Our most valuable asset is time. No doubt about it. And yet we tend to treat time as if it was in abundance. It’s not. Ask anyone who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Every day, all day long, our perception of time is deceiving us. Picture yourself in a meeting with a boring presenter. Time goes super slow. Now think about a fun dinner with friends with lots of jokes and laughter. Time flies by.
“Humans are not lacking time, they just have too much to do.” ~Karlheinz Geißler
Knowing that we are kidding ourselves about time, how long things take, or how much time is available, let’s examine some options.
What is the best use of your time right now?
Put another way, what will give you the highest return on whatever you decide to spend your time on? Let’s look at three specific scenarios:
Your business is in a startup phase and your revenue is generated through individual projects worth millions of dollars. In order to grow you know you will need to raise funds in a short period of time. Your options are to focus on business development to keep the lights on six months from now or on building a foundation of processes that outside investors will most likely want to see in place before they give you money. What to do? Option one is focusing on short-term success to assure survival. Option two is investing in the future. What would you focus on?
There are no right or wrong answers to this question. To me it’s not about time, but timing. A classic example of growing pains. It’s a tradeoff. You and I make decisions like this every day. Or sometimes we don’t decide, resulting in the most urgent problems being dealt with first. If you want to be in control of your destiny, you must decide. As an executive you are in the business of making decisions. So, what is it going to be – short-term revenue or long-term investment?
If you think this is an unrealistic example, think again. Every CEO of a publicly traded company is guiding a ship making this tradeoff between quarterly earnings and long-term sustainability.
So, let’s ask the question differently: Which action will give the highest return on your time spent?
Ponder that while we look at scenario two.
You want to be healthy. Everybody does. And you know to be healthy you need to move your body. So you decide that you want to work out regularly. Your choice of exercise is running. But you haven’t been running for a while and you realize that technology has improved running gear and footwear considerably. You could either go running right now in old and worn out running shoes that haven’t seen the light of day in a decade, or you could go to the store and buy yourself a new pair with the intention of going running afterwards.
Again, who is to say what the right answer is? Do you actually get a workout in, or do you set yourself up for enjoying and sticking with running for a while?
Which action will give you the highest return on your time spent?
These are tough decisions to make. And yet either scenario is realistic. You are making those decisions every day. You weigh the options and try to figure out what is most important. Do you go for the short-term benefit or do you invest in the future?
Here is the thing. Only YOU can decide what will give you the highest return. In each of these scenarios, you can argue pro or con for either option. That’s why the question is stated: What will give YOU the highest return on your time?
Also, the best use of your time in the past might not be the best use of your time going forward. So you might have to pivot to maximize your time spent.
In the end it’s about timing and that is not necessarily in your control. You have to make a judgment and revisit it again at certain times to see if the context has changed. A decision to go with option one yesterday might be the wrong move given the new information today.
However, one thing is for sure: Not asking yourself the question of what the best use of your time is will definitely move you down the rabbit hole of just tending to what is urgent and needs doing right now. Without pulling yourself to a higher elevation and reflecting on what question to ask, you will cloud your vision and remain stuck in the mode of trouble shooting rather than leading. Thinking about the right question is an essential quality to lead yourself first. And only then can you help others figure out the answers to the question: What is the best use of your time?
I would love to hear examples of where you had this same dilemma and how you decided in the moment. What is the best use of your time right now? Are you clear? If not, feel free to email me and we can strategize the different options for you.
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