Stop Giving Away Your Most Valuable Resource
Rachel always said yes.
She had a psychological drive to feel needed and valued, and culturally her organization espoused an open-door, collaborative work environment. As a result, the chairs in Rachel’s cubical always had people in them, her calendar was overflowing with meetings, and she completed her work between nine p.m. and midnight or on Saturdays and Sundays. A conscientious team player, Rachel was usually working on numerous projects that were not hers and was always available to her team and colleagues. It had been months since she’d watched an episode of Scandal without simultaneously tackling work on her laptop, and she could not remember the last time she’d attended her CrossFit class.
This pace was starting to wear on Rachel, but she kept pushing because she knew the organization needed her. However, Rachel was consistently missing deadlines, her senior manager said she was unresponsive, and the quality of her work was poor. When George, Rachel’s boss, gave her the bad news in her mid-year review, she was stunned. Rachel had been giving away her most valuable resource – time – and the return on her investment was very low. Rachel felt as if she had just been punched in the stomach.
When I met with Rachel a few weeks later, she was still reeling from the feedback. Her passion and commitment to her work and the organization were clearly fading. From my due diligence, I knew that Rachel was a highly respected leader and member of the team, exceptionally bright, talented, and valued by the organization. They wanted her to succeed, but she simply had to complete her financial reviews accurately and on time.
During my first meeting with Rachel, it became apparent that our first step would be to reframe how she thought about time. Rachel is a very fashionable person who is always impeccably dressed in the latest style. She adores shoes, and I always look forward to seeing her latest purchase and talking fashion with her. So I knew exactly how to help her reframe time.
As Rachel sat down for our coaching session, I told her, “You know, Rachel, last night in my hotel room I spent some time doing something I bet you’ve done--a little on-line shopping. It’s a great way activity when I’m on the road and I’m tired.”
“I know exactly what you mean!” Rachel replied. “I could browse those online shops for hours.” She smiled, perhaps wondering where the conversation was going.
“Well, last night I found something just perfect for my wardrobe,” I continued. “It was a pair of boots for fall that can be dressed up or down and that will go with most of my fall clothes.”
“They sound great!” Rachel said. And she leaned forward, waiting for me to describe the boots in more detail.
But instead, I replied, “Oh, they are great! But they cost sixty dollars more than I am willing to spend right now. So I was wondering if you’d be willing to give me sixty dollars so I can buy them.”
Rachel looked at me, her eyes got really wide, and she stammered in a high voice, “Uh, uh, uh—no, not really.”
We’ve laughed about it since then, but in that moment, Rachel was thinking to herself, “Oh, my gosh—this is a brand-new consultant to our organization, we have just met, and she is asking me for money! What is going on here?!”
I just smiled. “I understand,” I said to Rachel. “I guess I just won’t be able to get the boots today. But I did have another favor to ask you. You and I are scheduled for a two-hour coaching session this morning. I wonder whether you might be available right afterward to brainstorm a few ideas on how I can improve my executive coaching practice. I only need an hour of your time.”
Rachel looked and me smiled. Maybe she was relieved I hadn’t asked her for money again. “Oh, sure,” she replied, “I’d be happy to help!”
”Thanks, Rachel,” I said. “Actually, I won’t be needing any extra time from you today. But did you notice what just happened? You would not give me sixty dollars, but you would give me sixty minutes of your time. What does that mean? Is your money more valuable than your time?”
A light bulb went on over Rachel’s head. “I never thought about it that way!” she said. And we spent the next hour having an in-depth conversation about the value of time—and about how Rachel could do a better job of protecting, preserving, and investing that value.
Time is a non-renewable resource and—if you are like Rachel and like most people—you are probably giving away your time with little or no conscious thought.
You would not indiscriminately give away your money, why give away your time?
And remember--every time you say yes to someone or something, you are saying no to someone or something else.
That’s the nature of time, the limited and non-renewable resource. Do you know what you are saying yes and no to during your work day and the impact that those decisions are having on you personally and professionally?
Stop giving away your most valuable resource - time.