‘Time and tide wait for no man’, so the saying goes. Time flexibility is about controlling time.
Three opportunities (or tactics) are to play for time, buy time or re-invent time. Playing for time is to delay something or stall someone, in order to provide more time. Buying time is to somehow increase the time available. And reinventing time is to change the definition of time itself e.g. re-branding time, redefining time or taking a different view of time.
Examples of playing for time include:
- The TV news playing in a doctor’s surgery or bank, for patients/customers waiting to be seen.
- When you go to see your professional advisor (lawyer, accountant etc) and they delegate a task to an associate, while continuing your client meeting and covering other things in the meantime.
- A sports team running down the clock.
- A school student who takes subjects that allow them to keep their options open, if they’re unsure about what to do after graduating.
Examples of buying time include:
- Having pre-order input screens in a fast-food restaurant (meal production can start as soon as the order is received).
- Travelators in airports and lifts/escalators in train stations to move people to the departure lounges/platforms quickly.
- Setting your phone alarm earlier than usual, to make an earlier than usual start.
- Hiring an expert (with knowledge built up over years and fast execution).
- Buying a specialist tool or labour-saving device.
- Pre-recoding a TV programme and fast-forwarding the adverts when you watch it.
- Standing in line at the supermarket checkout. There aren’t enough till operators, so they buzz to get more staff to come and serve customers.
- Timetabling software, ready meals, kitset furniture and plant seedlings.
- Covert pre-assembly (partial assembly in anticipation of future demand).
- Someone saying they can’t deliver a solution in the short term. But upping the ante by promising a much better solution in the longer term.
- Parallel running parts of a process (shorten the critical path to completion).
- ‘Infinite capacity planning’. This involves hiring more resources to work concurrently to meet a tight deadline. This is applicable where the penalties for missing the deadline exceed the additional, short-term cost.
Examples of re-inventing time include:
- Reverse mentoring (young IT savvy workers mentor older workers who have different skills say),
- A company exploiting people’s selective memory of history to sell their products or services. For example, a company marketing nostalgic/vintage/retro products rather than new ones.
- Forcing the pace/bringing forward a deadline. For example, a political party calling an early election, to play to its strengths. A department store runs a large sale with 50% off normal price, to bring forward future sales.
It’s clearly hard to think of and deliver a really good solution when you’re under time pressure. Therefore, for people wanting to manage their time better, why not play for, buy or reinvent time. Or do some combination of these things.
Food for thought?