Is your watch showing the right time?

Time is precious these days there never seems to be enough of it.

As we head into the frenetic pre-Christmas period, it’s a good time to think about how you are spending your time.

As American author, Henry David Thoreau said: “It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?”.

If you want to make a difference in your organisation and have influence it’s important to consider what time means for you.

People often use money as a metaphor for time.  The logic is that once time has been spent you can’t get it back.  And you can’t spend ‘future’ time – because you can’t spend what you don’t have.

If you follow that line of reasoning it is the present that you should be most concerned with.  Why?  Because it is the only the present time that you can be certain you have.

That feels a little too bleak and fatalistic for me.

I’d rather think of time like a triangle, and to thrive through complexity you need all three corners considered.

Your life – like time – is made up of the past, present and future.

Reflecting on the past helps with learning. Thinking about your future helps with goal-setting.  Being present and using your time wisely helps advance you towards those goals.


Which of those elements do you spend the most time on?   Are you dwelling on the past?  Are you so focused on the present, you don’t plan for the future? Or are you so fixated on the future that you don’t know how to enjoy the present?

Reflecting on the past, thinking about your future goals, and being focused on what you need to do in the present is a delicate balance.

Influential leaders know how to balance all three.

You need to look behind you – but not for so long that you get lost in the past.  Reflecting on past experiences and learning from them is essential.  But being fixated on something that has passed – and which you cannot change – is very unhealthy.

You need to concentrate on the present – but not to the extent that your present enjoyment precludes you from planning for the future.   This is the ultimate expression of the hedonist who only “lives for today”.

Looking ahead means you scan the horizon.  When you do this you can take a step back and see the bigger picture.  This perspective is important as it helps you understand what may be changing in a world and societal context, and what you need to do to stay ahead of the game.

So in the lead up to Christmas, take some time to reflect on your relationship with time.  You may find it’s time to reset your watch.

Change happens.  Make it work for you.

About the Author

Michelle Gibbings is known for making the complex, simple.  She helps people to think more deliberately, act with greater purpose and accelerate progress by understanding the art and science of human behaviour.  

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