I don’t know about you, but I have found myself reading a lot more lately. Partly because I actually have the time to, but mainly to challenge myself and re-establish a footing. The book I am currently reading is actually one I read years ago that really shaped a lot about how I go about my day-to-day. The book is called “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker. I read this book when I wasn’t an executive (not even close), but I definitely wanted to continue to ascend the ranks of leadership. The book is time-tested and vaunted as one of the best business/leadership books on the market still today. There are numerous current and notorious CEOs that count “The Effective Executive” as the book that changed their trajectory. I don’t know that I would go that far. I would say, however, that there are timeless nuggets that are found in the book. The one I found the most eye-opening/game-changing was Drucker’s focus on time and the reader’s understanding of it.
Check out this excerpt:
"Time is also a unique resource. Of the other major resources, money is actually quite plentiful. We long ago should have learned that it is the demand for capital, rather than the supply thereof, which sets the limit to economic growth and activity. People—the third limiting resource—one can hire, though one can rarely hire enough good people. But one cannot rent, hire, buy, or otherwise obtain more time. The supply of time is totally inelastic. No matter how high the demand, the supply will not go up. There is no price for it and no marginal utility curve for it. Moreover, time is totally perishable and cannot be stored. Yesterday’s time is gone forever and will never come back. Time is, therefore, always in exceedingly short supply. Time is totally irreplaceable. Within limits we can substitute one resource for another, copper for aluminum, for instance. We can substitute capital for human labor. We can use more knowledge or more brawn. But there is no substitute for time. Everything requires time. It is the one truly universal condition. All work takes place in time and uses up time. Yet most people take for granted this unique, irreplaceable, and necessary resource. Nothing else, perhaps, distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time.”
I don’t know where you are in your current journey, but when I re-read this passage, it hit me in more ways than just work utilization and managerial/operational effectiveness. As I have been meditating on, studying, reading, and collaborating with others about the impacts of COVID-19 and how it has changed them, the theme that keeps coming back up is TIME. Time on my commute. My time is pulled between kids and school and work. I have spent more time with…. Time, time, time.
I recently read a blog post by Tim Urban (probably my favorite blogger today). You can find it here. In the post, he visualizes a 90-year life through animation. It’s a powerful read. Reading through Drucker and Urban coupled with processing COVID-19 has really brought the concept of time and it’s utilization as a resource into direct focus for me. I have really started to hone in on how my time is spent. Some of the behaviors I have doubled down on over the last several weeks:
- I started cataloging my time again — i.e. where do I spend the majority of my time (actual activities). What you will find when you go through this exercise is that prior to inventorying your time you will have a very distinct thought about where your time goes that is radically shifted when reviewing your personal timesheet at the end of the month.
- I have doubled down on my discipline of blocking time. Blocking time is a concept that allows you 1.5 hours of uninterrupted time to do the work that will produce the most yield/return.
- I memorialized (on digital paper) - how I think my time should be spent and where I can have the most impact.
- I aligned my quarterly goals with time and attention allocations.
- Lastly, I am working with my team one-on-one specifically on the areas that I have identified as important.
I have come to agree with Drucker that time is the single most valuable resource we have on earth. I also understand where Jim Croce was coming from when he sang, “If I could save time in a bottle.” Do me a favor today and take the TIME to understand where yours goes. Dig deep and do a real inventory — I think you will be surprised by what you find and you will likely make some changes that deliver yield.
Onward and Upward!
(Mark Sedgley, President and CEO of MemberClicks)