Time and Personal Flexibility

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‘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?

Simon

The march of time’s flexibility

A child is flexible in mind & body. They aren’t too proud to imitate others. Nor too self conscious to role play. For the child, unconscious competence slowly introduces itself to personal flexibility. They then become firm friends, all the way to secondary school.

The teenager suppresses their innate flexibility, for social group acceptance. Kind of ironic since that versatility and adaptability is their strength to the social group concerned. Fame, glory and sex appeal are cool. Staying physically flexible isn’t. Unless it leads to sporting prowess/physical strength, on the path to fame, glory and sex appeal. Conscious competence sits quietly in the back row, out of the spotlight. Until just the right kind of audience enters the theatre.

The twenty or thirty something embraces flexibility. Simply to cope with juggling career, relationships, finances, set backs and opportunities. Conscious incompetence staggers out of the back row. While walking up on to the stage, it looks within for character and its attitude is sheer bloody mindedness. Less addicted to the spotlight. More hoping its talent will rise up and face off its destiny.

The middle ager embraces a different kind of flexibility. They use decades of life experience. And memories of what worked when, to draw & channel the best response to a given problem. They don’t necessarily get things right. But notice that as their mental flexibility reigns, their physical flexibility wanes. Primed on stage, they visualise the perfect flexibility moves. The perfect actions. The delivery however is hit and miss. Their final act of flexibility is to learn to rationalise. To register the applause and count their blessings.

The senior, quietly watching the next generation project from the stage, finds they have to channel their waning mental flexibility to manage the reducing options of their physical flexibility. An ultimate indignity is their inability to clap & cheer the very talent that parades before them.

And so it goes.

Simon

From help me… to help me to help you

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If many people aren’t so much against us, just for themselves, then how can their behaviour and attitudes help us grow indirectly?

One obvious one that springs to mind is young children. They’re naturally self-centred as are on a steep learning curve about the World. Our job as adults is to help them cope and thrive in positive ways, to help make the future World a better place. Their feedback coaxes us as baby sitters or parents to behave better (be more patient and generous) and learn to improvise with just crying to go on. As a side benefit, the fresh way they look at the World helps us as jaded adults to look at things we take for granted. And see the beauty, the simplicity, or the humour that we previously overlooked.

For those of us that own pets or have gardens, our observation of the pet (or plant’s) response makes us a better pet companion, or a better gardener. Their ability to adapt sometimes surprises us. I saw a great Facebook post recently of a chimpanzee in captivity that could understand American sign language and one of the first things it taught its offspring was that sign language!

To some extent, other people’s problems become our opportunities. All we have to do is communicate well and take the time to listen. In return we get a sense of value, a feeling of satisfaction, a growing reputation and perhaps some kind of monetary reward too.

We might be under time pressure ourselves, but if we take the time to listen to someone under the same time pressure, solving their problem while buying time to solve our own problem, it can work out well for all concerned.

Food for thought?

Simon

Going the extra mile

The faster the pace in our lives, the more we take shortcuts to cope. Finding more shortcuts, or making shortcuts on the shortcuts are two solutions.

Controlling the pace of our lives is a third solution. That takes a different kind of flexibility. Sometimes it’s about:

• changing people’s expectations of us,

• changing our expectations of ourselves,

• recognising ahead of time how long something will really take,

• putting in place measures that mean when we do speed up the pace, the risk of crashing is lessened.

Using flexibility thinking, means switching from how and when to do more, to why do more? If working faster at work is desirable because the boss wants more done, ask yourself what you can do that will achieve the same overall result (make your boss look effective to their boss and help the customer to a greater extent) without taking shortcuts to work faster.

Perhaps gather some data from your observations of customer needs and if the volume of basic tasks can be outsourced to the customer as pre-transaction work, that frees you up to provide more meaningful services to the customer. Then everyone wins.

