Do you know what your time is worth? It is worth more than you might think. Once spent, we can’t get a unit of time back. We can’t borrow it from the next day or next week.

Too often, I am guilty of spending time foolishly or on habits I know don’t bring the results I seek. How about you? I bet you can be guilty of this also. The good news, however, is we can spend time wisely just as we invest in other things that are of value to us.

For example, we would not spend money on medicine if we knew it wouldn’t actually help with our condition. Similarly, we wouldn’t invest in a health club membership if we knew we didn’t intend to utilize it.

This paradox causes me to wonder why we don’t treat time as we would any other investment. Part of the answer may involve how we are wired as human beings.

Part of the answer may be comprised of our individual habits. And part of the answer may also relate to a lack of awareness. Allow me to break these components down for you:

How We Are Wired – We all know people who are highly focused and we also know people who are highly susceptible to distraction or interruption. Those who are focused will know exactly what they want to accomplish and have an ability to block out everything else.

Focused people have plans; they have goals and they take action to accomplish those plans. They assess and evaluate the results, make necessary adjustments, and continue to press on.

Easily distracted people suffer from SOS – shiny object syndrome. While they may have goals, they have difficulty holding their attention on those goals.

All the bells, dings, pings, and other noises coming from smartphones, computers, and other “productivity” devices only add to the SOS issue.

While an easily distracted person may never completely change into a highly focused person, there are steps they can take to gain more focus. Let me know if you or someone you know would like to learn more.

Our Habits – Have you ever driven from work, pulled into your driveway or parking spot and thought to yourself, “I don’t remember the last 10 minutes of this drive”? This occurs because we operate a great deal of our day in automatic pilot mode.

The older we are and the more driving we do, the more we rely on the driving habits we have perfected over the years to actually do the driving for us.

This also applies to how we decide to spend our time. Many of our habits are deeply ingrained within our subconscious minds such that we no longer think about them.

Instead, we blindly do the same thing over and over again. At 10:00am, we take a walk to Starbucks, whether we need a caffeine jolt or not. At 3:00pm we take a snack break, whether we are hungry or not.

When an email comes in, we stop what we are doing and look at it. We don’t consciously remind ourselves how the email will still be there in 30 minutes, and make a decision to postpone looking until then.

When someone pops into our office or workspace asking if we have a minute, we habitually say, “sure” even when we may not. After all, we don’t want to be rude.

A useful exercise would be to examine which of our habits continue to serve us well, and which ones we consciously need to eliminate.

Lack of Awareness – This culprit of careless time management is perhaps the granddaddy of them all! When we lack awareness, particularly of how a certain habit no longer serves us, we have no one or no internal voice to challenge us. We continue to plod along rather than ask ourselves the hard question, “Is this activity the highest and best use of my time right now?”

The prime reason for a lack of awareness is the unwillingness to be challenged by those in our lives who desire nothing more for us than our growth and development. It might be the unwillingness to listen to other perspectives or engage with a coach or mentor to help us see deeper into the causes of our situations and current results.

When we lack awareness, we don’t challenge ourselves to do the hard work of thinking and to question why we do the things we do.

Asking ourselves thought-provoking questions allows us to develop new ideas and action plans to achieve better results. When we lack awareness, we don’t take the time to think – we just react.

When we lack awareness, we prevent change and real growth from happening in our lives. Change is hard, yet necessary.

There is absolutely no growth when we stay within our comfort zones. But when we move beyond the familiar and take on something we are not fully prepared for, we spur ourselves on to new levels of success. After we finish, we can evaluate what we have learned and where we were able to accomplish goals and develop new skills. This is true growth.

Being busy isn’t the objective in our work and organizations. Rather, being productive and creating value is the objective we want to achieve. Organizations are in business to create value for their customers and for their owners. This requires investing our time in being productive, not busy.

As leaders, are we challenging those we lead to create value? Are we challenging ourselves to create value?

Let me know if you would benefit from having me think this through with you. I know you would find it to be worth your time – are you willing to give it a try?

Best regards,

Bill

PS – I was with a client last week helping to create and implement some new inside sales strategies. After spending just two hours together, I asked what the new strategies we developed would produce in terms of additional revenue. After pausing for a minute to calculate, he replied, “At least $500,000 by the end of this year.”

We weren’t being busy; we were creating value. We finished that session pretty darn happy!