Do What You Want

Time is precious. It’s not savable. Whatever time you spend, you don’t get back.

Your schedule is your budget. The time given to people or activities represents how much you value them.

Except, of course, it doesn’t.

If you listed how you spent your time over the last 24 hours, would it reflect the value you derive from those activities?

My most time-consuming activity today was cleaning out the garage and moving things to a storage facility. That’s definitely not what I value most.  

Now, over weeks, months, and years, we may budget time with more of an eye toward personal value.

But perhaps we shouldn’t budget all of it.

In an interview, Bill Gates once talked about how billionaire Warren Buffett taught him a valuable lesson about time. The famed investor showed his calendar. Nothing was listed for weeks. And it changed the way the Microsoft founder thought. “There are all these demands and you feel like you need to go and see all these people,” he said. “It’s not a proxy of your seriousness that you fill every minute in your schedule.”

During a business disruption, it’s tempting to act quickly and schedule every moment in service of the changes we want to make.

Last week, I spoke with a content leader who told me how the business she works for pivoted hard to creating content the last eight weeks. She and her team have been busier and more sought after than ever. She said yes to most requests, pushing herself and her team to the limit. And yet she’s finding every new Zoom meeting, task, and project less satisfying than the one before. She got exactly what she wanted, yet it felt like a Pyrrhic victory. Both she and the company were worse off for the efforts.

Doesn’t it feel better to agree to take on an extra task, meet for a half-hour “pick your brain” session, review that blog, join that twentieth Zoom call because you want to rather than when you feel you should?

When we fill our schedules with responsibilities, tasks, and priorities that make everyone happy except ourselves, we risk losing sight of how valuable time is. And we deplete our ability to spend quality time on anything at all.

In Meeting the Challenge of Disruptive Change, author and professor Clayton Christensen wrote that managers should take time to understand what type of change is possible before diving into the changes an organization says they should. “Understanding a problem is the most crucial step in solving it,” he wrote.

Yes, you should schedule regular breaks, get enough sleep, organize time to be away from work, and practice self-care.

But, perhaps you should also try scheduling nothing, practice the art of leaving white space in your schedules. Maybe you should try spending no time at all. You might find it helps you solve the big challenges you should solve. And it might also help you want to solve the big challenges you could solve.     

It’s your story. Tell it well.

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