It has been nearly forty years since I presented my first time management seminar to an enthusiastic group of young managers. They were anxious to improve their personal productivity and eagerly took notes and absorbed everything I told them, from getting up an hour earlier in the morning to making use of the final ten minutes of the workday.
We didn’t have laptops or smart phones or iPods or iPads in those days, but I was able to suggest that a pocket recorder go with them in their car, and that they should have a “waiting kit” to utilize any idle time in waiting rooms or line-ups. I told them how to cut meeting time in half, intercept unscheduled visitors, avoid non-productive phone calls, and reduce socializing during office hours.
I’ve learned a lot in forty years. I wish I could find those same managers and apologize for telling them never to waste time – if by wasting time we mean such things as conversations at the water cooler, or joking around at the start of a meeting, or socializing during a business call.
I no longer believe those things are a waste of time. When you chat with customers in a coffee shop or help someone struggling to put groceries in their car or offer assistance to a stalled motorist, you are not wasting time, you are participating in life. When you spend a lunch hour doing crossword puzzles or watch a baseball game on TV at night or bounce a tennis ball off the garage door for ten minutes before leaving for the office, you are not wasting time, you are enjoying life. And at the office, if you take a break from that overwhelming project by staring out the window and marveling at how the wind sculpts human images from the clouds, you are not wasting time, you are savoring life.
Time is in the eye of the beholder. What one person may consider a waste of time, another may consider a gift of time. It’s your time. It’s your life. It’s your responsibility to manage it. When you are in your seventies or eighties or nineties, you will reap what you have sowed. But I do urge you to be in the driver’s seat. Don’t give up control to technology or feel you have to keep pace with everyone around you. Go at your own speed. Accomplish what is important to you. Live according to your own values, and make your own memories.
Those memories will represent your lifetime.