In a home setting, if it gets harder and harder to juggle; working a job, running a house and raising a family, taking more and more short cuts probably isn’t going to cut it (no pun intended). Instead, ask why am I the one doing so much. Who can I empower? Who else has a stake in making this work? Children learning new skills is how they grow as people. Extended family helping out is how they connect to your immediate family. Neighbours exchanging favours eg taking an Amazon delivery on behalf of the person next door, is how communities grow again.

Finally, if the increasing pace of life forces some time cuts elsewhere, switch to multi-tasking – swap dedicated gym workouts for physical house maintenance (painting and moving furniture, mowing the lawn, landscaping, lugging shopping back to your house, repairing stuff).

And if you have to cut time, make sure you shed some time exposed to negative things – listening to excessive or duplicated criticism, watching reality shows that don’t teach you something, or counselling people who aren’t going to change.

Simon

Relatedness, Risk and Personal Flexibility

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I learned about the concept of relatedness while recently reading a fantastic book called ‘The Origin of Wealth’ published in 2006, by Eric Beinhocker. Beinhocker is now the Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, Oxford, England.

Beinhocker describes ‘jump distance’ in a business plan landscape as having three dimensions; relatedness, risk and time horizon. Relatedness is essentially how far your plans are from current skills and knowledge held. Beinhocker describes time horizon as the expected time to payoff from the experiments.  Beinhocker describes risk as ‘all the uncertainties that can affect the outcome of an … experiment. And the degree of irreversibility of the commitment (made)’. In this blogger’s professional experience, risk is commonly calculated in a relative way by assessing probability (likelihood) and magnitude (effect) of the risk. And then ranking risks from big to small.

What Beinhocker’s book didn’t outline was how the relatedness, risk and time horizon dimensions are related. Or how they relate to flexibility.

Using a famous physics formula that velocity = distance/time, we can estimate that progression rate (to achieve a personal goal say) = distance covered/time taken. And that a high progression rate (promotion to greater power say) is proportionate to a high degree of relatedness (patrons, mentors, special knowledge, influential networks to pave the way).

What about Risk? How does that relate to relatedness and time horizon? In relation to the velocity =distance over time equation, risk is that the planned velocity varies significantly in reality.  Perhaps because the distance covered in the allotted time varies significantly from plan.

On a personal level, we can consider progression rate = distance/time as it applies to three things; emotional maturity (in human relationships), wisdom and coping skills.

The progression rate of a teenager in achieving advanced emotional maturity can be raised if there are good role models to learn from. And few things (like peer pressure, stress and negative reinforcement) holding back the advancement of emotional maturity. Or if the maturity time can be shortened somehow. For example, with incentives to mature faster. Or with time substitution – shortening the time by applying other resources in its place.

Regarding improving the progression rate to achieve wisdom and coping skills, the distance covered (quality and depth of wisdom and skills developed) can be improved with safe trials/simulations, analysis practice, improved data storage and retrieval, integrated systems and leverage in learning (learn three key things from one simulation say). Or if the time can be shortened somehow. For example, with incentives to learn and cope faster. Or with time substitution – shortening the time by applying other resources in its place.

Finally, how can the application of personal flexibility (PFL) help to improve the progression rate in the above examples? With emotional maturity, collecting options of good role models to learn from is a good start. Different people’s styles and thought processes can be observed for different situations encountered. Timeflex (the action of buying time, playing for time or reinventing time) is relevant too. Using romance as the example, buying time might involve talking to lots of people about your date’s past track record. Playing for time might involve playing hard to get. Reinventing time might be expanding the honeymoon!

With wisdom, using the flexitypes of design flexibility, process flexiblity and systems flexibility can help improve information management. An example of process flexibility is committing to both advanced education and lifelong learning (more analysis tools and more case studies observed). Timeflex is also relevant. The ‘FLIRS’ acronym of flexibility to leverage to impact to results to stories is also relevant i.e. use flexibility to create leverage, with results being the eventual wisdom obtained.

