Your time is your most valuable resource

I get quite agitated when I read about a police investigation (as you do) and the force concerned claims that it has cost them £1,800 or some other ridiculously low sum. Because it’s blatantly obvious that it hasn’t cost them that. £1,800 is what they spent on car parking and lunches. The actual investigation has cost them more like half a million. They just haven’t factored in the cost of their people’s time. And that’s a mistake.

Because your time is a resource like any other.

Except that it’s not. Because you can get more people or money or widgets. But you can’t create more time. Your time is a finite resource. And, as Oliver Burkeman expounds to great effect in his excellent book Four thousand weeks, it’s running out fast. You need to value it. And you need to allocate it extremely carefully. Because once it’s gone, there’s no getting it back.

It seems to me that most organisations could do a much better job of valuing their people’s time. Someone earning £45,000 a year, for example, costs their organisation about £35 per hour, when payroll taxes and pension contributions are taken into account. So if you have a two hour meeting with eight people, it’s costing the organisation £560. Plus biscuits.

If you were to try to claim that amount of money on expenses for air travel or whatever, I’m pretty sure you’d need to get someone to sign it off. Yet anyone can arrange a meeting costing the same amount without anyone batting an eyelid.

But it’s not just our organisations that need to get better at valuing our time. We need to get better at valuing our own time, too. After all, if – as Oliver Burkeman highlights – we only have four thousand weeks (and a lot less than that, to be brutally honest, if you’re mid-way through your working life), we really need to make sure we’re spending them on the things that matter to us.

Because if we’re spending time on something stupid or pointless that drains our soul (and, let’s face it, there’s a lot of it about), that’s time we’re not spending on something more important or fulfilling.

In a work context, these ‘more important’ tasks might include finding new clients, generating new ideas or mentoring a co-worker. Outside the work context, they might include spending time with your family, exercising in the outdoors or working on a side-project that means a lot to you. These tasks don’t drain value; they create it.

We don’t have an infinite amount of time. It really is our most valuable resource. So we need to value it. And we need to invest it wisely.

Simon Perks is the founder and director of Sockmonkey Consulting. He helps organisations with a social purpose to make better decisions, to improve their performance and to drive positive change. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter here.

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