Wind, water, milk. All renewable resources. Replenishable.
Oil, natural gas…time. Non-renewable. When they’re gone, they’re gone.
The phrase “time poverty” has been coined recently. It’s defined as having no choice, one works long hours (at one or multiple jobs), with little downtime, or if taken, it results in a loss of money. The Gates Foundation found women spend twice the time on unpaid work as men. In the end, time is precious, paid or unpaid, regardless of age, gender or culture. The struggle comes when we have to choose how to spend our time. The attempt to balance work and life.
Brigid Schulte mentioned in a recent interview the importance we place on the number of hours worked…even with research showing more hours does not equal increased productivity. More work and less free time (even if just the perception of) can be stressful; impacting both employee and employer through an increase in mistakes and lack of concentration, reduced/low engagement, loss of creativity, and the cause of as much as 60% of missed workdays each year. Driving about a third of employees to consider leaving their job, and causing serious health issues.
Stress isn’t the only issue. Fatigue can also cause cardiovascular disease, weight gain and cognitive impairment.
Companies such as Spanish energy company, Iberdrola have begun offering more flexible work options that help both them and the employee. Since 2008 Iberdrola employees work 6 hours and 15 minutes, with a 45 minute window for arriving/leaving. They report it has reduced absenteeism by 20% and work-accidents by 15%. Others such as Netflix have also found flexible options like unlimited vacation days to boost employee accountability, creativity and productivity.
How we choose to spend our time, is very personal and factors such as the need to care for children or a family member, additional jobs, or volunteer commitments can impact how much time we are comfortable spending at work and home. Are we really time poor though?
In her recent book, “I Know How She Does It”, Laura Vanderkam suggests keeping a time journal to see exactly where we are spending (and possibly wasting) our time. Seeing it in black and white, we may find we can make better use of our time, or that we aren’t quite as limited as we lead ourselves to believe.
Much like Laura suggests through analyzing our time journal, Brian Tracy talks about focusing on managing our life versus time (they really go hand in hand). He suggests we regularly ask ourselves these 3 questions to help prioritize how we spend our time:
- What is really important to me?
- What are the things I do that give me the greatest pleasure and satisfaction?
- What is the most valuable use of my time right now?
We all have the same 168 hours each week. Once spent, we can never get those hours back, but how we choose to spend them is up to us. Spend yours wisely.