With life coping skills, using the flexitypes of design flexibility is also relevant. As is styflex (style flexibility), timeflex and FLIRS.

What do you think?

Simon

Personal Flexibility and Time Management Revisited

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The Royal Trinity Hospice in London apparently has a motto ‘living every moment’. It’s a great one for terminally ill people, to make the most of the life they have left. Essentially it’s about enriching time.

If you’re pushed for time, try the technique of playing for time. Tell someone you can come up with a good answer or solution – perhaps better than they’re expecting. But you need another x hours to do so. This blogger has been in a couple of life-threatening, outdoor situations, slammed by multiple problems at once. Playing for time (the plan ‘B’), can literally save your life.

Staying in time (being a slave to the rhythm) can ease the burden. Especially if learning something new like; dancing, singing, swimming, marching, relay races or three-legged races in some parent-child, school event. Making love or debt repayments. Or following that car in front of your one.

Paying for time is a great solution for income-rich, time-poor people. Or those doing online grocery shopping because they don’t want to spend time driving to the store and shopping in person.

Making time and keeping time are like what you should do with promises. Choose carefully how to spend your allotted time (and choose your promises carefully too, preferably under-promise and over-deliver). Keep track of whether the time (and effort) invested is paying off in some way for you. We don’t have to charge for our time. But it’s ok to have expectations.  That in return for your valuable time, something positive should result.

Leveraging time is about reaping multiple benefits from one action. Lazy people love it.

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Use your daily work commute productively, not simply as an entertainment opportunity. Let your car’s onboard computers automatically handle more support aspects of your driving experience. So you can have a rewarding conversation with passengers instead.

Juggling time (or thin-slicing your time) is about juggling lots of loose ends, when you face delays and lead times. This blogger was recently given the job at work of setting up a new office in a foreign (non English speaking) country in Europe. As you can imagine, loads of signed form originals and ID documents were required, all referring to each other. Since you can’t complete any one aspect in its entirety, juggle the steps in the various processes concurrently instead. It is effectively filling in the waiting time with productive work. Accept that progress is uneven and therefore do planning ahead of time. And fact-find in the quiet times.

As always, if you find these blogs inspiring or thought provoking, spread the word for others to benefit too.

Simon

Time Management and Personal Flexibility

‘If you can fill the unforgiving minute, with sixty seconds worth of distance run…’ Rudyard Kipling

‘Time and tide wait for no man’ Geoffrey Chaucer

‘Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day. Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way. Kicking around a piece of ground in your home town. Waiting for someone or something to show you the way’. Pink Floyd, from their song ‘Time’

‘When you are courting a nice girl, an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder, a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity’ Albert Einstein

‘Sometimes it is years before I see the way forward. In the case of information loss and black holes, it was 29 years’. Stephen Hawking

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We all have those moments.  Everything seems to happen at once. We spend the morning running to catch up. Or the opposite. We’ve put everything in motion and just have to play the waiting game.

We can’t change the rhythm of time. Any more than we can stop the sun rising on a new day. But we can try to make the best use of our time. We owe it to ourselves to collect significant and enjoyable memories. Memories forged in the fires of interesting experiences.

Maybe we can open ourselves up to interesting experiences, by deliberately surprising ourselves. If each of us embraced one new experience, however small, once a month, and we averaged a catch up with our friends, once every three months, that’s 3 fresh and interesting things to tell them about, each time we see them. And if they did the same, 3 fresh things for them to tell us about too.

If we started that ‘new experiences’ pattern at age 20 and kept it going for a mere 20 years, that’s 240 new experiences to consume! And 240 opportunities to boost our confidence. It’s also a great example of personal flexibility (PFL) in action.

Now imagine if 50% of those new experiences taught us a life lesson. Something to make us wiser and more skilful. That’s 120 training opportunities, however small. And 120 things of value we can pass on. And not just to friends. But to the next generation of our loved ones too.

Something to think about.

Simon

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