Is time important? (Pardon me while I wax philosophical.) Most people would probably say yes. Possibly, people who are worried or stressed find time more important than others as the approaching of a certain event in time brings grief. They are focused on the future. The future is just one type of time we are focused on.
In my finite mind, time lies in three distinct different planes:
Past, Present, and Future
Dealing with each of the three distinct planes of time can allow us to behave more strategically, analyze more accurately, and focus on what is most important in our lives. Let me draw a visualization:
A lot of us dwell on the past. Perhaps you could have done something better. Perhaps you are pretty proud of the decisions you’ve made in the past. In either case, there is nothing you can do about time that has passed. Dwelling on the past can cripple people because of what they should have done. We can in fact learn from the past, but once it passes, that is all it is good for – teaching us about our future.
How does this relate to our businesses? To discuss this, let’s talk about Value. Economic theories define value as a benefit that a person or business receives in exchange for goods or services. This exchange is often represented by currency. Who determines the benefit? The person or business receiving it, of course. So value is in the eye of the beholder (be it a person or business). Does time in the past represent value? No, because time in the past represents nothing except lessons we can draw on as we look forward to the future.
Basing your value to a customer on time that has passed is really meaningless. The past is our teacher. Let’s learn from the past, not dwell on it.
Another plane on which time resides is the present. It is what you do right now. You have an infinite list of options that you can devote your time to right now (thank you for reading this article, by the way). In the present, there is no disappointment of time that has passed, or the joys of future time to be spent. It is only decisions to be made, whether beneficial or not. The present is where we do all of our time management. You can’t manage the past, because it’s gone, and you can’t manage the future, because it hasn’t gotten here yet.
How does this relate to our businesses? Time management will happen today, whether you are strategic about it or not. We have an unlimited list of items; day planners, calendar software, phones, notifications, alerts, reminders, apps, and the like to help us manage the present. But what is our ultimate goal? I believe managing the present is all about effectiveness. We want to be effective as spouses, parents, brothers, sisters, leaders, followers, learners, and business owners. And effectiveness is not always managed by completing a list of things to do. Just like the past, the present is also about learning. Are you gaining new knowledge that will actually change your future?
Manage your present time with an eye towards being effective. That may often mean you need to accomplish things on a list. But a list is just a tool… to help you be more effective. Focus on the latter.
So how do we view time in light of the future? In the future, time is simply a constraint. It hems us all in to the same degree. Time in the future is a restriction. Once we recognize what the future of our time is, we can ask this question: “What am I not doing in the present that I should be doing in the future?” What an amazing question. We find again that the future is becoming our tutor, allowing us the control to pick effective behaviors each and every day.
How does this relate to our businesses? To be effective in the future, we scope it for clarity, how to be effective with our customers (the determiners of value), and what not to do. Again, the future is only a constraint. We do have to monitor it, calendar our activities, and plan leisure and work activities. But all things lead us to effectiveness.
The future is about recognizing our limitations (constraints). Choose wisely what you do, understanding that your future also holds options. We have choices in the future to make the most of our constraints.
One final note – each and every day, we experience the three planes of time. The future rolls into the present and back into the past with each blink of the eye. All three are interacting simultaneously. Let’s address this flow of time with these questions:
What are three big things you dwell on that are in your past (good or bad)? How are you learning from them?
Consider how you made decisions in the past. Do you still make decisions this way? Why or why not?
How have your beliefs changed from the past to the present? Has this affected your actions?
Are your present time management tools getting in the way of you being more effective, or helping you be more effective?
Is it okay to not finish things on your list?
Are you being efficient or effective today? Are efficiency and effectiveness contrary ideas that you must manage?
What are you not doing now, that you believe you should do in the future?
Do you know what you should do in the future? Who/what can help bring clarity to your future?
Does the realization of future constraints bring trepidation or elation?
List three things that you fear about the future. Beside each one, list the worst thing that can happen if they come true. Is it so bad?
List three things that would bring you joy if you accomplished them in the future. Beside each one, list one action you can take in the present to move you closer to achieving the joy in the future.
Jason is the Founder of Thriveal and the Chief Innovative Officer of his CPA firm, Blumer & Associates. He is the co-host of the Thrivecast and The Businessology Show and speaks and writes frequently for CPAs and creatives, his firm’s chosen niche. Jason loves to watch documentaries on just about anything. He lives in Greenville, SC with his wife and their three children.