly, and -ennial is, well, quite similar. A perennial plant is one which lasts a while, rather than something that shows up every year, so again we’re slightly in the dark.

As it turns out, biannual means twice a year, and biennial means every 2 years. I suppose you could say biennial is like triennial, which is once every 3 years, as long as you don’t think it means 3 times a year…hmmm.

I haven’t found a good way to remember which is which, other than the raw facts themselves, which is harder to do the older you get. Us older folk tend to learn via patterns rather than by rote these days.

Business is awash with shorthand.

Good shorthand uses TLAs or jargon that everyone understands to save time and effort. Bad shorthand leaves people unproductive, confused and alienated.

I’ve always used ‘mktg’ as a shorthand for marketing. So much so that I use it in the domain name for my business website, M4 Marketing. It’s a nice short domain. The only problem I have is that I have to spell out the domain name over the phone, which is not ideal.

I think that the mktg shorthand is good shorthand, no? It’s like ‘mgmt’ for management. Pretty much everyone knows that shorthand and uses it freely.

Time, as I’m fond of boring you over the last nearly 5 years, is a most precious resource. Which is why we should, in my opinion, be really good at managing it. Yet we’re not, really, compared to other precious resources like money, water, temperature, sales, sales pipeline, marketing leads, fuel and so on, which we’re really good at measuring.

That’s because most have a monetary value easily attached to them. Time does as well, or should, but tends not to, unless you charge by the hour.

Some Irish folk have a fairly relaxed approach to measuring time, or at least estimating its duration. That’s why in our house we have a joke about Irish minutes and English minutes. I’m English and when I say I’ll be about 5 minutes, I’ll be about 5 minutes. When her ladyship and others say they’ll ‘just be 2 minutes’, or ‘I’ll be back in 15 minutes’, I ask if that’s Irish minutes or English minutes.

Then I know what’s going on. It’s like saying you’ll ‘just be 2 ticks‘. How you can ever be close to 2 seconds? Drives me mad.

There are some jobs where deadlines are constantly present. Journalism for one.

There are also people who can’t seem to work unless they have a deadline in front of them. Are journlists in that category too? Some of them I guess.

The thing that many of us experience with working to deadlines is that the closer the deadline is, the more we get done. When you have to make a deadline you cut through the unnecessary and get to the nub of what your project is all about. This is fine for creating something with words, but when you’re involved with something that has an already defined process, like a complex sales process, one that you can’t bypass or cut short, then you’ve got problems. Then, it’s not your deadline, the end of your sales month for example, that counts, it’s your customer’s deadline.

With the more undefined processes, though, like writing for example, it pays me in my daily work to create deadlines to maximise my productivity. If there aren’t deadlines on a job, or the deadline is a long way from now, create an artificial deadline to work to. Or, split the project up into pieces and create mini-deadlines. For example, can I create two blog posts before lunchtime? Can I get the last page finished before this meeting starts? Can I reach the half way mark before the end of the day?

Of course, the risk you run with this approach is that you’re always producing shoddy, rushed work, work that would have benefitted form a little more time, and a less demanding deadline. That’s the balance between the two that we strive for: the best we can strive for versus the commercial reality imposed by time being money.

If you want to relax on your time off, and simply while away the time in those most luxurious moments when you have the luxury of time, then simply set no targets for the day, no objectives.

As an example, yesterday I set myself the goal of thinking up a blog post topic in the three minutes’ time I had before a call started. I came up with this one, and wrote it today.

To tender or not to tender, that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind etc… when I worked in the sales effectiveness business, the golden rule was that your success rate for an unsolicited tender is between 0 and 5% – yep, a terrible return – for a host of factors too numerous to mention here. Perhaps for another post.

This is a statistic that should bring out the most sober analysis of how our business development time is best spent, but the truth is that it really applies to the private sector. The public sector is often duty-bound to go out to tender from a pretty low base contract value, and with increasing levels of sophistication at higher threshold amounts.

I decided to respond to my first tender in a long time last year. It was a pretty good fit for my skill-set, but it’s still an agonising decision to invest the considerable time into collecting references, getting legal documentation signed and writing the response.

I wanted to go through the process for the journey itself, to get a feel for it since it would better colour future decisions. I ended up winning the tender, and the reasons why you win are always invaluable when you do a ‘drains up’ – win or lose – with the awarding company.

Emboldened by the fact that I was batting 1,000 as the Americans would say, I promptly entered another tender, and lost it, thereby killing my excellent average.

So what can we conclude from this? My $0.02 is this. Unsolicited private sector tenders, don’t touch them. If you weren’t expecting it, you’re simply making up the numbers. Public sector tenders, if it’s a genuine project, and it’s worth it to you, and it’s a good fit, and you intuitively feel you’re in the top 3, it’s worth throwing your hat in the ring.

 

4 years blogging. That’s 620-odd Monday-Wednesday-Friday posts over 208 weeks. Blimey. It’s a long time, isn’t it? For nearly 7 and half per cent of my entire life, and roughly 20% of the existence of the medium, I’ve been blogging regularly.

The one thing that strikes me when I hit these milestones is this: where the bloody hell has the time gone and why is it going so damn fast? It doesn’t seem that long since I penned my first post on ‘domino chain’ theory, complete with fancy self-made picture.

Over this time I’ve stayed very true to the blog’s strapline, putting into words my ‘musings on things that I come into contact with’. True to that, I’ve written on a range of topics, from sales and marketing through to language and communication, behaviour and attitudes, cultures and conflicts, travel and tribulations.

As I’ve always said, I enjoy the discipline of penning the regular post, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the odd one too.

How long will I continue doing this? Well, to borrow from the gambling phrase that sits under all ads, at least in this country: when the fun stops, stop.

Time flies when you’re having fun. It drags horribly if you’re bored.

Sometimes you need more time and it seems to slip away quickly. Paradoxically, I’ve found that the harder you work, the slower the time seems to go past. Let me offer an analogy.

When you’re running on a treadmill, and you’re jogging or running more slowly – perhaps in your recovery phase – the time seems to gallop past. When you run faster and really work on the treadmill, the time seems to crawl past.

When I’m up against a deadline I find that if I work harder it has the effect of slowing down the time. Now, of course, you could argue that the harder you work the more you can get done in the same time – just as you can cover more distance in the same time on the treadmill – but the point is you feel more in control of the time rather than it being in control of you. This approach also works if you’re bored.

So there you go, work harder to slow down time if you’re busy, and work harder to speed up time if you’re bored. You heard it here first. Or maybe you knew it already.

Boredom is an appalling condition for a human being. Can you think back to all those hours at school when you weren’t stimulated, when you were bored beyond belief? It didn’t seem to matter as much back then, probably because a seemingly infinite existence stretched out in front of us.

What about your job? Does your job bore you?Do you suffer boredom between 9 and 5? Does it have boring bits?

Boredom is a scourge of modern life. It is the most abject waste of our precious time. We have to avoid it at all costs. No-one should ever be subjected to it. What bores us is probably repetitive so we should automate it where possible.

As soon as I find myself feeling ‘this is boring’ I try to change something about it.

Yes, avoid boredom at all costs. It can lead to no good and is the work of the devil, if such a thing exists.