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The business of time needs careful watching

That means even taking into account the minutes to get things done

Gulf News

It’s a rare moment that my wrist isn’t adorned with a watch. So much so that when it is removed there is a white stripe revealing my light skin tone separated from the Dubai tan. Not because I’m a watch aficionado, but I’m obsessed with time.

I like to keep track of what time it is at every moment of the day. But it never occurred to me that the watch is the ultimate productivity aid. Actually, it was invented to measure time and its earliest usage referred to town watchmen who used it to keep track of their shifts at work. They were measuring time.

That is your job, you’re the steward of time. Every leader is responsible to for how their employees spend their time and accountable to the organisation for the output from time. But rarely do leaders obsess over the minutes in the hours and the hours in a day.

You should be measuring every minute of every day.

One of the chairman that I work closely with has a death clock (T-Zero is the App version of it). Based upon your actuarial life expectancy, it counts down your remaining years, days, hours, minutes and seconds. It gives an instant meaning to time.

When I learnt about this, I realised how precious his time is to him. He knows that there is a limited number of hours and minutes and wants to maximise every one of them. He wants to be as productive as possible.

Simply stated, productivity is a factor of time. It answers what is produced by the hours worked. To measure yours: take how much you produce (your results) and divide it by how long it takes. For example, if you want to know how productive you are at work calculate what you produce and measure it by how many hours it takes you to do it.

Be sure to count all of your time, even the time you waste.

After all, when you waste time, you’re really wasting a life. Not just your life, your employees’ life as well. When work takes longer than it should, time is wasted.

This means that you have to be working on that project rather than something else. If you want to accomplish more, use time better. If you want more time with your family, use time better. If you have a hobby that you want to give more time to, use your time better.

We’re working harder than ever, but are you more productive? Most of us feel more productive. But we’re not!

The statistics say it’s an illusion. Productivity is declining. And it needs to go up or we’ll soon be worse off economically and have to spend even more time to earn what you do today. If you really want to know why it’s declining, it’s because time is losing its value.

The watchman used to measure time ... do you? Do you calculate how long something should take and then measure to see if it does? Let’s use this column as an example: if you asked me how long it takes you to write your column, I would say two to three hours.

But I don’t really know. I’ve never measured it. And, did you notice the difference I have a 50 per cent differential in how long I said it takes: maybe two hours or maybe three.

I say time has value, but I don’t measure it. So, do I really value it? Do you?

Realise the meaning of the minutes in the day. Around 1680, the minute hand was added to a watch for a reason. Organisations often think in terms of days and hours.

When you should be thinking in terms of minutes. Meetings are often scheduled for an hour. Do they need to be an hour? Couldn’t they be 30 minutes instead?

When you as the steward of time, allow hours to be wasted you’re wasting more than time, you’re meaning.

Time is unrecoverable, you can’t earn more of it. You can’t reuse it. Steve Jobs said, “It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”

Treat time as the precious resource that it is.

— The writer is a CEO coach and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at