It’s About Time!

By Scott Westerman
“Time = Life, waste your time and waste of your life, master your time and master your life.” Alan Lakein 

Listen to an Audio Version of this message.

Tis the season for resolutions. Gym memberships surge. LinkedIn profiles are updated. Diets change. And for many, it’s the one and only occasion during the entire year where any serious thought is given to life’s most important question: How will you invest your time?

Where are you now?

Megan Gebhart, the author of the fascinating 52 Cups of Coffee series, sent me a fascinating commercial for the Martini company.

In split screen, two identical people start their day exactly the same way. But it’s how they diverge from that moment that charts the day’s true course.

That got me to thinking. What if we compared our Facebook or Twitter timeline with other people we know? Try it even if you don’t post a lot. This analysis isn’t about quantity. It’s about content.

I picked two young friends for this exercise. They are both at the same stage of life. Both are still trying to figure out what their true passions are. Both have giving hearts and good souls. And they both prolifically chronicle their days on Facebook.  I opened two browsers with one person’s profile on the left, the other on the right.

The contrast told the story. For one, life was an adventure, a series of micro-plans, explorations and activities that enriched her and everyone around her. You could tell from the things she wrote, the pictures she posted, the ideas she shared, that she was learning, processing and taking steps in the current direction of her dreams. The “Likes” and comments affirmed it. She still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up, but her every action is helping her figure that out and enjoy the ride along the way.

The second Facebook timeline seemed painfully empty by comparison. Lots of “things” were being done, pictures posted, Four Square locations noted. There were complaints about his current situation. Several posts said, “I should be (fill in the blank with something productive and goal achieving), but I’m (fill in the blank with something unproductive or tension relieving) instead.” I got the instant feeling that this person was drifting, letting life happen rather than making it happen.

If this second profile feels like yours, don’t feel too bad. You’re in the company of more than 80% of the population.

You don’t have to be.

Remember Faith Baldwin’s wisdom. “Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations.”

Or as Denis Waitley puts it, “Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day.”

We’ve all heard the cliche, “Time is money”. In some ways that’s true. If we invest time effectively, our return on investment in the form of growth, progress, achievement and happiness can be huge. But unlike money, we get a fresh batch every morning. My two Facebook posters are both “paid” exactly the same amount of time and can spend each new day exactly as they please.

As Denis Waitley concludes, “Time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.”

So don’t beat yourself up about your past. Learn from the outcomes but let any pain or regret go. Worrying about what’s already happend is the most un-profitable investment you can make.

As you enter the new year focus on the future, remind yourself that time is the currency of life and how you invest it will determine the extent of your happiness and how much progress you will make in the direction of your dreams.

If time truly is money, what’s the best way to invest it? Try starting with these 5 ideas:

Imagine your life as a work of art – As Seth Godin says, “Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people.” No matter who you are or what your current skill set may be, you are capable of being accountable, thinking outside of the box and changing someone else’s life for the better.

Think about where you are – How would you describe your personal brand to someone else? What are the things you are currently doing well? What does an honest eye tell you about habits you need to break, behaviors that need to change?

Think about where you want to be – How have your long term goals changed over the last year? What new input has impacted your world view? Is it time to re-think what you want to be “when you grow up”? What are your hopes and dreams?

Create your plan – Start with the big picture, what you expect to get done this year, and then zero in on what you plan to do today, this week, next month to paint that picture. Your plan should touch the three centers of your personal universe: Your Mind, Your Body and Your Spirit. And don’t forget the Body part. John Wanamaker wryly noted that, “People who cannot find time for recreation are obliged sooner or later to find time for illness.” Your plan should have metrics, those tangible, actionable feedback points that allow you to adjust your trajectory. How will you know when you’re making progress? Living well? Serving others? Define your metrics and make regular appointments with yourself to review them.

Execute -A great plan is nothing without effective execution. When you map out your goals and game plan, do what you say your going to do, even if you’re only talking to yourself. Move forward with energy and deliberation, but don’t rush it if it means not doing it right. The great basketball coach John Wooden has said, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” Understand that there is no such thing as perfect execution, but excellent execution should be your goal. Forgive yourself when you stumble, learn from your failures, adjust and continue to execute. Create your art. Get it done. Ship.

Imagination, Creation and Execution: These are the things that separate living from simply existing. They are the requirements for success in any career you may choose and for achieving any goal you set. They constitute the plot line of the biography of every truly successful person who ever lived. Aside from sleeping and eating, these three activities should constitute the bulk of how you invest your time in the New Year.

While all of this activity is churning away in your temporal world, keep one more, very important thing in mind: Have Faith. Even in the toughest situations we can still make a difference in someone else’s life, we can still add value to a team, we can still appreciate beauty, speak out against injustice and articulate an idea.  And most importantly, we can always take steps in the direction of our dreams. Have faith in yourself and never lose hope.

Investing your time in Imagination & Creation will move you forward in the best of times and the worst of times. Faith and Hope will give you the strength to Execute, even when the going gets tough.

Now you’ve heard it.. Go out and do it!