Is Limited Time Liberating?

There I was, a strong-headed young man. I was just 24-year-old and on my first job. My earning, before taxes, was a measly $200! And there was a problem.

Our office was about ten kilometers from town. My commute involved taking two buses to and from work. It also meant that I spent about 20% of my meager earnings on the road.

There was a possibility to cut my spending by half. And that was a big motivator too! But our boss at the time would not hear of us clocking out 30 minutes early. This would give us the opportunity to use  the courtesy bus into town.

His argument was that our workday was eight hours long with one-hour lunch break. However, we were willing to forgo 30 minutes of our lunch break. But he would hear none of it!

Finally, I guess forced by desperation, a colleague and I gave him an ultimatum. He could either have our time or a guaranteed outcome from work. But not both.

After some hesitation, he agreed to our use of the courtesy bus. This had a marked effect on our work. We progressively approached work from the quality of output perspective. Time seemed to melt into the background.

The highest reward for one’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.” ~John Ruskin

Looking back at that experience, we can pull out three lessons from it:

1. Structure time not content

Consistency is critical when constraints strike. I have to constantly remind myself focus on goals rather than activities. When I concentrate on activities, I often end up feeling overwhelmed. I am busy chasing the clock to fit as much as possible.

Goals, on the other hand, help me to structure my time. From the onset, I can already identify potential pitfalls. It becomes possible to design strategies to deal with them. Any week I forget to set my goals often ends up in complete disarray. Getting back on track becomes a struggle of monumental proportions.

2. A little confrontation is healthy

Do not me wrong on this one. “Confrontation simply means meeting the truth head-on,” notes Mike Krzyzewski. It only reminds us that leadership is about doing what is right.

Time therefore becomes an enabler rather than a destination. But you have to confront the truth on how you spend your time. You may have to strike off some goals, activities, people and places from your agenda.

3. Being deliberate kills procrastination

When you live with intent, your goals begin to make sense. Your drive comes from a deeper sense to matter. A problem postponed is like an out-of-control virus. It will escalate to a crisis and eat into your time and other resources.

In the example above, we did not wait for the “right” time with our boss. There was a lot at stake. The organization had a strong top-bottom hierarchy. But we respectfully brought up our concerns. We proved how focusing on outcomes rather than time could benefit both our employer and us.

Don’t equate activity with efficiency. You are paying your key people to see the big picture. Don’t let them get bogged down in a lot of meaningless meetings and paper shuffling. Announce a Friday afternoon off once in a while. Cancel a Monday morning meeting or two. Tell the cast of characters you’d like them to spend the amount of time normally spent preparing for attending the meeting at their desks, simply thinking about an original idea.” ~Harvey Mackay

Q: Would you change anything about how you interact with your time? Have your say by clicking here.

photo credit: Whistle via photopin (license)


Certified Professional Coach, Communication Specialist & Author

I help motivated but overwhelmed individuals and organizations regain their purpose to lead so they can focus on what matters most to build a transformational legacy.