How to Make Time Work for You

Limited Time

We know that time is precious to you. Like the rest of the Western world, you probably see time as scarce and think of time as having a beginning and an end. Your phone counts the seconds, minutes, hours and days and if you work on a deadline, it is normal to feel the time is running out. Such a perception of time can generate stress, which can help explain why, today, stress is so present. Even though it is important to stick to deadlines and not waste time, it is even more important not to become a slave of time. In fact, there are ways, where you can make time work for you!


Time Is Also a Perception

Though scientifically time is measured in seconds and every second is just as long as the next, people do not perceive time in seconds. We all know the feeling that some moments are longer than others, and an hour of boredom can feel like a whole day, while a whole day can feel like only an hour if you had fun. There are places in the world where people do not have watches and do not work by the hour. These people do not perceive time as we do: Some think, time runs in circles. Others think that the past is one big blur where yesterday is in the same category as one hundred years ago. The point is, while we find it natural that time is something with a beginning and an end, people do not naturally think of time in this way. Time, as we know it, is all about perception.


Time Is Money

The fact that it is not only lab scientists that measure time in seconds, but that you, your colleagues and friends do the same every time you look at the digital watch on your phone, originates from industrialisation. When industrialisation came, people no longer worked from dusk till dawn in the fields. Instead, most people became employees and had specified working hours. Time became something, one could sell to an employer to make a living. Time became one of our most valuable resources. Indeed, time became money.


Stealing Time

“Can I steal just five minutes of your time?” Everyone knows this question. The same goes for sentences like: “Do you have a moment?” and: “May I take some of your time?” Sentences like these demonstrate that we see time as limited. However, if you have time, you can give time. Yet, we are always like thieves in the night when it comes to other people’s time. We take it. Sometimes we are polite enough to say: “Thank you for your time” after we took it, but time is always something one takes; even the person, we ask for some time from, often agrees that their time has been taken. However, what if time was something we gave and not something that was taken?


How Are You with Time?

How do you act when people ask for your time? Of course, this depends on the context, and you are not a villain for saying, there is something else you have to do; when you think back, however, what characterises your actions when people ask for your time? Some people look at their watch before deciding if they have time to spare. Others ask specifically, how long this “thief of time” thinks, he or she may need. Some people reply: “Sure, I have time!”, when in fact they know, they do not, and their eyes then start wandering towards the door.


Become Time-Rich

We know that you do not have much time – no one really does. Most people know this about their busy colleagues or their leaders. In fact, most people do not enjoy stealing time, but they may need to, to get their work done or for other reasons. When people come to take your time, give it away freely. Your relationship with time will characterise all your other relationships. This is one of the reasons, why people respond very positively to others being present. When you are present, time is less of a resource; time almost seems unlimited, because the focus is on this moment. If you become someone, who gives time willingly, people will perceive you differently. Think about it: If you have a lot of money, you can spend on others, you are rich and generous.  What are you then, if you have a lot of valuable time, you can give to others?


Be Generous with Your Time

Next time someone stops you in the hallway on your way to a meeting or knocks on your door just as you are working hard to meet your deadlines, be present and give your time away. The time, you are giving away, is time that was going to be taken anyway. And if you give it freely, you will be surprised at how this will affect others positively.

In case, you do not have time to give, acknowledge that the person asking for your time is already giving you his or hers. You could, for example, say something like: “Thank you for making me aware of this! Would it be okay if I catch up with you after lunch? I have something that really needs my attention right now, and I want to be present when we talk?”. You will quickly see that your working relationships improve compared to if you had just said: “Sorry, but not right now”.


To Conclude: Invest in Time!

If time is a resource like money, you are able to invest it. At work, invest it in your relationships with employees and colleagues. Of course, you should also invest it in getting the job done, but strong relations will benefit you most in the long run – especially when you are a leader. If you give your time to others, it will come back to you tenfold. This is how to avoid becoming a slave of time and instead make time work for you.