We should all be time millionaires

Today has already had its time and logistical challenges. The toddler was up at 5 a.m. and would not go back down. I took him until 6:30, then my husband took him until 7:30 while I slept. When I looked at my phone at 7:30 I discovered that the camp where three of the kids are going this week has a power outage and had no idea when they would open.

Fortunately there are back-up plans, as there are always back-up plans. I wish I were optimistic enough to believe that things would always go right, but I know they won’t. When you assume things will go wrong, and have extra time or back-up plans to deal with the various challenges, you can feel more calm.

There are lots of parallels with time and money. In the Rachel Rodgers Best of Both Worlds interview yesterday, she mentioned that with more resources (time or money!) you can just do more in situations to help. When her kids were littler, devoting time and energy to friends was just harder. Now that the kids are getting a little older, she feels richer in this regard, and has more to give.

One of the goals of my work is to give people a sense of time abundance. When we believe we have no time, we make choices out of a sense of scarcity — working through lunch instead of getting to know colleagues, not going to an extra training because we have too many assignments already. It makes sense, but it can be short-sighted. The day-to-day work will always expand to fill the available space. Getting to know colleagues means they’ll be more willing to help out or share resources, which can potentially lighten your load.

Creating a sense of time abundance is challenging. There are only 24 hours in a day. But there are a few strategies that I think can help make us feel like time millionaires.

One is to broaden the time horizon. When we view life in weeks (168 hours) instead of days (24 hours) we create more space. Things don’t have to happen daily in order to count in our lives. If you exercise three times a week, then in a 24-hour mindset you go to bed most nights knowing that you haven’t exercised. If you’re looking at the whole week, on the other hand, this seems pretty good. The same thing has happened, but it feels entirely different.

Second, build in extra space. Slack can absorb the inevitable emergencies when stuff comes up. I love the tale (recounted in the book Slack) of a maxed out hospital that began leaving one operating room open for emergencies. Delays and unplanned overtime fell considerably.  When there are back-up slots, tasks have a place to go when anything takes longer than planned. Priorities can still happen even when something goes wrong. You don’t fall behind.

And finally, people tend to be a good use of time. Unlike money, time can’t be saved up for future use — once a second is gone, it is gone, and will never come back. But a robust personal and professional network means that someone will help when you need to skip a week on the carpool, or need assistance on a big project. Time gets banked in relationships.

How do you create a sense of time abundance?

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