Make Time Your Friend and NOT your Enemy

Photo by Ron Lach on

Why are we not able to help others even though we have the desire to? One of the questions that I have been pondering over the last few weeks is this statement that a friend made. I want to help others, but I can’t seem to be able to because I just don’t have time.  I thought that was interesting because it struck me on two fronts. One, the desire to help others and two, time was the reason for not being able to do so. Is time really the enemy? Is time really the barrier for us not being able to do what we want to do? Is time just the simplest and laziest excuse that we can come up with?

I feel sorry for time. Afterall, it is blamed for most things in life. I can’t do this because of time.  I feel stressed because of not enough time. I am stretched and burned out because of time. If time was a person, I sure do pity her. However, if we were to really think about it, is time really the enemy of us all? I am sure that you have encountered people who seem to be best friends with time.  Managing and manipulating time in such a way that they seem to glide through the time barrier and get so much done and be completely content and satisfied with the outcome.

Time is a resource that is equally and fairly distributed to all. No one gets more or less time. How we use time is both the challenge and the answer. The challenge with time ultimately lies in how we use it.  Hence lies the answer. How do you use time in a way that gets things done and still be satisfied with the outcome of what you use the time for?

Let’s break it down.

How do you use time to get what you want done? For most people there is usually around 12 to 16 hours of time that you are able to use, taking into account sleep time.  How we therefore use that amount time is where we have to build a healthy relationship with time.

Make time your friend by doing these 3 things and they are: 

1.   Create margins in your day.

2.  Do what’s important first

3.  Improve your performance speed.

Create margins in your day.

Going back to my friend’s statement “I can’t help because I just don’t have the time.” This struck me not because it is the first time I am hearing it but because it is one of the most common reason I hear.  It is sad because clearly there is a conflict of wanting to help and yet feeling helpless. The main cause of this lies in the fact that we do not have any margins or buffer in our day. We have not allowed ourselves to have the buffer of time.

Margins just like on paper gives you some room to breathe and to write notes or highlight key areas and not to mention just makes the page more readable. Margins in your day gives you room to breathe, time to reflect and access to make changes, flexibility, and availability to manage emergencies or crisis or to answer a call for help. Creating margins in a day is not hard. It is simply by setting aside some blocks of time for it. If you use the Pomodoro Technique, you have created margins in your day by having intervals or blocks set aside. If you do not, just leave 15mins – 30 mins in between the next meeting or the next activity. In fact, you will be surprised with just how much you are able to achieve in the 15 mins – 30 mins that you have set aside.

Do what’s important first.

We all make time for the things that are important for us.  Therefore, the “I don’t have time” phrase and what it is really saying is “It is not important enough for me to put the time to do it.”  Yes, sounds brutal when it is put that way. However, it is true. Yes the truth hurts especially if you are at the end of the “I don’t have time to do this.”  If it is important, you will make the time to do it. What you prioritise you will get done. Time is the not the enemy. Even if you had more time, if it is something that you don’t want to do or is low on your priorities list, it will still not get done.

However, there are also situations where you must decide on which to do or spend time on because you can’t do everything.  For example, when both choices are good, you want to do them and are equally meaningful for you. How would you then decide? Tossing a coin is one option. However, learning how to prioritise is a great skill to learn. There are various methods and the one that I fall back on all the time is 10-10-10.

Suzy Welch in her book 10-10-10 is a great simple technique to help you prioritise. It simply goes like this… What would happen if you did or don’t do this in the next 10 mins, 10 months and 10 years?  In order words, what is the impact in the short, mid, and long term.

There will never be simple priority choices. However, you can still make the best decision considering the constraints.

Improve your performance speed.

The ability to for you to perform a task and how fast you can do it, will have an impact in how time is used and its outcome. 

Have you noticed how 2 people can perform the same job in varying degrees of effectiveness and efficiency?  For example, a simple task like washing dishes, one person could take just 10 minutes whilst another person might take 30 mins. Take another example, writing a report, a person might take 30 mins whilst another a full day of work.  The speed of a person’s ability to complete and perform a task is vastly different and variable. A person who can work faster clearly has an advantage here. I was watching MasterChef and one of the observations is just how fast a professional chef can get a dish completed vs. an amateur. The same set of skills are required, but the speed is vastly different. Maybe there is something to be learned here… speed does matter, and speed is dependent on practice.  Take knife skills as an example. The ability for you to chop, cut, slice and dice or your knife skill is determined by how many hours of usage or practice. Therefore, the more you use a certain skill, the faster or more efficient you will be in that area.

My nephew latest interest is around the Rubik’s cube. He can solve it very quickly after learning the various algorithms and more importantly the practice hours that he has put into it. It is extremely cute to watch his little fingers move so quickly and dextrously to move the cube around and to solve the puzzle.

The good news is that yes, you can improve your performance speed.

Let’s summarise…

Time is neutral. Time can be your friend or enemy and it all depends on how you view and make use of it. Time in fact is one of God’s most valuable gifts because it allows you the opportunities to create work, consume content and connect with people. It also gives you the rest that you need for you to continue to create, consume and connect.  Make time your friend by prioritising what is important, creating margins in your day and improving your performance speed.


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