The only kind of time
“Are you available Thursday this week for a quick call?”
If I had a penny for every cold caller who darkened my digital doorstep, guessing my email address or spamming my LinkedIn inbox, abusing the powers a paid-for subscription gives them… I would be a rich lady writing this from a beach.
And look, I know that they are doing this because it’s easy and cheap. They blitz far and wide, ‘insert name here’, and if they get a 1% return, that’s actually pretty good RoE (where ‘E’ stands for effort, not equity). If I’m honest, I will never respond to those messages. Never ever. Even if they are magically something I need. Even then.
Because, among other things, I find them deeply disrespectful in the assumption that my time is so cheap, so accessible that they can just have some for the asking.
That I would give the most valuable and only non-replenishable of resources, my time, to some random who walked in from the proverbial street just because they asked for it.
And yet, I also know that people’s relationship with time is messed up.
People are more likely to spend time on something than money. People are more likely to waste time in the protection of other assets and they will throw time at things to show they’re interested, willing or engaged even when they’re none of those things.
Spending time on stuff instead of actually doing stuff is a corporate masterclass in itself. But it has an insidious effect on people. Folks have started approaching time in a really weird way. Like it’s both inexhaustible and already spoken for.
Like the things that currently fill our days (meetings) are inevitable and therefore anything and everything else has to wait, squeeze in and make do.
And look, we all know we can (and do) bump a meeting to take a very important call. We also know that if you call in sick, the world won’t end, and somehow your meetings will either wait or be covered by a colleague. And yet the radical rethink of how we spend time is in short supply. Rethinking how we allocate our waking hours so that we are healthier, work more effectively or prioritise more meaningfully is a bridge too far. For most people at least.
And I have experienced that tension in the most comical way since my book came out.
Some people congratulated me, which was lovely. And some people said nothing, which is fine.
Some people asked about my process, the discipline needed. What triggered the decision to do it. And a small but sizeable minority said, “You wrote a book? Oh, good for you. I wish I had that kind of time.”
Yes. I know it’s a put down. I know. But I also know that it is more than that. In the process of trying to take you down a peg, a big chunk of our industry’s worthies essentially choose to feel that if you have done something they have themselves chosen not to attempt, it is only because you are privileged to have a separate pocket of time. Time that is free. Pristine, uninterrupted and available.
And of course, that time doesn’t exist.
Or rather, it does. If you make it so. If you defend and protect and shield it. And don’t use it to do anything else.
If you want to write a song, write a book, lose weight or draft a complicated piece of strategy, you need two things.
You need time. And you need discipline.
And discipline is tied to the time you spend. Which can be a lot of time.
In some cases, it can be years’ worth of time that you carve out to do this thing that you have chosen to do.
Time that is spent learning how to play the instrument that you will one day compose your song on.
This kind of time is the same kind you spend commuting… the same kind you spend with your children… the same you spend with friends, at the gym or taking inane meetings. It’s the same kind of time you spend sleeping or watching trash TV or taking a long bath.
The time you would give that random who asked for it on LinkedIn, the time you spend mentoring a youngster, the time you spend learning a language.
And now you’re thinking, “Yeah, you idiot, but a meeting with a random is a 30’ job. Learning French will take me years. It is not the same kind of time.”
Only it is.
It is not the same amount of time, for sure, but it is exactly the same kind.
What is different is how you parcel or bunch it up. How you divide it, or not. And how you spend it.
And some of it is choice and some of it isn’t.
Some of your time is claimed for you.
But not all. Never all.
And how proactive you are about using what’s in your gift is frankly a choice. Not an easy choice, but a choice nonetheless.
Because contrary to what people would like to think (and frankly, not everyone needs to write a book, but they do need to do what they need to do), contrary to what people say, I didn’t have that kind of time either. I only had time left over from working brutally long hours and then I made choices. To sleep less, to not see friends, to take holiday days but not take a holiday. To use the time I had towards this thing I wanted to do.
And I don’t need a medal. And I don’t need praise. What I needed to do was write this book, so I did.
I used the time.
I didn’t get extra time.
I didn’t get to sleep and rest and exercise and see friends and work a full-time job and then obtain a Hermione Granger-style contraption that allowed me to have an extra day nobody else got in which I got to do the thing.
That time, sadly, doesn’t exist.
We all have the same hours in the day and what we choose to do or not do with it, for better or worse, is what it is.
And ultimately what we choose to do with the time we are given is the full story.
It is why our transformation efforts stall. By the way.
It’s why mid-life crises abound. It’s why folks act all insulted if someone does a thing. Like going back to school, upcycling furniture, baking bread, writing a book or overhauling their systems.
It’s always, “Oh, it’s alright for some… they have all the money in the world, they have that kind of time.”
And perhaps some organisations have more money than you. Perhaps. And yet I would bet that’s not what makes them go faster than you. I bet the world is divided into two kinds of people. Those who wish they had that kind of time, the special kind, the kind you use to do extraordinary things. And by that I don’t necessarily mean special. I just mean outside the ordinary course of things.
And those who know there is only one kind of time. There’s only that, and what you do with it.
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem. She is chief client officer at 10x Future Technologies.
Leda is also a published author – her first book, Bankers Like Us: Dispatches from an Industry in Transition, is available to order here.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!