Happy 2015, Highroaders! I hope that those who were celebrating a holiday season recently had a chance to rest and relax. I visited my father in Florida for Christmas and saw the space shuttle Atlantis on display at Kennedy Space Center, a thrilling sight indeed.
Viewing the shuttle prompted me to think about one of the most widely debated topics in both intercultural business and life in general: Time.
When on a mission, the space shuttle traveled 17,500 miles per hour and orbited the Earth every 90 minutes. This kind of time is difficult to process for those of us used to seeing the sun rise or set only once a day. Time is such a mystery, and yet how people orient themselves in time holds great meaning for them. For some, time is the rhythm of nature, rising with the sun, eating when hungry. For others, time is the punctuality of the clock. A meeting scheduled for 8am starts precisely at 8am.
Whatever their system or culture, most people feel very strongly about the “right” way to interact with time. We get downright indignant when others violate that system, leading to phrases like “he doesn’t respect my time” or “my time is valuable.” Those with a more linear approach to time often feel that those on a more flexible time system are inconsiderate. Looser time cultures or people similarly complain that their counterparts are rigid and create constant clock-related stress.
The truth is that all of those systems are just that – systems. They are only made real and valid by cultural or group agreement. Einstein tells us that time is relative and should only be considered together with space. We devise vocabulary like “on time” or “late” to be able to operate as a group, but even those terms are relative. In one culture, “on time” might mean within 15 minutes of the scheduled start time. In another, the same phrase might mean within an hour. You have likely experienced the challenges that arise when teams or even families don’t share their definitions of time with one another.
I believe, however, that our struggle with time goes deeper than the misalignment of terms. Most of us don’t have the friendliest relationship with time. When we are overly busy, have too much to do, or are over-scheduled, we might feel like time is working against us. I had a client this morning describe how she always felt behind. She wanted a new perspective on time but didn’t know how to create it.
As we begin a new year, perhaps we can take a moment (however you define that!) and reflect on the kind of relationship we want with time. Here are some questions to guide you in your intention setting:
- How can I create a more joyful or effective relationship with time?
- What do I need to say “yes” or “no” to for that to happen?
- Where can I exercise more patience with different approaches to time management?
- When was the last time I connected with natural time (rising with the sun, having no structured plans)? When did I last connect with clock time?
- How might my approach to time be helpful to others? How might it frustrate others?
- If I had to pick one word that described how I want to be with time in 2015, what would it be?
- What is one action I can take this week to manage my time in a positive way?
We wish you the very best in 2015, and we hope that your schedule includes time to walk on the Highroad with us! Happy New Year and we look forward to collaborating with you.
Thanks Vicki and Happy New Year to you too. Wise words – I was raised to be on time in respect of others involved and expected the same from others until I traveled to India and then I realized that time (calendar, clock) is man-made. While I still respect the time in business I ‘go with the flow’ in my personal life. Quite liberating!