Over the years, both in my work as an engineer in designing and creating buildings and as an aspiring comic and poet, I’ve come to realize how time is one of the most undervalued and under-appreciated commodities.
I still remember an example of this from a 2003 engineering project…
I had heard that my client was unhappy with the cost of an engineering design I had led. He was apparently so unhappy that he was even considering changing to another firm. This had never happened to me before and I therefore knew I had to do my very best to remedy the situation. I also knew that I had to repair our relationship because there was clearly a breakdown in communication between us.
My task was complicated by the fact that he was out of the office recovering from dental surgery. Obviously, his dental pain and his concern over the cost of the design were additive. I couldn’t stop the dental pain, but I could help with the pain that the design was causing.
So, knowing he was now at home recovering, I called him to see if his dental pain had eased enough for me to come and visit with him. He agreed and so I went to his home, a very unusual thing to do with a purely business acquaintance. I wanted to try and understand the reasons he was unhappy with my work.
We proceeded to spend a whole day together talking about life in general, his concerns about the project and looking at the design work we had done for him. We invested a lot of time together in trying to understand what would make the design work for both of us. In his kitchen, we rolled out drawings and sketched ideas. Finally, we came up with a plan that he felt balanced his budget with the potential of the project. When his wife arrived home, she invited me to stay for dinner and, by the time we had finished dinner, I’d been there around 12 hours.
To this day, whenever we see one another, he reminds me of that day and he continues to marvel that I cared enough to spend so much time to build a relationship and to come up with a solution we both believed in. That time we spent together just couldn’t have been more valuable to both of us.
My gift to him was not my knowledge it was my time. His gift to me was continuing to be a valued ongoing client. Our joint gift to one another was a business and personal relationship we will always cherish.
Time and Relationships…
Of course, those who know my blogs also realize I have a habit of taking these observations about business and applying them to relationships.
You will also know that I’m preoccupied with being in love because I believe that our purpose in life is to love and be loved.
Falling in love takes time. To love someone, you need to get to know and learn more about that person. How else can you create a deep connection on an emotional level? Time spent together builds a relationship and time apart can damage that relationship.
Time matter in work and in relationships and its can be recreated.. It’s a precious diminishing asset for all of us.
So, let’s talk about time…
Today, through mobile devices, we have the ability to answer anyone from anywhere at any time. There is a mistaken belief that speed of response equals attentiveness. But, in my experience, this just isn’t true.
Let’s take two examples, one in business and one in personal life.
Assume a client asks me a complicated question that I could probably answer immediately. But, if I do, what might be the client’s perception of the value of my answer? Experience has taught me that it might suggest that I haven’t thought through the question adequately. In a client’s mind, to solve a problem needs some work, which, in turn, needs some time. By taking that time, I am both reassuring my client that I’m not being superficial and I’m giving myself the time to fully consider the issues and provide an answer that blends my knowledge and experience.
In personal life, the more time you are together, the stronger will be the connection. Here we face the tension between direct communication and using digital options like texts or emails. Digital communication lacks the emotional connection that a phone call or physical presence gives. There is a communication hierarchy with direct verbal communication and physical presence at the top of that hierarchy.
Of course, there are always exceptions to this. For example, if you are a poet and writer, as I try to be from time to time, the emotional connection writing creates and the time might create a value that my physical presence could never come close to equaling.
My gift to you…
So my gift to you is this.
Value your time, genuinely consider it, being present is a wonderful gift, use it wisely. But texting someone else while being present is worse that not being present.
Use the phone whenever emotion is involved, text and email inevitably make matters worse.
Time is a limited gift and a valuable commodity, you can’t buy or sell it and it’s value increases with age. So learn from the experience of others and use your time wisely.