Tuesday, January 8, 2013

On Time

"The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is." - C.S. Lewis

"No matter how much time you've wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow." - Denis Waitely

Time is a strange resource, isn't it?  It never really changes speed, yet whenever you're in a hurry it always seems to go faster than normal while whenever you have plenty of it, it sssssslllloooowwwwwsssss wwwwwwaaaayyyyyy dooooowwwwwwwnnnnnnnn.

A perfect example: the airport.  I never, ever, ever leave on time to get to the airport, and there's always traffic and several long red lights in the way, and so oh my god ohmy god ohmygod ohmygodohmygodohmygod the clock moves fast.  Incredibly, blindingly, screamingly fast.  Crazy fast, in fact, up until I get through security and finally to the gate with my carry-on bag (which is in turn engaged in relativistic weight-altering as it gains pounds, and then dozens of pounds, the closer I get to the gate).

So then I actually get to where the airline says the flight will take off from.  I check the gate--yep, it's the right one*.  So then I sit down.  And wait.  And wwaaiit.  And wwwwwaaaaaaiiiiiit.  That same twenty minutes that passed between two heartbeats getting to the gate takes an eternity once I'm waiting for boarding. It seems sometimes like I could write an entire novel in what my incredibly, abusively stupid watch is calling a small portion of an hour.

*sigh* I hate airports for that very reason.  What they do to the time continuum should be illegal, if not at least on Dr. Who's nasty list.

The relative variability of time is only one of its annoying properties, though.  As a project manager, you rapidly learn that no matter what resource you believe will get in the way of successful project completion, it's time that messes you up.  Always.  Every time.

No, really.  Lookit, every project has a set of resources available to its participants.  Project Managers are famous for crying that they have no resources available, but they always have something at their disposal.  They have people (themselves included).  They probably have facilities or at least space available.  They probably have raw materials.  They probably have some sort of equipment or software, depending on the project.  And they probably have money.  Granted, they never have the quantity of money that we subjectively call "enough."  But there's usually some money available, depending again on the type of project.

And they have time.  Not enough time--no, never enough time.  But they do have time.

And here's the thing about all the other resources--you can get more of them. It's probably not easy, of course, but there's always a way to sacrifice one resource for another.  You can hire more people, or get the ones you already have to work longer, by sacrificing money.  Similarly, you can find a way to get more facilities, usually.  Similarly, you can find a way to get more money, usually.  Similarly, you--but you get that now, right?

See, every other resource is trade-able, except for time.  Doesn't matter who you are, doesn't matter what you do, as the quote by C.S. Lewis says.  A billionaire only gets 60 minutes in an hour, the same as an entrepreneur just starting out with nothing does.  You can't get more time.  Period.  And believe it or not, no matter what you think the bottleneck is going to be, it'll eventually boil down to the static nature of the availability of time.  Except, of course, in airports.

So with that in mind, then, an expert project manager, or entrepreneur, or authorpreneur, or whatever you wish to be, is going to shepherd your time resource the most carefully of all.  You can use it wisely, or use it wastefully, but one way or another you're going to use it, and that use is going to be at the same rate as every other PM, entrepreneur, or authorpreneur.

That, then, leads to the most important question of the post: how will you use your time? 


* Incidentally, one reason I never get there too early is because every time I do that, they change the gate assignment on me once I'm seated and comfy, thus triggering both a time shrinkage and a weight dilation, not to mention a global panic focused entirely on me and my ability to get to the now-right gate in about four seconds with a fifteen-ton bag over my shoulder.


  1. It is indeed amazing how time flies so fast when you are in a hurry especially when catching up a flight. Well, at least one can rely on airport transfers to assist them to have a smooth trip to and from the airport.