Thursday, 4 February 2010

What’s your time worth?

It’s a funny old question, what is your time worth? Do you know the monetary value of your time? Do you believe the figure and use it in your day to day thinking? Some do, but not too many.

In some ways valuing your time as if it were money is spot on. But at the same time it implies we are spending a small fortune as we relax watching TV, or take an hour or two to go to the gym. Yet both activities are needed unless we intend burning out early in pursuit of the holy grail of time management.

Whatever you think your time might be worth; very few think it is worthless.

Time is the basic building block on which we create value for each other and the companies we work for. Relatively few people, however, measure their time in the same way that they measure money. Yet as Jim Rohn pointed out “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but cannot get more time.”

One of the reasons we don’t measure what we do with our time is that it is difficult. If someone came up with some software we could set running in the background that measured how we spent each minute we would find it quite illuminating – shocking even.

And what abut the time we spend thinking about problems – in the shower or driving to and from work. Half-time, if you like: half-thinking, half-driving, half-working and half-listening to the radio. Your maths teacher wouldn't like the arithmetic, but it’s pretty much how the brain works.

I routinely spend days recording my time in fine detail. It is always instructive. But it always takes some effort to do, and as I get more tired I find it more difficult to measure my time on tasks accurately.

As software developers we have to log the time we spend on project work. There are many other professional services companies who do the same – consultants, accountants, and solicitors all have to know how long they spend on each client’s work. Certainly our time records provide valuable insights into how long things actually take, rather than how long we would like them to take.

So measuring time can be a valuable addition in the armoury to improve performance. Either occasionally to gain insights into how you work, or systematically so you can see where everyone’s time goes.

Measuring time certainly poses some big challenges, but equally could reveal some big performance lessons. And it can be a great help in figuring out why something or someone isn't performing as they should.

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