How you can spend the time you save wisely

According to British author Claudia Hammond, the word “time” is used more often than any other noun in the English language.

The digital age brought us digital clocks and gave us greater ability to plan, measure and review how we spend our time. Smartphones come with standard stopwatch and timer applications that can record time in one-hundredth of a second. And sports watches with a GPS enable anybody to measure distance, time exercised and various other statistics.

Professionals record their time in minutes – generally, blocks of six, 10 or 15 minutes. Healthcare providers enable you to pick sessions from 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 45 minutes, up to an hour, and the management of their booking systems is enabled by digital technology.

Advertising hoardings tell us how many minutes it is to the nearest McDonald’s, how many minutes the average pick-up time is in an area for an Uber, and how many minutes before the next bus or train arrives.

All this increased ability to measure and save time should give us a better quality of life. But for most, it hasn’t. We consciously try to save minutes but waste hours in peak-hour traffic, using social media and watching television. Financial wisdom tells us that “if we look after the cents, the dollars will look after themselves”. But when it comes to time, for most people, this adage does not apply.

How can your business make better use of time?

Employers should consider what nudges they can give their staff so they use their spare time more sensibly.

We often talk about the knowledge industry, i.e. people who provide information rather than “do” things. Most industries are now knowledge industries. But what was good enough to get you to where you are is generally not good enough to keep you there. Providing learning content – e.g. a library of books, videos, etc. – for employees when things are quiet or when they need to learn something new is a great way to upskill staff and improve business effectiveness. It’s important to agree at performance reviews what learnings the employee needs to undertake, then get their results checked off.

When it comes to giving staff bonuses, many people are not as satisfied with money as we might think. An alternative is to give staff surprise days off for work well done. We cannot, of course, dictate what people do with that time off, but we can encourage them to do something to recharge their batteries. These days off should be surprise rewards, not incentives, as we have a lot more appreciation for a windfall than something we feel entitled to.

“Any extrinsic reward should be unexpected and offered only after the task is complete.”

– Daniel Pink, Thrive

This approach is particularly relevant in high-pressure environments, such as accounting practices, law firms and financial institutions, where people are used to a “heads down, bums up” environment. When they return to work after their bonus day off, they will feel energised and be more productive and effective.

If you are struggling with how to leverage time in your business, contact me